Ion’s Ten Fave Outside-of-Hip-Hop Albums of 2010

While I love listening to hip-hop, I certainly can’t appreciate it as much without listening to funk, soul, jazz, rock, electronica, hell even folk music sometimes.  And there were a lot of great albums that complemented this year’s hip hop releases and made their mark on 2010.  Here are ten of my favorites (in no particular order).

Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer

From the moment I first heard the song “Fuck You”, I sensed there’d be some heat to this album.  While I always expect Cee-Lo to bring his game, I was impressed many times over by his range and charisma while listening through The Lady Killer. Add that to motown soul backdrops and superb surprises, it makes for a great listen.

Deerhunter – Halcyon’s Digest

While it was nowhere near a hip hop record, the retro guitar riffs and now-and-then experimental drum patterns of Halcyon Digest had me instantly hooked.  Similarly enjoyed Before Today by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti for many of the same reasons, but “Helicopter” really took off like few songs could in 2010.

Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Pt. 2

Strip away the controversial public strip scenes in the “Window Seat” music video and what you have left is not only another stellar songwriting showcase from Erykah Badu but also a fluid neo-soul journey with the occasional WTF-that-was-strangely-hip moment.  But it’s an Erykah Badu record, so we should expect that.

Fitz & the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces

Being a huge crate-digger for rare funk and soul records, no record this year got me grooving more than the one from this Los Angeles band.  Their sound reminds me so much like  late 60s/early 70s Stevie Wonder and Sly and the Family Stone that’s scary.  I half expected Smokey Robinson to show his face halfway through a listen.

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

Not even gonna try with this one.  Instant classic, Flying Lotus is pushing and reimagining hip-hop/electronic productions to new frontiers, part of the thrill is just trying to keep up with the wild sonic rodeo that is Cosmogramma.

The Foreign Exchange – Authenticity

Nicolay and Phonte do it again with another well-crafted album featuring perfectly thick vocal hooks, exciting keyboard melodies and, most importantly, undeniable chemistry.  Wish Phonte would still do more rapping, but plenty of needs are satisfied here.

Free The Robots – Ctr Alt Del

This was the year I started listening to a lot of dubstep and glitch hop, big thanks to great releases from Bassnectar and the Glitch Hop.  But Free The Robots’s debut album really stood out to me, ditching the lustrous instrument pads used by Flying Lotus in favor of warm sub-bass with plenty of sensational drum experimentation.  Enough robot swagger here to make Robocop bust-a-move.

Janelle Monae – The Archandroid

An album that draws inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, Philip K. Dick and Claude Debussy?  With an artist that truly believes in time travel? Who can make almost any hair style look cool? Janelle Monae gave us The Archandroid in 2010, a spellbinding album with so many enjoyable songs you wonder to yourself “what can’t she do well?”

Orgone – Cali Fever

Funkiest release of 2010 from a band really coming into their own the past couple years.

Teebs – Ardour

If you made it through the first nine I listed, put this one on for your dessert.  Teebs, who is only 23 and comes from the same scene as Flying Lotus, creates an even tastier, pleasure-filled album half-Cosmogramma and half-Strawberry Jam a la Animal Collective.  Sure it can sometimes be redundant, but I haven’t found an album this inspiringly fresh sounding in a long long time.


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