Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ amd Music Director Billy Kalb.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)
Four Tet – There Is Love In You (Domino) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I was wary of Kieren Hebden’s foray into techno with 2007’s Ringer EP, given what a fan I was of his earlier work and his previously glitchy, jazz-inflected sonic palette. But There is Love In You brought me back. Sprawling and ambitious, club-tested at London’s legendary Plastic People, Love in You is a near-perfect album. It’s dark but warm, mechanical and organic all at once, and the reassembled vocal snippets convey a beauty that lyrics could not. Absolutely stunning.
Sam Amidon – I See the Sign (Bedroom Community) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Almost entirely slept-on despite some decent press, Sam Amidon’s third full-length came to my attention almost by accident and soon became one of my favorites. Amidon is what you might call a folk singer, but he chooses to draw on material that’s often centuries old: immigrant songs, murder ballads, wedding dances. Rather than go the route of stuffy traditionalism, he imbues his versions with cues taken from 20th century classical minimalism, chamber pop and Arthur Russell. They’re old songs, but Amidon makes them glow like new.
Judson Claiborne – Time and Temperature (La Société Expéditionnaire) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
No band this year wrote a better song about cannibalism. Chicago’s own Judson Claiborne put together a fantastic full-length of moody folk-rock in 2010, and if you haven’t heard it, you’re doing yourself a considerable disservice. Sometimes haunting and bible-black, other times bursting with joy, Time and Temperature is one of the most honest, rewarding, and genuinely likeable records I heard this year. Check it out.
The Walkmen – Lisbon (Fat Possum) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Both the National and the Walkmen mine similar territory; early on, both bands explored the angst of coming to terms with adulthood, wrestling with new responsibilities and figuring out where you belong in this grown-up world. By 2010, both have mellowed a bit, more comfortable in their skin. There’s still plenty of doubt and pain, but it’s been tempered with quiet confidence and an appreciation for the good things. That’s not to say they’ve become boring, however; what they lack in larger-than-life size they more than make up for in ever-increasing depth.
Robyn – Body Talk (Konichiwa) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Not Part 1, not Part 2. I’m talking about the whole damn thing. Signed to her own label and free to do whatever she likes, Swedish pop sweetheart Robyn released EPs at a furious clip this year, compiling her favorite songs onto a full-length album last month. Part of the joy of Body Talk was hearing what she’d come up with next, from synth-pop ballads to dancefloor ragers to duets with Snoop Dogg. Not everything hit the mark, but there’s enough quality material for a very, very killer iTunes playlist — Robyn gets exactly what being a pop star in the 21st century is all about.
Mount Kimbie – Crooks & Lovers (Hotflush) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Dubstep has mutated into something…something approachable. Mount Kimbie’s Crooks and Lovers is more than your standard issue dubstep: the rhythmic sensibility is almost the same, but the pop sensibility is off the charts. Which is to say: it’s danceable, but chilled out; it’s abstract, but upfront; it’s hazy, but laser-focused. It’s just right. And even so, it’s totally unexpected – and rarely this well-executed.
Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid (Atlantic) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A year after the death of the King of Pop and a thousand media laments of how no one makes big-tent pop albums like Thriller anymore, two wildly creative talents made a couple of big-tent pop albums… and the wider world hardly noticed. A real crime, I promise you, and those who missed it will inevitably come to regret their error. Full-to-the-brim with innovative production and killer hooks, Sir Lucious and The ArchAndroid satisfied the pop itch like few other albums this year could. They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
Jason Adasiewicz – Sun Rooms (Delmark) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
With his partners-in-jazz Mike Reed (drums) and Nate McBride (bass), Jason Adasiewicz is busy redefining the role of the vibraphone in the genre. No great surprises here if you’ve heard any of Adasiewicz’s work elsewhere (and considering how prolifically collaborative the dude is, chances are you have), just some wonderful performances and warm, inviting tones (like a sun room, get it?). If jazz isn’t really your thing, this could be the album to change that. And if jazz is your thing, you’re in for a treat.
Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (HoZac/Sub Pop) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
You know what so much of the current garage-rock revival lacks? Hooks. You know what I Will Be has in abundance? You guessed it. Dum Dum Girls are a melodic steamroller, and nothing will get in their way – not boys, nor rivals, nor rules. Boosted by killer production from Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, The Go-Go’s), singer Dee Dee radiates effortless cool and confidence, and she’s totally earned it: when you can write songs like this, being a total badass should come naturally.
The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Like a cinephile going out of his way not to see overt Oscar-bait, I avoided ear contact with the much-hyped third Arcade Fire album as long as possible. But something pulled me in; I’d hear a fantastic song on CHIRP, or I’d be in the car with my girlfriend and she’d put it on. And you know what? Sometimes hype is warranted. This band continues to get better, and fortunately, they’ve also dropped the heavy-handed doom and gloom of Neon Bible in favor of graceful, instantly memorable pop songs. They’re still rallying against the world, of course, but this time around, it’s much easier to join in.
Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner (Ghostly International)
White Hinterland – Kairos (Dead Oceans)
In Tall Buildings - In Tall Buildings (Whistler)
Matthew Dear – Black City (Ghostly International)
Caribou – Swim (Merge)