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
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
The "Bohemian Rhapsody" Award for the Exceptionally Catchy Sing-Along Song: Cee Lo Green "Fuck You," from The Lady Killer
The iTunes Genius Playlist Award for Ingeniously Combining Songs That Should Seemingly Have No Business Being Combined: Girl Talk, All Day
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 Sufjan Stevens Award for Weirdest Title for a Terrific Song: Shabazz Palaces, "32 Leaves Dipped in Blackness Making Clouds Forming Altered Carbon"
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