5. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

I once blacklisted James Murphy from my iTunes before I ever even gave LCD Soundsystem a fair listen. Every critical review read like hagiography, and if I saw one more writer synonymize the hallowed name of David Bowie with a buzzworthy DJ with a five o’clock shadow and white undershirt I swore I’d make a muted hermitage to the barren hills of Council Bluffs, Iowa. But I listened. And three albums later, I am still listening. LCD Soundsystem’s latest release This is Happening is most indebted to the Thin White Duke’s Berlin Triptych, but Murphy’s a pioneer in his own right, crafting grandiose dance hits with a calculated sprawl of hooks. If this is indeed Murphy’s last hurrah, as he says, LCD Soundsystem has a capped off a nice trilogy for itself, as well. – RW

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4. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Arcade Fire songs have never been defined by complexity.  Their iconicity derive from purposeful instrumentation, impressive chords (both in the sense of “grand” and “leaving an impression”), and commanding chronicles and professions.  The Suburbs quarters a greater number of such iconic tracks than did Funeral, if only due to its additional fifteen minutes.  The first three prodigious tracks successfully aim to stagger, but they unfortunately shroud the retrospective richness hidden in the Byrd-like guitars of “Suburban War,” the painfully suitable melancholy of “Deep Blue,” the keenly charged “Month of May,” the anxious “We Used to Wait,” and the cool pop tempo of “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).”  Transmitting inspired, sometimes chilling, stories of suburban life, city lights, and literally bloodthirsty businessmen, Arcade Fire craft a complete album, an epic that can hold its own in any album catalogue from any era. – JP

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3. Caribou – Swim

Music for any mood, sounds for any setting.  Complete with pithy titles and an expressive cover, Daniel Snaith’s latest creation is dynamic and danceable, but at its core…well, see, that’s the thing.  It’s nearly impossible to get at its core, an outward black hole from which suppurate frantic beats and daunting melodies.  We selected it, however, not for its mystery (or title lengths, for that matter), but for Snaith’s unmistakable gift for creating strikingly organic beats electronically and assailing us with completely new and intensely provocative sounds.  He is cool and contained when he needs to be, inserting his own Erlend Øye-like vocals, but Swim is most memorable for the pounding jungle rhythms of “Odessa,” “Sun,” and “Bowls” and the brilliant catharses that define “Kaili” and album closer “Jamelia.” – JP

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2. Beach House – Teen Dream

Teen Dream is the perfect album to listen to over headphones after snuggling up under a 15 tog duvet at the headboard of a queen-sized oaken sleigh bed on the wood-paneled floor of a Tudor bedroom splotched by the full moon’s silhouette of listless January snowfall that settles like cobwebs in the bottom corners of the pellucid oriel window that spotlights your vulnerability for a cobblestone street flanked by the dimly gas-lit, lantern-topped street lights of an indifferent and slumbering world, where somewhere Jenny gives herself to a blissful slumber in the arms of your douchebag ex-best friend Johnny, or whatever melancholic thought might cross your restless mind. Johnny says to you, “Teen Dream isn’t limited to so specific a setting,” and you counter quietly, “Fuck you, backstabber. That’s not the point.” Teen Dream works anywhere, but Beach House has crafted an album so technically sound, wonderfully arranged, hypnotic, charming, and blissful that it creates an idiosyncratic situation that demands your utmost attention. Now excuse me while I slip back into the world Beach House constructed for me. – RW

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1. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

James and I rarely agree on anything, not so much because we have such different tastes or are so opinionated, probably not because we’re both paradoxically dismissive of and prone to hyperbole, and definitely nothing to do with ego. Regardless, our Skype sessions alone would constitute 17 of the 20 most flamboyant displays of unbridled bickering in the history of deliberative bodies. History in mind, I was taken aback when James pitched Deerhunter as we opened the floor for the album-of-the-year debate. Granted, I first assumed devil’s advocate to keep up appearances, but never had I cut the bullshit so quickly and consented, “Okay.”

Does this mean that Halcyon Digest is the undisputed champion of 2010? As far as we’re concerned, yes. But it’s tough to articulate why that is. Copouts aside, I feel that mystery accounts for its stranglehold of our top spot. On every level, Halcyon Digest tightly treads the line between warmth and aloofness. A dense wall-of-sound from “Memory Boy” swiftly succeeds the frail tears from Brandon Cox’s guitar on “Sailing.” All the while, Ben Allen’s production supplements this duality with placid, liquid shimmers and thick, aggressive percussion. Cox’s bipolar lyrics congeal the album, capturing the insecurity from the cyclical tragedy that too often befalls the inspired. The Renaissance Man’s range of influences are sometimes more a monkey on his back than a shot in the arm. But as an album that masterfully channels the musical spectrum from the Everly Brothers to Animal Collective, Halcyon Digest testifies that it’s a burden worth bearing. – RW

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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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