Thursday, December 9, 2010

[BEST OF 2010] honourable mentions (albums 41-50)

blog 2010/12/09 - [BEST OF 2010] 10 honourable mentions

Instead of a top 50 countdown, we're doing this:
10 best albums
15 amazing albums
15 good albums
10 honourable mentions

So let's get started!  There has been so much amazing music this year.  This I guess kind of counts as entries 41-50, but as usual, I am just listing them in alphabetical order.


Antony and the Johnsons - Swanlights
B. Dolan - Fallen House Sunken City
Bobby Mcferrin - Vocabularies
Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II)
Grinderman - Grinderman 2
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Lisa Bozikovic - Lost August
Slow Six - Tomorrow Becomes You
The Extra Lens - Undercard
Vampire Weekend - Contra

Antony and the Johnsons - Swanlights

The tragedy of this album is that it follows The Crying Light and I Am A Bird Now.  If this was Antony's first album, it'd upend the music industry with it's radically creative structure and entirely unique sound.  But as salivating fans, we are listening to it as though it were itself a god.  Antony's found love, and the ecstasy of it sometimes makes you pine for the ruminations on death and existentialism that permeated the most heartfelt songs of the back catalouge.  But that's our problem, and we need to get over, fast.  Because when we can share in Antony's ecstasy, we can share in the rapture and delight.  Bravely, the standout song only has Antony in the background supporting Bjork with her most stunning performance in recent memory.  Antony's happy, and we should be happy as well.

B. Dolan - Fallen House Sunken City

When you start an album with frantic soundbites from the 9/11 strike at the Pentagon, you can pretty much assume you're in for something heavy.  There is no letting up here.  No slow jams, sexy ballads, or low-key jams about the small things in life that make us smile.   It's hardcore Alias beats with B. Dolan giving his concise and charismatic flow non-stop for the whole journey.  With a flow that owes equally to El-P, Sage Francis and Kool Keith, this album will be easily entered for anyone at all familiar with the "backpacker" hiphop of the early aughts.  But all that aside, there is a tonne of greatness on this album.  So much that you might not even mind fast-forwarding the mid-album transgressions that wear on a bit.  But, to his credit, he probably pulls off a dark vampire hiphop tale with more grace and drama than anyone else could ever.  If you love crazy dense beats and dystopic anti-authoritarian rhymes, you have to get this.

Bobby Mcferrin - Vocabularies

Acapella has always been there, just outside of the mainstream.  With the occassional wave rising it to prominence, like beatboxing, or The Nylons, or Bjork's Medulla, it always sinks in to the background again, underappreciated.  Bobby Mcferrin (yes, that guy. sheesh.) has rweorked the medium far beyond Bjork with this new album that employs an insane amount of overdubbing.  At 9 minutes as the average song length, these are not little pop songs.  These are extended jazz meditations on themes and emotions that are stunning for their technical acheivement as they are for their spiritual.

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II)

If you loved the 8-bit crushing beats of the Celestica EP b-sides, the album itself is much more poppy and smooth, but I assure you you'll love it all the same.  They have really got their synth-pop roots down, and their production is still as glorious as it is (sometimes) brutal.  The wall-of-pop sound makes you take noice, but never forget this album is still all about the dance floor, so listen to it loud.  At high enough volume, the ending piece I Am Made Of Chalk will sound so perfectly appropriate to close off the experience.

Grinderman - Grinderman 2

I really thought I was done hearing about Nick Cave's penis.  I was so sick of Nick Cave's penis.  He wrote a novel all about his penis.  A friend gave it to me ("because it seemed weird, like you") and I couldn't finish it.  Too much Nick Cave penis.  But here I am, wishing I could hate Grinderman 2, wish I could stop Nick Cave's penis, but damnit, there's just no escaping this man's penis.   This is a good album, despite the prominent role Nick Cave's penis has in it.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

