I’ve been working on my lists of favorite albums, singles/tracks, and videos of 2010 for the past week or so. This year I’ve been particularly interested in thinking about what these favorites say about me and what I like in music or videos. I’ve enjoyed thinking about it. So, I’ll start by listing my favorite albums of last year; then I’ll write a little about my overall thoughts about this list.

Perfume Genius

My favorite album of 2010 was Perfume Genius’s Learning. Perfume Genius is the musical nom de plume of Mike Hadreas, an early 20-something who has produced an amazingly intimate and unique album.

I came cross this album while reading omg blog’s list of the top gayest songs of 2010. After listening to “Learning,” the title track from Perfume Genius’s album (obviously), I wanted to hear more. So, I googled the album and starting listening to it and reading reviews.

This album, which is really short at only about a half-hour long, reminds me of Sadie Benning’s early short videos, which I sometimes show my gay lit students. These videos were made with a children’s camera and are therefore very stylized and amateurish (in a good way). These qualities also make them experimental and fascinating.

This is what listening to Learning reminds me of. It seems like a very personal, experimental album by someone compelled to create with whatever he has at his disposal. The result is a hauntingly beautiful album. Here’s the title track:

And here’s a live version, just for comparison’s sake (I think it shows that Perfume Genius is the real deal):

Number 2 on my list of favorite albums is Dark Light by Lovers, an all female group. I like the relative simplicity of the album combined with its sense of lived experience–these songs seem like the genuine expressions of someone’s life. “Boxer” is the first track I heard from the album:

Again, I was immediately hooked. I love lead singer Carolyn Berk’s voice. There’s a resonance to it that seems really solid and tonally pleasing while also being kind of vulnerable and sweet. I also really like “Don’t You Want It?”:

“Barnacle” is also great:

Patty Griffin’s Downtown Church is number three on my list. This gospel album is amazing, especially since I’m not a Christian. It takes something special for me to listen to gospel music, but Downtown Church is more an independent, folk album than a traditional Christian album. Like the albums above, it’s a great artistic project, which is clearly something I value when listening to an entire album.

“Little Fire” is one of two original songs written by Griffin on the album. It’s a duet with Emmylou Harris:

“Coming Home to Me” is my favorite song on the album. It’s simply beautiful:

I also love it whenever Griffin sings in Spanish, as in “Virgen de Guadalupe”:

Number 4 on my list is Laura Marling’s I Speak Because I Can. Two years ago, Marling’s “Cross Your Fingers/Crawled Out of the Sea” were my favorite songs of the year, but I wasn’t really captivated by the album from which those tracks came. So, I’m a little surprised that I really like Marling’s new album. It’s quiet, heartfelt, and totally catchy. The more I listen to it, the more I love it–it almost seems that I discover a whole new track each time I hear the album.

My latest “discovery” is “Rambling Man”:

Here’s a video of Marling singing another great song from the album, “Blackberry Stone,” live with Marcus Mumford:

(This brings up a side note: due to comparisons with Marling and after hearing “Little Lion Man,” I downloaded Mumford & Sons’ album, but it didn’t quite make my top ten list.)

Vampire Weekend’s Contra is next on my list. This is probably the most youthful of the albums I liked the most this year. It’s got energy, fun, and some social commentary. What’s not to love?

“Diplomat’s Son” is my latest favorite from this album. I like it’s queerness:

One of my favorite videos of the year is “Giving Up the Gun”:

And finally, “Cousins” is fairly representative of the album:

Number six on my albums list is Brandon Flowers’s Flamingo. Earlier this year, I would have predicted that it would have been higher on my list. I like it, but I find myself made uncomfortable by parts of it–the religious imagery seems a little too sincere or something for my tastes. But it’s a great album nevertheless.

“Only the Young” is the latest single from the album:

I’ll be writing more about “Crossfire” in a future post, but I’ll go ahead and list it here as one of the highlights from the album:

It’s not the album, but I also love Flowers’ version of “Bette Davis Eyes,” which he’s been performing in concerts this year:

Number seven is Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep, a collection of Victorian and early twentieth-century children’s poems which Merchant set to music. It’s an inspired project, and the live show was one of the best I’ve ever been to.

“Equestrienne” is a good sample of this album’s feel and sound:

Another great one is “If No One Ever Marries Me”:

Sade’s Soldier of Love is number eight on my list. This is a very moody album. It’s about life after love and can be kind of depressing. But when you’re in the right mood, it’s brilliant!

A new favorite is The Constellations and their album, Southern Gothic, which is number nine on my list. I first heard them on satellite radio. “Felicia” is a great song:

This seems like the kind of band that would be great to hear live while drinking great beer. “Setback” is also good:

Number ten on my list is the Scissor Sisters’s Night Work. This is another one that I would have thought would be higher on the list. I like it, and it’s totally gay, which is always a plus in my book. But this year I clearly enjoy a different kind of album. Here are a couple of sample from it:

So, what do these albums say about me? Clearly, I’m into quieter, more “artsy” albums this year. I seem to lean towards singer-songwriter albums, even if the album’s by a group. I like “gay” artists, but folk apparently trumps dance-pop. I like a good dose of angst and world-weariness. Surprisingly, I have a larger number of female acts in my list this year — that won’t be the case for at least one of my other music lists–songs and videos–which will hopefully appear soon!

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