Other Ten Percent 2010 Album Guide

Dec 22 2010

I was going to get all music journalism up in your guy’s business on this one but then I remembered that I’m lazy and kinda bad at explaining why I like the music I like. I still go into it at some points but mostly this is just a list of ten albums you guys should listen to from the year if you haven’t already.

*Rap* *Insanity*
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I don’t really have an album of the year per se but we still need to start here with the “album of the year” of the year. I think if you included rap as one of the genres you paid even some attention to you were contractually obligated to put this as #1 on your list or at least that’s what it seems like with every magazine and music review site shoving it into the #1 slot. And to be fair in kinda deserves it. Since Graduation (the album, not my graduation) I’ve had this theory about Kanye as effort-ful cool vs. Jay-Z’s effortless cool and it’s lead me to think that the sort of lazy triumphant Kanye of the last two albums made his work on both of them pretty mediocre. I wanted him to have another album that he obsessed with as much as he did Late Registration and he kinda took it to another level. Instead of just pulling tracks to redo them he puts out a track a week, instead of reshooting a music video he spends months on a 35 minute music video opus thing of the whole album, instead of obsessively coming back to the studio to keep working on the album he just NEVER LEAVES and hardly sleeps for months on end until he makes something that a friend described as “Prog Rap.” I’m not sure the title totally fits but it does convey the utterly batshit compulsion to throw anything he could find on the album and somehow make it work that Kanye pulls off here. I mean there’s a 4 minute Vocoder coda to a track and it actually works. The only trick is somehow convincing Kanye that he needs to work this hard on the next album.

*Electronic* *Water*
Caribou – Swim
Probably the most albumy album on the list. When I listen to Swim I have to be in the mood to listen to the whole thing (the test is Sun, if you’re willing to deal with it then it’s a good time for the whole album) or it falls apart. But when I am in the mood this is probably my favorite album of the year. I know it’s up there for Jane since she’s the one that made me keep listening to it until I liked it.

*Suburbia* *Indie Rock*
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Even before the incredible Spike Jonze video this was my favorite Arcade Fire album. It’s like Funeral without the boring bits or a Neon Bible where the preachyness only rarely comes off as really silly and stupid. Arcade Fire has finally shaken off the affectations I was never fond of and just made an album as the band underneath all that. Or at least they’re clinging the the affectations I like better.

*Science Fiction* *Pop*
Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
You know ordinarily I’m not a Sufjan guy but I’m kinda mystified more people aren’t into this album. I mean sure the 26 minute closing track is excessive even for him but a science fiction themed Sufjan album based on an obscure crazy artist is totally my cup of tea. The title track off of this album would probably be in the running for my song of the year if I actually was going to do that. Which I’m not.

*Dance* *Robots*
Robyn- Body Talk
I feel kinda weird admitting how much I like this album as a straight dude but it’s pretty damn awesome. I know it wasn’t intentional but between the Snoop Dog Cameo showing up Katy Perry and Fembot totally blowing the forgettable Christina-Aguilera-as-sexy-robot song out of the water Robyn basically made an album calling out every other female popstar save one on their own turf and then showing them up. She and Gaga are either going to team up and rule the world or battle to the death destroying a small nation in the process.

*Romance* *Electro-Pop*
Hot Chip – One Life Stand
An album about feelings and also synthesizers. I was never really wild about Hot Chip but actually adding some depth to their formula really kicked them up a notch.

*Science Fiction* *R&B & Soul & Craziness*
Janele Monae – The Archandroid
In any other year this would have been album of the year material easily. Unfortunately despite making a fantastic crazy sci-fi pastiche romantic epic she kinda gets out crazied by Kanye, out romanced by Hot Chip and almost out sci-fied by Sufjan. I think, coming back to it, that the real “problem” (and good God go buy this album if you haven’t yet because I’m totally bitching about small things) with The Archandroid is that some of the tracks ONLY work as an album and even then you could kinda take and leave stuff like Sir Greendown. As much as I love her commitment to the bit with her 4 part epic android love story set in the 31st century I really look forward to seeing what she does when she’s not constrained by her own narrative. If Kanye’s the 10,000 hour rule of music Monae is clearly going for more of a Rapid Prototyping thing just throwing out music until she finds the insanely good stuff. I’d like to see what she comes up with when she doesn’t have to cut any of that for not fitting the story.

*Rap* *Competitiveness*
Big Boi – Sir Lucious Leftfoot the Son of Chico Dusty
Everybody wants to make this album about a competition with Andre 3000 but frankly that narrative is insulting to both of them if you want to compare him to anybody compare him to the other big rap album of the year. Big Boi out ridiculous-album-titles Kanye and out raps him too. Production means Kanye might pull ahead but it’s hard to say either way these two are neck and neck for rap album of the year.

*Rock* *Enthusiasm*
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Sweet cupping cakes this album is awesome. I know people who thought the blown out audio on Crown on the Ground meant they didn’t know what they were doing and those people should hang their head in shame.

*Mashups* *Dance*
Girl Talk – All Day
People can give me shit for liking Girl Talk as much as they want I know the ADD mashup thing doesn’t work for some people but when you get in that mode the first 40 minutes of this are the soundtrack to the best possible dance party and the back half grows on you too after a while.

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