Monday, December 27, 2010

The Ten Best Albums of 2010

Various Artists - "Saigon Rock & Soul: Vietnamese Classic Tracks 1968-1974" (Sublime Frequencies)

Life during wartime at its hippest.

The National - "High Violet" (4AD)

Interminably hyped, overblown, anticipated, and loathed by some, yet adored in this household. Moody, precise, and deftly crafted songs.

Bill Callahan - "Rough Travel for a Rare Thing" (Drag City)

As intimate, warm, and inviting as a live album can get. I was initially disappointed that none of the tracks from his superb 2009 offering (Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle) were included, until I learned it was recorded in 2007. Huh.

Beach House - "Teen Dream" (Sub Pop)

I liked the first two Beach House albums, but their soporific, opium-den vibe could make one a little sleeeeeepy. This album is imaginative, pretty, and lush all within a pop context. Good mid-morning breakfast music.

Midlake - "The Courage of Others" (Bella Union)

Although panned by some due to its overtly derivative take on seventies British folk (Pentangle, Fairport Convention, etc), this album grew and grew on me until I also sprouted roots and became a resident of the dark, gnarled woods and windswept moors it conjures.

Teenage Fanclub - "Shadows" (Merge)

The stereotype of embittered, cynical, middle-aged Scots is shattered by this album. These clever, catch-laden, ebullient songs glisten throughout. Use this album to defrost an icy windshield in the dead of winter.

Roky Erikson/Okkervil River - "True Love Cast Out All Evil"(Anti-)

The endlessly eccentric elder-statesman of pysch-rock hangs out with young, accomplished musicians and makes a startlingly brilliant album. Raucous and soaring at times, sparse and lugubrious in others, save this for a good bottle of whiskey.

Sleepy Sun - "Fever" (ATP)

Noisy, swirling, bubbling, hazy, cacophonous, and (sometimes) proggy. These guys/gals are based in San Francisco and make informed neo-pyschedelia that drifts into folk at the right time. You can read to this music; conversely, you can convulse and shake in rhythm to it.

Neil Young - "Le Noise" (Reprise)

Bad album cover, good songs. I heard some of these tracks in a live setting during the summer and was initially skeptical. After hearing the minimalist treatment that Daniel Lanois gave them in the studio, I am now a believer. Aurally austere, yet thematically wise and introspective, this album fits somewhere between the soundtrack he did for Jim Jarmusch's "Dead Man" and his early nineties return-to-form "Harvest Moon".

Phosphorescent - "Here's To Taking It Easy" (Dead Oceans)

Ambitious individuals beware... aptly-titled, this album won't increase worker productivity or efficiency. These are simple melodies to float to - listen to this poolside with a cold beer and a spliff. Country music for the rare optimist entrenched in the Van Zandt camp.


Carol said...

Gavin, My lack of knowledge to these groups is quite sad. Besides Neil Young I only know of Beach House because you have listed it and I listened to it! However I enjoyed all your comments and realized I need a music education.

Stephen Freer said...

Hey İ like that I can still listen to your tunes on this site. I think I should start listening to the National.

Capenwray said...

Nice blog, guys!
Great reviews.
The food makes me long for something more. I'll look over it some more, but before I do I really want to hear Saigon Rock n Roll! Drop me Box.