2010 in records

And just like that, 2010 is coming to a close. I think it’s safe to say that musically, this year blew 2009 out of the water. It’s almost unbelievable the rate of new releases by critically acclaimed bands this year, like some secret meeting happened and they all decided to release music at the same time.

It’s a collusion, I tell you. But hey, I’m not exactly complaining or anything.

Here are the top ten albums that I loved the most this year.

10) Work by Shout Out Louds

A charming record, this has the band trying to move away from comparisons with The Cure and having a more defined sound. Work is a great album to drive to, and an even greater album to fall in love to.

9) Broken Bells by Broken Bells

Arguably, the most anticipated collaboration of the year, the musicianship of Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse and the vocals of the Shins’ James Mercer bounce off each other so well, working beautifully like a never-ending rally in a tennis match.

8) The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

Less grandiose and less choiry than Funeral, Arcade Fire manages to put out a solid effort with The Suburbs. A niftily constructed record, the songs on this album have a unifying theme that hits each and every one of us… the concept of home.

7) Swim by Caribou

It would seem like Dan Snaith, aka Caribou, brought along his PhD in mathematics to the studio in recording this album. All the songs are well-calculated and precise with beats and rhythms ending before they start to get boring.

6) Gemini by Wild Nothing

‘Our lips won’t last forever and that’s exactly why, I’d rather live in dreams and I’d rather die,’ Jack Tatum sings on opening cut ‘Live in Dreams.’ Now imagine saying that while wearing shades, lying on a hammock, and chilling with a cold glass of iced tea and you’ve got yourself Gemini.

5) Bits and Pieces of a Major Spectacle by Who Knew

The perfect cure for your Wolf Parade withdrawal, I can’t remember the number of times I’ve tweeted that this is what Wolf Parade’s Expo ’86 should have been. That doesn’t sound much like a compliment, but trust me, it is. This is my, ‘whoa, this record came from out of nowhere’ record of the year.

4) Gorilla Manor by Local Natives

In a year that saw veteran bands overpower the music landscape, Local Natives was this year’s hotshot debut, stamping its class by being friendly and unique at the same time. So enjoyable was Gorilla Manorthat this was my most played record this year.

3) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

Kanye West is a douchebag, an egotistical maniac who thinks he is a genius capable of taking over the world. And the scary thing is, he is probably right. Kanye West has had better singles recorded before, but without question, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is his finest hour.

2) Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi

Grand without being over-ambitious, Big Boi provided the most infectious jams of the year that warranted people to stand up and take heed. Fans and critics alike have long crowned André 3000 as the trailblazer in Outkast; with Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, they’d have to think again.

1) This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

If Fatboy Slim was looking for the real funk soul brother, then he’d have to look no further than James Murphy. With hooks pulsating with so much vibe and words possessing so much emotion, the imagery produced by songs from this album simply out-wows everything you throw at it. People were wondering how LCD Soundsystem would be able to equal their previous effort Sound of Silver; with This is Happening, Murphy showed them exactly how.

Honorable Mentions:

It pains me to leave off Treats by Sleigh Bells from my list as this was the album I got wowed the most during first listen. I liked Vampire Weekend’s Contra as much as I did the similar sounding Pop Negro from Barcelona’s El Guincho. The National’s High Violet, Broken Social Scene’s Forgiveness Rock Record and The Roots’ How I Got Over will always have reserved spots on my playlist.

I love how Truth on Tape by Smile Smile reminds me of The Apples in Stereo and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! I like Frightened Rabbit’s highly poignant record, Winter of Mixed Drinks and Land of Talk’s very sunny LP, Cloak and Cipher. And occasionally, I surf on over to the Myspace page of Namasté just so I can get a dose of French hip hop with their amazing EP, L’Absurde.

Songs

Janelle Monáe’s ‘Tightrope,’ Jónsi’s ‘Animal Arithmetic,’ Best Coast’s ‘Crazy For You,’ Avi Buffalo’s ‘What’s In It For?’ and Surfer Blood’s ‘Take It Easy’ were all great, but really, it was no contest. The song to remember 2010 by belonged to Cee-Lo Green with the highly infectious ‘Fuck You.’

All in all, this year cooked up really excellent tunes to listen to and enjoy. To end, let me greet everyone a blessed Christmas. Looking forward to the next year of more beautiful music.

Spread the love, people. Remember, music is what life sounds like.

serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon

One of my favorite bands of all time, The National, just announced they will be dropping by Singapore. Which just means that they’d be performing in a place close enough that would make it possible for me to go and see them. Awesomesauce!

Several months ago, I compiled a list of the top 20 records of the past decade, and it’s actually no surprise that The National’s Boxer came out on top. Here’s what I wrote about that particular album.

If LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ summarizes my decade in a song, then The National’s Boxer is its unabridged form. Indeed, it is the anthem of a generation, encapsulating the sentiments of early- to mid-adulthood across 12 masterfully crafted tracks. Every bit of the album’s instrumentation is gorgeous, with Bryan Devendorf’s drumming easily drawing attention. But it is Matt Berninger’s poignant lyrics delivered by his trademark baritone voice that makes this record really stand out.

‘Let’s not try to figure out everything at once,’ echoes ‘Fake Empire,’ the record’s opening track. From there, you get a sense of what the album attempts to achieve, trying to be advisory without being overzealous. The problems continue through to ‘Apartment Story.’ ‘Tired and wired, we ruin too easy. Sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave,’ the song’s chorus repeats. Yet there is a statement of reassurance towards the end. ‘ So worry not, all things are well. We’ll be alright, we have our looks and perfume on.’

With words like these, Boxer is able to construct a universe that everyone longs for. This record is the Cheers theme reincarnated, a place ‘where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.’ It allows you to lay your cards on the table, reveal all your emotions and gain acceptance without fear of being passed judgment.

And then there is hope. It is a record that conveys aspiration, that things will be better, anxiety notwithstanding. In ‘Slow Show,’ Berninger painstakingly sings ‘you know I dreamed about you, for 29 years before I saw you.’ The song signifies a thirst for completeness. It evokes the feeling of loving and wanting to be loved. And in the end, love is still what makes people believe in endless possibilities.