1. Contra– Vampire Weekend
There wasn’t a more purely enjoyable album all year than Vampire Weekend’s incessantly catchy and unabashedly buoyant Contra. Vampire Weekend dispelled any notions of a sophomore slump with this one.
2. Cosmogramma- Flying Lotus
Flying Lotus continues to push boundaries that few others even realize exist. If you want to hear the future of music now, do yourself a favor and listen to this.
3. The Age of Adz– Sufjan Stevens
Five years removed from recording his last proper full-length album (the brilliant Illinois), Sufjan Stevens returns with his first foray into electronic music. While Stevens’ sound has changed some between now and then, his usual quirkiness and affinity for unique musical arrangements is back and we’re all the better for it.
4. Have One On Me- Joanna Newsom
Newsom doesn’t disappoint with her third full-length release, the meticulously crafted Have One On Me. Coming in at two hours long and spanning three discs, this sprawling endeavor showcases Newsom’s ability to craft spellbinding, poetic yarns that pack more musical ideas into a single song than most artists have on an entire album. Then again, most artists aren’t Joanna Newsom.
5. Living With Yourself- Mark Mcguire
Unlike other albums from this year, Living With Yourself likely won’t blow you away upon first listen (or ever); it’s much too subtle for that. Instead, Living With Yourself works slowly, filling you with a warmth that spreads gradually through your body until you are numb inside with raw, unbridled human emotion.
6. Love King- The-Dream
The self-proclaimed “radio killa, R&B gorilla” returns with a set of his usual baby-inducing love lust songs written for the girls in his little black book and the guys who wish they could get their hands on it.
7. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy– Kanye West
Not nearly deserving of all the positive praise it’s received I’d, nonetheless, be remiss if I didn’t at least recommend MBDTF for the impact it’s had in the music world this year and for Kanye’s fearlessness in taking chances (for better or worse) lyrically, stylistically, etc. on the album. Love it or hate it (I’m somewhere in between), I think just about everyone can agree that this is an album you have to at least check out if you call yourself a fan of music in 2010.
8. Before Today– Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
It’s tough to believe Before Today was released in 2010 but, indeed, it was. Sounding more like a pastiche of sounds from bygone eras, Ariel Pink seamlessly mixes ‘60s psychedelia (“Bright Lit Blue Skies”), ‘70s goofball cheesiness (“Can’t Hear My Eyes”), and synthesizer-driven ‘80s goth rock (“Fright Night (Nevermore)”) to create something that certainly sounds ‘before today,’ but also freshly new.
9. The ArchAndroid– Janelle Monáe
On her genre-sweeping debut, Janelle Monáe displays her musical chops, bouncing between funk, hip-hop, rock, folk, jazz, and classical elements between (and often within) songs. Her fusion of all these disparate genres is effortless and it shows in the steady flowing nature of her not-to-be-missed debut.
10. Teen Dream– Beach House
Consider this fair warning: It’s your own fault if you sleep on Beach House’s ethereal Teen Dream. Consider this your consolation: It’ll be here when you decide to wake up.
Your turn: What did I miss? What were your favorite albums from 2010? Let me know!