2010: The Year In Music

The William Upski Wimsatt Award for Sprawling Statement on Urban Sprawl: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

The St. Lunatics Circa 1999 Award for St. Louis Rappers on the Cusp of Stardom: The Force (especially Rockwell Knuckles, Choose Your Own Adventure; Black Spade, Build and Destroy; Vandalyzm, Megatron Majorz Redux and Tef Poe, Money Never Sleeps)

The Bob Dylan Award for Nasally Poetic Brilliance Accompanied by Acoustic Guitar: The Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt

Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Julie Roberts
Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Arcade Fire.
Eric Kayne
Arcade Fire.

The Manny Pacquiao One-Two Punch Award for the Best Two Albums Released by One Artist in 2010: LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening and The London Sessions

The "Bohemian Rhapsody" Award for the Exceptionally Catchy Sing-Along Song: Cee Lo Green "Fuck You," from The Lady Killer

The Hunter S. Thompson Award for Outstanding Use of Guns, Tits and Motorcycles in a Music Video: El Guincho, "Bombay" from Pop Negro

The iTunes Genius Playlist Award for Ingeniously Combining Songs That Should Seemingly Have No Business Being Combined: Girl Talk, All Day

The Chris Rock Award for Viciously Hilarious Mockery of Caucasians: Das Racist (feat. Jay-Z) "All Tan Everything" from Sit Down, Man

The Pulp Fiction Award For Coolest Movie Soundtrack: Machete

The Ol' Dirty Bastard Award for Best Group Rapper Gone Solo: Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty

The Invader Zim Award for Intergalactic Funk Brought to Earth by an Alien: Janelle Monáe, The ArchAndroid

The Labatt Blue Award for Best Canadian Export: Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record

The Brian Eno Award for Sonic Experimentation With Mixed Results: MGMT, Congratulations

The James Brown Gold Lamé Hot Pants Award for Best Soul Record: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, I Learned the Hard Way

The Sufjan Stevens Award for Weirdest Title for a Terrific Song: Shabazz Palaces, "32 Leaves Dipped in Blackness Making Clouds Forming Altered Carbon"

The Clear Channel Award for Great Song That Should Have Been a Radio Smash but Got No Love: Tef Poe (featuring Rockwell Knuckles and Theresa Payne), "Crazy"

— Keegan Hamilton

Girls on Top
The first thing I loved about 2010 was the women. Not that opportunist Katy Perry or that skinny twit Taylor Swift, but my main bitches Nicki Minaj, Karin Dreijer Andersson, psych goddesses Warpaint and yes, Lady Gaga. (Maybe it was the ecstasy of seeing Gaga, maybe my brain was fried from all the hairspray it took to fashion my hair into a Gaga bow, but that show was phantasmagoric.) Minaj's meteoric rise made every other female emcee respectfully (or disrespectfully in Lil' Kim's case) kowtow to her exuberant mania and sicker-than-sick flows. She can go ahead and drop the Trey Songz conceit and stick to rapping so in 2011 we can ignore the little pockmark on her record that was "Right Through Me."

One of the best video moments came from none other than Fever Ray's Karin Dreijer Andersson, who made a bizarro acceptance "speech" on a Swedish music awards show wearing a melted fleshy mask and groaning into the mic like an early hominid. Andersson also delivered on the Knife's opulent Darwin-inspired opera, Tomorrow, in a Year, so divine and expansive it should be topping way more 2010 lists than it has thus far. It's hard to pick favorite shows this year, I felt like I needed to pay rent to the fantastic folks at the Luminary Center for the Arts — Warpaint stole my heart and ate it at their show in August (and then the band did so again with the release of The Fool).

This year, the boys did all right too — especially locally. The Force catalog was in heavy rotation, and even if you didn't realize it, you probably walked past someone singing Rockwell Knuckles' "Government Name." The ever-immaculate Phaseone can do no wrong, whether playing solo, DJing, making a cameo on KDHX or getting Pitchfork love without breaking a sweat. Raglani's split with Outer Space is essential vinyl, an atmospheric analog meditation, and the cover art by Jeremy Kannapell (a.k.a. Ghost Ice) is equally stunning.

Elsewhere, Active Child's seraphic debut, Curtis Lane, Bear in Heaven's Beast Rest Forth Mouth and the aural Prozac that is Sleigh Bells' Treats got me through the summer. But nothing really topped Salem's King Night. I worshiped at its infernal altar of grime-flecked indolence. From the titular single with that brilliantly zonked "O Holy Night" sample to the submerged distortion on "Killer," Salem proved it can force emotion out of emotionless electronics and screwed samples. While so many artists reek of tired formula and desperation ("I'm going to quit my noise band and ride this here chillwave") it's refreshing that Salem openly eschews its notoriety — one of them couldn't be bothered to get out of bed to do an interview with the New York Times, let alone troubling themselves to put a definitive end to the witch house/drag/haunted house psychobabble.

— Diana Benanti

All That Jazz
Vijay Iyer Trio at Jazz at the Bistro: Not long after his Historicity album topped many jazz critics' "best of 2009" lists, Iyer made his St. Louis debut at Jazz at the Bistro and demonstrated that he has the skills to justify the hype. Iyer's piano playing is impressive, offering both physical prowess and intellectual heft, and his brain-teaser approach to composing and to re-conceptualizing familiar material is quite intriguing — even without the sensual pleasures found in straight 4/4 beats or conventionally lush harmonies.

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