Sunday, December 19, 2010

Best of 2010 // The Albums

[via nevada moonrise]

Our look back at the year that was concludes with Waterloo Sunset’s personal favorite long-players from the past twelve months. Of course this is just a snapshot of the music that caught WS’s attention, but these records made a particular impression. More so than in recent memory, most of the albums were growers, but the time invested was well worth it, and they’re all worth your time as well.

Like I said last year, I’m still drawn to long-players because they elevate the art form to something of a transcendent, personal, memorable level. It’s particularly intoxicating to throw these on the stereo, turn off the computer, and experience them individually, free from outside concerns--antiquated, yes, but essential in this day and age. Words/songs after the jump (in no particular order); send along your faves in the comments as well.

Ted Lucas // Ted Lucas

This mid-70’s reissue hits like a ton of bricks with every listen. Lucas dabbled as a Motown session man, but it’s his singer-songwriter guise that really cuts deep. The first side is dedicated to his haunting, mesmerizing folk songs, while side two shows off his blues and raga guitar playing. He takes the best elements of Nick Drake and John Fahey, condensing them into a lost masterpiece.

Ted Lucas :: Plain & Sane & Simple Melody

Deerhunter // Halcyon Digest

Their melding of pop and avant-garde is unparalleled. This record requires and rewards complete immersion; in the digital age, that’s saying something.

Deerhunter :: Helicopter

Mountain Man // Made The Harbor + Mountain Man EP

The best discovery of 2010. Three women in complete harmony, almost completely devoid of instrumentation. The songs are pure magic, recalling old, weird America and centuries of the folk tradition. It’s rare to find music that makes you time-travel; Mountain Man achieve that with every melody.

Mountain Man :: Loon Song

Lower Dens // Twin-Hand Movement

A definite grower, but once it sunk in, it stayed put. Lower Dens is the electric vehicle for Texan folkie Jana Hunter, who brings the same eerie ear and voice to these psych-rock jams. It’s not in-your-face; it’s studied, measured, and subtle, full of dark corners to get lost in.

Lower Dens :: Hospice Gates

Gil Scott-Heron // I’m New Here

The Godfather of Rap returns to the spotlight for a harrowing, sit-up-in-your-chair kind of record. His weathered baritone is the main instrument, spinning his maximalist message over minimalist beats. “I did not become someone different / That I did not want to be / But I’m new here / Will you show me around? / No matter how far wrong you’ve gone / You can always turn around.”

Gil Scott-Heron :: Me And The Devil

Caribou // Swim

Electronica with a humanist stamp. Warm, emotional, and catchy as hell, Dan Snaith has crafted a record that’s as dense as it is inviting, even for those new to the genre.

Caribou :: Found Out

The Walkmen // Lisbon

It sounded good in waning summer days; it sounds even better on cold winter nights. The group strips their sound to the most essential, building a European travelogue that has a novelist’s eye for detail. Paul Maroon has created a new guitar vocabulary with the group’s skeletal instrumentation.

The Walkmen :: Stranded

Department of Eagles // Archives 2003-2006

Small sketches and demos that still rival any band’s output. Daniel Rossen’s writing twists and turns like classic jazz compositions, leaving room for surprising sleight of hand. In their own quiet way, Department of Eagles are putting together a haunting discography that can stand up to a Grizzly Bear.

Department of Eagles :: Brightest Minds

Van Etten doesn’t sit still on her sophomore album. Her quiet confidence is full-blown here, trying on new sounds that fit her perfectly. Her voice is one of the best around these days, especially on album closer, “Love More”—a song that still makes my hair stand on end after dozens of listens.

Sharon Van Etten :: Love More

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