The best albums of 2010
The Daily’s Life & Arts staff voted on the best albums of 2010. The top 25 from that poll are included here.
1. Kanye West — “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (Roc-A-Fella)
This was a near unanimous decision, and an unsurprising one at that. It is nothing short of genius, and exactly what Kanye’s been working toward since his humble beginnings we heard on “College Dropout.” This is a culmination of the soul, grandiosity, celebration and stark coldness that had respectively marked each previous effort. From the twisted “Monster” to the poignant “Runaway,” this is a masterpiece, one that could have only been imagined in the wildest of fantasies.
— Joshua Boydston, psychology junior
2. Arcade Fire — “The Suburbs” (Merge)
Consistency is something to be admired, but to be so consistently great is astounding. It seemed like Arcade Fire was set to stumble after the triumphant “Funeral” and fiery “Neon Bible,” but instead returned with an album of unparalleled beauty and depth. This is a concept album not so obvious in its intent. Win Butler and Co. painted the perfect picture of suburban life: the pleasantly pretty rows of cookie cutter homes (“Sprawl II”) masking the restless lying directly beneath (“Ready To Start”).
3. LCD Soundsystem — “This Is Happening” (Virgin)
Where to start? With the monstrous synth riff on opener “Dance Yrself Clean”? James Murphy’s fearless, earnest terrific first try at singing on “I Can Change”? Or perhaps the perfect career-capper that is “Home”? If “This is Happening” isn’t a perfect electronic dance record, then such a thing doesn’t exist. It’s endearing, introspective, catchy as hell and absolutely cathartic to experience live. There’s no question that this record will keep audiences marveling at his abilities for a long, long time.
— Matt Carney, professional writing senior
4. Vampire Weekend — “Contra” (XL)
When bands rise to prominence at the sort of breakneck speed Vampire Weekend did in 2008, you expect an equally quick burnout and exit. Instead, “Contra” is just as exceptional as Vampire Weekend’s eponymous debut, with ramped-up exoticness (“Diplomat’s Son”) and pep (“Cousins”) that results in an expansive, worldly wonder.
5. Sufjan Stevens — “The Age of Adz” (Asthmatic Kitty)
Talk about your curveballs. On “The Age of Adz,” Christian hipsterdom poster boy Sufjan Stevens discards his banjo for drum machines, speculates on his future instead of his past and drops at least 14 F-bombs, to my count. The backdrop for this album isn’t the American heartland he previously explored on “Illinois” and “Michigan.” Now, Sufjan’s tangled up in the deepest chambers of his own heart, which bleeps and blurps with fading, whirling electro sounds and has invited in a new friend: paranoid schizophrenic artist Royal Robertson. It’s simultaneously terrifying and beautiful and ends on — who’d have guessed? — a dance number!
6. Gorillaz — “Plastic Beach” (Virgin)
At its core, music is meant as an escape, and nothing took listeners as far away as “Plastic Beach” did. The catchy, pop-perfected singles like “Stylo” and “Superfast Jellyfish” were the initial attraction, but it was the cool, starry-eyed “Empire Ants” and effortless “On Melancholy Hill” that proved all the more invigorating. It’s as sweet and relaxing as a day on the beach, but all the more intoxicating.
7. Big Boi — “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” (Def Jam)
For a while there, it looked like Big Boi might sneak out of 2010 with the year’s top hip-hop album by a mile. Then Kanye dropped his “Twisted Fantasy” and everybody lost their minds. Kanye may have recorded a monster, but Big Boi bequeathed to us a pair of grade-A progressive pop singles in “Shutterbugg” and “Shine Blockas.” “Sir Lucious” dazzles after multiple listens, brimming with echo-y ’80s synths and cool-tough club beats (see “For Yo Sorrows”) while showcasing Big Boi’s confident delivery.
8. Janelle Monáe — “The ArchAndroid” (Bad Boy/Wondaland)
At 25, Janelle Monáe might just be the second coming of James Brown, if Mr. Brown had achieved proficiency in hip-hop and indie pop during his reign as the Godfather of Soul. Seriously, she goes from madrigal “Oh, Maker” to speed funk “Come Alive (The War of the Roses)” to “Mushrooms and Roses” trip-tastic psychedelia ... in three songs. Did I mention it’s a concept album? Monáe is one more great album away from international superstar status.
9. The National — “High Violet” (4AD)
“You and your sister live in a lemonworld,” Matt Berninger offers on “High Violet,” the lyrics recalling images of willful ignorance first cast by Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” a decade earlier. With its sonic warmth, off-kilter drumming and brooding mood, “High Violet” is a rock record for grown-ups. Berninger triumphantly moans (somehow it’s possible for him) on “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” sorts through messy relationships on “Runaway” and “Terrible Love” and explains his need for them on “Sorrow.” It’s sad, touching stuff.
10. Local Natives — “Gorilla Manor” (Frenchkiss)
Mature and assured are some of the first words that come to mind with “Gorilla Manor,” which is funny considering the album is a true freshman effort from a band who had made no more than a squeak before 2010. Confidence comes easy though, when your sound manages to borrow from so many (Band of Horses, Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend) while sounding absolutely unique. “Gorilla Manor” pops like fireworks, and it’s a show you won’t soon forget.
The rest of the best:
11. The Black Keys — “Brothers” (Nonesuch)
12. Kid Cudi — “Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager” (G.O.O.D./Universal)
13. B.o.B — “B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray” (Atlantic)
14. Bruno Mars — “Doo Wop & Hooligans” (Elektra)
15. Best Coast — “Crazy For You” (Mexican Summer)
16. Cee Lo Green — “The Lady Killer” (Radiculture/Elektra)
17. Robyn — “Body Talk” (Interscope)
18. Taylor Swift — “Speak Now” (Big Machine)
19. Deerhunter — “Halcyon Digest” (4AD)
20. Bruce Springsteen — “The Promise” (Columbia)
21. The Walkmen — “Lisbon” (Fat Possum)
22. John Legend and the Roots — “Wake Up!” (G.O.O.D./Columbia)
23. Sara Bareilles — “Kaleidoscope Heart” (Epic)
24. Beach House — “Teen Dream” (Sub Pop)
25. Girl Talk — “All Day” (Illegal Art)