Lots of great albums this year, and not enough time to listen to them all. As with every year I have a list of about 20 albums that I didn’t listen to enough to make the list, but I’m happy with the final product. This year there seems to be a clear separation between my Top 10 and the rest of the list. I noticed this year had a small amount of albums that I really loved and a lot of albums that I thought were good, but quite distant from those few great ones.
Excuse the occasional album that doesn’t have a comment, sometimes you just don’t feel like writing.
Here we go…
Tie: 40. Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. Wuz Here
I know next to nothing about Big K.R.I.T. except that he released a solid hip-hop album this year. The first seven songs on the album is the strongest run of hip-hop I’ve heard in the past few years. As with most hip-hop albums it is about twenty minutes too long.
Standout Tracks: Return of 4eva, Country Shit, Gumpshun
Tie: 40. Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart
A couple years ago Black Mountain’s In The Future was in my Top 3 albums of the year. Based on this I would have to say Wilderness Heart is a disappointment. In fact I wasn’t sure that this would be on the list, until I heard it again in a bar last night and decided that I did like it a lot I just wasn’t in the mood to listen to it that often this year. More acoustically driven, as most classic rock influenced third albums are (I’m looking at you Led Zeppelin III for starting that trend), it still rocks when need be.
Standout Tracks: Rollercoaster, Wilderness Heart, Old Fangs
39. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Shaun said most of what is to be said about Frightened Rabbit on his album list and in previous blog posts. Unlike most bands on this list I have never looked up anything on Frightened Rabbit, I just listen to the album and that is that.
Standout Tracks: Swim Until You Can’t See Land, Fun Stuff
38. Perfume Genius – Learning
A highly emotional album that highlights some of the tragedies and events in his life.
Standout Tracks: Mr. Peterson, Perry
37. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
Laura is back with a new album, much like the one before it. Do I like it more? No. Do I like it less? No. Obviously sometimes i don’t know what to write.
Standout Track: Devil’s Spoke, Made by Maid, Goodbye England
36. Baba Zula – Gecekondu
Every year I manage to sneak a Turkish album on to the list, this year it is BaBa ZuLa’s Gecekondu which has its roots in traditional Turkish music. BaBa ZuLa are notorious for their live performances and their studio albums provide a more subdued version of this.
Standout Tracks: Kelebekler kuşlar, Le furet dans la fôret en feu, Komşu
35. Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws
Standout Tracks: Ivy & Gold, Rinse Me Down
34. Spoon – Transference
I don’t think I like this as much as any other Spoon album, but I’ve listened to it more than most of their other albums. That doesn’t really make sense, but this one just sounds a little rough around the edges. Still Spoon is Spoon and even their weaker efforts make for good albums.
Standout Tracks: Written in Reverse, The Mystery Zone, Got Nuffin
33. Twin Shadow – Forget
The new indie dance sensation whose time is now. I think we’ll be hearing more from Twin Shadow in the future and his debut promises much fun to come.
Standout Tracks: When We’re dancing, I Can’t Wait, Shooting Holes at the Moon
32. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Listening to this album I realized that I was often confused on who was singing in Outkast songs. I did not give Big Boi enough credit because this is solid. I think I like him more than Andre 3000 now, actually I know I do. Did I mention how many hooks are on this album?
Standout Tracks: Tangerine, Back Up Plan, Shutterbug, Shine Blockas
31. Kylesa – Spiral Shadow
This is the closest I get to listening to metal. Similar to Black Mountain but harder. It’s like Black Mountain meets metal, Kylesa even has a male and female singer. More bands like this need female singers and singers who sing and don’t yell. That is why this is awesome.
Standout Tracks: LISTEN TO IT ALL!
30. Reflection Eternal – Revolutions Per Minute
It’s kind of randomly placed here since I like it, but don’t know where it would go in the order. It needs more listens, but I enjoy it thouroughly. Yeah I have 4 hip-hop albums on my list this year, so what?
Standout Tracks: Midnight Hour, Lifting Off, Get Loose
29. Dungen – Skit I Allt
I’m making up for all the times I didn’t put Dungen on my lists with Skit I Allt. And for the reason that one of the songs sounds like it was part of a 1978 nature documentary. The cover reminds me of Pink Floyd, the music reminds me of them before the big albums and the more I think about that the more I like them. Dungen – A late 60s Pink Floyd from Sweden. 3 Wins!
Standout Tracks: Brallor, Vara Snabb, Blandband
28. Wolf Parade – Expo 86
To be honest, I miss the Wolf Parade of Apologies to the Queen Mary, the urgency, the unique differences between the two songwriters and the hooks. Expo 86 is a good album, but some songs go on too long and others just don’t stick. But I can’t stop listening to it and each time I do it gets better. Sadly, this may be the last Wolf Parade album as they are now on indefinite hiatus.
