Why 2010 Is Already A Great Year For Music

Despite my favorite ten albums of 2009, listed in last week’s issue of The University Register [ed. – I am touching up a top fifty list of 2009 for this website, and am therefore withholding my previously published list], all being a respectable bunch, I still speak of 2009 as a dreadfully weak point for music. In fact, the Grammys, which aired a few hours ago [ed. – This article was written early morning of February first], seemed to verify that theory. Why, no, the Grammys obviously didn’t display the true treasures of 2009, but even by Grammy standards, the fray of big winners (Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Lady GaGa, and on and on) paled in relation to the winners of past years. As I say, 2009 was the worst year for music since 1996, a year that aficionados remember for Beck, DJ Shadow, and (really, now?) The Fugees.

While my disappointment in the surprise chart-topper Contra might indicate otherwise, 2010 is already on track to be perhaps a year for music that ranks among other great years like 1967, 1977, 1984, 1997, and 2000. I elected to write about Vampire Weekend’s Contra because I figured that missing out on reviewing an album by a bunch of indie chart-toppers who, you know, went to college recently might be something my readership would be more interested in. As of the time of this writing, I have fourteen other albums that were released in January, and while I expect zero of these albums to make my year-end top ten thanks to competition from the albums discussed in the following article, I believe January of 2010 to be a greater month for music than any of the twelve that preceded it.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself fascinated with Kanye West, who, and I can’t imagine why, was absent from tonight’s Grammys ceremony. On his new live album, VH1 Storytellers, Kanye West centers his performance on his two recent albums, mostly snubbing his magnum opuses, The College Dropout and Late Registration, with the latter making an appearance for one song. VH1 Storytellers seems to justify Kanye’s autotuned shenanigans of 808’s And Heartbreak by turning them from R&B songs into kickass rockers, and he’s made me appreciate 2007’s Graduation a lot more with this live set. His arrogance is a joke, people, and I find it fucking funny. “I have one regret in life, and that is that I will never see myself performing”. He’s a cockbag. We know that. Haven’t you come to expect that in a rockstar?

OK Go (those dudes on the treadmills, remember?) and Acolyte (some new British indie band) submitted ho-hum albums in the same week, and Vampire Weekend did something admirable by pushing indie further into the public eye, but Owen Pallet, who constructed string arrangements on last year’s The Life Of The World To Come by The Mountain Goats and, more importantly, Arcade Fire’s Funeral, unleashed the first album that critics or fans paid any mind to. If you can recall the strings on Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies)”, these songs are all filled with music equally as divine. Owen Pallet’s Heartland is a true triumph, and while I’m sure it will bring Win Butler and John Darnielle to again ask for his assistance, perhaps Owen is now too important to accept gigs as a mere studio musician.

Next week, Eels and RJD2 released unrelentingly boring albums while Surfer Blood continued last year’s reoccurring them of lo-fi beach rock and, I dare say, perfected it in the process with their debut Astro Coast. Meanwhile, local darlings Motion City Soundtrack released an album that echoed the warm guitar stylings of Old 97’s, Rilo Kiley, and regional ancestors The Replacements. While their incredible Metacritic score of 89 would indicate a monumental album from the band, don’t expect My Dinosaur Life to become a straight outta Twin Cities triumph like The Replacements’ Let It Be. While Metacritic’s score of 89 indicates that My Dinosaur Life is as critically acclaimed as Merriweather Post Pavilion (the highest Mestacritic scorer last year), the band is still simply a niche-filling band for budding teenage tastes, providing top-of-the-line material in a bottom-of-the barrel genre. Spoon also released another album, and (surprise!) it was really very great. However, the greatness of each Spoon album is so expected at this point that I would almost prefer for them to finally drop the inevitable dud. While Spoon’s Transference is a solid album that I enjoy a little more each listen, it fails to contribute an anthem like “The Underdog”, and its construction isn’t as nice as that of Kill The Moonlight. Sometimes, greatness can leave us underwhelmed.

Four Tet added another mood-evoking album to their discography with There Is Love In You while the eccentrically British lo-fi freaks Los Campesinos! satisfied my usual punk rock cravings with Romance Is Boring, but despite these quality albums being released along with The Magnetic Fields’ delightful folk outing Realism, last week was won by Beach House’s Teen Dream. Teen Dream is the first album of the year that put a gun in Pitchfork’s pocket, and the rest of the critical world followed, and I approve of that. Beach House’s Teen Dream is exactly what its title evokes, and I can imagine a younger me falling asleep to it and feeling that the issues in my life were trivial.

Finally, there’s The Knife’s opera (yes, opera). Tomorrow, In A Year is The Kinfe’s first album since 2006’s Silent Shout, and with member Fever Ray coming off of her acclaimed solo debut of last year, they put together a weird and long album of opera. The music is so interesting, and the prima donna’s singing, while incomprehensible to me, is fitting. The Knife keep finding ways to weird me out, and I like their audacity about as much as their new album, which I’m still not sure about.

Have a happy February, everyone. I hope you love it as much as I loved January.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 5:03 AM  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. The last articles are awesome. Also, looking forward to your revised format, etc.

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