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, airing Monday, January 3rd.
Nate’s 2010 Top Ten Albums
1. Teen Dream / Beach House
Teen Dream came out early in the year, and I spent a lot of time with it — especially enchanted by Victoria Legrand’s voice — until they came to town in April. I still listened to the album pretty often after that, but seeing them (her) somehow freed me to pursue other music.
2. Fields / Junip
José González’s solo music has never grabbed me much one way or another, but — good gravy! — Junip’s first full album has me going back for another listen. Organ and drums mightily compliment González’s calm voice and guitar…I have a hard time describing it all: groovy, shifting, understated. No one thing is particularly outstanding, but the beautiful songs and well-blended musicians result in exponential synergy.
3. Go / Jónsi
Listening to Jónsi’s debut solo album is like listening to much of his band Sigur Rós’s music: intensely emotional (mostly joy and optimism), often spiritual, and always inspirational. Having one of the best voices in music is also helpful. And he put on my favorite live concert this year.
4. Snakes For The Divine / High On Fire
For some reason I just heard of the power trio this year. Good thing, because this album is really good. Bludgeoning, heavy riffs give way to improbable solos complimented by a ridiculously awesome rhythm section. Plus, Matt Pike’s voice sounds kinda like Lemmy’s. (Ironically, arguably the best HOF song this year is not on Snakes For The Divine, but was released as part of Adult Swim’s 8 Singles in 8 Weeks, which you can download here for free.)
5. One Life Stand / Hot Chip
This album accompanied me in car cd players more than any other, whether driving around Seattle or the Big Island of Hawaii with my brother (luckily it was smart enough to stowaway in my laptop when I went on vacation). The dancy beats and singable melodies make it a good one for the car, and the sentiments of favorite songs “Take It In”, “One Life Stand”, and “Brothers” make it a good one for the human spirit.
6. All Day / Girl Talk
I don’t dance easily, and my simplest criterion for great music is that if I cannot stop dancing, it’s great. All Day qualifies easily — it’s a party waiting to happen. My favorite moments are when Girl Talk throws a beat over 80s synth-nostalgia pieces…and the ending is just fantastic: not to give too much away if you haven’t heard it, but he mashes up an iconic, untouchable song and makes it work well. Download here.
7. Plastic Beach / Gorillaz
When this first came out I was mostly underwhelmed, with the exception of a few highlights (“White Flag” is especially great). Their last full-length Demon Days is one of my favorite albums, so I wanted to give this one a fair chance, but after a few listens I shelved if for several months. Actually, I didn’t listen fully again until making this list, and it’s the only one of these 10 I had written off as “probably not worthy” until I finally came back to it. What’s the difference? Time, plus one of the best concert experiences of my life. I still skip the Lou Reed song, though.
8. Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son Of Chico Dusty / Big Boi
The variety of great beats on Big Boi’s solo debut is staggering, and the verbal whirlwind effortlessly unfurled is awe inspiring and rewards on repeated listens. It’s also pretty cool that OutKast partner André 3000 produced my favorite song (“You Ain’t No DJ”), which features a couple crazy-good verses by Yelawolf.
9. Sit Down, Man / Das Racist
Another rap album containing great beats and production at every turn, though their playful-sounding raps are generally delivered in a more follow-able cadence, which allows one to absorb the sarcasm and satire that much better. Don’t be mistaken though: their flows are as creative as anyone on the scene.
10. Scratch My Back / Peter Gabriel
He’s long been one of my favorite songwriters, but this covers album reminded me of Gabriel’s great voice, which each unique rearrangement displays well. Highlights include songs by Arcade Fire, Lou Reed, David Bowie, The Magnetic Fields, and Radiohead.
Nate is a fill-in DJ at KEXP.