Jan. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The line between indie and mainstream music got even fuzzier in 2010, as Arcade Fire, working with non-major label Merge Records of North Carolina, charted at No. 1 in the U.S. and Canada.
While that’s a peak moment, it was a generally strong year. Here’s a look back at some of the top releases:
Montreal’s Arcade Fire reclaimed its place as king of indie’s anthem rock with album No. 3, “The Suburbs.” Lead singer Win Butler, better than almost any artist, reminds us of moments of youth that have passed and where we stand today.
Deerhunter’s “Halcyon Digest” offered one of the year’s most sonically diverse records, with psych-rock, ambient, pop and electro all found present and performed with grace.
New York’s dance-rock scene got some juice from LCD Soundsystem and its third release, “This Is Happening.” Leader James Murphy finds himself taking that last step before becoming a household name in a mix of ballads and insanely infectious high-energy dance music.
If you could close your eyes and drift away with any album this year, it should be Beach House’s “Teen Dream,” featuring the Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. The hazy, tremulous sound takes on beautiful form when wrapped around Victoria’s graceful voice. It may have taken the pair three releases to reach this point, but the third time is a charm.
Ariel Pink has been plying his “do it yourself” bedroom style of music for a good part of this past decade. But in 2010, with the help of his band, Haunted Graffiti, he was able to create one of the year’s most striking albums, “Before Today.” A gem of a pop record, it is the marriage of ‘70s funk and psychedelia with ‘80s synths in a weird yet fine listen.
Before Kanye West there was Outkast. And in 2010, Big Boi, one half of Outkast, release his solo record, “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty,” after three years of delays. Big Boi continues to excel in his lyrical delivery and quenches our thirst for funk in hip-hop. Go big or go home. Big Boi went big.
Brooklyn by the way of Virginia, Wild Nothing seemed to have tapped the ‘80s spirit on its debut, “Gemini.” The album has that slowed-down shoe-gazing feel mixed with shimmering synths and dreamy pop sounds. The distant melancholy vocals of Jack Tatum fit in perfectly as Wild Nothing takes you to imaginative places.
Leave it to four young men from Perth, Australia, to prove just how ‘60s-style psychedelic rock should be done. Tame Impala triumphs on its debut album, “Innerspeaker.” The band’s experimental style allows it to channel the excellence of the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd while maintaining something very much their own. The parts might come from the past but this could well be the future.
‘Broken Dream Club’
San Francisco’s Girls threw together one of the year’s finest EPs with “Broken Dream Club.” Lead singer Christopher Owen has heartache in his voice yet the album’s relaxed pace, filled with slide guitar and stretched-out keys, allows the band to unfold a poignant release promising more good things ahead.
James Blake, the London-based dubstep producer, put out a trio of excellent EPs this year: “The Bells Sketch,” “CMYK” and “Klavierwerke.” Each gives a different taste of Blake’s musical mind: haunting, scattered, sampled, hypnotic, classical and visionary.
Some honorable mentions include: Caribou’s “Swim”; Warpaint’s “The Fool”; Glasser’s “Ring”; Flying Lotus’s “Cosmogramma”; Janelle Monae’s “The ArchAndroid”; The Walkmen’s “Lisbon”; and Sharon Van Etten’s “Epic.”
The new year is already promising to be an exciting one. Folk singer-songwriter Samuel Beam, who performs under the name Iron & Wine, will release his fourth studio album, “Kiss Each Other Clean,” on Jan. 25. Dan Bejar will continue his lush rock project Destroyer with the release the same day of “Kaputt.”
Australia’s dance-rock outfit Cut Copy will have “Zonoscope” on Feb. 8. Sweden’s electro-pop artist Lykke Li is back with her sophomore album, “Wounded Rhymes,” on March 1.
Other new albums advertised but as yet untitled include Fleet Foxes, Aphex Twin, My Morning Jacket and M83. Also, as the band has hinted all year long via the Web, Radiohead will be back with LP No. 8 in 2011. Will it be a self-released album and a pay-as-you-wish scale like the previous outing?
Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in January. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets:
Jan. 1 Phish at Madison Square Garden (SO) Jan. 3 Ms. Lauryn Hill at Blue Note (SO) Jan. 4 Ms. Lauryn Hill at Blue Note (SO) Jan. 5 Ms. Lauryn Hill at Blue Note (SO) Jan. 6 Anamanaguchi/So So Glos at Knitting Factory Jan. 7 Lee Fields & the Expressions at Bowery Ballroom Jan. 8 Sharon Van Etten/The War on Drugs at Bowery Ballroom Jan. 9 Freelance Whales at Vino in Vino (SO) Jan. 11 Jonny Corndawg/Liz Isenberg at Union Pool Jan. 12 Tom Tom Club at Irving Plaza Jan. 13 Mona at Mercury Lounge Jan. 14 Rhett Miller & Bobby Bare Jr. at City Winery Jan. 15 Jump Into The Gospel at Pianos Jan. 16 Tyvek at Mercury Lounge Jan. 17 The Wombats / U.S. Royalty at Glasslands Jan. 18 Prince at Madison Square Garden Jan. 19 The Smith Westerns at Pianos Jan. 20 The Jayhawks playing “Hollywood Town Hall” at Webster Hall (SO) Jan. 21 The Jayhawks playing “Tomorrow the Green Grass” at Webster Hall (SO) Minks at Glasslands Jan. 22 The Vaccines/Oberhofer at Glasslands Jan. 23 Cymbals Eat Guitars/Charles Bissell of The Wrens at Maxwell’s Jan. 24 The Decemberists/Wye Oak at Beacon Theater (SO) Jan. 25 Yuck at Mercury Lounge Jan. 26 Liz Phair at Music Hall of Williamsburg Jan. 27 White Lies/Asobi Seksu at Highline Ballroom (SO) Jan. 28 How to Dress Well at Church of the Messiah Jan. 29 Iron & Wine at Radio City Music Hall Jan. 30 The Moondoggies at Rock Shop
(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
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