Monday, December 20, 2010

Top Albums of 2010 - PMR Writers

Editors Note: The past couple of years I have ranked my top 10 albums and shows. This year I decided to do things a little different. Instead of being bored with my questionable prose, I asked the contributors of the blog to provide their top 3 for each category. This will stretch out the rest of the week. The blog will take a vacation over the winter break. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Without further ado:

Favorites of 2010 - Daniel Hammer

In recent weeks, some blogs and critics have been tossing around the comment that 2010 has been a “good, but not great” year for music. Really?! My head is still spinning from all that great music that I’ve blasted through my speakers and headsets this year! The pretentious nerds who are unhappy with 2010 are upset that the year did not produce the kind of consensus favorites that years like 2009 gave us. Last year, it was a fairly simple task to identify the five or so albums that would appear at the top of nearly everyone’s lists. Merriweather Post Pavilion was the clear favorite for the top spot. ‘Big’ albums from the likes of Grizzly Bear and The Flaming Lips provided a sense of stability, and new acts like the XX and Dirty Projectors (has anyone even listened to them since last year?) were collectively agreed-upon top-ten prodigies. There doesn’t seem to the same indie consensus for 2010—which to some obviously means it was a weak year in music. Personally, I enjoy years like 2010. Music has been all over the map this year, and my favorites have not always been the same as my friends or favorite bloggers’ favorites. What’s more, I have the feeling that these types of musical years have already become the norm rather than the exception. Each year is delivering an ever greater volume of bands, albums, musical styles, and remixes, along with opportunities to discover them all through constantly growing channels of media, networking, and sharing on the Internets. My favorite albums of the year are just that—favorites. I have tried not to over-think the list. I just went with the albums that I had the most fun with and that I kept listening to again and again. Here are my favorite 8 ½ albums of 2010.

Top Three

Crime in Stereo—I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone

I listened to no album more in 2010 than this one. This collection of post-hardcore gems is creative, diverse, and a perfect balance of melody and aggression. A more complete album than their previous Is Dead, Crime in Stereo broke up less than two months after this was released. An excellent final release for a band too few people outside of hardcore took the time to discover.

The National—High Violet

The National have easily established themselves as one of the most intelligent and meaningful bands of the past several years. Their music and, especially, Matt Berninger’s voice and lyrics absolutely capture the place in which I find myself—grown up (mostly), done with angst, but thoughtfully struggling with what we love, don’t love, and just aren’t yet sure about in life and the cities we live in.

Twin Shadow—Forget

No better voice debuted this year than George Lewis Jr. His album looks to the sound of the 80s while hurling his moving voice into new musical territory. The songs on this album are so complete, finely crafted and cohesive while pursuing different dynamics of sound and emotion. I listened to nothing but this album for at least four days when I first got it.


Future Islands—In Evening Air

This album is so much fun to listen to. It’s haunting, moving, and danceable. I don’t give a shit if Pitchfork thinks others have done new wave before. Who’s doing it better than Future Islands? No one, that’s who.

Avey Tare—Down There

I am thoroughly surprised by how much I like this album, and it’s not only due to the swampy atmospherics and awesome alligator cover art. Unlike Panda Bear, Avey Tare doesn’t do childlike. He makes dark, murky and absolutely engaging tapestries of sound with enough melody to let you simply listen to the music, rather than study it like homework. That would be boring. This is not.

Indie Folk (because I love how good this genre has become)

The Tallest Man on Earth—Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird EP and The Wild Hunt
How quickly has Kristian Matsson risen in the ranks of the indie and folk world? His first full-length came out in 2008, and this year he has dropped a flawless full-length, followed by an even better EP just two months ago. His debt to Bob Dylan is evident—but this is part of what makes folk so great. Everyone is working with the same simple components of a guitar and voice, but musicians are able to create stirring songs, emotions and melodies that capture your heart. Matsson has done that with both of these releases.

Mumford & Sons—Sigh No More

Appalachian bluegrass folk from London? Yes, and amazingly good.

Sharon Van Etten—Epic

I first heard the single “A Crime” from Van Etten’s second full-length and was hooked on her voice. Absolutely unique and stirring. After hearing “Don’t Do It” I simply had to have the album. I still love those two songs the best, but the whole album is great and I’m very happy to have discovered her this year.