Best Of 2010: Prefix’s Top 40 (30-21)


    30 Marnie Stern: Marnie Stern

    On her self-titled third album, Marnie Stern decided to open up a bit more. In doing so, she made the best album of her career so far. Genuine pop moments collided with her usual array of dizzying guitar acrobatics, while Zach Hill’s reliably bonkers drum parts prevented any of Stern’s moves from being predicted. It’s that fusion that made tracks like “Gimme” and “Transparency Is The New Mystery” sound like physical manifestations of emotions themselves rather than just notes arranged in fancy patterns. ~Erik Ziedses des Plantes





    29 Oneohtrix Point Never: Returnal

    The previous Oneohtrix album, 2009’s Rifts, had songs that ran from 15-minute-plus drone classics to fragments of sound that barely crept over the one-minute mark. On Returnal, Brooklyn-based composer Daniel Lopatin continued to develop the familiar Oneohtrix theme of centering his music on gaseous plumes of synth noise while occasionally cracking it open to fold in wild burst of distortion, beats, and vocals. This is unearthly sci-fi soundtrack music untethered from any visual stimulus, full of the kind of elegiac musical passages you could imagine circling around the heads of William Gibson and Philip K. Dick as they dreamed up their respective future worlds. ~Nick Neyland 




    28 Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Pt. II: Return Of The Ankh

    For the love-centric Return of the Ankh, Erykah Badu continues her forward-thinking approach heard on the first New Amerykah release. But here, she has created an almost prog-Motown vibe as tracks flow seamlessly from straightforward jaunts to non-linear escapades within minutes. Her off-kilter songwriting and vocal delivery is matched by her equally experimental — and fantastic — production lineup that includes turns from J Dilla, Karriem Riggins, Madlib, and James Poyser. ~Andrew Martin





    27 Diamond Rings: Special Affections

    Diamond Rings can be best summed up by the video for “Wait & See.” The visuals — of John O’Regan’s glitzy, glammy, painted-up visage and lanky, acid-washed-jean-jacket-clad figure dancing through otherwise dull suburban streets — are as commanding as the music, which pairs  amped-up guitar bursts, simmering synths and O’Regan’s deep baritone to make pop melodies out of broken-hearted sentiments. On his debut album, Special Affections, O’Regan wields Casio simplicity in a way few artists can — think pulsing percussion and dime-store handclaps — mostly because he uses it to underlie hooky choruses that belie the depth of his lyrics. ~Kali Holloway 




    26 Black Milk: Album Of The Year

    Album of the Year may be a hilariously presumptuous name for an album, but the title of the latest opus from Detroit rapper-producer Black Milk isn’t self-congratulatory. It refers to the calendar year of personal tragedy that befell Milk in 2009. At times dejected, at times triumphant, Milk vents over dense boom bap that flexes the musculature of his new backing band, which includes keys, drums, bass, and strings. Album of the Year’s lush sonics, along with a few choice guest verses from Detroit’s finest, make for one of the most emotionally and musically engaging hip-hop outings of the year. ~Craig Jenkins



    25 Swans: My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

    Swans’ early reputation was built on their fondness for finding beauty in brutality, where a voluminous slab of noise shaved the essence of rock down to a remorseless grind. They acquiesced to acoustic prettiness as the years passed, but frontman Michael Gira never lost his taste for lyrics that inhabit a fallow land between gallows humor and outright dejection, as this first Swans album in 14 years demonstrated. Here, Gira and his band plow a rich vein of Southern Gothic melodrama, from the sea shanty squall of “Jim” to the caustic “You Fucking People Make Me Sick,” making this the filthiest and most darkly entertaining comeback of 2010. ~Nick Neyland




    24 The-Dream: Love King

    Terius Nash already cemented his position as the heir-apparent to R. Kelly’s throne at the top of sleaze&B with 2009’s Love Vs. Money, but with Love King, he takes Kelly’s throne and throws it out his velour-curtained bedroom window. Here The-Dream dishes advice on which bag to buy if your girl catches you cheating (it doesn’t matter, as long as you drop five stacks on it), changes the meaning of “Florida University” forever, compares a woman to a motorcycle, and coins the phrase “Sex Intelligent.” Love King is a triumph of excess over moderation, with The-Dream as the tumescent ringleader. ~Andrew Winistorfer




    23. Vampire Weekend: Contra

    Vampire Weekend’s debut album featured so many great songs that the social commentary detractors latched onto it was easy to ignore. Contra made that impossible, expanding on its predecessor’s lyrical innovations while getting more ambitious (and beautiful) — and topping Billboard for the hell of it. Vampire Weekend draws as much controversy for the band’s fame as its message, but nothing in 2010 moved me like the chorus of “White Sky” or the chord progression of “Run,” and there’s no better critique of 21st-century bourgeoisie than “bombs blown up into 96-point Futura.” Haters gonna hate, McSweeny’s readers gonna squirm. ~Ethan Stanislawski


    22. Gil Scott-Heron: I’m New Here

    Over the past decade and a half, Gil Scott-Heron has been living the kind of life he continuously warned us about since his debut in 1970: drugs, prison, an unraveling of a once-bright future. I’m New Here marks the return of the Godfather of Rap, delivering a stunning life-story intoned in his weathered, defiant baritone. His hypnotic poetry is underscored by a dark, beat-heavy accompaniment, the minimalism in stark contrast to his maximalist message concerning life, death, and everything in between. It’s a quick glimpse of his former genius, stepping into the spotlight to take a bow for an exceptional career. Let’s hope this isn’t his last: In this day and age, we could all use more of his fiery soul. ~Art Levy




    21 Wavves: King Of The Beach

    King Of The Beach proved that Nathan Williams got the majority of his growing pains out on his first two self-titled Wavves albums, resulting in an engagingly confident, obscenely catchy collection of So-Cal influenced punk. The list of everything that works better here could go on for days: from the more tasteful use of distortion, to the choice to make Williams’ vocals decipherable. Even the songs that sound like they were made by Animal Collective’s bratty little brother are successes. Coming off of the disastrous 2009 that he had, Wavves rode this one to redemption and victory.–Erik Ziedses des Plantes




    Prefix’s Top 40 Albums Of 2010: Staff / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11 / 10-1



    Prefix’s Best Of 2010: 

    Best Albums / Reader’s Best Albums / Staff Best Albums / Best Guest Appearances / Albums From 2009 We’re Still Listening To / Top 10 Mixtapes & Free Rap Albums / Best Reissues / Rap Verses / Worst Album Covers / Best Album Covers