Standout tracks: Ghost Pressure, What Did My Lover Say?, Yulia
27. The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream
Slightly Clinic-like, but more enjoyable. My love of the 60s and 70s is really coming through this year and am overjoyed at modern bands who embrace those classic sounds. I think they make music that would really well in movies. Ideas…
Standout Tracks: Bad Vibrations, Yellow Elevator #2, The Sniper
26. Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void
I saw them live, liked them more, hence listened to the album more.
Standout Tracks: Destroyer of the Void, Lover Leave Me Drowning, Heaven and Earth
25. Blonde Redhead – Penny Sparkle
Sure it is not as good as 23 but it’s a new freakin’ Blonde Redhead album! That must be worth something.
Standout Tracks: Here Sometimes, Love or Prison
24. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
One wouldn’t think of an 18 song album as an experience in excess, but when it takes up over two hours and almost every song is over seven minutes it is a different thing altogether. I haven’t explored this album enough, really I’ve listened to the first six songs many times and the last few only a couple times. I’m going to be enjoying this album in 2011 even more as I become familiar with it. For now it settles in at 24. Sometimes I think I’m in love.
Standout tracks: Easy, Good Intentions Paving Company, ’81
23. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
Everything this year seems to owe some debt to psychedelica.
Standout Tracks: Solitude is Bliss, The Bold Arrow of Time
22. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
Standout Tracks: Really the whole album is gold and should be listened to as a whole, but if you want some specific songs here you go: Tightrope, Wondaland, Cold War, Mushrooms and Roses
21. Sleigh Bells – Treats
Didn’t like this the first time I heard it. I didn’t think I needed to listen to music that sounded like lazers blowing up sequencers and other random violent acts going on. But really I needed to and underneath those noises is some fine female singing. If this album was any longer I’d probably get a heart attack from listening to it as it does cause random limb flailing and jumping off walls.
Standout Tracks: Rill Rill, Infinity Guitars, Tell ‘Em
20. Bran Van 3000 – The Garden
Yes they are still around. It was pure chance that I discovered that they released an album in 2010. I am amazed that BV3000 is not more popular as all of their albums are very well put together. Problem is they’ve never been marketed well. Sure you all know ‘Drinking in L.A.’, but what about their best songs? It’s ok, I forgive you. The Garden is not as good as their last two, but still excellent showing some ventures into folk this time.
Standout Tracks: You, Grace (Love on the Block), Stillness
19. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
I don’t understand the Vampire Weekend comparisons since I can’t hear any Vampire Weekend in their sound. They’re also loads better than VW and they write songs about Twin Peaks. My favourite new rock band of 2010.
Standout Tracks: Swim, Harmonix, Slow Jambroni
18. Robert Plant – Band of Joy
Family friendly! Everyone loves Plant! It’s a safe choice to put on at any time, but it’s also really good. I was pleasantly surprised when I first heard this album and I guess Plant has a long way to go before he ends up making shit albums again. Raising Sand really unleashed his creativity and I think he’ll be riding high for awhile.
Standout Tracks: Monkey, Angel Dance, Even This Shall Pass Away
17. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
The first album of 2010 that I listened to. Yeasayer’s sophomore album sounded like a different band, they switched their style from psychedelic folk to experimental dance music that at times veers to pure pop. I enjoyed it a lot more and the first half of Odd Blood is arguably the strongest side of music released this year.
Standout Tracks: Madder Red, Ambling Alp, O.N.E.
16. Robyn – Body Talk
This position goes out to all 3 Robyn Body Talk albums. I think I liked part 1 the best. Body Talk came out last and had tracks from the previous 2 Body Talk albums when I would of rather just had part 3 by itself. This is too much talk about Body Talks. Great pop songs, a few misses, but how did Robyn become such an indie darling? I’m still waiting for the Sugar Jones reunion.
Standout Tracks: Dancing On My Own, Hang With Me, Indestructible
15. Lissie – Catching A Tiger
Lissie is awesome. Catching a Tiger is a pop album with a hint of blues, a little rock and a lot of solid songwriting. When everything come together like that a conventional run-of-the-mill album becomes something special and stands out from the pack. If you are looking for a new female singer to embrace put Lissie at the top of your list.
Standout Tracks: Records Collector, In Sleep, Worried About
14. The-Dream – Love King
Love King was my December album and it is something I never thought I would enjoy. This is Prince era R&B, which I like, with some really unforgivable lyrics, which I shouldn’t like. When I think about how much I enjoy this album I think that my music taste is changing and that I’m going to end up listening to R&B all 2011. There is a 4 song run on this album that screams Purple Rain sequel.
Standout Tracks: Yamaha, Abyss, Panties to the Side
13. Four Tet – There Is Love in You
I missed you Four Tet. I missed when I used to listen to you. I really liked Rounds back in 2003. Then I didn’t listen to you again. Until 2010! And you made an awesome record! Thanks for coming back and putting out your strongest record yet.
Standout Tracks: Love Cry, Sing, She Just Likes to Fight
12. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
Dance, dance, dance. Despite the others whoever you are, This is Happening is the best LCD Soundsystem album. Sound of Silver was good, but this is better, and also the last LCD Soundsystem album. It’s all over from here and that is ok with me. This is the way to go out, on top and in fine form. Now if only he could make ‘Drunk Girls’ a good song…
Standout Tracks: You Wanted A Hit, Dance Yrself Clean, I Can Change
11. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Demon Days was one of favourite albums of the last decade and let’s be honest Plastic Beach doesn’t come close to that. What I do like about this album is that I keep finding songs on it that I like. I don’t know if I just miss them on previous listens or I’m just not paying attention, but this album is still unfolding for me. Also it is a sentimental pick as I listened to it a lot on the beaches of the other side of the world.
Standout Tracks: Rhinestone Eyes, Empire Ants, To Binge
10. Gayngs – Relayted
Nothing says soft-rock revival better than a 23 member collective from Minneapolis featuring Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). Truthfully this album borders the thin line between cheese and high art, playing with song structures from the 80s and morphing them into something modern, rooted in homage.
Standout Tracks: Cry, The Gaudy Side of Town, Faded High
9. Dax Riggs – Say Goodnight to The World
Shaun has been doing a good job this year of influencing my listening choices and for that I thank him. Dax is awesome. He has been around for years, but has never been popular, though he should be. His music sounds like Beck singing dark psychedelic stoner rock and it works so damn well. A lot of Elvis influence as well, which makes me imagine what Elvis would have been like if he switched gears in the late 70s and cited Deep Purple and Motorhead as his influences.
Standout Tracks: Sleeping with the Witch, Like Moonlight, I Hear Satan
8. Grinderman – Grinderman 2
These 50-somethings rock harder and better than most 20 year olds. They’re dirty too. As the first Grinderman album influenced Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, The Seeds have influenced Grinderman 2, merging into a gritty, bluesy machine. They’ve also become the new The Knife because of they’re insane music videos.
Standout Tracks: Mickey Mouse and The Goodbye Man, Worm Tamer, Palaces of Montezuma
7. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Beautiful, dark and twisted, though still very accessible. It’s been the talk of towns everywhere and the general consensus is that it is the best album of the year. The first and only hip-hop album I have heard that has not had a weak track on it (the end of ‘Blame Game’ with Chris Rock gets old quick though). Kanye’s an ass, but he is on the top of his game and can normally back up everything outrageous he says with his talent.
Standout Tracks: Monster, Runaway, So Appalled
6. Junip – Fields
Jose Gonzales is a great songwriter who is fortunate enough to have a distinct sounding voice that he can pull you in to his music, but I kept finding that something was lacking. With Junip, his voice is complemented by a full band heavily influenced by 60s rock, to me that is what was missing. It is not a ground-breaking album, though I keep listening and loving through the year.
Standout Tracks: Tide, Without You, Rope & Summit
5. Beach House – Teen Dream
I put off listening to Teen Dream for months as I wasn’t a fan of their last album. On retrospect, I guess I just didn’t give them enough of a chance. Teen Dream is a great album that continues to reward with every listen. There are no real standouts among the songs just solid songwriting front to back. A lot hinges on whether you like Victoria Legrand’s voice, that’s the dealbreaker right there.
4. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
Hot Chip are great, but their earlier albums were too inconsistent for me to consider great albums. They are talented song writers and they have crafted a niche of making geeky electro-pop that is both thoughtful and danceable. One Life Stand finds them at the top of their game expanding on their sound with oil drums providing some unique percussion. It’s not perfect, but it is their best effort in their short career.
Standout Tracks: One Life Stand, I Feel Better, We Have Love
3. The Black Keys – Brothers
The Black Keys strike again and made an album that is similar to 2008s, Attack and Release, but dove a bit deeper into gospel and rootsy blues, likely due to influence from singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach’s solo album from 2009. It is easy to identify as a Black Keys album, but they just keep getting better the further their career continues.
Standout Tracks: Next Girl, She’s Long Gone, Too Afraid To Love You
2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I really wasn’t expecting much from the Arcade Fire on their third album. I hadn’t listened to them in a couple years and overall Neon Bible was a big step down from Funeral. When I finally listened to The Suburbs I was surprised to see that my reluctance was coming from nowhere. This album is solid from front to back and contains at least 5 songs that are better than anything off of Neon Bible. They’re now one of the biggest bands in the world and it has been fun watching them since that first 10.0 on Pitchfork kickstarted their career in 2005.
Standout Tracks: Rococo, We Used to Wait, Sprawl II
1. The National – High Violet
There is not much to say about the National, at least for me. They captured my heart back in 2005 and have been my favourite band since 2007. High Violet reinforced every reason why I love this band. The tight musicianship, the melancholic air that surrounds every song, the late nights, the drinks and the voice of a generation between so-called Dad-rock and younger indie-kids. This album has made them noticed and expanded their fan base many times, but The National will always feel like my band, making music that means something to me.
Standout tracks: Sorrow, Afraid of Everyone, Conversation 16