When it comes to albums released in 2010, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s pored over them more intensely than a KEXP DJ. So, what were their favorites? Which CDs did they reach for the most, or, uh, “click on” the most in their iTunes players? Find out as KEXP looks at each DJ’s list through the month of December, leading up to our 2010 Top 90.3 Countdown, as voted on by YOU, the KEXP listener! Voting ends in a week, on Monday, December 20th, so let us know your favorites now.
Janice Headley’s 2010 Top Ten Albums
Oh, to start off, I should clarify, I am not a DJ. (I think I giggle too much to be allowed on the air.) But, I do work here in the programming department at KEXP, and these are my favorite albums of the year:
1. grass widow – past time (kill rock stars)
This one was easily my top album of the year. Something about the guitars remind me of wonderful 90’s girl-led bands like Vomit Launch or Scrawl — the guitars have such a nervous energy, and the drums are so frenetic. But what really does it for me are the incredible three-part harmonies: sometimes they chime in together; other times, they’re all singing completely different things. I want to sing along in the car, but which part do I sing along with? How could I possibly choose? And finally, Grass Widow solidified their place in my heart by naming their band after the b-side to one of my top songs of all time, “Shy Town” by Lois. Damn.
2. the innocence mission – my room in the trees (badman recording co.)
It makes me feel vulnerable to admit how much I love the Innocence Mission, but dammit, I do. 2010 brought another album of delicate beauty from the band, with more of Karen Peris’s vivid lyrical storytelling and childlike vocals. Only one song on this album gets on my atheist nerves (guess which one!), but otherwise, My Room in the Trees brought me comfort this year, like a warm, familiar blanket.
3. black tambourine – black tambourine (slumberland)
“But, Janice,” you might say, “This is a re-issue of songs that are twenty years old! This is not the Best of 1989 Countdown!” Well, sassy-naysayer-that-I-made-up-in-my-head, this re-issue includes two demos and four previously unreleased tracks… SO THERE. And with the recent fuzzy feedback-laden pop revival, I am grateful to Slumberland Records for releasing this and showing the kids how it’s done.
4. various artists – stroke: songs for chris knox (merge)
I was heartbroken when I heard New Zealand artist Chris Knox suffered a stroke last year. But from sadness came great beauty, because Merge Records put together this wonderful 2-CD set featuring some of my favorite bands (Yo La Tengo) covering one of my favorite songwriters. You even get fellow Flying Nun alumni pitching in, like David Kilgour, Alec Bathgate and Peter Gutteridge. It couldn’t get better, right? Oh, but it does, because proceeds from this limited edition CD go to benefit Chris’s recovery. It’s number four on this list, but number one in heart.
5. beach fossils – beach fossils (captured tracks)
I have a huge soft-spot in my heart for home-recorded lo-fi music. Beach Fossils started that way, as the four-track recordings (sigh) of Brooklynite Dustin Payseur, and he carries that charm through on this full-band/full-length debut. I’m reminded of the underrated Slumberland Records band The Ropers (yeah, this links to a cover), but I would say Beach Fossils is their shy, mumbly younger brother who spends too much time daydreaming.
6. superchunk – majesty shredding (merge) // versus – on the ones and threes (merge) // teenage fanclub – shadows (merge)
YES, THREE-WAY TIE. Do not fight me. In 2010, Merge Records released several albums from bands I listened to in high school, transporting me to my teenage days, reminding me of those fake “slumber parties” I lied about so I could sneak out and see their concerts. It made me so happy to hear these bands still creating amazing music that makes me wanna jump and sing and sneak outta windows. Thank you, Merge.
7. stereolab – not music (drag city)
See number 6.
8. shugo tokumaru – port entropy (p-vine)
This might not count because it’s only been released in Japan, but the latest release from this charming multi-instrumentalist has been on repeat for me lately, bringing more whimsy and joy into 2010. Polyvinyl will be releasing this domestically in February, so maybe you’ll see this delightful release on my 2011 list, too.
9. woods – at echo lake (woodsist)
Woods = Galaxie 500 x The Byrds x The Feelies x Jay from Lenola on vocals. Brooklyn label Woodsist has been consistently releasing great stuff in that aforementioned lo-fi aesthetic I love so much, and this album from their flagship band is just so, so good.
10. gigi – maintenant (tomlab)
Nick Krgovich is the mastermind behind Vancouver trio No Kids (whose debut was my #1 album of 2008), and on this release, he embodies the spirit of Phil Spector, minus the wigs and guns. (Well… I assume.) The story goes that Nick found a pair of vintage plate reverbs, like those used in Motown studios in the late 50’s/early 60’s, and he set out to record an album in that spirit, enlisting a crew of vocalists including Rose Melberg, Karl Blau, and Mirah. An utter delight!
Janice Headley is a Programming Assistant Extraordinaire, and feels weird typing about herself in the third person.