1. Deerhunter—Halcyon Digest
The quintessential album for the post-Merriweather Post Pavilion year wherein popular indie musicians have woken up to the possibility that experimental exploration and a calculated indulgence in pop tropes can go hand in hand.
2. No Age—Everything In Between
The scruffy and noisy duo have finally emerged from the lo-fi fuzz of their debut with song like “Glitter” that achieve transcendence by matching their approach with glam handclaps and a damn catchy chorus.
3. Big K.R.I.T.—K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
Quality hip-hop from Mississippi in the great southern tradition of artists like UGK, Outkast and Goodie Mob. K.R.I.T. produces his own beats and uses classic soul samples to accompany his raps.
4. Robyn—Body Talk Pt. 1
Robyn is a chart-topping disco queen from outer space. Her relative anonymity in the world of A-list celebrities is probably a positive thing. That being said, “Dancing On My Own” was recently featured in a Gossip Girl episode and Snoop Dogg appears on a song for the second installment of the Body Talk series.
5. Das Racist—Sit Down, Man
Nobody’s been this simultaneously funny and dope since the Beastie Boys circa 1989. “Call me Dwight Schrute the way that I eat beats” is one of the many hyper referential lines packed into this mix tape. Oh, and they also deconstruct race from a post-modern perspective so check it out.
Weekend is a terrifically dark band that makes anthemic shoegaze in the vein of My Bloody Valentine—a cathartic wash of loud and awesome noise. (Side Note: These days it seems that the more un-Googleable your band name, the trendier. I’m looking at you Cults, Tanlines, Tennis, etc.)
7. Tyler The Creator—Bastard
Tyler The Creator is the resident RZA (aka producer/rapper) in the Los Angeles collective of young skate-punk MCs, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Em All. This guy is barely 18-years-old and the pure vitriol he spits here makes contemporary gangster rap artists look like cartoon characters.
8. Kanye West—My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The latest album from this self-proclaimed genius is a maximalist pop opus that takes hip-hop to new and exciting places. Eat your heart out, Taylor, this one’s for those brave enough to admit that they’re douche-bags (because Lord knows we’re all d-bags at the end of the day).
9. The National—High Violet
Matt Berninger, the lead singer of The National, has a thick baritone voice that can fill up a room unlike many other yelping and shouting indie rockers. “I was carried to Ohio on a swarm of bees/I’ll never marry but Ohio don’t remember me” he sings on the single, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”.
10. Compilation—Matador at 21
This compilation of material recorded for the venerable indie label, Matador Records, is easily the best release of the year, but it would be unfair to rank it at number one because it draws from over two decades of music, a ridiculously stacked roster of artists and spans six discs.
— Jacob Morgan
1. Broken Bells—Broken Bells
Musical intercourse from the man responsible for The Shins’ lyrical genius and the producer with albums from Gnarles Barkley and the Gorillaz on his bedpost. James Mercer and Danger Mouse are delicious. This collaboration makes The Postal Service seem like hard boiled eggs and peanut butter.
2. The Dead Weather—Sea of Cowards
One more album of this calibre and The White Stripes will become that band Jack White was in before The Dead Weather.
3. The New Pornographers—Together
The latest from the New Pornographers is the perfect amalgamation of the calmness on their previous album, Challengers and the electricity of earlier records.
4. Mumford & Sons—Sigh No More
Van Morrison with Botox injections.
Another strong album from Canada’s best rapper. Suck it Choclair.
6. Arcade Fire—The Suburbs
After the Neon Bible flop, I thought Arcade Fire was done. I feel like a cynical asshole.
7. Broken Social Scene—Forgiveness Rock Record
I tried to hate this record to prove to myself I don’t love BSS unconditionally. It didn’t happen.
8. Stars—The Five Ghosts
After the Stars show at Sydenham United Church this year, they’re on every list I make—including “best orgasms of 2010.”
9. Portugal. The Man—American Ghetto
If you took Kool and the Gang, turned them all into Eunuchs and spun them around in swivel chairs, they’d probably make this record—which is a good thing.
10. Vampire Weekend—Contra
Not much different from their self-titled debut, but I’m not sick of their quirks yet.
— Jake Edmiston
1. Sleigh Bells—Treats
A veteran of the hardcore scene and a former elementary teacher basically mixed those two things together to create the best combination of noise and pop yet.
2. LCD Soundsystem—This Is Happening
Although its highest highs don’t reach as high as the best tracks on Sound of Silver, it’s a little more consistent and shows signs of James Murphy having more fun than usual, resulting in one of the smartest dance records in recent memory.
3. PS I Love You—Meet Me At The Muster Station
Fuzzed-out danceable riffs from a duo that displays an understanding of music so vast, they knew they couldn’t fit it all in.
4. Girl Talk—All Day
Greg Gillis makes music so fun and endearing that it really defies any meaningful critical analysis. If you don’t like the world’s greatest party music, that’s OK, it’s not for you anyway.
