2011 Calvin Awards: Best Album
February 14, 2011
BOP's top album of 2010 is High Violet, the fifth full-length release from Brooklyn's The National. Simultaneously their most intricate and orchestrated album, High Violet is also their most consistent from top to bottom. It's an album that gets richer with each listen. Matt Berninger’s voice is so distinctive and inherently melancholy that it’s easy to imagine The National never finding a way to break out of their usual mellow, somewhat dark place. But High Violet pulls them in a new direction. It's more driving, more exciting and more compelling than anything The National have done to date and makes it hard to not look ahead to where they will take us next.
In second place is an album that had some of the best rock guitar of the past few years, Expo 86 by Wolf Parade. Ever since Eric Clapton passed the proverbial torch to Eddie Van Halen, sketchy looking dudes have been lining up to claim the title of rockingest rock guitarist who ever rocked (note: not a real title). Right now it belongs to Wolf Parade' s Dan Boeckner. When paired with the angular voice and song-writing of Spencer Krug, the result is alchemy. Wolf Parade is no stranger to the Calvins - their previous album At Mount Zoomer ranked fourth in our 2009 voting. Additionally, we loved two related side projects last year - the Krug-fronted Sunset Rubdown placed seventh, while Boeckner's band Handsome Furs placed tenth.
Proving our eclectic nature, the shimmering fuzz pop of Beach House's Teen Dream - our third-place album this year - sounds about as different as can be from Wolf Parade. Sounding like a waking dream, the Baltimore-based duo's third album consists of track after track of intricate, sweeping music.
While everyone and their mother were fawning over Kanye (seriously, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone had the same album of the year choice), the BOP staff gravitated toward a different hip hop masterpiece.
Specifically, the funked out rhythms and spacetastic rapping of Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty made our best list in fourth place. The next best thing to a proper OutKast record is this accomplished solo statement from perhaps the more dynamic of the two. Your move, Andre 3000.
While it didn't finish first in the hearts of the BOP staff, Arcade Fire arguably made the most interesting album of the year. It’s textured and nuanced, without being trite on a subject (the
aforementioned suburbs) that is begging for a lyricist to fall into the stereotype trap. Albums with staying power that impact the musical landscape are like onions, layered and requiring a little work to peel. The Suburbs is an onion. A delicious, delicious onion. It's also a little bit of a swerve for Arcade Fire, and probably a necessary one. They’ve always had a big sound, filled with anthemic rock and roll. In concert, they are high energy, always moving, creating a wall of sound. But The Suburbs is a restrained, controlled album. The anthems are still there, but they don’t have the heart-on-the-sleeve fervor of Funeral or Neon Bible. You just have to find them.