Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pomo Jukebox's (and friends'!) Top 25 Albums of the Year: 20 - 16

Welcome to PoMo Jukebox's first ever Album's of the Year List (2010 edition). By now it seems pretty evident that 2010 was all about excess. We had Kanye West's excessive production and ruminations on celebrity, Sleigh Bells' excessive volume, Joanna Newsom's excess of material, The Arcade Fire's excessive everything, and Sufjan Stevens' excess of feeling and whatever the hell else is going on with The Age of Adz. Oddly, through all of this excess 2010 ended up being a pretty incredible year for music. While excess has traditionally been a dirty word when talking about music, all of a sudden our excess of excess ended up giving music fans an excess of exciting, larger-than-life albums that managed to mix raw enthusiasm with their unchecked ambition.

Over the course of this week, we are excited to be rolling out our Top 25 Albums of the Year list. We, literally, couldn't have made this list without you, our friends and readers. After our call for lists we received well over twenty lists with votes for over a hundred albums. What follows is the result of your tastes and ours. Enjoy, and let us know what you think.

20. Das Racist - Sit Down, Man
Label: Mad Decent / Greedhead / Mishka

Das Racist have had a busy year. Over the summer, everyone was singing their ridiculous "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," which they promptly followed with the full length mixtape, Shut Up, Dude, a collection of beats and rhymes that pleasantly surprised anyone who was familiar with their fast food homage, but ended up being dwarfed just a few months later by a second mixtape, the fun, impressive, and sharp Sit Down, Man. On this second mixtape, Das Racist expand on their promise by opening up their song structures while continuing to reference everything from soap operas to obscure Star Trek lore. If the fact that Heems and Kool AD are able to load an album with tight wordplay and solid beats isn't enough for you, Sit Down, Man also likes to get subversive with ideas of race and privilege. But that's not really the point, is it? --James Brubaker

19. How to Dress Well - Love Remains
Label: Lefse

If I had a nickel for every time I've described Love Remains as haunted, I'd have enough nickels to fill up the sock I should use to knock myself out for being so goddam redundant. That said, How to Dress Well is a marvel of lo-fi, decomposed production. Tom Krell starts with half-rotted song sketches that have a bit of an R&B flavor, then under-records them so they end up sounding like distant, totally fucked howls of distorted emotion. While "Decisions" is the easy highlight, Krell somehow manages to build an entire album of these disintegrated pop songs that works as a unified--and stunningly listenable--whole. You might even say the whole affair is beautifully haunted. --James Brubaker

18. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
Label: Warp

When Cosmogramma first leaked, I wrote a review describing it as sci-fi noir. I stand by that descriptor, but what hadn't sunk in from those early listens was just how elegant and warm Flying Lotus's arrangements are. Mixed in with the cool synths and interstellar beats are breathless bursts of jazz and a dazzling orchestral sweep. While these elements seem disparate, FlyLo blends them together seamlessly to make an album that doesn't just sound like foreboding future cities, but that makes jazz music feel more relevant than it has in a long, long time. --James Brubaker

17. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
Label: Astralwerks

If you live on this side of the Atlantic, this is the best record you probably haven’t heard this year. Marling, however, is no secret in her native Britain, where I Speak Because I Can, her sophomore LP, debuted at number four on the charts. Though only 20 years old, Marling’s confident songwriting, urgent lyrics, and at times Nick Drake-esque guitar work create an ethos that well surpasses her years. This is among the most engaging folk music to come out in years, without equivocation. Do yourself a solid and listen. --Joshua Cross

16. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Label: Kanine

Surfer Blood has drawn comparisons to Weezer, Vampire Weekend, Japandroids, Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr., and even early Cure. (OK, so that last one may just be me. But listen to “Harmonix” and tell me you don’t hear echoes of Three Imaginary Boys.) And all of those with good reason. There’s the fun hooks of the Blue Album, there’s the fuzz of Post-Nothing, there’s the frat-party fist-pump of Vampire Weekend. But while this is a fun, fuzzy, fist-pumper of a debut LP, there is an intricacy underlying many of these songs that suggest these Floridians have bigger things in store. --Joshua Cross

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