Five Albums You Should Be Listening to Right Now: Best of 2010 Edition
32 critics, 147 recommendations, all condensed into one amazing list.
Every week, we ask a titan of the mediasphere to recommend five albums to our readers. This week, we asked them all to vote for their five favorite albums of 2010. Using one very secret formula, a lot of recounts, and the power of democracy, we bring you The Top Five Albums of 2010:
Kanye West, My Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye West lives his life as one large act of performance art. Awards shows, Twitter feeds, appearances on benefits and late-night comedy shows: all become fodder for the decades-long conceptual art project that is the life and times of Kanye West. But My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy, West's return to rapping after the emo-meets-electro-pop of 808s & Heartbreaks, reaffirmed that of all West's gifts, his truest talent lies in making music. West is unique in that he makes albums that angrily demand to be listened to in one piece; here, West takes listeners on a harrowing and exhilarating journey through the triumph and tragedy of fame. "Fantasy" posits West as a rock star for the age of Obama, a hedonist who alternates between self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement. Love him, hate him, in 2010 we couldn't stop listening.
— Nathan Rabin, The AV Club
The National, High Violet
It can't be fun to make a National record. When I interviewed guitarists (and twin brothers) Aaron and Bryce Dessner about the recording of High Violet, they described the process as a neurotic "tug of war" among the various members (with Aaron and singer Matt Berninger as the primary antagonists) that usually involves one or two "near-relationship-ending fights." Per Bryce, "Every time we make a record, we feel like it's the last record we'll make." It may suck for them, but you can't argue with the results, especially this time. Here, Berninger pushes the limitations of his chocolate baritone further than he ever has before while the band surrounds him with lush, gorgeous music, adrenalized by Bryan Devendorf's extraordinary, propulsive drumming. There is no single record I listened to more frequently this year than this one.
— Dan Harris, ABC News
Listen: "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening
James Murphy might not have known it at the time, but getting his heart broken would lead to his creating what just might be one of the greatest break-up albums of all time. Here, goofy rave-ups (“Drunk Girls,” “Pow Pow”) rub elbows with tearjerking epics (“All I Want,” “Change”) and the whole thing is as great as any group of recorded songs will be this decade. Hopefully you saw Murphy and Co. on their recent tour, as it sounds like LCD won't be hitting the road again for a long time, if ever. Thankfully, Murphy hasn't firmly refused to make more music. Fingers crossed, people.
— Austin L. Ray, music writer, former editor of Paste Magazine
Listen: "Dance Yrself Clean"
Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid
Janelle Monáe has created a boundary-breaking alternative universe of creativity with her Atlanta-based Wondaland Arts Society collective. She is one of the most charismatic performers I've encountered — so polished and professional, it makes me question my proclivities towards the ragged, unwashed, and shambolic. Her mesmerizing video for "Tightrope" has two mirror-faced figures reminiscent of the illusive form pursued by Maya Deren in her classic "Meshes of the Afternoon." The connection between these two artists is deep, as Maya Deren's work also created its own alternative universe referencing past artistic movements. In Deren's film Divine Horsemen, she describes a goddess of love who "moves in an atmosphere of infinite luxury, a perfume of refinement. Her arrival pervades the very air." She may as well have been describing Janelle Monáe.
— Wendy Fonarow, The Guardian
The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
We're in one of those rare moments when music obsessives have the same new songs playing in their cars as the soccer moms in the SUVs next to them. It seems like everyone bought this record. I remember the first time I booked Arcade Fire — opening for Unicorns in the small room at Emo's. 250 kids were seeing them for the first time. The crowd exploded — it was like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show. They became one of the most popular bands in the country while on an independent label, with an independent booking agency and manager backing them. All this, while still riding that tightrope between edgy/progressive. It's amazing the same way all three of their records sound new and different, which is a tough thing to pull off when you're under a microscope. Everyone is waiting for them to fuck up… but they never do.
— Graham Williams, Fun Fun Fun Fest
Listen: "The Suburbs"
Band of Horses, Infinite Arms
The Black Keys, Brothers
Beach House, Teen Dream
Best Coast, Crazy for You
Broken Bells, The Ghost Inside
Cee-Lo Green, The Lady Killer
Sleigh Bells, Treats
Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
Yeasayer, Odd Blood