Dec 22, 2010

Best 50 Albums of 2010

2010 felt more fractured musically then even previous years. Beneath the non essential behemoth that is current day popular music there existed layers and stratas of many musical colours and styles. Sometimes it all felt a bit overwhelming and uncertain. There were new styles and movements. Some appealing, some not so. Basically for me I still searched for new ideas in old frameworks. I am a sucker for well structured songs with good melody, insightful lyrics and a load of heart and passion. If it involves something approaching electro pop or hip hop I will generally steer clear of it. I like songs with guitars, I can't help it. But it must move me. Make me feel excited all over for the future of music.

Thankfully there was enough of this in 2010. Of course I can't listen to everything and it is very easy to miss something that you might possibly love. But I tried my best to delve into various corners and eke out music that made a connection. I tried very hard to be objective when listening to music and not worry about trends or hype and if a band is important to you, then make it important and stick to your opinion. There is no point in making opinions that you hope make you friends and create readers. There is no right or wrong in music appreciation, there is just appreciation. Find what you love and love it. And tell people you love it. Who knows, you might make a new friend. So, to the list. After years of Canadian domination (they still did well) an American band topped my chart. From the moment I first listened to their album I knew it would, but this list just confirms it. In total effect. Once again this list is heavily North American biased. But to my ears that is where the great music is coming from. It is that combination of the expansive American sound and the pure fire of great songwriting that does it for me. There seems to be an energy and creativity that is palpable. Of course there were still some disappointments. The Hold Steady produced their first less then great album and Eels seem to have run out of steam all together. Other acts like Band of Horses and Interpol appear to be heading quickly in the wrong direction. Then some other artists (Wavves, Ariel Pink), didn't seem worthy of the hype at all. But as we approach Christmas time I still find that the search for music still lights my fire. And that is the most important thing of all.

1. The Monitor-Titus Andronicus
When I listen to this album I feel like my hair is on fire. I certainly believe that Patrick Stickles is. A fully loaded aural assault, a shotgun to the heart, a crossbow of flaming passion. That is what this album is. A concept of fiery ambition. It wins in every single department. Shredding guitars, intelligent lyrics, phenomenal drumming. Epic, epic, epic. An album that ties together the mystic chords of American history and then spits them straight into your face.
MP3: Four Score And Seven

2. Expo 86-Wolf Parade
Well, it did happen. The band of my heart did not make number one. But I still loved this album. How could you not? Krug and Boeckner combining to produce music that makes your body do strange things. Seemingly under appreciated, this album was pretty hard to fault. Only one real weak track did not mar this immensely enjoyable album. Enjoyable it certainly was. It fairly bleeds through the tracks. May they return again soon.
MP3: What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)

3. Mines-Menomena
The reputation of this band just continues to grow. With talent to burn they easily followed up the superb "Friend and Foe". This album is a great lesson in how to create music that is emotional and experimental. It has a warm and glowing heart, but can easily be enjoyed on many different levels. It slides from euphoric to subtle to lovelorn from song to song. Quite often within the very walls of a song. This is timeless.
MP3: Five Little Rooms

4. La La Land-Plants and Animals
The most slept upon album of 2010. A multi faceted, sublime concoction of melodies and creative arrangements. When trends fade and die this album will live on. It shakes and grooves. It rocks and relaxes. Many different styles and flavours make this album not only massively enjoyable but also tremendously rewarding. "Undone Melody" was greatness.
MP3: Tom Cruz

5. Teen Dream-Beach House
I never tired of playing this album at anytime in 2010. Their first two albums failed to connect with me in a major way, but this one made me a full convert. A joyous and sumptuous album full of lush melodies and superb arrangements. Each song soared and took flight with incredible ease. Heavy with emotion and intent it climaxed with the wondrous "Take Care".
MP3: Norway

6. High Violet-The National
They have done it again. Their most successful album yet was a triumph of great songwriting and complex, emotional music. Mature, thoughtful music that doesn't play dumb, it was great to see this album find a bigger audience. Guitars interweave and collide, all beneath the smouldering weapon that is Matt Berninger's astounding voice.
MP3: Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

7. The Suburbs-Arcade Fire
They just got a whole lot bigger, but thankfully it was fully deserved. This sprawling monster was a rich tapestry of sound and voice. A slight detour from their first two albums, it was subtle though, it was encouraging to see them not rest on their laurels. Although a long enough album I really wouldn't change it at all. It all blends together perfectly.
MP3: The Suburbs

