Top 10 Albums of 2010  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

It is the best of tropes, it is the worst of tropes. It is time for the Top 10 of 2010 Lists. I love the top 10 lists, for informing me of what I missed this year and how I can rectify that in the future. I also love them for pumping out a firehouse of teaser tracks. Don't get it twisted, I did pay for some of the full albums on this list, but to be honest, I heard most of these albums for free by piecing the various available tracks. Of course, in the case of Nosaj Thing, for example, hearing five or six songs was enough to have me hooked, and by the time my iTunes play count hit 10 Guido's "The Way You Make Me Feel" single it was time to go cover to cover. So yes, I bought more music than I would have due to the presence of their free mp3s online.

The "Top X" List can definitely be faulted in a number of ways. They are arbitrary for one, and so subjective as to be almost meaningless in terms of credibility or plausibility for others. As the phrase goes, "your mileage may vary". Further, some of the lists strain credulity. Top 65 Shoe-Gaze Albums of 2009. The 47 Best Witch House Tracks Not Produced By The Guy From Salem. Top 10 Worst Album Covers of the Year. Guess which one of those was real... answer here.

List makers also strain credulity in other ways, namely, how they digested the amount of music they claim to have not only listened to, but liked, nay, loved, in a given time period. While I may have a full-time job, that isn't in the music business, and furthermore isn't online, I still work pretty hard at hearing a lot of music. But I had a hard time picking out ten Full Albums that I enjoyed this year. (One sad thing that happened was that I got really into Mayer Hawthorne this year, but it came out in '09.) You'd like to say that you are highly familiar with each track on your top X list, and that you enjoy close to all of them. But it's just not the case. I trust that the full-time reviewers, who are given/comped new albums on the regular and have a lot of time and energy to devote to music can put together a moderately truthful list, even if it includes a lot of preening, signaling, and jockeying for position in the intangible (hipness) and highly tangible (Technorati).

They (the Lists) are massively useful, however, for finding other blobbers whose tastes match approximately to mine, or close to the blobs that I follow, and so on. Last year I got into dubstep, jj (youtube video), and Freddie Gibbs (see below) as a direct result of the '09 List Season. This year, who knows?

2010 also saw me busting out Audacity and mixing up some medicine. (See my femmes fatale mix for more:

Femmes fatale by Bret Sikkink

In honor of my new hobby, I've put together a mini-mix featuring songs from each of my 2010-List artists. These songs are not necessarily from the album in question, but are in some sense representative of what I like about the artist. Available for your streaming pleasure following entry #10.

Graphic credit: Sam Churchill (Flickr)

Without further ado.

1. My favorite album of the year, as ranked both by my spidey sense and by iTunes count, was by Bristol producer Guido, on the Punch Drunk label.
Anidea is chock-a-block with deeply soulful beat-making English-style, and for that sheer suck-it-down listenability, it gets the nod. Sampler from Guido is an instrumental version of "The Way You Make Me Feel" from his FACT Magazine mix (the polished version with help from a singer called "Yolanda" is on the full album). Follow that link for more Guido fire from FACT mix 108.

I also wrote about Guido and his
partners in purple here.

2. I bought Nosaj Thing's
Drift at the same time as Guido's album, and I initially ignored it in a shameful fashion as I went for the easy hooks on Anidea. Jason Chung's compositions creeped into my brain, though, and really took hold. In fact, my prediction is that Drift will hold up much better than most of the Purple Sound producers, and will sound as good as its release many years hence. Also of note is the remix album of Drift on Brainfeeder, which offers a different take on some of these tunes. Check out "Coat of Arms" from the album here:

Notable L.A. artists of this year: Flying Lotus with
Cosmogramma, Alpha Pup Records' Take, Alex B, Lorn, and Shlomo, as well as Daedelus, The Gaslamp Killer, and Teebs, whose full-length Ardour I am just dipping into. Long live the Low End Theory scene.

