Let me break it down for you guys… I normally avoid making “Top” lists. First, because I suck at describing why one album is musically superior to another. I’m the type of person who listens to something and I either love it or hate it. I don’t enjoy analyzing their qualities. Music is so tightly wound with my identity, I find it almost impossible to be objective. Secondly, I tend to feel bad for all of the other albums I have enjoyed throughout the year. Yes, I have tendencies to project feelings upon inanimate objects…
I find it is similar to the emotional struggles of my stuffed animals when I was a child. I had two favorite toys, a bear and a bunny (creatively named “Bear” and “Bunny”). I cuddled with them every night, until, one evening, I noticed the other stuffed animals sadly staring at me from their perch on top of my radiator. My nightlight reflected off of their glassy eyes, creating the illusion of tears of sad, neglected children. For months after that, I kept a rotating schedule of which stuffed animal I slept with for the night. But, that was when I was 4 or 5 years old. Now that I’m 26, I have to call it like it is.
So, without further ado, here follows the list of my top 10 albums of the year accompanied by a personal note on each.
#10 - Radiohead - The King of Limbs
As with many of the latest releases by Radiohead, you either loved or hated The King of Limbs. Thom York and company continually push themselves and this short but amazing album is no exception. I can attest to this album’s golden road trip qualities. Especially during night drives, The King of Limbs lingers in dark corners, and oozes sticky trails. Keep an eye on the road, that may be a deer in the middle of the highway or it may be a Radiohead induced hallucination.
Watch: Lotus Flower by Radiohead.
#9 - Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo
I had a moment with this album during my first ever solo drive over 8 hours to Memphis to visit my best friend. I have been a Kurt Vile fan since YVYNYL included Overnight Religion on his Floating out to Sea Mixtape back in September of 2009. However, Kurt never caused me to cry, or stir up physical signs of emotion until (as cheesy as it sounds) Baby’s Arms came over my stereo system. Dawn was just breaking, I was driving through the Kentucky hills, the red and orange leaves were peaking through the mist. My mind immediately went to my boyfriend, who was at home, sleeping soundly in Columbus. I suddenly felt homesick, and wished he could share this beautiful moment on the road with me.
Watch: Baby’s Arms by Kurt Vile.
#8 - Twin Sister - In Heaven
I love everything about Twin Sister. They are, hands down, some of the nicest, sweetest, quirkiest human beings on earth. Their music reflects the same. This 10 track album is woven equally with threads of innocence and darkness, humor and honesty. I constantly add Bad Street to my playlists because I can’t get enough of its silliness. The 1/4th Japanese side of me also applauds their reference to Japanese horror films in their music video for Kimmi in a Rice Field.
P.S. Readers, these guys are awesome house guests, so if you are able to open your home to them while they are on the road, do so. They have my hostess stamp of approval.
Listen to Bad Street by Twin Sister.
#7 - M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
The 22 tracks on this album are all pretty great. The only problem is, I can’t pick out but two or three favorite tracks because they all sound much better if played consecutively. That factor is what pushed me add Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming to my top 10. One of the signs of a truly talented artist is the ability to craft an album that stays cohesive from beginning to end.
Plus, this formula is like the first time they put chocolate and peanut butter together.
Listen to Intro by M83.
#6 - Gauntlet Hair - Gauntlet Hair
Everyone knows, I’m a sucker for music with heavy percussion and glitched out guitars. I can’t resist flailing like a wild banshee whenever I put this album on (which can be quite dangerous while listening in heavy traffic).
Listen to Top Bunk by Gauntlet Hair.
#5 - The Kills - Blood Pressures
I. love. Alison. Mosshart.
Need I say more? Well, I guess I should elaborate. I’ve been closely following The Kills since my freshman year of college (2004). I had the pleasure of seeing them perform at a small 300 cap venue that year as well, and since that night, I’ve had a major crush on Alison. Jamie Hince ain’t so bad himself, but I think even the thought of entertaining a double crush would blow my mind. Besides, he’s married to Kate Moss, so there go my chances. Blood Pressures is an amazing follow-up to Midnight Boom. It’s filled to the brim with The Kills sexy angst… mmm.
I saw the pair perform in Detroit in May, and even managed to squeak out a mousy, “Hello..” to Alison when we ran into her at the restaurant next to the venue.
Listen to Nail in My Coffin by The Kills.
#4 - St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Dear Annie Clark,
How do you manage to be so lovely, with your curly hair, elegant style, and cherry red lips? How do you manage to be so badass? From the way you wail on that guitar, to the way you craft a song, you make for one sultry songstress. All the men want you, all the women wish they could be you. Strange Mercy should be added to a list of “Rock Albums Every Woman Should Own.” Keep singing, my dear. Keep rocking. I adore you. Adopt me?
Listen to Cruel by St. Vincent.
#3 - Washed Out - Within and Without
Ernest Greene has come a long way from his days of being a Myspace “chill-wave” mystery. Thank goodness for that.
Within and Without was without a doubt one of sexiest releases of the year. I mean, just look at the album art! You’re obviously supposed to have the bump-and-grind on yo’ mind when you let these tracks tickle your ear drums. It’s also an awesome album to blast in your car during the warm summer months. For those of you who live in warmer climates, roll down your windows, and let your arm ride the wave of wind, and let the music take you away. For those of us stuck in weather below 40 degrees, you may want to don a thick coat, mittens, and blast your heat before you try it out. Or, you could wait until summer, but who wants to do that?!
Listen to You & I by Washed Out.
As to be expected, Era Extraña made it into my top 2 albums of the year. I mean, goodness gracious everyone… it better have! I saw Neon Indian live 3 times just this year, 6 times total. I can’t help it. I’ve been a musical admirer of Alan Palomo since Psychic Chasms' kaleidoscopic sounds clobbered my ears that night that changed how I listen to music forever. (If you read the interview linked below, you'll quickly figure out why it sounded so different.)
Era Extraña is a album chock full of songs that take you through the stages of crush, longing, and inevitable heartbreak. I have to claim Suns Irrupt as my favorite track. It undulates with the same swagger of confidence as Palomo does when he’s performing.
Listen to Polish Girl by Neon Indian.
I can’t even begin adequately explain how excited I was for Tomboy to drop.
That fateful night in September of 2010 at Ottobar in Baltimore, MD in the company of Jimmy from Headunderwater.com and the boys from Everybody Yay turned me into a super-stellar-intergallactic-crazed fan of Panda Bear. No other artist has ever made a room disappear around me, created sounds that seeped into every pore, and left me feeling simultaneously confounded and elated. My eyes fluttered opened when Afterburner faded out, and I looked around me, grabbed Jimmy’s shoulder and said, “What just happened?!” I had only consumed 3 drinks over the course of 2 hours… what was this audible magic?!
When I listen to Tomboy in the proper environment (lights out, headphones on, bass pumped, laying in bed) I can recreate that moment. I can’t help but imagine myself as a white feather riding on expanding and contracting waves of sound, through a dark and peaceful forest every time I listen to Scheherazade. I have no doubt in my mind Noah Lennox will go down as one of the greatest masters of electronic music in history.
Listen to Afterburner by Panda Bear.