Why do so many year-end lists get released in early-to-mid December? I’ve never understood this. It dismisses any albums released in the last month of the year, and moreover, fails to take advantage of the lull in new music that comes every January, when everyone is (supposedly) tired of talking about and listening to all those “old” songs from last year, but also less than sated by the slow trickle of the new year’s releases.
So, in this, my first foray into public musical musings of my own accord, I’m-a do it up right and give the tunes of 2010 the attention they deserve. Every day of this month, I’ll post a short bit of commentary on each of my favorite releases of last year, beginning tomorrow with my Top 5 favorite EP’s of 2010 in ascending order, and continuing on to my Top 25 albums of the year. I’m hoping this stretches it out enough to give each release it’s due, and doesn’t totally overwhelm any of you who might care enough to be reading along…
With that said, I offer a couple disclaimers:
- I included some releases that would likely not “qualify” for inclusion on most lists. Live albums, albums of covers, singles collections released online, mixtapes, “B-side” albums… They all got a shot on my list – I’m an equal-opportunity listmaker. And why not? If the music contained on one of these releases is as good or better than a collection of new songs recorded recently in a studio and physically packaged and sold together, then why not give them their propers?
- I evaluate albums rather mathematically when I go to “rank” them. I essentially evaluate each song on an album individually, rating them on a scale of 1-to-5, and then average that out across the tracklist. This approach clearly favors quality over quantity, and some releases suffered due to their length and subsequent propensity for “filler”. I didn’t evaluate “bonus tracks” or “remixes” on “deluxe editions”, since they’re not technically part of the proper release. It’s a statistician’s approach, I know, but it allows me a means of ranking the albums that is based on more than just how I feel about a record on any given day, preventing one song I happen to be particularly giddy about at the moment from floating an album higher up the list than it deserves. And obviously, I know this method throws intangibles like the order of an album’s songs and the “flow” of a record out the window, but I feel like efficiency and conciseness are characteristics I would rather reward.
All of that said, here’s a couple nuggets to tide you over until tomorrow…
Biggest Disappointments of 2010
Weezer – Hurley
Not that I was expecting much, but after constantly readjusting my expectations for Rivers & Co., they leave me wondering why I even give a shit anymore. It certainly doesn’t appear that they do.
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
I’ve admittedly always been more a fan of Blur’s than of Gorillaz, despite the latter’s obvious on-paper appeal. That said, this album reeks of the same half-hearted inconsequential studio wankery that madeThink Tank so offensive. It doesn’t help that most of Damon Albarn’s vocal appearances here sound like he literally phoned it in, with nothing but disinterest on his end of the line.
Cloud Cult – Light Chasers
I can’t help but wonder if this band hit their peak with 2007’s Meaning of 8, as this record and 2008’s Feel Good Ghosts, while nice enough, are starting to feel like less vital rehash – a strong sign of a career in decline. It’s hard to watch, since I can’t think of a band I would want to root for more (the tragic backstory, the eco-friendliness, the ability to somehow successfully and charmingly incorporate nü-hippy/post-christian-rock tinges, etc.), especially since this is their seventh full-length and the cover art for every single one of their records has consistently been nothing short of awful.
Hawksley Workman – Meat/Milk
It was always this Canadian cult fave’s visceral vocal theatrics, perfectly pairing with his innate pop sense and obscure-but-inhabitable poeticism, that made me keep coming back. His moments of brilliance, however, have recently been few and far between, with the embarrassments coming with an alarming frequency, and these unfortunately titled twin-releases are no exception. Save for the infectious fist-pump anthem, “We’ll Make Time”, Meat and Milk seem to indicate that Hawksley clearly isn’t short on studio time, but he may well have run out of stuff to write about.
Wolf Parade – Expo 86
Due to my complete indifference towards anything this band has done since 2005’s Apologies To Queen Mary, including any of the side-projects that were spawned since (Sunset Rubdown, Handsome Furs, and Swan Lake, for those of you keeping score at home…), I’m beginning to think that either A. They caught lightning in a bottle with that record, or seemingly more likely B. They just aren’t for me. Either way, still disappointing…
Spoon – Transference
My appreciation for Spoon has long puzzled me, since they always seemed to be a fairly bare-bones, and potentially boring, band. It seemed that they lived and died by the song – if the songs were there (Girls Can Tell, Kill The Moonlight, Gimme Fiction), I was all in. But when everyone else loved Blah Blah Bl Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, I was whelmed. Pitchfork gave the record their “Best New Music” stamp, which I found amusing, since it didn’t sound new to me at all – it sounded like the same old Spoon, with slightly less luster. On Transference, the band has finally lost me, with mediocre songs rendering the band, well… boring.
Toadies – Feeler
Truth is, the Toadies should have never made 2008’s No Deliverance. The reunion tour was more than welcomed, since it meant many fans from their 90’s heyday finally got to seem them in concert (myself included), but that certainly didn’t warrant the studio venture that came with it. Suffice it to say, fans were probably willing to accept that they would get no new Toadies music. But then came Feeler: The band’s 1997 album which had been lost in the Interscope veto pile was re-recorded, and now released! Unfortunately, the potential of new-to-us Toadies tunes from their prime far exceeds the product, as the album, while certainly better than No Deliverance, falls short of their first two albums.
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday
It’s possible that the brilliance of Minaj’s guest appearances had whipped up anticipation for her debut to unrealistic levels, but the real disappointment with Pink Friday is how often the “femcee” – with her often unconventional and just-plain-bonkers delivery – falls into the tired conventions of the genre. I suppose mercenaries aren’t often known for their battle plans…
Most Overrated of 2010
Best Coast – Crazy For You
Sorry Bethany, it’s not mutual… Kinda sounds like you aimed somewhere between Tracyanne Campbell and Neko Case and nailed boring instead.
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
You’d think I would have gone for a marriage of Oberst-esque vocals with punk trappings and Springsteen spirit, but apparently not…
Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
Just so inconsequential…
Vampire Weekend – Contra
Does Ezra Koenig’s singing style drive anyone else crazy? Is it just me? I mean, some of these songs are nice enough (and I’ll admit, “I Think Ur A Contra” is a downright beautiful tune), but “Horchata” and “California English” are beyond grating.
The Roots – How I Got Over
At some point I’ll have to resign myself to the fact that they’ll never make another Things Fall Apart. Problem is, it seems like some people think they did…
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I mean, it’s good. I’ll concede that I was rather enamored with a few of the cuts right off the bat, signing it’s praises before I even had a chance to digest the album as a whole (and I don’t think I was alone in this approach). The sheen wore off quickly for me and I kinda got sick of it – like plowing through a sleeve of powdered donuts on an empty stomach.
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Maybe it’s the audio purist in me, but I kind of take offense to the production on this record. I mean,every song is clipped-the-eff-out. Talk about aurally fatiguing. And, M.I.A.’s gimmicky paw-prints are all over this thing, with every monotonous vocal melody seemingly plucked from one of her own songs and slapped onto what essentially sounds like chopped-and-screwed Ratatat tracks. Does this band sound cool? Sure. Will the gimmick wear off? Probably – already has for me.
And last, but yes, actually, least…