Year’s end prompts in-depth musical reflection

Molly Schreiber

As the year spirals toward an end and people everywhere scramble to prepare for the new year, a series of lists begin to circulate: New Year’s resolutions, holiday shopping items and, of course, the best albums of the year.

The beauty of these inventories lies not only in the author’s ability to choose but in the subjective nature of the list itself.

When it comes to the best albums of 2010, there are no wrong answers — nothing (as long as it was released in 2010) is off limits.

These catalogs become fodder for debate and discussion between music writers from all over the world who are united by their lists, whether through similarities or differences.

When compiling these lists, it’s imperative not to forget the records that were released earlier in the year. Bands like Local Natives, Vampire Weekend and Blitzen Trapper all released incredible records within the first few months of 2010.

Taking all of these different aspects into consideration, here is my list of top ten albums for 2010:

1. Arcade Fire — “The Suburbs”

2. Blitzen Trapper — “Destroyer of the Void”

3. Cee Lo Green — “The Lady Killer”

4. Deerhunter — “Halcyon Digest”

5. Kanye West — “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

6. LCD Soundsystem — “This Is Happening”

7. Local Natives — “Gorilla Manor”

8. The National — “High Violet”

9. Vampire Weekend — “Contra”

10. Yeasayer — “Odd Blood”

Local Natives’ “Gorilla Manor,” perhaps the most impressive of these three, represents a new generation of artists invading the current music scene.

“Gorilla Manor,” the first album from these California-based musicians, is filled with youthful energy and boundless instrumentation.

Through this record, Local Natives has achieved a success that even seasoned artists don’t always achieve.

Thanks to its talent, energy and stage presence, Local Natives is no longer a niche band; instead, it has become one of the best acts of 2010.

Vampire Weekend’s sophomore release, “Contra,” was released to a sea of skepticism, thanks to the incredible success of its debut album.

Despite talk of inevitable disappointment, “Contra” surprised fans and critics alike with its creative sound and careful production. Tracks like “White Sky” and “California English” illustrate the artistic growth and the breadth of talent from these artists.

Yeasayer is another relatively new band whose second record, “Odd Blood,” stunned fans with infectious tracks like “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E.”

The National, a staple in indie music over the past 10 years, released their fifth studio album, “High Violet,” in May of 2010.

The highly impressive record, with Matt Berninger’s signature dark voice and guest appearances from the likes of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and Sufjan Stevens, proves that this band deserves its tenure as one of the most solid acts in indie rock today.

Another mid-year release from fellow indie expert, LCD Soundsystem, makes my top 10 list thanks to its versatile infectiousness.

Following the release of “This is Happening,” Pitchfork dubbed James Murphy a “vocal chameleon,” — a perfect description for this ever-evolving artist.

The later releases of the year, including Cee Lo Green’s “The Lady Killer” and Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” will also be included on my end-of-year rankings.

While I still need more time with both of these albums, there are a few reasons behind my choice to include them.

Firstly, the reverence that both of these artists have for their predecessors not only suggests their maturity as musicians, but also serves to highlight their growth and evolution as artists.

Secondly, the infectiousness and innovation of tracks like West’s “Power” and Green’s “Satisfied” epitomizes the goal of every artist, regardless of genre: to excite listeners.

For me, however, the best album of the year was Arcade Fire’s third studio record, “The Suburbs.”

After reviewing the record for The Villanovan in early September, the album has continued to impress me. From the flourishing instrumentals to the consequential concept behind the record, “The Suburbs” will undoubtedly make an appearance on many “best of” lists this year.

The social consciousness with which this record was produced reveals the depths of Arcade Fire’s artistic intuition and the skill of its execution.

Without becoming anthemic or pedantic, Arcade Fire released an album that I believe will endure over time. And, of course, it is this ability to endure that separates the truly great from the mere good.