I used to be a music journalist before I started this blog. I worked for a ton of websites and even ran my own for a few years. I decided to dive back into the genre, since 2010 was a great year for music. I have spent the last few weeks listening to music non-stop and I have been a very tired boy. I have narrowed down the albums that were released in 2010 to a top 50 list. I had a battle with myself when picking the top album of the year. Here are the top half of my Top 50 Albums of 2010, with links to key tracks.
“Brothers” is the sixth studio album by the band from Akron, Ohio, but they weren’t well-known until this year. They had limited success with their previous albums, but for good reason, this is the album that is getting them major recognition. They have been nominated for a few Grammys this year, including “Best Rock Song” and “Best Alternative Music Album.” They show their range with tracks like “Everlasting Light” and “Too Afraid To Love You” on the same album. The Black Keys have outdone themselves with this album with amazing musicianship and personal lyrics that made “Brothers” the best album of 2010.
When making this list I went to my Twitter followers for a key track on “Sigh No More.” I received 8 different tracks from about 30 different people, there are only 12 songs on the album. When so many people pick such a variety from the same album as their favorite, you have an album full of great music. I couldn’t stop listening to “Sigh No More,” when a friend recommended them back in March. Many of the lyrics and song titles on the album were inspired by the works of Shakespeare, John Steinbeck, and other authors. It sounds a bit nerdy, I know, but you will thoroughly enjoy this album.
This album could have easily been #1 on my list, because I love it so much. I had this album in every spot in the top 5 in the preliminary phase of writing this post. If you compare their sound on this album with previous work, it’s more “Funeral” than “Neon Bible.” The Arcade Fire puts out amazing music and every record hasn’t disappointed me yet. Until that time comes, they are one of the best bands out there and “Suburbs” is proof.
After the band released “Boxer” in 2007, I didn’t think they could top it. “High Violet” surprised me and is a stronger album, I love when bands do that. With tracks “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Terrible Love” hitting alternative and mainstream radio, this has also been their best-selling album so far. The baritone voice of Matt Berninger is the perfect companion for the medley of instruments the band uses on “High Violet,” this is a must-listen.
This is my surprise on the Top 50 list. Darwin Deez is a band from Brooklyn, NY, but have yet to explode in the States. They have been touring in the UK over the past year and charted a few singles off their self-titled album there. They call their genre “genius pop,” but it has also been referred to as “bedroom pop for the heartbroken.” It’s a fun album with up-tempo tracks like “Radar Detector,” songs for the recently dumped (“Bad Day”), and songs about post-apocalyptic love (“The Bomb Song”). It’s one of the best albums of the year.
Danger Mouse is making a name for himself by working with out-of-the-ordinary artists. He has released albums with Cee-Lo Green as Gnarls Barkley and Sparklehorse over the past few years with great success. He now enlisted James Mercer from The Shins to collaborate on what they call “Broken Bells.” I am a fan of The Shins and the albums that Danger Mouse produced in the past, so this was a no-brainer. I love the album from the moment I first listened to it.
My friend James over at Columbus Beer Guys had an extra ticket to go see Jonsi live a few months ago. I wasn’t familiar with his solo work, only his work as the lead singer of Sigur Ros. I got the album a few days before the show and I didn’t stop listening to it until it was time to leave to go to the show. I have to admit that I am not a huge fan of Sigur Ros, but respect them as a band. Jonsi’s solo album “Go” is so creative and original that is stands out from the crowd. Also, if you have a chance to ever see him live, it’s definitely an experience.
It was released in January and I nearly forgot that it was even released this year. When I first listened to it, I reminded me of something that The Yeah Yeah Yeahs would put out, but better. They have spent most of the year touring all over supporting bands like Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear. They should be proud of this album and hopefully we’ll hear more material from them in late 2011 or early 2012.
We all experienced “Kanye West overdose” back when he interrupted Taylor Swift at the MTV Music Awards. He realized that he needed to disappear from the limelight for a bit and it might have been the best thing that he could have done. He released so much material in a short period of time and his music became stale. When this album came out, I didn’t listen right away, but after so many of my friends on Twitter kept raving about it, I caved in. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” was refreshing to listen to and made me realize that I actually missed having something new to listen to from him. He believe he became a fan of music again and enlisted the help of other talented musicians like Justin Vernon from Bon Iver to help him. It was nice to see that he put his ego aside for a few minutes.
I had a hard time placing this album. I had it all over my Top 25 when trying to figure out the order. I haven’t always been a fan of Vampire Weekend. I even had a heated debate about them with my friend Carlos when I was in Vegas for a friend’s wedding, “Contra” changed my mind. The tracks “Holiday” and “Horchata” getting stuck in my head, it was hard to ignore them. It’s one of the best albums of the year and an album can completely change one’s mind.