5. Deerhunter—Halcyon Digest
It’s pop in all the right places and beautiful, glorious noise everywhere else.
6. Kanye West—My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Who knew this self-indulgent and self-influenced record about mostly self-inflicted wounds would be so interesting and sound more like the future than all before it?
7. Harvey Milk—A Small Turn of Human Kindness
After realizing it was impossible to make a heavier metal album than 2008’s Life… The Best Game in Town they screamed out in agony, making something unlike anyone has heard before.
Topped by the banger of the year, this is an electronic record that actually makes some new sounds, which is apparently a lot to ask of most dance musicians.
9. Big Boi—Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
While Kanye is moving hip hop into the new century, Big Boi still remembers what his parent’s record collection sounded like without sounding tired or recycled.
10. Soulja Boy—The DeAndre Way
Punk isn’t dead, it’s just Soulja Boy.
— Tyler Ball
1. LCD Soundsystem—This is Happening
Sad and wistful and bitter and hilarious, this was the soundtrack to a year steeped in status update solipsism and reflexive nostalgia.
2. James Blake—The Bells Sketch, CMYK and Klavierwerk EPs.
Three EPs that chart the growth of a producer who’s pacing the vanguard of electronic music. Soulful and delicate.
3. Joanna Newsom—Have One On Me
This sprawling triple LP finds Newsom at her most intimate and direct. It’s a masterpiece that unfolds itself slowly, teaching you how to listen to it.
4. Kanye West—My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The fever dreams of a lunatic genius. Lurid, touching, triumphant—“this pimp is at the top of Mt. Olympus.”
5. PS I Love You—Meet Me At the Muster Station
An endlessly catchy album of mutant pop from the hometown heroes.
6. The-Dream—Love King
Bulletproof pop music. Equal parts Prince and R. Kelly.
7. Flying Lotus— Cosmogramma
A cosmic wonderland existing in the margins between jazz, hip-hop and electronic music. Truly next level.
8. Deerhunter—Halcyon Digest
A remarkable collection of songs from a consistently excellent band. Explores dusty psych-pop and dreamy R&B while honing the spooky art-rock they’re known for.
9. The Tallest Man on Earth—The Wild Hunt
The Bob Dylan comparisons are unavoidable but reductive – this is a record of startling emotional depth in its own right.
10. Matthew Dear—Black City
Elegant and sexy and more than a little weird, it connects the dots between dark disco and immersive synth pop.
— Adam Wray
1. PS I Love You—Meet Me At the Muster Station
The culmination of years of work from Paul Saulnier and Ben Nelson, the LP comes with a heavy dose of Kingston pride after solidifying the local duo’s adored status from fans and critics alike. Shatteringly tight lo-fi tracks saturated in distorted fuzz are spiked with yelping shrieks and face-melting riffs, making for anthemic rock that’ll force you to face the love.
2. Beach House—Teen Dream
It feels like more than a year since the Baltimore duo gave me a reason to stay awake with their third and most listenable record. Moving out of their comfort zone, the band managed to capture the hazy nostalgia and churning emotions that come with teenage years—minus the awkward phase.
3. Deerhunter—Halcyon Digest
The layered dark horse immediately snagged and kept my earsdespite a Suburbs saturated summer. Hit “Helicopter” if you’ve got a penchant for goose bump-inducing grooves.
4. LCD Soundsystem—This Is Happening
James Murphy—bare, raw and fearless.
5. Sleigh Bells—Treats
A deafening buzz comes with Sleigh Bells. It might be their fan base, it might be their record, but when teacher quit her day job and teamed up with a veteran of the hardcore scene, a visceral and furiously kinetic noise-pop duo was born.
6. Flying Lotus—Cosmogramma
The bleeps of old school Super Mario and Duck Hunt on this release from Californian producer and sound manipulator Flying Lotus had me hooked from first spin. By fearlessly streamlining his work into sound rather than songs, Ellison pushed an ever-expanding subgenre in the process of drowning listeners in euphoric experimentation.
7. Diamond Rings—Special Affections
In the chorus of the riff-filled “Something Else,” the glamazon couldn’t be more wrong in singing, “I am really not your thing.”
When I first saw Shadrach Kabango’s music video for “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home” last year, I was shocked by the rapper’s ability to bend genre with his beats. After watching him spit at last summer’s Wolfe Island Music Festival with his Jay-Z-eque flow and mind blowing freestyle skills fresh from the release of his record, he solidified his place in my mind as best rapper in Canada.
Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt offer the most spastic sex appeal I’ve encountered with my ears. The electro pop dynamos put on a notably incomparable live show, which they somehow managed to harness on their sophomore release.
10. Best Coast—Crazy For You
Bethany Costentino wrote the soundtrack to my summer, in a nutshell. The laid-back west coast vibe that permeates through each track may have been written “about weed and my cat and being lazy a lot,” but the beachy grooves are saturated in sunshine and are simplistic but aptly relatable reflections
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