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


Gorillaz, Plastic Beach

A stellar warp tour through a futurama of freakish sights and sounds. Even Snoop Dogg’s intro, in spite of that sketchy but understandable Planet of the Apes reference (this is an apocalypse after all), is a blazed-out wonder. Whether thumping, wafting, bouncing, or thrashing, the ever-morphing production—hence plastic—is of a piece with the kooky balladry. These “guys” make the most high-falutin’ of instruments spit out oddball beats that are alternately grandiose and chill, and the surreal immersion is such that you may just pull out of it believing in superfast jellyfishes. “Glitter Freeze” could be what Kier Dullea listens to in space, “Empire Ants” what plays in Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” and “On Melancholy Hill” the music that plays inside elevators connecting heaven and hell. Gorillaz put us existentially at ease. Gonzalez

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Lindstrøm & Christabelle, Real Life Is No Cool

Norwegian DJ Hans-Peter Lindstrøm and vocalist Christabelle’s Real Life Is No Cool is a pop-funk odyssey that draws on early Massive Attack, Prince, and especially the space-disco of Giorgio Moroder. The album is, perhaps, Lindstrøm’s most accessible work to date (the single “Lovesick” appeared in a car commercial earlier this year and the U.S. version of the album is even more polished than the original Rough Trade incarnation), but despite clear standout tracks and copious pop hooks, it’s a testament to the strength of Lindstrøm’s singular vision that the album plays best as one whole piece, no small feat considering that it was at least seven years in the making. Cinquemani

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

As the group learned on Neon Bible, it’s difficult to strike a balance between sweeping musicianship and pretentiousness. Just as Arcade Fire began to settle into their rock-star pomp, the knives were out and all of a sudden the seven-strong Montreal outfit had an overblown and grandiose sound. The Suburbs doesn’t necessarily fly the flag for a back-to-basics approach though: Not only is there nothing basic about what is served up here, but their regression from Neon Bible’s pageantry takes them to a decidedly different sound than Funeral. Losing yourself in these labyrinthine arrangements is a joy, as are repeated visits to the utterly tremendous refrains from “Rococo” and the title track. The Suburbs seems to have everything, sashaying through innumerable sounds with the majesty of musicians at the very peak of their powers. Jones

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

The guys at Jive said a lot of douchey things to Big Boi while he was working on Sir Lucious Left Foot: that they couldn’t promote the album, that it needed a single that sounded like “Lolipop,” and even when the OutKast MC jumped ship for Def Jam, that he couldn’t release the album as long as Andre3000’s voice appeared anywhere on its 17 tracks. Big Boi didn’t give up on the album, and now it’s clear that every second he fought for his delirious art-funk opus was time well spent. Sir Lucious Left Foot is an extravagant hip-hop circus and Big Boi is its ringmaster, dropping one stylishly madcap verse after another while his guests turn in their own killer performances. As if that weren’t enough, Big Boi went ahead and leaked the excellent, Andre-featuring “Lookin’ 4 Ya” (“Au contraire!” he told GQ, “They cannot block it!”). But the album slays with or without Andre, and even the not-inconsiderable part of me that hoped for a new OutKast album has to admit that Big Boi probably gave me a better deal: OutKast hasn’t made an album this hot since Aquemini. Cole

The 25 Best Albums of 2010


Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles’s second album finds the Toronto duo wisely softening their palette from harsh, experimental throwaway pieces to a decidedly gentler brand of electronic pop. Whereas their debut often smacked of a noisy, one-note, look-how-clever-we-are tantrum, their second self-titled album is subtly layered: reflective and dreamy but also tense and conflicted, full of crisp, Atari-inspired severity (“Birds,” “I Am Made of Chalk”), pristine, starry melodies (“Celestica,” “Suffocation”)—ultimately a restless balancing act between the grim and the sanguine. In the divide between the lo-fi and the polish, the artistic gulf between Ethan Kath and Alice Glass is beautifully represented—he as the architecturally minded shut-in and she as the unpredictable, aggressive noise-punk performer. The album is taut with a ferocious give-and-take energy, and it’s the very antithesis of a sophomore slump. Liedel