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CoS Year-End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

on December 17, 2010, 9:00am
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30. OK Go – Of The Blue Colour Of The Sky

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With Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, OK Go have become something so much more than Internet video darlings. True, they’re still pulling out all the stops with their visual accompaniment, but musically, they’ve evolved into so much more. Of the Blue Colour of the Sky is pure art rock – fun, soulful, funky, with just enough cynicism to keep things raw. Their matured sound is built on the backs of greats like The Pixies, Talking Heads, and Prince, but ultimately the sound is their own, and OK Go have now joined their ranks. Between the album, the videos, forming their own label, and endless hi-jinks both on the road and at cutting-edge arts festivals, 2010 has proven that OK Go are true musical artists. -Cap Blackard

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29. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

deerhunter halcyondigest CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

Halcyon Digest isn’t the album Deerhunter will be remembered for—that award goes to 2008’s Microcastle, which immediately usurped its widespread acclaim with bold, surprisingly direct soundscapes and a handful of hooky anthems, downplaying the raw experimentation of their previous work. Halcyon Digest is ultimately more of the same: focused instrumental textures, headphone engulfing production, and occasionally accessible melodies. So while it doesn’t arrive with such a resounding jolt as Microcastle, the quality of the songs proves it to be well more than a step sideways. Working with producer Ben Allen (who helped introduce Animal Collective to this pesky thing called “bass” on Merriweather Post Pavilion), Deerhunter creates a slightly more reserved album, casually revealing its gently crafted charms over time. From the crawling, minimalist psychedelia of opener “Earthquake” to the collage of borderline tribal rhythms in the euphoric closer “He Would Have Laughed” (a dedication to recently deceased comrade Jay Reatard), Halcyon Digest is built for the long haul, their most consistently compelling collection yet. -Ryan Reed

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28. The Black Keys – Brothers

the black keys brothers CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

Thanks to Brothers, it’s obvious now how much working with Danger Mouse has had an effect on The Black Keys‘ songwriting. Their debut record, The Big Come Up, rose straight from the wax of Junior Kimbrough, weathered and distorted as Dan Auerbach piped his delta blues revival through a beat up bass amp. It’s been a long time since the blues sounded that heavy. That was 2002, and over the past eight years the duo that is The Black Keys have evolved from a two man blues band into a pop rock band with soul. Brothers is the culmination of that evolution, taking what they started with on Attack and Release and finishing it. Now they are as far removed from the garage rock scene as it gets, yet The Black Keys remain exactly who they were from the beginning: a couple of guys obsessed with the blues. From the start, “Everlasting Light” is full of that dug up soul sound, doo-wop back up singers and all. The crunchy guitar and heavy blues riffs remain constant. Added instruments on “The Only One” and “Never Gunna Give You Up” turn The Keys into an R&B band. This move to broaden their sound was exactly what the band needed, and Brothers makes it sound effortless. That’s what made this record great, and it’s what will keep The Black Keys that way into the future. -E.N. May

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27. Best Coast – Crazy for You

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I saw posters for this album long before I ever heard it, and the artwork made me assume it to be silly. But it’s not silly; It’s sort of joyful in that little kid way that makes you want to color outside the lines. Best Coast combined Kim Deal’s voice and the Beach Boys’ musical chops to create Crazy for You, one of the best half-hours/catchiest indie records of the year. Tracks like “Boyfriend”, “Goodbye”, “Happy”, and “When the Sun Don’t Shine” stick in your brain on repeat with their catchy chords and simple lyrics. It’s fun when it’s easy to sing along. Meanwhile, there are more mood altering numbers, like the longing “Summer Mood”, the grungy snarl of “Bratty B”, and the despair of “Honey”, the longest track on the album, which barely cracks three minutes. If you’re lucky, you got the bonus track, “When I’m With You”, a catchy 50s style tune that will play in your stereo for days. Basically, this album was an enjoyable and simplistic breeze; It lasted a second, but left a positive impression. -Ted Maider

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26. Les Savy Fav – Root For Ruin

root for ruin CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

With labels like post-hardcore and art rock attached, you’d expect something loud and stuffy from the likes of Les Savy Fav. However, for the band’s fifth studio album, and the first since 2007’s Let’s Stay Friends, the NYC-based indie rock outfit takes itself less than serious, crafting an album full of sarcasm and a sense of humor. Doing away with a lot of their previous effort’s aims to expand musically, the group have opted instead to make a straight-forward rock album. The record’s comfortable feel stems from the act finally reaching a happy place regarding their sound, free of the demands of innovation and able to truly take advantage of that frenetic, sweaty vibe that hangs over a lot of its live shows. The ragged sensibilities that the band had held on to for much of its existence also seemingly soften, without coming off as the band giving up or losing their edge. And that ain’t no joke. -Chris Coplan

