Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Austin Harvey.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)
Stricken City – Songs About People I Know (The Kora) / Animal Festival EP (Self-Released) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This London quartet craft catchy, singable pop tunes with danceable rhythms, wonderful melodies, and sonic flourishes aplenty. The former release, a mini-album that stampedes through its 10 songs in 31 minutes, showcases tremendous breadth and range, from soaring choruses to hushed balladry. Relentlessly fun, thoughtful, and never hesitating to pull out the stops. The follow-up EP is more of the same, with more electronic elements and wistful chord progressions. Sadly, the bands second album, next years Losing Colour, will be their last. Perhaps they were just too good to last.
The Walkmen – Lisbon (Fat Possum) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
When The Walkmen sound great, which is often, they seem to give their brand of poppy indie-rock more space to breathe then any other quintet out there. On their latest, strings and horns are even brought into the mix. But still its the songs, even when the refrains crescendo to their highest point, that allow the listener to roam around like a vacant snowy night. The result is the best non-Scandinavian winter album in years.
Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The Canadian collective employed John McEntire for production on their fourth proper album, and the Chicago brainchild did good here, by the band, and the listener. The band use all their weapons in ways familiar and unfamiliar, creating an indie-rock stew that goes from minimally electronic to brutally epic, post-punk to post-rock. Its an album for sorting through ones demons, and at the end they feel exorcised.
The Streets On Fire – This is Fancy (The Currency Exchange) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
When starting a new business venture, some folks stick to the adage, "Do one thing, but do it better than anybody else." This seems to be the mantra of Chicagos The Streets On Fire. Their debut album roars out of the gate with disgustingly filthy guitar, vocals culled from what could be a shortwave radio, and anthemic power to light the entire Midwest. Post-punk jams from your neighbors basement, bluesy, urgent, fun, and undeniable.
Four Tet – There is Love In You (Domino) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Maybe its because Kieran Hebdens live show at Metro earlier this year was one of my favorites. Maybe its because he samples, of all things, a handbell choir, and I happened to play handbells at church in my youth. Maybe its the fact that this album is a huge departure from the also-excellent (and more rock song-based) Rounds. Truth is, it's a combination of those things, as well as some of the best beats of the year coupled with bits of sound clipped from the places you'd least expect. At once moving and booty-shaking, and unafraid to do either.
Eux Autres – Broken Bow (Bon Mots) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
There were so many twee-pop, chamber-pop, and Spector-influenced female-fronted fuzz-pop records released in 2010 that wading through all of them to find a gem or two is daunting and frustrating venture. So let me do you a favor and tell you this: Get This Album. Trust me. Everything about the above genres is nailed by this Portland duo. One of the few indie-pop records this year that never sounds forced.
The Roots – How I Got Over (Def Jam) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
After stating that Rising Down would be their last, The Roots come back with a lean, mean, intellectual album thats the head-bopper you knew they still had in them. In addition to giving us the best Joanna Newsom track of the year ("Right On"), the Philadelphians give us piano-driven floor-thumpers that still prove that theyre the best hip-hop act in the biz, Jimmy Fallon or not. And auto-tuning the baby crying on the last track? Genius.
Charanjit Singh – Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat (Bombay Connection) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Heres the deal: Back in 1982, a Mumbai soundtrack composer and wedding performer went into the studio with a few Roland synths and merged East with West, playing traditional Indian ragas on keyboards, and backing the tracks with disco beats. The result is a stunning precursor to modern techno that still sounds groundbreaking today. A commercial flop in India in the 1980s, this 2010 re-release has folks trumpeting Singh as the pioneer of acid house, years before the term existed. Mindblowing.
Frightened Rabbit – Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The Scottish band added a member, beefed up their sound, got over a breakup, and the resultant record is their best. More confident, with still enough insecurity to create lyrics of self-doubt as well as self-assurance, Frightened Rabbit have mastered bringing in their folk influences into a full rock band setting. Empowering stuff for anyone getting past relationship troubles.
Verma – Salted Earth (Self-Released) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Aiming right for the intersection of krautrock and psychedelia, and hitting the darkest of bullseyes, this Chicago quartet paint haunting pictures with fuzz, delay, and squawks. All the while, eerie vocals and insistent drums ease their way into your cerebral cortex. It might not be metal, but its certainly one of the best heavy releases of the year in any genre.
11. Robyn - Body Talk (Konichiwa) Anyone who says "Dancing On My Own" isn't 2010s best song is a liar. 12. Drink Up Buttercup - Born And Thrown On A Hook (Yep Roc) Imagine if an indie-rock band joined the circus. An energetic, yet well-thought, debut leaping from verse to chorus to completely-unrelated-movement with reckless abandon. 13. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam) Proggy at times, but otherwise a brilliant and forward-thinking masterpiece from modern musics foremost nutball. 14. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador) The New Pornographers albums are like Star Trek movies. Every other one is wonderful. This one is wonderful. 15. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge) Uneven at times, but still a wonderfully satisfying chamber-pop record. 16. Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid (Atlantic) Plays like a soul review in the 22nd Century. Also plays like the best Outkast album since Stankonia. The lady can rap, sing, and write. 17. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM (Because) The best work Beck has done since Midnite Vultures. A wonderful marriage of French pop and indie sensibilities. 18. Club 8 - The Peoples Record (Labrador) Coquette-ish Swedish pop with West African backing beats? Just crazy enough to work. If it were only summer... 19. of Montreal - False Priest (Polyvinyl) Kevin Barnes is insane. If he wants to make sci-fi sex jams, you say "yes" and dance along. 20. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (DFA) Would have made my top ten had I not realized that there are a couple serious clunkers on it.