Albums of the Year 2010: Honorable Mention
Tomorrow we'll unveil our list of the best albums of the year. As we've been doing for a few years now, we're kicking off our albums feature with a look at records that came close to making the cut. Each of these 20 albums made a strong run at our top 50, but they are not simply records #51-70 in our poll; rather, they're albums that we think deserve a bit more praise and notice. Stay tuned tomorrow when we begin to reveal our selections for the 50 best albums of 2010.
So far our Year in Music 2010 coverage has featured our the Top 100 Tracks, Top Music Videos, the Year in Photos, our Best of Pitchfork.tv, the Best of Pitchfork News, and the Worst Album Covers in 2010.
Here is what we have coming up:
Thursday: Top 50 Albums of 2010, Nos, 50-21
Friday: Top 50 Albums of 2010, Nos. 20-1
December 20: Guest List: Best of 2010
December 27: The Year in News
Amazon have provided samples of the songs below and they've also set up pages for purchasing the music on our lists. You can buy the Top 100 Tracks at Amazon MP3 and the Top 50 Albums at Amazon MP3 or Amazon CD.
Thanks for reading and have a great holiday!
Actress worked his way into many of the different movements that played out in dance music this year by side-stepping them, at least in part. Certain tracks on Splazsh could slot in with dubstep, others fit in with techno, still others saunter in the style of house. What pulls them all together is a shared sense of rigor and contemplation-- or, put a little differently, a sense of Actress' yearning for something he hasn't quite found.
That's not a slight: Indeed, it takes a lot of work to make club music sound uncertain and unrooted. But that's what Actress does, whether he's playing swishy and light or dark and tormented. It was tempting this year to think of Actress, for all his futuristic mixed-upness and ample ear for the past, as dance music's own Flying Lotus. But it's better to let him be what he is: a searching producer who knows how to nuzzle up to the history of his listening without losing himself trying to stare it down. --Andy Battaglia
Will Wiesenfeld, the 21-year-old Los Angeles resident who records as Baths, is all about defying expectations of beat-obsessed bedroom artists pouring music out of their laptops. At times, the production values on Cerulean are impressively high, such as on "Lovely Bloodflow", which emulates Beck's white-funk vocal pastiches from Midnite Vultures and anchors them to fragmented Aphex-like beats. Flying Lotus and the gravely textures of Björk's Vespertine are obvious touchstones for Baths' instrumental pieces, but there's also a dual lo-fi aesthetic at work on the murky "Rafting Starlit Everglades" and the disaffected "Departure". It might sound like a mess on paper, but Wiesenfeld is an excellent curator who is capable of tying all these broad strokes together into a palatable whole. He manages to shift expectations even more with the genre-bucking garrulousness of his live show, further adding to the welcome dashes of wit and color that are riddled throughout these recordings. --Nick Neyland
[Modular / Sincerely Yours]
Keeping it real has been a successful marketing ploy at least since the first 1950s Volkswagen ads, which cleverly contrasted the humble "bug" with Detroit's falsely gleaming behemoths. But when Eric Berglund, better known as one-half of Swedish electro-pop duo the Tough Alliance, samples the words "I keep it real" on this solo debut, it sure sounds like he actually means them. Whether or not that's true, great songs like the intricately pulse-raising title track or twee S&M jam "Love and Do What You Will" don't lie. Indeed, the only thing modest about White Magic is its half-hour length, as electronic beats, indie-kid earnestness, hip-hop bravado, and all sorts of new-agey nature noises add up to one of the year's lushest productions. Berglund's cryptically rambling interviews send the same message as labelmates jj's cryptically terse ones: Music first. --Marc Hogan
Pilot Talk / Pilot Talk II
[Roc-a-Fella / BluRoc]
For folks who followed former No Limit rapper Curren$y's mixtapes-- which for all intents and purposes were albums-- the first Pilot Talk unexpectedly operated as a business card not for the MC but for producer Ski Beatz. Curren$y's rapping took a secondary role, a vessel for Ski's diverse range of production tricks, from the sparkling "King Kong" to the stop-start organ funk of "Audio Dope II". On the duo's second effort, the artists found a balanced groove together: Pilot Talk II reveled in svelte, cosmopolitan luxuriousness. Ski's beats, created cooperatively with house band the Senseis, created a smooth foundation. Curren$y's narrow topical breadth, meanwhile, was a trojan horse for some of 2010's most artful rapping. His verses, with their effortlessly intricate internal rhymes, form unexpectedly appealing shapes, like clouds of weed smoke unfurling into rapper origami. --David Drake
Sun Bronzed Greek Gods EP
