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top ten albums of 2010

by Gordon

 

10. CONGRATULATIONS by mgmt

 

Flash Delirium [LISTEN]

While not as altogether catchy as their breakthrough Oracular Spectacular, it’s every bit as weird, and ultimately, as daring. Though a letdown on certain levels, you have to give it to the band for their genre-bending approach.

FULL REVIEW

 

9. INFINITE ARMS by band of horses

On My Way Back Home [LISTEN]

It doesn’t knock you out on first listen. Infinite Arms grows on you, reminding you of what makes Band of Horses a great band, be it the soaring vocals of Ben Bridwell, their undeniable melodies, or, less tangibly, the subtle way the music takes you to a quiet place just between childhood and last night.

FULL REVIEW

 

8. ODD BLOOD by yeasayer

O.N.E. [LISTEN]

Part Animal Collective, part Of Montreal, brand new and yet somehow reminiscent of an era that’s passed, it’s all come to be what is unmistakably Yeasayer, and I welcomed a heavy dose this year.

FULL REVIEW

 

7. THIS IS HAPPENING by lcd soundsystem

I Can Change [LISTEN]

This universally acclaimed third and purportedly final album from Murphy serves as an upbeat celebration of the end of a decade, while still encapsulating the sometimes introverted thoughtfulness that’s stood out in the artist’s previous work as well. Let’s hope he has more to say in the years to come.

FULL REVIEW

 

6. CONTRA by vampire weekend

Giving Up The Gun [LISTEN]

Proving that the earlier success of these four young New York City lads was no fluke, Contra serves up another dose of of African pop-meets-Western culture, but this time with even more boldness and purpose in direction.

FULL REVIEW

 

5. THE AGE OF ADZ by sufjan stevens

I Walked [LISTEN]

Do I wish Stevens, who for almost a decade has remained one of the most inspiring and sometimes life-changing artists for my generation, had combined the best of Adz and his recent EP All Delighted People to create an even better new release? Yes. But Adz is still undeniably an amazing record, grander in scale, scope and sound than anything yet from the quiet young Michigan native with a banjo.

4. GO by jónsi

Boy Lilikoi [LISTEN]

It’s Sigur Rós on Four Loko. With tighter compositions, fuller soundscapes, and just as much imagination as ever, you  need only close your eyes and imagine the other members to ease out of the feeling you’re committing adultery.

FULL REVIEW

 

3. TEEN DREAM by beach house

Walk In The Park [LISTEN]

It’s hard to believe how simple a song can be, or a band for that matter, and still make music magic. Amidst a broad pallette of pace and emotion, Legrand’s vocals leave the strongest aftertaste…soulful, confident, and even in a pop context, always a bit haunting.

FULL REVIEW

 

2. HIGH VIOLET by the national

Afraid Of Everyone [LISTEN]

It’s hard not giving this one the top spot. This is the third consecutive album from the band to be music gold, their instrumental style and lyrical intricasies too complex to merely describe on pen and paper. Singer Matt Berninger and the rest of The National continue to fill a void in contemporary music and culture, one that most of us, sadly, wouldn’t have even known even existed.

FULL REVIEW

 

1. THE SUBURBS by arcade fire

We Used To Wait [LISTEN]

I’m not surpised Arcade Fire would put out the best album of any year. I’m just surprised there’s a band as consistently good as Arcade Fire. Not every song may do it for you. When do they all? But the album’s strength is in its cohesive theme of the modern day, good and bad. And for modern music, it’s simply great.

FULL REVIEW
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Filed under arcade fire, band of horses, beach house, jónsi, lcd soundsystem, mgmt, sufjan stevens, the national, vampire weekend, yeasayer

HIGH VIOLET by the national

by Gordon

 

Pitchfork: 8.7          Rolling Stone: 3.5/5          Metacritic: 85          Spin: 4/5

 

Released: May 2010
Tracklisting:
  1. Terrible Love
  2. Sorrow
  3. Anyone’s Ghost
  4. Little Faith
  5. Afraid of Everyone [LISTEN]

  6. Bloodbuzz Ohio
  7. Lemonworld
  8. Runaway
  9. Conversation 16
  10. England
  11. Vnaderlyle Crybaby Geeks

   For the band’s most recent, High Violet, to have fared merely comparable with their previous two, Alligator  and Boxer, would for myself and most fans have constituted as a great success and more than welcome addition to their increasingly standout discography. And what the album does, apart from merely compare, is build and grow off of their now distinct and confident sound and push it further into the realm of wiser yet somehow more daring. Whether your first listen seeks a taste of the familiar or a glimpse at something new, it’s impossible to end up disappointed.

   “Terrible Love” introduces the album with a masterful melody of reverberation, courtesy of the Dessner brothers. It continues into a thundering pile-up of sound, drummer Bryan Devendorf characteristically churning an artful science out of the near chaos of his patterns. Berninger’s final lines resonate amidst a collective backdrop of choral “Oohs” before the opener roars into a crashing finale. Live video here (look out for their friend and sometimes collaborator Sufjan Stevens too).

   Perhaps the most structurally simple, “Anyone’s Ghost”, in keeping with a longheld National staple, is with a curious delivery that borders between optimistic and pessimistic. Berninger’s reflections are personal and claustrophobic, both lyrically and audibly, as if we’re hearing them inside our own head. “Afraid Of Everyone” is, above all, haunting, and despite what the title suggests, not without a tone that’s confident and domineering, full of self-aware introspection. Though strumming-driven, it’s the band’s prevailing, ghost-like background “Oohs” that again stand out. As Berninger eventually belts, “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out”, one feels led to agree, regardless of how. And in a frenzy of guitar and drums the song comes to an end.

   First single “Bloodbuzz Ohio” sess Berninger melancholic in his delivery despite the overall drive and pace of the music, which is now more noticably piano-led. “I still owe money to the money to the money I owe/ The floors are falling out from everybody I know”. The video (below), which Berninger’s wife helped direct, features the lead singer as an awkward and solo city figure.

   The short, simple and beautiful “Lemonworld” lives off of measured electric guitar strums, rolling tom-tom percussion, and Berninger’s baritone vocals, accented by a string of “doo-doo-doo-doo-doos” throughout the song. Though most of the band’s source material draws from the experience of close-to-home, tangible city life, Berninger decides to take a quick jab at the more outward state of the world: “I gave my heart to the army/ The only sentimental thing I could think of/ I’ve cousins and cousins somewhere overseas/ But it’ll take a better war to kill a college man like me”.

   “Runaway” is the soft and slow ballad of High Violet, the one you let your mom listen to first to see how she likes the band. Guitar plucking and deep strings crescendo into a passionate, memorial-like hymn. “Conversation 16” enters in stark contrast, a fast and thought-hungry tune that feeds on the singer’s troubles. But only Matt Berninger could make the words “I was afraid I’d eat your brains/ ‘Cause I’m evil” sound so unthreatening.

   In “England” I hear The National taking on new territory, not entirely, but at just the right pace and direction. Berninger sings of summer and rain, rivers and oceans, angels and cathedrals, all atop the artful placement of a series of beautiful piano chords. All this is accented by strings, guitar, percussion, as well as hints of trumpet that perfectly give rise to the feelings evoked by the country for which the song is named. Its closing minute and a half could not get any fuller.

   It’s old. It’s new. It’s slow. It’s fast. It’s sad. It’s happy. It’s shy. It’s aggressive. In short, High Violet, though just short of perfect itself, is still a perfect follow-up for The National, one of the few bands today that has gained much-deserved recognition by going the old-fashioned way: making amazing music.

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