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Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2010

Pitchfork's Top 50 Albums of 2010

Original Source

1. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
November 22, 2010
Hip Hop
Critic Score
93
25 reviews
User Score
89
267 reviews

As a result, the record comes off like a culmination and an instant greatest hits, the ultimate realization of his strongest talents and divisive public persona.

2. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
May 18, 2010
Dance Punk
Critic Score
85
21 reviews
User Score
88
148 reviews

Even considering his bold-name touchstones for This Is Happening, it would be shortsighted to cry rip-off; Murphy is remaking essential 70s art-rock in his own hyper-modern, self-aware image.

3. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
September 28, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
85
22 reviews
User Score
87
134 reviews

Halcyon Digest is a record about the joy of music discovery, the thrill of listening for the first time to a potential future favorite, and that sense of boundless possibility when you're still innocent of indie-mainstream politics and your personal canon is far from set.

4. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
July 6, 2010
Hip Hop
Critic Score
86
18 reviews
User Score
84
37 reviews

Every great rap group has one MC who is-- possibly unfairly-- perceived to be slightly lesser than the other. DMC. Parrish Smith. Malice. Pimp C, at least up until he died. Big Boi's been on that list ever since André Benjamin started rocking pith helmets and neckerchiefs. Big Boi's not underrated, exactly; everyone who knows rap knows he's a great rapper. It's more that he's taken for granted. Virtually every OutKast review of the past decade and a half has posited Big Boi as the earthy, street-level anchor to André's spaced-out visionary, the guy responsible for securing the group's cred when André was trying to invent new colors. Expect Sir Lucious Left Foot to change those conversations. We haven't heard a major-label rap album this inventive, bizarre, joyous, and masterful in a long time, and it's almost impossible to imagine André putting out a solo album this strong anytime soon.

5. Beach House - Teen Dream

Beach House - Teen Dream
January 26, 2010
Dream Pop
Critic Score
85
14 reviews
User Score
87
170 reviews

This is both the most diverse and most listenable of their three full-lengths, and yet it never seems like a compromise. 

6. Vampire Weekend - Contra

Vampire Weekend - Contra
January 12, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
78
16 reviews
User Score
83
122 reviews

Contra works because of its juxtapositions-- of natural sounds to processed ones; of manners to tantrums; of party rhythms to deadpan poetry; of black music to white music.

7. Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
February 23, 2010
Indie Folk
Critic Score
86
18 reviews
User Score
85
42 reviews

The best songs feel more like conversations rather than artworks to be hung on the wall and admired from several paces away. Newsom seems to sing from somewhere deep inside of them, and her earthy presence has a way of drawing you in, bringing you closer to her music than you've been before.

8. James Blake - The Bells Sketch EP

James Blake - The Bells Sketch EP
March 15, 2010
Dubstep
Critic Score
NR
User Score
79
8 reviews

8. James Blake - CMYK EP

James Blake - CMYK EP
May 31, 2010
Dubstep
Critic Score
82
2 reviews
User Score
83
17 reviews

8. James Blake - Klavierwerke EP

James Blake - Klavierwerke EP
October 10, 2010
Dubstep
Critic Score
82
2 reviews
User Score
80
18 reviews

9. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
June 8, 2010
Psychedelic Pop
Critic Score
81
11 reviews
User Score
84
55 reviews

Ariel Pink's best songs are surprising, and there's a real sense of musical delight on Before Today; the sections sound logical but never predictable, and there are wild bridges and short bits that emerge seemingly randomly but wind up taking the song somewhere unexpected.

10. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
March 9, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
82
16 reviews
User Score
84
40 reviews

It all turns out so ridiculously fun-- with Ken Burns-style readings of speeches from Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, daguerreotype cover art, and song titles all participating in the reenactment-- that it never even begins to approach the pretentiousness these elements might suggest.

11. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
August 3, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
87
23 reviews
User Score
86
247 reviews

It's a satisfying return to form-- proof that Arcade Fire can still make grand statements without sounding like they're carrying the weight of the world.

12. Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid

Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid
May 18, 2010
Soul
Critic Score
86
19 reviews
User Score
84
54 reviews

Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid immediately dazzles you with its ambition. It's a 70-minute, 18-track epic comprising two suites, each beginning with an overture, telling a futuristic story starring a messianic android. It's not even the beginning of the saga-- the first sequence was her debut EP, Metropolis: The Chase Suite. The songs zip gleefully from genre to genre, mostly grounded in R&B and funk, but spinning out into rap, pastoral British folk, psychedelic rock, disco, cabaret, cinematic scores, and whatever else strikes her fancy. It's about as bold as mainstream music gets, marrying the world-building possibilities of the concept album to the big tent genre-m utating pop of Michael Jackson and Prince in their prime. Monáe describes The ArchAndroid as an "emotion picture," an album with a story arc intended to be experienced in one sitting, like a movie. It most certainly works in this way, but at first blush, it's almost too much to take in all at once. The first listen is mostly about being wowed by the very existence of this fabulously talented young singer and her over-the-top record; every subsequent spin reveals the depths of her achievement.

