Reasons for Living: My 50 favorite albums of 2010, part one

December 7, 2010

To the tune of the Andy Williams chestnut:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

All the critics are listing

And everyone’s wishing

Their favorite albums appear

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Here is the first installment of my countdown to the best album of 2010.

50. Various artists, “Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Present Dark Night of the Soul” (Capitol)

Delayed for more than a year, this busman’s holiday by Danger Mouse, Mark “Sparklehorse” Linkous, and director David Lynch doesn’t really do Linkous justice as one of his last statements to the world:  A big part of the appeal of Sparklehorse was the distinctive delivery of his songs. But when the guests vocalists are one—Grandaddy’s  Jason Lytle, Suzanne Vega, the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas—is an hypnotic soundtrack for a film that unfortunately never will be made.

49. Weezer, “Hurley” (Epitaph)

Poor Weezer: Hating these veteran alterna-popsters for failing to remake “Pinkerton” has gotten so hip that begging them to break up briefly became a bona fide Internet phenomenon. But Rivers Cuomo and his mates still deliver a handful of killer pop tunes on each outing (along with some dreck, sure), and the standouts on an overall more rocking eighth studio album included “Memories,” the latest installment of Cuomo’s autobiographical account of falling in love with music, and “Where’s My Sex?,” which actually is an indelibly catchy song about socks.

48. Scott Lucas and the Married Men, “The Absolute Beginners EP” (G&P Records)

The side project by Local H’s frontman showcases his razor-sharp wit and novelist’s eye for telling details in the different setting of sawing violins, sweeping piano lines, wheezing accordion and organ, and seductive acoustic guitar.

47. Bryan Ferry, “Olympia” (Astralwerks)

No, the founder of Roxy Music isn’t doing any heavy lifting on his latest solo album, an increasingly rare offering from the dapper legend. But he still is the master of sly humor and elegant sex appeal, and he’s in prime “Avalon” postmodern lounge-singer style here.

46. The Orb with David Gilmour, “Metallic Spheres” (Columbia)

This long-awaited collaboration between Dr. Alex Paterson and Pink Floyd’s guitarist takes snippets of one of the most distinctive guitar sounds in rock and loops, manipulates, or merely uses them to enhance those familiar, gently percolating Paterson grooves, synth riffs, and whooshes of passing-U.F.O. ambience.

45. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, “Hawk” (Vanguard)

Three albums into their mirror-universe take on Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, the unlikely collaboration between the Belle & Sebastian and Screaming Trees veterans can still surprise, especially on the raunchier garage-rock numbers.

44. Wolf Parade, “Expo 86” (Sub Pop)

Some fans were disappointed by the Montreal quartet’s latest (and the last for a while, as it’s going on hiatus). Yet though the mood is often dark and sometimes threatening, the melodies are the strongest the band has given us.

43. Big Boi, “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” (Purple Ribbon/Def Jam)

Antwan “Big Boi” Patton indulges in a trippy, genre-hopping psychedelic sprawl that proves he can be as thoroughly trippy as his Outkast collaborator, and that he’s every bit as justified in claiming the mantle of the new millennial George Clinton.

42. M.I.A., “Maya” (N.E.E.T./XL/Interscope)

The Sri Lankan-born, British-raised rapper and artistic provocateur tells it like she sees it, attracting as many rabid detractors as devoted fans, and you have to admire that—especially when it’s paired with a globe-spanning dance-punk assault as energetic and aggressive as this one.

41. Brian Eno, “Small Craft on a Milk Sea” (Warp)

Okay, so it’s not the pop album we’ve been waiting for since “Wrong Way Up” in 1990. It is nonetheless Eno’s most entrancing ambient release since “Thursday Afternoon.”

 

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