Alright, we’re inching our way to the close of this little countdown. Getting a smidge exciting, no? Well anyway, let’s get on with it, shall we? And please don’t mind if my descriptions this time around are a bit odd, as it’s six in the morning, and I’ve been drinking. Speaking of which, I hope everyone had a happy new year!
40. Tyler, The Creator – Bastard
This one is cheating a bit, seeing as it was released on Christmas day of last year, but fuck it – I didn’t get around to hearing this rather recently, and it’s some of the best underground hip-hop you’re likely to hear in 2010. The dark, wicked synth-led beats and relentless, smart wordplay-ridden flow of this album is impressive enough without taking into consideration that this guy was eighteen when he wrote and recorded it. Then there’s the extremely dark sense of humor all throughout, which tackles just about every unpleasant topic from deadbeat dads to anal rape with a knowing smirk. And let’s not lie to ourselves, we all love deadbeat dads and anal rape.
Recommended track: Seven
39. Four Tet – There Is Love in You
When’s the last time that a nine minute single kept you gripped for its entire duration? The two notes that lead the scant main hook of Love Cry are startlingly effective, and that’s scarcely where Kieran Hebden’s massively successful minimalistic approach begins. Chopped up female samples, warm, seductive synths, and lively beats are abound here, and it’s so much catchier and more fun than an… ugh… “IDM” release should be.
Recommended track: Angel Echoes
38. Warpaint – The Fool
Never has such a huge, shimmering sound come across as this intimate. The atmosphere of Warpaint’s full-length debut is such that it threatens to swallow you whole at any given moment, all while striking a marvelous balance between hazy psychedelia and alluring pop. The Fool also serves as evidence that music doesn’t necessarily need release or a climax, as it never really goes anywhere, but is somehow all the better for it.
Recommended track: Majesty
37. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Ah yes, the band that isn’t hip to like because Pitchfork fellates them repeatedly. Well I, for one, would like to step around the kneeling online publication and pat the band on the back, because this is great shit. The band has really run off with their “what if Paul Simon and Fela Kuti were in an indie rock band?” notion and are getting progressively more unique, without losing any of their pop sensibilities. Contra is such a feel-good affair that it leaves me puzzled over the subset of music fans who are deliberately not liking this.
Recommended track: Cousins
36. Gonjasufi – A Sufi and a Killer
Speaking of unique, that’s one of the most appropriate words I can muster for this astoundingly eclectic album. Yet for all its diverse influences, A Sufi and a Killer channels them all through a crackling psychedelia that comes out sounding dirtier than the man’s dreadlocks look. Just under twenty tracks fly by, utterly demolishing musical styles ranging from blue-eyed soul, disco, funk, and classic rock. As I said in my review of this earlier in the year, I’m hardly a vinyl enthusiast, but this is an album I would love to hear on a record.
Recommended track: She Gone
35. Dangers – Messy, Isn’t It?
If seething, excessive rage has ever been better paired with fresh ideas on tweaking the hardcore formula than on Dangers’ second album, I am yet to hear it. Right from the opening scream of “Why didn’t you kill yourself today?” the band’s attack mercilessly batters you with its furious commentary on popular music, general complacency, modern romance (“If meat is murder, what the fuck is love” gets me every time), and the like. The sheer intensity of this album shines through on even its more experimental moments, like the off beat of Under the Affluence or the creeping and darkly funny Cure for AIDS (“YOU ARE GOING TO DIE”). Messy, Isn’t It? is the year’s friendly reminder that yes, shit still sucks.
Recommended track: I’ll Clap When I’m Impressed
34. More Than Life – Love Let Me Go
More Than Life’s full-length debut is energetic and unapologetically emotional, with the ear catching riffs almost matching the vocals in how damned passionate they are. Jane Doe it’s not, but Love Let Me Go captures post-break up frustration exquisitely, with agonizing screams raging on over the surprisingly dynamic music with an incredibly genuine emotional weight to it. Definitely a must-hear for anyone with even a passing interest in melodic hardcore.
Recommended track: The First Night of Autumn
33. iTAL tEK – Midnight Colour
Without a doubt, the dubstep album of 2010. Midnight Colour explores every facet of the genre and much more, embracing bass and shuffling beats as well as deep, melodic electronica, and all with an indescribably futuristic sound. And with as dynamic as this album is, everything comes together wonderfully, with a superb flow and consistently gorgeous quality that makes the highly rewarding repeat listening a pleasure and a half.
Recommended track: Moment in Blue
32. Ghostface Killah – Apollo Kids
The first of two albums here that made me glad I waited until December’s end to compile this ridiculous list. Just like Raekwon’s Cuban Links II from last year, Ghostface’s new LP is a reminder of just how great the Wu-Tang alumni are still capable of being (a most welcome one at that, coming after the somewhat disappointing Wu Massacre). Ghostface’s trademark soul samples are all over the place along with his fast and furious flow, and some spectacular guest appearances (Busta Rhymes in particular absolutely kills his verse in the funky Superstar).
Recommended track: Black Tequila
31. Caribou – Swim
Dan Snaith continues his remarkable winning streak with this spectacular, drugged out journey of an album. Everything is so warm and spaced out that it actually feels like some sort of psilocybin simulation (and yes, this is a hell of an LP to listen to while you’re bakin’), from the psychedelic head-bobbing Sun to the made-for-giant-headphones Hannibal. There’s also a very well balanced focus on both details and densely packed layers as well as melody, which makes for a rewarding as well as fun listen. Especially if you’re high.
