1. The Dodos, Visiter
If this decade were good for anything, it was for inspiring musicians to strip down and make much of little. Here’s a duo and a half (well, third member, Joe Haener, just became official) that create hypnotic and passionate pop with finger-picking guitar, fast tribal-like beats and ingenious twists, such as the tambourine taped to drummer Logan Kroeber’s foot. What’s more, Meric Long’s singing sounds timelessly great, I mean really great – a signature appeal also for band No.’s 2 and 3 on my list – hopefully signaling the demise of the mumbling indie rocker. San Francisco’s the Dodos, around since 2005, make folky rock and create an old-meets-new vibe that not only get your toes tapping, but they reach into your guts and heart and give them a long, hard tug too. “Primitive” and “visceral” get tossed around a lot, but if you take these qualities and combine them with the melodic sweep of Paul Simon or the Finn brothers, you’ll find yourself saddled with the unique and underrated genius of the Dodos.
2. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
Sparklingly catchy and timeless pop, vocals you can sing along to. Every song sounds like a radio hit. That doesn’t happen often.
3. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Not since the Beach Boys has a band harmonized so wondrously.
4. Throw Me the Statue, Moonbeams
I might be the only writer putting this plucky young band from Seattle on my list, but like Bobby Brown says, “That’s my prerogative.” TMTS combines the eccentric charm of early new wave, especially Talking Heads, and gloms on keyboards and strummy acoustics. The result is dark, light and swirly – a stunning contrast of moods and sounds.
5. She and Him, Vol. 1
My favorite male vocalist of nowadays, M. Ward, teams up with Hollywood sweetheart Zooey Deschanel for a duet masterpiece. I especially like their cover of the Beatles’ “Should Have Known Better.”
6. N.E.R.D., Seeing Sounds
This is way beyond the conventions of hip-hop and R&B. Pharrell and Co. give us a fun and funky amalgamation that doesn’t lose its soul and integrity in the translation.
7. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular
The all-out rock, balladeer charm and glam luster of early ’70s Bowie on a high-tech 21st century platform – Robo Ziggy!
8. The Breeders, Mountain Battles
I love how Kim Deal’s voice has gotten rougher and raspier. It just adds to the raw mystique of the Breeders, a band that’s always had a knowing attitude while not taking itself too seriously to be weird. Theirs is a righteously cool evolution, and this album is proof.
9. TV on the Radio, Dear Science
Soulful, bizarre, topical, danceable. A super record from one of this decade’s supergroups.
10. Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer
Wolf Parade seemed like another fancy, esoteric Canadian band at one time but has won me over with its soulful, gutsy rock, sweetened by indelible melodies and intelligent lyrics.
11. The Delta Spirit, Ode to Sunshine
12. The Helio Sequence, Keep Your Eyes Ahead
13. The Old 97s, Blame it On Gravity
14. Lykke Li, Youth Novels
15. Dr. Dog, Fate
16. My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges
17. Centro-matic/South San Gabriel, Dual Hawks
18. Flight of the Conchords, Flight of the Conchords
19. R.E.M., Accelerate
20. Duffy, Rockferry
On my list to check out further:
I’m thinking that if I had more time with these, the results could possibly skew a bit:
Common: Universal Mind Control; Q-Tip: The Renaissance; Thurston Moore: Sensitive/Lethal; The Rosebuds: Life Like; Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago; Beach House: Devotion; Langhorne Slim: Langhorne Slim; and Okkervil River: The Stand-Ins.
10 favorite singles:
The Dodos “Fools”
Fonzworth Bentley feat. Kanye and Andre “Everybody (Don’t Stop)”
Lykke Li “I’m Good, I’m Gone”
Throw Me the Statue “Lolita”
Common feat. Pharrell “Universal Mind Control”
People C’mon “The Delta Spirit”
The Breeders “Bang On”
M83 “Kim and Jessie”
Pictures and Sound “It’s You”