>2010 represented a shift in the way I digest music. Everything started the way it used to, with me going to concerts and festivals and buying 4-5 CDs every month with whatever music I find inspiring at the moment. That has been my rhythm for the last 6 or 7 years. I tend to find the music I like through a couple of favourite websites like soundvenue.com and pitchfork. com and the Roskilde Festival is also a huge inspiration in discovering new music.
However all that changed in April 2010 when I realised that I would be going to LA. I really didn’t want to buy any more CDs, since they would only have to go into storage, so I stopped buying music from day to day. I’ve always found it REALLY difficult to purchase music in digital formats. I’m probably old fashioned and stuck in an ancient paradigm of consumerism, but I have a really hard time paying for something if I don’t get a physical copy. Especially since I’m a HIFI geek who had a huge expensive stereo back in Denmark, and I always hate playing MP3, WMA or AAC over that stereo. I prefer my physical CDs, but that was to be no more …
So I had a huge gap from April to August where I didn’t really do that much to discover new music, except going to the Roskilde Festival in early July. Fortunately that changed a lot when coming to LA, where I opened a Spotify Premium account. Spotify isn’t really open in the US yet, but with a little creative fraud one can create an account and pay through a PayPal account. Spotify really changed the way I digest music, especially with the mobile version of the service. I also happen to have pretty good conditions for listening to music: I have my bike ride to and from work, now even longer than before. It takes roughly the same time as a typical album. And our office has a set of lovely speakers that we can connect to through the lovely AirFoil application. So lots of music every day.
In the new year I’ve had to switch from Spotify to Rdio, since my trick for paying for Spotify no longer works after I got a new credit card. But Rdio is cheaper and has a better selection, plus it was created by Janus Friss and Niklas Zennström, and I really like those guys. On the downside it’s only available in the US and Canada, and the desktop application leaves A LOT to be desired.
So to make a long story short my favourite 10 albums of 2010 have been found through mixed sources. In a “normal” year I would have bought all of these CDs, but with the change in my music paradigm I only have half of them on CD.
My list is very personal and a couple of the albums are heavily influenced by my previous experiences with the artist, such as live performances or previous albums. I’m ashamed to notice right now that not a single one of my picks is a debut album.
10: Arcade Fire -The Suburbs
Yet another incredible concert in 2010, this time at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Went there with a couple of colleagues, we only just got the last tickets. We had limited vision from our seats and the sound was HORRIBLE, so we decided to cheat our way to the very front of the balcony, some 60 rows down from our original seats, and that was a very good decision, since the rest of the concert was pure magic.
Another favourite band of mine “The Suburbs” takes that even further.
9: Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
I love a concept band as much as the next man. Somewhat disappointed by their performance at Roskilde Festival this year I still love their eclectic approach to music and how that approach seems to grow with every new album (Although I haven’t heard the new one yet). This music is all over the place and tells a bunch of really interesting stories and I’m sure it will stand the test of time just as good as the previous albums from Gorillaz.
8: Kashmir – Trespassers
Only Danish album in the list so far, but a really good one. If Malk de Koijn had released their 3rd album in 2010 there would have been 2 Danish albums in the list, but alas …
Kashmir have never made a bad album, and with “Trespassers” they continue that trend and establish themselves as the best Danish rock band by far. I’ve even started convincing a couple of US friends that they should listen to this shit. A good friend of mine shot an award winning video for “Still Boy”, which also happens to be the best track on the album. Check it out:
7: The National – High Violet
I’m not that big on lyrics. In my world vocals work as an instrument alongside all the other instruments of the music, and I almost never pay attention to the lyrics. But I’m willing to make an exception with The National. Both the music and the lyrics make you want to kill yourself … but in a good way. High Violet is not the best album from them, but it’s still very, very good and I find myself returning to it whenever I’m in need of that special atmosphere created by The National. And Matt Berninger’s barytone voice is extraordinary. One of the best singers today …
6: Autechre – Oversteps
Autechre is a very special kind of band. I’ve seen them live 2 times, both times with the scene in complete darkness, and I believe that’s how they always perform live. Their music reminds me of Mogwai in having these huuuuuge overwhelming sound landscapes that should be played LOUD and powerful. Difficult to get into but very rewarding once you break the code.
