Ten in 2010 by Leilani McBrayer

Ten in 2010: I casually asked a few associates for their best albums of the year, “10 or so with words or without.” No rules really. These compiled lists provide genuine fodder for my website during the holiday lull. They will go up when I get them, till the end of the year; which started with mine. Enjoy. (click the tag at bottom of article to read all entries).

Leilani McBrayer
City: Dallas, TX and Philadelphia, PA
Band: n/a; former diy booker
Also: Music snob and I relish her opinion, so here you go:

12. BalaclavasRoman Holiday (Dull Knife)
Put this one on the deck late at night and don your headphones. I promise these Houston natives will not disappoint. Perfect for those of y’all that spent your teenage years listening to Bauhaus, but keep in mind that the band manages to shift easily between industrial cold and post-punk funk, so wear all the black you want but be prepared to thrash around a bit, too.

11. Reading RainbowPrism Eyes (Hozak)
It’s a shame this album was released so late in the year because had it more time to be played over and over again, for people to memorize the absolutely infectious choruses to songs like “Wasting Time” and “Always on My Mind” I think it would have ended up on a few more lists. Having said that, I bet this adorable Philly couple will have an awesome 2011. They’re going to be at the 35Conferette in March and I strongly suggest trying to see them play because they’re just as sweet and fun in person as they are on this record of garagey love songs.

10. SwansMy Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky (Young God)
Just a beautifully driven album with all the bleak, bone-quaking sound you’d expect from Gira and co. It’s awesome that so many older bands are reuniting and releasing new material, but it’s especially rewarding for fans when that music is worth the wait. “No Words/No Thoughts” is perhaps one of the best album openers I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in a long time and each following song falls together in grimly satisfying fashion. Can’t wait to see them in February.

9. A Sunny Day in GlasgowAutumn, Again (self-released)
I want to make out with this album every time I hear it. It’s simultaneously lush and sparse, drenched in a balanced dose of reverb, electronic flourishes and lazy, honeyed vocals. The band offered up this release as a free download until the end of autumn but as it’s now past that time, I’d recommend trying to get your hands on the limited pressing of the album on maroon vinyl.

8. Holy FuckLatin (Young Turks)
Every year needs an album that could serve as a soundtrack for driving fast, getting fucked up or getting fucked and Holy Fuck pretty much gave us that soundtrack w/Latin.

7. Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty)
I almost didn’t want to include this album, because you’ll find it on almost every end of the year list, but even I can’t deny that Steven’s has crafted an exquisite album. If Holy Fuck’s Latin is the go-to album for all the trouble you got into during 2010, Steven’s electronic symphonies are what you should have been listening to when you were coming down.

6. Tera MelosPatagonian Rats/Fang IslandFang Island (Sargent House)
Both of these bands released albums that delight in ecstatic sound. It’s impossible to listen to either of these records without straining your face from all the smiling each exuberant guitar riff will generate. Patagonian Rats, unfortunately, has been a bit overlooked at the end of 2010, perhaps because of their label-mates Fang Island being new Pitchfork darlings, but both of these albums are worthy companions to one another and definitely deserving of places on any end of the year list.

5. WoodsAt Echo Lake (Woodsist)
One of the few lo-fi albums to come out this year that utilizes all of the genre’s trademarks without sounding like everything else. A really surprisingly cohesive and tight psych-folk-pop album that I appreciate and love more with every listen.

4. These New PuritansHidden (Domino)
I find it particularly amusing to see These New Puritans casually referred to as a “dance” band, cause there’s not really a lot here to get you moving. Hidden is a fairly sparse sounding record. Though plenty is happening on every track, there lies a certain comfort in the glitchy sounds and their lack of ass shaking inspiration even when they veer uptempo and to the abrasive. It’s actually really beautiful and was completely unexpected, but hey, sometimes it’s nice to be surprised.

3. Frog EyesPaul’s Tomb: A Triumph (Dead Oceans)
Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph is everything the Arcade Fire’s Suburbs album wishes it could have been. There’s not an ounce of pretension or pseudo-philosophical hand-wringing to be heard here, just a visceral cacophony; coarse, sprawling guitars that literally emote, immense drum fills and Carey Mercer’s wail. “You want to hit him in the fucking knees/And then you hit him in the fucking knees!” indeed.

2. GirlsBroken Dreams Club EP (True Panther)
I was set to write this band off completely. I was a fan of 2009’s self titled effort but I definitely did not believe Girls could possibly mature or break away from that whole awful “hypnagogic pop/glo-fi” tag. Interviews with the band members, Christopher Owens and Chet “JR” White where they bragged about all the pills they’d been popping also did very little to endear the band to me. I kinda wanted to HATE this EP, but as of this month, I’ve probably listened to it more than anything else in my collection. Broken Dreams Club is an astounding leap in maturity for this band, from the lyrics to the solid and stunning production. If it’s a hint of what their sophomore release will be like, I suppose I’m going to have to just grudgingly admit that I was wrong.

1. Future IslandsIn Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)
I’m so sick of the 80’s. Or rather, I’m getting really tired of bands trying to sound like some hazy memory that they have of the 80’s. Of course, Future Islands had to release this album that revels in post-punk synthiness with heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics that could rival the subject matter of any song on the Breakfast Club soundtrack. I should have hated it. The difference here is that In Evening Air doesn’t come across as trying to evoke some half-remembered memory of a New Order song. It doesn’t dwell in the past and yet still somehow acknowledges its presence all while compelling one to dance, cry and sing along in the here and now.