Pitchfork's Top 10 Albums of 2010 Explained

Categories: Lists
Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig
​The wonderful people over at Pitchfork just released their 10 best albums of 2010 today. In what should have came as no surprise, Kanye West took the top spot. His latest album had been given a notorious perfect 10 a month ago and, if Rolling Stone and Spin have anything to do with it, Kanye's world domination may very well be complete.

Picking Kanye is something we've come to expect from Pitchfork over the years -- it was so obvious they were going to pick him, just like they did with Animal Collective for last year's top spot -- yet we still revel in their decision to do so.

The reason we like Pitchfork so much is that -- while being noted tastemakers of relevant music -- they are a solid, unwavering institution. They are like that gold pocket watch that your grandpa gave to you when you were 8 years old. You didn't quite understand the gift then, but now when you open the desk drawer where you keep it, you notice that it's got the exact right time. It's been keeping pace all these years, even if you stopped carrying it a decade ago. Their biases and shameless infatuations with certain bands and genres just don't change.

Given my track record in decoding such lists -- coupled with the recent release of Pitchfork's own best of 2010 list -- I will now attempt to explain what it all means.

10. Titus Andronicus -- The Monitor
A solid choice, the "indie for being indie's sake" choice on the list. Easily buried at number 10, this is a very easy choice to label as the "personal favorite."

9. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti -- Before Today
There is no real clear "one for the old folks" on their list, so Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti might serve as half of that appeal with a later album. This is album has widespread appeal, yet scores plenty points with the hips kids. Ultimately, this choice looks like all the more badass buried so deep in the 9 slot given how good the album really is.

8. James Blake -- The Bells Sketch EP / CMYK EP / Klavierwerke EP 
All of James Blake's 2010 EPs do not constitute one full album, yet the love affair between Blake and Pitchfork somehow forces them all into one offering. This is the "artsy, far too dense" album on the list -- by far. Blake is plenty talented, but his appeal is shamelessly gobbled up by Pitchfork. While rather dense, this choice screams of bias -- yet I think they like it that way.

7. Joanna Newsom -- Have One on Me
This album is the other half of the "one for the old folks" appeal. It's been four years since Newsom released an album, so she had to be included in the top 10. In 2006, Newsom's Ys was number 3. In 2010, she's number 7. Go figure. Since we're dealing with Pitchfork and their biases -- and Kanye is number 1 -- this is "the spot reserved for Joanna Newsom."

6. Vampire Weekend -- Contra
I don't think there's any more shameless a pick on any top 10 list from this year than this album. This choice is complete garbage -- right there with Rolling Stone calling The Black Keys' Brothers the second best album of 2010. I'm sorry, go ahead and give me all the shit you want, but this album just isn't that good. It's definitely not top 10 material. It's a safe pick with widespread appeal. However, it also works against the list as a whole -- rather than helping make it cohesive.

5. Beach House -- Teen Dream
Teen Dream and Contra are separated by at least 25 albums -- not one. Yet there they are, right next to each other on this list. At least Teen Dream was the higher choice. This one scores more points with the hip kids, again looking all the more badass sitting at the perhaps too high 5 slot. Compared to other popular, indie rock/pop albums from the year, Beach House has a big enough appeal while still keeping a unique, indescribable charm about them. This album might just be the token indie album from 2010. 

4. Big Boi -- Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Finally -- the token hip hop album. It's no Janelle Monae or The Roots, but it still serves its purpose. This album is a dual threat in that it is both very good and a hip hop album. It's like Twofer from 30 Rock. This was the other album, aside from Kanye's, that I knew was going to be in the top 5.

3. Deerhunter -- Halcyon Digest
This should be their number one, but as we know, no one actually puts their favorite album in the top spot. Oddly enough, I put this album just one spot ahead in my own top 10 list -- flipped with the next album on Pitchfork's list. This album does take honors as their best indie rock album -- which holds true as I honestly believe this album to be the best album from this year in its genre. It's a solid, smart pick that -- if we actually put what we believe to be the best album in the top spot -- should be number 1.

2. LCD Soundsystem -- This Is Happening
I will say that I don't necessarily read Pitchfork to get recommendations/tips on new music. There are other, hipper blogs for that. I do, however, read Pitchfork for news and album reviews. I say this because their two and three slots are the same as mine, only switched. Is it neat that my own list mirrors Pitchfork's? In a way, yes. Their opinion is highly regarded and their writers are very talented. For posterity's sake, Sound of Silver was number 2 in 2007, LCD Soundsystem number 8 in 2005. This album would have been their best of the year, if not for Kanye.

