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WVUM in the Rankings: Best Albums of 2010

By Johnny “Soul Brotha/Jona” Kornman posted Jan 01, 2011 at 06:49 PM

‘Tis the season to be trapped in shopping mall parking lots, to be held captive in relatives' remote abodes, and to make resolutions that will never be kept. It’s also the season when lists of what made 2010 are released in throngs. The Voice has compiled its own ranking of rotation music from the last year. Our music directors Laura Sutnick and Jonathan Kornman, as well as our staff of DJs, have all contributed to what WVUM thinks was the best in sound for 2010. We hope this makes your New Year’s hangover a little more bearable.

Johnny's Picks

Innerspeaker, Tame Impala

I am still convinced this band found a way to raise John Lennon from the grave and disguise him as an Aussie. Tame Impala’s throwback sound brings to mind The Beatles, Cream, Hendrix, and other greats of a bygone era. But what strikes me as the key to Innerspeaker’s success is balance; the band indulges in expansive guitar solos, but still never strays so far they lose the listener's attention. Tame Impala’s vintage sound never suggests imitation – it authentically convinced me the album was recorded 40 years ago.

Black City, Matthew Dear

Black City could not have been a more suitable name for this album. Matthew Dear’s droned lyrics and repetitive, beat heavy sounds create an aura of isolation, seduction, and darkness. The concept album’s songs, while arguably not as grand as the sum of its parts, include easily some of Dear’s best. Witness what could have been the sexiest song of 2010, “Soil to Seed.” The words are annunciated as if Dear is licking the listener's face while seducing them with a hypnotic organ. Black City’s cinematic qualities reflect what Matthew Dear does best--production--while also showing the artist’s greater understanding of the power of his voice.

Before Today, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

In the age of digital music, Ariel Pink is an anomaly. The band has been notorious for making listeners and critics question the line between experimentation and annoyance. Before Today continues the group’s dedication to all things analog, noisy, and vintage, but manages to deliver an (almost) instantly catchy pop record. From the hilariously androgynous “Menopause Man” to the beach-pop anthem “Bright Lit Blue Skies," Ariel Pink seems to have compiled a collection of songs catering to every musical taste--that is, except for those who like undistorted sonic clarity. Guess you can’t please everyone.

Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter

Bradford Cox’s work has never failed to find sadness in even the most innocent and pleasant aspects of life. His gift for the depressing shines no greater than in Halcyon Digest. Lyrics aside, the album expands on the shoegaze sound of their previous releases. Deerhunter layers alien electronic noises throughout the album, creating a unique listening experience. If the gorgeous “Helicopter” doesn’t make you cry, you might not have a soul.

Volume 1, Star Slinger

The English export of dub step has reached its underground zenith, with American youth whomping in large numbers. Producers have begun to create what could be the next British Invasion: a new, glitchier, harder incarnation of trip-hop. Daren Williams exemplifies this in his first album as Star Slinger, reflecting traditional sources of sampling but with a more dance-oriented result. Volume 1 ranges in its sources and take on trip-hop, all while maintaining a uniquely Star Slinger sound. The still-young artist is one to watch as this genre’s prevalence grows.

Laura's Picks

Jet Set Siempre 1°, Clive Tanaka y Su Orquesta

This was my favorite WVUM mail submission this year and the actual music is amazing. It started off with the delivery of a cute little box decorated with Japanese stamps and other dainty designs, and inside was an aquamarine electropop cassette tape masterpiece. A few months later I received another box lined with pink bubble wrap (still in Kevin's backpack); the bubble wrap protected a fortune cookie. I'll let you imagine what the fortune read. The next Clive Tanaka package contained a beautiful 12" vinyl version of the album--score! I'm still trying to figure out if Clive Tanaka is at all connected to Tomoyuki Tanaka from Fantastic Plastic Machine. 

Origin, Villa Nah

Villa Nah from Helsinki, Finland put out an incredible 12-track LP earlier this year entitled Origin. Tomi and Juho are lifelong friends who created a tightly produced and overly epic electronic album. It's extremely dark and deep but never intrusive or overwhelming. Origin stayed in rotation for a while at WVUM and actually sounded really good when played back to back with The Emergency or So I'm Jo.

Tuning Echoes, Mock & Toof

This one's for all of my discohead friends who are all very aware of exactly how much disco came out this year. Mock & Toof are two incredibly nice dudes (Duncan and Nick) from the UK who worked with the chick from Pollyester on a few tracks. Their remixes and dubs are off the chain disco extravaganzas and their live shows are a completely new experience altogether. I had the pleasure of opening up for them this past Art Basel and it was truly one of my favorite gigs of 2010.

Settings, Tanlines

You might remember these guys from our WMC show back in March 2010. Their track "Real Life" was stuck in our heads for a few months and the rest of the album is equally bumpy tropipop. I picked this album because even our Sports Director "Captain Kahki" got a little obsessed with it (he normally dislikes all rotation music and periodically sneaks those power hip-hop tracks into our library before sports games). Tanlines was a great early 2010 add we shouldn't overlook.

Surf Noir EP, Beat Connection

I would definitely have to agree that 2010 was the year of chillwave. Beat Connection, however, somehow stood out from the rest of the college dorm DIY acts. Maybe it's because of the abundance of self-described influences: surfy-psychedelic-balearic-disco-dance-electro-pop infused with a healthy dose of rock and house music. The entire Surf Noir EP got a huge number of spins this year on WVUM and most of the DJs seemed to really dig it.

DJs' Picks

Record Collection, Mark Ronson & the Business International

“Never have I ever heard a better song about a bicycle.” – Kylie Banks

“I blast the speakers in the studio whenever I play this album (which is more often than I should).” – Mike Diaz

Before Today, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

“A complete evolution from their previous sound.” – Stephanie Kryzak

“Transports me to a 1970's nth dimension where somehow between the Warhol clamor and Jacuzzi anthems, everything and nothing makes sense.” – Falyn Freyman











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