WPGU’s Best Albums of 2010: 5-1

Gorillaz: Plastic Beach

5: Gorillaz | Plastic Beach | [Virgin]

A commentary on disposability, a huge array of hip-hop artists with pop tunes and a beautifully compiled work by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hwelett make up the inner workings of Plastic Beach. From any Gorillaz album so far, this one has mastered so many of the the things Albarn wanted from a musical creation. Plastic Beach incorporates dubstep, funk, pop and dreamy melodies into an electronic, but real sounding, group of songs. The wide collection of rap on this record is wonderfully incorporated throughout its entirety, which each artist being featured on a song that fits their vocal ability. The rest of the vocalists featured on this album all contribute to the sounds and ranges that Albarn cannot hit on his own, making each song unique and another adventure in itself. The production of Plastic Beach is well crafted with tight hooks, tracks with amazingly different styles of sound and incredibly well placed vocals. Overall this masterpiece captured the feeling ‘melancholy’ perfectly and very few albums can brag about bottling an emotion as well as the Gorillaz did with Plastic Beach. — Colin Lateano

Listen: “On Melancholy Hill”

Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest

4: Deerhunter | Halcyon Digest | [4AD]

Branford Cox is into some strange shit. According to Halcyon Digest’s liner notes, the album was inspired by a Russian model/prostitute/gay porn actor named Dimitry “Dima” Marakov. Dima left home at 15, was a highly sought after adult film actor, and eventually, got involved with a high ranking Russian mobster. The mobster abused Dima, sold him into Ukrainian sex slavery, and Dima was last seen jumping out of a helicopter and plunging to his death. The album’s dreamy, poppy “single” “Helicopter” is about the death of a sad, sad boy history would have otherwise forgotten. But don’t think that Halcyon Digest is merely a concept-album based around a strange story; it’s also about more universal obsessions like the fear of knowing that life might be meaningless and the anxiety of being forgotten when you die. That’s why the album’s last track, “He Would Have Laughed”, a tribute to Jay Reatard seems all the more poignant. And wait, the album also feels like a synthesis of the low-fi dream pop music that was popular in 2010 (see: Beach House; Dum Dum Girls). So maybe the reason I like this album is because it found its creative roots by empathizing with a strange, sexual character; maybe I like it because it addresses fears that people grapple with their entire life; but mostly, the reason I like Digest—and the reason it’s one of the year’s best albums—is because it’s just a lot of fun to listen to. — Nick Martin

Listen: “Revival”

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

3: Arcade Fire | The Suburbs | [Merge]

The Arcade fire you knew has changed, but only for the better. Six years after the idealistic Funeral and three years after painful yet angry Neon Bible, Win Butler comprised something much more conflicted but so much more understanding of the human plight. The Suburbs is not a look at acre yards, two car garages and freshly cut lawns, it is a complicated, and often expressed as confused, question about what life is right now. The album wavers from reflective to revolutionary with songs like “We Used to Wait” and “Ready to Start,” which in the end give it more of a human perspective on the issue of growing up with the same drudgery day after day. Away from the meaning behind the music, the entire album is arranged in such a perfect manner that it builds upon itself with every song until it reaches a climatic end with the important messages repeated. With a full range of instruments at their disposal, and a willingness to step out of their comfort zone, Arcade fire presents The Suburbs as a musical journey with each song being different enough from the last to capture the new feeling being expressed. At its core, the album covers the disillusionment of growing up, but with the musical prowess and progression of the songs The Suburbs creates powerful art out of a feeling we just normally accept. Poignant and grim, Arcade Fire is sure to get to your core with this compilation, something only great music can do. — Colin Lateano

Listen: “Ready To Start”

Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid

2: Janelle Monáe | The ArchAndroid | [Bad Boy/Wondaland Arts Society]

R&B, funk, rap, & soul as individuals create their own foundation of most music, and attempting to fuse them together into one record is an astonishing task. With Janelle Monáe’s powerful, soaring voice, she makes it look simple. The ArchAndroid does everything right and if you weren’t convinced by her insane performance on David Letterman earlier this year , you need to check your pulse. Although the record is a continuation in her ArchAndroid series and is a concept record, the songs individually stand out as their own. Songs like “Cold War” and “Wondaland” are pure pop gems, “Tighrope” acts as the stellar hip-hop track, while even “Mushrooms & Roses” has one of the best guitar and drum sections of any song this year. The production is phenomenal, the songs are evenly balanced amongst genres. Anyone could enjoy this album, no matter what your favorite band or type of music is. The music is as tight as the suits and ties the band wears when they play, and the 18-track record might take an hour out of your day to listen to, but that hour would be one hell of a time. — Patrick Singer

Listen: “Tightrope (feat. Big Boi)”

The National: High Violet

1: The National | High Violet | [4AD]

2010 has treated The National better than most would have expected. Many expected their follow up to their excellent 2007 release Boxer to some acclaim, but no one could have expected how big High Violet really was for this band. Their efforts within the record are unlike anything they have ever put together, hitting the pinnacle of their career in full stride. No matter what album in their catalog you think is the best, High Violet displays The National in truly epic fashion. It covers all its bases: hard hitting anthems (“Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “Terrible Love”), elegant tear-jerkers (“Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”), as well as solid centerpieces (“Lemonworld”, “Afraid of Everyone”).

The record fits with all of their other material, and shows off every aspect of the band with flawless production. Working with Peter Katis again on this record, his work with the band has become a regular phenomenon. With help on harmonies of Sufjan Stevens and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver throughout High Violet, the textures and layers become something we’ve taken for granted. The attitude of this group of men is one to be loud and proud, while also being silent and deadly. The band finds a way to sink its lyrics into your everyday life, and with Matt Berninger’s croon, it makes the messages more clear than they could ever be written on a sheet of paper. Their ability to combine the bombastic while remaining intimate is unmatched by most, and should be envied by all. The collection of 11 tracks cements The National as one of the best bands today, and through High Violet, they are a force to be reckoned with. — Patrick Singer

Listen: “Bloodbuzz Ohio”


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