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CHIRP DJ writesCHIRP Radio’s Best of 2010

For the entire month of December the CHIRP volunteers have been posting their favorite records of 2010. Now, we've compiled the lists, have done the maths, and put together the definitive CHIRP best of 2010 list. Enjoy.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)

#1 Beach House - Teen Dream (Sub Pop)

BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This in my opinion was not only the best album of 2010 but could also be considered one of the best albums of the past decade. I think a true testament to what makes an album great is an ability to still move you months after it has been released. Teen Dream came out in January and it's been nearly a full year and I still absolutely adore it just as much, if not more, then when I first heard it. Just a beautiful record from start to finish and also one of the most romantic albums to come out in quite some time.Mike Pakowski

#2 LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA)

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As confirmed by James Murphy, this album doesn’t signal the end of LCD Soundsystem per se, but future endeavours may involve less touring in support. Or more. Their previous long-play outing, Sound Of Silver, is still a high-rotate turntable showing at the Kiwi pad, but it’s in the live arena – festival or club - where LCD come into their own. Their Coachella performance closing out Friday night was a weekend highlight, 20-ft disco ball and all, and similarly the Metro performance threatened to tear the roof off the sucker. And yes, Nancy rocks! Fave tracks? Opener Dance Yrself Clean, Pow Pow, I Can Change. —Owen Harris

#3 The National – High Violet (4AD)

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The essential National style did not change on this album. But they found a way to make their subtly anthemic rock sound even fuller without overwhelming their center, singer Matt Berninger. Combined with wise lyrics tackling adult themes, the band proves that you can be a grown up without making Dad Rock. —Mike Bennet

#4 Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid (Atlantic)

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It’s a little bit rock and a little bit soul and a little bit hip hop and a little bit 1960’s Disney musical. Janelle Monáe debut full-length album is impressively diverse, but more importantly, it works, start to finish. It’s also proof that the album format is still vital – don’t just buy the songs you like from iTunes, buy the whole thing and listen to it start to finish. —Tony Breed

#5 The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)

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Obtuse but intriguing lyrics, impassioned but challenging vocals, and the ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand make this the best early Dylan record since 1963. —Shawn Campbell

#6 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)

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Love him or hate him, Kanye knows how to get your attention. After a pretty rough couple of years, West came hurdling through the haters with his most epic release to date, dropping My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as his musical redemption. West proves he’s got power with his sleek beats, addicting hooks and rhymes (seriously, who else can get the masses singing toasts to ‘douchebags’?) and featured partners in crime ranging from Elton John, Jay-Z to Bon Iver. —Jodi Root

#7 The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)

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Best Track: "We Used To Wait" – Pounding pianos, a spectacular interactive music video, plus the haunting vocals that have become synonymous with the Arcade Fire's orchestral style make this a standout song this year. —Carolyn Kassnoff

#8 Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (Drag City)

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Aside from the sheer fact of its girth and its packaging (three discs, six songs each, three songs per side, amazing artwork / photography of Ms. Newsom) the album showed a new level of her songwriting lyrically, pushing out of the symbolic and into the intimate. On her two previous albums she would dress up what the songs were really saying in strange fantastical characters (a bear, a taxidermied dove), but on this one she would tell it to you straight: "It does not suffice to merely lie beside each other as those who love each other do."

While this kind of confessional emo-ness is the norm for other songwriters, for Joanna Newsom it is, in a way, letting her guard down, letting the audience inside to see something truer. And the songs that seemed dense and evasive still also seemed like veiled metaphors for this same relationship and its ultimate demise. This was my favorite album of the year. —Bobby Evers

#9 Four Tet – There Is Love In You (Domino)

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 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. —Billy Kalb

#10 Disappears – Lux (Kranky)

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This one’s for the record collectors. Probably my favorite Chicago live band, Disappears had some trouble getting this out; when Lux finally arrived, it felt as much like a sigh of relief as anything else. Good news followed a good year for the band: Follow-up LP Guider arrives in January 2011. Mark your calendars. —Patrick Masterson

