Posted by: Jeff | January 4, 2011

Top 50 Albums of 2010: 50-26

For other entries in the top 50 albums of 2010, click here:

25-16 | 15-6 | 5-1

Who said the album is dead?  In 2010, deep into the age of digital downloads and $.99 singles, a number of really incredible albums were released.  Long-form albums are a better, more realized manifestation of artistic expression, offering a journey for a listener from beginning to end.  Multiple tracks add complexity and depth to what an artist is trying to convey, or offer the chance to more fully explore innovative ideas and sounds.  Good albums invoke emotion, inspire deep thought, move body and soul, or unite an audience by connecting with a common denominator.  Great albums do all of that.  And this year, there have been some truly great albums.

I don’t pretend to have listened to every new release this year.  In fact, I’ve heard raving reviews about many I’ve missed.  But I have listened to dozens, across many genres, both good and bad.  and offer my top 50 as an incomplete snapshot of the year 2010 in music.

50. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

A rousing lead single replete with a nifty bass hook and a gospel choir can’t quite salvage this misfired shot at southern rock glory.  It would be hard to begrudge a band their meteoric rise to fame if each new release didn’t feel like a step back from their peak.

Kings of Leon – “Radioactive”

 

49. Röyksopp – Senior

When this Norwegian electronic duo announced a melancholy companion piece to 2009’s peppy Junior (#12 album of 2009), excitement seemed inevitable.  An instrumental release that treads no new territory, however, just ended up being a bit disappointing.

Röyksopp – “The Drug”


48. MGMT – Congratulations

After releasing debut album Oratacular Spectacular to critical acclaim in 2008, MGMT were anointed electropop hipster wunderkinds.  But they decided to go in another direction, releasing a follow-up album of stoner rock rather than more irreverent pop anthems.

MGMT – “Flash Delirium”

 

47. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today

Lo-fi seemed to make a comeback in 2010, and perhaps no band better exemplified the trend than trend-setter Ariel Pink.  Much of the album feels like jangles you might hear on an old AM radio in a bomb shelter.  It’s timeless, but it’s not particularly exciting, either.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – “Round and Round”

 

46. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat the Devil’s Tattoo

An uneven record to be sure, BRMC’s latest still showcases the band’s muscle and bombast.  It may lack the tightness and drive of previous offerings, but nobody plays blues quite as noisy as these leather-clad San Franciscans and they show just enough to prove they’ve still got it.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”

 

45. Neil Young – Le Noise

Somewhere in the midst of his amazing career, Neil Young picked up the informal title of “Godfather of Grunge.” For those who think first of “Harvest Moon”, this may seem strange.  On Le Noise, ole Neil reminds the young’uns that he was among the first to bring the fuzz.

Neil Young – “Hitchhiker

 


44. Interpol – Interpol

For a band as good as Interpol, this album was a deep disappointment.  There are moments that hearken back to the band’s glorious debut album, but many others remain muddled and meandering.  “Lights” and “Barricade” help buoy this album, but without them it would be lost.

Interpol – “Lights”

 

43. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

This is an album gaining attention in many 2010 best-of lists, but I just can’t move it to the top of this one.  There are enjoyable moments to be sure, but the experimentalism of Sufjan’s foray into ambient electronica is disappointing for those expecting more quirky folk songs about lowly Midwestern states.

Sufjan Stevens – “I Walked”

 

42. Best Coast – Crazy For You

When I reviewed this album, I wrote: “Many Best Coast tracks feel like they could fit well on a Raveonettes album, with pop hooks and catchy lyrics laid over a thick layer of fuzzy retro guitar twang.  However, unlike the Raveonettes, the fuzz on Crazy For You feels as if it was left out in the sun for too long, giving the whole record a slower, more intimate feel.”

Best Coast – “When I’m With You”

 

41. James Blake – CMYK EP/Klavierwerke EP

If the debut releases from this new artist are any indication, James Blake has a unique and soulful take on a largely desolate genre.  I’ve struggled to get much further into dubstep than the brilliant Burial, but Blake’s distorted R&B ambiance is something to watch in 2011.

James Blake – “CMYK”

 

40. Goldfrapp – Head First

A stunning first three tracks on this underrated retro disco gem announce Alison Goldfrapp’s triumphant return as a cutting edge electronic diva.  “Rocket“, “Believer”, and “Alive” are each excellent, and more than make up for a remainder of the album that sounds like “Mamma Mia” castoff material.

Goldfrapp – “Alive”

 

39. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

Jack White and Alison Mossheart didn’t waste much time in creating a follow up to last year’s #7 best album, and they got even swampier and sinister for the sophomore effort.  There aren’t any standout singles this time around, but the overall product doesn’t suffer much for it.

