This year sucked, so we spent a lot of time with our headphones on.
The number "2010" looks great on paper. It's a year sci-fi writers and daydreaming schoolkids have spent decades picturing. Where would we be in 2010? What would the world look like? Surely we were expecting magic. And as this decidedly un-magical year crawls to a close, it's hard to feel good about much. One could easily update the lyrics to Billy Joel's awful "We Didn't Start the Fire" using only shit that went wrong this year. And music fans have had their share of disappointments, losing heroes like Alex Chilton, Guru, Solomon Burke and Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous too soon. But music fans—unlike fans of world peace and the NBA's Slam Dunk Contest—always get silver linings. We're reminded of this often living in Portland—a city that houses some of the best bands and venues in the world. So WW's music writers got together and compiled a list of some of our favorite albums—local and national—of the year. This year might not have been magical, but its soundtrack pretty much rules.
And And And, A Fresh Summer With And And And
When a band is known for its frenetic, wild shows, you might worry it will never be able to capture such crackling excitement on record. But on its sophomore release, And And And rocks harder and more rawly than before, pushing the boundaries of its wonderfully messy chamber-embellished quirk-pop and bringing its wild energy into your headphones. REBECCA RABER.
Beach House, Teen Dream
Baltimore's Beach House has always been attuned to the dreamy palpitations of the heart, but the duo tapped into a true love-buzz for its third and best album to date. All 10 songs gush with the year's swooniest melodies; "Silver Soul" is the defining moment, a drizzly ballad that manages to be aching, beautiful and great makeout music all at the same time. MATTHEW SINGER.
Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Kanye might have more ambition, and Drake might have more charisma, but nobody made a more fun or consistent hip-hop record in 2010 than Outkast's Big Boi. For years the general consensus pegged Big Boi as the Robin to André 3000's Batman, but Sir Lucious Left Foot changes the story up a bit, adding adventurous production (check out the trunk-rattling synth-funk on "Shutterbug") to his smooth flow. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Black Keys, Brothers
Flirting with complete perfection, Brothers is like a Southern breakfast: filthy where it needs to be; undeniably rich and filling. It's a masterpiece of projectile Delta blues, gospel-speckled cries and fuzzy vinyl-era rock. Auerbach and Carney's fiery, infecting musical sermons might as well be religion. MARK STOCK.
Brian Eno, Small Craft on a Milk Sea
Using leftovers from his soundtrack to The Lovely Bones as a point of departure, the erstwhile art rocker's improvisations range from ambient to assertive, thanks to the guitar-juiced kick supplied by Leo Abrahams and keyboardist Jon Hopkins' electronica textures. These "sound-only movies" conjure a greater variety of visions and moods than Eno's recent instrumental efforts. BRETT CAMPBELL.
Burning Star Core, Papercuts Theater
A rotisserie-seared collage of 60-some live Burning Star Core sets spanning a dozen years, Papercuts Theater is C. Spencer Yeh's much-belated answer to Sonic Youth's hallowed Sonic Death cassette. BSC sends its countervailing humors-qua-horrors sprawling in a way that emphasizes robust, stampeding rhythms and survival-knife noise while disguising the puzzle-piece seams of its construction, somehow signifying everything in the process. RAY CUMMINGS.
Enslaved, Axioma Ethica Odini
Canada claims Rush, the U.S. touts Tool. Sweden owns Opeth, and Norway enjoys Enslaved. Progressive metal is alive and well, and no act in the world can boast more consistently artful output. Enslaved's 11th album is another career highlight, full of melancholy guitars and aggression. Shades of light and dark are found in the dichotomy of growls and Gilmore-esque melodic vox. If Pink Floyd went Viking metal, this is what it would sound like. NATHAN CARSON.
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Some people don't like Kanye; they see him as an egomaniac with a penchant for oversharing. But on his fifth album, West uses those traits to live up to his own hype. And if the scope of his artistic ambition isn't reason enough to make you fall in love with this collection, West's inspired flow (once derided by hip-hop-heads) will. REBECCA RABER.
Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden, Jasmine
Two of jazz's living deities converse in this sublimely elegant night music. Seldom hurrying past a serene stroll and shunning the extended improvs of the pianist's solo albums, the duo's spacious take on standards sometimes hews close to the tune ("Don't Ever Leave Me"), sometimes strays concisely and imaginatively. Neither man overplays; they've nothing to prove. BRETT CAMPBELL.
Lovers, Dark Light
A wrenching, hypnotic collection of mid-tempo synth-pop numbers, Dark Light finds Lovers paring down its sound to plaintive electronic grooves and pulsating beats, the better to foreground singer Carolyn Berk's perfect poetry of longing. It's a bracing taxonomy of heartache and desire, an epic affair reduced to 50 minutes of music made for crying over or dancing with. CHRIS STAMM.
A list of adjectives describing Menomena might include the following: pristine, OCD, exacting, scientific, complex, visionary. But Mines adds another word to the mix: human. The trio's most complete record to date matches Menomena's musical ambition with an emotional honesty that kicks listeners right in the gut. CASEY JARMAN.
Old Light, The Dirty Future
After playing his music in his taxicab for years, Garth Steel Klippert formed Old Light and unleashed The Dirty Future—and the future looks bright. Old Light takes a cue from the Band and My Morning Jacket in its forceful Americana: This group isn't afraid to blast into overdrive, rock out sitting down or bust out the autoharp. AP KRYZA.
Operative, "Ramp b/w Pulse"
Operative's debut 12-inch single was the first record I truly loved in 2010, 23 minutes of intense, primal and brooding electronic music equally suited for the bedroom and the dance floor. Who else would even dare combining experimental noise with acid house beats? If techno ever took off in the late '90s, I imagine it would have sounded like this. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
Quasi, American Gong
Who says you can't teach an old band new tricks—like, say, how to play bass? For their seventh album, Portland vets Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss added a little bottom end, went light on the keyboards and made a full-throttle rock record, with the opening salvo of "Repulsion" and "Little White Horse" ranking among the wildest stuff the band's ever done. MATTHEW SINGER.
The Roots, How I Got Over
The Roots took a break from being the only watchable part of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" to craft their best album since 2004's The Tipping Point. How I Got Over has no big bangers like "The Seed 2.0," just 14 tracks of hip-hop bliss, recorded organically and boasting a hint of jazz from rap's greatest band. AP KRYZA.
Instead of following up on the success of 2007's breakout hit "The Underdog," Spoon went out and made its weirdest, most cryptic album yet. Transference is my favorite record of 2010 because it sounds like my year, warts and all; it's full of off-center production, songs that fade out when they should hit another verse, and the most biting lyrics of Britt Daniels' career. Imperfection has never sounded so beautiful. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
We've all known since 2006 that it would be groovy when Strength finally churned out a sophomore album. This year, we finally had our wish granted with Mind Reader. The disc is funky, sexual, out-and-out fun and danceable as all hell. In short, Strength is the Northwest's answer to Prince, and we couldn't be happier about it. KEVIN DAVIS.
Superchunk, Majesty Shredding
Punk rock bands are supposed to get weaker with age, but somehow Superchunk—after 21 years in existence as North Carolina's premier fast-and-sloppy indie-rock band—is still getting better. Majesty Shredding delivers the tight songwriting, emotive delivery and catchy hooks you've come to expect from the Chunk, and adds some subtle melody, as well. CASEY JARMAN.
Taco Neck, Tutorial
There are a surprising number of talented hip-hop producers in Portland, but Tutorial proves Andrew Glennon (a.k.a. Taco Neck) to be the best. A 10-song showcase that mixes rubber-band-snapping beats with moody live instrumentation, Tutorial is that rare hip-hop record with a stunning signature sound from start to finish—think Ratatat hanging out with Danger Mouse. CASEY JARMAN.
Titus Andronicus, The Monitor
Hey, punk's not dead—it's just been reinvented as a Civil War concept album by New Jersey's Titus Andronicus. This sophomore release finds the band's punch-you-in-the-face, Pogues-meets-post-punk sound realizing its full potential with an hour of raw, intelligent anthems that repair years of damage inflicted on the image of "emotional punk" by spoiled suburban kids in guyliner. RUTH BROWN.
Tu Fawning, Hearts on Hold
Portland's Tu Fawning writes the score to my favorite nightmare. The chilling, heart-racing bawls of Corrina Repp walk us through the many misty paths of Hearts on Hold, the band's jazzy, creaking, strangely nautical debut. Repp commands a parlor room like Ella Fitzgerald, assisted by Joe Haege and his delightfully terrifying guitar bellows. MARK STOCK.
Typhoon, Hunger and Thirst
It took a few years, but Typhoon finally pulled itself together in 2010 to make a truly majestic album that delivered on all the band's early promises. Frontman Kyle Morton is a gifted songwriter with dramatic vocal delivery, and his band is beastly—but Typhoon's most impressive quality is actually its restraint. Seldom do this many people sound this understated, only baring their teeth when the songs demand it. CASEY JARMAN.
Ty Segall, Melted
While it takes cues from greats like the Kinks, the Stones and the Standells, Ty Segall's Melted is its own beast. A don't-think, EQ-blasted piece of lo-fi gold, this is classic rock for the ADD generation. Segall never stops to look back, but we do, and we think Melted is one of 2010's best records. KEVIN DAVIS.
White Hinterland, Kairos
When Kairos dropped in March, I hailed it as a wonderful record of skewed Art&B. I shouldn't have been so cute—time proves that it's actually a bonafide set of R&B jams, dosed with nostalgia, inventive percussion, and Casey Dienel's obsession with all things Mariah Carey. Who says a breakup record can't be sexy? MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.