Thursday, December 16, 2010

PoMo Jukebox's (and friends'!) Top 25 Albums of the Year: 10-6

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.

10. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Label: Merge

Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs is a more delicate, intimate recording than their past albums. With strong, orchestral arrangements, songs like “Sprawl II” shine, though the first song sets the subtle mood of the album. Win Butler’s lyrics about childhood and youth are charming and well-written, even humorous at times, and make this a strange but well deserved place in their catalog. --Brandon Hobson

9. Beach House - Teen Dream
Label: Sub Pop

Teen Dream continues the distinct dream-pop sound Beach House had crafted on their first two records, but also represents something of a musical growth for the Baltimore duo. Victoria Legrand’s signature deep, smoky vocals are still present, as are her droning keyboards and Alex Scally’s spacey guitars, but Teen Dream expands that reliable aesthetic to a sound that is somehow simultaneously both darker and brighter. Songs like “Silver Soul” and “Norway” match the bleak backdrop of the album’s January release, while others like “Walk in the Park” have shades of pop heretofore unheard in previous releases. Of all the albums that came out at the beginning of the year, this is one of the most listenable eleven months later. --Joshua Cross

8. Vampire Weekend - Contra
Label: XL

You’ve probably heard Vampire Weekend’s song “Holiday” on all those Honda commercials, but that’s only just a taste of this fantastic album. Contra, their second album, is more adventurous and upbeat than their first album. The opener, “Horchata” is a surge of synth-pop and guitars and as catchy as anything I’ve heard in a long time. “White Sky,” another catchy tune, shows the band’s versatility—but the whole album, in fact, is a nice blend of West African guitars, reggae, and ska. Contra is my pick for album of the year. --Brandon Hobson

7. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Label: 4AD

Bad 1970s and 1980s pop music can be identified by its forceful use of then-new synthesizer technology, ultra-compressed beats, and cheesy saxophones. On Before Today, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti revisit these nauseating sounds not with nostalgia, but from the perspective of musical anthropologists seeking to excavate these broken shards of sound from an abandoned mound of refuse. As a result, the group produces washed out music that just doesn’t like it’s from another time, but from some forgotten place in our collective musical unconscious. The unmistakable highlight is “Round and Round,” their hypnotic ode to Marianne Faithfull’s “Broken English.” —Brian Flota

6. Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
Label: Drag City

While nobody was expecting Joanna Newsom to turn around and put out a 3xLP set this year, we shouldn't have been surprised. It's not like here last album, Y's was lacking in ambition with its five songs starting from seven minutes, and its grand, orchestral sweep. What should surprise us about Have One on Me is how easy Newsom's transition from those larger than life songs back to more straightforward singer-songwriter material would be. Of course, using straightforward as an adjective for anything Newsom related is a big misleading, and though Have One on Me finds Newsom's songs getting a bit hookier, and a bit more direct, the complexity of both the arrangements and the emotional content is impressive. And while "Good Intentions Paving Co." might be Newsom at her most timeless, "Does Not Suffice" might very well be this album's crowning achievement, and the best "last song" of the year, as Newsom packs up her things, looks back at a failed romance and turns out the light before showing us the door. --James Brubaker

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