The Top 25 Albums of 2010

Matador Records

25. The New PornographersTogether
The New Porns have always brought some good things to the table, but it can be difficult for me to get through a whole album. Together has made that task a bit less difficult, as it may be the best album from this band yet.  It’s definitely the most group-oriented of their efforts, as the title would suggest – four lead singers span the albums songs, and the contributions from Destroyer’s Dan Bejar are some of his best to date. 

Pigeon Records

24. SpouseConfidence
These power poppers from Portland (ME, not OR) have been putting out music since the nineties, yet I only heard about them this year. That’s at least a decade this band has been around and I had no idea – frustrating, since Jose Ayerve’s brand of intricate, dreamy pop is one I subscribe to with enthusiasm. These guys will probably still be making records fifteen years from now – will see twelve to fifteen more Creeds and Interpols sail on by – and I imagine their tunes will only get better and better, if not any less obscure.  

Nonesuch Records

23. Ben Folds & Nick HornbyLonely Avenue
Though the album contains “Belinda” – one of the best songs of the year, as well as one of Folds’ best – it seems to me that Lonely Avenue should have been a more lucrative venture. With minds like Folds and Hornby, we should have gotten a whole album of songs like this – not so much. There are plenty of winners, though, like the kitschy yet catchy ode to Sarah Palin’s ex-almost-son-in-law, “Levi Johnston’s Blues”.

Sub Pop Records

22. JaillThat’s How We Burn
Another winner from Sub Pop, this umpteenth album from Milwaukee foursome Jaill has brought them international attention. Their music fits pretty well into that garage thing that’s been going on, but the songs are incredibly fleshed out, not tossed off like most of that genre. “On the Beat” is the perfect theme for anyone who lives the rock and roll lifestyle unapologetically. 

Columbia Records

21. Motion City SoundtrackMy Dinosaur Life
This pop-punk quintet from Minneapolis has been releasing relentlessly upbeat and catchy albums for years, and their fourth one (their major label debut) is no exception. Singer Justin Pierre is a master of channeling sheer nerves into fist-pumping anthems – “Disappear” and “Her Words Destroyed My Planet” both overflow with his sizzling, angst-ridden prose and the uber-precise attack of a band whose fire continues to rage. 

Sargent House Records

20. Fang IslandFang Island
The idea of Fang Island is not new – get a bunch of top notch shredders together and fill your songs with as many hot licks as possible, while going relatively light on the vocals. The Fucking Champs may come to mind. However, Fang Island are way more fun. All of their songs rock relentlessly, but each of them are laced with a sugary pop sensibility.  They’re like those Halloween cookies with black icing that seem gross but are actually really good. 

Modular Recordings

19. Tame ImpalaInnerspeaker
This Australian band picked up a ton of hype really, really fast at the end of the year thanks to their constant touring and a much-hit music video filmed on a camera that is shot into orbit. The album was performed entirely by songwriter Kevin Parker, which is pretty incredible considering the epic proportion of a lot of these songs. Extended jams like “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds” seem to boast a live band chemistry, as does much of this groove-oriented album. 

Sub Pop 2010

18. Avi BuffaloAvi Buffalo
This album is the perfect hipster package – super-arty album art, shrill vocals, released on Sub Pop…the list goes on. It’s all enough to make a music geek very skeptical. Plus, all the critics loved it – like, almost literally all of them – and who can trust them these days? Well, hear me when I say that this record lives up to at least most of its hype. The songs are haunting and original, with some truly inspired guitar work and obtuse lyrics. 

Labrador Records

17. The Radio Dept.Clinging To A Scheme
I wasn’t expecting to like this little slab of synth-heavy Brit-pop, but I do, I really really do. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, but if I did, this might fall into that category – I haven’t played Radio Dept. for any buddies yet, but I’m almost positive it would be met with a storm of groans. This is because of all the cheesy shit like the synths and some drum machine stuff, and a couple more dancey songs. But the record is so short and so full of great little hooks and fuzzed-out melodies that I just played it over and over this year. 

Merge Records

16. Teenage FanclubShadows
Teenage Fanclub is one of many bands on the list that have been a part of my rock and roll listening for many years.  I’ve loved these guys since high school, but their albums have gotten increasingly more boring over the years.  However, after releasing their worst album in 2006, the ‘Club has stepped things back up a few notches with Shadows. The songs may not be the most original or cutting edge, but they are undoubtedly Teenage Fanclub, and proof that the group’s three prinicpal songwriters have not only discovered much about their own songwriting, but each other’s as well. 

One Haven Music

15. The Young VeinsTake A Vacation!
The two main songwriters in The Young Veins were once part of the emo pop-punk band Panic! At The Disco, a band of which I was never a fan. The Young Veins is basically the result of a couple of those guys growing up, acquiring better taste in music, and realizing they didn’t want to be in a shitty band anymore, opting instead to form their own band and write songs influenced by The Beatles, The Zombies, The Beach Boys, and The Byrds.  Maybe things are looking up. 

Merge Records

14. Arcade FireThe Suburbs
It’s good to see a beyond-decent band make three beyond-decent albums in a row. I don’t know if The Suburbs is their best, but it certainly has some of my favorite AF songs – “Ready To Start”, “Suburban War”, and “City With No Children” just to name a few. This was the number one album in the country, folks. Regardless of how you feel about Arcade Fire, you have to admit that The Suburbs is the best Billboard number one album in quite some time. 

Frenchkiss Records

13. Local NativesGorilla Manor
Hey everyone, here’s yet another band that features various members banging various types of drums at various times. It’s been the thing with indie bands for awhile now and it’s going to be leaving us very soon, but at least we will have Local Natives to thank for writing good songs to go along with the gimmick. In the case of “Wide Eyes” and “Sticky Thread”, freaking great songs – abstract, tribal, frenetic rock music. 

Polyvinyl Records

12. Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinLet It Sway
After their much lauded Pershing went on to woo many a heart in 2008 (including mine for RGH’s Record of the Year), the SSLYBY dudes hit up Death Cab’s Chris Walla to produce the follow-up. It’s not as good as Pershing, but it is a great SSLYBY record that contains a slightly weirder vibe. Songs like “My Terrible Personality” suggest a sillier yet more experimental approach, while songs like “Everlyn” and “Animalkind” continue the band’s already perfected tradition of quirky indie pop. 

4AD Records

11. Ariel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiBefore Today
Ariel Pink is kind of like what Kurt Cobain would have been like had he been obsessed with making music like Michael Jackson or Hall and Oates. When I saw AP live in Lawrence, he was dressed in a white hospital gown looking thing, much like Cobain’s famous Reading Festival garb from way back when. And some of Pink’s lyrics – particularly the  “rape me, castrate me” line from “Menopause Man” – recall the dark sexual imagery of those of the Nirvana frontman. This contrast of rigid dance club beats and raw rock elements makes for one of the creepiest, most surprising party albums of the last decade. 

Anti Records

10. Dr. DogShame, Shame
Dr. Dog are one of the only bands making music right now that I am very certain will affect me for many, many years to come. They just have an undeniably classic quality to them. Shame, Shame presents a slightly more streamlined, gearing-up-for-the-big-time version of Dr. Dog, but they’re certainly doing it right. “Shadow People” is the perfect example of how easily the Dog can a take two simple chords and weave them effortlessly into an amazing tune. Thanks also be to Rob Schnapf for his timeless, no-frills production. 

Caldo Verde Records

9. Sun Kil MoonAdmiral Fell Promises
The older I get, the more I think of Mark Kozelek as a little whiny bitch. This might have something to do with the fact that when I met him, he was dismissive and indifferent, but I wasn’t expecting anything other than that. My point is this does not change how much I love the man’s music. Each album from his post-Red House Painters project Sun Kil Moon has been a surprise – the sophomore album was a collection of Modest Mouse covers, and Admiral is Kozelek’s Pink Moon, featuring virtually nothing but his voice and a Spanish guitar. It’s difficult not to wonder how one guy can brood so much about the stick in his ass without just pulling it out. But when it pays off, we get songs like “You Are My Sun”, a perfect love song that further solidifies Kozelek’s genius. 

Kemado Records

8. The Soft PackThe Soft Pack
Easily the most rewarding listen to come out of the garage revival thus far, the first album from The Soft Pack (the band’s second after their debut under the name The Muslims) is intensely listenable, smartly produced and tightly compacted into just over thirty minutes of crushing DIY anthems. This band wields a guitar lick like a Samuri sword, as proven by the pummeling “Pull Out” and one of the year’s best singles, “Answer to Yourself”.

4AD Records

7. The NationalHigh Violet
Though they are poised for the great takeover and bound for Coldplay-level-overplayed-status, The National are currently at a premium level of public and critical adulation that can’t be matched. They’re riding the kind of wave that usually only lasts a very short while for rock bands, so we will see how they handle that. High Violet is proof that thus far, they haven’t lost a step. “Terrible Love” opens the album and immediately defines it’s dark, wallowing tone, and the last two songs (“England” and “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”) rank among the band’s best. 

Memphis Industries

6. Field MusicField Music (Measure)
Why they couldn’t just call the album Measure is beyond me, but after seeing them live in action at recordBar this summer, I’m not about to question the Brewis brothers. It was easily one of the best live shows I have ever seen, and I am glad the small crowd was at least incredibly appreciative. Much like their albums, Field Music’s live show was pretty much a series of medleys – one not familiar with their catalog might just hear one big song. Their records – especially Measure – are so tightly performed with triple expert precision, so I was very surprised to see them pull that off live to a freaking T. Measure is a double album and a somewhat challenging listen, but with gems like “Them That Do Nothing”, “Effortlessly”, “Let’s Write A Book” and “Choosing Numbers”, it’s more than worth a try. 

Mexican Summer Records

5. DungenSkit I Allt
In English, the title of this stellar Swedish psych rock band’s fifth album literally translates to “Fuck it All”, but the music alone is enough of an audial middle finger to make this almost unnecessary. Every song is a different version of sonic overload, and though Swedish isn’t the prettiest sounding language ever, the songs are undeniably excellent. By far their best album, Skit I Allt hardly got any press or promotion over here in 2010. I guess with their attitude, they kinda asked for it. 

4AD Records

4. DeerhunterHalcyon Digest
The best makeout record of 2010 – it’s just the right amount of slow and slithery basement hall shuffling mixed with a good dose of disjointed psychedelic trip out. I liked Deerhunter before this album, but once I really got into it, I entered die-hard fan status. Aside from it containing really great tunes like “Desire Lines” and “Revival”, it’s also very timely in that, with it’s classy yet low-budget packaging, it’s an album made with today’s record-buying public in mind. I know I’m certainly getting sick of soulless mp3’s. 

Rykodisc Records

3. The PosiesBlood/Candy
Another of my old school favorite bands on this list, The Posies didn’t just make an amazing comeback album this year, they made one of their BEST albums. Split half and half between some of the best songs ever penned by Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer, it’s the closest the band has gotten to a completely listenable record. That’s saying a lot considering they have already contributed at least two classic power pop records to the fold.  Good to have you back, fellas.

Domino Records

2. Owen PallettHeartland
I first heard this album in January, and it was my favorite album of the year til September. I’ve been through a pretty transformative year, so it kinda makes sense – Heartland is all about transformation. It’s a concept album that focuses on the continuing struggles brought on by living and breathing, and how those struggles are perpetuated by the desire to continue living and breathing. Many have hated on Pallett for being too “fancy-pants”, and I guess my four years in high school orchestra prepared me fully for Heartland’s awesomeness. Pallett’s arrangement abilities have taken the possibilities of the orchestra to new heights, especially when fused with the indie pop mentality. 

Merge Records

1. SuperchunkMajesty Shredding
There’d be a lot of reasons to name Majesty Shredding best album of 2010. One would be the fact that it’s the first Superchunk album in nearly ten years, yet it’s still one of their best. Another would be that it sets a new standard for old school bands attempting to come back into the musical fold – if the expectations are high, you had better meet them. My reason for naming Majesty Shredding album of the year is simply this: there’s not a single bad song on the freaking record. The more it gets spun, the more ass it kicks. All this coming from yet another band I have loved since high school, which I think makes 2010 the Year of the Comeback, or at least the Year of the Older Rockers Showing the Young’uns What’s Up.

Honorable Mentions:

Caribou – Swim
Tokyo Police Club – Champ
The Sword – Warp Riders
No Age – Everything In Between
Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Here We Go Magic – Pigeons
Cowboy Indian Bear – Each Other All The Time
The Acb’s – Stona Rosa
The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton
Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
Kaki King – Junior
The Henry Clay People – Somewhere on the Golden Coast
Bettie Serveert – Pharmacy of Love
Shout Out Louds – Work
The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night

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7 Responses to “The Top 25 Albums of 2010”

  1. Barry Says:

    F’in great reviews, especially the Sun Kil Moon review (I guess I gotta give that whiny bitch another chance)! I was waiting for “Heartland” to show up, but I was a bit surprised by Superchunk. The few times I’ve heard “Learned to Surf” I thought it was an old song – and really awesome.

  2. E Says:

    awesome list. everyone keeps telling me about Jaills and the Posies new album. kaki king is on tour. heads up.

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