In no order, my pick for the 10 best CDs issued in 2010:
Arcade Fire, The Suburbs: Orchestral angst and ennui. Dread and desperation never sounded so good. Win Butler and company create finely crafted ruminations on loss and pretense, and despite all the gloom your first impulse is to sing and dance. Truly inspired music.
Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid: A soulful sonic collage. Without losing her inner Tina Turner, Monae explores vast musical terrain and what she finds is dizzyingly virtuosic slapdash—and very nearly perfect.
Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty: One half of OutKast is plenty. Big Boi is at his confident best: he’s quirky, funny, and his cadence and vibe are solidly rooted in old-school-sounding rap. All in all, the best hip-hop release of the year, not withstanding Kanye.
MGMT, Congratulations: Quirky but not fussy electro good times. This is lo-fi pop at its unmannered best. May be the CD most likely in 2010 to induce something like happiness.
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Second best hip-hop disc of the year. Kanye has a shambling personality, and it shows in his music, which is a good thing. My Beautiful… is nearly as sound-embracing as ArchAndroid, and yet its hip-hop purity is firmly intact.
Robyn, Body Talk Pt. 1: Get up and move. Robyn embraces dance-pop, and she does so fearlessly and defiantly. The genre is wide these days, but not deep—at least not until Robyn mikes it up.
Of Montreal, False Priest: Get funky exhibition pop. Kevin Barnes is less baroque and whimsical here, and he nails his best release ever. This is great pop music.
Cee Lo Green, The Lady Killer: Soul on edge. Green is the successor to David Ruffin, only with more panache. His lyrics are often dark and twisted, and no one mixes the darkness and the light as seamlessly as Cee Lo does.
Astro Coast, Surfer Blood: Not precisely a 2010 disc, but close enough. Released in December 2009, Surfer Blood is a beguiling and finely crafted pastiche of punk and garage and indie funk. It’s perky in ways that are, at times, sublime.
Joanna Newsome, Have One on Me: Be still and up the volume. Newsome is not easy to describe, and that is what makes her so appealing. It would be too easy to say that her voice is an acquired love, but in some ways it’s true: you either like it (a lot) or it has little effect on you. If you love her, you weren’t unrequited this year; Have One on Me is brilliant.
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