Sunday, February 13, 2011

Three Colours' Year End List (2010)

Not another Year End List

The year of 2010 had some big shoes to fill after a solid collection of releases in 2009, but I think it managed quite well, and even dropped a few surprises on our happy ears. As usual (and sadly a little late), Three Colours has compiled its very favorites of the year and have presented them in list form below. In our opinion, here's the best music of 2010.

Top 13 LPs of 2010

13. White Denim – Last Day of Summer
White Denim is one of those bands that seems to be gifted with Midas’s touch, because everything they drop is absolutely golden. The secret to their success is a combination of creative prolificacy and true song craftsmanship. WD appear to pump out their tunes from the Driftwood estate like a song manufacturing plant, but only a small fraction ever make it to final cut. Luckily for us, the band revisited a number of tracks they had been working as early as ’06. The result, a wonderful collection of songs released (FOR FREE) on the last day of summer.

12. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
The Besnard Lakes created complexity with the multi-layered soundscapes that carry …Are The Roaring Night. If you were a fan of the epic …Are The Dark Horse, you’ll love this album. It may take a few spins to really appreciate this album, but it definitely is worth the time investment.

11. Interpol – Interpol
The cover art featured the band’s logo shattered to pieces, foreshadowing Interpol’s future. Interpol was in every way a break-up album. Soon after wrapping up recording of the eponymous LP, bassist Carlos D announced he would no longer be a part stadium-filling tour monster. Sounding at times like the eerie solo work of lead singer Paul Banks (aka Julian Plenti Is… Skyscraper), this album falls somewhere between Our Love To Admire and Antics. The results are slow at times, but mostly on the mark in classic Interpol fashion.

10. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach & The Fall
It appears Damon Albarn has finally created the perfect vehicle for crafting intergenre pop albums. With the Gorillaz, there are no rules, no official lead singer, and no common style to adhere to. Albarn is the creative glue that holds the album together, and Plastic Beach is a fantastically fun ride through hip hop, pop, and rock with the occasional orchestral interlude. On Plastic Beach, Albarn took a back seat on vocals, which was a bit disappointing for me; however, the Christmas release of The Fall, the band’s second album of the year that was recorded on an iPad, features Albarn in all his singing glory.

9. Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart
Listening to Black Mountain’s Wilderness Heart is like taking a Delorian ride straight to late ‘70s-era psychedelia. Roads? Where this album’s going, we don’t need roads. Just lay back and take a journey from Sabbath-style drug rock to Zeppelin III classic rock.

8. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Danger Mouse has done it again – this time teaming up with Shins frontman James Mercer. Succeeding in making yet another amazing album, Danger Mouse provides the creative environment and constructive direction which appears to be a winning formula (see Beck’s Modern Age and The Black Key’s Attack & Release). Broken Bells is the best piece of music Mercer has released since ‘01’s Oh, Inverted World. And better yet, Danger Mouse and Mercer have expressed desire in following up the self-titled masterpiece some time next year!

7. Arcade Fire – Suburbs
I place Suburbs somewhere below Funeral and above Neon Bible. There’s so many incredible hits interspersed between concept album filler. It’s all great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not all blow-your-mind-amazing like Funeral still is for me. I have a feeling this LP may grow on me and work its way towards the top in years to come.

6. Plants and Animals – La La Land
Plants and Animals forwent the sophomore slump with the release of La La Land. Unlike its predecessor Parc Avenue, La La is an exciting top-down rock album. However, it still showcases P&A’s lush, multilayered song structures. Seeing these songs performed live made this album rock even more for me.

5. Spoon – Transference
Spoon’s first take at producing its own album turned out relatively successful. Britt Daniel’s minimalist approach was captured rawer than ever when the band decided to record live performances of each tracks and go light on studio touch-ups. While I’d prefer more rock songs like “Got Nuffin” over the slower ballads like “Goodnight Laura,” the LP as a whole was yet another solid Spoon LP.

4. Wolf Parade – Expo 86
Interestingly, some may look back and consider Wolf Parade a supergroup based on sheer number of successful musical projects that offshoot from WP. Each member seems to have a hand in one or two other bands in addition to the ultra-successful Wolf Parade. Sadly, this may well be the last Wolf Parade album in a long while, since the band announced an indefinitely long hiatus once the Expo 86 tour concluded. But what we’re left with is a fantastic reminder of why we fell in love with this trailblazing, artsy garage band in the first place.

