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XLR8R's Favorite Releases of 2010, Part One

You knew it was coming: XLR8R's picks for the best records of 2010. We've split our list into two parts, the first of which we present today, spanning 25 ranked LPs or EPs, with a bit of verbiage about why we love each record included. At the top of this entry, we've also tacked on a small selection of Honorable Mentions from our editorial staff's personal faves. Check in tomorrow for the final piece of year-end coverage, and our favorite 15 releases from 2010.

Honorable Mentions:

Actress Splazsh
[Honest Jon's]
The sophomore album from the mysterious Werk Discs bossman was many things: dark, driving, hypnotic, spellbinding, house, techno, goth, deceptively simple, and, most importantly, worthy of repeated listens. Honestly, it probably should have cracked the Top 25, but our Creative Director really hated it.

DJ Nate Da Trak Genious
[Planet Mu]
Its debatable that DJ Nate's ground-level involvement in Chicago's footwork community is at all significant, but there's no question that when it came to juke and footwork breaking out overseas and spilling over into the indie scene this past year, this compilation of Nate's YouTube-friendly singles was the primary soundtrack.

Doc Daneeka Deadly Rhythm EP
Did any other producer have as quietly brilliant of a year as Doc Daneeka? We're not sure. His Ten Thousand Yen label dropped one quality, drum-filled house tune after another, and this EP kicked off new Ramp imprint PTN in fine style, showcasing his mastery of shuffling, UK funky-inspired percussion. More like this please.

Forest Swords Dagger Paths
[Olde English Spelling Bee]
The acceptance and subsequent credibility of lo-fi music exploded onto a whole new level in 2010, though it was mostly on the indie-pop and garage-rock fronts. But Dagger Paths, an obscure gem by UK artist Forest Swords (a.k.a. Matthew Barnes), managed to clamber its way up from the dark, cavernous K-hole it was made in to share the spotlight and become one of the most original and interesting albums of its homespun sound.

Hackman More Than Ever EP
This is more a placeholder for 2011's year-end bests, where Hackman's highly anticipated full-length will very likely show up. In the meanwhile, though, we couldn't overlook this four-tracker of funky/bass/broken-R&B grooves.

Lemonade Pure Moods EP
[True Panther]
2010 was a huge year for True Panther, as the label served up one indie darling after the next: Delorean, Girls, Glasser, Teengirl Fantasy... you get the idea. Often overlooked was this five-track effort from NY-via-SF trio Lemonade, who successfully funneled the band's psychedelic and tropical rave elements into something resembling actual pop songs.

Nguzunguzu Mirage EP
LA's Nguzunguzu has always seemed rife with potential, from their epic mixtapes to the '90s screensaver-like graphics that accompanied their lo-fi R&B meets global bass experimentations. But Mirage was a quantum leap forward, not just in sound quality, but in terms of focus and vision, as the duo's stripped-down, percussion-heavy, and drama-filled productions were on par with those of like-minded artists such as Kingdom and Girl Unit.

Pantha du Prince Black Noise
[Rough Trade]
Hendrik Weber's third album as Pantha du Prince found the artist delving further into the chime/bell-sound atmospheres and melodies that were only touched on throughout his previous record, This Bliss. Made while in the Swiss Alps, Black Noise is infectious minimal techno shrouded in the chilly mystery and earthy moods of a man looking for tonal inspiration from nature, not the dancefloor.

Best Releases of 2010:

25. Blondes Touched EP
Want to take a trip? The debut EP from this pair of Oberlin grads—who now reside in Brooklyn—is like a one-way ticket to another planet, one where moonlight beaches, all-night raves, and Balearic beats are not only mandatory, but absolutely essential.

24. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Before Today
The fully realized Ariel Pink album his fans have been waiting for for years, with a full-on band and nearly sold-out tour to boot. Next year: Live at Budokan.

23. Demdike Stare Forest of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing, Voices of Dust
[Modern Love]
Hauntologists, audiophiles, vinyl obsessives, bass wizards... You can call Demdike Stare whatever you like, but the fact remains the Manchester duo of Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker took their idea for a "horror soundtrack" project and turned it into a brooding musical force, releasing three (!) unique-yet-cohesive long-players in the time it takes most artists write a record. And if the news of Demdike's forthcoming three-disc collection of these records, Triptych, holding 40 extra minutes of music is any indication, the pair has only started down its long, winding path.

22. oOoOO oOoOO EP
[Tri Angle]
Fuck "witch house," for real. oOoOO's debut might as well be an early 4AD or Nettwerk Records transmission. There's nothing chopped, screwed, or hip-hop about it—just ethereal, electro-tinged jams with the occasional '80s radio-pop guitar line, and it's all beautiful.

21. Guido Anidea
[Punch Drunk]
Dubstep full-lengths aren't often a winning proposition, but the debut album from this young beatmaker showed that Bristol's purple sound might have some staying power after all.

20. Shackleton Fabric 55
We abstained from including compilations, re-issues, and mix albums in our Best Releases of 2010 list, save for Shackleton's late-coming contribution to the Fabric mix series. We attribute this exception not only to the fact that Fabric 55 is a pre-meditated collection of both old, new, and unreleased Shackleton tunes, but that it's also one of the strongest sonic statements to come from the darker permutations of dubstep, delivered as one fluid piece.

19. Pariah Safehouses EP
James Blake might have stolen all the headlines for fans of haunted and soulful post-dubstep sounds, but the debut EP from UK producer Pariah manages the tricky task of pulling at many of the same heartstrings while also serving up tunes that are far more suitable for the dancefloor.

18. Chancha Vía Circuito Rio Arriba
While Buenos Aires' ZZK collective has undoubtedly been instrumental in putting new strains of electronic and experimental cumbia on the musical map, rarely have they done so in such beautiful fashion. The sophomore album from Chancha Vía Circuito offered shuffling Latin rhythms, pastoral melodies, hints of Latin folk, and, above all, an exquisite listening experience.

17. Teengirl Fantasy 7AM
[True Panther]
We were psyched to see indie powerhouse True Panther get behind this collection of R&B-kissed, ambient-inspired, experimental-housey slow jams, and help spread its appeal from the dancefloor into the hearts of indie fans as well. It's no surprise that it's getting equal love from FACT and Pitchfork.

16. Mount Kimbie Crooks & Lovers
Cringe at the title of "post-dubstep" if you must, but the idea of that basically nameless genre truly grew its legs this year and Mount Kimbie's heartfelt Crooks & Lovers is its sound fully formed. With the colors of R&B, sub-bass, field recordings, lo-fi fuzz, and even guitar, Kai Campos and Dominic Maker painted an elaborate portrait of the future of dubstep sans wobble, and it was good.

Check out part two right here.

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