As 2010 comes to a close, I’ve collected the 10 best albums of the year. A lot of people have told me this was a pretty weak year musically, but I have to disagree. I’ve compiled 10 albums that all have at least 30 listens through on my iTunes and who knows how many more on my iPod. Beyond this list, there were great releases from Interpol, LCD Soundsystem, The Dead Weather, Brandon Flowers, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Hot Chip, and The Roots. Not a shabby list, I must say.
With that, here are the 10 best albums of 2010.
10. Yeasayer Odd Blood
Yeasayer’s follow-up to their debut All Hours Cymbals resulted in multiple singles amongst indie circles in the first half of 2010. Perhaps the most eclectic album of the list, Odd Blood continues on the run of pop-synth success but leads off the album by exploring the darker side of electronica with “The Children.” An up and down listen, but enjoyable the whole way through.
Key track: “Ambling Alp”
9. Jeremy Messersmith The Reluctant Graveyard
Another sophomore release makes it to number nine on the chart, with Jeremy Messersmith’s follow-up to The Silver City. Messersmith stormed the Twin Cities music scene in 2008 with his Elliott Smith-like vocals, but The Reluctant Graveyard signals a departure from the desperate sound of Smith. Hints of The Beach Boys can be heard in the first single, “Violet,” while “Lazy Bones” and “Dillinger Eyes” give us a glimpse of what Messersmith is capable of in a pop sound. But his bread and butter remains in haunting melodies like “John The Determinist.”
Key track: “A Girl, A Boy, And A Graveyard”
8. Phantogram Eyelid Movies
Phantogram’s debut album is possibly the most fun album to listen to on the chart. Radio friendly “When I’m Small” gives us a taste of what this New York-based band is all about and “As Far As I Can See” keeps your head nodding perhaps better than any other track on the album. Phantogram closes out with “10,000 Claps,” an experimental track that has the ability to calm even the most coffee-fueled stresser.
Key track: “Mouthful Of Diamonds”
7. Sleigh Bells Treats
Sleigh Bells are probably the most hyped debut act of 2010, and Treats didn’t disappoint. Listening at proper volume, or at a live show, Sleigh Bells should cause your ears to bleed. But the king and queen of noise pop will leave you at least smiling while bloodied. “Tell ‘Em” is a statement of intent to kick off the album, and it never slows down.”Kids” and “Infinity Guitars” further illustrate how intense and fun this band really is. Easily the best combination of volume and ingenuity of 2010.
Key track: “Crown On The Ground”
6. Dessa A Badly Broken Code
The first full-length release from the Doomtree star and former slam poet was a smash hit amongst indie hip hop circles in the US. The best lyricist on the chart, Dessa catches your attention with her poetry seamlessly intertwined with beats that are hard not to nod your head to no matter how stoic you want to look. The lyrics are most beautiful in “Children’s Work” and the beats are most infectious in “Dutch.”
Key Track: “The Chaconne”
5. Gorillaz Plastic Beach
The most adventurous album yet from Gorillaz, Damon Albarn has enlisted the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def, and a handful of other hugely famous artists to guest on tracks from start to finish. Plastic Beach’s first single, “Stylo,” is probably the most catchy Gorillaz single since… well, their last album, but great nonetheless. Snoop’s cameo on “Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach” gives you the impression that this is still a Gorillaz album based in hip hoppy goodness. While “White Flag” features the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music and pushes the boundaries of what is possible for this band. Think Albarn’s take on George Harrison’s obsession with Indian instruments.
Key track: “Rhinestone Eyes”
4. Gayngs Relayted
Quite likely the most interesting release of 2010, think smooth jazz/easy listening goes electronic. Add a beat here and there and you get Gayngs. You can find yourself hypnotized by the vocals in “No Sweat” and “Crystal Rope” and just as easily bewildered and enthused by the accompanying synth sounds. In Relayted, Gayngs has released the baby making music for 2010.
Key track: “Gaudy Side Of Town”
3. Atmosphere To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy
As one of the leading acts in indie hop hop, Atmosphere is no stranger to being high up charts. But To All My Friends is easily the greatest release from the Minneapolis-based act. The piano and guitar pieces of “The Major Leagues” and the aggressive and humorous lyrics of “Commodities” make it hard not to nod your head with a wry smile. And that really applies to the entire album, although the wry smile may turn genuine.
Key track: “Scalp”
2. The National High Violet
The latest release from The National is the best haunting electric guitar album in quite some time. Like Interpol or Bright Eyes, but better. Matt Berninger’s voice will seduce you in “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and from there, you’re at the mercy of High Violet. “Afraid Of Everyone” is perhaps the most catchy track on the album in a haunting way, but still isn’t the best. High Violet is where you can find the best track of 2010, “Conversation 16.”
Key track: “Conversation 16”
1. Arcade Fire The Suburbs
The undisputed album of the year, The Suburbs has everything you could want from an album. A track to rock out to in “Month Of May,” a track to get you ready to rock out in “Ready To Start,” and everything you’d expect from Arcade Fire in tracks like “City With No Children” to successful experiments in “Sprawl II.” It’s hard to tell you what’s good in this album. There is really something for everyone in here, no matter your tastes.
Key track: “We Used To Wait”