3. Besides electronic "dance" music, I continued to enjoy a broad cross-section of hip-hop this year. My favorite album of the year in hip-hop was undoubtedly Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty. For such an unbelievably dumb title, SLLF:SoCD produced some true bangers, and showed a lot of people that Andre 3K wasn't the only widely-eclectic visionary in Outkast. The crazy thing is, Antwon Patton had to leave some choice cuts with Andre Benjamin on the cutting room floor due to inter-label beef. Lame - Obama extended Bush's tax cuts and Jive can't loan Dre's voice to General Patton for two jams? Listen up for "The Train Part 2" and hit this link for the video to "Shutterbug".

4. A close runner-up this year, coming from a total underdog, was technically a mixtape (see #5 as well). Big K.R.I.T. produced, mixed, and rhymed on
K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, sampling over 1,000,000 different songs in the process. Okay, you caught me... seriously, this shit was free, so what are you waiting for. I've mixed up the "Hometown Hero" remix featuring Alabama's Yelawolf. Download "K.R.I.T. Wuz Here" at

5. Freddie Gibbs took my listening habits by storm this year. I didn't download
Midwestgangsterboxframecadillacmuzik until I couldn't shake that "Boxframe Cadillac" beat. Although Str8 Killa, No Filla is technically a mixtape, and is not quite an accurate descriptor (c'mon, all hip hop albums have some filler...), it still makes my year-end list. The Malcolm of the Midwest brings a low-tone but highly nimble flow and a serious, muck-raking, and even earnest attitude to his experiences. Big shout to "Slammin'". Str8 Killa No Fillaavailable here Also worth checking out: The Smoking Section's article about mixtapes that could have/should have been proper releases this year.

More hip-hop news: Shabazz Palaces was ridiculous, G-Side and the Block Beattaz crew did some big things, The Kid Daytona's The Interlude mixtape, The Roots are back with How I Got Over, plus see some notes below.

6. Rusko is one of the producers on the new Britney Spears record. Better you hear it sooner than later. Also, you may want to google "brostep". Dubstep took a beating this year, critically speaking, but it's okay to love the wobble as far as I'm concerned.

With that out of the way, Rusko's O.M.G.! bumps deeply. Like Bristol's Gemmy, he brings a deep reggae and dancehall sensibility to his dubstep and electronic dance music. I feel like he makes a lot of missteps, but for every clunker is a seriously awesome beat. My O.M.G.! highlight is "Jahova", but I "Woo Boost" on the mix.

Other reggae-tinged affairs I liked this year included Nas and Damian Marley's Distant Relatives album, Earlyworm, Rod Azlan singles, Earl 16, OSC, and Jah Cure, as well as the dubstep-meets-Sun Ra group Digital Mystikz featuring occasionally solo artist Mala.

7. Not sure how many people can honestly trace their musical roots back this precisely, but used to have a ridiculously detailed breakdown of musical genres (as they were understood at the time). Occasionally, and seemingly at random to my 8th grade mind, there was a free sample mp3 of a song that was considered representative of a genre (since most of the other songs I remember downloading were from jam bands, I'm going to push that back to 10th grade). This is how I discovered David Byrne, Yesterday's New Quintet (the Madlib jazz project), and Four Tet. I got to know Kieran Hebdan's work quite a bit more after checking out some CDs from the local library, and I've studiously followed his Four Tet output since (Rounds is my favorite - who's with me?). Also, XLR8R magazine recently front-covered Kieran for a great article.

Listen to the "Much Love to the Plastic People" DJ mix from Four Tet:
Much Love To The Plastic People (DJ mix December 2009) by Four Tet

Notable easy-listening electronica: Bonobo Black Sands was amazing, and if it weren't for my long history with Four Tet, I could easily see Bonobo's fourth album here in my top ten. Also Teebs' Ardour which I mentioned and Mount Kimbie's Crooks and Lovers and Caribou's Swim.

