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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

INFINITE ARMS by band of horses

by Gordon

Pitchfork: 5.3          Rolling Stone: 3.5/5          Metacritic: 69          Spin: 4/5

 

Released: May 2010
Tracklisting:
  1. Factory
  2. Compliments
  3. Laredo
  4. Blue Beard
  5. On My Way Back Home [LISTEN]

  6. Infinite Arms
  7. Dilly
  8. Evening Kitchen
  9. Older
  10. For Annabelle
  11. NW Apt.
  12. Neighbor

   Sometimes a piece of art needs to be judged, in part, by the artist behind the canvas. Just as we may give more credit to a handicapped runner over an able-bodied runner for finishing a marathon, so we must scoff at DaVinci if he were to draw a stick figure.  Band of Horses is a good band. They proved that with their first release Everything All the Time in 2006, its anthem, “The Funeral”, one of the best rock songs I’ve ever heard. 2007’s Cease to Begin, though arguably a small step back in terms of progress, made a solid mark on U.S. charts and put the band on the map for the masses.

   Despite faring far better than Cease to Begin in terms of performance (I do not know to what this phenomenon is owed), their most recent, Infinite Arms, comes in at just C+ material. All things considered, it could stand alone with at least a B grade if the band were debuting. But just as we’d chide The Beatles if they’d given us only a “good” album, we can’t feel satisfied with Band of Horses giving us a “decent” album. It’s too bad, too, because, as frontman Ben Bridwell sees it, the album marks the first time for the band in finally feeling as one cohesive unit, with previous members coming and going as if the line-up were an always-vacant motel stop.

   “Factory” opens the doors with a lull of a string intro (overdone in its more-than-enough repetition throughout), Bridwell, though still pitch perfect, giving us little in the way of excitement, unlike the first tracks to their previous albums, “The First Song” and “Is There A Ghost”, respectively. Though the Western theme stays alive and well in composition, the tired pace does little to get your blood moving. I confess my discovery, however, after coming back to the album a few weeks after first listens, that I had missed the sound to some extent.

   Single “Compliments”, though not at all epic, at least utilizes the echo-y guitar and harmonies that draw fans to the band in the first place, though not enough unfortunately. “Laredo” offers the simple happy-go-lucky though mild-mannered sound that makes for good road trip noise, Bridwell opening, “Gonna take a trip to Laredo/ Gonna take a dip in the lake.” Again, no shock or surprise here.

   “Blue Beard” opens in a Fleet Foxes-esque “Aaahhh”, drifting into a night-timey cadence of a song, a melody that, though drawing off of few chord changes, is one of the more charming melodies to be found on Infinite Arms. The band display a more acoustic side in “On My Way Back Home”, a light and pleasant tune that gives Bridwell a nice platform on which to show off his trademark sky-soaring vocals, at least intermittently. 

   The album’s title track, coming in halfway through, seems too dull to deserve the extra attention as such. Follow-up “Dilly” at least picks the pace up a bit, though not nearly enough for a Band of Horses-size spectrum, offering merely repetitive rhythm guitar atop a steady beat.

   To save time, and due to a lack of zest for the remaining material, there’s the quiet “Evening Kitchen”, the twangy “Older”, the sleepy “For Annabelle” (though it does possess a short and catchy guitar lick, as far as sleepy songs go), the rocker “NW Apt.”, and the unsurprising six-minute long farewell tune, “Neighbor”, aiming for “epic anthem”, and coming up short in terms of the aim. Though no songs insult on the newest from these guys, whom I still reserve considerable respect for, I must conclude that they could have done better, but, whether by fault of their own or not, the time wasn’t right. I just hope that next time it is.

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