Best of the Best: Top Albums of 2010

2010 was a hell of a year for music. Kanye West’s genre-bending hip-hop masterpiece blew everyone away, but there was so much more. All of us here at Generic Flow had trouble narrowing our lists down to a mere 20 albums each, click through to find out what we thought the best albums of 2010 were and why.

TRIANGLEWALKER

20. Splazsh – Actress

19. Pilot Talk – Curren$y

18. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

17. Klavierwerke EP – James Blake

16. A Sufi and a Killer – Gonjasufi

15. Plastic Beach – Gorillaz

14. How I Got Over – The Roots

13. Heligoland – Massive Attack

12. Swim – Caribou

11. Forget – Twin Shadow

10. This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem

This did happen and it was good. Sucks they are no longer a group but LCD Soundsystem went out with a bang. Their most focused and enjoyable album to date. Great music all around.

9. EARL – Earl Sweatshirt

Free Earl. Seriously though, he’s damn good. Earl is one of the most promising rappers in a long time and this debut makes that very apparent. It’s short and sweet (although sweet isn’t exactly an adjective I would use to describe any of OFWGKTA’s music).

8. The Wild Hunt – Tallest Man on Earth

The Wild Hunt is one of those solid, great records that I can’t help but love. It’s not trying to do anything crazy. You could call it a Bob Dylan rip-off and I might agree with you. It doesn’t really matter to me though, because this beardy Swedish man injects enough originality into his style to differentiate himself from Dylan. Plus, with Dylan doing all this raspy-voiced-old-man-in-a-bar-who-seems-past-his-prime-but-is-Bob-Dylan-rock who do we have to make Bob Dylan music? Great folk song after great folk song. Driving through places that look like the cover helps the enjoyment quite substantially.

7. High Violet – The National

The National are bringin’ the post punk (or whatever) hard. They be ballin’ all around the music court. Sometimes they ball too hard but the ballin’ on this record is the kind of ballin’ they be good at. Shiiiit.

6. Body Talk – Robyn

Robyn is quite the enigma in pop music. She is extremely popular with Europeans but somehow never really caught on here in the US. Her brand of pop music is catchy, fun, and inventive and yet she doesn’t sell well here. Whatever the reason may be, they are missing out on a great pop star in the peak of her powers. Even though it is easy to say she is like Lady Gaga, Gaga fans should probably know that she owes a lot to Robyn musically and vice versa. Practically every song on Body Talk is great and anyone who likes pop music owes it to themselves to listen to this.

5. Cosmogramma – Flying Lotus

Another instant classic. This futuristic hip-hop electronic jazz opus is larger than life. The A.D.D.-like pacing is breathtaking and exciting. I can’t explain how much I love this album. It really grows on you. There are layers and layers of detail to be discovered on each track. Each song is like a different world. It can be overwhelming at some points but it’s the best kind of overwhelming. Play this very loudly on your speakers. You done your family proud, Flying Lotus.

4. Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty – Big Boi

Poor Big Boi, his album is so good but he got overshadowed by Kanye. I listened to this album nonstop when it was released. It deserved more praise even though it got quite a bit. Big Boi proves he is great even on his own with cool inventive rap songs that push the genre. The soundtrack to my 2010 summer. F-A-T S-A-X-X.

3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

Here it is. The big one. Kanye West has made his most cohesive and consistently brilliant album with MBDTF. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Kanye progressed rap beyond what I thought was possible with the genre all the while maintaining accessibility. If you lived through 2010 without hearing this album or one of its songs then you need to tell me how the real estate market is for rocks, because you live under one and would potentially have knowledge of such things. This album is an instant classic, rap’s Dark Side of the Moon if you will. Fuckin’ Ridickalus.

2. There is Love in You – Four Tet

Aw yeah, Four Tet. I had heard a little bit of Four Tet before this album but this one sealed the deal for me. There is nothing else like Four Tet. His music is sublime. It is organic sounding and yet electronic. The tracks unfold and feel alive. Other electronic musicians could learn a thing or two from this. Just great, indescribable stuff here.

1. Teen Dream – Beach House

This is really one of my favorite albums of recent memory. It’s a lucid dream of an album that flows so well I’m surprised when it ends. All the songs are great pop songs. The hazy woozy atmosphere creates a kind of warmth that I can’t place my finger on. I would use the term blissed out but I’d rather punch myself instead. Beach House made a really special album with Teen Dream. This is one beach house I’d rent from my friend if he wasn’t using it and he like offered me a good deal and I was like “thanks dude” and he was like “anytime dude, want to have a beer?” and I’d be like “No, I can’t I am a recovering addict and my wife would kill me” anytime.

Honorable Mentions: Does It Look Like I’m Here? – Emeralds, Brothers – Black Keys, I’m New Here – Gil-Scott Heron, Returnal – Oneohtrix Point Never, Transference – Spoon, Small Craft on a Milk Sea – Brian Eno, and Pilot Talk 2 – Curren$y.

