December 18, 2010

AwkwardSound Presents: The Best and Worst of Everything Else In 2010

There was much more to the year than just breakthroughs, memorable videos, and incredible songs and albums. As AwkwardSound wraps up its 2010 season, it gives praise (or a lack there of) to the musicians and trends that for better or worse made music the year it was here at AwkwardSound...

Most Overrated Album: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's Before Today

No one cared for Ariel Pink before, so what caused the change of heart this year? For starters, the Los Angeles-based experimental lo-fi artist is now considered a major influence on many up and coming lo-fi "chillwave" bands (and probably all those "witchouse" ones too,) and therefore his stock has gone up with critics. Still, his 2010 release, Before Today, was chalk full of rough-edged tracks lazily pieced together and comes off sounding like drug-induced scattered thoughts instead of the cohesive collection some reviewers would claim.

Most Overhyped New Artist: Sleigh Bells

Sleigh Bells are what happens when the former guitarist of an early 2000's emocore band makes his move to Brooklyn and joins forces with a pop vocalist and failed child actress. Together, they ironically throw on Catholic school uniforms, sunglasses, mash up said-emocore with Williamsburg dance music and get signed to a label ran by this year's biggest train wreck. The car commercials and MTV promos follow suit, but when all is said and done, you know this type of music is just another image-based gimmick.

Best Live Act: Trash Talk

Trash Talk has been described as the "most dangerous band in the world" and while getting yourself situated inside one of their pits is not recommended, there's something to be said about their explosive live presence.

Train Wreck of the Year: M.I.A.

2010 marks the end of M.I.A.'s unblemished reign as "the next big thing," and quite honestly, this was long overdue. Her return to the spotlight got off on the wrong foot when the controversial button-pusher publicly went off on a New York Times reporter after an unflattering (yet still quite accurate) feature story ran in their newspaper. As M.I.A.'s stock began to falter, she released her third album, /\/\/\Y/\, to a pretty poor reception. Even M.I.A.'s so-called friend and longtime collaborator, Diplo, had some choice words to share about the album. It only got worse from there, as her live shows continued to bomb and she began spitting on photographers. At least M.I.A. made a new friend in the always-classy Courtney Love out of this...

Reunion of the Year: Pavement

Following years of pleas and wishful thinking from fans new and old, iconic '90s indie rockers Pavement finally got back together in 2010. Despite front man Stephen Malkmus admitting they were in it for the money, their fans' best interests were taken into huge consideration. The Stockton, CA quintet plotted out a massive tour which hit every major North American city and the largest music festivals across the globe, and even released a definitive Best Of compilation to remind the music world why they matter. When Pavement got on stage each night, it was as if they hadn't missed a beat, playing lengthy sets packed with all their hits and fan favorites. Malkmus and company still haven't given any indication that the reunion will last beyond 2010, but for one year, we got the very best of them. Time to get a clue, Billy Corgan.

Best New Artist: Zola Jesus

The reemergence of goth pop in its own right was one of the best parts about 2010, but no matter where you looked, you couldn't get away from the genre's brightest shining talent, Zola Jesus. Nika Roza Danilova entered the scene in 2009 to immense Siouxie Sioux comparisons, but she came into her own in 2010 thanks to two excellent EPs, further collaboration with supergroup, Former Ghosts, and opening for the likes of Fever Ray, The xx and Wolf Parade. Zola Jesus hasn't announced her next full-length, yet, but AwkwardSound has a hunch it may drop in 2011 to a huge reception.

Artist of the Year: Robyn

You could easily make a valid point saying Kanye West changed the game with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or that Arcade Fire's meteoric rise continued to climb with The Suburbs, but if you ask AwkwardSound, it was Robyn who took the most creative approach to reinventing pop music in 2010. At the start of the year, the Swedish songstress set out a lofty goal to release not one, not two, but three albums. The three-part Body Talk series included an eclectic mix of styles ranging from electro-pop to rapping with Snoop Dogg in an innovative way that her mainstream contemporaries simply can't hold a candle to. While the third album was more or less a collection of the best singles from the first two parts, it was a smart way to release pop music for an iTunes generation. Robyn's success at keeping listeners' attention all year long is an admirable fete that solidifies one the best comebacks of the past decade.

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