The Best Music of 2010 – Top Albums, part 1 of 2

Hey! OK, so here’s the beginning of my Best Music of 2010 series of posts. I’m breaking it down into more posts, because this year I have 25 favorite albums and 65 fave singles. So let’s get started! :)

The Best Music of 2010

The 25 Best Albums of 2010, part 1 of 2
A pretty self-explanatory category!


1. Aphrodite by Kylie Minogue: This was my most-played album of the year, and for very good reason – Aphrodite is a shimmering selection of solid pop. The siren song of “All The Lovers”‘s chorus pulls you in and Aphrodite doesn’t let you go until it’s had its way with you – first taking you from the ecstatic highs of “Get Outta My Way” then rocking through the thunderous title track, onto a darkened dance floor with “Cupid Boy,” and finally concluding with the celebratory “Can’t Beat The Feeling.” The triumphant “here’s what I do when I know what I can do” from “Aphrodite” defines this era of Kylie’s career: she put her best stiletto-clad foot forward and showed us that she knows exactly what she can do.


2. Flesh Tone by Kelis: Released back in May, Flesh Tone soared into the #1 spot on “best albums of 2010” playlist, bested only by the mighty Kylie. Flesh Tone is flawless – 9 tracks of thoughtful dance music. Thoughtful because the lyrics tell of Kelis’ love for her son (“Song For The Baby,” the stunning “Acapella”) and love for herself (“Brave”); dance because hard-edged blocks of synths and pounding beats swerve around those lyrics and inspire you to get movin’.


3. Pilgrims Progress by Kula Shaker: Pilgrims Progress is really, really good. Kula Shaker’s trademark mystic ’60s vibe pops up on this album, but they don’t rely on it alone – instead, that sound enhances already lovely tunes. Every track is strong, in particular the yearning “Ophelia,” “Ruby,” which could easily become a standard, the ghostly “To Wait Till I Come,” and the epic, expansive closer “Winter’s Call.” Beautiful.


4. Seili by Jenni Vartiainen: I fell in love with the album early in the year, and it still packs a powerful punch. The somber but cinematic title track, the simply gorgeous “En Haluu Kuolla Tänä Yönä,” the twinkling “Duran Duran” and “Minä ja Hän”‘s melancholy tone set a mood for the album as a whole – elegant, sophisticated, and sprinkled with a touch of inspired darkness.


5. Harmony by Sa Dingding: My favorite musical discovery of 2010. Sa Dingding inhabits the space between Enya and Bjork but creates her own unique sound that hinges on her explosive vocals. The vocal gymnastics she performs on “Ha Ha Li Li” are thrilling and set the stage for the songs that follow: Harmony is like an aural rollercoaster. “Blue Horse” has this killer riff and the chorus on “Pomegranate Woman” has an aching quality, compelling you to listen, while “Xi Carnival”‘s hyperactive sense of joy just about wears you out! An atmospheric, enveloping collection of songs.


6. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling: I gave a cursory listen to Laura Marling’s debut, Alas, I Cannot Swim, and liked the sound of it (and kept “Ghosts” on my iPod), but didn’t really connect with the record. Her sophomore release this past March, however, really made a dent. The intense “Devil’s Spoke” starts off the album in spookily enthralling style, quieting down a bit with the hushed, intimate “Made By Maid,” then kicks up more dust with the haunting “Alpha Shallows” and concludes with a fantastic string of songs – “Hope In The Air” is a future classic and the title track is about as rollicking as folk tunes get. Wonderful stuff.


7. Lights by Ellie Goulding: No one could live up to the kind of hype that was heaped upon Ellie Goulding after she scooped the BRIT’s Critic’s Choice award. Lights would, under any other artist’s name, go down as a splendid debut, but poor Ellie was expected to deliver some kind of world-changing opus, so received mixed reviews. But I love Lights. Starting off with the magnificent “Guns And Horses” (check out the fireworks at 2:47’s “I see your face in every star”!) and following through with the one-two punch (more like a one-four punch… or something… OK, I’m not a sports person at all so I probably shouldn’t use sports metaphors!) of “Starry Eyed,” “This Love (Will Be Your Downfall),” “Under The Sheets” and “The Writer,” Ellie’s breathless but distinctive voice and the glitchy but sparkling production meld together to make a sort of delicious alchemy. Bright Lights, indeed.


8. The House by Katie Melua: I’ll be honest, Katie Melua has never popped up on my radar. I mean, I know of her, but I’d never actually listened to her. That changed with The House, produced by William Orbit, whose work on Madonna’s Ray of Light is pretty much legendary. Turns out that Katie Melua has a lovely sound that marries perfectly with Orbit’s ambient, atmospheric style of production. “I’d Love To Kill You” gets things rolling with delicate touches of guitar and strings you should pop your headphones on for, then “The Flood” lets forth truly spellbinding stream-of-consciousness lyrics atop a mesmerizing, twisty-turny kind of amalgamation of strings and other cinematic instruments. The slinky “A Moment Of Madness,” the swooning “Red Balloons,” the folky “No Fear of Heights,” and the ’90s alt-pop of “Twisted” are highlights of an excellent album.


9. Ten by Gabriella Cilmi: The soul sound of her debut, Lessons To Be Learned, was fun for a couple of songs but really didn’t match Gabriella Cilmi’s vibrant energy. On Ten, Gabriella embraces pop and sounds all the better for it. Every single song on this album could be a single – they’re that solid. Her strong vocals are right at home on the disco-fied “Hearts Don’t Lie” and kicky “What If You Knew,” but she doesn’t just do dance floor ditties – “Love Me Cos You Want To” and “Defender” are more tender tunes that will get you swaying your hands in the air, even if you’re just sitting at your PC. “Superhot”‘s skyscraper vocals return to the disco, “Let Me Know” gets clap-happy, and then it all concludes with the (relatively) understated, really lovely “Superman.”


10. Dreamer by Soraya Arnelas: This is a fun album. “Dreamer” – fantastic, driven dance. “Ticking All The Boxes” – glorious pop cheese. “I Got You” – an Abba-esque confection. “You’ve Got The Music,” “Electric Girl,” “Twilight,” the whole album – it’s all good. And the inclusion of “Live Your Dreams,” a collabo with Antoine Clamaran, is the cherry on top of this treat. (The remixes tacked on to the end of the record, however, are pretty superfluous.)

Part 2 of my top albums of 2010 coming up soon. :)

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