I didn’t realize it until I started compiling this list, but I listened to a lot of music last year. 2010 was a really, really good year for music, one of the best in a while. A lot of established bands put out strong albums, and there were some noteworthy artists making their debuts. Here are my top 30 albums from 2010, starting with the honorable mentions.
Royksopp – Senior
Holy Fuck – Latin
Guilty Simpson – OJ Simpson
Dosh – Tommy
She & Him – Volume Two
Now onto the full list:
30) MGMT – Congratulations
A lot of people dislike this album because it is a complete departure from the catchy singles (i.e. “Kids” & “Time To Pretend”) on their first record. I find their sophomore effort to be more satisfying as a whole, however. Total throwback to 60’s psychedelia, but not for everyone.
Song For Dan Treacy:
29) Cee Lo Green– The Lady Killer
Some will be disappointed that there is nothing on this album similar to novelty hit “Fuck You,” and that is rather unfortunate. Cee Lo’s got soul, and this is a great solo effort from him. Gotta give him props for covering a Band of Horses song, too.
Bright Lights Bigger City:
28) Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise
This helped me get through many long work days. Simply excellent minimal techno, and perfect background music. Could have done without the Panda Bear vocal track though.
27) Wale – More About Nothing
Wale is back with a sequel to the Seinfeld-themed mixtape that got him publicity in the first place. I thought the theme might be too much the second time around, but that’s not the case. This has more great usage of Seinfeld clips, including the hilarious “do you think I was canceled?” rant by Jerry on Larry King Live.
26) Aloe Blacc – Good Things
Great, great soul record. Good to know he got some airplay due to HBO using “I Need A Dollar” as its theme song for “How to Make It in America.” I must also mention the terrific cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” — Blacc gives the song a whole new perspective.
I Need A Dollar:
25) Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
I have known about these guys for a while, but didn’t actually pay attention to them until this summer. I was at Lollapalooza, wasn’t feeling well for some reason, and just needed to chill out for a bit. I found a spot under the trees at the small “bloggy” stage and listened to these guys. I was instantly made a fan and had to get this album. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys blow up in the next few years.
The Loneliness & The Scream:
24) The Chemical Brothers – Further
Just when I thought the Chemical Brothers had tapped all of their creativity, they put out this pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting much, but this is a really good album that holds its own amongst their best.
23) Menomena – Mines
More interesting experimental rock from this Portland trio. It took some time to grow on me, and I wouldn’t say it is as good as Friend and Foe, but the more I listened to this, the more I liked it.
22) Booka Shade – More!
It’s more of the same from Booka Shade, but that’s not a bad thing at all. There are a handful of throwaway tracks, but there are some truly great ones as well — ones that hold up compared to the rest of the duo’s catalog. I can only imagine how well some of these songs translate to a live setting.
21) Ellen Allien – Dust
This is the first full-length album I have heard from Allien, although it is her fifth overall. I liked this quite a bit — its a good mix of melancholy techno and pop music.
20) Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
I had never heard of these guys until just a couple months ago. They are an Australian rock band influenced by 60s psychedelic music, and their lead singer has an uncanny vocal resemblance to John Lennon. Innerspeaker is the band’s debut album, and it shows a lot of potential.
Solitude Is Bliss:
19) Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Perhaps the most “difficult” album on my list — it is impossible to classify this into one genre. It took me several listens to really appreciate what he was going for here. Definitely a complex record that rewards you the more you listen to it.
And The World Laughs With You (feat. Thom Yorke):
18) !!! – Strange Weather, Isn’t It?
!!!’s first album since the tragic death of their drummer, Jerry Fuchs, is their darkest effort yet. This also marks a change of direction in sound for the band, not quite as accessible as their earlier material but still rather good. I am especially happy that live favorite “The Hammer” made it onto the record.
17) The Black Keys – Brothers
Another solid album from the Akron blues rock duo. They tried some new things here, but it’s still a Black Keys record through and through. Quality stuff, these guys never disappoint.
