20 – Sleigh Bells – Treats
This album Kicks. HARD! Every song except one is over the top in your face pounding noise. And it works. Right from the get go your speakers and head get a workout. Full of great melodies, hooks, and Bass! Turn it up and Enjoy!!!
19 – Angus & Julia Stone – Down the Way
This Australian duo provides catchy mid-tempo rootsy tracks that are full of soul. The songs trade featuring vocalists and blend together as well creating a great mix of the two artists. A great album to work to.
18 – Antony and the Johnsons – Swanlights
Once again Antony provides an amazing album of standout tracks that showcase his incomparable voice. On swanlights the arrangements are a little sparser at times, showcasing the songs themselves a bit more. The duet with Bjork is worth checking out on its own.
17 – The Black Keys – Brothers
I have to admit, I was disappointed at first with this album, but with each persistent listen I grew to realize how mistaken I was. This is an album of varied styles all familiar to the Black Keys fans, capitalizing on their talents.
16 – Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
I am not sure what it is about this album, but it charms its way into your head and heart. It’s an album with great singles and repeated listenability. But its hard to describe why. Sometime things are just really good.
15 – Lissie – Catching a Tiger
Catching a tiger is the follow up to her promising EP from last year. This album would have placed higher if it were a more focused album, however the variety lends to showcase her varied talents. If you get a chance, check out some of her live hip hop covers. Well worth the listen.
14 – Junip – Fields
Jose Gonzalez and Company return with an EP and LP this year proving that there is more to Jose than really mellow acoustic songs. But don’t expect it to rock hard. The songs on “Fields” are like a more fleshed out solo Jose album. And they put on an amazing live performance as well.
13 – Vampire Weekend – Contra
Some people expressed dissatisfaction with this Vampire Weekend outing. However, I found it to be a great progression of styles for the band. Contra is full of great single-worthy songs and the rest accompany it quite nicely. But Vampire Weekend seem to be one of those love em or hate em bands.
12 – Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
This is the album that rekindled my love for banjo music. This band hails from the same region as Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale. I am not sure what is in the water out there, but the talent it produces is inspiring. “Sigh no more” is an album of Banjo and guitar lead rockers mixed with a few of the mellower sorts. It was hard to escape “Lion faced boy” this year with good reason
11 – The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart
A strong and surprising debut from this Seattle Quartet. This album is all about harmonies. The Head. And The Heart. This was the album I went to the most when I was working. It has a great emotional quality to it and their intimate live renditions (available online) are mind blowing.
10 – Yeasayer – Odd Blood
A huge departure for this Brooklyn Band that worked amazingly. Odd Blood is full of huge songs. Grand statements. Massive dancers, great lyrics, and rhythms that you just can’t ignore. Also, the videos for the singles are insane, in a great way. Where do they go from here?
09 – Jamie Lidell – Compass
Jamie Lidell just can’t release an album similar to his last. Each seems to be a progression or regression of sorts. After the very polished and peppy “Jim”, Compass is raw and rough and dark at times. Beck assisted with the production, and there are a lot more pseudo-organic elements throughout. But in the end it comes down to the songs. And there are so many great ones.
08 – The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt/Sometimes the blues is just a passing bird (EP)
This Swede sure has a killer voice. And he pens some amazing songs to showcase it. Both of these albums feature mostly acoustic based tunes of prose. Drawing obvious comparisons to Dylan, this is an album that warrants conscious digestion.
07 – Laura Marling – I Speak because I can
Following her amazing Mercury Prize award nominated debut album, Laura Marling steps out of her boundaries and creates an album that is even more exceptional. Each song on “I Speak Because I Can” is lyrically strong. But its the instrumentation and band participation that pushes the album ahead. Devil’s spoke is the song that we didn’t know Laura was capable of, and Alpha Swallows is the pinnacle of the album. She was rumoured to release a second album this year, but alas there was none, so here is hoping for one early this year.
06 – Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
This Scottish sad-sap band releases another album of melancholic songs. Is it better than their last? Hard to say. It’s different enough, but similar enough. Every song on this album is quality. The perfect accompaniment to a sad day, or when you just feel like it. “Swim until you see land” may just be their best song to date.
05 – Robyn – Bodytalk Vol. 1-3
Robyn Returns!!! Releasing 3 EPs culminating in a 15 song best of LP she dominated the year with timed output. It takes talent to appeal to the music critics and the radio. But Robyn finally seemed to break through this year. “Dancing on My Own” is the perfect blend of pop music with credibility. I chose to highlight the 3 EPs as opposed to the final album output as there are more songs, and the compilation is missing some key tracks. If you get a chance to check her live, do it. She doesn’t stop dancing!!! A great year for Robyn!
04 – The Arcade Fire – Suburbs
In a year of fantastic albums, The Arcade Fire come through again. Suburbs is one of those loosely based concept albums that works. Nearly every song can stand on its own, but as an album is where it excels. There are some definite style bumps, and the Bruce Springsteen influence becomes ever more apparent.
03 – The National – High Violet (Expanded Edition)
Following up “Boxer” is no simple task. But “High Violet” is a worthy accompaniment to their catalog. Melancholy never sounded better this year. Every song is great, and my favourite just seems to rotate each listen. But “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is the first song I heard from it, and the one I go to first.
02 – Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
What hasn’t been said about this album that I can add to the stream of praise? Kanye’s return is a triumphant one. Is it perfect? no. Is it his best album? perhaps. Is it great? Yes. This is an album that shouldn’t work, but does. I just wish that the outro to runaway was a separate track, the outro lost in the world was not a separate track, and that Chris Rock skit just didn’t exist. Full of amazing tracks, this is an album that deserves most of the praise it is receiving.
01 – Jonsi – Go
And yes, the number one album of the year for me is no real surprise. It is the lead singer of my favourite band’s solo outing. He put on one of the best live shows I have ever seen. The album itself is unique. It stands out. It explodes with joy! And it crashes with despair. It is sparse and crowded. It is dynamic and visual. Its sung in English and Icelandic, but the majority of the lyrics are unintelligible. From the opener Go Do, to the swell of Kolnidur to the sombre closer Hengilas. Go is a journey of emotions through instruments. Nico Muhly’s arrangements add a lushness and extravagance to the album. Rarely is an album so visually uplifting and sad at the same time. Go is the album that dominated 2010 for me.