In 2010, America had the worst tea party ever, voted the fucking republicans back into the House of Representatives, and watched nothing but The Jersey Shore and Dancing with the Stars. The economy sucked, Wikileaks upset the status quo on some all-out gangsta shit, and the BP oil spill gave the Gulf an extra kick in the nuts (as if Katrina wasn’t enough).
Oh yeah, and I graduated from college.
And through it all, there was some incredible music. The following are my picks for the best albums of 2010. These records represent what I believe were the most essential statements popular music made during this bizarre and confusing year. Feel free to post your own list, tell me how brilliant these choices are, or talk as much shit as you’d like in the comments section below.
10. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Pt. II (Return of the Ankh)
After the dense, otherworldly funk and grim sociopolitical musings that defined 2007’s brilliant New Amerykah Pt. I, Badu switched gears completely with her follow-up. Pt. II is warm, romantic and irresistibly groovy, at once recalling her earlier material while being anything but a rehash. The controversial (i.e. brilliant) video for “Window Seat” may have grabbed all of the headlines, but tracks like the easygoing “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long” and the album’s epic closer “Out My Mind, Just In Time” cemented Badu’s status an artistic giant amongst her peers.
9. MGMT – Congratulations
Mainstream music media outlets framed MGMT’s highly anticipated follow-up to their surprisingly huge debut album Oracular Spectacular as an over-indulgent, self-consciously difficult letdown upon its initial release. This response was about as lazy and pathetic as music journalism gets. The songs might be longer and the arrangements a bit more complicated than earlier hits like “Time to Pretend” and “Kids,” but Congratulations is anything but a letdown. Standout tracks like “It’s Working” and “Flash Delirium” perfect the band’s take on psychedelic pop, but check out the breathtaking climax of the album’s standout track “Someone’s Missing” for something truly timeless.
8. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Sir Luscious Left Foot is the loudest, funniest, funkiest, stankiest hip hop album of the year, practically overflowing with one absurdly brilliant idea after another. Distorted, grunge-inspired guitar work leading into the booty-shaking, strip club anthem of 2010? Check (“Tangerine”). Thunderous operatic vocals from a massive choir seamlessly transitioning into a horn-driven, militaristic banger to end all bangers? Check (“General Patton”). Big Boi officially shattering the misconception that Andre 3000 was the central creative force behind the legendary OutKast? Check mate.
7. Robyn – Body Talk
Robyn may never seize the worldwide superstardom she so clearly deserves. Pop is a cruel and unusual world, where Robyn’s admirable independence and singular brilliance matters about as much to the casual pop fan as Katy Perry’s inability to actually sing. Pop fans don’t deserve Robyn but the bitch keeps on truckin’, churning out two flawless EP’s, and then capping off the year with a collection that combines the two and adds five new songs to the mix. The results? Dancefloor bliss. The highlight? “Dancing On My Own,” one of the iciest, loneliest, most perfect dance tracks ever made.
6. Drake – Thank Me Later
Drake’s Thank Me Later is probably the quietest mainstream Hip Hop album ever made. It is relentlessly cohesive, moving gracefully through a variety of moods and styles, while remaining firmly grounded in a atmospheric, Sade-like dream state that is either engrossing or maddeningly boring, depending on whom you ask. And that’s why it’s such an impressive debut album. Ignoring the hype and unreasonably high expectations, Drake did exactly what he wanted to do, successfully retaining and expanding his audience while also retaining his musical identity. He trades razor sharp rhymes with Nicki Minaj over the ominous “Up All Night” and laments a failed love affair on the mournful “Karaoake,” but it’s when gorgeous synths crash into an epic climax on the Dream-assisted “Shut It Down” that Drizzy hits on something truly intoxicating and hypnotic.
Albums 5-1 on the next page!