Alyson's Top Ten (ish) Albums of the Year!!!
I feel like this gets considerably longer every year, and since that's a good thing (right?) I've added a couple of new categories this year. So, on to the victors, in semi-particular order.
First up, the Honorable Mentions, those sweet little albums that burned a trail through my ears this year, but can't make the proper list since they weren't released this year. Still worth a spin though!
5. Common Reaction- Uh Huh Her Synthy, dreamy, dark poppy goodness you can (kind of) dance to.
4. Diorama- Hailey Wojcik She might possibly be a little crazy, but I'm okay with that.
3. Transmitter Failure- Jenny Owen Youngs Seriously bummed I missed this last year.
2. Passerby- Allie Moss Ingrid Michaelson's right-hand lady delivers gorgeously ethical songs that break my heart every time.
1. Lungs- Florence + the Machine Duh.
Given that little list, you may be thinking, "Oh great Alyson. This is going to be another list of weird pop music and female singer songwriters. You are so predictable." And you'd be right, mostly. But that's why I've added the following two sections to the list: Diversity.
Since my cup of tea may not be your cup of tea, here are some albums I respect this year, but can't make myself like, no matter how hard I try. That's right, it's time for my 3 Begrudgingly Acknowledged Albums of 2010:
3. High Violet- The National
2. The Suburbs- Arcade Fire
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy- Kanye West
And finally, before we get on the to really good stuff, here are a few more albums that were On My Radar this year:
7. The Ghost Who Walks- Karen Elson
6. We Are Born- Sia
5. Flamingo- Brandon Flowers
4. I Learned the Hard Way- Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
3. The Living Sisters- The Living Sisters
2. Lady Killer- Cee Lo Green
1. Archandroid- Janelle Monae
And now, after so much ado, here's the real deal kids.
10. I’m Having Fun Now- Jenny and Johnny Ok, so let’s be honest: if this album was by anyone other than Jenny Lewis, I would probably think it was a pretty decent record, but hardly listen to it. Take for example, Best Coast’s album that everyone else is excited about, but I just can’t be bothered to care because it’s just too low-fi for me to listen to without wanting to punch someone. That being said, even if Jenny isn’t as interesting with Johnny as she is on her own, she seems to be having fun. I just wish it weren’t buried under so much fuzz. Highlights: Scissor Runner, My Pet Snakes, Big Wave, Committed.
9. Songs for a Sinking Ship- April Smith and the Great Picture Show From time to time I come across a producer whose work I totally dig and I decide I want to marry him. In the past that’s been T-Bone Burnett, Mike Mogis, and Jon Brion. At the moment though, my heart belongs to Dan Romer, who along with Ingrid Michaelson’s albums, produced this album, a perfect little pastiche-y (NOT an insult) slice of fun. For her part, Smith’s got a big voice she uses to deliver bold insults (Drop Dead Gorgeous), growl out withering threats (Dixie Boy), and belt out torch songs (Beloved) with equal panache—this kid’s gonna make it big I think. Highlights: Terrible Things, What’ll I Do, Wow and Flutter, Stop Wondering.
8. Volume Two- She & Him I’ll always appreciate the knack these two have for making music that’s optimistic, but totally bummed out at the same time. It feels sunny on the surface like Lesley Gore, but there’s some deep insecurity lurking underneath, which makes their tunes so much more interesting than they’d seem at first listen. I’m hoping to hear something a little different sonically next time, but I’m glad we got two albums worth of this sound out of them. Highlights: In the Sun, Don’t Look Back, Over it Over Again, Brand New Shoes.
7. Kaleidoscope Heart- Sara Bareilles I have a theory that that part of King of Anything where she talks about talking in “all-caps” is about Kanye West. I just thought everyone should know about that, because if anyone thinks he’s the King of anything, it’s Kanye fo sho. Anyway, I REALLY like this album—a huge improvement over her first, if you ask me. Aaaaand I think that’s all I’m going to say about it. Highlights: Kaleidoscope Heart, Gonna Get Over You, King of Anything
6. The Family Jewels- Marina and the Diamonds An incredibly well-produced pop album, Marina’s debut is surprisingly sensitive underneath all that gloss. Sure she sings about robots and being obsessed with Hollywood, but there’s deep concern for the damage our modern lives are doing to us, leaving us isolated, shallow, and emotionally vacant. Give this one another listen folks. Highlights: Are You Satisfied?, I Am Not a Robot, Girls, Oh No!
5. Brothers- The Black Keys I mean, have you listened to this one? It’s minimalistic, dirty, bluesy rock at its best, and in case you missed it, it sounds pretty darn cool. If Jack White isn’t green with envy over this one, I’ll be surprised. Highlights: Everlasting Light, Tighten Up, Sinister Kid
4. Masquerade- Lelia Broussard Another tour de force by my favorite new producer, Mr. Dan Romer, this little gem from upstart Lelia Broussard caught me by surprise. I don’t know much about her, but this is a smart album, with tightly written songs, melodies that make me so so so jealous, and rock solid production. I LIKE IT OK? Highlights: Masquerade, Shoot for the Moon, You’re Not Fooling Anyone, Something True.
3. July Flame- Laura Veirs I’ve been trying to get into Laura Veirs for a long time now, but like, she’s so mellow it just hasn’t worked out til now. This is the perfect album for if you just need to chill the heck out, plus she’s got some solid songwriting working for her. Oh, and one of the best refrains I’ve heard in a looong time on the title track. Check check check check it out! Highlights: July Flame, Life is Good Blues, Summer is the Champion
2. My Best Friend is You- Kate Nash Two songs into my first listen of My Best Friend is You, I realized Kate had dropped a serious contender for album of the year. And if it weren’t for those two songs I don’t like, and the one I REALLY don’t like (Mansion Song, I’m looking at you), this would totally be the winner this year. But, because Kate is a little crazy and it wouldn’t be her if she didn’t run with that, respect. And seriously dudes, the 8 or so other songs on this album are primo. I dare you to listen to Paris without singing along at the top of your lungs. Highlights: Paris, Don’t you Want to Share the Guilt?, Do-Wah-Doo, Early Christmas Present.
1. Release Me—The Like LA’s teen-rock darlings have grown up, and thanks to lead singer/songwriter Z Berg’s love of all things mod, their sophomore album Release Me is an enthusiastic, driven sixties girl group update produced by a guy who knows a little something about that, Mark Ronson. Berg’s cheeky lyrics and solid guitar work plus superb drummer Tennessee Thomas are still here, beefed up by new additions in keyboardist Annie Monroe and bassist Laena Geronimo. They’re having a good time with the new outfit, and this album makes sure you do too. Highlights: Wishing He Was Dead, Release Me, In the End, Catch me if You Can.