Hot! Best of 2010: Allen Huang’s Top 10 Albums I guess

Posted by on December 16th, 2010 at 12:15 PM

Honorable Mentions:

Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts
Robyn – Body Talk
Nikolas Makelberge – The Unforgettable Planet
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

10. Secret Cities – Pink Graffiti

Earlier in the year I was assigned to review Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, but instead received this record by mistake.  Funny thing is, I ended up liking this debut from Midwestern psych-pop group Secret Cities much better. Pink Graffiti is a quiet, sneaky little pop album, full of little tricks and flourishes that grab hold and beckon for repeated listens. Whatever you do, toss out the “concept” involving Brian Wilson; instead focus on the exquisitely layered baroque pop and cherish the lush, California-via-Fargo vibe that the album’s sunny-yet-chilly production radiates. It’s definitely a bit raw– the album is front-loaded and suffers from sequencing– but there not much else to dislike about this promising debut.

9. Best Coast – Crazy For You

The perfect soundtrack to the Summer of 4Loko. Sure, the whole thing is about the Wavves guy. And maybe Bethany Cosentino is a bit too obsessed with her cats. But the Tanya Donelly-meets-Leslie Gore sound of Best Coast is the best thing to come out of this year’s crowded field of summer jams. Cosentino has the knack for crafting killer vocal melodies, and flawlessly embodies the quintessential mixture of sad longing and girlish naivete that the best chanteuses of the 60’s broadcast effortlessly. Crazy For You is one of those fun summer albums that still hold weight in the fall.

8. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (II)

The first Crystal Castles album was complete garbage, an absolutely irredeemable slice of scenster tripe. But maybe if that one wasn’t so bad, their follow-up one wouldn’t be as great. Alice Glass’s nihilist shtick is better harnessed by producer Ethan Kath this time around. The duo is now adept at hiding each others’ weaknesses, rather than emphasizing them. Good on them, as they’ve shown much promise on their remixes and comp offerings, more so than their album output. The remix of “Not In Love” with Robert Smith is icing on the cake. Hated this album when I first heard it but it slowly grows, like a cancer. A mascara-wearing, hoodie-donning, Toronto-based cancer.

7. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

A friend of mine once said that he had a suspicion that Cosmogramma was ”a critical album that critics would like.” This was eventually followed up by “Ok Cosmogramma, you win.” The fact remains that FlyLo’s immediate reaction to his sudden darling status was to release a sonically dense album, impenetrable to amateur ears. There’s a lot of digging to be done when listening to this juggernaut, but a patient listener can reap the rewards of an infinitely interesting work.  Cosmogramma is not as much a critic’s album as it is a fan’s album. Or what FlyLo thinks his fans are like.

6. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

I always thought that Big Boi was the more talented half of OutKast. He had the better album in the split, his choices in side-projects are superior to Andre’s (Battle In Seattle? Are you kidding me?), and now Mr. Patton has a pristine solo album under his belt. Sir Luscious combines the skunk and funk of early Outkast with the gloss and glam required of today’s hip hop superstar. Songs like “Shutterbug” and “Shine Blockas” rival anything in the Outkast back catalogue.  Supposedly he’s helping out Andre with his solo album, which bodes well for both artists.

5. No Age – Everything In Between

The best “rock” album of the year. A mature step forward for the LA art-punk duo, Everything in Between finds No Age strapping on their daddy pants and approaching their smashed and stoned sound with a bit more pathos than expected. The production may be refined but the energy remains raw; it sounds equal parts 1990, 2000 and 2010. With cultural and personal dialogues interwoven in the lyrics, the band has gotten even their hardcore fans wondering: “No Age writing lyrics with meaning? Has hell frozen over?”

4. Caribou – Swim

Dan Snaith is on some Radiohead-esque trip right now, reinventing himself with each new album and not even thinking twice about it. If Andorra was OK Computer, Swim is Kid A: dark and uncompromising but ultimately a rewarding listen with more to do with his previous output than initially apparent. Songs like “Odessa,” “Leave House,” and “Hannibal” slowly reveal themselves to a patient listener, like the best songs always do. And in the end, it’s hard to pick favorites on this album. Dr. Snaith understands that the devil is in the details, or in this case deep within the mix.

3. The-Dream – Love King

It’s the worst of his solo albums, but it’s still the best thing going in R&B by far. Terius Nash might be a womanizing, morally contempt asshole, but boy the man can write a hook. The album is absolutely perfect from “Love King” through “Abyss,” an eight-track span that speaks of his inhuman songwriting chops. Even B-Sides “Veteran” and “Priceless” are pure R&B friction, rubbing against the most primal parts of your music-listening brain like the best pop music should. Can’t wait for Love Affair (6/7/11).

2. How To Dress Well – Love Remains

Absolutely like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Tom Krell’s brand of deconstructed R&B is just that; ghostly fragments of yesteryear simmered to reduction in wet reverb until a new emotional resonance is achieved. It takes the dark, urban brooding of dubstep and sends it simultaneously to the past and the future. Love Remains is one part R Kelly, one part Burial, one part My Bloody Valentine, and 1000 parts night driving in the rain. And despite the stubborn underproduction, songs like “Lover’s Start,” “Ready For the World,” and “Decisions ft. Yuksel Arslan” remain soul-shatteringly beautiful. It’s revisionist, it’s celebratory, it’s relentlessly dour, it’s unbelievably original and it’s not leaving my playlist anytime soon.

1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

This masterwork is not just the best album of the year, it’s the best album I’ve heard in the last decade.  I’ve said enough about it already here, but if you just want the gist of it: Kanye’s doing things to music and celebrity that are relevant in 2010 and beyond, while most others are left in the dust. And half the time, he has no idea how he’s doing it.

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