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25. Neil Young – Le Noise

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In the past 20 years, Neil Young has done work that’s been less than thrilling. There were some total jams on Fork In The Road, but come on, an entire album about an electric car? That’s why Le Noise, Neil’s atmospheric opus helmed by Daniel Lanois, was such a delight. “Walk With Me” and “Hitchhiker” anchor the album with boisterous, barking autobiography. “Angry World” gets into that whole political thing, but this time, it’s not as preachy as it was on Living With War, or in his documentary CSNY: Deja Vu. And to top it all off, Lanois adds this sonic atmosphere that’s absolutely entrancing. It’s one of Young’s best in recent memory and it competes with some of his best from his heyday. -Evan Minsker

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24. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me

Joanna Newsom – “Baby Birch” CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

A good portion of listeners who have given Have One on Me a spin have surely given up mid-rotation. A member of this group might be a guy who normally listens to, you know, all the stuff other hip dudes listen to these days — The National, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Kanyizzle. So, as our imaginary hip listener browses the tubes for music news throughout the year, he undoubtedly comes across Joanna Newsom enough times to pique his curiosity — Who the hell is she and what’s so good about her? And what the fuck has she done to deserve a tribute album? Our friend hits up Grooveshark, finds Newsom’s new album, assuming he’ll love it, and after three or four songs, is confused, angry, bored out of his mind, or all three.

It’s not easy music, and there are no easy answers to our hero’s questions. We’re talking about a dolphin-voiced harpist from an inconsequential town in Northern California who has put out three albums of sleepy, almost nauseatingly pretty harp tunes, and this time around she’s given us two hours and 18 tracks that often clock in around 10 minutes (and this is supposed to be her accessible album!). Not exactly a recipe for popular approval, but we’re largely not talking about a work of pop music; We’re talking about a work of anti-pop that makes Björk sound like Britney. This is no criticism of Björk, of course; It’s simply to say that in a still rock-dominated world, Newsom has made it (sort of) big ignoring everything that goes into the conventional rock formula. The result is not something to bob your head to as much as gape in awe at. If Have One on Me is the peak of her creativity, she should not feel shame. -Harry Painter

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23. Wavves – King of the Beach

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While Astro Coast may have the upperhand thanks to less gimmickry, there’s no denying the fact that the super baked music of Wavves belongs toward the top of the list thanks to one simple fact: it isn’t Wavvves. Unlike the previous LP, and thanks to the inclusion of the former backing band of Jay Reatard, the project of Nathan Williams became more than just a stoner in his basement making the most unrefined, nihilistic fuzz rock; It became a real band. The album saw the addition of more complicated musical constructions, songs with more subtlety, chord progressions, melody, varied speeds, and a range of influences from ska to punk to doo wop, all without losing Wavves’ sense of dread and stripped-to-the-core sound. As a lyricist, in front of new band members Stephen Pope and Billy Hayes, Williams grew by leaps and bounds, leaving behind some of the trademark anti-social tendencies to talk about love and growing up, once again without losing the minimalism the band was known for. No other follow-up album from a band was so vastly different and yet so unbelievably familiar than Wavves’ third offering. Not bad for a guy who was probably stoned out of his gourd 90% of the time. -Chris Coplan

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22. Deftones – Diamond Eyes

diamond eyes CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

In 2008, the Deftones had been in the middle of writing Eros, their highly-anticipated follow-up to the underrated experimental album Saturday Night Wrist, when bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a tragic car accident. Eros was halted indefinitely while the band had the difficult decision of what to do next – disband in honor of the critically injured Cheng, or continue doing what they do best: making music. The Deftones ended up soldiering on and recorded Diamond Eyes, and we’re glad they did. The result is one of the best rock albums of the year. From the crunchy, melodic waves of the opening title track and the angry, demanding ride of “Cmnd/Ctrl”, to the intense urgency of “Rocket Skates” and the beautifully written push and pull of “Risk”, there isn’t a weak track to be found. The haunting notes and Chino Moreno’s stirring vocals on the last track “This Place is Death” is the perfect closer to an emotional ride. This album is what the Deftones are all about. It may not be too brave in the sense of musical deviation, but the fact that the Deftones were able to put out such an undeniably solid album in the wake of tragedy shows the band’s braveness in a different way. Cheng would be proud. -Karina Halle

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21. Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid

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Following up on her initial plans to create a comprehensive piece of work based on her alter ego in a science fiction universe, Janelle Monáe celebrate 2010 with one of the year’s quirkiest and most listen-able albums. Utilizing the friendships she’d made over the past few years (namely Big Boi, Diddy, and of Montreal), Monáe dropped her much anticipated debut, The ArchAndroid, to universal critical praise. Her album sits at the number three position for the year on critical aggregating website metacritic, behind only Bruce Springsteen and Kanye West. Not bad for a debut. But all things considered, it makes absolute sense. Her off-the-wall themes, impressive lyricism, tight musicianship, and even more impressive vocal capability all exceed the mark on this release. What’s more, to do it all on an R&B concept album (very few of those, historically) that can be performed live is more than noteworthy. Her live show (which opened for of Montreal this summer/fall) may be the only thing that exceeds the glory of the studio recording itself. Monáe has always sworn by the free-thinking mentality, and given her successes thus far, the only way up for Miss Monáe is up. It’s a career that we’ll all have our eyes on closely, and we advise you do the same. -Winston Robbins

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