Bill’s Top 10 of 2010

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I usually have a hard time putting these sorts of lists together.

It’s kinda difficult trying to remember every album that came out this year that I listened to, and which ones are worthy of ending up on a year end list.  However, in 2010, this list was surprisingly easy to make. Was it because I didn’t listen to as much music this year, or did these albums just do such a good job of satisfying my musical needs?

10. H.I.S.D. “The Weakend”

The Houston, TX hip-hop quartet, Hueston Independent Spit District (H.I.S.D. for short) released their second full length album in 2010. The Weakend was quite the breath of fresh air in a year filled with stale and predictable hip-hop albums.  While it definitely has a throwback sensibility in the fact that it sounds like the love child of Slum Village’s underground classic Fantastic Volume 2 and Outkast’s Aquemini. However it sounds like the album that child would’ve recorded after reaching the age of 25.

Dope beats and rhymes that don’t insult our intelligence… That’s all I ask for from hip-hop, and The Weakend definitely delivered.

9. The Foreign Exchange Authenticity

With his hip-hop group Little Brother officially dead in the water, Phonte turned his full attention to his Foreign Exchange project with producer Nicolay.  Their third album together, Authenticity, moves even further away stylistcally from their 2003 debut, Connected.

Delving into more of an adult-contemporary sound, without entering cheeseball territory (hello Kem!), Authenticity continues Phonte’s mission to give a voice to the regular Joe going through the same emotional ups and downs that life hands all of us.

8. Jamie Lidell Compass

Hailing from the UK, Jamie Lidell started out doing heavily experimental electronic music under the name Super Collider.  Over the years, he’s evolved into quite the unexpected soul man, beginning with the release of his 2005 album Multiply.

On Compass, Jamie continues to put his own spin on soul music, channelling Prince on “I Wanna Be Your Telephone,” D’Angelo on “It’s A Kiss,” while “Enough’s Enough” sounds like a song that could’ve fit in the Jackson 5’s repertoire.

Considering the cast of characters enlisted to help out, mostly white indie-rock darlings like Beck and Leslie Feist, the album is one of the most surprising and satisfying listens I had all year.

7. Blue Six Noesis

Jay Denes’ Blue Six project has gone on to define the sound of deep, soulful house music over the last 10 years.  His third project under the name, Noesis, is simply the soundtrack to a fun and sexy night.

The songs are sparse, the guest female vocalists deliver breathy and sensuous performances over the smooth four-on-the-floor beats.

Frankly, the whole thing sounds like sex on a tropical island paradise, and there ain’t nothin wrong with that.

6. Cee Lo Green Stray Bullets

Before releasing his The Lady Killer album in November, Cee Lo Green and DJ Greg Street dropped the Stray Bullets mixtape which featured Cee Lo singing over embellished tracks from the likes of Esthero , the B-52s, and others.

For as much as we have been enjoying The Lady Killer, the Stray Bullets mixtape edges it out due to the versatility on display.  Cee Lo goes from being a lounge singer on “Talking To Strangers” to getting funked up on “Sophisticated B*tch.”

Even if it was just meant as an appetizer The Lady Killer, I got full off of the many tasty morsels included on Stray Bullets.

5. Onra Long Distance

French beatmaker Onra hopped into a time machine with his drum machine and went back to the early 1980s on his 2010 release Long Distance.  The album is solely made up of samples from obscure and not-so-obscure songs from the post-disco era.

The S.O.S. Band’s “High Hopes” gets looped up and updated to amazing results.  Five Star’s “Let Me Be The One” is turned into a Slum Village-esque jam that just so happens to feature SV’s T3 on vocals.

Since most of the tracks are instrumental and barely last for 2 minutes, none of the tracks overstay their welcome, and the guest vocalists never feel like they were just tacked on to add name recognition to the project.

4. N*E*R*D Nothing

Though many casual fans of the Neptunes seem to like each subsequent album from their N*E*R*D project less than the one that preceded it, I, on the other hand think they get better with each record.

What bothered me most about previous N*E*R*D albums were the cringeworthy and juvenile lyrics that would find their way into songs.  While they are still there on Nothing, they are surrounded by what just might be the most sophisticated production ever committed to tape by Pharrell & Chad.

3. Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid

The ArchAndroid was my most anticipated album of the year.  The concept album continues the story of an android named Cindi Mayweather who falls in love with a human that Monae first introduced on her Metropolis EP.

Easily the most ambitious album released all year, Janelle Monae doesn’t let the listener get comfortable as each song seems to be a completely different genre than the one before, or the one that comes after it.

That everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach would ruin most albums, but somehow it manages to work and feel cohesive.

2. The Roots How I Got Over

?uestlove is notoriously anal when it comes to every aspect of putting an album together, and it’s obvious that on How I Got Over, the one detail he probably lost the most sleep over was the album’s sequencing.

Every song is perfectly placed on the album.  The first half being quite a bit introspective and somber, but by the second half, the album’s title begins to make even more sense. The songs begin to take on a hopeful, optimistic, and dare I even say fun tone.

The album does begin to drag towards the end, but I gotta give them props for sampling the auto-tuned crying baby on the album’s closing track, “Hustla.”

1. Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part 2: Return Of The Ankh

Where Badu’s 2008 album New Amerykah Part 1: 4th World War addressed societal issues in a cold, almost robotic manner, the analogue girl in a digital world explores the tried and true topic of human emotion on Return of the Ankh.

The album’s deceptively organic feel made for a moving listen throughout 2010, and I’ll probably still be listening to it throughout the duration of 2011, something I can’t say about most albums released this year.

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