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The Best Music of 2010 [Honorable Mentions]

We’ll move on to the countdown soon, but in the interest of completeness, let’s name some albums that just missed making the cut, but are no less worthy for having failed to grace the top 15.

The follow records have been recommended by one of the members of our esteemed panel. While these records didn’t earn Honorable Mention trophies, I trust the taste of our panel and I advise you to do the same. Got a hole in your musical soul? These albums may be able to mend it.

Adam Franklin and Bolts of Melody – I Could Sleep For a Thousand Years
The Budos Band – The Budos Band III
Caribou – Swim
Chiddy Bang – The Preview
Citay – Dream Get Together
Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles
The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Dean and Britta – 13 Most Beautiful…Songs from Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests
Drake – Thank Me Later
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Gayngs – Relayted
Gonjasufi – A Sufi and a Killer
MGMT – Congratulations
Miniature Tigers – FORTRESS
Minus the Bear – Omni
Neil Young – Le Noise
The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack
Stepdad – Ordinaire EP
Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
The Walkmen – Lisbon
Yeasayer – Odd Blood

Got all that? Awesome.

Before we get to the official honorable mentions, allow me a digression.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF MUMFORD & SONS vs. VAMPIRE WEEKEND

Indie music critics puzzle me sometimes. Vampire Weekend is praised to the heavens by the arbiters of taste at Pitchfork, while Mumford & Sons gets crucified as Nickelback with a banjo.

Admittedly, there’s something compelling in Vampire Weekend’s willingness to unashamedly run with the signifiers of privilege while plucking sounds from around the world, like musical imperialists importing tobacco from the Americas and opium from India. It’s a source of ironic incongruity that works well for them. (The band protests that they’re not THAT rich and privileged…as if the fact that lead singer Ezra Koenig needed a scholarship to attend Columbia with the others makes it any less obnoxious when they describe their style as “Upper West Side Soweto.”)

But when Mumford & Sons dare to appropriate styles from Irish folk music and harmonies from the American West, they’re dubbed poseurs.  This review of Sigh No More is nonsensically harsh, and reads like the reviewer decided to hate this record before he even heard it:

That band name derives from singer/guitarist Marcus Mumford, but the band members aren’t actually his sons. Rather, it’s a play at quaint family businesses run by real people in real small towns, trades passed down through generations: both independent (yes, as in indie) and commercial. It’s a shallow cry of authenticity, but this West London quartet really does sound more like a business than a band, supplying value-added products at discount prices.

Wait, they aren’t actually his sons?? Those inauthentic bastards! Consumer fraud!!

Here’s the same website’s take on Vampire Weekend’s record, Contra:

[T]hese contradictions, passions, and superficialities are what the band seems to be thinking about– and what Koenig has gotten sharper about writing into his lyrics. These lines don’t scan as being about privilege or money, but about people struggling with their social status, something that everyone– college-educated or not, rich or poor, people who hate Vampire Weekend and people who don’t– does at some point.

When Vampire Weekend dabbles in musical genres from other nations, they’re multicultural and awesome (“Vampire Weekend’s willingness to take cues from a variety of styles makes them thoughtful musicians, but it’s the styles they draw from that makes them contemporary”) but when Mumford & Sons draws from foreign folk and country-rock styles, it’s proof that they suck (“Mumford & Sons take an emporium approach, with an inventory that’s broad but never deep. By spreading their attention around so many different trends, they aim to do many things adequately– perhaps to distract you from an inability to do any one thing especially well”).

Hyper-focus on a band’s authenticity is a complete waste of time. Music is entertainment; by its very nature most of it is inauthentic in the strictest sense, a hybrid of styles that arose organically elsewhere, and its better qualities often come across in an ineffable way that only the best critics can put into words. (I certainly fail at this most of the time, which is why I try to post the music itself whenever I can.) Maybe the vitriol is inspired by the fact that Mumford & Sons are hugely successful in England, that their themes and appeal are broad and non-ironic, that indie music blogs didn’t play a role in making them stars.

I thought the Mumford & Sons record was OK, certainly not horrid; and while Contra wasn’t really for me, I certainly recognize its quality. Maybe this comparison is apples-to-oranges, I don’t know. I just find it ridiculous that Ezra Koenig gets knighted by the thanes of indie rock for questioning our love of organic toothpaste while Marcus Mumford is a fraud for singing of “romantic martyrdom.” Because hey, everyone thinks about their social status at some point, but God forbid a band wallow in “self-aggrandizing drama” because nobody can identify with that.

Music criticism — you’re doing it wrong.

Okay, sorry about that. Let’s move on.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

These albums could be considered #16-#25 in our countdown, but should be taken in no particular order. These high quality records were given a strong seal of approval by multiple members of our panel and I highly encourage you to acquire them.

I’ve chosen a choice track from each record for your enjoyment.

Sleigh Bells – Treats

Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP

Beach House – Teen Dream

Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love

Robyn – Body Talk EPs

Das Racist – Shut Up, Dude / Sit Down, Man EPs

Titus Andronicus – Monitor

Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Best Coast – Crazy for You

NEXT POST: Albums #15- #11 in our countdown.

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

One Response to The Best Music of 2010 [Honorable Mentions]

  1. Secret M says:

    Shoutout to the peeps who directed the awesome video above … you know the one … oh and Mumford and Sons does just simply suck.

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