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This is Pop Download-o-rama

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everything is Pop Best Music of 2010

Wow, only a couple more weeks and 2010 will have come and gone.  Once again the ubiquitous list making begins as another year of music has come and gone. So dear reader I offer my official Everything is Pop register of the top twenty five albums of 2010. My selections are based on carefully considered variables that range from musical excellence, subjective intuition, repetitive plays, creativity, favour and still most importantly, originality. Yes this assessment is far from perfect but it represents accurately the new music that resonated with me most throughout the year.

Once again, I did not have a great deal of difficulty in preparing this list as it seems to begin to manifest itself in my list making mind by the time autumn rolls around. This year in song 2010 has been an exceptional one marked by so many new discoveries and those familiar artist efforts. 2010 was a year marked by huge changes in the music industry. It is a different world entirely in so many ways and yet somehow musicians of every genre are stretching creative, artistic and even marketing limits to open new doors of opportunity. Their unstoppable dedication inspiring and very much the root of why I love music as much as I do. “Innovative” and “spectacular” would be the immediate terms that seems to come to mind when summarizing the year in song 2010.

And with that statement, the list begins…

Everything is Pop Top 25 for 2010

01. Sharon Van EttenEpic

Brooklyn singer songwriter Sharon Van Etten is possessed of an extraordinary and stunning talent. Her ethereal voice, the very perfect vehicle to convey the heartbreakingly beautiful lyrics that compose her stunning 2010 release, Epic. Her second official full length is a very personal and very direct statement. This is a record of immediacy that you will hang on every note.  I recall hearing her song “Love More” for the first time and it actually made my heart ache.  Her forlorn tale of being kept a prisoner of love so completely arresting and emotive.  Down to earth and singularly stunning, Epic is my favourite record of the year. I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for this amazingly talented musician. Following this confidently blazed path I have a funny feeling she will be a fixture on my best of list for years to come.

Standout Track: "Love More"

BOMBsessions: Sharon Van Etten from BOMB Magazine on Vimeo.

02. The Arcade FireThe Suburbs

When I first heard this record I knew that it would place prominently in my year end assessment of music. It is an undeniable masterstroke of sixteen stellar tracks. Its major strength is the depth of conceptual exploration of the records title subject matter. The Suburbs is all so very relative; on this disc the band ambitiously exploring their past growing up and their journey as a band and human beings. It is that recognition and familiarity that endears the record so completely to the listener. An unrelenting recording from start to finish this song cycle is one of the truly great musical achievements of 2010.

Standout Track: "Sprawl II (Mountains Become Mountains)"

03. Beach HouseTeen Dream

A record released so early in the new year I was afraid it might get lost in the shuffle eleven months down the line. Thankfully its impact has not lessened. Teen Dream being the near perfect late night listening soundtrack for yours truly. The Baltimore duo have delivered a sophomore record that is more defined and even sensual in its approach; Vocalist Victoria Legrande’s swooning voice a veritable force of nature. Immaculate.

Standout Track(s):"Take Care", "Zebra"

Beach House "Silver Soul" from Sub Pop Records on Vimeo.

04. The National High Violet

Expectations were high for Matt Berninger and company for this record and I think it succeeds remarkably. Five years ago the National were a band struggling for recognition. Flash forward so many years and this is a band clearly at the top of its game. High Violet is very much possessive of the” angsty” lyricism and atmosphere found on previous efforts but this one goes confidently beyond. This is a band very much aware of its own identity and making it their greatest strength. Well crafted and solid, songs like “Terrible Love” and “Lemonworld are faultless.

Standout Track(s):  "Lemonworld",  "England"

05. Twin ShadowForget

Forget is a record that would not have sounded out of place had it been released thirty years ago. Those staccato electro drums and dusty synthesizers so very eighties. This album should however not be confused as mere nostalgia as this soulful record is far from revisionist pap. This is a record brimming with hooks for a new generation of awkward dancers. George Lewis Jr.’s debut is so impressive because it is so heartfelt and very genuine. Therein revealing its greatest appeal and reason for inclusion in this list.