3. The Black Keys – Brothers
This album would be number one on this list if it weren’t for side B’s last couple tracks. Brothers kicks off with so many jams, but loses steam once it approaches “I’m Not The Only One.” These slower songs are very good, but don’t gel with the first two-thirds of the LP. By the time I reach the last two tracks, I’m bored and wishing the album had ended at the 12-song mark. Trimming this album down, and releasing the slower jams as an EP would have worked much better for me. But then again, number 3 is pretty damn good.

2. Foals – Total Life Forever
When I first laid my eyes on the Foals, I had a hard time looking through their punkish persona to notice how much talent these dudes have. Antidotes was aggressive rock, but it was so hook-laden with catchy jams, I always found myself coming back for more. With their follow-up Total Life Forever, the band seems to have matured a little, and it shows. Foals still know how to keep things interesting, and this album is off the charts.

1. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
Local Natives produced an instant classic when they released their debut album Gorilla Manor. Expansive, dreamlike jams comprise the 12-song long player, complete with folky vocal harmonies, rowdy campfire backing howls, rackety drums, and crunchy guitars, which all equate to a record fit for multiple spins. Manor claims the title of best album of 2010 simply because I still enjoy the album as much as I did upon first listen.

Honorable Mention

• Beach House – Teen Dream
• Steve Mason – Boys Outside
• Born Ruffians – Say It
• Yeasayer – Odd Blood
• Ratatat – LP4

Top 5 EPs of 2010

5. Telekinesis – Parallel Seismic Conspiracies EP
What better way to stave a Telekinesis hunger than to feast your ears on an EP full of covers and alternate versions of former releases? For those who missed out on TK’s Record Store Day single “Dirty Thing” b/w “The Drawback” (pre-Joy Division's Warsaw cover) and “Non-Toxic,” all three of these tracks were included in Conspiracies along with a rock version of “Calling All Doctors” and a lovely Guided By Voices cover “Game of Pricks.”

4. Keepaway – Baby Style EP
Drawing the comparison at times to Animal Collective, Keepaway proves to be a much more accessible cousin. Originally blown away by their first single “Yellow Wings,” the rest of the EP holds up as a very solid debut release for the San Diego three-piece.

3. Moonface – Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums
When Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake, Frog Eyes, Fifths of Seven) announced he would be fronting a new solo project entitled Moonface, I got extremely excited by the prospects. I personally think his best music came from his early solo days behind the Sunset Rubdown moniker (EP #1, in particular). When I learned Moonface would be an experimental marimba and drum machine project and the lyrics would be based on Krug’s dreams (which he logged in journals), I became absolutely intrigued. The result – a 20 minute track with multiple movements – is truly original and otherworldly majestic.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Horse Power EP
If there were a “Best Band Name of 2010,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. would definitely win. But don’t let the name fool you – DEJJ crafted a beautiful 4-song EP that shows off so much potential. If you are craving more tunes, their Daytrotter session is wonderful, too.

1. Lord Huron – Into the Sun EP & Mighty EP
I’m not usually a fan of describing bands by listing a bunch of other bands, but it’s really hard to elucidate what genre Lord Huron resides in musically. My best depiction would be to call them a folksy version of Animal Collective with the harmonizing of Fleet Foxes, but after reading that, I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to hear a band described in that fashion. In 2010, this Michigan band by-way-of Los Angeles released two amazing EPs. Together, they top the list of Best EPs of 2010 – definitely check these guys out. Their live show is very fun.

Most Underappreciated of 2009

These were albums I failed to approach, despite the incredible buzz surrounding these hot releases. While underappreciated and snubbed from last year’s “Best Albums of 2009” list, I acknowledge that the following were both great LPs and worthy of making the top of ’09.

3. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – From Below
2. Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms1. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

Best Shows of 2010

6. Toadies @ Showbox (7-28-2010)
5. Wolf Parade w/ Mools @ Showbox (7-26-2010)
4. Plants and Animals w/ Frog Eyes @ Crocodile (5-22-2010)
3. White Denim w/ Brazos @ Neumos (1-24-2010)
2. Spoon w/ Deerhunter @ Moore Theater (4-10-2010)
1. Local Natives w/ The Union Line & Love Langauge @ Showbox (9-24-2010)

Most Anticipated Albums of 2011

Not all of these releases are confirmed, but the idea of these titles excites me about 2011’s potential.

• Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
• Handsome Furs – LP#3
• White Denim - LP#3
• Plants and Animals - LP#3
• Moonface – TBA
• Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines
• Say Hi – Um, Uh Oh
• The Cave Signers – No Witch (2-22-2011)
• Broken Bells – LP#2