The Villanovan selects top albums of 2010

Lauren McCarthy

Lady Gaga wore a meat dress, Katy Perry showed us how multi-talented her breasts are and Justin Bieber flipped his hair…a lot. Somewhere amid all of the dramatics, 2010 proved to be an astounding year for music. Indie favorites She & Him and Vampire Weekend both avoided a sophomore slump with critical acclaim of “Volume Two” and “Contra,” respectively, while new acts, such as Best Coast and Wacka Flocka Flame, finally released full-length debuts, after much Internet hype. With so many diverse releases over the past year, check out which acclaimed albums made The Villanovan’s top five albums of 2010:

1. Kanye West – “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

No stranger to dramatics, Kanye West hyped the release of this already highly-anticipated album with his G.O.O.D. Fridays series, during which he would release a new track each Friday via Twitter. West also debuted the first single of the album, “Runaway,” as the closing number at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards back in September, where he gave a “toast to the douchebags,” on a stark white stage as ballerinas danced around him. The performance was followed by a 35-minute long music video for the song. West plays up the dramatics so much that you might want to write him off as just a show-off. That is, of course, until you listen to “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” On the album, West takes his typically insane antics and turns them into incredibly crafted music.

Each song is like its own work of abstract art that could only have been created in the unhinged mind of West. However, unlike the rapper’s incoherent Twitter, this formula seems to work perfectly — just ask Pitchfork, which gave the album an unheard of 10.0 rating.

2. Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”

Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry…Arcade Fire. Sounds like the playlist for your generic top 40 stations until you got to that last one, right? Believe it or not, those five artists are all nominated for “Album of the Year” at this year’s Grammy Awards.

Yes, in the span of two weeks, the members of Arcade Fire went from ripping their shirts off with Andy Samberg in a Digital Short skit during their musical guest stint on “Saturday Night Live” to being a Grammy-nominated artist. However, after just one listen to “The Suburbs,” any disbelief should disappear. From the expansive “We Used to Wait” to Régine Chassagne’s vocal takeover on “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” each song on the album expands upon the grand nature of the established Arcade Fire sound.

3. LCD Soundsystem – “This is Happening”

The owner of a record label one day decides to start a one-man band. He releases several heavily electronic albums to critical acclaim. His third album even debuts in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 Charts and manages to take over the top spot on the dance/electronic chart, which has previously been held by Lady Gaga for five months straight. Sounds like quite the tall-tale, right?

Well, for James Murphy, the mastermind behind the now legendary LCD Soundsystem, that’s all just a bit of background information.

Murphy’s risky career move paid off in a big way in 2010, as “This Is Happening” has received universal praise. Murphy teased the album with the single “Drunk Girls,” which, compared to his usual elaborate electronic sonatas, appeared to be Murphy’s nod to creating a radio hit. Of course, three tracks later appears “You Wanted a Hit,” which claims, “You wanted a hit? / Well maybe we don’t do hits.” However, like it or not, LCD Soundsystem undoubtedly scored a major hit this year with “This Is Happening.”

4. Beach House – “Teen Dream”

Dream-pop duo Beach House spent a majority of the last couple of years opening for some of the biggest names in indie-rock (do the names Cat Power and Grizzly Bear ring a bell?), but with the release of their third album, “Teen Dream,” singer Victoria LeGrand and guitarist Alex Scully made very clear that 2010 would be all about them.

On “Teen Dream,” Beach House expands upon the dream-pop sound it has previously established on its 2006 self-titled debut and 2008 follow-up, “Devotion.” However, as the band debuts its arrival on Sub Pop Records, clear distinctions are made. Scully’s intricate instrumentals are not overshadowed by reverb, a previously heavily cited critique of the band, while LeGrand’s vocals reach near clarity and heartrending levels. While dream-pop may have serious tongue-in-cheek connotations as a genre, “Teen Dream” gave the term a serious bite.

5. The National – “High Violet”

When your last album tops several “Album of the Decade” lists, not to mention countless “Album of the Year” lists, the pressure on the follow-up must be pretty high. Somehow, when the National released “High Violet” on May 10, almost exactly three years after its highly praised album, “Boxer,” it did so without breaking a sweat.

Perhaps, the band knew it had another mass hit on its hands. With subtly morose lyrics built into sweeping backing music, all centered around singer Matt Beringer’s deep, emoting baritone, at this point in their career, the National have their formula down.Yet, on “High Violet” this never once comes across as mechanical, as each individual song has a unique bit of musical and emotional grandeur making the album well worth the three-year wait.