Best Albums of 2010 (So Far)

If it feels like Animal Noises has been gone for awhile, it's because it's true. There are various reasons for this-- a disenchantment with reviewing music, a floundering music scene and a dearth of good music are a few. What encourages this post however also has meaning behind it. This past week was our second birthday as a blog; an eternity on the internet, really. Our first post was a list just like this one, albeit more crudely and haphazardly constructed. Matt wrote about album art, I wrote hack reviews (some might say I still do), and the site was not yet molded into its 2009 form. Almost 700 posts (mostly in 2009), a senior editorship at 20 Watts and (at one time) a surprising surge in notability later, this probably isn't what most (myself included) envisioned for the blog at this point. But such is life.

I won't make any promises as to what our format will be going forward. I honestly don't know. Nonetheless though, here are our (mostly my) picks for the top 15 studio albums of 2010 thus far (through June 30).

Avi Buffalo, Avi Buffalo
For a band made mostly of under 20-somethings, Avi Buffalo delivers a surprisingly expansive album experience on their first go-around. Of course, there are moments where they can, and do act their age, but for the most part, it's a real show of emotions, without being too sappy or immature.

Transference, Spoon
By my account, Spoon's most experimental effort to date,
Transference seems to forgo the radio-friendly, locked-in nature of 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga for a rougher, gruffer exterior. The results are a surprising change of pace that deliver few singles, but a very complete and complimentary collection of songs.

Treats, Sleigh Bells
Sleigh Bells were discovered by M.I.A., something that shouldn't surprise you at any point during
Treats. Their brash electronic pop is a burst of raw energy, electrifying and different with an air of youth typified by the cheerleader themed album cover.

Before Today, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Before Today may be the only appropriate title for Ariel Pink's latest effort, with a sound that grabs at 70s and 80s pop conventions as if they were gold. Though it may be more polished than his previous work, it also manages to display more outward emotion as well-- the biggest draw on an album full of them.

Swim, Caribou
Harsh, melancholy and removed all at once, Caribou's Daniel Snaith seems to outdo himself on
Swim. More worked-over than what we've heard from him to this point, its seamless juxtaposition of various textures and elements keep it engaging and interesting throughout.

Thank Me Later, Drake
Drake's highly-anticipated debut ends up here mostly on the strength of production value and a bevy of memorable radio singles. In spite of all his detractors and critics, the entertainer has still accomplished quite a bit in a very short time, and this album seems to be just the first in a string of solid outputs we'll see from him in the years to come.

Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus
A cacophony of sound,
Cosmogramma may be the most difficult record on this list to wrap your head around. That said, the stunning collection of hip-hop, jazz and electronic experimentation will reward any and all listeners willing to put the time in.

How I Got Over, The Roots
It would seem counter intuitive that The Roots would deliver one of their better albums at this point in their career. Then again, maybe mainstream exposure doesn't have to ruin every artist. The hip-hop veterans couple with various out-of-genre collaborators here to put together a highly optimistic, and internalized collection of songs.

Innerspeaker, Tame Impala
In spite of their early psychedelic influences (which ring very apparent), Tame Impala manage to make
Innerspeaker an energetic, modern tour de force. With nary a lull in sight, the band grabs your attention from the start, and holds on throughout, as only an expertly engineered album can.

Fang Island, Fang Island
Fang Island's self-titled debut is decidedly jovial, and almost childish-- a trait that actually sounds better in practice than it does in print. Still, the endless enthusiasm they provide is something of an anomaly in today's scene, so infectious that you have no choice but to join them in exuberance.

Astro Coast, Surfer Blood
Astro Coast is a technical gem, with a level of guitar work far surpassing anything a debut album should be capable of. And yet, you are helpless to believe it from the record's opening notes all the way to the end. Thrashing wildly amidst a summer vibe, it's a storm worth sitting through.

LP4, Ratatat
Devoid of many of the club bangers that have made them famous, Ratatat's
LP4 still manages to excite the senses with a much more closed-in approach. Even within the contained sound though, you are consumed by its textures, which harp far more on composition with (from my vantage point) a decidedly Latin flavor.

Contra, Vampire Weekend
I deserve criticism for my initial evaluation of
Contra, which was less than favorable. That being said, it's a record that thoroughly grows on you, as each listen uncovers a new intricacy and songs gain new meanings. Rife with experimentation and intrigue, Contra never ceases to add a new dimension to your experience with it.

High Violet, The National
Abandoning a sound that can best be described by me as "cozy," The National go for a darker transition on
High Violet, and pass with flying colors. Textured, brooding and thoughtful, the moody collection of songs is a saga-of-sorts, with a damaged and flawed cast of characters you are unlikely to tear yourself away from.

Teen Dream, Beach House
A floating, sensational commentary on young love,
Teen Dream is airy and downright gorgeous. Each note sparkles and shines, whether happy or sad, dragging you closer and closer into the feelings that created it. When the final notes of closer "Take Care" fade away, you have only once choice but to hit play once again.

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