The 25 Best Albums of 2010
The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Beach House, Teen Dream

Those are stripes on the cover of Beach House’s Teen Dream (it helps to know that one of the tracks is called “Zebra”), but they could pass for leaves, an X-ray of the brain, or the surface of a conch shell. The music itself is similarly confounding: gorgeous dream pop at once sunny and shadowy. These are moody love songs, full of florid allusions and lovelorn sentiments—a bittersweet drone of a record that derives its beauty from the intricately bound relationship between Nico-like Victoria Legrand husky vocals and Alex Scalley’s equally fraught musical textures. It’s like hanging out inside a beachside gospel tent, a ray of light illuminating our hope through gray, thundering cumulonimbus clouds. Gonzalez

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Caribou, Swim

Mathematician/musician Dan Snaith has described his latest album under the moniker Caribou as “dance music that sounds like it’s made out of water.” And there’s certainly a fluidity to the nine songs here, but water—normally associated with coolness—is a less accurate summation of the sounds on Swim than fire. Snaith’s lyrics are secondary, half-whispered and drenched in reverb or fragmented and stretched into muted syllables. Instead, the music is the focus; it’s warm and inviting, which is not always the case with electronic music, a delicate balance of the organic and the synthetic, of the human and the artificial, of the modern and the tribal. Sal Cinquemani

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Das Racist, Shut Up, Dude

Appearing two years before the release of this startling mixtape, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” was such a baffling, silly track that many mistook it for a parody. The style of Shut Up, Dude which pairs looseness and density in a way that few things have been capable of, seems to clarify this, an album that references Larry Bird, Macbooks, Raffi, and a U.P.S. ad campaign on its first track, before moving on to a song which hinges on a sped-up Billy Joel sample. The musical equivalent of a messy dorm room, the album tosses out heaps of referential baggage and unforced silliness while retaining a shifty core seriousness, standing out as two guys’ attempt to parse, mock, and process a world overstuffed with information. Cataldo

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Owen Pallett, Heartland

With Heartland, the artist formerly known as Final Fantasy once again employs a fictitious narrative, but even if you can’t suss out the details of protagonist Lewis and his existential crisis, the album still impresses as a summation of Pallett’s talents and achievements to date. Less dissonant than its predecessor, 2006’s He Poos Clouds, but not quite as “poignant” as his debut, Has a Good Home, Heartland continues Pallett’s affinity for chamber music (not to be confused with chamber pop) while more fully incorporating the electronic elements that were only previously hinted at in his music. In many ways, Pallett’s career has run parallel to that of Patrick Wolf, whose last album similarly embraced electronic music and deftly combined it with the artist’s classical background. Cinquemani

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz

As painful as it is to wave goodbye to the gentile side Sufjan Stevens displayed on his earlier efforts, it’s impossible not to gleefully embrace the all-encompassing finery of The Age of Adz. His penchant for haunting electronic sounds and immeasurably grand orchestral arrangements are very much the fulcrum of the album, creating a spastic tapestry of epic sounds with a kitchen sink full of instruments. “Too Much” stands out for its magnificent brass sections, the title track is memorable for its frenzied cacophony and choral roars, while “Impossible Soul” is a relentless 25-minute marathon of ever-changing soundscapes that acts as Stevens’s most unregimented stream of consciousness to date. Jones