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Favorite Albums of 2010

Favorite Albums of 2010

by Marnie Stern

1. Marnie Stern
by Marnie Stern

Purchase Marnie Stern
via Kill Rock Stars.

Marnie Stern - Risky Biz
Marnie Stern - Female Guitar Players Are the New Black

          Best known for her guitar playing style, namely finger-tapping à la Van Halen, Marnie Stern has been a favorite artist of mine for years. While her previous works certainly required technical prowess, they often felt disjoint and somewhat abstract. However, with the addition of a self-titled album to her repertoire, Marnie Stern has composed a more thematically unified record. Lyrics on Marnie Stern are mainly written from the first person perspective, allowing listeners to form a stronger connection to the music. While few have probably experienced the type of loss that Marnie has written about on this record, the way she bares all makes the theme of loss and perseverance heard throughout this release that much more relatable. Paired with her characteristic guitar shredding riffs, Marnie Stern is a shoo-in for album of the year.

by Typhoon

2. Hunger and Thirst
by Typhoon

Purchase Hunger and Thirst
via Tender Loving Empire.

Typhoon - CPR / Claws Pt. 2
Typhoon - The Sickness Unto Death

          Simply put, Hunger and Thirst is a concept album done right. Typhoon’s second full-length album begins with just that– a song about starting over. With each additional track, layers upon layers of lush instrumentation are added until a climax is reached where a symphony of violins and horns is released. Lyrics on the record follow a similar pattern, from first and second person accounts of lies and love, to choruses echoing the various religious sentiments humanity tries to place between the two. Hunger and Thirst progresses onward thematically, until it reaches the last track: “The Sickness Unto Death”. A simple acoustic song, this final addition to the album is a poignant first person account of mortality and morality. With lines like, “I read somewhere that when you face eternity, you face it alone. No matter what you thought, or what you had or you had not; Unless you put yourself in god, but tell me god– Where did you go?”, the track borders on The Antlers’ level of depressiveness. However, by the end of the song the narrator is able to ultimately reject the religious dogma described throughout the record, find his own inner peace and, like the first track began, start all over again. Hunger and Thirst is truly song-writing at its finest.

by Diamond Rings

3. Special Affections
by Diamond Rings

Purchase Special Affections
via Secret City Records.

Diamond Rings - Something Else
Diamond Rings - You and Me

          Though Diamond Rings’ debut LP is certainly more dance- and pop- oriented than many of the other albums featured on this list, it is not short on substance. Stripped down, the songs become moving ballads best described by Daytrotter as “the logical preludes to Matt Berninger of The National’s tales of aging domestic woe. These are the same stories, but told from the point of view of a young man just getting to the edge of the woods, when things begin not looking familiar anymore.” Whether you’re in that same awkward stage in your life or you just want to dance your ass off, spin Special Affections for a good time.


The Lead Riders EP

BRONZE - Horses
FLIGHT - Goodbye Horses (Q Lazzarus Cover)
Download the BRONZE EP via Bandcamp &
Purchase The Lead Riders EP via Kill Zoo Music.

          Admittedly, I cheated a bit by including two EPs on this list, but they were too good to pass up! Besides, two half albums make a whole record, right? Though both clock in at under a half hour, they each pack a hefty punch. Stylistically, the two EPs couldn’t sound more different: BRONZE maintain their predecessor’s sharp and angular sound, while The Lead Riders presents the listener with distorted and drugged-out garage rock in all its glory. So it might appear that these two groups have nothing in common, but surprisingly enough both seem to have a penchant for writing and covering songs about none other than that elegant animal indie bands love to use in their names: Horses. BRONZE frontman, Charlie Davis, claims that neither the FLIGHT cover nor the original Q Lazzarus song were used as influences for their track, “Horses”, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.

by The National

5. High Violet
by The National

Purchase High Violet
via Beggars Group.

The National - Sorrow
The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio

          Is it raining outside? Have you watched a little too much Mad Men today? Loosen up that tie or ease off those favorite cocktail dress sling-backs. Grab that bottle of merlot and, if you’re feeling creative, make yourself a jack and coke. Put this record on (your turntable, preferably) and wait for the magic to happen. If you’re lucky, the music gods may bless you with the epiphany of knowing what a mashup of “Sorrow” and the Magnetic Fields’ “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” would sound like. You’re welcome.

by Sufjan Stevens

6. The Age of Adz
by Sufjan Stevens

Purchase The Age of Adz
via Asthmatic Kitty.

Sufjan Stevens - Age Of Adz
Sufjan Stevens - I Want To Be Well

          A highly contested and debated record, The Age of Adz is the first traditional album in years from usually prolific musician Sufjan Stevens. Many fans of his largely acoustic and orchestral sound were taken aback by the introduction of electronic music elements like synthesizers and drum machines to Stevens’ latest effort, however I feel like the change was a necessary one: Sufjan was getting tired of all that banjo, and frankly so was I. While I still can’t bring myself to approve of his use of auto-tune on The Age of Adz, I can appreciate Stevens’ choice of a new direction for this album. Taking into consideration the medical issues he encountered during the making of this record and the schizophrenic outsider-artist, Royal Robertson, The Age of Adz is based on, claims by some critics that the album is directionless and over-done can be easily dismissed. On the track “I Want to Be Well”, I believe Sufjan says it best himself: “I’m not fuckin’ around.” He’s not, folks; This album is fantastic.

by Yeasayer

7. Odd Blood
by Yeasayer

Purchase Odd Blood
via Secretly Canadian.

