December 16, 2010

Top 50 Albums of 2010: 11-20

The Budos Band
"The Budos Band III" (Daptone)

What sets Budos apart from other Afro-influenced acts is in the heaviness of their groove; no wonder that the Staten Island Soul band claim to be inspired by heavy metal as well as soul and Ethio-jazz. Solid as ever, the New York ten-piece yet again claims the title of heavyweight champion in the world of Afro-soul.

These New Puritans
"Hidden" (Domino)

Hidden, the sophomore album from the rag-tag UK 4-piece, incorporates Foley samples, taiko drums and choral singing into their unique brand of experimental post-punk. Fusing the angular guitar of Gang of Four with the urban dance of MIA and a healthy dose of Björk and Scott Walker, the result is cerebral, percussive and powerful.

Beach House
"Teen Dream" (Sub Pop)

Beach House is so subtle that you can almost be forgiven for not being immediately enthralled but once the melodies work their way into your skin you’ll be irreversibly hooked. The husky, sensual voice of Victoria Legrand and the minimal guitar hooks of Alex Scally are more potent than ever on Teen Dream, their third album release.

The Roots
"How I Got Over (Def Jam)

Since signing to Def Jam, The Roots have been pretty disappointing but How I Got Over is a return to form for the Philly Hip Hop crew. Featuring familiar collaborators Dice Raw and John Legend as well as surprising use of a Joanna Newsom sample, this is The Roots doing exactly what they do best.

"Church With No Magic" (Warp)

Church With No Magic is the third album by Aussie Synth-Rockers PVT (formerly Pivot) and their second for Warp Records. Despite the surprising addition of vocals, it retains the heavy drums and dirty synth sound that made their last album so infectious. Do not miss the chance to see these songs performed in a live setting.

"Swim" (Merge)

On Swim, Polaris Prize-winning Dan Snaith traded a lot of the Beach Boys influence, lo-fi drums and Psych Rock for a more electronic disco sound, summoning the spirit of Arthur Russell. From "Odessa", the blissed-out summery opener, onwards this is not only his most club-friendly record but also his strongest release to date.

Sufjan Stevens
"The Age Of Adz" (Asthmatic Kitty)

One of the most inventive and ambitious musicians around, Sufjan is best known for two indie-folk masterpieces from his aborted ‘50 states’ project but also an electronic album based on the Chinese zodiac, amongst others. The Age of Adz brings these disparate styles together in an epic concept album about outsider artist Royal Robertson.

Arcade Fire
"The Suburbs" (Merge)

With The Suburbs Arcade Fire merge the Springsteen-fest of Neon Bible with that melancholic yet deliriously optimistic bent that made their debut album so good, shooting the Montréallers into the international arena. This is Arcade Fire back on form but just a few songs too long to be the perfect album.

"Constellations" (Western Vinyl)

Balmorhea (pronounced Bal-moor-ay), an ensemble from Austin, Texas, takes influence from sources ranging from Debussy to Max Richter and Arvo Pärt. Constellations is their fourth full-length release and it is a masterpiece. Emotive and melancholic Modern Classical with a twinge of country, it will appeal to fans of Pullman and Rachel’s.

Matthew Dear
"Black City" (Ghostly)

Matthew Dear makes a truly unique brand of music - a fusion of Minimal Techno, House, Synthpop, experimental sounds and singer-songwriter indie. The live instrumentation is more to the fore than on his three previous full-lengths and the end result is a highly accessible album that is also maybe his best.