Every day this week, Impact 89FM will post a list of favorite albums from a different member of our music staff. Today’s list is from Elise Yoon. Elise hosts the Asian Invasion on Mondays from 8-10pm, has interviewed artists like Hot Chip and Julian Casablancas, and is currently the video director at WDBM.
The Gorillaz, The Apples In Stereo, and Kanye West all put out albums this past year with real narratives, the kind of album you listen to nonstop for weeks. My favorite kind of album is one that you can get lost in, and 2010 was a good year for these albums. While these stories are all distinct, they each took over my music listening in the same way, overshadowing other albums without such strong narratives.
1. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Virgin)
I’ve always been a fan of Gorillaz hits like “Clint Eastwood” (all the way from 2001, already!), “19-2000” or “Feel Good, Inc.”, but I’ve never gotten into the deeper cuts from their albums. It wasn’t until my brother got really into this album and played some songs for me that I became interested. This album is such a departure from previous releases, while at the same time keeping in line with the classic Gorillaz narrative and spacey, electronic sound. Plastic Beach is full of unexpected but great collaborations with a wide range of artists from Mos Def to Lou Reed to Bobby Womack to Snoop Dogg to Little Dragon to the National Orchestra for Arabic Music.
The first track transports you to another world, and in the following track, Snoop Dogg confirms this: “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”. “Superfast Jellyfish” is probably my most-listened to song of the year. It’s not only catchy musically, but is a clever commentary without being preachy or annoying. Last spring I became so immersed in this album that I would listen to nothing else for a month straight. I definitely recommend this album, regardless of your musical leanings, it manages to integrate a wide variety of genres while remaining cohesive.
2. The Apples In Stereo – Travellers In Space And Time (Yep Roc)
When the first single “Dance Floor” came out, I knew this would be another great album from Robert Schneider and the rest of the Apples In Stereo. You don’t even need to hear the album to know it has a futuristic theme, but once you do, you’re transported to another time. The narrative mixes songs about love and the future without being cheesy, which is quite the accomplishment. Sprinkled throughout the album are spoken segments, acting as a sort of tour guide. Part of the reason why I love this album is because Schneider has created a sunny and happy future complete with electronic bleeps and bloops.
Last April the Impact presented the Apples In Stereos live at the Pike Room in Pontiac. I was excited for this not only because the Apples are a core artist at the Impact, but because the tour was in support of my then-new favorite album Travellers In Space And Time. The whole band came on dressed in silver spacesuits complete with glowing lights and space goggles. Robert Schneider seems to really live in the future; on stage he asked what year they had traveled to and he told us how while on tour, he and his son say “See you in the future future future future!”
You can see videos from the concert at our YouTube channel! http://www.youtube.com/impact89fm
3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella)
As much as I am often annoyed by Kanye West’s personality, I cannot deny that he is an incredible artist and producer. I don’t think we could have accepted anything less than such a grand album after so many hits, awards, and so much trash-talking. This album’s narrative is a dark one, with Kanye and his me-against-the-world attitude, yet somehow all the featured artists fit in. Everyone from Elton John to Rihanna to Bon Iver to Jay-Z to Kid Cudi. Nicki Minaj is incredible on this album, especially on “Monster” Despite its vulgar lyrics I can’t stop singing it, and it’s probably one of the best songs I’ve heard all year.
4. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (Drag City)
I was really excited for this album since Joanna Newsom hadn’t put anything out since the five song Ys in 2006. Newsom’s music has a timeless, fairytale feel to it; you can easily get lost in a sixteen-minute song, so I was thrilled when I opened the case and saw two discs. This album has a classic Newsom sound that makes you feel like you’re in some sort of medieval dream world.
5. Vampire Weekend – Contra (XL)
I kept forgetting this album came out in 2010 because it came out in January and we were already listening to “Horchata” in December. Regardless of their pretentious attitude and lyrics, Vampire Weekend makes undeniably good music. This is another great pop record that doesn’t require anything from the listener, but at the same time, if you do listen, you’ll find something new each time you hear the songs. The song “Horchata” actually inspired me to try the drink, which is actually quite delicious.
6. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA)
I love James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem. This Is Happening had been long anticipated and I was skeptical that it would even be released, as the album didn’t have a title for the longest time. This may have been a clever way to prevent the album from leaking, but it may also be in response to just the sort of skepticism I myself had about the album. The latest release from LCD Soundystem proves they haven’t lost their ability to make the quality disco-punk we’ve come to expect. The opener “Dance Yrself Clean” is just under nine minutes, and my favorite track on the album. “Drunk Girls” is simple but undeniably good, who ever thought the phrase “drunk girls” could be so catchy?
7. 2NE1 – To Anyone (YG Entertainment)
2NE1 is my favorite South Korean pop group; they’re some of the few Korean popstars who have real raw talent, rather than being a product of labels and management companies. To Anyone is 2NE1’s first full length album, full of great dance hits like “I’m Busy”, “Can’t Nobody”, and “Clap Your Hands”. Rather than the typical bubblegum pop of the current K-Pop scene, 2NE1 delivers their signature brand of funky electronic hip-hop, with attitude.
To hear from 2NE1 and other Asian artists, you can listen to my show, The Asian Invasion, Mondays 8-10 PM!
8. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Mom + Pop)
From the first chord of Treats, you know this is going to be a powerful album. Sleigh Bells is a duo out of Brooklyn, and when you find out that guitarist Derek Miller used to play for Poison the Well, the crunchy distorted sound makes sense. Not everyone will like this kind of music, but I love the contrast between the full guitar and sweet, simple female vocals. Treats is a great album to turn up loud in the car.
9. She & Him – Volume Two (Merge)
I love both Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, and they make a great pair. Deschanel and Ward’s music separately have an antique, nostalgic quality about their sound, and Volume Two delivers the sunny pop that you expect from She & Him.
10. The Black Keys – Brothers (Nonesuch)
The Black Keys have once again created an incredible rock record. While the tracks sound very similar, they aren’t unoriginal and fit together cohesively. The production is precise, carefully crafted by Danger Mouse, and the songs have come to appeal to everyone, boosting the Black Keys from the indie music scene to car commercials, retail stores, and mainstream culture.