My Favorite Albums of 2010 (and some other stuff)


For December 19:

What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)

I’m really happy I decided to do this #reverb10 challenge; I definitely feel that it’s inspired some good habits, important goals, creativity. But I’m not a big fan of the overwhelmingly self-help-y nature of most of the prompts. I understand why: Most of the prompt authors are self-help bloggers of various types. And I definitely admit to reading my share of websites that could be categorized as such.

But I’ve never thought of self-help as an end in and of itself. I know some people have shelves and shelves full of books on how to be a more enlightened person, how to be freed from demons, how to find the love of your life. I myself have edited two additions to the genre (this one is actually really good). But for me, being mindful about my inner life is a means to feel more balanced, energetic and creative. I would never want it to be the focus of my creativity because…it’s boring? Self-centered? Private? And the world has a lot of crazy-ass problems that are way more important than the fact that I procrastinate?

What was that? Procrastination? Yes, despite my best efforts to evade the substance of this prompt, I did have a major realization this morning: I procrastinate because completing a project entails me being judged. Except that, nope, it sure doesn’t. My work isn’t me; and even if people do judge me, and harshly, what difference does it make, really?

So in the spirit of happy judgmentalism, here are my favorite musical albums of 2010!

Did you like that segue? It wasn’t contrived at all.

Wilderness Heart by Black Mountain
I think this is my favorite album of 2010. That’s because, considering every album on this list, this is the one I would pick if I were forced to choose only one to listen to ever again. (By who? An aural sadist? It’s a preposterous hypothetical, but such is the nature of music writing.) I love Black Mountain so much, something I wrote about at length here.

Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi
This is, hands-down, my favoritest hip-hop album of 2010 (and second-fave album? Perhaps). That Other One is on this list, too, but Big Boi is just so funny and self-deprecating, which one will never be able to say of ‘Ye (unless he starts following a bunch of self-help blogs?). Plus, it’s 100 percent enjoyable and totally listenable. “Turns Me On” is the sexiest song I’ve heard all year.

Grinderman 2 by Grinderman
This album rocks with the force of olde (like, the 1970s). I probably listened to this album more than any other this year. For a month or so this autumn, I had a hard time hearing  anything else. We got to see them several weeks ago. It was a great show, even though it was at the Best Buy Theater, the worst venue of all time. Basically, if you like guitars and Nick Cave there is nothing not to love. “Heathen Child” is destined to be a classic.

Kairos by White Hinterland
Casey Dienel is one of the most interesting musicians making pop music right now. Kairos always strikes me as sparse, wintry and sophisticated, yet still welcoming and generous. Perfect listening for this time of year.

Plastic Beach by Gorillaz
It makes me happy that Damon Albarn, who I’ve loved for over half my life now, continues to knock my socks off. This is my favorite Gorillaz album, and for many months, held my top 2010 spot. It has some of the most beautiful Albarn vocals and has one of the most incredible guest line-ups of any album: Gruff Rhys, Mos Def, De La Soul, Lou Reed, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Snoop Dogg and Bobby Womack. Yeah.

The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe
This tiny lady is completely intimidating. At 25, she’s an amazing songwriter, musician, singer and dancer. She takes performance art to superfun, constantly enjoyable, multigenre levels. I could compare her to certain gimmicky, autotuned “divas,” but that would only serve to diminish her radness.

The Ram Project by Dave Depper
This album does not actually come out until February 11, 2011 (the day before my 31st birthday). But I am including it because I heard (and loved) it all in 2010. This is because Dave posted every song online as he finished them. In his home. Every single song from Paul McCartney’s Ram perfectly recorded. And while he took up the project as a personal challenge and an expression of love for the original, it was just so fucking awesome that people were all, “Um. Can we please release this? Because it blew our minds and we want it to blow other people’s also.”

The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green
I have heard of some critical types hating on this album for being too pretty, too perfect, too well produced and not quite as hilarious as Cee Lo can be at times. Doesn’t that just scream of reaching? This album wraps you in ’60s-flavored soul, with its awesome back-up singers, hooky choruses and sweet horns. And it is really funny.

MBDTF by Kanye West
Yes, it’s fantastically good, though not my favorite album, or hip-hop album (see Big Boi), of 2010. But he had me at “21st-century schizoid man.”

Together by The New Pornographers
No, it’s not their best album, but they consistently set the bar really high. And, like all New Pornos albums, it steadily grows on you until it wraps your brain in a cashmere blanky of pop music. Whenever I started to freak out on an airplane this year, I listened to this album.

Apollo Kids by Ghostface Killah
This album doesn’t come out till tomorrow, but I had to include it prematurely because of my enduring love for Ghostface, the flowiest of flowing MCs. I did “preview all” of the songs on Amazon and listened to ‘em on MySpace. (I always pay for my music.) It seems to be super rocking. (Addendum: This album is so good! I’m glad I didn’t leave it off.)

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