We will readily admit: we’re not sure if anyone listens to albums anymore. The commercial growth of the mp3 format rendered the full-length LP something of a curiosity in the early part of this century, leading to the era of Pandora, in which listeners often don’t even know the band responsible for the song they’re hearing, nevermind the record from whence it came.
But, for a certain type of nerd, the full-length record remains the ideal form of music packaging. Albums are reviewed, rated, and (on rare occasion) purchased. And, as the year winds to a close, they are collected, ordered, and permuted into various lists found on internets far and wide.
Below is the beginning of one such list. As with our Top 40 Songs of 2010, each of our primary music writers contributed ten entries to the list. We hope that you find some of your favorite records here, as well as a few you might not have heard. So fire up your turntables, replace the batteries in your Walkman, and recharge your iPod: it’s time for Frontier Psychiatrist’s Top 40 Albums of 2010.
Led by two Israelis, Balkan Beat Box merges traditional Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Eastern European sounds with hip-hop and electronica. On their third album, BBB continues to ride the wave of a Gypsy Revival that includes groups such as Slavic Soul Party, Raya Brass Band, and Gogol Bordello. Imagine a festive klezmer band where the vocalists rap in English, chant in Arabic, and sing in Spanish and Serbian, with songs about peace, love, and understanding. -KM
At first glance, OMNI, Minus the Bear’s first release on Dangerbird Records, is missing much of their trademark prog-pop goodness. Luckily, after multiple listens, OMNI opens up to be a full on pop triumph, complete with countless sexual innuendos and a 1980s Omnichord. A brave step for a band usually defined by their technicality, OMNI allowed MTB to exercise restraint and hone their songwriting craft. -PL
Minus The Bear – “My Time”
Nika Roza Danilova is what one might call “exotic,” and her music as Zola Jesus is imbued with mystery and intrigue. Inspired by the post-punk of Joy Division and the early 4AD sound of Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil, Danilova’s mix of lo-fi beats and haunting vocals inhabit a wholly unique territory in modern indie. While her 2009 debut The Spoils revealed a great deal of promise, ZJ broke down the doors with this pair of 2010 EPs. Trust us when we say: no one singing today has a voice quite like this. -LVL
Zola Jesus – “Lightsick”
This 10-piece orchestra plays a blend of funk, salsa, and cumbia, all powered by percussion, horns, and multiple vocalists who sing in Spanish. Grupo Fantasma channels the traditions of Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean, as well as the salsa music popularized by Fania Records in the 1960s. On their fifth album, El Existential, the lyrics belie the upbeat mood, with tales of despair, heartache, and death. -KM
Grupo Fantasma – “La Conozco”
The eighth album from Belle & Sebastian is light, pop fun. Songs like “I Want the World to Stop” and the broadly orchestrated “I Can See Your Future” could accompany the trailer for any romantic comedy. The band’s sense of humor is on full display in the title track (“I’ll write about a man/He’s intellectual and he’s hot, but he understands”), but the album also offers a tinge of foreboding darkness on the Stuart Murdoch/Norah Jones duet “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John.” -PJB
Belle & Sebastian – “Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophey John” (feat. Norah Jones)
Sweden has it all figured out: health care, meatballs, dance music, you name it. Full of lush, syrupy melodies and four-on-the-floor beats, Eric Berglund’s debut as ceo will brighten your New Year’s Eve party, sexualize otherwise platonic relationships, and put you at risk for injury. Dance the night away, and remember: in Sweden the night lasts six months. -LVL
ceo – “Illuminata”
Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz continue to show us that arty hip-hop can still be groovy as hell. A bit more subdued than their previous releases, Plastic Beach pushes Gorillaz’s cinematic aspects into full bloom, playing like an aural film complete with a full cast of players including Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, De La Soul, Lou Reed, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon. -PL
Gorrilaz – “Sweepstakes” (feat. Mos Def)
33. Chromeo – Busines Casual
Chromeo is a pair of 30-something guys who mine and mimic the music of their childhood. On Business Casual, the Montreal duo makes the kind of jams that might have played at a roller rink, or during an ’80s movie montage where a pack of misfit teens learns to dance, crams for an exam, or plots revenge on the rich kids who torment them. As they did on She’s in Control (2004) and Fancy Footwork (2007), Patrick Gemayel and David Macklovitch fuse a swirl of synthesizers, funky guitar, soulful singing, and dance beats, distilling decades of music and half a lifetime of friendship. -KM
Chromeo – “Don’t Turn the Lights On”
If you don’t know this record, you don’t know FP. Get to steppin’. -LVL
Wild Nothing – “O Lilac”
31. The National – High Violet
The National are victims of their own success. High Violet is, track for track, an excellent album that highlights the band’s musical development with complex songs like “Terrible Love.” But, of course, they are still brooding, and Matt Berringer’s voice is still “instant mellow,” which is to say this entry from Brooklyn 5-piece is more of the same. Still, what a same it is. Let’s hope the bees don’t carry them away. -PJB
The National – “Bloodbuzz, Ohio”
Be sure to check in throughout the week for the rest of our Top 40 of 2010 Countdown.