Sara’s Best Albums of 2010

As you may or may not know, I have decided to leave Enter The Shell and this will be my final blog. It has been an amazing two and a half years and I have nothing but love for Turrtle, Mailo, Richard, Ky and Justin. All walks of life have been in and out of the shell and I have enjoyed every single moment of it…And if I didn’t enjoy it, I definitely learned some lessons along the way. Being a part of ETS will be something I will always look back on fondly as an incredible life experience and as a professional training ground. There will be a huge void in my life without the shell! But I know I have made friends here and a little of the pain will be dulled because of that. So to all of you who have supported me, and most importantly, THE SHELL, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Now, onto my picks for the best albums of 2010 [Click the titles for individual album reviews]!

The best album of 2010
The ArchAndroid: Suites II and III by Janelle Monáe

Well, I know you all saw it coming. From the moment I was exposed to this album in May, I was hooked. Not only does Monáe transcend genres perfectly in her debut, but this young woman is the role model that young girls need these days. In an era of the oversexed media and population, Monáe’s flare for fashion, dance and acceptance of all things music reminds girls (and people in general) to keep an open mind and be your own person. Her music is catchy, smart and fun. Hopefully Diddy (her mentor) doesn’t turn her into a pussycat doll somewhere down the line. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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2. Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi
I was never a huge fan of OutKast but for some reason, I was looking forward to Big Boi’s highly anticipated solo debut and purchased it the day it came out. It planted its seed and what grew within me was something massive…A Georgia peach tree from the dirrty south! Armed with the coolest beat in song-of-the-summer “Shutterbugg”, Chico Dusty is 2010’s gem, especially with smart lines like: “My recitals are vital and maybe needed for survival/Like the Bible or any other good book that you read/Why are 75 percent of our youth reading magazines?/’Cause they used to fantasy and it’s what they do to dreams/Call it fiction addiction ’cause the truth is a heavy thing/Remember when the levies screamed, made the folks evacuees?/Yeah I’m still speakin’ about it ’cause New Orleans ain’t clean/And when we shoutin’ ‘Dirty South’ I don’t think that is what we mean.” Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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3. Body Talk by Robyn
“Please state your full name for the record: ROBYN!” This Swedish firecracker left 2010’s pop starlets in the dust when she released three albums within one year. Body Talk, Pt. 1 was a good start and provided a universal list-topping single in “Dancing on My Own,” but Body Talk, Pt. 2 stepped up the game and left us wanting more! When the third installment was released, it was met with a little confusion (by me) as to why she would cheat us out of our money by making it consist mostly of songs from the first two releases. Upon listening to the album though, the listener discovers she wasn’t cheating us at all but really exposing us to the best pop explosion of 2010! Konichiwa Records was built on the foundation of musical freedom, as Robyn began it when Jive began to confine her vision. Well, one thing is for sure: Jive is kicking themselves in the ass right now. She has proved that, in her own words, “the whole industry knows better than to fuck with me!” Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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4. I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
After spending most of her life trying to make a career out of singing but only getting as far as the back-up mic, Sharon Jones was finally given the opportunity to shine in 2002. Her soul group’s fourth album, which was released in 2010, is further proof that this feisty mid-50-year-old is on the top of her game. So what if it took her a few decades to get noticed? The important thing is that in her prime, she is blowing away the competition in the neo-soul/revivalist musical movement and the group’s live shows are a living, breathing, dancing, grooving testament to that. Jones, at 54, still moves like she’s in her early 20’s and sings like she has all the wisdom in the world. The Dap-Kings are the perfect back-up band for Jones’ personality and lively voice, making this combo a 1-2 punch! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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5. Distant Relatives by Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Though this album was released in May (the same day as Monáe’s, actually), I only recently discovered it. This Nas and Marley collaboration displays the talent of both artists. Their respective flows have such different styles yet they merge together nicely, all while delivering a profound message of togetherness and peace. Nas has always been known to have his own style in flow while Marley’s back-and-forth between singing and rapping add some softness and bite. A positive album out there is what this world needs and Relatives provides that in expressing love, peace and even questions that will hopefully make things better. The first step towards making change is asking questions, right? This album does that while still being creative and musically appealing. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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6. Stuck on Nothing by Free Energy
