Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer James Eldred’s picks

I would like to preface this list by saying that I have not yet listened to Cee-Lo Green’s new album nor Kanye West’s latest – which everyone and their mother is telling me is a freaking masterpiece. So a more apt title of this list might be “The Top 10 albums of the year that I got around to.”

1. Foxy Shazam: Foxy Shazam
If I had my way this list would have one album. That’s right, this album is so good that it is actually the 10 best albums of the year. Hell, it’s the 20 best albums of the year, and the five albums of 2009. Foxy Shazam aren’t just a band, they are a force of nature that will kick your ass, steal your lunch money and make sweet love to you all at the same time. “Count Me Out,” “Bye Bye Symphony,” “Bombs Away,” the list just goes on and on, every song on this album could be a Top 10 single. Yet somehow none of them have been. America, you’re letting me down even more than usual. There is no greater band on the planet than Foxy Shazam. They are here to take over the world and be the biggest rock stars since the Beatles. So if you all could just accept that already and buy this album now, that would be great.

2. Goldfrapp: Head First
Most artists who try to recreate that classic ’80s dance sound usually crash and burn, sounding more like a parody of the music they’re trying to replicate (Owl City springs to mind) than the real deal. But Goldfrapp pulled it off with this release, channeling the soundtrack to “Flashdance” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” (in a good way!) on instantly danceable tracks like “Rocket” and “Alive.”

3. The Sword: Warp Riders
There are not enough metal bands making concept albums about intergalactic space battles. Thankfully the Sword realized this, and updated their mythology-based themes for the 21st century, changing their focus on medieval wizards and warriors to space-faring heroes and transcendental beings who traverse space and time. The fist-pounding metal that accompanies the far out narrative is pretty damn good as well.

4. Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow
Okay, maybe there are other bands creating concept albums about intergalactic space battles. But while the Sword is like “Aliens,” direct and to the point, Coheed & Cambria’s conclusion to their epic Armory Wars saga is like “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and Rush’s 2112 all rolled into one incredibly overblown and bombastic delight.

5. Sleigh Bells: Treats
What is it about Brooklyn and male/female electronic duos? First Matt & Kim, and now these two. But while Matt & Kim delivered the audio equivalent of a big hug with Sidewalks, Sleigh Bells’ Treats is like a sonic punch in the face, a bizarre combination of industrial, punk and straight-up noise that is louder and more original than any other record this year.


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Goldfrapp: Head First


RIYL: Olivia Newton-John, ABBA, Giorgio Moroder

Based purely on the duo’s reputation, you might think a new Goldfrapp album would be filled with the kind of trendsetting, cutting-edge synthpop that led Christina Aguilera to hire them as collaborators, but with Head First, Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp don’t have the future on their minds; instead, they’ve hairsprayed Goldfrapp’s breathy vocals to a pillowy cloud of New Wave synths and turned the clock back to 1981. Close your eyes, and the resemblance to Olivia Newton-John is uncanny – the title track, in particular, sounds like a lost ON-J hit from decades ago. It’s kind of fitting that this album is coming out the same week as John Cusack’s “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

Goldfrapp_06

In the wrong hands, this would be empty-calorie cheese, but Head First doesn’t sound like a cheeky exercise in retro irony – it really sounds like it came from the era it’s imitating, and although it’s true that the era in question was responsible for plenty of cruddy synth disco, this is no guilty pleasure, nor does it fall prey to the genre’s many campy pitfalls. If you’ve ever wanted to lace up your roller skates and pretend “Can’t Stop the Music” never happened, Head First might very well be your new “Xanadu.”

Of course, there really was a “Can’t Stop the Music,” and in the long run, Goldfrapp can’t pretend the last 25 years never happened any more than you can, which ultimately makes Head First little more than a really well-crafted stylistic detour – and, as a result, something of an artistic dead end. But so what? Dig your leg warmers out of storage and enjoy one of the sweetest bursts of pure pop pleasure you’re likely to hear all year. The artists that fell along this particular axis of ‘80s synth pop had their drawbacks, but their near-total lack of cynicism or irony was one of their biggest charms, and Goldfrapp has recaptured that spirit perfectly here. Do yourself a favor and follow their lead. (Mute 2010)

Goldfrapp MySpace page

  

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