In which Lindsay breaks out her headphones and abacus.
Fellow music fans, Listomania is upon us. I’m sure you’ve all spent the last months engaged in the calculus/voodoo that goes into creating your top 10 albums of the year list; I personally have been locked away in my attic for weeks with an abacus and noise-canceling headphones, meticulously going over each and every album that I bought or (so, so legally) downloaded throughout the course of the year. In the spirit of our conversation a few weeks ago about awesome female musicians, I thought I’d make for you a list of my favorite albums made by women in 2010.
For reasons pretty arbitrary, I’ve decided to only consider albums made by female artists or all-female bands, which means that some of my favorite albums of the year — like Beach House’s Teen Dream, Blue Hawaii’s Blooming Summer, Tender Trap’s Dansette Dansette, Eternal Summer’s self-titled EP, and an imaginary album comprised entirely of Nicki Minaj’s “Monster” verse on loop — must all go tragically unmentioned. Except for, y’know, that mentioning that I just did there.
A lot of dudes put out great music too (and some, confusingly, under names like Women or Girls; transparent attempts to confuse me into mentioning them on this list — to no avail!), but I’m sure we’ll be reading plenty about them in the coming weeks. So before that, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my picks for the Top 10 Albums of 2010, as made by women:
Robyn – Body Talk Pt. 1 & 2. While some in 2010 were too busy munching their truffle-flavored french fries or brushing their teeth with a bottle of Jack to actually write good songs, Robyn was fine-tuning her signature electro-sass on these two solid EPs. The next time somebody accuses you of being a chilly, shrivel-hearted feminist, think of Robyn when you respond, “I’ve got some news for you/Fembots have feelings too.” Or better yet just blast “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do.”
Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid. In 2010 you’d have been hard pressed to find a more fiercely, gleefully original record than The ArchAndroid — Janelle Monae’s soul-pop epic from outer space that somehow miraculously found its way down to earth. On tracks like the syncopated groove “Tightrope” or the slowed-down smolder of “Sir Greendown,” Monae forged a style that sounded like nothing else that came out this year, or any other year, for that matter.
Grass Widow – Past Time. Grass Widow are one of my favorite new bands right now. They’re a 3-piece punk band specializing in lilting, off-kilter 3-part harmonies, surf drums that crash like breaking waves and guitar-and-bass lines that bounce around like hyperactive superballs. The tight songwriting of Past Time improves on the promise of their two excellent 2009 EPs and bodes very well for their future releases.
Glasser – Ring. Cameron Mesirow’s synth-driven, mosaic-like tracks are hypnotic, and her voice makes me wish I could think of a non-lame synonym for “chanteuse.” I stumbled upon this record pretty late in the game (as in, a few months after its late summer release! Oh, how short our musical attention spans have become), but Ring’s anthem “Home” is making a sudden rush for the upper tiers of my Favorite Songs of the Year list. The second chorus gives me chills every time.
Marnie Stern – s/t. This is perhaps the most intimate album yet from formidable guitarist and Personal Hero of Mine, Marnie Stern. The opener, “For Ash” is one of her greatest achievements to date: it’s an emotionally exhausting tribute to an ex-boyfriend’s untimely death, but it’s also an affecting transmission of pathos and, ultimately, catharsis through the lightning in Stern’s fingertips.
Warpaint – The Fool. “Home” is chilling up there in Favorite Song of the Year real estate with Warpaint’s “Undertow,” a song that seems to navigate the physics of building and unraveling at the same time; lesser chillwave certainly can’t manage that. The L.A. band’s debut LP The Fool is full of great stuff.
Sharon Van Etten – epic. There’s something to be said for titling a seven-song record epic (with a lower-case ‘e’, no less); there’s something further to be said when it turns out to be one of the best records of the year, trumping others twice its size. But with Sharon Van Etten’s spellbinding and powerful voice, no feat is too large. epic picks up where her excellent 2009 release Because I Was in Love left off, adding more fullness to her sound and new dimensions to her songwriting.
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two. While it can’t quite match the sprawling celebration of weird that was New Amerykah Part One, Part Two is an hour-long swath of cool that no one can offer up quite like Badu. A vocal proponent of lady solitude, in “Window Seat” I’ve found my new Amtrak anthem.
The Corin Tucker Band – 1,000 Years. The former (and, in this writer’s estimation, immortal) singer of Sleater-Kinney Corin Tucker released her first “solo” album (supported by a very worthy backing band) this year — a self-described “middle-aged mom record.” If so, it might be a contender for Most Rocking Middle Aged Mom Record of All Time, as her blistering howl on tracks like “Doubt,” “Riley” and “Dragon” prove she’s still able to bring the intensity like nobody else.
Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me. Have I saved the best for last? Arguably. Nearly a year after its release, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the genius of this triple album from America’s favorite harpist. It’s a staggeringly beautiful record — blithely sprawling in a way that seems to ever-so-elegently mock the fragmented, hyperactive world in which we live and listen to music today. Tell me a female songwriter who’s making music more gorgeous and emotionally nuanced than this, and I am going to counter by playing you “Baby Birch,” so I hope you have about ten minutes to spare. In fact, I hope you have about two hours to take out of your life and just let the beauty of this entire record wash over you.
Who did I leave out? Give me more recommendations in the comments!