15) Strong Arm Steady – In Search of Stoney Jackson
My favorite Stones Throw record of the year. Top notch production from Madlib, tight lyrics, and just a great all-around hip-hop album that flew under a lot of people’s radars this year.
Get Started (feat. Talib Kweli):
14) Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
I didn’t think we would get another BSS album, so this was a bit of a surprise. This is probably their weakest record, but there are still a lot of memorable songs on here. Gotta love the epic instrumental “Meet Me In The Basement” that is just awesome live.
Meet Me In The Basement:
13) The Roots – How I Got Over
I don’t know how the Roots even found the time to record anything this year, being that they are Jimmy Fallon’s house band and all, but this album ranks up there with their very best.
The Fire (feat. John Legend):
12) Spoon – Transference
Rough and unpolished, this is Spoon’s most straightforward effort yet. A bit of a departure from their last couple records, but still a great all-around rock album from beginning to end.
11) Matthew Dear – Black City
How do you even go about describing this album? Dark, brooding experimental dance music with hints of Prince thrown in? Dear sure has changed a lot since the days of Backstroke, but I really like the direction he is heading. “You Put A Smell On Me” is one of his best songs yet.
You Put A Smell On Me:
10) Freddie Gibbs – Str8 Killa
Freddie has been on a roll lately, releasing a couple of successful mixtapes and getting some great reviews. He finally dropped an EP this year that showcases some of his best songs. A little surprised that “The Ghetto” didn’t make the cut, but nonetheless this is high-quality stuff. Proof that good gangsta rap didn’t die with Pac and Biggie.
National Anthem (Fuck The World):
09) Broken Bells – Broken Bells
James Mercer + Danger Mouse = a pretty damn good collaboration. Lots of catchy songs, and Mercer sounds like he is genuinely having fun. I hope these guys continue to work together.
The Ghost Inside:
08) The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night
Best discovery of the year for me. I saw these guys at a free show in Millenium Park over the summer and they just blew me away. Incredible album, these guys have a very bright future.
And This Is What We Call Progress:
07) Yeasayer – Odd Blood
Odd Blood came as a result of the band’s massive acid trip in New Zealand. It definitely sounds LSD-influenced, and that turned out to be a very, very good thing. Their influences are all over the place here, but somehow they bring it all together to craft some truly great experimental dance/pop songs.
06) Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
This could very well be the best Gorillaz album yet, and it is all over the place musically. What else could you expect when the guests include Lou Reed, Mos Def, Bobby Womack and Snoop Dogg? A lot of fun to listen to.
On Melancholy Hill:
05) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Who would have thought an album about suburbia would be this good? As their longest effort yet, The Suburbs is loaded with songs that translate amazingly well to arenas. It could have probably used some trimming, but this is still an amazing album that brought out some fantastic individual songs. Plus it gave us one of the coolest interactive videos I have ever seen.
Ready To Start:
04) Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Say what you want about Kanye the man, but Kanye the artist is fucking brilliant. I’m not going to go so far as to say it is the album of the year (which many critics are), but it is still damn good. Kanye is one of the best minds in hip-hop today, and it is so much fun to watch him evolve and try new things. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
03) Caribou – Swim
Dan Snaith (Caribou) calls this “liquid dance music” and oddly enough, that is an accurate description. This is a lot different from his 60s psychedelia-influenced Andorra, as it focuses more on the electronic/dance side of things. I love the direction he has taken, and this may be his best album yet.
02) Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Best hip-hop album of the year, hands down. It’s so good to have Big Boi back. I was a little worried as to how good this would be considering the amount of time since his last work, but he hasn’t missed a step. Many standout tracks and lots of great guest appearances (Yelawolf, Janelle Monae, Gucci Mane, etc.)
Shine Blockas (feat. Gucci Mane):
01) The National – High Violet
The National have quickly become one of my favorite bands. High Violet picks up right where Boxer left off, and it shows a band that is continually maturing with age. Feelings of fear and paranoia are all over this one, but the band has never sounded tighter. Plus “Terrible Love” is so good that the group has made that their regular concert closer. Absolutely fantastic; this is my album of the year.
Blood Buzz Ohio: