It’s all about the Music – Top 10 albums of 2010

Music is at the root of Hifi, without it, well there would be no such thing. Our approach at Stereotype is to make the music you love, sound the best it can, for the budget you have. To be honest we are less interested in ultimate audiophile nirvana than we are in making people enjoy music more, listen intently more often and well, experience as close as they can get to the real thing (OK so I may have just contradicted myself with that last statement, but I don’t care). I think you get it, it’s all about the music.

Firstly I would like to point out that if I could write last years list again,  it would change, and this these ‘top 10’ lists reflect a point in time. For example, had I heard The xx debut album before I wrote last years list then it would have made it, possibly the same with The Fink – Sort of Revolution, but alas, what is done is done and these were released in 09, and therefore do not qualify towards this years top albums. I’m sure next year I’ll be thinking the same thing and discover more albums that were released in the 2010, but lets get to it:

10. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat the Devils Tattoo

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It’s noisy, its rough, its back to what they did on Howl in places, its just a great rock and roll album and the title track is seriously cool, especially live. If you like electric guitars and big fat drums, you’ll dig this.

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9. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms

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Infinite arms was a bit of a slow grower for me, my first listen to the album was actually an online moment shared with band who streamed their first listen of the first vinyl pressing, very cool idea and a great way to create some buzz. It’s a bit country, its kinda mello, no single track really stands out, but as a whole I dig it, and have thrashed it.

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8. The Black Keys – Brothers

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Last year, The Black Keys front man Dan Auebach made it to #2 on my list for 2009 and he has continued to deliver in 2010. Brothers again proves the song writing ability of this talented duo and this album is a really gem. Its hard to define a certain style, just check it out and make sure you give it a good listen, if you find it’s not your taste, you won’t have to look far to find someone who will love it.

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7. Kele – The Boxer

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Not many people seem to have come across Kele, but everyone knows Bloc Party right? Well Kele is a little side project of front man Kele Okereke and by little I mean huge dance album that seriously brings the party! I managed to see Kele live in Paris at the Rock En Seine festival and it was the biggest, clearest most powerful concert sound I have heard for a while, it was incredible. Also, seeing Kele (who is quite a big guy) perform so energetically was phenomenal, the crowd was going off. The Boxer features the single Tendoroni, which is the song I use to trick people that my sub isn’t even turned on. Buyer beware, this album contains serious bass.

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6. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

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In an older blog post I featured the track Swim until you can’t see land which was a recommendation from a friend who got me hooked on this band. Check out the video, if you like what you hear you’ll love the rest of it, catchy tunes, great vocals and at times a bit like Counting Crows. Hmm maybe that gives people the wrong idea, just listen to it.

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5. The Phoenix Foundation – Buffalo

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I’m a little bias towards NZ music, but when it comes to these lists I try and ignore that. So any NZ record that is featured here deserves to be here. The Phoenix Foundation have been going from strength to strength. Happy Ending released in 2007 is still one of my favourite NZ albums, and Buffalo again highlights how talented these boys are and how lucky we are to have them playing so frequently on our shores. If you haven’t seen them live, I highly recommend it, they’re a fun band to watch and are incredibly tight. The vocals on Buffalo are a stand out for me, really useful highlighting the midrange performance when comparing speakers too 🙂

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4. Beach House – Teen Dream

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Probably one of the most highly rated albums that no one has heard of, ok perhaps you have and it was just me who took a while to discover Beach House. Their day dreamy pop songs are ridiculously addictive. Fans of Vampire Weekend, Band of Horses, Liam Finn, probably already own it, if you don’t get it now. Track Used to be is a stand out, has to be one of the tracks of the year.

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3. Massive Attack – Heligoland

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Massive Attack have released some phonemenal work over the years but for me 2003’s 100th Window just didn’t quiet get there. So after a 7 year wait we get Heligoland and boy oh boy did they turn things around. Working with a bunch of people including Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, and Guy Garvey of Elbow to name just a few! Heligoland features my top track of the year; Paradise Circus with Sandoval on vocals, bringing back memories of the first time I heard her sing Fade into You, her addictive voice combined with hand claps and a great bass line is a killer combination that floors me everytime I listen to this song. Especially good late at night with a glass of red.

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2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

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I’m not really sure how Arcade Fire managed to do this, how do you follow on from such success without your fans telling you you’ve sold out, and still deliver a sound that brings in a wider audience. Well Arcade Fire have done it, Suburbs is a more accessible album than earlier works and this fan is mightily impressed. There are so many great tracks on here, some that grew after a few listens (We used to wait) and others that instantly caught my attention and had ‘hit’ written all over them (Ready to start, City with no children). I read one blog post complaining about the amount of compression destroying the audio quality, I beg to differ, while its not the last word in audiophile recordings, the recording was never an issue for me. Highly recommended.

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1. The National – High Violet

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Anyone who knows me well will have predicted this one, I think I’ve played and talked more about High Violet than any other album this year. High Violet feels like one of those albums that had a lot of time spent on it just working through making sure everything was perfect. Track England especially highlights the amazing voice, song writing and musical talent this band possesses. The National are playing in few weeks at the Kings Arms here in Auckland, I’ll be there, if you haven’t got yourself a ticket well its sold out so you’ll instead have to rush out and buy the reissue which features an alternate version of Terrible Love.

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So there you have it, 2010 was another great year for you music! One of the best parts about our hobby I believe is discovering new artists, so tell me, what were your top albums for 2010?

(if the comments don’t appear below, there will be a link at the top of this article to reply)

Thats us for 2010, we’re back on January 10th 2011, hope you have a good break and as always, Happy Listening!