8. Lisbon-The Walkmen
The Walkmen make albums that grow and last. They burn slowly, but they they burn for a long time. Hamilton Leithauser growls and scowls over eleven tracks of virtuosity and majesty. Mature, intoxicating tunes for the discerning listener. Their sound is quite distinct too. Clanging guitars and some of the best drumming you will ever hear.
MP3: Angela Surf City

9. Transference-Spoon
If this album didn't get the praise as previous Spoon albums then it only highlighted one thing. Just how good this Austin band has been for just so long, for this is still a damn fine album. Raw and uncompromising it brought those recognisable Spoon sounds. Sparse drumming, great rhythms and the distinctly soulful Britt Daniel croon.
MP3: Written In Reverse

10. At Echo Lake-Woods
It works, it works, it works. In just so many ways. Blissfully strummed guitars, trilling electrics, high pitched vocals and melodies that 99% of bands on Earth would gladly kill for. A rough and ready combination of modern sounds and rustic nuances. This could soundtrack any single day that you choose to live for. Totally delectable and divine.
MP3: Blood Dries Darker

11. Together-The New Pornographers
If Challengers was a slight letdown, I don't believe it was though, then this album from the Canadian collective was a welcome return to form. Warm and comforting, it was a rich and rewarding slew of songs from Newman, Case, Bejar and co. Few bands in the world can write melodies like this band. Long may they continue their reign.

12. Halcyon Digest-Deerhunter
If not quite the majestic beast that was Microcastle, then it wasn't far behind. Layer after layer of sound made for eternal rewards after each and every listen. And the last four songs are absolutely killer. Also it probably turned out to be their most accessible album yet.

13. Pink Graffiti-Secret Cities
A quasi homage to Brian Wilson, it certainly captured some of his spirit and ear for melody. Big chunky melodies counterpoint constantly with intimate moments of grace. An album full of texture, invention and originality. A dark horse of a record for 2010.

14. The Wonder Show Of The World-Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & The Cairo Gang
I have said it before and I will say it again. Will Oldham is a living, breathing treasure, a pure genius. The 'Prince' combined here with Emmett Kelly to produce an album of breathtaking beauty and quiet genius. Hushed tones and flowing, erupting emotion are his gifts to us.

15. Paul's Tomb: A Triumph-Frog Eyes
Carey Mercer is emphatically one of a kind. An all compassing album of strained hearts and stricken pulses. He reaches for the stars and takes us on a wild, crazy and wonderful ride. The first song, a juggernaut, is easily worth the price of admission alone.

16. The Age of Adz-Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan returned to confound and probably divide us all. I have to admit that I liked the "All Delighted People" EP a little bit more, but this is still at times a remarkable piece of music. If not every song hits the mark, there are certainly enough that manage to do.

17. Moon Deluxe-Andrew Cedermark
The former Titus Andronicus man delivered an album of enormous depth and courage. Raw and forthright it was a pleasant discovery in the second half of the year. The title track is something wondrous and there are plenty of other rough and inventive gems here.

18. Forgiveness Rock Record-Broken Social Scene
A little careful editing would have seen this probably finish a little higher up the list, but there was still plenty to love here. As usual the music was dense, complex and sprawling, but also quite exciting. If a tad below their previous blockbusters, it was still a great big effort.

19. Here's To Taking It Easy-Phosphorescent
The single and opening track was a bit of a worry. A little too much honky tonky. But the rest of the album is just superb. Swooning melodies and gentle atmospherics make for substantial listening. "Hej, Me I'm Light" is a complete stunner.

20. The Winter Of Mixed Drinks-Frightened Rabbit
Almost an impossible job to follow up "The Midnight Organ Fight", but the boys still produced the goods. Barrels of emotion and fiery Scottish humour. It is nearly impossible not to smile when you listen to this band. The accents manage to do it every single time.

21. Have One On Me-Joanna Newsom
This long awaited album was no let down, but slightly exhausting. Newsom is a special creature and she surely gave us plenty to chew on here.

22. Council Tree-Seagull
My favourite Australian album was a beautifully concocted album of strange sounds and peaceful beauty. A great album to listen to under the covers.

23. Gorilla Manor-Local Natives
A complete load of fun from beginning to end. Great, great harmonies and addictive rhythms. I am looking forward to see them live in February.

24. Grinderman 2-Grinderman
A ferocious assault on the senses. A compelling and destructive album. How can you fail by combining Nick Cave and Warren Ellis?

25. Sisterworld-Liars
A raging beauty of an album. Strange, abrasive and totally addictive. An inventive and ambitious piece of music. They really sound like no one else.

26. The Way Out-The Books
Continuing the theme of experimentation, these New Yorkers give us again an album of sonic experimentation and found sounds. A tranquil experience.