This is another album that was an early year release that nearly flew under my radar. Even though the album was released in January, it wasn’t until a month ago when I first listened to “Astro Coast.” It’s a pure indie-rock album with catchy riffs and low-fi production.
When LCD Soundsystem releases an album, it’s nearly guaranteed to land on many year-end lists. The consistent quality of their music is something to marvel. “You Wanted A Hit” is one of the best tracks off any album this year and the rest of the album is high-quality.
Damon Albarn said “I’m making this the biggest most pop record I’ve ever made in many ways, but with all my experience to try at least present something that has got depth.” I would say that he succeeded and Gorillaz fans would agree with that statement. Each song is a different experience and the album should be enjoyed as a whole and not a la carte.
Psychedelic art rock isn’t something that I listen to often, but Warpaint’s soothing vocals makes them a must-listen. They don’t get too artsy with their arrangements and push the envelope too far. It’s still mainstream enough to occupy even the casual music fan’s ear. They toe the line with this album, but they go in areas that exciting and new.
I usually don’t condone an artist to put out a song that is 25 minutes long, but Sufjan Stevens mad it work. “Impossible Soul,” a track on this album, spans nearly ever genre during its 25-minute playback time. He could have released this track as an EP itself and probably would have been successful. The rest of the album is a mixture of orchestral and electronic themes. This is the first full-length album he has released in five years and hopefully we won’t have to wait another five for his next effort.
Maximum Balloon, better known as Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio, gathered up a bunch of talented artists to help him on this project. He has Karen O, David Byrne, Theophilus London, Little Dragon, and many others to help out with vocals on the album. Sitek has produced albums for TV On The Radio, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Liars in the past and he is just adding to his resumé with this project. It’s a fun album full of mainstream and experimental hip-hop that stretches his chops as a record producer.
The best bands start when guys decide to start a band to get girls. I don’t know if that’s a true statement, but I would like to think that great things happen when people are motivated, no matter what the motivation might be. I first heard this band this summer on the local radio station here in Columbus, CD 101. The track “I Can Talk” was on a constant rotation and I noticed myself humming it all around town. It reminded me of The Fratellis meets Ra Ra Riot, two bands that I enjoy.
I think I have a man crush on Justin Vernon. I mentioned that he helped with Kanye West’s newest album and here I am talking about him again with his side-project Gayngs. The group actually has 23 musicians from bands Bon Iver, Rhymesayers, Doomtree, Megafaun, The Rosebuds, etc. The band’s sound is big and will take you in different directions. You go from a slow jam (“The Gaudy Side Of Town”) to a futuristic ballad (“The Last Prom On Earth”) in eleven steps.
If you want to throw a “hipster dance party,” the first rule is that you must have Crystal Castles on your playlist. The energy level on this album is intense. The track “Not In Love” was later remixed with The Cure’s Robert Smith on vocals. If that track was included on this album, I have a feeling that it would be much higher on my list.
This album starts where “Cease To Begin” left off. There is a seamless transition between their last two albums. They knew what works for them and they didn’t stray away from the formula. I have to give them credit for that. They didn’t go the MGMT route and say “let’s try something different.” Band Of Horses knows what their fans want from them and they deliver.
It helps to have connections and friends within the music industry. Ra Ra Riot their friends Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) & Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend) mix their album. They did a fantastic job and enhances their superb talents and makes it pop. I was a fan of their last album “The Rhumb Line,” but it did lack something. “The Orchard” hits on all cylinders and leaves me awaiting new material from the band.
I wasn’t too familiar with Deerhunter’s work before this album. They flew under my radar a bit. I recognized the name and had listened to a few tracks here and there, so when I gave this album a listen, my expectations weren’t too high. I was locked in from the first track “Earthquake,” since it wasn’t what I was expecting. The genre of “ambient punk” could be just about anything. It reminded me of an Echo and The Bunnymen song, which I enjoy. The rest of the album was a trip and it’s a fun album to listen to.
The indie-rock Gods, Spoon, have done it again. I enjoyed 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” and was anticipating this album for a few months before it was released. There aren’t as many instant radio-friendly singles that pop out as they did when I listened to their last album, but these tracks blend together. It’s not a concept album, it’s just the way it was mixed.
When an amazing author decides to collaborate with you and write lyrics for your next album, you agree. Nick Hornby, author of “High Fidelity” and “About A Boy,” wrote the lyrics this album. The lyrics on each track read like a chapter of a book. It’s great to see someone who is so talented with words mesh minds with a gifted musician.
You usually don’t see too many bands tied to the “pop punk” genre on anyone’s top albums of the year list. I had to change it up and add this one to my list. I thought maybe I was just a fan and I was brainwashed to like anything they put out. I was pleased to see that this album is the only album that Alternative Press gave a top rating too all year. They had a more mature sound, but still don’t take themselves too seriously with clever wordplay.