#11 Robyn – Body Talk (Konichiwa)

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Before Pitchfork this summer, I liked Robyn. After Pitchfork this summer, I LOVED her. It was something like 4000 degrees the day of her performance and there's this pale little pixie decked out in a leather and knit dress, dancing and singing her heart out. She never missed a beat and kept the crowd on its feet the whole time. She even swore in two languages when talking about how hot it was. Oh, Robyn. You made my bitter, shriveled heart grow at least three sizes that day. Finally! An intelligent woman who calls her own shots on her own label, no less, and plays awesome pop music you don't feel guilty for loving. This is pop perfection. Thank you, Robyn!! —Nicole Oppenheim

#12 Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)

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Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! This is the album that the 18 year old version of myself expected to hear as a follow up to Here's Where The Strings Come In. —Mike Gibson

#13 Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (4AD)

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Best Tracks: “Hot Body Rub”, “Round And Round” b/w “Little Wig” - At first you think this is a joke but then the massive genius ambition grabs you. I never thought or I forgot how making this kind of music could be possible. Thanks to this record, I hope more of this kind of music begins to exist. Amazing harmonies and awesome hooks abound. Refrain from ignoring “Butt-House Blondies”. The song has substantial meritas actioni! —Jon Schech

#14 Judson Claiborne – Time and Temperature (La Société Expéditionnaire)

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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. —Billy Kalb

#15 Tame Impala – Innerspeaker (Modular)

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When describing a good music review, CHIRP music director, Billy Kalb, once noted, "Be specific. Don't use a word like, 'Beatles-esque'." With Tame Impala, it's rather complicated to move beyond the label, but imagine an alternate universe where The Beatles played "Tomorrow Never Knows" on Ed Sullivan. Moving on for there, the band exchanged flutes for synths, Yoko Ono for psychotropic soundscapes that spilt over the event horizon, arriving in our reality through the black hole we call a speaker. —James Vest

#16 Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (HoZac/Sub Pop)

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2010 had a lot of "girly" fronted bands and this one was at the top of the top. Great harmony, perfect pop songs. This record made me nostalgic for a time that was around before I was born, riding w/ my Johnny and his leather jacket. —Caitlin Lavin

#17 How To Dress Well – Love Remains (Lefse)

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This was quite possibly the most addicting album I’ve heard in a long time. Chicago Reader’s Miles Raymer put it quite nicely when he suggests that it sounds “like someone erased all the lead instruments from the multitrack recording of a big-budget pop song, leaving just atmospheric layers of textural overdubs, all drenched in reverb.” —Matt Wenzel

#18 Best Coast – Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)

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For those moments when you just can’t get that special someone out of your mind, here is a cutie lady, unlucky in love. Lyrics born from her break-up dangle with a lo-fi yet realistic teen-angsty pop. She wrote a letter, in twelve tracks, each under or at 3 minutes highlighting the ups and downs of a sensitive yet passionately adorable galpal lost in her mind about a boy. It’s just too too, opposed to so so! —Carolyna Wheat

#19 Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)

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I'm a sucker for shoegaze / dream pop but this album will reach deep into your consciousness and change you. Right about halfway through, something clicks and the rest just falls into place. As with most things Bradford Cox has a hand in, it swirls and floats and lifts you up, lets you down easy. This album is, in its entirety, an impressive work of art. Its shimmering melodic texture ebbs and flows and the structure of each song builds on the last. Each wall of gorgeous harmonic sound and each progression feels so perfect, so well crafted. At the end you are rewarded by a majestic, shining prize in the epic piece, He Would Have Laughed. However, it's an ending that wouldn't be near as effective without every leading minute. —Kumar McMillan

#20 The Books – The Way Out (Temporary Residence)

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One of my favorite bands remains. I trust the Books. I can't imagine this gimmick's effect wearing off anytime soon either. The staple that will always keep the Books interesting is their humor. As long as they're funny, and not topically so, we'll remember this music. A surreal absurdity blesses their music in the same way Monty Python had the good graces of silliness. The effect is universal and timeless, and occasionally a laugh riot. —Dylan Peterson