Yeasayer - I Remember
Yeasayer - Ambling Alp

          Yeasayer’s second album wasn’t really a hard one to figure out. Sure, they might have moved away from the carnal, psychedelic direction of All Hour Cymbals for a more dance-pop vibe but with the Feel-Good Single of the Year “Ambling Alp” under its belt, it’s easy to see what Yeasayer were aiming to do with Odd Blood all along: “[T]o sonically challenge Rihanna in the clubs.” I, for one, wholeheartedly approve of this sentiment and therefore, welcome the changes brought to the band’s sound by Odd Blood. If 2010 is any indication, may 2011 be the year Yeasayer takes over da club.

by Twin Shadow

8. Forget
by Twin Shadow

Purchase Forget
via Terrible Records.

Twin Shadow - At My Heels
Twin Shadow - Slow

          Twin Shadow’s debut record is both unfortunately and aptly named: Though I always seem to somehow forget about its release this past year, every time I’m reminded of the existence of Forget, I have an experience akin to listening to the record for the first time. If High Violet is an album to get classily smashed to, Twin Shadow’s Forget is the album to dance off your hangover to. With its 80s synth-pop back beats, echoing vocals, and sweeping disco-influenced violin arrangements, this record is sure to get your toes tapping and stop your head from throbbing. Happy New Year!

by Phantogram

9. Eyelid Movies
by Phantogram

Purchase Eyelid Movies
via Barsuk Records.

Phantogram - When I'm Small
Phantogram - Running From The Cops

          If Yeasayer end up taking over the club scene in 2011, I sincerely hope they take Phantogram with them. Eyelid Movies, the Saratoga Springs duo’s debut record on Barsuk Records, seamlessly blends elements of disco vocals, crunk hip-hop beats, and spoken word reminiscent of art rockers Xiu Xiu to create songs that you can’t help but dance to. In addition to their stunning sound, Phantogram bring a spectacular light show to each venue they play, no matter how small. Truly a must-see band!

by Menomena

10. Mines
by Menomena

Purchase Mines
via Barsuk Records.

Menomena - TAOS
Menomena - Dirty Cartoons

          Having followed Menomena for years now, I’ve always been impressed with the trio’s ability to integrate the various sounds each member produced using their DIY Deeler software, but the release of Mines in 2010 presented itself more as a compilation album than a collaborative effort. Critics also took note of this, describing that the album’s “painstaking cut-and-paste method of song assembly […] feels like a novel penned via exquisite corpse, as each member contributes, then vanishes, only to return later to add more.” Though that’s worked in the past for albums like I Am the Fun Blame Monster! and Friend & Foe, the time before Mines was released saw band members Danny Seim and Brent Knopf churning out solo works under the Lackthereof and Ramona Falls monikers, respectively. Noting this shift and pull in different directions, it will be interesting to see what the future of recording will sound like for Menomena.

Other Noteworthy Releases:

by Freelance Whales

by Freelance Whales

Purchase Weathervanes
via Frenchkiss Records.

Freelance Whales - Generator ^ 2nd Floor
Freelance Whales - Starring

Award: Favorite Album That Came Out In 2009 but I Only Got Around to Listening to After it was Reissued in 2010

          Originally self-released in 2009 by New York City flashmob concert forefathers Freelance Whales, Weathervanes was quickly picked up by Frenchkiss Records and re-released in 2010. On this record, the band opted to keep the banjo Sufjan grew so sick of, but also incorporated electronic music elements like their label brethren Passion Pit. What resulted was an adorable, if not saccharine, indie pop sound that conned even major publications like Paste Magazine to include the 2009 album in their 2010 year end list. Weathervanes proves the age-old expression true: You really do attract more bloggers with honey than with vinegar.

by Wild Nothing

by Wild Nothing

Purchase Gemini
via Captured Tracks.

Wild Nothing - Chinatown
Wild Nothing - Summer Holiday

Award: Favorite Album I’m Sure is Great but I Somehow Haven’t Listened to Yet

          I heard the Wild Nothing song “Chinatown” sometime this past fall, and it was instantly on repeat in my head for weeks. I bought the record on the waning end of the song’s residency in my mind and, perhaps for fear that all the other tracks on the album would be just as infectious, I never listened to it. It’s now 2011, so I can’t conscientiously claim that this was one of my favorite albums of 2010, however with my New Year’s resolution to finally listen to this record all the way through, I figure “Chinatown” is a good enough track to warrant Gemini an honorable mention on this list.

by Oryx + Crake

Oryx + Crake
by Oryx + Crake

Purchase Oryx + Crake.

Oryx + Crake - Open Your Eyes
Oryx + Crake - Pretty How Towns

Award: Favorite Local Album

          Devastatingly behind on the local music scene, 2010 saw me dipping my toe into vast body of work that is the Atlanta soundscape. My favorite discovery thus far from this pool of artists has been chamber pop super group, Oryx + Crake. This past year, the band independently released their self-titled debut and successfully managed to contribute a new sound to the local market, widely over-saturated hip-hip and garage-rock. May 2011 bring many more such successes (and perhaps even a collaboration with West Coast kindred spirits, Typhoon*) to the group!

*Wishful thinking can’t hurt, right?


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