Recommended track: Kaili
30. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me a Rope Up to the Sky
If only every comeback could be this good! Michael Gira picks up right where he left off fifteen years ago, with his own unique brand of powerful and eerie music. It’s so impressive how heavy this thing is in such creative ways – acoustic ballads should not sound as crushing as grinding blast outs like My Birth.. not to mention the ways in which it’s achieved, like the near-nausea inducing finale of You Fucking People Make Me Sick – beautifully disturbing.
Recommended track: Reeling the Liars In
29. Holy Fuck – Latin
Throwing a bunch of crap together and hoping for the best has never sounded so good. When the throbbing beat in P.I.G.S. subsides just for a brief, downright euphoric segue, it really shouldn’t work at all, but it does. Pounding drums backing a combination of a simple piano melody and a playful synth? A relentless drone intro paired with a choppy excursion into funk? It’s as effective as it is random, and so irresistibly weird that you can’t help hitting that repeat button, wondering what the hell you just heard.
Recommended track: Latin America
28. The Black Keys – Brothers
The exceptionally consistent Black Keys are back with another helping of their trademark bluesy rock, but this time around with a healthy heap of soul. Brothers (at least I think that’s what it’s called, it doesn’t say on the album cover) is chock full of groove and an impressive range – strutters like Howlin’ for You go oddly well with smooth, sexy tracks like The Only One. With all the bands trying to replicate that old fashioned dirty and bluesy rock style, The Black Keys are far and away doing it the best.
Recommended track: Everlasting Light
27. High on Fire – Snakes for the Divine
Behold; the almighty riff. Okay, that was unbelievably cheesy, but that’s all this album leaves me able to think. Matt Pike could well be the new master of the riff (the legendary Tony Iommi himself is a huge fan), crafting some extremely catchy ones to make this band’s thundering, grinding goodness accessible to even those not predisposed to sludge metal. Epic build ups, raw vocals, and of course that towering guitar all make High on Fire’s latest one of the finest examples of metal around.
Recommended track: Frost Hammer
26. Silje Nes – Opticks
Norwegian singer/songwriter Silje Nes’ debut is as simplistic as it is relentlessly gorgeous. The composition consists of her vocals and lightly plucked guitar, but with warming electronic flourishes in the background that help the already lovely melodies swell to absurd heights. The result is an exquisitely beautiful set of tracks that almost brings to mind a more minimal minded Sigur Rós.
Recommended track: Crystals
25. Little Women – Throat
Now we go from beautiful to its exact opposite in Little Women’s full-length debut. Throat rivals even the great John Zorn’s Naked City in its creatively chaotic approach to bringing jazz and noise together, by turns progressive and ferocious. All around though, Throats is a very challenging listen that certainly won’t appeal to everybody, but chances are that those who are charmed by its raging saxophones and guitars will have quite the love affair.
Recommended track: Throat IV
24. Dark Time Sunshine – Vessel
Another record that flew under the radar, Dark Time Sunshine’s Vessel is such an impressive album as to actually broaden the very idea of what hip-hop is capable of. Like pioneers Company Flow and Aesop Rock before them, the duo presents a fantastic collection of forward thinking beats (courtesy of producer Zavala) as well as a unique flow and captivating storytelling (courtesy of MC Onry Ozzborne), simultaneously harking back to golden age hip-hop and looking ahead with fresh ideas – it’s even immediate and catchy enough to be enjoyable for fans of the underground and mainstream alike.
Recommended track: Little Or No Concern
23. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
What’s even more stunning than these deep, cleverly emotive lyrics and wonderful melodies and instrumentation is that someone so young put it all together. At a tender twenty years of age, Laura Marling has blown just about every other folk album of the year out of the water with her extraordinary sophomore release. The texture and emotion in her voice belies her age, as well as her ability to make obscure mythological references parallel to her own personal trials (He Wrote, for example). It’s all the best things about folk wrapped up in a pretty young girl – what’s not to love?
Recommended track: I Speak Because I Can
22. Eluvium – Similes
It’s unfortunate that Similes will be doomed to comparisons to Copia, Eluvium’s (or simply Matthew Cooper) last outing, as this is fantastic stuff. Deeply affecting post-rock with an almost poppy heart to it, Similes has a different kind of warmth to it than its predecessor, but it’s every bit as gorgeous and easy to enjoy. The addition of vocals this time around doesn’t seem particularly inspired so much as a natural extension of the man’s sound, with Cooper still gracefully building up on beautiful melodies as well as he ever has.
Recommended track: The Motion Makes Me Last
21. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
What can be said about this album that hasn’t already been said? Hell, even THAT’S probably already been said. Forget the flooring ambition that this is rife with; forget the stellar guest spots, the broad instrumentation, the mesmerizing beats, the brilliant sampling (“LOOKATCHA!”), and even the fantastic lyrics and wordplay. Just consider for a moment that the owner of one of the biggest, most obnoxious egos in music today had the balls to lower that facade, if only for slightly over an hour, and agree with all his detractors. And sound fucking amazing while doing it.
Recommended track: Monster