Matt Slaybaugh

Top 20 of the Year

This is how music mattered to me in 2010. Fuck a top 10 album list; there are plenty of those all over the interwebs. This is how music infected my life this year (in somewhat chronological order).

Odd Blood
Secretly Canadian

These guys have so much fun freaking you out. Did you see the video for “ONE,” with that gross, heartbreaking, little blob? On Odd Blood, the band embraces all sounds, lets a little more kitsch than necessary slide in occasionally, but almost always maintains a heart-on-sleeve policy that’s tremendously affecting.

Joanna Newsom

Her album (Have One On Me) and her live show came into my life within weeks of each other and I’m still reeling. In my Agit Reader review, I wrote at length about this three-disc collection of appealing artifacts, and the remarkable ability that Newsom has of making the life around you disappear as she draws you deeper into her world. Live, she has a surprisingly normal personality, but as soon as those hands reach for her instrument, you instantly remember that you’re in rarified, almost super-human company.

The Bird and the Bee
Interpreting the Masters Volume 1:
A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates

Blue Note

For much of this year’s indie music, this album is the logical end-point. Why not just cover Hall & Oates and save yourself the trouble of disguising your influences? Inara George, though, has an infinitely charming voice, and these versions are faithful enough to encourage nostalgia, but original enough to make you listen anew. Not that you needed to.

Camu Tao
King of Hearts
Definitive Jux/Fat Possum

Hometown hero, and maybe too little too late. King of Hearts, though, is non-stop pleasure from beginning to end, and the first four bars of “Plot a Little” practically deserve their own spot on this list.

LCD Soundsystem
“Dance Yrslf Clean”

Other songs on the album (This Is Happening) might be “better,” but this is the one that makes you reach for that fat knob on the front of your stereo.

Becoming a Jackal

My wife loved this album first, so I have to give her credit. Then I heard it about 200 times, and now I dig it too. The songs are genuinely pretty and diverse, sprinkled with tiny touches of piano and strings and occasionally some intense drumming. Conor O’Brien’s lyrics are wrought, sometimes overly so, but usually with metaphoric intent and poetic execution.

“Populism Yea, Yea”
from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Why the fuck am I talking about musical theatre on this website? Well, because we just now finally got the ultimate summation of Bush-era politics, and it came from the pen of Michael Friedman, who writes music for a lot of very hip downtown theaters. “Populism, yea, yea!” It’s the title and the chorus, and so clever that its targets will never, ever get the joke.

Freddie Gibbs

I was already a fan of Gary, Indiana’s pride after his Miseducation mixtape. (Try “What It B Like” if “National Anthem” has left you unconvinced.) But it was his take-no-prisoners performance a Pitchfork this summer that left me with my jaw on the floor and my hands permanently in the air for Mr. Gibbs.

Beach House
Teen Dream
Sub Pop

I remember sitting in a coffee shop, very early in the morning, in the North half of Chicago, on a brutally hot summer’s day. I had a lot of work to do, but when I heard “Zebra” come on, I just sat back and enjoyed an incredibly good cup. I felt renewed. I really did.

Small Stakes

Not a musician, no. Jason Munn is a designer whose aesthetic has perfectly captured the quest for identity and authenticity that faces our current purveyors of independent music. Recently, Mr. Munn has moved on to visualizing the abstract vibes of bands like the Dirty Projectors and Deerhunter. The results are pleasing, yes, but more importantly, they make you really want to go see a band play music.

Das Racist
“Who’s that Brown” Video

This music video is, in fact, a playable video game in which you’ve got to find the hypeman, Dap, so that Das Racist can sub for Jay-Z and Justin Bieber at a concert. The retro 8-bit style makes it hip, but it’s the bouncy production and sly lyrics that make this work overtime. “Brown Larry Bird, y’all the ’97 Celtics.” Preach it, boys.

Twin Shadow

I can’t stop listening to this record. It served me in the car on cold, cold nights when the heat wasn’t working, and it served me on sunny fall days when everything was feeling great. It’s Taylor-made (pun intended) for the end of this year, featuring plenty of throwback moods from the ’80s. It’s so good, and I just can’t get enough.

Moogfest 2010

Halloween weekend at a nerd-music fest in one of America’s weirdest towns? I’ll take two. Four Tet killed it. Dam Funk wrecked it. Caribou blew it up. Girl Talk drove the ladies crazy. And El-P closed out the weekend with old-school, unpolished craft and capability.

How to Dress Well
Love Remains

I’m still trying to get through it all without giving over my complete, rapt attention. You’ll drown in this record, but you’ll never regret it. Rarely has 21st century music seen so much aching.

The Walkmen
Fat Possum

I’m thinking of driving a great distance to see this band, whose live show I’ve already seen four times in the past five years. It occurred to me recently how adult and masculine this band is. Strange to say? Maybe. They’re not trying to be cute or to write songs that clutch at anything cheap or simple, and they get better and more interesting with every tour and every record. That’s unusual in a world where even the best buzz-worthy bands seem to shoot their entire wad after an album and a half.


Um, how many albums did Madlib release this year? I got to 15 before I lost count. While exploring every genre that’s ever sprung from the African-American diaspora and then some, Otis Jackson Jr. still makes time to remix Dilla and produce for people like Erykah Badu. He’s proven himself a workaholic, to say the least. What’s more impressive, of course, is how much of his work is still worth listening to. Pressed to pick only one release to pass on, it’d be Miles Away from the Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz & Percussion Ensemble. Or Medicine Show #5. Oh wait, that’s two.

Kanye West
“Runaway” Video

I’m not sure I really got the album’s arc until I watched this 35-minute mixtape on film. It’s non-sensical and overblown, sure. But there’s a lot of naked emotion in there, and it’s a more concise, direct and effective version of the biggest album of the year.


This Twitter feed is essential following for music nerds, with entire careers summed-up in 140 or less, sometimes to certain poseurs’ shame, often to loud laughter. Example: “Prince: 1-3 foreplay; 4-5 penetration; 6-9 ecstasy; 10-13 afterglow; 14-18 walk of shame; 19-35 occasional late-night booty calls.”

Body Talk

I’m only a little embarrassed. But Robyn’s got skills. “Hang With Me” is so strong it even thrives in the acoustic version. And “Call Your Girlfriend” isn’t a song, it’s a three-act play with more drama than the last season of Mad Men.

Daft Punk
in Tron: Legacy

The only good things about the new Tron movie, other than the new light cycles, are the soundtrack and seeing Daft Punk nod the affirmative from the DJ booth when some ridiculous asshole asks them for fighting music. Nice helmets, too.