Friday, December 24, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2010 (Odds & Ends)

So I've already reflected on my favorite proper albums in this post (which you could also just scroll down to see), but here I'm giving some love to some neat-o 2010 albums that aren't quite "normal" albums--i.e. EPs, mixtapes, compilations, reissues, improvised music albums, and, well, "other." These are albums (around forty in total) that I've loved and listened to throughout 2010 and that deserve recognition. I've listed them in clusters based on the aforementioned categories, and the albums are organized alphabetically within each cluster, which is to say they're not ranked according to favorite. That said, I have bolded my #1 favorite of each bunch and italicized my second favorite. First and second favorite are obviously subject to change, but I feel pretty good about my bolds and italics, so... whatever. Anyways, enjoy (after the jump, obviously).

The line between EP and LP is a thin one; often I find EPs longer than some LPs or LPs shorter than some EPs. I'm a little unclear as to what truly defines what an EP or LP is. I think it must be up to the artist, and, in the case of each EP listed below, the respective artist decided to call their release an EP. Which is why they're on this list. What each release below does share in common is some form of brevity and another form of total awesomeness. The EPs, nearly all of which are from emerging artists, showcase the music of the present and future, as many of these bands are yet to release full-lengths and then subsequently blow up. Witch House, H-pop, post-Dubstep or something, etc. are among the EPs' most present subjects--but then there's always Dirty Projectors & Bjork to mess up anything resembling a generalization that I could hope to make. And, yes, James Blake is in fact very, very good.

Balam Acab--See Birds
Dirty Projectors + Bjork--Mount Wittenberg Orca
Games--That We Can Play
James Blake--The Bells Sketch
James Blake--CMYK
James Blake--Klavierwerke
Sun Araw--Off Duty
Sun Araw--Boat Trip
Zola Jesus--Stridulum

Mixtapes are also a tricky category in that there are so many released in a given year and, although the majority suck, so many are worthwhile listens that it's near impossible to keep up. So I have to rely on the blogs and sites I check to sift through the rubble. These are the ones I downloaded that I like most. They range from screwball hip-hop (the genre most heavily associated with the mixtape) to futuristic electronica to, well, psychedelic pop. (I'll go out on a limb here and much of the stuff on the Bedroom Databank releases is better than anything on Halcyon Digest. Just sayin'...)

Atlas Sound--Bedroom Databank, Vol. 1-4
Das Racist--Shut Up, Dude
DZA--Five-Finger Discount
Lil B--MF Based (plus the countless other mixtapes he put out...)
Wiz Khalifa--Kush & Orange Juice

Everyone likes a good compilation. The ones below, in my mind, are all good compilations. So transitive property says everyone will like all of these albums. Right? Whatever... Anyhow, some of these are collections of a certain artist's songs from a certain period or something like that while others are albums comprised of tracks from various artists. Of those, some celebrate labels, others musical movements, and then one massive and brilliant one celebrates the life and work of a brilliant man. So, enjoy.

DJ Nate--Da Trak Genious
Method Actors--This Is Still It
OFF!--First Four EPs
Omar Souleyman--Jazeera Nights
Various--Cold Waves and Minimal Electronics, Vol. 1
Various--Fly Russia
Various--Honest Strings: A Tribute To The Life and Work of Jack Rose
Various--Ninja Tune XX
Various--Something Is Wrong: Vintage Recordings From East Africa
Various--The Wire Tapper 23 & 24

I'll note that I'm only including albums that I had not owned prior to their 2010 reissue. While albums I love, like Raw Power and Pinkerton, were indeed reissued in 2010, because I already owned and cherished them, they do not count. But these albums were new to me. And now I own and cherish each one, so that's nice. They cover plenty of ground, from punk to French pop to house/techno, etc. You get the point. Just listen to them already. Jeez.

Crass--The Feeding Of The 5000
Drexciya--Neptune's Lair
Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg--Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg
Lou Reed--Metal Machine Music
Robert Wyatt--Shleep

So I like experimental music. Some vaguely experimental stuff certainly made it onto my official, actual Albums of 2010 list. But there's some experimental music, primarily that of the improvised nature--i.e. free jazz, noise, free-form electronic, etc.--that, while I like listening to it and appreciate it, I don't really comprehend it I don't think. I don't feel as though I can really rank these albums next to ones by Titus Andronicus or Caribou because my knowledge of this kind of music is limited. I can't necessarily discern what is the best improvised music; all I can do is say to myself, "this sounds nice." And that's okay. I think it's fine to listen to music because it's interesting and sounds nice, but I don't think it's fair for me to include these albums on my normal albums list. As far as the specific albums below are concerned, obviously they are all very unique. Each approaches improvised music differently (although the Laubrock and Vandermark ones are kindred spirits in a way) to a different effect. Alls I know is: they all are wonderfully cool to listen to.

Ambarchi/O'Rourke/Hano--Tima Formosa
Ingrid Laubrock--Anti-House
Bill Orcutt--Way Down South
Vandermark 5--Annular Gift

Not much to say here. These three albums don't really fit in anywhere else, but I like them, and they all came out in 2010. One is a remix album of one of my favorite 2010 regular albums, one is a bizarre Japanese tribute to one of the 20th century's greatest songwriters, and one is a live album by a guitar legend.

Gonjasufi--The Caliph's Tea Party
Jim O'Rourke--All Kinds of People ~ Love Burt Bacharach
Richard Thompson--Dream Attic

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