8. LCD Soundsystem was profiled this year in the New Yorker. Is that enough said? Probably not. I completely fell for his first album - how it fell in my hands I can't remember (but I think a Phones remix might have been at play...). "Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up" was so astonishingly brilliant and original (and could have been a Pink Floyd B-Side from 1969-1972) and combined with some insistent dance beats and refreshing honesty, humor, and satire, James Murphy's music became a close friend and driving partner for many Des Moines-Omaha roundtrips. That was several years ago, and I thought Sound of Silver was a little grandiose and less funny. Maybe it was just my attitude, but I like this year's This is Happening quite a Hit the break for "Dance Yrself Clean".

9. 2010 was a big year for me and Erykah Badu. Miss Bee discovered a pristine copy of her 1997 LP Baduizm at Revolver Records here in Phoenix, and from the moment the needle dropped on "Rimshot (Intro)" I knew I had made a mistake overlooking the queen of neo-soul, but my familiarity with D'Angelo, Maxwell, Musiq, and Raphael Saadiq was deep enough to know that Baduizm was in another league. Tearing through her back catalogue, I hit a slump after Mama's Gun (save for "The Healer (Hip Hop)" from New Amerykah, Part One). Part Two came out this year, and proved very enjoyable: organic, spare but lush, deep beats. Pretty classic Badu; I was sold on the singles "Window Seat" and "Love" early on, and recently re-enjoyed the rest of the album enthusiastically. Return of the Ankh indeed.

Notable R&B this year: Aloe Blacc, Janelle Monae, Kings Go Forth, Mark Ronson and the Business International, Dam-Funk, some new Mayer Hawthorne singles.

10. I do listen to rock music, indie and otherwise, it just rarely occurs that I love an entire album. Plenty of enjoyment was wrung out of Sleigh Bells, Tame Impala, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Phantogram, Warpaint, Belle & Sebastian, Spoon, Psychobuilding, Liars, a Pavement reunion, and especially the Arcade Fire's new monument to full-band bombast The Suburbs. However, my favorite rock album this year was The New Pornographers Together which followed the AC Newman formula to pop perfection. From the lead single "Your Hands (Together)" to "Daughters of Sorrow", just classic Montreal-collective indie.

Minimix of 2010 Favorites

The tracklist is in timed comments. Enjoy:

2010 Minimix by Bret Sikkink

Addenda: Because I have more wind than an Ethiopian marathoner.

Pre-2010 obsessions from 2010:

-Big shout out to Ollie for sending me a link to download Steinski's retrospective for free. May be still available here.
-Google THANK U SCREW to find a free mixtape of DJ Screw classics by an unprintable producer. The remix of Aaliyah's "One in a Million" in particular is ruthless (I posted it to Facebook, if you are my friend and care enough).
-Mayer Hawthorne killed it with A Strange Arrangement in 2009, I just wasn't trying to hear it. Now I'm hooked.
-Got into jj's dreamy beat-pop from '09 lists and followed them a bit as well this year.
-2009 was the year of hip-hop beatmakers, while I got into the more electronic side this year. Star Slinger and Onra are some holdovers.

What's coming in 2011?

+ I'm looking forward to going through full-length hip hop albums from Yelawolf, Freddie Gibbs, Big K.R.I.T. and G-Side. Hopefully more of the Block Beattaz/Hunts Vegas crew gets some music out (I see you Jackie Chain, Mata, et. al.).
+ DJ Burn One had a banging 2010 and I can't wait to see what he's been working on. Same story with Big K.R.I.T. who should have a proper release like yesterday, and hopefully Bangladesh keeps cooking up those low-down beats for up-and-coming ATLiens as well as the big names.
+ From England, Young Montana did some big things this year, and if he puts together a full album I would expect some fire.
+ Didn't hear much in the way of new stuff from Joker this year, so hopefully some burners are in the oven.
+ Getting into Teebs, Baths' Cerulean, and hopefully a host of others from 2010 best-of lists.
+ Prediction: Low End Theory producers will keep producing bangers, and I will keep downloading them.

