Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pomo Jukebox's (and friends'!) Top 25 Albums of the Year: 15 - 11

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 25 favorite 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.

15. M.I.A. - /\/\/\Y/\
Label: Interscope

/\/\/\Y/\ is arguably the most challenging piece of pop released in 2010. On it, M.I.A. reconfigures her multicultural brand of hip-hop into deconstructed dance music. The disorienting but pleasant sounds of “Galang” and “Paper Planes” have been replaced by the disfigured party beats of “Teqkilla,” the meth-rush of “Born Free,” and the stammering, headbanging glory of “Meds and Feds.” Lyrically, M.I.A. is all over the place, as concerned with the trappings of fame as she is with the elimination of privacy in the instant information age. /\/\/\Y/\ may be her best album to date, as well as her most unlistenable. —Brian Flota

14. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
Label: Bad Boy/Wonderland

Janelle Monae sort of surprised everyone this year by coming out of nowhere to release one of the best albums of the year. Using a thin, and unnecessary (but fun) sci-fi concept as a through-thread, Monae manages to annihilate just about every genre and aesthetic expectation known to man. Veering from straight R&B, to hip hop (w/ Big Boi), to indie pop (w/ Of Montreal), to psychadelic folk, The ArchAndroid is easily the most adventurous and exciting album of the year. --James Brubaker

13. Best Coast - Crazy For You
Label: Mexican Summer

If we define 2010’s musical landscape in terms of excess, then there’s something refreshing about Best Coast’s simplicity. Short, catchy songs, repetitive lyrics, simple chord structures, and standard songwriting about themes like love, longing, and loneliness. There’s something both immediately familiar and refreshingly novel about Crazy About You that makes it stand out in a list of the year’s best albums. Throw in talking cats and Bethany Cosentino’s larger than life, though incredibly down to earth, presence on Twitter (not to mention Snacks the cat’s tweets!), and Best Coast is one of more intriguing acts to emerge from 2010. --Joshua Cross

12. No Age - Everything in Between
Label: Sub Pop

The slashing punk rock guitar, booming drums, and MBV atmospherics of No Age’s debut album (Nouns) are tempered slightly on its follow-up by greater production values. The opening single, “Glitter,” is loaded with shimmery keyboards and feedback as well as an improved vocal sound. Just because they’ve grown up some and listened to a little more of The Cure than they used to, though, doesn’t mean they can’t still bring tha noize. Tracks like “Fever Dreaming,” “Depletion,” and “Shed and Transcend” rock as hard as anything they’ve recorded. While it’s no Nouns, it’s great to see them growing musically. --Brian Flota

11. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
Label: Asthmatic Kitty

Jesus, Sufjan. You go away for a few years, talk about writing fiction, make some crazy-ass multi-media art and this is what you come back with? A sprawling, messy, cantankerous bit of cathartic pop that kicks us in the balls while running its fingers through our hair? This album is long--aided by its epic twenty-five minute closing track--and it can even be a bit alienating, but in the best possible way. By seamlessly blending icy electronics with warm orchestral and choral flourishes, Stevens has built an album about what it feels like to be blown apart, drifting away from whatever it is that we make our core, and hanging on for dear life. By album's end, two things are clear: Sufjan won't let go and he's not fucking around. --James Brubaker

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