In Reflection...The Best Albums of 2010 (So Far Edition)

>> Friday, 2 July 2010

Whether well thought out or impromptu, I love making lists. Take yesterday afternoon, for example. Special Lady Friend and I took in the sights and sounds and oppressive heat of Osborne Village while constructing extemporaneous top 5 lists about whatever topics sprang to mind – “Top 5 shows of all time” (Seinfeld, BSG, Twin Peaks, Curb, VMars) and “Top 5 alcohol beverages” (Kitsilano maple cream beer, 12 year-old MacAllan Scotch, Grey Goose vodka, Heineken, Jameson Irish whiskey) were particularly fun challenges (no take backs allowed).  

Which brings me to this post. Once I started thinking about the best albums of 2010 so far, there was no turning back. I just had to cobble a list together. Unlike the indelible, painfully considered year-end list, the records inhabiting this half-year list are not in any particular order and made the cut because they have one glaring characteristic in common: at some point this year, they dominated my/our playlists, ipods, car stereos, etc. for a lengthy period of time.

Giving the list one last look over, it’s evident that 2010 has served up some brilliant music. And it’s only half over. 

Props to Chief PoS correspondent Nigel for his assistance. 

Greg MacPherson
Mr. Invitation

Anyone even casually keeping score of who’s who in the Winnipeg indie scene is familiar with Greg MacPherson. His reputation for killer live shows, muscular songwriting, and political-leaning narratives have pushed him to the forefront of this city’s talent, and ever since the excellent Mr. Invitation entered the world a few months back, the rest of Canada is finally catching up.

Exclaim extolled the sonic virtues of Mr. Invitation, awarding it the highly coveted exclamation point (!). And the Polaris judges caught wind of MacPherson’s raw, ferocious, and heady songs, longlisting this release for this year’s prestigious prize (Winnipeg’s lone hope). Give it a listen. You’ll hear why.

-Mykael Sopher

Broken Bells
Broken Bells

With the exception of a few songs, I’ve always found The Shins – dare I say it – boring. Sure their melodies are pretty and Mercer’s singing is strong and expressive, but, overall, their discography fail to stir things up viscerally.

Which is why experimental pop act Broken Bells shocked the hell out of me.

Broken Bells is the first of what I hope to be many collaborations between can’t-miss producer Danger Mouse (Gorillaz’ Demon Days, Beck’s Modern Guilt) and the aforementioned Shins captain James Mercer. Both indie elites boost their song craftsmanship up to the next strata on this eponymous debut, paying close attention to strong, ebullient melodies and evocative, spacey tones. “Your Head is on Fire” tips its hat to the Beach Boys warm, summery melodies while “The Ghost Inside” ranks amongst the shiniest pop gems of the year (plus, you know, uber-babe Christina Hendricks appears in the vid).



They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but gaze into the swirling, hypnotic vortex of colours and floating flowers that Caribou's Dan Snaith chose for the Swim album art and you'll soon have a pretty good impression of what you'll hear upon listening: beautiful, swirling, hypnotic dance music by one of Canada's most intriguing electronic artists. There's no way else to put it - Swim is loaded with lots of damn interesting sounds, like the Tibetan singing bowls sampled on the track, "Bowls". With a good pair of headphones you can quite easily lose yourself in this set of colourful, layered compositions. 

-Nigel Moore

Beach House
Teen Dream
(Highlight to see the ghastly cover art)

Boy, you can sure accomplish a lot with a huge, robust female voice levitating above droning keyboards and slow, rhythmic guitars. Just ask Baltimore-based duo Beach House, the indie-scene’s top purveyors of spectral dream-pop. On Teen Dream, Victoria Legrand’s massive, earthy, and very deep pipes siren listeners in, aided and abetted by Alex Scally’s magical atmospherics. I’ve mentioned this a few times on PoS, but it’s worth reiterating: Teen Dream is a beautiful, beautiful record.


The National
High Violet

If, like me, you jumped on board the National bandwagon after Boxer relentlessly pummeled your ears, then you’ll (probably) agree that High Violet doesn’t quite match its near-perfect predecessor.

But it comes damn close.

Extending their streak of core-shaking opening tracks, “Terrible Love” is more of that moody, brooding indie-rock we’ve come to love from these Brooklyn-based boys. The pounding drums and propulsive guitars on “Bloodbuzz Ohio” raise the track to anthemic heights; meanwhile, on “Lemonworld” singer Matt Beringer’s wounded baritone steals the show, unintentionally highlighting the glaring lack of deep voices in indie rock today.

Why IS that?


Broken Social Scene
Forgiveness Rock Record

After stumbling on their self-titled sophomore effort, Toronto’s largest indie band has proven You Forget It in People was no fluke. The level of songwriting on Forgiveness is awe-inspiring - the countless contributing members involved in this mammoth project never let individual egos get in the way of thoughtful craftsmanship and varied sounds. De Facto leader Kevin Drew is more confident than ever behind the mike, yet still gives Lisa Lobsinger, Emily Haines, and Feist more than enough space to stretch their golden larnyxes.

Forgiveness Rock Record, then, is the end product of a group of unspeakably talented musicians coming together, having some fun, exploring new grooves ("Art House Director" and "Texaco Bitches") and laying down 14 stellar tracks.

Also Polaris nominated.


She & Him

Volume Two

She & Him's Volume Two presents a convincing argument for shifting focus from Zooey Deschanel, charming actress, to Zooey Deschanel, gifted songwriter and singer. Effectively a companion album, Volume Two picks up right where She & Him's 2008 debut,Volume One, left off. Backed up by producer and overall cool dude, M. Ward, Deschanel proves herself once more as a vocalist, her dusky voice perfectly suited to their brand of catchy, at times bittersweet, retro pop. Tracks like "Me and You" sound fresh; yet oddly familiar, as though you're remembering the tune from years ago, playing on the AM radio in your family's old station wagon.


The Besnard Lakes
The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night

On The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night, real-life husband-and-wife team Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas stay the course, content to tweak and refine the dark, sprawling post-apocalyptic soundscapes they’ve essentially trademarked. This dense and unique sound – now three albums in the making – is fully realized on Roaring Night thanks in part to Lasek and Goreas’ eerie vocal harmonies and the band’s psychedelic guitar and keyboard interplay. Also longlisted for the Polaris.


Now it’s your turn: which albums have impressed you so far this year?


willlllll,  2 July 2010 at 23:16  

do you mind if i get in on this?

- the national: high violet
- beach house: teen dream
- massive attack: heligioland
- yeasayer: odd blood
- radio dept: clinging to a scheme

honorable mentions: broken bells, spoon, vampire weekend.

Young Icelander,  3 July 2010 at 11:27  

Also loving Spoon, Vampire Weekend, Broken Bells, The National.

Where's LCD Soundsystem?...

Anonymous,  5 July 2010 at 07:49  

Based on the comments, I listened to Spoon for most of the day yesterday. Now it's on my list!

Sarah,  5 July 2010 at 12:45  

Great list! And I like the commenter additions of Spoon and Yeasayer... but, you forgot Josh Ritter, DUH ;)

Mykael 6 July 2010 at 09:36  

Anon: ditto on the Spoon album. I revisited it after reading these comments and cannot get enough.

Strong contender for year-end top ten list!

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