30. Curren$y – Pilot Talk I

It’s true that all of Curren$y’s songs are about weed, self-motivation, women, and cars, but it’s the way he and Ski present these timeless ideals that makes Pilot Talk such a gorgeous album. “Breakfast,” co-produced by Mos Def, is epitomic of the album as a whole. No grand ambitions, no delusions of grandeur. Just tight rhymes about the simple life Curren$y leads married to a fantastic trumpet and bass that perfectly evokes the vacation Curren$y wants to evoke.  Pilot Talk is not an album that aims to surprise anyone – it’s just a brilliantly executed hip-hop album that makes the case for artists spending less time fantasizing and more time simply being themselves. In the process, it reveals itself to be one of the most endearing and listenable hip-hop albums in quite a while. – DA

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29. Los Lobos – Tin Can Trust

With this year’s billow of exciting debuts and young band releases, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the longtime stalwarts.  Among that group are Los Lobos.  Thirteen albums over thirty-five years, and all without losing a single member!  And I thought U2’s run was impressive.  David Hidalgo’s cowboy vocals carry the standout, “Burn It Down,” while the sauntering “Jupiter or the Moon” and a cool cover of the Grateful Dead’s “West L.A. Fadeaway” supply the variety you might expect from the wolves, all with their trademark Spanish tinge.  This band is as good now as they have ever been. – JP

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“Jupiter or the Moon”

28. STNNNG – The Smoke of My Will

One of the unfortunate things about small label releases is that not nearly enough people hear the great ones.  The Smoke of My Will is one of the great ones, and not nearly enough people will hear it.  Truth be told, we probably overlooked some albums like it (after all, we are partially human), but this is one we were glad to have caught.  The blistering punk obeisance of “Howling Man” and the post-rock bliss of “Two Sick Friends” are just accents on an already emphatic work by these veteran Twin City luminaries. – JP

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“The Ugly Show”

27. Liars – Sisterworld

Despite the freakish sense of doom that pervades the album, there is something spontaneous and natural about Sisterworld. Angus Andrew’s lyrics range from stream of consciousness on “Here Comes All The People” and “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant” to an ominous mantra on “Proud Evolution”. The volatility of the instrumentation holds everything together; opener “Scissor,” with lush vocal harmonies that abruptly give to hostile percussion, is really a microcosm of the album. Listen to it you must, but look over your shoulder every so often while doing so. – RW

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26. Spoon – Transference

Transference is the Jan Brady that has like five Marcias as sisters. This album was severely underrated, and only because Spoon has such a perfect track record. That’s not to say their previous releases are great and Transference is just good (Jan’s a beautiful girl in her own right), but that in this sick, cruel, skeptical world, ubiquitous critical acclaim and increased popularity sometimes foster backlash. Transference is not Spoon Sells Out, but a nice, neat Jack-in-the-box full of hooks, unpredictability, and heavy instrumentation, i.e., the M.O. Spoon consistently keeps on, keeps on, keeps on doing right. – RW

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“Written in Reverse”

25. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

With her debut album, Alas, I Cannot Swim, Laura Marling, then just eighteen, proved that she was a talent to be reckoned with.  Singing of melodramatic lovers and the loss of faith, among other things, she expelled an undeniable maturity from those winsome blue eyes, but with her sophomore effort, I Speak Because I Can, she proves that her early laud was not for a mere adolescent phase.  Easing from song to song with her earnest, earthy voice and guitar in hand, Marling creates an atmosphere of angst and desire that duel in a most enjoyable way.  There is a resounding quality not only to the stories she tells, but her delivery, which penetrates the listener like a ghost.  I Speak Because I Can showcases growing, deepening talent that is more capable of reeling in a devoted, enthralled audience. – TC

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“Devil’s Spoke”

24. Woods – At Echo Lake

Chiming guitars and falsetto aren’t always indicative of creativity.  Ask any of the hundreds of forgettable indie bands that flood the streets of LA and Brooklyn.  But Woods’ At Echo Lake wonderfully meanders through intermittently earthy and tempestuous compositions.  At times it border on psychedelia, but it feels too real for such a distinction.  “Pick Up”’s instrumental interludes, for instance, could score a modern spaghetti western, and “Death Rattles”’s penetrating clanks touch a place in us that is free from all hallucination. – JP

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“Death Rattles”

23. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today

If you can recall our September list of the top 25 songs from our first year, you shouldn’t be surprised to see Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti on here.  Not only was “Round and Round” head, shoulders, knees and toes above every other song on the record, it’s at least head, shoulders and knees above every other song put out in 2010. But Ariel Pink and company are far from one-hit wonders. Before Today’s lo-fi production and ADHD arrangements capture the AM-radio-listening, Mystery-Machine-driving, post-flower children climate of the 70’s. – RW

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“Round and Round”

22. CEO – White Magic

White Magic is a weeklong trip to Versailles and Ibiza. On his solo debut, the Tough Alliance’s Eric Bergund juxtaposes luxurious orchestral arrangements with the carefree hooks and samples characteristic of Balearic pop. There’s not a hint of stress as Berglund compels his listeners to reminisce strolls through lush, green gardens of day trips on “Oh God, Oh Dear” and opener “All Around” before setting the sun and hitting up disco nightclubs next to sandy beaches, as on “Illuminata” and “Come With Me,” which exhibits some of the best pop of 2010. And like all getaways, it’s achingly brief. A follow up needs to be in order ASAP. – RW

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“Come With Me”

21. Kings Go Forth – The Outsiders are Back

The question is not whether this is the best funk revival album of the year.  The question is whether I feel comfortable deeming funk revival a record that epitomizes quintessential 70s soul better than most quintessential 70s soul records. Calling it raw funk, however, would imply that it’s not sweet and succulent, so I’ll abstain.  Kings Go Forth have enough blaring brass and Sly “wainwow” for everyone to share.  Add lead singer Black Wolf’s zestful, androgynous wails, and you’ve got a winsome musical recipe that would make James Brown swoon. – JP

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“One Day”

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Comments ( 1 Comment )

DA: Just a little note for anyone using the “Breakfast” link to sample Pilot Talk I, that’s the original mixtape version without co-production by Ski Beatz. The album version takes the sample loop and asks a live band to replay it, as well as extending the trumpet/saxophone and bass playing across the whole verse rather than a simple 4 bar loop. Some people prefer the original version linked here, I personally prefer the remix by a whole lot. Both are great, though, and the lyrics don’t change.

Nodima added these pithy words on Jan 30 11 at 9:50 pm

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