2010 seemed like a good year for music. It had plenty of new artists and a few long-awaited returns. But I feel like my year-end list isn’t as strong as it could have been for a few reasons. This year I spent a lot of time digging through my collection and re-listening to older albums. Also, the number of albums I’ve bought this year is probably smaller since a few local music stores shut down. So I haven’t had chance to hear some albums, like Jneiro Jarel’s Fauna, Nottz’s You Need This Music or Laetitia Sadier’s Trip. But I still managed to pick up some highlights. They are…
- 10. Das Racist – Sit Down, ManAt first, I couldn’t take Das Racist seriously. I still don’t take them too seriously. That’s part of the fun. Yes, they could be considered “joke-rap”. But this is joke-rap done well. A few great guest features helps. At a time where I’m overwhelmed by free hip-hop mixtape downloads, this one was very refreshing. They also won me over pretty easily with the Dwight Schrute reference.
- 9. Squarepusher – Shobaleader One: d’DemonstratorAs soon as this album was announced, it was released. I didn’t have much time to anticipate it. Suddenly Jenkinson has a band wearing Daft Punk-style helmets and releasing music on Ed Banger. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the album is oddly addictive. I could play “Abstract Lover” on repeat for hours. It will be interesting to see what he follows this up with.
- 8. Project Dolphin – SilvergunA few months ago I noticed some amazing music being played in the background of a Street Fighter combo video. It was like jazz-fusion pulled from a racing game circa 1996. Thankfully, the Youtuber gave credit. I immediately bought their EP, inspired by Japanese jazz-fusion and video game soundtracks. Their covers are great, but their own compositions show even more potential.
- 7. Four Tet – There Is Love In YouThis album was released very early in the year but it managed to stick with me throughout. “Focused” is the word that comes to mind when I listen to this. No filler. No gimmicks. Just great Four Tet tracks. It’s too solid not to make my top 10.
- 6. The Roots – How I Got Over / Dilla Joints / Late Night With The Roots / LNJF SandwichesIt’s another great Roots album. Not very surprising. I don’t have much else to say about How I Got Over, but I will say that I appreciate all the free music The Roots put out this year. Dilla Joints was so good that I would have paid money for it if I had to. But no! It was free! The Roots covering Dilla beats. What could be better? Well…
- 5. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark FantasyI wasn’t going to buy this album. My girlfriend gave it to me as a gift. I wanted to avoid all the hype, drama, hilarious Illuminati rumors, etc. After listening to it, it’s hard to ignore. For all the hate Kanye gets, I think he really puts a lot of heart and effort into his music. No matter how arrogant he seems, on this album he comes off as imperfect and fragile. He knows he’s a jerk. That’s why I like this album.
- 4. Dimlite – Prismic TopsI discovered Dimlite through Prefuse 73 years ago, downloading a few tracks but never seriously digging into his catalog. I’m glad Now-Again released Prismic Tops so I could give him a second chance. Now that I have, I hold him at about the same level as Flying Lotus in terms of beatmakers, and that’s saying a lot. The album is amazing. Hopefully he’ll put out a new full album soon. I also heavily recommend Runbox Weathers and This Is Embracing.
- 3. Shigeto – Full Circle / What We Hold On To / Semi CircleI first heard Shigeto on one of ISO50’s free MP3 EPs. His remix of Astrud Gilberto’s “Berimbau” was amazing. His Semi-Circle EP was amazing. His (free!) What We Hold On To EP was amazing. His album Full Circle is really amazing. Even his proposal to his wife was cool. All of that adds up to Shigeto being one of my favorite artists this year.
- 2. Miguel-Atwood Ferguson – Timeless: Suite For Ma DukesLast year’s Suite For Ma Dukes EP was beautiful, but it’s length only made me want more. Mochilla fixed that by releasing the Timeless box set and including MP3 downloads of each concert. Arthur Verocai and Mulatu Asatke’s performances were fantastic, but Miguel-Atwood Ferguson’s was the highlight. It’s amazing how well he translated Dilla’s beats into emotional orchestral compositions. The follow-up live performances with the likes of Flying Lotus and Bilal are also very impressive.
- 1. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma Do I really have to explain this one? I had been waiting to hear this album since I heard Los Angeles. This album has set the bar very high for the current electronic beat scene and Flying Lotus is probably the only person who can top it. Like my top album last year (Shafiq Husayn’s Shafiq En’ A Free Ka) Cosmogramma is a collaborative effort between FlyLo and several other great aritists, including Miguel-Atwood Ferguson, Thundercat, Dorian Concept, Laura Darlington… Even Radiohead’s Thom Yorke showed up for the party. It’s all brain-meltingly good. I’ll be listening to this album for a long time… At least until his next album.
Bilal – Airtight’s Revenge
Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Black Milk – Album of The Year
Bonobo – Black Sands
Caribou – Swim
Dela – The Robert Glasper Beat Tape
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
Esperanza Spalding – Chamber Music Society
Gonjasufi – A Sufi & A Killer
Madlib – Madlib Medicine Show