13. No Age - Everything in Between

No Age - Everything in Between
September 28, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
80
15 reviews
User Score
83
25 reviews

Simply a sonically chameleonic, musically generous, seriously compelling record from a couple guys who've once again got all their pedals in a row.

14. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
May 4, 2010
Electronic
Critic Score
88
22 reviews
User Score
86
84 reviews

15. Robyn - Body Talk

Robyn - Body Talk
November 22, 2010
Electropop
Critic Score
84
10 reviews
User Score
83
33 reviews

With Body Talk, Robyn ups the ante for pop stars across the radio dial and raises her own chances of appearing on yours.

16. Sleigh Bells - Treats

Sleigh Bells - Treats
May 11, 2010
Noise Pop
Critic Score
84
21 reviews
User Score
81
64 reviews

Once in a while a record comes along that makes you re-think loud: King of Rock; The Land of Rape and Honey; Nation of Millions; Super Ae; I Get Wet; Kesto. Setting aside the quality of the material-- there are classics here, along with albums I never listen to anymore-- these albums are notable for me because the first time I heard them, music just seemed bigger than it had before, like it took up more space and hit with more force and went further than once seemed possible. When I was getting into these records, I'd get a specific kind of kick just from putting them on. They felt like rides at an amusement park, and I'd get a feeling in my stomach when the first notes kicked in: Here we go. I'm adding another record to my list.

17. Caribou - Swim

Caribou - Swim
April 20, 2010
Electronic
Critic Score
82
18 reviews
User Score
83
84 reviews

In his decade-long career, Caribou's Dan Snaith has fluidly moved between genres like folktronica, shoegaze, krautrock, and 1960s sunshine pop, assimilating their most familiar traits until they're practically in his DNA. His albums have felt warm, loose, and ecstatic (especially 2003's still-career-best Up in Flames), despite Snaith's behind-the-boards meticulousness.

18. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh

Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
March 30, 2010
Soul
Critic Score
84
11 reviews
User Score
77
13 reviews

19. How to Dress Well - Love Remains

How to Dress Well - Love Remains
October 19, 2010
Experimental
Critic Score
80
15 reviews
User Score
81
22 reviews

How to Dress Well is to my mind the biggest breakthrough in home-recorded lo-fi in years. It feels brave, like it's going places a lot of artists in this sphere are afraid to go.

20. Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal

Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal
June 21, 2010
Drone
Critic Score
81
5 reviews
User Score
84
11 reviews

21. The Walkmen - Lisbon

The Walkmen - Lisbon
September 14, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
83
18 reviews
User Score
83
27 reviews

And that brings us to "Angela Surf City", the song on this album that deserves a place alongside "The Rat" and "In the New Year". It starts off tense and withdrawn, Leithauser singing about some relationship without ever letting us in on what, exactly, is going on. Underneath, there's a tense, withdrawn surf-rock beat. And when the chorus starts to well up, the music underneath keeps surging upward, becoming huger than anything the song should be able to handle, then getting even huger from there, as Barrick lets off relentless Bonham-level thundercracks.

22. Girls - Broken Dreams Club

Girls - Broken Dreams Club
November 22, 2010
Indie Pop
Critic Score
82
13 reviews
User Score
85
29 reviews

If Broken Dreams Club is indeed an honest glimpse of what's ahead, it sounds as though Girls have much more to give.

23. Das Racist - Sit Down, Man

Das Racist - Sit Down, Man
September 14, 2010
Hip Hop
Critic Score
85
9 reviews
User Score
79
13 reviews

24. Hot Chip - One Life Stand

Hot Chip - One Life Stand
February 9, 2010
Electropop
Critic Score
76
11 reviews
User Score
81
43 reviews

Ever since Hot Chip started as indie kids seemingly dabbling in classic soul and modern R&B, they've been underestimated (not least of which by us). Delivering lines about "20-inch rims" and "Yo La Tengo" in a proper English accent, as they did on their 2005 debut, can have that effect. Yet on their two subsequent records-- 2006's The Warning and 2008's Made in the Dark-- Hot Chip steadily rebuilt their reputation by toughening up their sophistipop side. Their melodies began to develop an itchy, nervous twitch, and they earned dancefloor credibility through an association with DFA.

25. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
October 12, 2010
Chamber Pop
Critic Score
78
17 reviews
User Score
85
71 reviews

But instead of succumbing to trends, Stevens barrels through with another long-form work that requires-- and rewards-- time and devotion.

26. Twin Shadow - Forget

Twin Shadow - Forget
September 28, 2010
New Wave
Critic Score
83
10 reviews
User Score
78
21 reviews

The songs may be catchy, but their intricacy and thoughtful storytelling makes them stick.

27. Four Tet - There Is Love in You

Four Tet - There Is Love in You
January 26, 2010
Electronic
Critic Score
84
15 reviews
User Score
83
53 reviews

Kieran Hebden first came on the scene in the 1990s as a member of Fridge, a post-rock outfit that to me always looked better on paper than they sounded on record. Whatever you think of his first band, Hebden's subsequent career can be seen as the idea of post-rock done right. His appetite for music, on the evidence presented in his albums, singles, DJ sets, and collaborations, is voracious. But Hebden has a way of transforming and integrating influences rather than channeling them. So if his loose improvised collaborations with drummer Steve Reid captured something of the spirit of the classic late-60s free jazz records on Impulse!, they also managed to carve out a unique and identifiable aesthetic that sounds very much like today. When working with others, like the wooly free-folk unit Sunburned Hand of the Man or the dubstep producer Burial, Hebden knows when to lead and when to get out of the way. But all the while, whatever the context, he's absorbing. And when it comes to his own records as Four Tet, he has a knack for combining sounds from all over and making them his own.

28. The National - High Violet

The National - High Violet
May 11, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
86
20 reviews
User Score
87
167 reviews

The National became popular in a very traditional way: by releasing some really good albums, then touring the hell out of them. They're boilerplate indie, free of hot new genre tags or feature-ready backstories, which is something their detractors derive great joy from pointing out. If the National are important, rather than merely good, it's for writing about the type of lived-in moments that rock bands usually don't write about that well. The characters in National songs have real jobs, have uninteresting sex, get drunk, and lie to one another. They do so during the regular course of a workaday week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The National aren't "dad-rock" so much as "men's magazine rock": music chiefly interested in the complications of being a stable person expected to own certain things and dress certain ways.

29. The Fresh and Onlys - Play It Strange

The Fresh and Onlys - Play It Strange
October 12, 2010
Garage Rock
Critic Score
76
9 reviews
User Score
70
3 reviews

But this one finds them starting to pull all those ideas into something a little more focused, something easier to digest.

30. The-Dream - Love King

The-Dream - Love King
June 29, 2010
R&B
Critic Score
80
9 reviews
User Score
68
9 reviews

The-Dream earned his respect as a songwriter who co-wrote larger-than-life pop anthems, penning "Umbrella" for Rihanna and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" for Beyoncé, as well as less-known but evocative tracks for everyone from Usher ("Trading Places") to Rick Ross ("All I Really Want"). His solo debut, 2007's Love/Hate, broke through with minor hits "Shawty Is Da Shit" and "Falsetto", whose wildly addictive hooks papered over his slight persona. The rest of that record created a constellation of characteristics that laid out his aesthetic-- the lush production courtesy of beatmakers L.O.S. and Tricky Stewart, songs that wash into each other in the mode of a DJ mix to create a miniature suite with precision sequencing.

31. Woods - At Echo Lake

Woods - At Echo Lake
May 4, 2010
Lo-Fi
Critic Score
75
8 reviews
User Score
79
6 reviews

32. Tyler, the Creator - Bastard

Tyler, the Creator - Bastard
December 25, 2009
Hip Hop
Critic Score
NR
User Score
84
27 reviews

33. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt

The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt
April 13, 2010
Folk
Critic Score
82
15 reviews
User Score
84
45 reviews

Pesky comparisons to Bob Dylan have dogged Kristian Matsson throughout his short career as the Tallest Man on Earth. In 2006, his self-titled EP introduced a singer with that familiar croak, a songwriter with a folk-revival revival sensibility, and a guitar player with an impressively agile fingerpicking style. The next year, his full-length debut, Shallow Grave, expanded nicely on those ideas, buffing away some of the rougher edges but emphasizing fully realized and beautifully evocative songs. The Wild Hunt, the second Tallest Man on Earth album and first for Dead Oceans, makes a few specific nods to Dylan at his most earnest and bare-- including a reference to "boots of Spanish leather" on "King of Spain". Ultimately, though, Matsson interprets Dylan, just as Dylan himself interpreted Guthrie. Mor e to the point, Matsson translates him into the Scandinavian countryside, where he sings about changing seasons and quiet, lonely places far from cities. His lyrics are rough and often ragged, more concerned with evoking aching emotions than with making explicit sense. But that coded aspect only makes him sound more urgent, as if he's trying to convince you of something he couldn't possibly put into words.

34. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
May 25, 2010
Electronic
Critic Score
77
12 reviews
User Score
84
85 reviews

35. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
March 9, 2010
Electropop
Critic Score
80
16 reviews
User Score
80
68 reviews

36. Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here?

Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here?
June 8, 2010
Drone
Critic Score
82
5 reviews
User Score
81
13 reviews

Describing Emeralds' music feels a little like capping that underwater oil spill must: how do you get your hands around this stuff? The Cleveland trio may favor methodical cadences in their music, but their releases come fast and furious. According to Discogs.com, they've put out around 40 releases in just four years, most of them CDRs and cassettes. There are variations of mood and intensity, and each major release has its own particular signature, owing in part to changes in gear and technique, and in part to being a band that improvises and records non-stop. Any given album feels like a snapshot of the band in time.

37. Zola Jesus - Stridulum II

Zola Jesus - Stridulum II
August 23, 2010
Psychedelic
Critic Score
80
6 reviews
User Score
84
9 reviews

38. Rick Ross - Teflon Don

Rick Ross - Teflon Don
July 20, 2010
Hip Hop
Critic Score
77
10 reviews
User Score
73
9 reviews

If you came up as a rap fan in the 1990s, it's hard to come to grips with the fact that the Illmatic/Doggystyle/Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) ideal has become outmoded. Rappers rarely start with a fully-formed classic right off the bat. And sometimes, a guy who was underrated, underappreciated, or even considered a joke earlier in their career actually generates so much momentum that they eventually become undeniable.

39. Best Coast - Crazy for You

Best Coast - Crazy for You
July 27, 2010
Indie Pop
Critic Score
78
13 reviews
User Score
76
39 reviews

Scene-famous boyfriends, a quote-generating Twitter feed, scuffles with bloggers, and the most meme-generating feline since Keyboard Cat got carpal tunnel: Yeah, it's safe to say Bethany Cosentino, who writes and records with cohort Bobb Bruno as Best Coast, is a long way away from her days as a member of drone/psych outfit Pocahaunted. Best Coast's full-length debut, Crazy for You, serves only to increase that distance from the outré-music scene; the brief record delivers on the promise of a strong string of singles released over the past year. Just as Pocahaunted loosely capture the basic feel of dub and reggae, Crazy for You is a meditation on the stickier hooks of classic indie pop, with slight detours into surf-rock ("Bratty B") and countrypolitan balladry ("Our Deal"). While Pocahaunted cover their signifiers under piles of static and delay-triggered noise, Best Coast take the opposite route, slathering honey over every song and letting them drip-dry in the sunshine.

40. Abe Vigoda - Crush

Abe Vigoda - Crush
September 28, 2010
Indie Rock
Critic Score
72
12 reviews
User Score
73
4 reviews

The songs may sound more conventional, but they're no less complex. The music is hard-wired and overflowing with activity, even in the record's sparsest moments.

41. Delorean - Subiza

Delorean - Subiza
June 8, 2010
Indietronica
Critic Score
78
13 reviews
User Score
80
19 reviews

Delorean helped define the bright, beachside vibe of last summer's indie landscape, but they also deserve to be placed in a broader context. On their new album, Subiza, the Spanish four-piece deploys the build-and-burst tempos of 90s house and techno music, and they do so explicitly, never shying away from arms-in-the-air piano bridges or incandescent raves. This music is proudly informed by the resiliency and vigor of classic club music, and its title (named after the Basque town in which the album was recorded) recalls the famously nightclub-centric Ibiza and the Balearic dance music that originated there.

42. Drake - Thank Me Later

Drake - Thank Me Later
June 15, 2010
Hip Hop
Critic Score
71
16 reviews
User Score
76
31 reviews

Drake sings or raps the word "I" 410 times on his debut album. Even in the realm of hip-hop-- a style famous for its unswerving solipsism-- this is a feat. For comparison's sake, noted mirror watcher Kanye West managed to work only 220 "I"'s into the verses and hooks of his big break, The College Dropout. Illmatic; 210. Reasonable Doubt; 240. With Thank Me Later, Drake attempts to enter the pantheon of those rap game-busters by the sheer force of first person singular pronouns. All eyes are on him-- especially his own. But considering this mixed race, half-Jewish, all-Canadian "Degrassi: The Next Generation" alum looks and sounds unlike any major rap star before him, betting the house on nothing but himself turns out to be a wise gamble.

43. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker

Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
May 25, 2010
Psychedelic Rock
Critic Score
79
10 reviews
User Score
85
120 reviews

From the Vines to Wolfmother to Jet, recent Aussie rock exports have been painfully indebted to arena rock-- quick to recycle a sound but rarely succeeding in revitalizing it. Perth three-piece Tame Impala play with some of the ingredients of arena rock as well but do so in aid of more leftfield, organic sounds and interesting excursions. The result is a cleanly executed and frequently dazzling debut: Innerspeaker is a psychedelia-heavy outing that toys with paisley pop, stoner vibes, and an expansive array of swirling guitars.

44. Kylesa - Spiral Shadow

Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
October 26, 2010
Sludge Metal
Critic Score
82
5 reviews
User Score
82
8 reviews

45. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here

Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
February 9, 2010
Soul
Critic Score
77
14 reviews
User Score
82
24 reviews

There were few voices that articulated the anxious, fractured state of America in the 1970s and early 80s as well as the clear baritone of Gil Scott-Heron. As a spoken-word artist and poet, he could pinpoint the fissures in the American dream and exorcise them with a wit that blended righteous anger and arch sarcasm. As a singer he could envelop those same uncomfortable confrontations in a rich, emotional tone that brought out the empathetic face of unrest. Yet except for a chorus cameo on Blackalicious' "First in Flight" and a memorable shout-out on LCD Soundsyste m's "Losing My Edge", he was rarely heard or cited in the early years of America's great post-traumatic decade, even if his pained depiction of "a nation that just can't stand much more" in "Winter in America" rang as true in 2002 as it did in 1975.

46. Matthew Dear - Black City

Matthew Dear - Black City
August 17, 2010
Electronic
Critic Score
75
13 reviews
User Score
84
8 reviews

If you've followed Matthew Dear over the years, then you know he doesn't like to stay in one place for very long. Even as a primarily electronic artist in the early 2000s, Dear hopped from label to label, switched aliases often, and made everything from steely microhouse to harder Detroit techno. But his biggest departure was 2007's Asa Breed, the record where he stepped out from behind the decks and reached for the mic. Singing on tracks and leaning more heavily on song structure, he built strange hybrid music that had one foot in techno and the other in pop.

47. Women - Public Strain

Women - Public Strain
September 28, 2010
Lo-Fi
Critic Score
79
13 reviews
User Score
81
7 reviews

The group's sophomore effort, Public Strain, pushes forward in both directions-- the hooks are noisier, the noise is hookier, and both are fogged over with enough reverb to make Felt records seem bone-dry by comparison.

48. Forest Swords - Dagger Paths

Forest Swords - Dagger Paths
March 1, 2010
Psychedelic
Critic Score
87
4 reviews
User Score
82
7 reviews

49. Wild Nothing - Gemini

Wild Nothing - Gemini
May 25, 2010
Indie Pop
Critic Score
78
10 reviews
User Score
81
37 reviews

Though some of indie's brightest leading men have come through Virginia's halls of higher education (Steve Malkmus, David Berman, Travis Morrison), your average college rock band in the Old Dominion area probably sounds more like Agents of Good Roots. So if you live in a place like Blacksburg, Va., home of the Virginia Tech campus and not much else, and you want to be in a tropical punk act (Facepaint), an introspective singer-songwriter project (Jack & the Whale), or a band that covers Kate Bush instead of Dave Matthews (Wild Nothing's breakthrough rendition of "Cloudbusting"), you'll probably have to do what Jack Tatum did and start them yourself.

50. Wavves - King of the Beach

Wavves - King of the Beach
August 3, 2010
Lo-Fi
Critic Score
79
11 reviews
User Score
80
42 reviews

In the world of independent music, learning on the job is frowned upon. It's easier than ever for kids to make professional-grade records and have them heard, but any sign of weakness-- a lackluster stage show, a questionable interview, a dud follow-up-- and listeners will let you know how duped they feel. Few people know this better than Nathan Williams, who made his buzzy second album Wavvves at his parents' house and spent the rest of 2009 on a badwill tour (live disaster, canceled tour, fistfight) that earned him Lohan/Hilton-levels of derision in certain circles.

Original Source: http://pitchfork.com/features/staff-lists/7893-the-top-50-albums-of-2010/

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