NIXONIN80

20. Twilight Saga: Eclipse – Various Artists

I know it is kind of cheap to put on another film soundtrack but the fact that this little teen sensation pulled this off is amazing. I want to meet whoever is in charge of Twilight’s soundtrack and shake his/her hand. Muse, Vampire Weekend, Beck, The Dead Weather, The Black Keys?!? Seriously?!?!

19. Inception – Hans Zimmer

I’m not so sure the trippy Christopher Nolan epic would have been as gripping without Hans Zimmer’s freaky guitar and terrifying horns. I know there are no words and it is based on film, but it’s still music, right?

18. Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – My Chemical Romance

The relationship I have with the reinvention of My Chemical Romance can only be described as complicated. I absolutely love half of the album (the hard rock post-apocalyptic rock anthems and twilight bashing seen on tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 15). As for the other half of the album (a concept album that falls apart at its seams), I skip over every single time.

17. Contra – Vampire Weekend

While I don’t have this one nearly as high as the majority of reviewers seem to, I still thoroughly enjoyed the sophomore album from the most popular nerds on the planet. Every track screams with their delightfully weird and unique style that is unconventional but mainstream all at once.

16. The Lady Killer – Cee Lo Green

“Fuck You.” Enough said.

15. Together – The New Pornographers

Classifying this band is tricky enough. Explaining why one of their albums stands out is virtually impossible. From their name to their penchant for writing religion-inspired songs to their interchanging vocalists, the New Pornographers found a way to pack a strong punch into soft rock.

14. One Life Stand – Hot Chip

Another band that seems to defy its own classification. Hot Chip is probably the only band that can go to Lollapalooza and play a rock out set on the main stage before drifting over to Perry’s DJ stage and shredding out the dance floor. The continued to push their boundaries and transcend genres on their latest.

13. Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter

They throw virtually everything they can at you in this one; rock guitars, electric drums, synthesizers, a fucking brass section. The album is so busy that it’s amazing it sounds like anything at all, but they mold it together for one of the most exciting albums I have ever heard. I cannot wait for their next one.

12. Body Talk – Robyn

Swedish Lady Gaga. She’s half as weird, twice as post-contemporary and every bit as catchy. Honestly, if you liked any song off of Lady Gaga’s first two (good) albums, then you really owe it to yourself to listen to Robyn.

11. Congratulations – MGMT

How do you not admire a band willing to completely turn their back on their fan base in order to make the type of music they’re interested in? Okay, so it’s not Bob Dylan drastic but it took some serious balls to shun the catchy club pleasers from Oracular Spectacular and pursue acoustic reflections like “Congratulations.”

10. The Adventures of Bobby Ray – B.o.B.

Okay go ahead and pelt me with your refuse, but I can’t deny Bobby Ray Simmons’ first official release. I know you’re all sick of “Airplanes” and “Beautiful Girls,” but I have a lot of respect for an entertainer like him that can pull both the down home rapper and entertainment mega star roll off. His music is catchy and urban all at the same time; listen to some of the lesser known songs like the piano-centered, melodic “Don’t Let Me Fall,” sing-a-long “The Kids,” or even the grueling B-side “Letters From Vietnam.”

9. This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem

I can’t tell if I should defend why I have this in my list or explain to you why I have it as far back as nine. The album takes its rightful place in the line of all LCD Soundsystem outings. You never really know if you should rock out or dance along or sing your heart out or break down into tears with their albums. They’re epic and personal, chill and intense all at the same time. They’re brilliant. Period

8. Innerspeaker – Tame Impala

I know what you’re all thinking and yes, I thought Lennon had died too. Apparently he is back under the guise of Tame Impala to spread his removed and breathy vocals across a new set of tunes. That alone is enough to enjoy every second of this album. The Hendrix-esque rock out on “Island Walking” is just a bonus.

7. High Violet – The National

How Matt Berninger is able to consistently sing in his Ron Burgundy-style and still sound so deep and emotional is a question for another day. It always feels so intelligent, so deep and so provocative but always achieved at the lowest possible level. To pick a song or an aspect about the National is all wrong. You either get the mood or you don’t. And if you don’t, “you got another thing coming, love.”

6. Transference – Spoon

Spoon does it again, delivering deep emotional tracks in about as welcoming a style as you will find. The album doesn’t seem as tight or straightforward as their previous material, but it may be the most ambitious and certainly the most diverse. It’s hard for me to imagine Spoon ever doing wrong, so I am excited to see the new direction they take from here.

5. Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty – Big Boi

After so much fuss, the album finally got its release last and year and I think all of us were collectively thinking… Thank God! Seriously, what the hell is the next OutKast album going to sound like if this is half of it? Such a full-scale major production hip-hop album with memorable songs (“Daddy Fat Sax,” “Shutterbug,” “Tangerine”) it’s hard to imagine what could have caused this one to be overlooked and to take a backseat…. oh, that’s right.

4. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

I’m not sure if it is fair to say that Arcade Fire just made an album with this one. More than that, they captured a way of life in a saturated and surrealistic (but wholly gorgeous) fashion. They brush together an artistic mural with funky keyboards, slow strings, fast strings, synthesizers, and even some elements of disco! Consistently the most ambitious and fully realized band around.

3. Have One on Me – Joanna Newsom

I toyed with the idea of making these three separate entries on the list but that would have just been silly. Although, to be fair, Newsome did put together three full discs and what feels like days worth of music. Even though the album can be challenging and maybe a little lofty, you can enter it at any point and still be sucked into the beautiful realm she creates.

2. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

It’s not often that I come across an album with literally no flaws. I can’t really even think of anything to complain about for it? I wish there were more songs… maybe? When I defend this album to non-hip hop supporters, I always pose the question, “Can you show me another album that sounds anything like this?” And you can’t because MBDTF is so sweeping, so broad and so accomplished in so many different styles (Apocalyptic instrumentals on “Power,” progressive rock solos on “Runaway,” dance club beats and choirs on “All of the Lights,” and however the hell you want to describe the sounds on “Hell of a Life”) that is unequivocally a masterpiece.

1. Brothers – The Black Keys

I know hard rock is dying and that blues have been buried for quite some time, but just give it a chance, people. I know that it doesn’t have the post-punk instrumentals that makes all the critics over at certain websites throw their hands down their pants or post modern lyrics that need to be deciphered on blogs. It’s a rock album pure and simple, and a fucking good one. It wasn’t recorded off of a computer or with technology/electronically based instruments. It packs a full punch that would have fit right in with the glorified classic rock albums in the days of the Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Doors and so forth, thanks large in part to Dan Auerbach ruling every song with his surprisingly wide range of vocals and wailing guitar. And, true to form, they sound even better live.

GOLDENAGE

20. Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens

19. Does it Look I’m Here? – Emeralds

18. Le Noise – Neil Young

17. There is Love in You – Four Tet

16. How I Got Over – The Roots

15. Have One on Me – Joanna Newsom

14. Gemini – Wild Nothing

13. Teen Dream – Beach House

12. High Violet – The National

11. Transference – Spoon

10. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

Funeral is unquestionably a classic, but I think Arcade Fire may have topped it with this sprawling epic. It truly captures the spirit of its namesake, and as someone who grew up in the suburbs, I can’t help but be enthralled.

9. Forget – Twin Shadow

New wave at its absolute finest. Overflowing with style, Forget is never simplistic or repetitive.

8. EARL – Earl Sweatshirt

At 16, Earl Sweatshirt is not only the best rapper in OFWGKTA, he’s one of the best in the world. EARL is a slender 25 minute trip that can be jarring on the first listen, but the sick beats and seriously impressive verses Earl lays down bring me back to it time and time again. “Couch” is one of Odd Future’s best songs, and despite its uh.. graphic content, is a fantastic introduction to the so-young-it’s-unbelievable collective.

7. This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem

This is Happening is so infectious. It’s almost impossible to resist the urge to get drunk and dance like you’ve never danced before when you put on this album.

6. Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty – Big Boi

There isn’t much to say about this fantastic album that hasn’t already been said by my fellow staffers. Until Kanye blew us all away a few months later, I was thoroughly convinced this was the greatest hip-hop album of all time. It may have been overshadowed, but it’s still incredible and I can’t recommend it enough.

5. Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter

With Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter has truly hit their stride. Their most focused release to date, this album manages to embody the lo-fi noise rock the band is known for while still innovating; some tracks here differ wildly from one another in style. The contents here may be highly varied, but the album never fails to cohere or captivate, and by the end of the record you’ll want to give it another spin.

4. Cosmogramma – Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus’s third LP defies description. Easily his most ambitious, it’s also his most accessible and innovative. Fusing jazz, hip-hop and electronic music, Fly Lo has created for himself a singularly original style. Cosmogramma is beautifully arranged, and, listened to as a whole, never seems to hit the same note twice. Flying Lotus manages to infuse copious amounts of soul into a genre that can sometimes feel rather soulless.

3. Pilot Talk – Curren$y

Pilot Talk is a blast to listen to. The slick production by Ski Beatz features psychedelic guitar samples and crunchy bass, while Spitta inhabits every track with his trademark laid back style that is infinitely listenable and appealing. Curren$y’s weed-fueled third album is immensely enjoyable from start to finish.

2. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

An obvious choice, but for good reason. Kanye’s hip-hop opus is maybe the greatest album genre has yet to produce, and pushes the boundaries of what hip-hop can be. Yeezy’s beats are just as lavishly produced and impressive as ever, and with a veritable who’s-who of top-tier guests, there’s really nothing quite like it.

1. Innerspeaker – Tame Impala

Not only the best psychedelic rock album I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, but one of the best rock albums I’ve come across, period. Kevin Parker’s eerily-similar-to-John-Lennon vocals inhabit every hypnotic, dreamy track. The grandiose, thick guitars are heavy, while still managing to be thoroughly melodic and original. To put it simply: they rock really fucking hard, and I love every second of it.

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