#21 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. It's an album for sorting through one's demons, and at the end they feel exorcised. —Austin Harvey

#22 Caribou – Swim (Merge)

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As soon as you hear the start of "Odessa" off of Caribou's Swim, you're sold. Daniel Snaith, a former mathematician, puts his his big, number crunchin' brain to use by developing the most successful Caribou album yet--not to mention the live show is killer, filled with kaleidoscopic videos that will blow your miiiiiiind. —cloudsasha

#23 Delorean – Subiza (True Panther Sounds)

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Waves of sunny, pastel happiness from the Spanish former punk-rockers. It’s been said that great music transports you to other places. Whenever I listen to this album I want to be somewhere in southern Europe dancing on a beach. —Clarence Ewing

#24 Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago (Matador)

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Shearwater continues their growth from folk side project (from Jonathan Meiburgs former band, Okkervil River) to one of the most unique bands out there with this album.  Lushly orchestrated and densely lyrical, each song builds its own particular mood and atmosphere while Meiburg wails and howls and whispers above it.  The album moves effortlessly from gloriously uplifting to ominous and claustrophobic and back again. Essential tracks: "Uniforms", "God Made Me", "Castaways" —Josh Lesser

#25 Sleigh Bells – Treats (Mom & Pop Music)

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Not only was this album the soundtrack to virtually every summer party I attended, but songs from it were also featured prominently on every road trip mix I heard this year. For good reason: the songs are chock full o' infectious grooves, thunderous guitar riffs, and sugary-sweet vocals. What more could you want from a pop record? I'll admit I was disappointed by Sleigh Bells' live performance at Pitchfork, but I dare you to play "Crown on the Ground", "A/B Machines", or "Kids" without wanting to dance around your living room. I'm reasonably sure it's impossible. —Nicole Oppenheim

#26 Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill (4AD)

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There is such a richness to the record. More texture than sound. Best Song: “The Coldharbour Road” —Micha Ward

#27 GAYNGS – Relayted (Jagjaguwar)

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2010 was a banner year for Justin Vernon. Playing cover tag with Peter Gabriel, having Kanye West decide to make "Woods" the backbone of his penultimate track on his craziest album yet - but you could argue that it all started with him getting to have a little fun with GAYNGS. Not to say that anything on Relayted comes off as tongue-in-cheek; somehow, the band plays a tribute album to 10cc's I'm Not In Love with perfect conviction and execution. But “The Gaudy Side of Town” has a mournful 80’s sax wail, slinking bass, and all-high-hat scattered drums mixed with Vernon ditching his mournful winter hibernation voice for a whispery croon of schmaltzy sleaze, and you have to wonder if playing such a fun role didn't help send him into bigger superstardom (for better or worse). —Dan Morgridge

#28 Menomena – Mines (Barsuk)

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The fourth (or third) album from this Portland experimental pop trio is what resulted from a dark period in the personal lives of all the members. Ruptured relationships abound. Their eclectic approach to songwriting and instrumentation is magic in my ears, topped by huge, thumping, walloping drums. ("Taos" and "Five Little Rooms")Matt Garman

#29 Frightened Rabbit – Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat)

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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. —Austin Harvey

#30 Sharon Van Etten – Epic (Badabing)

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Sharon’s 2nd full-length outing is, indeed, gorgeously epic. I was lucky enough to catch her 6 or so months back at the now-legendary Chris Knox Stroke Benefit concert in NYC, and was impressed. Now, I’m bummed I missed her gig at Lincoln Hall supporting Junip. Word has she blew them off the stage. This LP has been on high-rotate and I’ll probably still be listening in decades to come. Standouts? Hard to choose, but if pressed, Peace Signs & One Day. —Owen Harris

Here's to looking forward to 2011. Thanks to everyone that made our first year of broadcasting such a wonderful time.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Paul Westerberg Edition

