2010 Calvin Awards: Best Album
February 8, 2010
This year for Best Album, BOP has gone a little bit country, and a lot Canadian.
Well, alt-country at least, for our overall winner. Golden voiced chanteuse Neko Case's Middle Cyclone is our choice for album of the year, that increasingly anachronistic category in a world of singles. Case has continually shown the world that just because you have a twang in your voice, it doesn't mean you have to sing about pickup trucks. Middle Cyclone saw her break into the mainstream with more twangy pop, while she still stayed true to herself with odd love songs directed towards storms and somewhat indecipherable lyrics. As for the 30 minutes of frog songs at the end (note: I'm being literal here), well, let's just hit "next", okay?
Second spot goes decidedly more upbeat with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and It's Blitz!, which saw the New York trio discover their danceable side. With explosive tracks like Zero and Heads Will Roll, they've seized the mantle of being this generation's Blondie. But while it has its alt-rock and disco side, Karen O can still sing a ballad and keep her intensity. The combination of all these things made it one of the most active albums in our rotation this year.
Switching gears dramatically, we find The Decemberists and The Hazards of Love in third place. A former winner of this category, these standard-bearers of baroque folk-pop returned with a concept album about, well... you wouldn't believe me I told you, but let's just say that Tolkien would think it's outlandish. But leave it to Colin Meloy to make an album that has shape-shifters and forest queens and turn it into a hell of a rock album. While there's nothing approaching the pop brilliance of 16 Military Wives, it's a collection that really demands to be listened to as an album.
Four place brings our first of four Canadian acts (though Neko Case counts as an honourary one thanks to her duty in The New Pornographers, a previous Best Album winner) with Metric's Fantasies. Firmly embracing the new-New Wave sound, Metric achieved a breakthrough on this album, moving from their previous collections of pop-hooks and creating real songs this time.
Fifth place goes all the way pop with Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You. Allen, who broke through in North America this year after making headlines for several years in the UK as one of the premiere party-girls, abruptly wrenched off that course with this album, a major statement against celebrity culture and vanity in what's one of the most vain of industries, pop music. And let's not forget the music, which mashes genres fearlessly and superbly to create a unique and toe-tapping collection of songs.
We stick with Europop for sixth place with the French group Phoenix and their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. While it was impossible to avoid the ridiculously catchy Listzomania and 1901, this album went much deeper with the Tangerine Dream/Air inspired Love Like a Sunset that put the art back in pop.
Members of the Montreal-based art-rock group Wolf Parade simply don't know the meaning of the concept of "taking a break". Two separate side-projects from this band make our top ten list this year. Leading the way is Sunset Rubdown's Dragonslayer by frontman Spencer Krug. Swooping, complex melodies swirl through this album, with Krug's dense lyrics inviting listeners to take many, many trips through the track list.
Eighth spot goes a lot more mainstream with U2's latest, No Line on the Horizon. While they caused a lot of headscratching with their first single Put On Your Boots, it was mostly an aberration and the rest of the album brought out the band's usual carefully crafted sonic landscapes. While there's less rocking-out than we might be used to, these guys still proved there's something about an epic rock album that still gets us, right here.
Canadian artists find another spot on this list in ninth, with A.C. Newman's Get Guilty. The string-puller behind The New Pornographers released his second solo album, which while avoiding the genre-bending pop of those albums, still showed that he's the best hook-writer in the business. If there's a song on this album that doesn't become an earworm for you, check your pulse.
The second of those Wolf Parade side projects gets tenth place, with Handsome Furs' Face Control. The other lead singer of that band, Dan Boeckner, pulls his best art-rock Springsteen with anthemic songs about surviving and finding love. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
Best Breakthrough Performance
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music