Best Of 2010: Prefix’s Best Albums Of 2010


Best Albums of 2010 - Collage

Let’s face it: Open democracy is a failed system. Any form of choosing that keeps Clay Aiken in it long enough to almost win American Idol or that picks Sarah Palin as a mayor of even a horrible city in a horrible state is the worst. But it worked out pretty well for us the last two years: Prefix staff members and Prefix readers all had their votes count equally in our year-end list-making, as we crowned TV on the Radio and the xx as our albums of the year in 2008 and 2009.


Enough of that, though: As a staff, we’ve gotten back into picking our own damn lists, thank you very much. You’re welcome to disagree with what we’ve come up with, and, of course, to make your own list, but think of us as an electoral college keeping the riff-raff (Salem, pretty much) from having the top spot. Twenty-two staff members picked their top 15 albums, which we compiled to form our Top 40. If you’re interested in what each staff member picked individually, you can read our individual lists here. The final aggregated list is pretty varied, running the gamut from noise-rockers; self-absorbed, sex-crazed R&B crooners; some bands from New York (of course); bands with superfluous double consonants; bone-rattling noise pop; and everything in between (pun intended).


So, without further ado, here is our list of the Top 40 albums of 2010, in reverse order:



40 Robyn: Body Talk

Robyn isn’t the biggest pop star in the world, but she should be. It’s hard to imagine Lady Gaga or Britney Spears turning out singles, EPs and albums of the high quality she did in six months of 2010. The stats: two EPs (Body Talk Pt. 1 & Pt. 2), one LP (Body Talk), and a dozen singles that will be in romantic comedies for the foreseeable future (“Dancing On My Own” and “Hang With Me,” especially). She’ll probably remain small potatoes to the ladies dominating Billboard, but her 2010 will be tough to top. ~Andrew Winistorfer





39 No Age: Everything In Between

No Age didn’t so much change their winning formula on Everything in Between as refine it. Randy Randall’s storms of feedback became precise blasts of noise that hung in your ear like tunes, Dean Spunt’s choruses gained clarity and confidence, and the band seemed less like a scenester lark and more like an art-rock powerhouse. The title of one of the record’s most potent songs pretty much sums up No Age’s compelling ethos: “Shred and Transcend.” ~Wilson McBee


38 High on Fire: Snakes For The Divine

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. That’s the modus operandi of High on Fire, and that’s what makes Snakes for the Divine the most primordially satisfying metal release of the year. Chiseled guitar barrages, droning bass booms, lyrics about dead gods and Frost Hammers:  Snakes for the Divine certainly delivers on what the title promises. ~Luke Winkie








37 Mavis Staples: You Are Not Alone

An album with veteran soul singer Mavis Staples and alt-rocker Jeff Tweedy can easily be added to the endlessly growing club of ebony-and-ivory “comebacks.” You Are Not Alone is different because, well, Staples never really went away. And the album feels like a genuine collaboration between geographic and musical neighbors instead of a makeover effort. ~Dan Nishimoto







36 Baths: Cerulean

Cerulean marries the powers of man and machine like no other. Organic sounds of pencil-tapping and baying vocals are blended artfully with warped beats and jagged sound bytes. Despite a foundation built on electronics and the mechanics of metal knob-twisting, this debut by the L.A.-based musician Will Wiesenfeld excites, entices, electrifies; feel the trancelike quality of “Maximalist” and the climactic edginess of “Hall” or “You’re My Excuse to Travel.” Every passing second feels like the pulsing and throbbing of a hungry heart. ~Michelle Geslani





35 Emeralds: Does It Look Like I’m Here? 

When the latest from this trio of Cleveland synth wizards dropped in the middle of the year, it was immediately apparent that this was a  big deal. Emeralds had condensed their floaty space music epics into pop-sized bites for their overground debut on Austria’s Editions Mego. The initial dazzle of Does It Look Like I’m Here? persisted as the year wore on. Alongside stellar solo and side project releases from John Elliott (as Outer Space and Mist) and Mark McGuire (Living With Yourself, also on Mego) and a tour with Caribou, 2010 was a big year for Emeralds. ~Max Burke 




34 Gonjasufi: A Sufi And A Killer

Feeling unsettled isn’t necessarily a bad thing and when it comes to the gruff, growling vocals of 2010 newcomer Gonjasufi, creating this feeling seems more like a virtue. A Sufi and a Killer, Gonjasufi’s debut album with L.A. producer The Gaslamp Killer, is a hodgepodge of psychedelia, hip-hop, and general weirdness. It doesn’t come easy, but amidst A Sufi and a Killer’s 19 tracks are striking moments of unique, unpolished beauty. Or, maybe this guy is crazy and we’ll all look back at this record and laugh. ~Jared Levy





33 Morning Benders: Big Echo

Morning Benders are by no means the West Coast’s Grizzly Bear, but Big Echo was, in a way, 2010’s Veckatimest. The Berkeley-based band drafted Bear’s lead freelancer Chris Taylor to help man the boards of its sophomore effort. The result was a sublime blend of the band’s sunny melodies and Veckatimest‘s ringing rhythms. This means Morning Benders is batting two-for-two for year-end lists, so make sure to keep an eye on them. ~Dan Nishimoto





32 The Foreign Exchange: Authenticity

The Foreign Exchange’s Authenticity, Phonte and Nicolay’s third album together, is easily their finest yet. It’s an honest, revealing glimpse into the complexities of romantic relationships — a welcome change of pace at a time when R&B/soul is mostly filled with sex-fueled romps. Where Authenticity excels, though, is in Nic’s experimental blends of synthesizers, keys, and acoustic guitars paired with Phonte’s increasingly melodic and refined songwriting. ~Andrew Martin






31 How To Dress Well: Love Remains

Tom Krell’s love for modern R&B is well notated, and completely unabashed. So it’s no surprise that Love Remains is his love letter to and paranormal interpretation of the genre. His voice, not blow-you-away quality but absolutely evocative, swims through Keith Sweat melodies, carrying tracks that are often nothing more than the barest hint of atmosphere — a beautiful drift of piano chords here, a helicopter thwomp of synths there. Listening to the cavernous, lonely silences on this record highlight the rich emotion in the disconnect between Krell’s hauntingly sleek vocals and the translucent backbone of his stark sonic landscapes. ~Chris Bosman


Prefix’s Top 40 Albums Of 2010: Staff40-31 / 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   

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