my year in music

**Disclaimer: This is not a list of my favorite albums that came out in 2010. In fact, many of these albums did not come out in 2010. They did, however, enter my music library and my world this year. This was a year of old jobs, new jobs, old graduate programs, new homes; good decisions that turned out to be good decisions, good decisions that turned out to be bad decisions; more stability in some areas and more up-in-the-air-ness in others. These are the most listened to and most memory/nostalgia-inducing albums of my 2010, in no particular order.

Passion Pit, Manners
This year’s record of absurdly catchy electropop hooks has cemented its place as great road-trip-to-the-Cabin and pump-things-up-after-dinner music. Stupid, stupid, stupid catchy. Also love backup vocals from PS 22.

The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
This one came out in 2010! I’m so hip and with it! This album doesn’t have the epic choruses that originally got me hooked on The Arcade Fire, but the more I listen to it, the more solid I realize it is.

The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart
Hey, this album came out in 2010 too! I have a lot to say about this album. It began when I went to visit an old lovey in Seattle this summer for a long weekend. It was a trip full of transit, fun, and girl-power adventure, but the highlight was the record-release show for The Head and the Heart at Conor Byrne in Ballard. I was floored by the three-part vocal harmonies, catchy melodies, and all-around stellar songwriting. Lyrics like “My roots are grown, but I don’t know where they are” just speak. Since that night in Ballard, I have sung along to every song on this album at the top of my lungs at least a dozen times. I haven’t liked a band as much as I like this band in a long, long time.
This album is also associated with a really strong, independent, assertive time in my year. The Seattle trip and finding this band was something I did on my own, just for me; I needed that time, and I realized I needed it, and I took it, and I was better for me and everyone else after it. When I think about it, so much of my music collection is linked to one dude or another, whether he introduced me to them or we saw them live together or we made out while listening to them or whatever. (What can I say, over the past few years I have exclusively dated dudes with excellent taste in music. It’s not what you’re like, it’s what you like, right?) But this is one of the few bands I feel like I found on my own and recognized the value of on my own. They are a damn good find, and if these new songs are any indication, their sophomore album is going to be even better: “Been talking ’bout the way things change / my family lives in a different state / and if you don’t know what to make of it / then we will not relate.” Tell me.

Freelance Whales, Weathervanes
Steph introduced me to this album shortly after we moved into our new house. I will always associate it with our first experimentations with the KitchenAid. Pretty, catchy, cheesy at times, a bit of a guilty pleasure, oh-so-very indie.

The xx, Xx
The xx opened for Hot Chip when John and I saw them at the Fox this year. I love how simple the instrumentation and vocals are, and I love Romy’s sexy voice. Great example of less being more.

Geographer, Animal Shapes
This is a legitimate 2010 album! I had heard of Geographer but never really got hooked until I heard “Kites.” Then it turned out there were weird connections with them, like my friend from school being roommates with the singer/songwriter. It’s a small city. These songs all make me bop and invent harmony parts, signs of good stuff.

Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More
This is another 2010 (in the US) album! I listened to these guys almost exclusively during my last few months at 41 Octavia. Foot-stomping goodness.

Feist, The Reminder
I know I’m really behind the times on this one, but belting out “What made you think this boy could become / the man who would make you sure he was the oooooooooooooooone, my oooooooooooone?” got me through quite a few nights this year.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Up from Below
Tableau: The scene shop at West Valley College, safety goggles on, router in hand, crew from The Easily Distracted Theatre alongside, finishing the set for Foresight, Up from Below playing on the stereo. And the longer I’m away from my given home, and the more I wonder what “home” means, the more I realize it is wherever I’m with you. Hippies.

Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
I’m only good to listen to this in its entirety about once every two weeks, but it’s complex and ugly and pretty and bizarre. My favorite elements are the metallic-chains effect in “Age of Adz” that sounds like Sonic when you rev him up and, of course, the use of Auto-Tune in “Impossible Soul.”

BONUS: Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas
I only bought this box set this year, but I’ve been listening to it non-stop while baking and decorating and traveling and such. The arrangements of classic hymns inspire me for my own experiments in playing Jesus music, and some of the originals (“That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!” and “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas? (Well, You Deserved It!)”, in particular), are legitimately great songs, Christmas or not. Also “The Friendly Beasts” is my second favorite Christmas song ever (second to David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”), so bonus points for a great version of that.

Happy 2011!!


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