5: Foals – Total Life Forever
I’ve always had a thing for the latest hyped band from the UK that will once again establish British rock n’ roll as the best in the world. There have been a couple of those over the years, and some of them have even made it past their debut album, such as Foals. This hype thing is really funny, but I do so enjoy the distinct British rock sound much more than US rock n’ roll, and I really don’t think the UK has got anything to prove.
Anyway Foals have a really good understanding of a catching melody and a juicy guitar riff, and the lead vocal is really, really good. Rock n’ Roll for dancing but with plenty of longevity.
4: Four Tet -There Is Love in You
Best music for lovemaking of 2010. Should be a genre in itself. I’m a sucker for atmosphere in music and Four Tet have always been able to create a very special, esoteric and erotic atmosphere in their musical landscape, and this album is the best they’ve done so far.
3: Robyn – Body Talk [Explicit]
2010 was a big year for Robyn. I’ve been a huge fan since her concert at Roskilde in 2008. She wasn’t even in the lineup but was called in when M.I.A. cancelled. I was really pissed that I didn’t get to see M.I.A. that year, but the replacement concert was one of the most unbearably intense and beautiful concerts I’ve every seen. Check out this video – you will notice how Robyn can’t bear all the love coming from the audience. I cried during that concert and seeing this video brings back all of those emotions once again. Only love and music can give you that kind of feeling …
“Body Talk” was that big 3 album project announced in 2009 and fulfilled in late 2010. A very powerful undertaking, and Robyn is ready to take over the US with Body Talk [Explicit] that takes the 5 best tracks from each of the 3 albums. You have to admire the ambition of Robyn. I think she will break through the wall in the US in 2011 and become a superstar.
2: Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot
I believe this album came out during my summer break from music, and I only recently discovered it in December. But am I glad I did. This is the missing Outkast album, and suddenly I’m starting to have my doubts about who was the true genius behind Outkast. Andre Benjamin seems to want to pursue a career as an entertainer, and since he actually does a really good job at that I wish him the best. Especially when Big Boi takes care of their musical heritage so well. I’m a huge fan of Outkast, and this album really feels like the next step for that sound. I hope we haven’t heard the last from Big Boi. Check out the live(?) performance of “Daddy Fat Sax”. The fattest Atlanta sound …
1: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I was completely and utterly blown away by this album! I’ve been a fan of Kanye since I heard the “Jesus Walks” single for the first time, and I’ve seen a couple of amazing performances on the Roskilde Festival Orange Stage, but I actually thought he’d peaked with “Graduation” in 2007, something the title also hints at. Especially since I considered “808s & Heartbreak” to be somewhat disappointing. But I now fully understand that “808s & Heartbreak” was simply an exercise in style that lead to this masterpiece. Kanye West wants to be the greatest rapper in the world, and he’ll never achieve that. But what he lacks in rap skills he fully makes up for in production skills and musical vision. This album sticks out in 100 different directions and yet it all comes together beautifully. My absolute favourite track is “All of the Lights”. I must have listened to that track 250 times by now. The way it builds up in the beginning is like a symphony, Rihanna’s vocals are so sexy and strong, those weird horns sound amazing and the drums are just magic. Even Fergie’s part work out well, and her vocal is usually just annoying. Kanye West has always been at the front of mainstream hiphop, and this album is a masterpiece of that genre.
I also want to say that Janus Køster-Rasmussen from Euroman officially labeled himself as a wanker with his claim in the last issue of Euroman that Hiphop is dead as a leading genre in popular music(!) It may have been a poor year for Danish hiphop, but my number 1 & 2 in my list are some of the best mainstream hiphop albums of all times, and it really pisses me off when a wanker music journalist like Janus fails to recognize that. I guess he has some kind of beef with Kanye West, since he also mentions the cover for “My Beautiful Dark Twister Fantasy” as one of the biggest fails of 2010. It isn’t a very good cover, but surely you should be able to find bigger fails in 2010?
Just had to get that off my chest. I enjoy a good album review, but Janus Køster-Rasmussen just made my list of reviewers that can’t be trusted …