10. “This is Happening” LCD Soundsystem
LCD continues to make electronic music with heart, and they let their Talking Heads influences bubble to the surface on quirky cuts like “One Touch” and “Pow Pow” (a definite plus.) “Drunk Girls” was both my favorite pop single and video of the year.
9. “The Lady Killer” Cee-Lo Green
That said, I took an informal poll of my friends who nearly unanimously went with “F— You,” the lead single from Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley vet Cee-Lo Green’s third solo album. That cut is an ridiculously awesome, for sure. But don’t overlook that breathtaking remake of Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You”?
8. “Treats” Sleigh Bells
Derek Miller and Alexis Krauss are the hippest boy-girl duo since the White Stripes. And on my favorite debut of 2010 they score big by pairing red-hot guitars with block rockin’ breaks. And I can’t get enough of “Rill Rill,” that cut with the Funkadelic sample.
7. “Halcyon Digest” Deerhunter
These guys were such rowdy goofballs when they opened for Spoon last spring that I almost forgot how lush and dreamy their music could be. This is some serious headphone music here.
And speaking of Spoon …
6. “Transference” Spoon
These guys went for a grittier sound with album No. 7. But even with less polish Britt Daniel’s wry humor and hooky songwriting shine through. “Trouble Come Running” will get hopelessly stuck in your head, and “Got Nuffin’” will pump you up on days when you need a little extra inspiration.
5. “Sir Lusious Left Foot … The Son of Chico Dusty” Big Boi
“Let’s be clear, I’m a leader not your peer, valedictorian of this rap s— every year,” the cockier half of Outkast boasts on his first official solo album. Believe the hype. This album is funkier than George Clinton’s gym socks. (Now if we can just get Andre 3000 back in the game.)
4. “Heligoland” Massive Attack
Like their Bristol peers Portishead, trip-hop pioneers Grand Marshall and Robert Del Naja update their sound compellingly with the help of a cast that includes Martina Topley-Bird, Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and, of course, unofficial band member Horace Andy.
3. “IRM” Charlotte Gainsbourg
The French auteur got back to music after an emotionally draining stretch the included a near-fatal jet ski accident and channeling her dark side in Yvan Attall’s relentlessly sadistic “Antichrist.” She enlisted Beck – a guy stylistically indebted to her daddy, Serge Gainsbourg – to write the bulk of the music for album No. 3. The results are edgy and eclectic, from manic club vibe of “Greenwich Meantime” to the lilting faux T. Rex of “Dandelion.” The high point, though, is their dramatic remake of Jean Pierre-Ferland’s “Le Chat Du Café Des Artistes,” with foreboding strings arranged by the Beckster’s pop, David Campbell.
And here’s the part I really struggled with. I switched these a dozen times, but here’s how they fall today.
2. “The Suburbs” Arcade Fire
The Arcade Fire’s third album draws imagery from brothers Win and William Butler’s suburban Houston upbringing to make a more universal statement about life in an increasingly impermanent society. And from the nostalgic title track that opens to the buoyant, Régine Chassagne-led “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” this feels like an instant classic. I had it at No. 1 until just recently, when I thought about how often I skip momentum killers “Half Light II” and “Deep Blue.”
1. “Plastic Beach” Gorillaz
Damon Albarn’s rotating collective has crafted some of the most brilliant pop of the decade under the guise of “virtual hip-hop band.” For its third incarnation, Albarn tapped such disparate talents of Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed for a sci-fi concept record about consumerism run amok. But don’t expect preachy polemics, just De la Soul spitting goofy lyrics about Mc Jelly Fish. And pirates show up at some point (I think.) From the trippy robo-funk of “Stylo” to the shimmery cascade of “Empire Ants,” our dystopian future never sounded so fun.