Certainly one of the most beloved and influential bands from the American indie world of the ’80s, The Replacements are legendary for their early bratty records, their unpredictable live shows, their indie swan song (the classic Let It Be) and their maturation on Sire Records. And the straw who stirred most of the Placemats’ drinks was frontman Paul Westerberg. The speed at which his songwriting grew is amazing, if you compare a song from Stink to something like “Unsatisfied”. He has settled down into comfortable adulthood, putting out records that still please his adoring core of fans. Let’s celebrate Paul the only way we know how — by getting your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. Paul Nicholas — Heaven on the Seventh Floor (Have a Nice Day – Volume 24): A cheesy fun 1977 Top 40 hit from this British singer/actor who also appeared in the film version of Tommy (as cousin Kevin). This song seems perfect for the Me Decade and notions of free love, casual sex and songs with a light disco feel.
  2. Judas Priest — Metal Gods (The Essential Judas Priest): Judas Priest? Metal Gods? Isn’t that redundant. What intrigues me about the Priest, is that their earlier material, which was very much in the vein of heavy metal of that era, was very good. But they seemed to find a foothold during the New Wave of Heavy Metal, and found a way to mix the usual hammer and tongs approach with defter compositions and rhythms. This song is a prime example. The Glen Tipton/K.K. Downing guitar combo is as heavy as ever, but the rhythm section is playing a pea soup beat that could fit on a dance record (if speeded up a bit). And the chorus is delightfully subtle. Yes, they are Metal Gods.
  3. Steve Wynn — Wait Until You Get To Know Me (Crossing Dragon Bridge): This is a self-deprecating waltz tempoed tune. Wynn bangs out the rhythm on his acoustic, his vocals are overmodulated and double tracked, and a wobbly lead jazz guitar line holds it all together. This is a song about a guy trying to take advantage of beer goggles near closing time and the sleazy aspect of the lyric is captured by the music.
  4. Bo Diddley — Say Man (I’m A Man —- The Chess Masters 1955-1958): One day, Bo Diddley and his maracas player Jerome Green started throwing down the dozens over a Latin rhythm. The dozens is an African-American tradition of two men taking turns throwing down (hopefully!) good natured insults at each other. They rolled some tape on this, it captured the public’s imagination, and Bo found himself back on the Top 40 charts. He came back to this format again and again, often taking both roles by speeding up his voice to provide one of the competitors.
  5. King Khan & The Shrines — Que Lindo Sueno (The Supreme Genious Of): One thing I love about King Khan is how thorough his love of R & B is. While he’s best known for James Brown style frat rockers, he does it all, forging ahead behind his powerful personality. This song has a gentle samba beat, driving horns, spy movie guitar and a typically engaged vocal. Cool stuff.
  6. Orange Juice — Moscow Olympics (The Glasgow School): Edwyn Collins’ recent come back after two strokes and the new Orange Juice box set have brought well deserved attention to one of the greatest Scottish rock bands ever. Collins had a knack for combining accessible R & B foundations with classic post-punk style guitars and melodies, making something familiar sound just a little bit off, and therefore, fresh. This instrumental sounds like it was recorded in a subway station and has a twinkling ’60s mod feel. Collins’ guitar playing is charming.
  7. The Sugarplastic — My Heart Lately (Will): On Will, this criminally underrated L.A. band really gravitated towards its psychedelic pop side. This is a hazy dream of a song, with delicate piano, Ben Eshbach trading lead vocals with disembodied voices and wandering choruses. This is truly a brilliant use of the studio as an instrument, from how the instruments are placed in the mix to how each element of the song is stitched together to create a brilliant whole. This sounds like a ’40s Disney movie song cycled through the haunted house repeatedly and then sprinkled with some Abbey Road era Beatles.
  8. Surfer Blood — Floating Vibes (Astro Coast): A fine 2010 debut album from a band who, at times, reminds me a bit of The Shins and Rogue Wave, sort of. This song has a big fat lead guitar part, which sets up the soothing melody. This song actually reminds me a little bit of third album era Translator mixed with a bit of the classicist side of XTC. Which is another way to say this is damn good indie pop.
  9. Pere Ubu — Monday Night (Cloudland) Pere Ubu’s second go round, found the band taking on a more accessible tack, especially on this masterpiece of avant-garde pop, produced by Stephen Hague. The band that had deconstructed rock was putting it back together, sometimes just for hooks, but often achieving emotional resonance. This song is driven by big drums and somehow mixes a girl group structure with a Western campfire singalong, with a big twangy guitar in the background. For all of his quirks, David Thomas is a great singer, and this song is an example of that.
  10. White Plains — My Baby Loves Lovin’ (Bubblegum Classics — Volume Two): A lot of British bubblegum was a bit more sophisticated, relying less on double entendre, and more on just driving home a simple hook. The song is aided by the vocals of session singer Tony Burrows, who took the lead on many Brit bubblegum hits by fake groups such as Edison Lighthouse, The Pipkins, The Brotherhood of Man and others.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3

Shawn Campbell writesShawn Campbell’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ and the President and Founder of the Chicago Independent Radio Project, Shawn Campbell.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)

  1. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Obtuse but intriguing lyrics, impassioned but challenging vocals, and the ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand make this the best early Dylan record since 1963.
  2. Allo Darlin' – Allo Darlin' (Fortuna Pop!)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I am forever a sucker for a sweet-voiced female pop singer with a somewhat darker lyrical bite. And unlike so many twee acts, they’re supposed to be great live, so I eagerly await a US appearance in 2011.
  3. Summer Camp – Young [EP] (Moshi Moshi)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This catchy mini-album has a spaciousness that makes it feel like it recorded from the room next door…it’s a little lo-fi, a little retro 80s, a little mysterious, like music from the college radio station you could never quite tune in when you were 14.
  4. Disappears – Lux (Kranky)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Dark and sweeping, the long-awaited Disappears full-length didn’t disappoint. One slinky and vaguely oniminous track after another, this one may haunt your dreams.
  5. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer (Elektra)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Even for a lover of all things indie, sometimes a big, shiny, well-produced pop record is just what the doctor ordered, particularly when it features one undeniable song after another, showcased by the fine, soulful voice of Cee Lo Green.
  6. Tennis – Baltimore [EP] (Underwater Peoples)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl sell their possessions, buy a boat, learn to sail, and then release a charming retro pop EP detailing their adventures on the high seas. What’s not to love?
  7. jj – jj No. 3 (Secretly Canadian)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Shimmery and soothing, simultaneously cool and warm, this jj record, like its predecessor, is the perfect soundtrack for a relaxing weekend or a mellow evening with some good friends and a few nice bottles of wine.
  8. V.V. Brown – Travelling Like the Light (Capitol)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    An old school pop-soul record by a female singer with a modern sensibility, with a little more luck, Travelling Like the Light could’ve been 2010’s Back to Black. Alas for V.V., this was not meant to be, but this is still one little party of an album.
  9. Seabear – We Built a Fire (Morr Music)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Carrying none of its homeland’s native chill, Iceland’s Seabear delivers a remarkably warm, cozy record, a soft blanket of indie folk-pop that gently insinuates itself into your subconscious.
  10. Frankie Rose & The Outs – Frankie Rose & The Outs (Slumberland)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Tied with...

    Best Coast – Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    ...and...

    Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (HoZac/Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    2010 was a great year for girls in garages with close proximity to beaches and loads of Phil Spector productions in their record collections. Take your pick from these, or go with Grass Widow, Reading Rainbow, Super Wild Horses, or any number of other fuzzy, poppy, lady-led gems.