1. Kanye West -- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Here it is -- the hippest album you could have chosen as your best album of the year, especially if your website deals mainly with indie rock. The album is incredible, there's nothing wrong with it being number 1. This album was destined to be their number 1 when it scored its perfect 10 back in November. From then on, we were all on a collision course with this album as the number 1 album of the year. Congrats, Kanye -- let's have a toast for the jerk offs.

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Contra is a great album. At first I strongly preferred their self-titled, but this one grew on me a lot and I'm guessing Pitchfork writers felt the same way. It's the smartest pop album in a year that included Janelle Monae. It's definitely the ballsiest choice in this list because it was sure to piss off a lot of people (like, apparently, you) who have a vendetta against them, or against the album.

I think it's a solid top 10 except for Beach House and Deerhunter, whom I find boring and unmelodic as heck, and can't figure out why anyone likes them so much. But I don't think either of those are too surprising, since Pitchfork/the Pitchfork set loves both bands.


you give them way too much credit.


what are these hipper music blogs? /shameless teen

Caleb Reidy
Caleb Reidy

"However, it also works against the list as a whole -- rather than helping make it cohesive."

end of year lists have to be cohesive? that seems silly. i don't want a list with all the same crap... thats my personal preference. and i think ur a contra


@Intrigued Stranger - Dan Gibson is right and not being hypocritical. he is attempting to "explain" why pitchfork put albums on the list when in reality he has no better idea than you or I why they chose one album over another. Additionally, when Lopez thinks pitchfork was being genuine he knocks their aesthetic choices as if his are inherently better. This article was pointless. I blame myself for reading it.


Majorly, MAJORLY disappointed with P4K this year. Maybe I'm just getting too old? I'm 27 now, for gods sake. I'm at that awkward "am I too old to be thinking about music as I were still 17?" phase. So, that said, naturally Arcade Fire's album (musically and lyrically) just blew my mind and made me think "THEY GET IT!!" Seeing them not in the top 10 bummed me out, on a personal level.

Caribou shoulda been ranked higher. Jamelia is a jam, and definitely my favourite song of the year.

Swans deserved a slot in the top 50. As did These New Puritans' Hidden, in my opinion.

Anyway, couldn't agree with this article more, re: Contra. I loved their debut, and I love 2 or 3 Contra tracks... but goddamn, shit just bored me to tears. Then again, Beach House and Deerhunter round out my Arcade Fire lead top 3. Maybe I'm the boring one?

by the way, calling it now: Panda Bear's Tomboy will get #2 next year, with Surfer's Hymn challenging for song of the year as well

Intrigued Stranger
Intrigued Stranger

@ Dan Gibson

He didn't make the list....It's pitchfork who made the list...he is only trying to explain why pitchfork ranked it so.

Which means that your personal aesthetics being superior to Michael Lopez is a joke and stupid....because you obviously didn't read the article ;)


Dan Gibson
Dan Gibson

My arbitrary picks based on personal aesthetics are superior to yours, which are inaccurate and based on flawed methodology. Discuss.

Michael Lopez
Michael Lopez

Usually, you can put yourself in the mindset of whomever made the list and see how their picks - and the order they are in - work with each other and help balance out the list. They at least add up to make a unique list of 10 albums.

Contra is neither unique nor does it work with any other album on the list. It's just shamelessly sitting there, in spot 6, annoying the crap out of me.

Michael Lopez
Michael Lopez

The only time I ever mention my picks is when they align with P4K's. Sir Lucious Left Foot is the only album in the top 5 that P4K and I differ on.

I'm still in the deconstructing top 10 lists phase, if you will. This was just an attempt to cut through the albums themselves and offer a sentence or two on what they really mean - as far as P4K sees it.

Michael Lopez
Michael Lopez

I love one track on Contra - "Diplomat's Son." I remember hearing "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" for the first time and being enthralled. That was October of 2007. They just don't have it any more as a band.

Person Pitch was their #1 in 2007 - I couldn't agree with you more.

Dan Gibson
Dan Gibson

I don't know if that methodology works with Pitchfork, however. As far as I know, they vote on their lists as a staff, so it's not as if the top 50 is assembled to create a perspective on the year in indie or to cover certain quotas of coolness, it just happens to be the consensus of a group of writers from the site. That doesn't really allow for (intentional) balance or cohesion, just a glimpse into what fifty or so people remember about the last year.

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