December 17, 2010

Top 50 Albums of 2010: 1-10

Pantha du Prince
"Black Noise" (Rough Trade)

Black Noise is Hendrik Weber’s third album as Pantha du Prince and his first for indie label Rough Trade. Expanding upon his ‘Minimal Techno with dark bells’ sound with guest spots from bassist Tyler Pope (!!!/LCD) and vocals from Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. A superb album and one that is finally getting Pantha the attention he deserves.

Morgan Packard
"Moment Again Elsewhere" (Anticipate)

Packard's latest full-length is his most self-assured release to date. His unique brand of jazz-influenced glitch moves effortlessly through ambient to IDM and deep house. Piano, accordion, and saxophone intertwine with electronics creating brittle layers of analogue warmth. An intimate and compelling headphone experience.

Mountain Man
"Made The Harbor" (Partisan)

Mountain Man is three girls from Vermont who sing gorgeously sparse, mostly a cappella, indie-folk with a strong Appalachian bent. What strikes you most is the purity of the sound, the raw sweetness of just voice. Sounding like something from a bygone era, a Lomax archive perhaps, it is refreshingly un-hip and timeless.

John Roberts
"Glass Eights" (Dial)

Roberts, a deep house producer from Ohio, is the first American signed to Hamburg's Dial label. With his lean, reverb-laden production, static-laced samples and percussiveness, it fits in with Dial's sound. Equal parts Berlin and Chicago, off-key and sometimes dark, the end result is uplifting, whether on the headphones or in the club.

LCD Soundsystem
"This Is Happening" (DFA)

LCD’s James Murphy has said that this, the third album by LCD Soundsystem, will be their last and it is a great high to go out on. LCD wear their influences on their sleeve - take disco, add some post-punk basslines, some Bowie-esque guitar riffs and synth and Murphy’s inimitable nasally vocals. A simple yet brilliant recipe.

The Knife (w/ Mt. Sims & Planningtorock)
"Tomorrow, In A Year" (Rabid)

The brother/sister team, known for their atmospheric and eccentric electro-pop songs, eschews the pop entirely for a ninety-minute electronic opera and concept album based on Charles Darwin’s "On the Origin of Species". The Knife is clearly passionate about the evolution of its music: Tomorrow, In A Year is stunning, terrifying and unique.

Kanye West
"My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" (Roc-A-Fella)

Despite loving a few of his tracks (“Flashing Lights” comes to mind) I’ve never enjoyed a Kanye album all the way through - my teeth grate at the sound of auto-tune so 808s and Heartbreaks is off limits - but this album blows my mind. Epic, vulnerable, uplifting and impossible to not play on repeat.

The Books
"The Way Out" (Temporary Residence Ltd)

Like Negativland before them, The Books base their music on samples of everyday American culture – TV evangelists, self-help gurus, cartoons  – and place them out of context, twisting them to subversively comedic effect. Skilled musicians, they place highly rhythmic live instrumentation atop the samples, creating a truly individual sound.

Ólafur Arnalds
"...And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness" (Erased Tapes)

Starting out as a drummer in various Hardcore bands in his native Iceland, multi-instrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds makes Modern Classical. This is his second album and a masterpiece. Similar in feel to Balmorhea or the arrangements in Sigur Rós, who Arnalds toured with, it is an achingly melancholic tapestry of strings and piano.

It Kills
"It Kills" (It Kills)

The eponymous debut by Nova Scotians It Kills is one of most under-appreciated albums of the year. Sounding a lot like other orchestral Post-Rockers such as Explosions In The Sky, what sets them apart is their airy, soaring vocals. A fluid and accomplished debut that should for sure make it to the next Polaris long-list.