27. Down There-Avey Tare
Took a while to get this but that was probably to be expected. Not all of it works to be sure, but there are great delights to be found here if you look.

28. Tidelands-The Moondoggies
This music is right up my alley. Warm and rich instrumentation plus great harmonies make for a winning combination. It might not be original but it is delightful.

29. Everything In Between-No Age
I genuinely believe this to be their best album yet. Yes, they still bring the noise and fuzz, but there are genuinely great songs buried in here.

30. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-Kanye West
I fell out of love with hip hop many moons ago, but this brought me back. Whatever you think of Kanye there is no denying the effort made here.

31. Wild Smile-Suckers
If you have tired of MGMT then maybe you should give Suckers ago. Pulsing and thumping tunes are everywhere here.

32. Micah P. Hinson and the Pioneer Saboteurs-Micah P. Hinson
Hinson returned in 2010 with another album of burnt offerings and broken hearts. His voice alone is enough reason to listen to his music.

33. Epic-Sharon Van Etten
This album wasn't epic but it was surely many, many things. Her voice is clear and robust and she can write songs full of hope and reality.

34. Destroyer Of The Void-Blitzen Trapper
This band has been on an constantly upward spiral to greatness. But they hit a slight bump in the road here. It was still very good, but just lacked that previous spark.

35. Brothers-The Black Keys
Dan and Patrick still have it, plenty of it. They still sound the same, but there is nothing wrong with that. When in doubt put on a Black Keys album.

36. Fang Island-Fang Island
I never, ever tired of this album in 2010. Raucous, wild and full of fun. Again, melodies were the key to making this album such a great listen.

37. Learning-Perfume Genius
A subtle and sometimes painful album. Mike Hadreas concocted music that was desperately personal and at times very moving.

38. I Speak Because I Can-Laura Marling
I initially missed the boat on Ms. Marling, but I have bought a ticket now. Unbelievably talented, she has a strong voice and a vital story to tell.

39. The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Horse-The Besnard Lakes
"Albatross" alone would make this album required listening. Thankfully there is more on offer here. A sonic explosion of drums and guitars and voices.

40. Saint Bartlett-Damien Jurado
I think this singer is completely under rated. Although not changing the earth Jurado writes songs of great depth and heart. He can sing too!

41. Daughter of Sunshine-Rat Vs. Possum
My next Australian entry is from a Melbourne band that writes songs of bounce and massive energy. Great live, they carried it to their debut album.

42. Foreign Tapes-Parades
Now here we have I believe Sydney's most promising young band. Armed with ambition and invention this is a band going places. In a hurry.

43. Pope Killdragon-Strand Of Oaks
This album could easily rise as I have only just fell underneath its considerable spell. Achingly tender and broken.

44. Thistled Spring-Horse Feathers
I could probably say see above with this album. This band succintly knows how to make music that is moving and very personal. A great delight.

45. War Of Currents-The Whiskers
A sleeper and probably a little unknown. But here we have seven complex and fascinating songs that unfold themselves with considerable effect.

46. The Black Dirt Sessions-Deer Tick
More earthy and wholesome American music. Rough and ready heart on the sleeve sort of stuff. A cry in the dark for a helping hand.

47. Kollaps Tradixionales-Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
Confounding and confusing music. But also at times quite essential. These musicians walk their own particular road and we are always grateful for that.

48. Constellations-Balmorhea
This Texan group design music that is ethereal, luxurious and often compelling. Subtle shades of colour haunt their music with great effect.

49. Treats-Sleigh Bells
Crunch, crunch, crunch. Explosive music that is thrilling and mesmeric. There is also no doubt that "Rill, Rill" was one of the songs of 2010.

50. Heaven Is Whenever-The Hold Steady
After four unbeatable and classic albums the everyman band came back to earth a little. Was it the absence of Franz that disabled the spark?


  • At December 24, 2010 , Blogger Pix said...

    great assortment of albums!

    the more i look through how many of those albums i only know one or two songs off, the more i feel like ive slept through 2010

  • At December 27, 2010 , Blogger cliffeyj said...

    you have very good taste, this is one of my fav lists of the year and has been a great blog to follow. congrats

  • At December 30, 2010 , Blogger ZenMan said...

    have i overseen flying lotus-cosmogramma or is it really not on the list?

  • At January 01, 2011 , Blogger James said...

    agreed with Cosmogramma.A big album this year.
    Great to see menomena at #3. I have them as my #2 behind the Besnard lakes. Again, a great blog i check in to see weekly and by the looks of things, we are at almost every concert together without even knowing it. Heres to 2011


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