 

Honorable Mentions:
Verma – Salted Earth EP (self-released)
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (DFA)
Cave – Pure Moods EP (Drag City)
Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill (4AD)
Magic Kids – Memphis (True Panther Sounds)
Oval – O (Thrill Jockey)
Sam Amidon – I See the Sign (Bedroom Community)
Superchunk – Majestry Shredding (Merge)

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

Austin B. Harvey presents: The Liquid Diet writesAustin Harvey’s Best of 2010

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.)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Cut-Missers:

  • 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.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

James Vest writesJames Vest’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ James Vest.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)

  1. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker (Modular)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    When describing a good music review, CHIRP music director, Billy Kalb, once noted, "Be specific. Don't use a word like, 'Beatles-esque'." With Tame Impala, it's rather complicated to move beyond the label, but imagine an alternate universe where The Beatles played "Tomorrow Never Knows" on Ed Sullivan. Moving on for there, the band exchanged flutes for synths, Yoko Ono for psychotropic soundscapes that spilt over the event horizon, arriving in our reality through the black hole we call a speaker.
  2. Broken Bells – Broken Bells (Columbia)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    One thing I will add about The Broken Bell's self-titled, is that when I listen to it, I'm aware I'm listening an ALBUM. I've yet to start a track without finishing every remaining tracks. For that, Broken Bells is a lot like CHIRP Radio. Expression lives in the tracks, Mood connects songs, and a good program captivates collectively. I listen while I get stuff done, I listen to sit and drift away, but don't interrupt me. When this album is on, I'm listening.
  3. Qwel & Maker – Owl (Galapagos)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Local hip hop duo Qwel and Maker drop another fat cut of boom-bap into some old fashioned soul stew. Their third album is indeed charmed, showing both maturity and forward thinking of bigger acts, while keeping it old school with some classic soul samples that'll make you want to dance on your kitchen table. This album represents everything I love about Hip Hop–the past, present and future
  4. GAYNGS – Relayted (Jagjaguwar)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Gayngs, the two-dozen-plus-member supergroup, reenacts an important time in rock history when all the awesome acts from the 1970s end up washed up 10 years later, playing sappy slow jams to stay on the FM dial. But stay tuned, the album quickly breaks character and goes all over the 80's and 90's road map, while keeping each song at the firm speed of 69 BPM. If you are looking for an album to play while you drive your Delorian in the slow lane, look no further.
  5. Beach House – Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    After attending my younger cousin's funeral earlier that day, it didn't really hit me what the world had lost until later that night, when I went to see Beach House in concert. Teen Dream is a consistent reminder of life's gains and losses, whose voice lifts you up and let's you go, in an ocean of organ waves and crashing bass.
  6. The Budos Band – The Budos Band III (Daptone)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Each album is a reminder: Don't mess with the Budos Band. No guest vocalists, no break beats, no retooling, just some god-foresaken, evil-hearted Doc Severinsen VooDoo horns, replacing Carson with a sack full of funk, and the guest's chair with a pit full of vipers.
  7. The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon (Warner Bros.)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Like a Christmas Carol on LSD, the most important psychedelic band of our time came face-to-face this year with the most important psychedelic band of all-time, but alas, no one but me and a bunch of Ebenezer Scrooges noticed. I couldn't find one review that praised The Lips for having a blast creating a demented tribute to one of the greatest albums ever made, but this one is will be remembered for historically if for nothing more than it's good cheer.
  8. The Limiñanas – The Limiñanas (Trouble in Mind)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Simple songs channeling 60's California surf rock, sung in French and released by Chicago's own Trouble in Mind. If this album doesn't get you to look up from your computer when it comes on the rotation, then what's the point of good music?
  9. Ty Segall – Melted (Goner)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I never tire of one-man bands. What they lack in polish, I fill in with dreams of myself, playing on stage with a space helmet on, half full of fuzzy bass lines, massive delay switches, effortless ivory ticklers, and a spy glass to watch the beautiful women smiling in the front row. Until that helmet exists, here's to the one-man bands.
  10. The Magnetic Fields – Realism (Nonesuch)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If fishing is about being bored with a purpose, The Magnetic Fields is my musical equivalent of sitting on a rocky bank. The smoothness of the surroundings are only broken when I recall that I haven't moved in an hour. The is something peaceful and freeing about Realism, you'll love the extra time off from the work that is other albums.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

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