The Evolutionary Biology of Penguins  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

I think this article should have used a more restrained title, such as the one modeled here. The TOP 5 ... YOU MUST KNOW NOW!!! link-baiting technique is bizarre in an article published in Scientific American that includes over a dozen references and introductory clauses like "Much of my research" and other phrases unlikely to make your typical listmania.

But there was some interesting information in this fairly brief, cogent-yet-learned piece about current evolutionary biological research on penguins. For instance:

[T]he most ancient penguin fossils are amongst the oldest fossils discovered from any group of living birds. Waimanu ("Water Bird" in Maori) is the earliest known fossil penguin taxon...Pachydyptes was a true giant, but it is hard to reconstruct how big the species actually was because we only have a few pieces of the skeleton...we are also discovering that extinct penguin species had different body plans. Some were short and stout, while others were tall and slender.
Read it here at the Scientific American website.

Tempest in a teapot  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

Thank you Jon Stewart.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Gretch Who Saved the War on Christmas
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

All Hail The Dissident  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

Miss Bee and I had the good fortune to run into a keg of The Dissident last night at Papago. From my review on Beer Advocate:

In this corner, weighing in at 10.5% alcohol by volume and 30 international bittering units, a sour Flanders Oud Bruin hailing from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon: The Dissident. [Raucous cheering]
Full review here. Get some if you can. Image and more information from the Deschutes website.

Ron Artest, humanitarian  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

"I always follow my plan 100 percent, even if I know I'm going to fail."

Ron Artest.

I can't believe I would even consider blobbing about this jackass, this jerk who punched a paying customer in the stands, got himself run out of Chicago and Indianapolis...The Brawl at the Palace.

But he honestly sounds kind of great, if a little eccentric. Extended quote:

"[H]e's raffling off the $26,000 championship ring he won to pay for school psychiatry. So far, the raffle -- go to -- has raised nearly half a million dollars...the money will pay for "at least eight school therapists," he says.

"I needed a therapist when I was a kid," says Artest, who was suspended every single year of his elementary school career. "I needed one real bad. I want kids to know that what they're going through, they're not alone."

Admirable. It's's a totally not-crazy thing to fund help for kids that teachers call crazy. And we still call Ron-Ron Rick Reilly says "Four parts crazy, one part brilliant".

Also: "Don't all Game 7 heroes thank their psychologists?" And: "There's 1,000 plays in the Triangle. It's such a challenge. I get so frustrated about it, I have to call my psychologist."

Who is this guy? Find out more, some bits less flattering than those here, from Rick Reilly's ESPN commentary page.


"I ask Jackson why he's playing Artest fewer minutes this season. "I'm not," Jackson says. "Ron overheard [substitute forward Matt Barnes] asking me for more playing time, so he's been raising his hand just to get Matt more time."

Why, Ron Ron?

"Because we're a team. I just want to win another title. Who cares about minutes? Who cares about points?"

Uh, everybody else?"

Puzzle Day at the NYT Science Department  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

All the articles today in the Science Times were about puzzles and games. Check it out. It inspired me to do the crossword.

Department of Arsenic  

Posted by Wayne Bretski

No Old Lace. (Sidenote: Love those old movie, ahem, picture trailers.)

"Scientists said Thursday that they had trained a bacterium to eat and grow on a diet of arsenic, in place of phosphorus — one of six elements considered essential for life — opening up the possibility that organisms could exist elsewhere in the universe or even here on Earth using biochemical powers we have not yet dared to dream about."
Wow, the New York Times reports.

Kottke comments. T. Cowen comments, with links.

*Another take: "Scientists have found a form of life that they claim bends the rules for life as we know it. But they didn’t need to go to another planet to find it. They just had to go to California."

Zing, Zimmer.

*The upshot, according to Ars Technica:
"The researchers’ discovery that bacteria can substitute phosphorus with arsenic in the backbone of DNA has significant implications for evolutionary chemistry and astrobiology, since it suggests that life won't necessarily be limited to the six elements it favors here on Earth."

*On the satire tip, Doyle Redland, of the Onion News Network, is here to tell us about concerned parents demanding that arsenic be removed from the periodic table.

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