Dom's debut, Sun Bronzed Greek Gods EP, is energetic, vibrant, and liberating-- full of songs that clearly came from a place where unbridled youthfulness trumps all else. Much of the EP sounds like a dream being lived out, from the cheeky brashness of "Living in America" to the dewy twinkle of "Burn Bridges". Dom are also one of the few bands this young who are fully accomplished live, practiced at their craft and willing to impress an audience. So, no surprise, Dom are having a moment right now; part of that owes to free-spiritedness, and part to an innate ability to write catchy, sun-blistered pop tunes. The fact that they come across so effortlessly is their good fortune. Ours, too. --Zach Kelly
Dum Dum Girls
I Will Be
The very sound of the Dum Dum Girls' debut album is a minor miracle. Without sacrificing even a bit of the band's rough, raw punk energy, veteran producer Richard Gottehrer added just enough vintage studio polish to give the contours of Kristen "Dee Dee" Gundred's understated yet enormously catchy melodies a sparkling sheen. This precise balance of noise and shimmering beauty lends dimension and a subtly plaintive tone to tuneful rockers like "Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout" and "Jail La La", and a heartbreaking sweetness to ballads like the Sonny & Cher cover "Baby Don't Go" and the utterly stunning original "Rest of Our Lives". Gundred has a natural gift for writing in the style of early rock and girl-group pop, but her songs never sound like cheap throwbacks. If anything, she's a songwriter who would've given even the great Ellie Greenwich a run for her money if they had been contemporaries. --Matthew Perpetua
IRM is a record for people who love sound-- each one on the album feels like an event, from the chunky chords that bust up the rhythm of "Trick Pony" to the cascade of whooshes that simulate an MRI scan on the title track (IRM = MRI in French). That title refers to the medical testing Gainsbourg underwent in 2007 following a cerebral hemorrhage. Instead of confronting her brush with death with an insular personal statement, though, Gainsbourg teamed with Beck, and her performance on the album is self-effacing. She tailors her every note to the cinematic, psychedelic backing dreamed up by her collaborator, and it's clear that Beck has found a second calling as a producer. He sounds more at home here than he has in years on his own records. Facing mortality together, they make a dynamite team. --Joe Tangari
Cameron Mesirow's vocals are smooth and, well, glassy enough to give her the appearance of an avenging angel, casting judgment in stern, forbidding harmonies. As Glasser, her music-- a dense tangle of percussion and unidentifiable buzzes and hums, bursting with a primal urgency unobscured by its stately tempos-- is a defiant mixture of the earthly and the alien. Although its consistent melodicism is always inviting, there is no identifying with this album, whose impressiveness derives from its impregnability. It's a fair trade: The views from the lofty pinnacles of songs like "Home" and "Mirrorage" are stunning. As with Fever Ray, with whom she shares producers, what sets Glasser apart from her similarly ethereal peers is the depth of her vision. Rather than simply hang tribalistic filigree like shingles on conventional songwriting, Ring offers a series of incantations that seemingly could not exist in any other form. --Tim Finney
On Pitchfork.tv's "Tunnelvision", the British electronic musician Gold Panda began "You" with a chorus of frogs and Mario-coin chimes, tapping his consoles like a telegraph operator. The notion of sending personal messages through entwined natural and digital conduits animates Lucky Shiner, an MPC love letter to friends, family, and whole civilizations. The snappy title is the producer's grandmother's name, and the sinuous samples are more than exotic affectations. Gold Panda studied in Japan, and his investment in Eastern cultures runs deep. His micro-sampled scales evoke the minute variations of raga, the backbone of Indian classical music upon which his breakout single was explicitly modeled. But Panda's spontaneous imagination makes the warped, breathing timbres sound less like a foggy past than an inspired, unpredictable future. Whether it's Field-like techno dissolving into an electrified fog on "After We Talked" or the outdoor strum of "Parents", you never know where these songs are headed, though they're rooted in where their creator has been. --Brian Howe
"Well my baby calls me the Loch Ness Monster/ Two great big humps and then I'm gone," Nick Cave hisses on "Worm Tamer", before slithering off. Cave has long been our apocalyptic king fish, moaning from behind that piano bench about the scourge of life. His side project, Grinderman, is doom-like, too, but mostly in the bedroom, where sex is tantamount to the big fat kill. This cannily titled second entry from the four-piece band is all howls and slashing riffs-- like hearing a freaking midlifer drop $60k on a sports car just for the pleasure of everyone else's disdain. It is also utterly invigorating, injecting that sneering Birthday Party snarl into Cave's music the way his work with the Bad Seeds doesn't necessarily allow. Here's to the upside of crisis. --Sean Fennessey