We’re rapidly approaching the end of December. You know what that means: it’s time for the requisite ‘best of’ list. You’re not allowed to get upset about any of these selections because they’re based entirely on my opinions. Here are my 10 favorite albums from 2010:
10) Big Boi - ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty’
I’m a product of the suburbs, so I was unfashionably late when it came to hip-hop. Attending high school in Lynn, MA changed all of that. OutKast became an early favorite and Big Boi’s solo debut has a lot of those same familiar elements without just sounding like he kicked Andre 3000 out of the studio.
9) Wale - ‘More About Nothing’
I went back and forth as to whether or not I could include this since it’s a mixtape, but then I remembered that I’m the law. Only liked a handful of tracks on ‘Attention Deficit’ after growing very fond of ‘The Mixtape About Nothing.’ Anyhow, this is worth checking out because of the ‘Seinfeld’ references, Kevin Durant’s cameo and the track written from Tiger Woods’ perspective (and my praise).
8) The Black Keys - ‘Brothers’
I’m a big fan of this duo, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on their discography. Regardless, I’ve got to imagine this is the most mainstream album they’ve ever made (which isn’t a bad thing - cue the age-old ‘selling out vs. evolving’ debate). All that matters is there are a ton of different (and fun) guitar tones, which is usually the best part of any Black Keys release.
7) Arcade Fire - ‘The Suburbs’
Arcade Fire is essentially the new White Stripes, in that I’m made to feel like there’s something wrong with me if I don’t like any of the music they put out. Love ‘Funeral,’ but wasn’t a fan of ‘Neon Bible’ aside from a few songs. I guess I’ve seen the light again. “Businessmen drink my blood like the kids in art school said they would” must be on most lists for lyrics of the year (if those exist).
6) B.o.B - ‘B.o.B. Presents the Adventures of Bobby Ray’
This is not just because of the presences of Rivers Cuomo and Vampire Weekend. ‘Nothin’ on You’ is so catchy that I sometimes think I’ll eventually need therapy to get Bruno Mars’ chorus out of my head. At the very least, I look forward to seeing what B.o.B comes up with next because he has the potential to be a unique artist. The fact that his stage name is a tribute to the OutKast classic (which still brings a certain basketball playlist to mind) only makes me like him more.
5) Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - ‘Dark Night of the Soul’
’Dark Night of the Soul’ has some odd moments, but it’s a really enjoyable album that becomes more interesting with every listen. Appearances by Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), James Mercer (The Shins), The Flaming Lips and many more special guests only add to the overall goodness. I have a lot of respect for Danger Mouse’s production skills (also see ‘The Grey Album,’ ‘Demon Days,’ ‘Attack & Release’ and ‘Modern Guilt’) and wonder what he’ll come up with on U2’s next album.
4) Kings of Leon - ‘Come Around Sundown’
I saw Kings of Leon open for U2 in Boston in 2005. Even though I wasn’t familiar with most of their music, had no idea what Caleb Followill was saying three-quarters of the time and every member of the band was wearing overalls, there was something that made me want to investigate. They’ve been among my favorites ever since, but everyone likes them now (the ‘selling out vs. evolving’ debate strikes again). ‘Only By the Night’ is a good album, but it felt too poppy (for lack of a better word) at times. While ‘Come Around Sundown’ has many mainstream elements (and country in ‘Back Down South’), it’s definitely more of a rock record than this group’s previous effort.
3) Eminem - ‘Recovery’
Not going to lie: didn’t think ‘Recovery’ was much of an upgrade over ‘Relapse’ halfway through my first listen. Then came the flurry of rhymes that brought me back to my time in middle school, when his album release dates were practically unofficial holidays. Sure, he’s not making the same kind of music as a decade ago, but people change, so why shouldn’t we expect the same from artists that we like?
2) Vampire Weekend - ‘Contra’
Vampire Weekend’s debut album is so good that I was literally hooked midway through ‘Mansard Roof.’ There are more tones, textures and instrumentation on ‘Contra,’ but it still doesn’t stray too far from the band’s original formula. For me, ‘Taxi Cab,’ ‘Diplomat’s Son’ and ‘I Think Ur a Contra’ are the highlights because they exhibit the quartet’s musical versatility.
1) Kanye West - ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’
This is at the top of a lot of these lists, so I looked for every excuse to go in a different direction, but I just couldn’t do it (wouldn’t be prudent). I have loved Kanye ever since I purchased ‘The College Dropout’ in London shortly after my graduation from high school. I thank him for reverting back to rapping and making the most memorable (and interesting) album of the year. Every listen brings new discoveries, and Chris Rock makes me laugh every time (“Yeezy taught me!”).
Guaranteed highlight of the next year in music: the first album from The Strokes in nearly five years.