Standout Track: "Tether Beat"

06. Olenka and the Autumn Lovers And Now We Sing

And Now We Sing should will win the 2011 Polaris Prize because it is just that great. Forgive my partiality but London, Ontario based musician Olenka Krakus and her Autumn Lovers have achieved that very perfect union of instrumentation and lyricism on this, only their second full length release. But it’s Krakus’ remarkable and perfect voice that seals the deal on this one. One listen to “Odessa” will convince you of that. When I reviewed this record in October I pronounced that your favourite song would change with every listen. It’s mid December now and that hasn’t changed at all.  I just know every word now.

Standout Track: "Odessa"

OLENKA - Berlin from Mitch Fillion ( on Vimeo.

07. Final Fantasy (Owen Pallett)Heartland

Another record that I feared might get lost in the onslaught of releases as it made its way into my hands over eleven months ago now. Heartland remains just as impactive and stunning as the first day I heard it; revealing bits of itself with every new listen of those brilliant stories in song. Owen Pallett is such a talented musician his narrative work singular in the realm of music today. I positively shudder in anticipation when I think of where he will be five years from now.

Standout Track: Lewis Takes Off His Shirt

08. Laura MarlingI Speak Because I Can

At only twenty years of age British singer songwriter Laura Marling seems to stun me at every turn with her uncompromising talent and ability. To simply label her wise beyond her years would not do justice to the talent and grace she possesses. A quiet record that speaks volumes in every way.  Marling is fully aware of her gifts and demonstrates it capably on every single track of I Speak Because I Can. I love this record because of the huge steps foward she continues to take. To think, she is only two albums in, this record, like Owen Pallett’s promises greatness ahead for us as fans of her music.

Standout Track: "Rambling Man"

09. Caribou Swim

Swim is yet another fantastic contribution to Dan Snaith's canon of recorded work.  This one ranks as one of, if not the best of them all.   A darkly austere, at times moody (but not depressing) release that runs somewhat counter to his previous sunshiny upbeat efforts.  Swim captures handily the artist's intention to create "dance music that sounds like it's made out of water."  Snaith abandons both traditional song structures and the rock sounds he experimented with on Andorra to create something entirely new.  This is a record for those late night listening sessions when the dancing has stopped but the mind has not.

Standout Track: "Kaili"

10. The Lightning Bug Situation - Call

Brian Miller has created a small masterpiece with this, his latest the Lightning Bug Situation record.  Each song like a little piece of his heart.   His lyrics like tiny stories, easily evincing relative feelings in the listener.  This may be a quiet record but it seethes with intensity.  My best friend recounted listening to this record for the first time and almost "being afraid to breathe for fear that she would miss something in it".   A beautiful testimony to the power of this amazing record contains. Call is very autumnal record that affected me deeply.   Sweet Soul music in its truest sense.

Standout Track:  "For Nancy, With a Bruised Heart"

11. Sam AmidonI See the Sign
12. Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz
13. The Black Keys - Brothers
14. John GrantQueen of Denmark
15. Tame ImpalaInner Speaker
16. The Tallest Man on EarthThe Wild Hunt
17. Best CoastCrazy For You
18. Morning Benders - Big Echo
19. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
20. How to Dress WellLove Remains
21. Laurie Anderson - Homeland
22. The Walkmen - Lisbon
23. Avi BuffaloAvi Buffalo
24. Spoon - Transference
25. DeerhunterHalcyon Digest

What were your top three records this year?


Barbara Bruederlin said...

A stellar list and kudos for unveiling your choices so early on in the listing season. We have a couple of choices in common, and a few more that are going on my "I Shoulda Listened To This One More" list.

Brian said...

Yes!!! I made it!! Thanks! As always! And a killer list too!

T said...

Nice list Sean!

You asked for a top three and you get a top three:

1) Hollerado -- Record in a Bag.

2) Basia Bulat -- Heart of my Own

3) Rizdales -- How the Marriage Ended