The Dead Weather – “Die By The Drop”

 

38. Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP

On their debut 2009 LP (#15 album of the year), Girls sounded like a couple of talented guys with a lot to say and no real refinement of style.  The self-titled album was a bit unsettling, with frequent transitions from beach pop to psychedelic neuroses.  On the new EP, Girls sound like a more confident, capable band, having learned exactly how they want to say all that they have to say.

Girls – “Heartbreaker”

 

37. Broken Bells – Broken Bells

It was no surprise that a collaboration between Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins would produce some great songs.  It was a pleasant confirmation of high expectations to discover that they also put together a pretty fine album, filled with more R & B influence than one might have expected from the twee pop front man.

Broken Bells – “The Ghost Inside”

 

36. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

This album may have been my biggest surprise of the year.  I caught this Florida act opening for The Pains of Being Pure Heart at a pretty small venue, and they far out-played the opener, displaying a pretty impressive range and catalog for their age.  And with both Fast and Slow Jabronis, how could they go wrong?

Surfer Blood – “Fast Jabroni”

 

35. The Black Keys – Brothers

For some reason, I’ve struggled to get into The Black Keys.  Luckily for me, the Youngstown natives released one of their most accessible albums yet, and it’s a very enjoyable effort.  I’m not sure that I’m as enamored as some, but Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have won over another fan.  I’m sure that has them howlin’.

The Black Keys – Everlasting Light

 

34. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Dusty Chico

I’m a fan of Outkast, but I always thought the duo was at its best when both Big Boi and Andre 3000 have the reins, feeding off one another to lend their unique vocal stylings to a greater whole.  So I viewed this solo project with some trepidation.  But it’s awesome – in a down year for hip-hop Big Boi did nothing less than release the genre’s best album (sans Kanye).

Big Boi – “Shutterbug”

 

33. Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard

On this followup to a surprisingly good debut, the nerdy chamber pop of Ra Ra Riot takes a turn toward the less straightforward, losing many of the hooks of 2008’s The Rhumb Line.  The band may be growing, but remains most interesting when they push the pace and the strings to the fore.  “Boy” is simply one of the best tracks of the year.

Ra Ra Riot – “Boy”

 

32. Caribou – Swim

Though the textures are lush, the effect is a sparse, chilly atmosphere with ghostly lyrics and haunting melancholy.  Located somewhere in the netherworld between minimal techno, dubstep, and disco punk, Caribou’s latest release is an exploration of composition and production.

Caribou – “Odessa”

 

31. She & Him – She & Him Vol. 2

Sun-drenched and with obvious lineage from 1950’s doo-wop, Zooey Deschanel (she) and M. Ward (him) were back this year with another album of pop standards.  They make it seem easy, as every track is equally at home on your grandma’s AM radio or Gap commercial.  Inoffensive as inoffensive can be, one can’t help but fall for Zooey’s charm.

She & Him – “In The Sun”

 

30. Yeasayer – Odd Blood

One of the bigger surprises of the year had to Odd Blood, an album that melds genres as disparate as psychedelic rock, funk, and eighties new wave.  Perhaps this is what MGMT were going for – but Yeasayer bests them by miles with a handful of memorable singles.  The album loses steam quickly, but the first half leaves a very lasting impression.

Yeasayer – “O.N.E.”

 

29. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me

I’ll admit, it’s hard to get used to Newsom’s vocal delivery.  It is a very different style for a delicate songstress, but once accustomed, the listener is rewarded with a tremendous depth of emotion.  Newsom pours her heart out over three discs and 120 minutes, waxing poetic about what life in America was, is, and could be.

Joanna Newsom – “Good Intentions Paving Co.”

 

28. Maximum Balloon – Maximum Balloon

I’m really not entirely sure why this solo project of TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek hasn’t received more love.  It’s easily one of the most fun of the year, with sparkling guest spots from both of TVotR’s stellar vocalists, as well as disco darling Little Dragon, Theophilus London, Karen O(!), and none other than David Byrne (!!).

Maximum Balloon – “Groove Me (ft. Theophilus London)”

 

27. Matthew Dear – Black City

Dear got his start in the world of Detroit tech house releasing under the name Audion, and he’s slowly used solo releases under his own name to explore darker, more sinister emotive realms of electronic music.  On Black City, he uses vignettes of sleaze and dark nights in the big city as his muse, offering lust and sorrow side by side.

Matthew Dear – “Slow Dance”

 

26.    Cee Lo – Ladykiller

Cee Lo’s “F**k You” is perhaps the most recognizable R&B hit of 2010, and for good reason.  The retro piano hook and nonchalant vindictiveness is catchy as hell, and it would be easy for the track to overshadow the album.  But Cee Lo put together a great set of retro soul tracks for this record, and just for good measure he shows he can get in on the big shiny synths, too.

Cee Lo – “Wildflower”

 

For #25-16, click here.

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Responses

  1. […] To see the albums ranked #50-#26, click here. […]

  2. […] other entries in the top 50 albums of 2010, click here:  50-26 | […]


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