By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Keith Richards, Life autobiography: I continue to believe the blood transfusion legend, no matter how much he denies it.
The Welders, self-titled EP: Four short, sharp tracks circa 1979 by St. Louis' junior Runaways. — Mike Appelstein
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Presumably not by coincidence, the mercurial West dropped his newest effort just in time for the holidays and year-end best-of lists. After 2008's disappointing 808s & Heartbreak, West flat-out demolishes on this one. New guests (Nicki Minaj, RZA(!) and Bon Iver) and old pals (John Legend, Jay-Z) are along for the party, as West remains as arrogant as ever — yet humble enough to call bullshit on himself.
The National, High Violet: Featuring some of the National's most sprawling arrangements to date, Violet showcases a band that isn't the least bit afraid to take risks, risks that ultimately result in rewards to the listener after a few attentive spins. And singer Matt Berninger's baritone croon is every bit as desperate-yet-lighthearted as ever, thank God.
Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do: Written off by some as a misstep, To-Do accomplishes what 2008's Brighter Than Creation's Dark couldn't: chisel down fourteen tracks of classic DBT while forging ahead with new swagger. Standouts "Drag the Lake Charlie" and "Santa Fe" show a little more twang-pop than fans have heard in the past. And Shonna Tucker's neo-soul numbers add more substance.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Let It Sway: Maybe it was the production help of Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie) and Beau Sorenson (Sparklehorse), or maybe SSLYBY has really hit its stride. Regardless, sturdy sugarcoated nuggets such as "Sink/Let it Sway" and "Everlyn" help plead the case that maybe the bloggers were right about these guys after all.
It's stressful when a band announces that the upcoming album may/will be their last. The pressure's on — and while you as a fan want to love it, it's hard to not be hypercritical. James Murphy announced prior to its release that This Is Happening would likely be LCD Soundsystem's last album; thankfully, if it's true, he's going out on a great note.
Listen: "Dance Yrself Clean"
Watch: The "Drunk Girls" video, directed by Spike Jonze
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I Learned the Hard Way
Not only did Ms. Jones and the Dap-Kings keep up the pace with their fourth release in 2010, they also brought that funky, brassy, sassy '60s style soul to the Pageant, giving St. Louis what was arguably its best show last year. The Dap-Kings experience could be likened to the Ike and Tina soul review, and not much else.
Listen: "Better Things." If you get more than 30 seconds into this song without your hips moving, you have no soul.
Beach House, Teen Dream
Admittedly, Pitchfork hype led me to picking up Teen Dream in January, and I still haven't been able to put it down. I initially thought it was the "perfect spring album." As the seasons changed, I thought, "No, it's a perfect summer album." The sentiment progressed as the year came to a close, and I realized it was just damn-near perfect for this year.
Listen: "Walk in the Park"
Nestled right next to Ariel Pink, I was glad to see the cream of the new electro-dream crop (Nite Jewel, the Samps and Dam-Funk) finally get some recognition. It was a pleasure to see Emeralds go pop with its new LP, Does It Look Like I'm Here? 2010 would be nothing to me without the emotionally crushing synths and waterfall bass of my big homey, Phaseone. Dance music took a turn for the best with some great remixes by the likes of Classixx, Fred Falke and Diplo. Diplo Presents: Free Gucci is flawless.
Amongst the blatant rip-offs, the big dogs of "witch house" still managed to come out on top with the boisterous, booming of Salem's King Night and oOoOO's self-titled EP. 2010 was also a great year for singles, from the satin-smooth coo of Corinne Bailey Rae's "Closer" to the infectious radio-pop polish of Katy Perry's "California Gurls" and the electrified thrust of Crystal Castles' "Celestica." Riding the mainstream tip, I am lucky to have been alive to see Lady Gaga in concert, the rise of Nicki Minaj, the return of Big Boi and the end of FREE WEEZY. Never forgetting the gold in STL, I look forward to more from Ghost Ice, Monty, Raglani, Shaved Women, Poi, Dust Bunny, Bug Chaser and Black James. — Josh Levi