The James Murphy-led outfit LCD Soundsystem has been on plenty of “Top Albums of 2010″ lists with their recent [and final?] release, This Is Happening. The album is good, but didn’t make my list. Instead, Murphy made an appearance in another way: with his perfect producing on Free Energy’s debut album. Stuck on Nothing is the perfect pop-rock record, reminiscent of 70’s and glam rock with a heavy dose of pop. The delicious hooks do their job and keep you hooked and the album has gotten great reviews across the boards from numerous musical outlets. Though Murphy’s little pet project (the band is also signed to his DFA label) has yet to break through into the “popular” realm, it is certainly making a name for itself as one of Spin Magazine’s favorite new acts. And more importantly, one of mine. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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7. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
Despite Mailo’s scathing review of West’s fifth full-length, West just won’t go away. Fueled by his own need for perfection, West pulled out the big [creative] guns for Fantasy. Melding together the perfect mix of classic College Dropout Kanye with the new 808’s and Heartbreak Kanye, the polarizing performer boasts what many are saying is the best of the year. I don’t agree that this album tops any of those above it, but I do agree that this album kicks ass. The production and engineering is superb (it even prompted an L.A. Times interview with the otherwise looked-over engineer of the album), the lyrics are typical emotional, silly, sarcastic Kanye and his celebrity pull is demonstrated in tracks like “Monster” and “All of the Lights.” Kudos, Kanye. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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8. Interpreting the Masters, Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates by The Bird and the Bee
As I said before, when I heard the opening track of TBATB’s latest release, I exclaimed “ALBUM OF THE YEAR!” based solely on that. The album was released in March so obviously I was a little premature. But at any rate, Inara George and Greg Kurstin’s latest indie-pop-fest holds its own and did so for two months before Monáe bumped her down. Even though I don’t usually like to count cover albums as a legit album, Interpreting the Masters has shown me that that is not necessarily always the case, especially when the new act completely reinvents classic songs and still makes them work. George and Kurstin introduced a classic duo to a new generation with this release and I’m looking forward to them doing the same with [hopefully] some new volumes. Mailo and I have expressed our love for George for her creativity, uniqueness and style, but only I have a special song dedicated to me! Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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9. Contra by Vampire Weekend
VW have had a busy year having a commercially successful album, having their songs featured in seemingly every commercial on TV and a lawsuit filed against them by the woman on the cover of the album. Overshadowing that though is the greatness of the album in general. Lead singer Ezra Koenig’s charmful and sweet voice paired with rock and electronic sounds and beats makes this album a guaranteed way to make you move. Additional help from strings to New Wave influences help make Contra one of the best albums of the year. From songs about Mexican “aguas frescas” to reminiscing about gay, sugar daddy love affairs, Vampire Weekend makes anything sound cute. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

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10. Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager by Kid Cudi
After releasing one of 2009’s most highly anticipated albums which then became one of the best of 2009, Cudi turned around and released Rager. Dealing with the downfall after the success of MOTM1, Rager is considerably darker in tone and more mellow in sound as Cudi has suffered some dark times. Rager is quite personal and the listener almost finds him or herself in a conversation with the troubled man himself. The album’s single “Erase Me” is deplorable, despite it featuring Kanye West and “McLovin'” in the music video but the rest of the album is rife with gems like “Marijuana,” “Ashin’ Kusher,” “The Mood” and “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young.” Cudi has gone on record by saying he’s tired of hip-hop and is starting a rock band, which I’m not too thrilled about since “Erase Me” is probably a preview of what’s to come. If that’s the case though, at least we have two great original Kid Cudi albums. Click here to buy it on Amazon!

Here are some other pages you might like on ETS: