Greg W: Top Albums of 2010

Pittsbrugh, PA

Perhaps it’s a late onset of ADD, but if I could pledge a resolution for the record industry entering 2011, it would be this: brevity. A tremendous year for music otherwise, an inordinately high number of otherwise great albums seemed to self-destruct under the stress of the 10-14 (16?) song, 62-minute format. Whether it was an inability to maintain a thrilling opening (Local Natives, LCD Soundsystem, Shearwater), or taking too long to get going (The National), a large amount of otherwise sensational albums fell victim to disruptive filler. To further the merits of the short format, even Sufjan Stevens’ rather lengthy EP (All Delighted People) easily trumped that of his more anticipated, more segmented The Age of Adz. Three of my top five, as a result, ended up a tribute to those that kept it succinct, either by switching to the EP format (Girls) or by having the fortune to participate in a genre that has evolved the most effective use of the interlude (Kayne West, the Roots).
That being said, in my opinion 2010 was one of the best years in music in some time. There were probably 20-30 bands that put out a multitude of excellent tracks, causing the creation of an ordered list of top ten incredibly difficult. As new genres and new bands jostled with established indie stars, and accessibility to new music continued its exponential rise, the entire industry seemed to simultaneously experience a renaissance of genre-pushing creativity. Now if only it didn’t take them so long to do so.

top ten albums

10The Morning Benders: Big Echo

In a year of tremendous album openers, Big Echo has perhaps the best opener (“Excuses”) of the year. Which would be good enough, but the rest of the album follows suit, revealing a few additional gems along the way.

Standout Track(s): Excuses, Wet Cement

09Hot Chip: One Life Stand

Ignored next to the hype surrounding LCD Soundsystem, the title track of this album may be the most romantic song of the year.

Standout Track(s): One Life Stand, Thieves in the Night

08Surfer Blood: Astro Coast

The grunge/garage/surf/guitar rock album of 2010. Its fun, fun, fun till daddy takes the reverb away.

Standout Track(s): “Floating Vibes”, “Take it Easy”

07The Tallest Man on Earth: The Wild Hunt

From start to finish, the perfect driving album. The Bob Dylan comparisons seem justified, as does my regret for not taking guitar lessons every time I listen to “Troubles Will be Gone.”

Standout Track(s): Troubles Will Be Gone, King of Spain

06Yeasayer: Odd Blood

Genre-defying and consistently interesting, Odd Blood was easily my most listened to album of the first six months of 2010. While not always focused, Yeasayer produced a set of joyful, sway-able tracks that seem both timeless and completely out-of-time. While other albums may go out of style, I can’t imagine myself ever not humming along to three-quarters of this album.

Standout Track(s): Ambling Alp, O.N.E.

05The Roots: How I Got Over

Perhaps the most consistent, lean album in the Roots catalog. With so many established artists releasing new material this year, The Roots completely slid under the radar.

Standout Track(s): Right On, Dear God (2.0)

04Sleigh Bells: Treats

That opening electronic surge is Sleigh Bells shoving its way into the top 10. Smoke on the Water has met its decibel-pounding match for aspiring pre-teen rock stars, and her name is Alexis Krauss.

Standout Track(s): Tell ‘Em, Crown on the Ground

03Vampire Weekend: Contra

Ubiquity aside, Vampire Weekend produced a sophomore album that eclipsed its anticipated hype. Listening to it now, its not only hard to believe that Contra came out this year, but that its not a greatest hits album.

Standout Track(s): White Sky, California English

02Girls: Broken Dreams Club EP

Girls excels where others lack – every song is timely, necessary, and interesting. A lesson in classic pop and country without being too obscured or derivative. Elvis Costello comparisons are certainly valid, but so are odes to Roy Orbison and Brian Wilson.

Standout Track(s): Heartbreaker, Carolina

01Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Fantasy

Yes, it’s that good. The one album of the year that not only kept me fully interested, but eagerly anticipating the next song. Totally unpredictable, and often humorous, Kanye’s album was a reminder that sometimes the cause of insanity really is genius.

Standout Track(s): Lost in the World, Runaway

honorable mentions

In alphabetical order: Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”; Belle and Sebastian – “Write About Love”; Black Keys – “Brothers”; Gorillaz – “Plastic Beach”; Local Natives – “Gorilla Manor”; Midlake – “The Courage of Others”; The National – “High Violet”; The New Pornographers – “Together”; Shearwater – “The Golden Archipelago”; Stars – “The Five Ghosts”; Sufjan Stevens – “All Delighted People”; The Walkmen – “Lisbon”

similarity to overall top ten: 30.17%, 3 matches

top songs

Due to the sheer volume of good songs released this year, none of the albums mentioned above are featured in the top ten list below. In addition, my top ten songs are listed in alphabetical order by artist. Ranking a year’s worth of songs just seems like an exercise in futility.

10Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II”

09Cee-Lo Green, “F*** You”

08Crystal Castles, “Not In Love” (with Robert Smith)

07Girl Talk, “Let it Out”

06Gorillaz, “Rhinestone Eyes”

05HEALTH, “USA Boys”

04The National, “Bloodbuzz, Ohio”

03Stars, “Dead Hearts”

02Spoon, “Written in Reverse”

01The Walkmen, “Stranded”

Honorable Mentions: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Round and Round”; Arcade Fire – “Ready to Start”, “We Used to Wait”; Belle & Sebastian – “I Didn’t See it Coming”; Black Keys – “Tighten Up”; Frightened Rabbit – “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”; LCD Soundsystem – “Dance Yrself Clean”; New Pornographers – “The Crash Years”; Owen Pallett – “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”; SALEM – “King Night”; Silversun Pickups – “Growing Old is Getting Old”; The Weepies – “They’re in Love, Where am I?”

similar voters suggested albums

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