It’s impossible to rank a best of albums list since it’s all subjective and it’s impossible to listen to everything. That said, out of the hundreds of records that I listened to, I definitely had favorites. The following is a list of 50 records released in 2010 that I got completely lost in, obsessed with and attached to. I ranked the top 20 to create a little division, but I feel so strongly about any of these records that any of them could be #1 on a particular day.
Parenthetical Girls – Privilege, Pt. I / Privilege Pt. II: The Past, Imperfect
Judson Claiborne – Time And Temperature
Menomena – Mines
Motel Motel – The Big Island
The Walkmen – Lisbon
Mike Patton – Mondo Cane
Liars – Sisterworld
Miles Kurosky – The Desert Of Shallow Effects
Beach House – Teen Dream
The Acorn – No Ghost
The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
Oh No Ono – Eggs
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Gonja Sufi – A Sufi And A Killer
James – The Morning After The Night Before / The Morning After The Night Before
The Books – The Way Out
The Black Keys – Brothers
Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
Malachai – Ugly Side Of Love
Nightlands – Forget The Mantra
The Parenthetical Girls released a pair of incredible four song EPs in 2010. Each EP displays the band’s dynamic ability to combine 60s pop, electronics, orchestration, and melodrama into one thrilling package with it’s own distinct sound. Unfamiliar with the band prior to 2010, the release of Privilege, Pt. 1 led me to discover a discography loaded with delights.
Favorite Track: “Evelyn McHale”
His voice shook the foundation of my soul, replacing lethargy with deep emotion. Time and Temperature is of of the most soulful folk records I’ve ever heard. Stripped down to just vocals and an acoustic it’d still be powerful, but the additional strings, percussion and horns give the album a majestic feeling.
Favorite Track: “My How We Change!”
Every time I hear Menomena’s Mines it gets more and more colossal. Pounding drums, monster riffs coming from all sides, Mines totally engulfs its listener.
Favorite Track: “Queen Black Acid”
For me, Motel Motel’s sophomore record was my most anticipated album of 2010. Their debut was one of the best, most ambitious debuts I’d ever heard. Following the band as the songs of The Big Island began taking, there was no question that their followup would be just as ambitious. With breathtaking harmonies and a unique combination of elements of prog, jazz, country, and rock, The Big Island stands as a contemporary masterpiece that has yet to be realized by the masses.
Favorite Track: “Cowboy”
Once again utilizing the ideas of past successes, The Walkmen created a modern classic. It is a timeless record built for rainy days when you want to reflect upon your past, good and bad.
Favorite Track: “Torch Song”
Forgive me for thinking that Mike Patton is one of those musicians who can do no wrong, but with a history that includes Mr. Bungle, Faith No More, Fantomas and Tomahawk, it was no surprise when Patton released this masterpiece indebted to Italian composers. This is arguably Patton’s greatest vocal performance and the orchestration that accompanies him is the perfect compliment.
Favorite Track: “Il Cielo In Una Stanza“
Still bizarre, Liars seem totally incapable of making an album that’s anything less than brilliant. This may be their most in-your-face record to date, filled with an uneasy tension that often gives way to an explosive tribal attack.
Favorite Track: “The Overacheivers“
The return of Beulah’s frontman was met with little fan fair but was every bit as good as fans of his former band could hope for. Having left the music scene to fight illness and despair, The Desert of Shallow Effects feels like the triumphant comeback of an old champion. Poppy, emotional and overflowing with instrumentation, it’s a lush pop rock record.
Favorite Track: “West Memphis Skyline“
Everyone who hears this record falls in love. In love with the hazy, seductive vocals. In love with the slow romantic journey that it takes its listeners on.
Favorite Track: “10 Mile Stereo“
Following up Glory Hope Mountain was no small task, but The Acorn somehow managed to do it. Once again Rolf Klausener’s words are well thought out poetry delivered in a genuine way that brings it complimentary feeling. Eyes will often tear up when listening to the somber “On The Line.”
Favorite Track: “Slippery When Wet“
This is what stoner rock should sound like. Dreamy and loaded with riffs, The Besnard Lakes made an album for those of us who still love our classic rock records, but hoped it’d continue to take new forms.
While it came out overseas midway through 2009, Oh No Ono’s hi-fi dreamland didn’t hit the U.S. until 2010. One of the best produced records I’ve ever heard, it’s a colorfully psychedelic trip that seems to soar all around you.
Favorite Track: “The Tea Party“
The first voice to be heard on Plastic Beach is none other than Snoop Dog. It’s a star-studded cast making appearances on a record by a fictional band, but it’s also something greater. Damon Albarn utilized his supporting cast by writing amazing songs with a sound that’s totally his own. Best moment on the record: Bobby Womack’s vocals on “Stylo.”
Favorite Track: “Stylo“
Some have dubbed him the Captain Beefheart of hip hop and that title makes sense. A Sufi And A Killer is a long stylistically diverse debut record that sounds like nothing else.
Favorite Track: “She Gone“
Some people think of James as a one hit wonder from the 90s. Those people have never heard anything else the legendary band has written. A double release with each disc running at half an hour, James released possibly their best work since Laid this year.
Favorite Track: “Tell Her I Said So“
As unclassifiable as any record they’ve done, The Books don’t sound like anybody else. The Way Out takes from all genres and creates a music collage work of art.
Favorite Track: “Free Translator“
Under the guidance of Danger Mouse, Akron’s blues rock duo made the biggest leap musically of about any band around. The songs are soulful and Dan Auerbach’s vocals are better than ever.
Favorite Track: “Too Afraid To Love You“
The reigning king of orchestral pop goes electro, and somehow it’s not a disaster. Age of Adz is an incredibly intricate electro album full of orchestral flourishes.
Favorite Track: “Age of Adz”
Part trip hop, part 60s pop, part spaghetti western, Ugly Side of Life seamlessly blends styles into an exciting danceable psychedelic record.
Favorite Track: “Another Sun”
War On Drugs bassist David Hartley made his full length debut as Nightlands with a fully realized sound on Forget The Mantra. Similarities to War on Drugs and Kurt Vile can be found if searched for but there’s a bit of Peter Gabriel, Beach Boys and Animal Collective also among other things.
Favorite Track: “300 Clouds”
21-50 in alphabetical order
Adrienne Drake – Dullabies
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
ArpLine – Travel Book
Callers – Life of Love
Caribou – Swim
CocoRosie – Grey Oceans
Common Prayer – There Is A Mountain
Cowboy Indian Bear – Each Other All The Time
Drink Up Buttercup – Born And Thrown On A Hook
Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Frog Eyes – Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph
Future Islands – In Evening Air
Gary Wilson – Electric Endicott
Ghastly City Sleep – Moondrifts
Helado Negro – Pasajero
Jesus Makes The Shotgun Sound – DAMNANT QUOD NON INTELLIGUNT
The Love Language – Libraries
Medications – Completely Removed
The National – High Violet
of Montreal – False Priest
Saharan Gazelle Boy – Airplanes Can’t / Haunted Way (with Sea Change)
Sharon Van Etten – Epic
Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago
The Silent League – But You’ve Always Been the Caretaker
Soft Reeds – Soft Reeds Are Bastards
Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt
Tu Fawning – Hearts On Hold Tribal Antique
Unicycle Loves You – Mirror Mirror
Favorite Track: “Between Space & Clouds”
Favorite Track: “The Sprawl II”
Favorite Track: “Bright Lit Blue Skies”
Favorite Track: “Make It Rain”
Favorite Track: “How You Hold Your Arms”
Favorite Track: “Lalibela”
Favorite Track: “Here I Come”
Favorite Track: “Of Saints”
Favorite Track: “Madeline”
Favorite Track: “Seasickness Pills”
Favorite Track: “The Wrestle”
Favorite Track: “Lear in Love”
Favorite Track: “Tin Man”
Favorite Track: “In The Night”
Favorite Track: “Billowing”
Favorite Track: “Jurame”
Favorite Track: “The Light, She Blinds Me”
Favorite Track: “Blue Angel”
Favorite Track: “Postcards”
Favorite Track: “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Favorite Track: “Famine Affair”
Favorite Track: “Something I Wanna Know About You”
Favorite Track: “Love More”
Favorite Track: “Castaways”
Favorite Track: “Resignation Studied”
Favorite Track: “The Sirens of Titan”
Favorite Track: “Reeling the Liars In”
Favorite Track: “You’re Going Back”
Favorite Track: “Just Too Much”
Favorite Track: “Justine”