Plumbiferous Media

Top Ten Albums of 2010

Jan 1st 2011
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Another year has gone by, and once again it’s time for a top 10 list. Despite this past month or so being extremely rocky and sparsely populated with reviews, we’ve put in quite a bit of effort to pour over 2010’s releases, and we’ve narrowed the list down to our favorite few. All of the albums below are excellent in their own right and fully deserve a spot as one of the best albums of the year. The group also defines a very diverse range of genres, with electro-pop and folk both gracing the high end of the list. So for lack of much else to say, 2010’s top 10 albums:

#10: Mimicking Birds – Mimicking Birds

Mimicking Birds - Mimicking BirdsTenth on our list is Mimicking Birds, debut album of the Portland indie group of the same name. Combining slow, plaintive vocals with deep, poetic lyrics, in addition to elegant instrumentals that complement without overshadowing frontman Nate Lacy’s rich vocal contributions, Mimicking Birds is both an excellent introduction to the band and a worthy contribution to the more acoustic end of indie music. More than that, however, it’s an almost incessantly creative combination of music, clearly demonstrating the musical expertise of Lacy and his fellow musicians – and one that entirely deserves a position on this list.

#9: Wilderness Heart – Black Mountain

Wilderness Heart - Black MountainBlack Mountain all but fully redefined its sound with Wilderness Heart, and did so quite successfully. The band’s last album, 2008’s In the Future, was a mix of psych and prog-rock (as it is currently defined), that remained interesting and engaging for the lengthy span of the entire first track. In contrast, Wilderness Heart is much more successful as both a prog-rock album and as a series of varied and interesting tracks. The vocalists have packed much more emotion and strength into any given one of the album’s tracks, including the marginally less-successful ones, and the end result is a very different, but absolutely successful album.

#8: On the Ones and Threes – Versus

On the Ones and Threes - VersusFounded in 1990, Versus acted as one of the pioneering bands of modern indie-rock before its breakup in 2001. The band reformed and started recording again in 2009, releasing On the Ones and Threes this August. The album features heavy electric guitar instrumentals, but the persistent violin accompaniment by Margaret White gives a distinctive quality to the sound. While not always lyrically interesting, the vocals of On the Ones and Threes are well-rendered, and the creative energy of tracks like “Cicada” firmly cements its place on our list.

#7: False Priest – of Montreal

False Priest - Of MontrealIt’s somewhat difficult to make sense of False Priest, especially if not already comfortable with of Montreal (this is certainly not an introductory album), but when it is finally sorted out, False Priest is absolutely amazing. While quite possibly of Montreal’s least accessible album, False Priest is worth it for the people who can first endure it. Diversity-wise, the album is of Montreal’s best album. It has elements from all of their previous styles, as well as new – or at least previously underdeveloped – material, most notably the spoken word sections. The album is also fairly large, as of Montreal tends to be, but more importantly, it is justifiably so. Even though this album is not of Montreal’s best, nor this year’s best, it is a wonderful album.

#6: Hunting My Dress – Jesca Hoop

Hunting My Dress - Jesca HoopSixth on our list is Californian songsmith Jesca Hoop’s second album, Hunting My Dress, which, though it was initially released in 2009 in the UK, narrowly qualified thanks to a July release in the US. We’ve got to say that we’re certainly glad it did, as it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the ardent creativity the album displays. Energy is constantly supplied to the music from a multitude of sources, whether from the rich presence of Hoop’s voice, the contribution of intricate percussion, or the carefully drawn stories of Hunting My Dress‘s tracks. Above all, Hunting My Dress is the sort of album that forges its own style and runs with it – and that succeeds in doing so.

#5: Juice Water – Quitzow

Juice Water - QuitzowErica Quitzow released her third album from solo project Quitzow, Juice Water, this past June, and its sheer electrified energy cements its place in this year’s Top 10. Taking its instrumentation and many of its beats from the electronic dance genre, Quitzow’s imaginative vocals catapult Juice Water into a more complex plane. An amazing variety of instruments and effects behind layers of vocals characterize its sound, which transitions expertly from heavily layered vocals to simple electronic melody lines. The variety of sounds within even the same track works well the majority of the time, though at times overly random clicking effects and repetitive sections (notably “The Cut”) prevent it from achieving a higher spot on the list.

#4: Travellers in Space and Time – Apples in Stereo

Travellers in Space and Time - The Apples in StereoNumber 4 on our list is Travellers in Space and Time by The Apples in Stereo, an Athens, Georgia-based band heavily influenced by 1960s-era psychedelic-rock such as The Beach Boys. Travellers is a collection of wonderfully energetic tracks, each of which seems to have a different tone – from the electric blips and line-noise-esque squeals of “CPU” to the rhythmic guitars of “Dignified Dignitary.” Lead singer Robert Schneider’s high-pitched vocals take center stage, however, with lyrics that are neither profound nor vacuous, and a vocal style that blends perfectly with the rest of the sound to create some of the most distinctive tracks of any album this year.

#3: Heartland – Owen Pallett

HeartlandToronto singer-songwriter Owen Pallett’s third solo album Heartland takes third place on our list with a collection of completely unique sounds. Pallett’s early musical training was in classical violin, and he puts those skills to great use on Heartland. Pallett mixes skillful vocals with a variety of instrumentations to create a thoroughly original album. The percussion, while typically not intrusive, lends a huge amount of energy to the album, and the orchestrally-influenced melodic themes on tracks like “Flare Gun” thoroughly distinguish this album from any other this year.

#2: Perch Patchwork – Maps & Atlases

Perch Patchwork - Maps & AtlasesSecond only to one is Maps & Atlases’s Perch Patchwork. Beautiful and impassioned from start to finish, the album invites pleasure and emotion, and receives both. Composed entirely of good, great, and exceptional tracks, there is very little, if anything, that could be improved upon, and nothing that needs or invites improvement. The tones present are extremely well developed, and the purposefully imperfect and excellently crafted vocals work amazingly with the instrumentals. The combination is simply incredible, neither overwrought nor underdeveloped.

#1: …And then We Saw Land – Tunng

...And Then We Saw Land - TunngFinally we have the album which we’ve chosen as the best of 2010. London experimental group Tunng, founded in 2003 by frontman Sam Genders, released its fourth LP, …And Then We Saw Land in March. That album is, in every sense of the word, a work of art. Over forty-five minutes, Tunng runs the entire musical gamut, from deeply experimental psych-tinged “Don’t Look Down or Back” to the more traditionally folk but impressively weighty “With Whiskey.” Every minute of …And Then We Saw Land is a pleasure, whether it’s thanks to carefully executed vocal harmonies or intensely nuanced multi-layered instrumentals. With all of that combined, it would have been impossible to ignore Tunng’s success. …And Then We Saw Land is, therefore, our number one album of the year – and it is in every way deserving of that award.

Plumbiferous Media has now been around for two years, and we’d like to thank everyone who’s followed along, as well as everyone who’s just found us – we hope you’ll all keep reading as we keep reviewing into the next year. We’ll be taking our usual week-long break, but look for our next review on the 9th of January!

-The Plumbiferous Team

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