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.
1. The Black Keys – Brothers
Key Track – “Tighten Up”
“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.
2. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Key Track – “I Gave You All”
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.
3. The Arcade Fire – Suburbs
Key Track – “We Used To Wait”
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.
4. The National – High Violet
Key Track – “England”
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.
5. Darwin Deez – Darwin Deez
Key Track – “Radar Detector”
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.
6. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Key Track – “The Ghost Inside”
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.
7. Jonsi – Go
Key Track – “Sinking Friendships”
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.
8. Beach House – Teen Dream
Key Track – “Zebra”
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.
9. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Key Track – “Hell Of A Life”
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.
10. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Key Track – “Horchata”
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.
11. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
Key Track – “Swim”
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.
12. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Key Track – “You Wanted A Hit”
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.
13. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Key Track – “White Flag”
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.
14. Warpaint – The Fool
Key Track – “Bees”
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.
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz
Key Track – “Vesuvius”
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.
16. Maximum Balloon – Maximum Balloon
Key Track – “Groove Me”
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.
17. Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
Key Track – “Something Good Can Work”
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.
18. Gayngs – Relayted
Key Track – “Faded High”
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.
19. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (II)
Key Track – “Baptism”
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.
20. Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms
Key Track – “On My Way Back Home”
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.
21. Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Key Track – “Boy”
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.
22. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Key Track – “Helicopter”
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.
23. Spoon – Transference
Key Track – “The Mystery Zone”
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.
24. Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue
Key Track – “Picture Window”
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.
25. Motion City Soundtrack – Dinosaur Life
Key Track – “Her Words Destroyed My Planet”
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.
HERE IS THE REST OF THE TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2010 (26-50)
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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 with a few honorable mentions listed at the bottom of this post. Here are the bottom half of my Top 50 Albums of 2010, with links to key tracks.
26. Sleigh Bells – Treats
Key Track – “Infinite Guitars”
The best way to describe this Brooklyn-based band would be “noise pop.” They formed in 2008 and their debut full-length album, “Treats,” barely missed our Top 25. They are a band on the rise and from what I hear from my friends, put on a crazy live show.
27. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
Key Track – “I Remember”
I wasn’t a big fan of Yeasayer until I hear “Odd Blood” for the first time. I have a hard time believe that they produced this album themselves. I’m glad that they translated their success opening up for MGMT in 2007 into putting out such a solid album. I almost added “Ambling Alp” as the key track on this album, but “I Remember” is currently stuck in my head, it’s catchy.
28. Deadmau5 – 4×4=12
Key Track – “Raise Your Weapon”
I’m glad Deadmau5 decided to focus on music instead of math, because he consistently puts out solid albums. “4×4=12” is the Canadian artist’s third album. Even if it’s not as good as last year’s “For Lack Of A Better Name,” I had to add it high on my list.
29. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
Key Track – “Airplanes”
Local Natives have been describe as “psycho folk” in album reviews, but I think the critic was just trying to think up a new genre. “Gorilla Manor” is a modern take on traditional folk music, a breath of fresh air for the genre. They spent most of the year opening up for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. It should be time to headline their own tour to support this great album.
30. Lil Wayne – Rebirth
Key Track – “Runnin'”
2010 was a year Lil’ Wayne would probably like to forget. He spent most of it in prison, but before his sentence he released “Rebirth,” a rap/rock hybrid that came out early this year. Even though he relies heavily on auto-tune, he comes through with an superb album.
31. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
Key Track – “Hand Me Down Your Love”
I have a hard time trying to describe Hot Chip to people who haven’t heard them. I want to say that they are “soul dance,” but that would be painting them into a corner. This is the band’s 4th album and if you haven’t heard of them, get on iTunes and get out your credit card.
32. Girl Talk – All Day
Key Track – “Jump On Stage”
I’m probably going to get hell from my friends for not ranking this album higher. I think “All Day” is one of the most re-listenable albums of the year, but had to consider that he is rearranging great music put out by other artists. I am going to see Girl Talk live in two weeks and I’m sure it will be amazing. Anyone who can put an Ol’ Dirty Bastard rap over a Radiohead track is talented.
33. Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer
Key Track – “No One’s Gonna Love You”
Everyone loves his song, “Fuck You,” but you will have to take a listen to his cover of the Band of Horses song, “No One’s Gonna Love You.” I love his work with Danger Mouse in the group Gnarls Barkley and he looks to finally put on a solo album that is getting critical-acclaim and flying off shelves.
34. Free Energy – Stuck On Nothing
Key Track – “Dark Trance”
Power pop albums aren’t my cup of tea, but Free Energy’s “Stuck On Nothing” stood out from other albums in the genre. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy produced the band album and he got the best out of the band. “Bang Pop” is their best known track, but there are many others on the album worth a listen.
35. John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up!
Key Track – “Our Generation”
I love John Legend and he had a hand in making Kanye West’s latest album great. I also love The Roots, who you may see again later on in this list. When you combine the two, you are guaranteed to have something worth listening to.
36. Kid Cudi – Man On The Moon Vol II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager
Key Track – “Scott Mescudi Vs. The World”
I thought that Kid Cudi would be a one-hit wonder when “Day N Nite” started to get played on the radio. He changed my mind when I heard his debut album, his second effort is just as good. Kid Cudi is making Ohio proud, even if he has a song on the album solely dedicated to the green herb, “Marijuana.”
37. Kings Of Leon – Come Around Sundown
Key Track – “Pyro”
I was expecting big things from Kings Of Leon after their last album, “Only By The Night,” was such a smash success. The band didn’t seem comfortable with the instant worldwide success, after releasing other albums that they thought were just as good. “Come Around Sundown” isn’t as radio-friendly, but I’m pretty sure the band is okay with it.
