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Best of 2010 January 6, 2011

Posted by ashiah in Music.

About a year or so ago, when music retailer DotShop decided to shut down, they posted a condescending note on their site about how piracy killed their business and that we were all going to burn in hell. Now that was two years ago. The year 2010 was the first year where I didn’t buy a single CD. Of course, most of my peers had stopped years ago. But there were a lot of factors for why I stopped this year (well, just one). The major factor for my decrease in buying/listening to music was my commute to and from work. I use to spend that time listening to music, now I spend that time catching up on books. So although I got caught up on books in 2010, I fell a little behind on music.

So, the following “best of” list is probably a not-so accurate reflection of 2010 highlights from the experimental/electronic music sphere. In fact, as I’m typing this I’m listening to EmeraldsDoes It Look Like I’m Here, and it is so good that it’s making me angry. If I discovered the album a couple of weeks ago it would proudly be sitting amongst the selection below. But no, I’m listening to it in 2011, and now everything is ruined. Horribly, horribly ruined!

As usual, for the two of you who care, you can download clips of all the music featured here. And now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin:

Best Albums of 2010

10. Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern
This album didn’t appeal to me as quickly as her last album did, but gradually as the album grew on me I realized that this album is probably her sanest one yet. With In Advance of the Broken Arm being all over the place, and This Is It… being more restrained, Marnie Stern straddles the two perfectly.
9. Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rivers
I just discovered this duo this year and had no idea what to expect, but I figured they couldn’t be bad if they were on Leaf. Rivers combines two EPs they released earlier in the year, Iris and Retina. The album starts with Retina, which is full of icy, operatic concerto type stuff, and then morphs into Iris, which is more harmonious, upbeat and strangely church-like. A bit of a delightful surprise really.
8. Cocorosie – Grey Oceans
Ugly ass cover aside, this is probably Cocorosie’s best album. I have never been the biggest fan of theirs, but Grey Oceans shows growth and maturity.
7. Onra – Long Distance
I always felt bad that I never got around to giving proper props to 2008’s Chinoiseries. Loved that album, but never got around to writing about it. Even 2009’s 1.0.8 was pretty good, but was overshadowed by better albums. Now I finally have an Onra album I can properly tout. Where Chinoiseries heavily sampled old Vietnamese records collected at flea shops, Long Distance captures old school ’80s and ’90s R&B. The true winner here is “Sitting Back,” which I think is one of the best dance tracks of 2010.
6. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Sometimes longer isn’t always better, and Joanna’s double CD album might have kept some at bay due to its length. And, OK, maybe I didn’t listen to CD 2 that often either, but Joanna’s voice is at her best here, and “Have One On Me” is one of her best songs.
5. Amiina – Puzzle
Amiina has always been that other Icelandic band, the one that’s not Sigur Ros or Mum. But Puzzle showcases how the quartet definitely deserves more recognition. Here they pretty much pick up where Mum left off (before the twins left), and it’s slightly more accessible than their last album.
4. Hauschka – Foreign Landscapes
This was my first time discovering Hauschka, who is actually composer Volker Bertelmann. Here he creates good ol’ classical avant garde electronic/classical music woven with piano solos and dounced with some overdramatic cello action. The result is what one would predictably expect — a hauntingly beautiful record.
3. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
The track “Returnal” pretty much makes this album, and it’s my absolute favorite track of 2010. The rest of the album is a spacey walk through undiscovered landscapes.
2. Caribou – Swim
After seeing Caribou live over the summer, Swim has been ruined for me. Swim sounds so much better live, so I guess I’ve been spoiled. But nevertheless, it’s still a solid album and a great reflection of 2010.
1. World’s End Girlfriend – Seven Idiots
Seven Idiots was an album more admired than loved, at least by the people who heard it. Here, WEG stepped outside his comfort zone as he blended both his World’s End Boyfriend and World’s End Girlfriend (and possibly Wonderland Falling Yesterday) counter parts together into this bizarro world. Sometimes he hits the right points and other times it sounds like he’s over-aiming. But what’s amazing about everything he has created is that you get a sense that something truly exceptional is being created before you, something that, even if it’s not understandable, deserves props just for having gone there. You get a sense that this kinetic world is just the start of something really remarkable.
Honorable Mentions
Afriampo – We Are Uchu No Ko
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Kemialliset Ystävät – Ullakkopalo
Max Richter – Infra
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Glasser – Ring

Best Tracks of 2010

The best tracks list highlights songs from albums NOT featured on the best album list.

10. Aaron Martin – Water Tongue
This sleepy track is the standout on Worried About The Fire.

9. Afriampo – Sunwave Dance
Clocking in around 12 minutes, this epic track is Afriampo at their best. It’s also somewhat bittersweet considering the band is now broken up, so it’s pretty much their rock-out swansong.

8. Bjork – To Lee, With Love
This new track was included in a short film dedicated to late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The track is clearly a leftover from Volta, but why it was left off the album is beyond me. It’s one of the strongest Bjork tracks from the Volta era by far.

7. Bonobo – The Keeper (featuring Andreya Triana)
This laid-back sultry track (thanks to Andreya’s vocals) was the highlight of the OK but otherwise forgettable Black Sands.

6. Flying Lotus – Computer Face // pure Being
I wasn’t a big fan of Los Angles, but Cosmogramma was a delightful surprise, and this particular track was the highlight.

5. M.I.A – Illygirl
Although I admired /\/\Y/\ more than I actually liked it, this track which, although isn’t all that special, was my jam all summer.

4. Santanicpornocultshop – [r.I.P] Tide
Known for their bizarre, experimental sound, Arkhaiomelisidonophunikheratos actually showed the band making an attempt toward unconventional pop. This track has the lead singer (don’t know her name) whispering the lyrics to Missy Elliot‘s “Get Ur Freak On” over a whimsical string chorus.

3. Talk Normal – In a Strangeland
Standout from the underwhelming ALBUM TITLE. (Note: I can’t find the name of the album. Sorry, I’m tired.)

2. Under Byen – Konstant
Alt er tabt was pretty good, but this quaint track is the highlight and best captures the band.

1. Matthew Dear – Slowdance
I’m actually still in the middle of Black City. The album still hasn’t sunk in enough for me, but “Slowdance” is a gorgeous track that kind of reminds of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes.”