CHIRP Radio's Best of 2010 continues with a list from DJ Dylan Peterson.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A lot of great albums came out in 2010, but none with quite as much hype as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In an age when downloading a zip file is the primary means of adding to our music collection, Kanye took advantage of our eager-to-download habits instead of pretending it's still the 1900's. He says it best in "Power": "I'm livin' in a 21st century, doin' something mean to it, do it better than anybody you ever seen do it." He's still just as audacious as he was on College Dropout, and the bravado is as entertaining as ever.
The marketing alone clued us in that this album was going to be huge. Releasing a free song download on his website every week. Directing his own short film. Orchestrating the most memorable live music performance on TV this decade. By the time we're able to even hear the album, it's a miracle we're not underwhelmed. But great albums deserve a lot of hype. Over the last decade, I almost forgot that truth. Kanye made me anxious for an album in 2010. I can't remember the last time I felt that.
Delorean – Subiza (True Panther Sounds) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes Subiza is the soundtrack for summer days at the city beach, dethroning whatever Beach Boys album that was there for the past 40 years. I had the pleasure of seeing Delorean live this year, which is always a helpful way to more fully understand a recorded album. After seeing their show, I realized that the purpose of Delorean's music is pure enjoyment. Subiza is a bringer of happy thoughts and pleasant dreams, whether it's heard in headphones or a live show.
The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt and Sometimes the Blues is Just A Passing Bird [EP] (Dead Oceans) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes The Wild Hunt alone is enough to garner a top three spot, but a five song EP never hurt anybody either. The Tallest Man On Earth stretched just a little bit from his acoustic finger-pickin' debut, Shallow Graves, playing more electric guitar and even a little piano in 2010. But the strongest skill of the artist isn't his playing style, which can be heard by the most boring classical guitar virtuosos of the world, Matsson is first and foremost a songwriter. His songs have a timeless quality that seem neither old or new, but just right for whatever time they're being heard.
Menomena – Mines (Barsuk) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I didn't expect a "grower" for the new Menomena album, but in retrospect, I guess they were due for one. The band's first three albums hit immediately and satisfyingly. Mines is different. It requires repeat listens. Its beauty is subtle, but possibly more potent than any other Menomena album.
Beach House – Teen Dream (Sub Pop) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I'm still surprised by this ranking. I never really cared about Beach House, but I can listen to Teen Dream at any time of the day, during any season, and I won't skip a track on the album. There's a quiet magic in this music, something simple but something that plunges deep into my psyche. It doesn't transfer over to the live setting very well, but if I can enjoy an album for 12 months out of the year it automatically gets a spot in the top 5.
The Books – The Way Out (Temporary Residence) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
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.
Here We Go Magic – Pigeons (Secretly Canadian) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
We're too suspicious of musicians. We see talented players, and we condemn them for not having enough heart. But when I listen to Here We Go Magic, I set aside my suspicions. These talents are well placed, like the best Frank Zappa or Radiohead albums. Patience and intelligence are epicenters of Pigeons, prophesying a world of auditoriums and amphitheaters for future Here We Go Magic concerts. And the bigger the better. This is the sort of band I wouldn't mind becoming more popular than Coldplay. They have what it takes too.
Laura Veirs – July Flame (Raven Marching Band Records) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes July Flame is one of those nearly perfect albums that nobody will remember in a few years. But whenever it comes back on in the shuffle we'll still smile. It's an example of songwriting as king. There is no marketing tactic, no hype machine that can compete with a skilled songwriter. Veirs is one of the best working today, and even if no one recognizes it, the music gods will remain with her and keep her listeners at peace.
Wolf Parade – Expo 86 (Sub Pop) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
If Canadian power pop could be epitomized, it is Expo 86. By LP number three, Wolf Parade sounds less interested in proving themselves, and more apt to just rock out. It's the Wilco effect, for Canada. Whereas Arcade Fire felt the same old pressure to create a powerfully anthemic album for their day in age, Wolf Parade simply turned their dial up to 11. In my opinion, it's much more enjoyable to simply rock well, for wisdom knows that even grandiosity can become monotonous.
Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid (Atlantic) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Like a good Kanye West album, Janelle Monae created something paradoxically eclectic and accessible. The ArchAndroid doesn't follow the formula of a typical pop record, and that's why we love it. All of the hooks and melodies are there for mainstream radio success, but the unpredictability of the album is what earns Janelle heaps of respect from critics and the more stingy listeners like me.