38. Matt & Kim – Sidewalks
Key Track – “Block After Block”
Matt & Kim put on a great live show and their album, “Sidewalks,” is just as entertaining as buying a ticket. They are an energetic two-piece band and if you haven’t heard of them, I’m sure you have heard a track or two at some point. If they are in a town near you, check them out and buy this album.
39. Gogol Bordello – Trans-Continental Hustle
Key Track – “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher)”
Speaking of energetic live shows, Gogol Bordello might take the trophy in that contest. I saw them a few years ago at a Warped Tour in Chicago and they rocked the tired, sun-poisoned crowd. “Trans-continental Hustle” is in the same ilk as their previous efforts, but under Rick Rubin’s production (or lack thereof), they have released their best album to date.
40. The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt
Key Track – “Kids On The Run”
The Tallest Man On Earth (aka Kristian Matsson) is a Swedish folk musician you may not have heard a lot about. He has released other full-length albums and EPs over the last few years, but “The Wild Hunt” is his strongest. It’s produced to sound like you are listening to it on low-fi vinyl. The production enhances the experience of listening to it and will remind you of early Bob Dylan.
41. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness: Rock Record
Key Track – “All To All”
I had an ex-girlfriend who loved Broken Social Scene a few years ago and for some reason it completely turned me off on the band. I really can’t explain why, but I decided to give them another shot with “Forgiveness: Rock Record.” I’m glad that I reintroduced myself to the band with this album. I’m glad that I didn’t let a past failed relationship keep me from listening to this album, I feel like I just had a break-through.
42. The Walkmen – Lisbon
Key Track – “Victory”
I have been a fan of The Walkmen and every other album in their discography would probably land in the Top 20 albums released in those years. “Lisbon” is a good album, but it didn’t hit on all the buttons their past albums did. It still lands at #42, it’s respectable, but go check out the rest of their discography before you listen to it and get back to me.
43. The Roots – How I Got Over
Key Track – “Walk Alone”
I told you that The Roots might appear again on this list. It was a great year for the guy from Philly. They are getting mainstream popularity by being the house band on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and releasing great albums. This album is full of guest-stars and smart lyrics on every track. Also, I would follow ?uestlove on Twitter if you want to know more about the band, he’s entertaining.
44. Seabear – We Built A Fire
Key Track – “We Fell Off The Roof”
Clash magazine described Seabear as “Sufjan Stevens meets an unplugged Arcade Fire.” If that doesn’t spark your interest, you aren’t a music fan. The indie-folk band from Iceland haven’t made a huge splash here in the U.S., but another album as good as “We Built A Fire,” and they could become a household name.
45. Washington – I Believe You Liar
Key Track – “1997”
After releasing an EP in 2008, Washington’s full-length debut was buzz-worthy. Megan Washington, the band’s lead singer, has a voice and style that screams a pop success. They may have not received the popularity yet, but “I Believe You Liar” is a very good album to build a career on.
46. Cloud Control – Bliss Release
Key Track – “This Is What I Said”
Are you in the mood for Australian indie folk music? I don’t think I have ever said that to myself, but after listening to this album, it’s now plausible. I’m glad that I stumbled upon this album in late November. It has been a staple on my iTunes for the last month.
47. Rogue Wave – Permalight
Key Track – “Solitary Gun”
Rogue Wave is one of the longest-tenured bands on his list and they still have the magic touch. “Solitary Gun” is one of my favorite tracks on the year. The rest of the album is good, but the album makes this list based mostly on just a few tracks. I would wish for a more consistent effort, but I”ll take it. It’s still worth a few spins, just not the strongest album they have released.
48. Four Tet – There Is Love In You
Key Track – “Circling”
I will admit this from the start, Four Tet may not be for everybody, but “There Is Love In You” perked up my ears. If you like artists like Bonobo and Aphex Twin, you could be in for a treat. I wanted to add it to this list because it doesn’t sound like a lot of the stuff out there and needs to be recognized. Check out a few tracks online and decide yourself.
49. Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo
Key Track – “Jessica”
Yet, another debut album from a young band cracks my Top 50. I must be in love with band on Sub Pop Records or formerly on the label. There have been quite a few that made it on here this year. Some critics have compared them to The Shins, which is an adequate, yet lofty, comparison.
50. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son Of Chico Dusty
Key Track – “General Patton”
Big Boi is further separating himself from Andree 3000 with this album. I love Outkast, but if he keeps making good solo music, I can survive. I only ask them he releases on album with Sleepy Brown on a track, hearing him on a Big Boi track is starting to become predictable.
Caribou – Swim
Key Track – “Kaili”
Once again, this band isn’t for everybody, but still should get a mention as a “close by no cigar” album to miss the list.
Girls – Broken Dreams Club
Key Track – “Heartbreaker”
This album would have made the list, but I had a hard time putting an album with only six songs on the list.
How To Dress Well – Love Remains
Key Track – “Date Of Birth”
Just too many good albums and only 50 spots on the list.
Kate Nash – My Best Friend Is You
Key Track – “I Just Love You More”
I’m going to piss off a lot of ladies by not adding this on my list. I may have just missed a golden opportunity to earn some more female readers.
Die Antwoord – $O$
Key Track – “Enter The Ninja”
A weird, unique band that I had to mention. If you can watch that video without being freaked out a bit, you should probably quit the internet and see a shrink.
Jimmy Eat World – Invented
Key Track – “Action Needs An Audience”
An all-time favorite band with a solid album. It’s not their best, but worth a listen.
Foals – Total Life Forever
Key Track – “What Remains”
Think early Travis & Blur albums…a decent brit-pop album.
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