Album of the year: Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge)
There’s not a huge amount about this album that I, or someone else, hasn’t said already. Suffice it to say that it pushes all my musical buttons: it’s an ambitious concept album with a strong narrative; very well executed by a bunch of very talented musicians; and composed of a set of musically strong, catchy tracks— there isn’t one I don’t love. Every time I listen to it, I love it even more.
Runner-up: Beach House - Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
This is by far the album I listened to most this year. It’s one of the most emotive, gripping pieces of indie rock I’ve ever heard, and there’s really nothing that could improve it for me. Arcade Fire narrowly won out with sheer ambition, but Teen Dream has such depth of emotion, and such well-written and versed tracks, that it really was a very tough choice.
Best album that no-one listened to: Cerulean - Baths (Anticon)
The west-coast beat scene really came of age this year, with releases such as Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma proving just how much the movement has to offer. But this album, produced by Flying Lotus’ mate Cerulean, topped them all for me. It’s both beautiful and wonderfully rough; at one moment the beat is so wobbly it feels like the whole track will collapse and implode at any second, but the next the focus is taken off the beats by the atmospheric beauty of a track such as Lovely Bloodflow. At times the two even fuse equally, such as on the the excellent ♥. Somehow, no-one really seemed to notice it, so if this is one that passed your radar this year, I can’t recommend it enough.
Best album everyone was hatin’ on: MGMT - Congratulations (Columbia)
I spent the best part of the year avoiding this album: the majority of reviews were mediocre at best, and the band themselves released a statement apologizing for the low quality of the album. I’m only just realising what a mistake that was, this mash of 60s psychedelic prog rock and cutting-edge indie electro is a trip you don’t want to miss.
Most surprisingly good album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West (Roc-A-Fella / Def Jam)
Amidst all the hype, all the controversy, and after everyone had just about forgotten why he was famous, Kanye presented the world with this. I’m not saying it’s life changing, but Kanye managed to take all the above and use it to produce an album that might just justify his ego.
Best mix album: FabricLive 52: Zero T (Fabric)
2010 was a bumper year for quality mix albums, especially from Fabric. In many ways Shackleton’s Fabric 55 or dBridge & Instra:mental’s FabricLive 50 deserved this award much more, for pushing the boundaries of electronic music. Both were absolutely innovative and highly influential on multiple genres, even creating a new one in the case of the latter. But having said that, they just don’t share the sheer listenability of Zero T’s FabricLive 52, and although it doesn’t push any serious boundaries, it’s still a worthy winner.
Best Australian Album: Innerspeaker (Modular)
2010 was also a great year for Australian music, with many old faces releasing some great new albums, and many new bands releasing some stunning debuts. And although this was also a hard one to pick, I’d say Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker really topped the list. It’s an unashamed throwback to another era, but dare I say, it’s catchy psychedelic rock done better than anyone in the 70s managed.