The beats are sick and the mastering is shit (yes, in a bad way), that much is obvious from the get-go.  You need to buy this album for 4 reasons:  POWER, All Of The Lights, Monster and Lost In The World.  Those tracks alone are worth $20, or $9.99, or whatever you end up paying for them.  And if an instrumental version ever comes out, whatever it costs will be worth it for the So Appalled beat, which is just sick (yes, in a good way).  The rest of the album is mildly listenable, but will only have any lasting appeal for people that are interested in Kanye as much as Kanye is interested in Kanye.  It's a psychological profile that could only happen in the age of Jersey Shore and reality TV, and the strongest argument yet that humanity is past it's prime and ready for the next asteroid impact.  But fuuuuuuuck, those 4 tracks are hot.  Nikki Minaj and Bon Iver FTW.

Lisa Bozikovic - Lost August

Armed with a whirling organ and as much creaking emotional fragility as an early Cat Power record, Lisa Bozikovic has been making quite an impact in Toronto.  Her new album captures her open-hearted playing very well, with her lush instruments playing duet with her sometimes emotionally strained voice.  Like the early Cat Power records, this is the kind of album you will need to develop a personal and intimate relationship with.  It's odd to say, but sometimes there are albums where they are even better when enjoyed alone.

Slow Six - Tomorrow Becomes You

Post-rock has long been over.  The ascending cascades of guitars hasn't given us much new over the years, and the moniker has faded from our vocabulary like "acid jazz" and "alternative".  But the combination of musicians crafting devastating instrumental  music with rock implements will never leave, it has only evolved and branched.  Branches to jazz improv, classical composition, operatic metal, avant electronics and soundtrack pop have morphed the genre in new ways that demand our attention on occassion.  Slow Six manage to tug at the nostalgie of what was once glorious in the genre without dwelling in its corniness.  They put forth a refinement of a chamber pop group, but with the power a post-Sunn O))) world demands.

The Extra Lens - Undercard

What is the difference between this and a Mountain Goats album?  I don't know, maybe an extra guitar track on the songs?  But for those that don't know this John Darnielle side project, it might fly under your radar and leave you jonesing for the next Mountain Goats outing.  But it's all here, so step write up.  Emotionally shellshocked songs that tell stories of people and towns and life.  And like all Darnielle, it trully takes two or three listens to properly parse what's going on, but it's all the goodness you'd expect.

Vampire Weekend - Contra

The price of admission here is high.  The first lines of the album rhyme "horchata" with "balaclava" and you might be done with it at that point, succumbing to the internet bully squads that tried really hard to never like Vampire Weekend.  But song 2 is meh and 3 and 4 are kind of terrible and I was ready to give up then.  But if you get over that hump, the album is filled with pop genius.  When you hit the trio of "Cousins", "Giving Up the Gun" and "Diplomat's Son" you forget any blips from earlier on.  You forgive and you succumb.  This is why god gave you mp3s.  Play producer.  Delete the 2-4 tracks you don't like and get on with your life.  Don't let the nagging knowledge that you have a partial album in your collection weigh you down.  No, let it set you free.  Because you need this album in your pop music folder, regardless of what steps you have to take to make it happen.


Antony & The Johnsons - Fletta
Antony & The Johnsons - The Great White Ocean
B. Dolan - Economy Of Words (Bail It Out)
B. Dolan - Leaving New York
Bobby Mcferrin - Messages
Bobby Mcferrin - Say Ladeo
Crystal Castles - Celestica
Crystal Castles - Year of Silence
Grinderman - Bellringer Blues
Grinderman - Heathen Child
Kanye West - Lost In The World ft Bon Iver; Who Will Survive In America
Kanye West - Monster ft Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver
Lisa Bozikovic - Phone Cord
Lisa Bozikovic - Take and Take
Lisa Bozikovic - The Letting Go
Slow Six - Sympathetic Response System (Part Two)
Slow Six - The Night You Left New York
The Extra Lens - Adultery
The Extra Lens - Communicating Doors
The Extra Lens - Cruiserweights
The Extra Lens - How I Left the Ministry
Vampire Weekend - Cousins
Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun

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