11. Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son Of Chico Dusty – Big Boi
Whilst we all wait patiently for the next Outkast album, the supposedly ‘straight’ (musically speaking) one from the duo goes and releases a sprawling, triumphantly batshit album of forward-thinking hip-hop with at least twelve singles on it. Sir Lucious Left Foot… slinks seamlessly from bass-heavy, rib rattlers (‘Shutterbugg’, ‘Daddy Fat Sax’) to sleek, modern-day R&B (the Janelle Monae-assisted ‘Be Still’), via a couple of genuine WTF moments (the orchestral introduction to ‘General Patton’, the icy, steel-pan beats of ‘You Ain’t No DJ’). A refreshing antidote to the rap-by-numbers of Eminem and his ilk.
Best track: ‘Shutterbugg’
12. Plastic Beach – Gorillaz
Any album that opens with an ‘Orchestral Intro’ isn’t going to be a concise and flab-free thirty minutes of music, and so it was with the third album from Damon Albarn’s not-so-cartoon-anymore ‘other’ band, Gorillaz. Sprawling, OTT and thrillingly adventurous throughout, Plastic Beach featured a list of guests even Kanye would balk at, from rappers Kano and Snoop Dogg to old codgers like Mark E. Smith and Lou Reed. It shouldn’t really work and yet somehow Albarn weaves all the disparate strands together like a master, be it making catchy synthpop in the shape of ‘Stylo’, glam rock with ‘Glitter Freeze’ or beautiful laments like ‘On Melancholy Hill’ and ‘Empire Ants’. It may take time to fully get to grips with, but Plastic Beach is their most consistently rewarding album.
Best track: ‘Empire Ants’
13. Contra – Vampire Weekend
It’s easy to sneer at Vampire Weekend. They’re four preppy, well-educated blokes that make precision-tooled guitar pop that works brilliantly at festivals and gets over-played on the radio. Whilst Contra doesn’t quite match their debut for runaway choruses, it’s a bigger, better version of what they do well, with tracks like ‘Run’, ‘Giving Up The Gun’ and ‘California English’ taking the template of bouncing basslines and tightly wound guitar lines but adding a more off-kilter feel to proceedings. Plus, with the beat-heavy opener ‘Horchata’ and the M.I.A-sampling ‘Diplomat’s Son’ they proved that they weren’t afraid to experiment.
Best track: ‘Horchata’
14. Thank Me Later – Drake
It’s hard to feel pity for Drake and yet pity is what he seems to want on this debut album. Fame, money, success, success with women, lack of success with women and a terrible record on Facebook Scrabble all seem to haunt Drake and yet there’s something about his delivery and the way he constructs the songs that make it sound far less woe-is-me then it does on paper. ‘Over’, ‘Up All Night’ (featuring rap’s very own Gaga, Nicki Minaj), ‘Fancy’ and ‘Show Me A Good Time’ are all class A bangers, whilst ‘Fireworks’, ‘The Resistance’ and the incredible ‘Best I Ever Had’ prove that slow-jams need not just be icky sex diaries.
Best track: ‘Over’
15. Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter
Bradford Cox – Deerhunter’s 8ft tall frontman – has been a busy boy in 2010. Not only does he seemingly churn out brand new Atlas Sound albums in his sleep, he’s also helped make one of the most hypnotically odd albums of the year in Halcyon Digest. Whilst it’s predecessor – the excellent Microcastle/Weird Era Continued – wasn’t exactly what you’d call polished, it still maintained a certain amount of production sheen, an element jettisoned here for murky, swampy layers of cheap sounding beats and Cox’s treated vocals. Most of it works a treat, with ‘Helicopter’, ‘Revival’ and the closing Jay Reatard tribute, ‘He Would Have Laughed’, amongst the best things they’ve ever done.
Best track: ‘Helicopter’