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My 2010 Music Picks

Now that the arbitrarily defined calendar year is actually ending, I thought I’d dilute the impact of best-of lists by adding mine.

My Favorite Albums Released in 2010

  • Janelle Monáe — The ArchAndroid: She’s got a great voice, terrific style, and a fascinating vision. It’s easily the best album released this year and one of the best of the past decade. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Say You’ll Go”
  • Arcade Fire — The Suburbs: Yes, there’s some whining about the isolation of suburban life, but that’s just on the surface of this album. I love the way the lyrics make me think about growing up, the sound they’ve achieved, and that it’s as great as critics and fans hoped it would be. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Month of May”
  • of Montreal — False Priest: I still think Skeletal Lamping is thus far the oM masterpiece, but that’s like saying moist chocolate cake is superior to tiramisu. As with dessert, either will make me very happy. At the risk of overloading you with comparisons, I also think this is their most accessible album, but it’s still damn weird and damn brilliant. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Godly Intersex”
  • Stars — The Five Ghosts: It’s like a PR party hosted by ghosts. The tone is light at first, but as the festivities proceed, they experience pain that can’t be touched. Although the songs are some of the band’s most hook-driven, concise songwriting, it’s still a really lovely album. If You Only Listen to One Track: “He Dreams He’s Awake”
  • Caribou — Swim: Intricately woven electronic music that’s gorgeous and fun and modern and full of feeling. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Jamelia”
  • Robyn — Body Talk: This is smart dance music as fun as Madonna’s Confessions, but Robyn explores the yearning and pain of the club scene like I haven’t heard since Pet Shop Boys’ Nightlife. She’s got a great voice to communicate her blend of toughness and vulnerability. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Indestructible”
  • Duran Duran — All You Need Is Now: A lot of DD fans want them to sound like they did in the early 80s, and this album should make them happy. More important, it’s simply a terrific album with nine terrific tracks that capture the band’s range, from fun dance songs to strangely beautiful numbers. I wish the album were a little longer and that they’d re-record “Safe” without the inane guest performance, but otherwise, it’s a winner. If You Only Listen to One Track: “The Man Who Stole a Leopard”
  • Peter Gabriel — Scratch My Back: Gabriel interprets songs he admires according to his own dark musical vision. It’s gorgeous. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Listening Wind”
  • Massive Attack — Heligoland: As lovely and warm as Mezzanine while as challenging as 100th Window. Comforting one moment, disturbing the next, and resonant, brilliant throughout. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Girl I Love You”
  • Groove Armada — Black Light: Seems like everybody’s trying to do the early 80s sound these days and almost everybody sucks at it. Groove Armada nails it while sounding completely right-now. Maybe in thirty years Black Light will sound timeless. Or not. Who cares? It sounds good. If You Only Listen to One Track: “Not Forgotten”

The Artists I Listened to Most in 2010 (According to my Last.fm Account)

1 Pet Shop Boys
2 Stars
3 The Flaming Lips
4 Janelle Monáe
5 New Order
6 Arcade Fire
7 of Montreal
8 Air
9 Duran Duran
10 Peter Gabriel
11 Basement Jaxx
12 Goldfrapp
13 Massive Attack
14 Sade
15 Caribou
16 Animal Collective
17 Hot Chip
18 Radiohead
19 Clark
20 Ella Fitzgerald
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