The Year in Music, So Far: Best Albums of 2010

With July half over, it’s time to look back over what has already been an incredible year in terms of new releases. I foresee a hard task ahead for myself in December…

David Byrne and Fatboy Slim   – Here Lies Love

I was drawn to this album by the amazing and diverse list of contributors (Florence Welch, Steve Earle, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Pierson, Sharon Jones and Allison Moorer, to name a few) and was held rapt by the stories they told about the life of Imelda Marcos and the disco-infused beats and melodies that swirled around them. A fascinating project and an incredible collection of music, this is currently my favorite album of the year.

Yeasayer – Odd Blood

I liked their debut, but this album really catapulted Yeasayer onto a new level. A delightful blizzard of beeps and blips swirls around a strong crop of songs. And I won’t lie and say that “Ambling Alp” didn’t guide me through a few personally frustrating moments: “Now, the world can be an unfair place at times / But your lows will have their complement of highs … You must stick up for yourself, son / Never mind what anybody else done.”

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

From the moment I first heard the driving tour de force that is “Little Lion Man” on WERS, I was sold. The edgy amalgam of Americana-meets-UK folk rock is a galloping, emotional headrush. Their songs pulse with life and urgency and won’t be denied. This album feels essential, in part because the members of the band play and sing as if their lives depended on it.

The National – High Violet

Is it boring to say that The National have created yet another masterpiece, and that there is little one can offer in the way of critique for their fifth full-length album? Matt Berninger continues to confound and mesmerize, and he and his bandmates continue to expertly weave their layers of lush and compelling songcraft. No, something this captivating can’t be boring.

New Pornographers – Together

This album took a while to grow on me, as I wrote about previously, since I was blinded by my love for “Challengers.” But, like I said, this may be the fullest realization of the band to date. Neko Case really steps out and shines (not that we didn’t already know she was a gem), Dan Bejar is at his most accessible and A.C. Newman continues to steer his pop ship in enlightening directions.

Stars – The Five Ghosts

I first heard this album performed live in its entirety at a concert, so I may be biased, but this is a strong addition to the Stars discography. “We Don’t Want Your Body” is a fun, dance-y track, and I find that there is a lot on this record to groove to. At the same time, appropriate to the title, there are some more grief-stricken moments, as well. That range, of course, is par for the course with Stars.

Hot Chip – One Life Stand

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (tie)

I’m glad I have another few months to chew on this one for the proper year-end roundup. Both of these albums are dance parties in a box, with solid stand-out tracks like Hot Chip’s “I Feel Better” and LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean.” I have a feeling Hot Chip will win out in the end, but right now, I’m too busy dancing to pick one or the other.

Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

This is a bit fuzzier than I normally go for, but the riffs are tight, the melodies are catchy and as summer winds on, I find myself turning to this album more and more. Must be something about the easy shimmer and faint throwback vibe these guys convey. Roll your windows down for this one.

The Kissaway Trail – Sleep Mountain

One of my favorite albums last year was Wild Light’s “Adult Nights,” and I categorize this band in a similar vein. This is just a fun, varied listen, swooping from broad, epic brushstrokes to muted pockets of falsetto from one moment to the next. Echoes of Grandaddy and the Arcade Fire pop up throughout this lush work. It’s an engrossing listen.

Tracey Thorn – Love and its Opposite

My friend Tim was raving about this album by the lead woman from Everything But the Girl, so I had to check it out. After listening through once streaming online, I had to buy it at the next available opportunity. Her voice is captivating, and these powerful songs are full of elegance and verve. This is a dark horse entry into the top 10 of 2010 so far.

Other high-ranking releases: Magnetic Fields, “Realism”; Ted Leo & Pharmacists, “The Brutalist Bricks”; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, “Up From Below”; Local Native, “Gorilla Manor”; Laura Veirs, “July Flame”

Disappointments: Bird and the Bee, “Interpreting the Masters, vol. 1”; Broken Bells, “Broken Bells”; Rogue Wave, “Permalight”; Midlake, “The Courage of Others”; The Hold Steady, “Heaven is Whenever”

Surprises so far: Peter Wolf, “Midnight Souvenirs”; John Hiatt, “The Open Road”; Magic Man, “Real Life Color”

What am I missing? I am sure I missed a few of your favorites.

Come back next week to see my favorite songs of the year so far!

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9 responses to “The Year in Music, So Far: Best Albums of 2010

  1. Interesting picks. As usual, I agree with some of your picks, disagree with others, and am not familiar with still others.

    I can’t say I’m wowed by “High Violet” or the new Stars album, and I haven’t really given Mumford and Sons, Tracey Thorn or the Byrne/Fatboy Slim collaboration a chance. I’m glad you find Peter Wolf’s “Midnight Souvenirs” a pleasant surprise (so did I). I really like the New Pornographers album (prefer it to Challengers, actually, and agree that they sound really tight on this one). Thumbs up also for Yeasayer’s “Odd Blood” and that fuzzy, echo-drenched “Astro Coast.”

    I still don’t understand why I don’t see much love for Broken Bells. It’s in my top five so far.

    Others I highly recommend that didn’t make your list:

    Drive By Truckers – The Big To Do
    Spoon – Transference
    Caribou – Swim
    The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
    Alejandro Escovedo – Street Songs of Love (new/highly recommended)
    Jonsi – Go
    The Whigs – In the Dark
    Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig

    I ned to get my act together and post my faves, too. And get these on our music blog. It’d be great if you would cross-post this over there.

  2. Listening to the Stars single right now!

    Albums of note:

    Vampire Weekend – Contra
    Spoon – Transference
    Melissa Auf der Maur – Out Of Our Minds
    Free Energy – Stuck On Nothing
    Against Me! – White Crosses

  3. Ended up here from the #FF from SomervilleInfo. Always glad to find other Somerville peeps to follow!

    Dr Dog – Shame Shame.
    Delta Spirit – History From Below.
    Black Keys – Brothers.

    Agree with Andrew, I liked Gaslight Anthem’s ‘American Slang.’ I also liked the new Hold Steady album, but it took me a few listens to get into it.

  4. Forgot about “Contra.” It’s noteworthy.

    I’ve also recently downloaded Blue Giant’s self-titled release and am enjoying it.

  5. You are wrong, dear Georgy. “Broken Bells” is one of the best of the year. And as with most things I feel that strongly about, I am having trouble coming up with reasons why.

    “Together” is certainly good, but it’s not their “fullest realization.” Interesting that you described Bejar as at his most accessible, because I think it’s his most pedestrian, and maybe trying too hard? “If You Can’t See My Mirrors” seems almost lazy to me. That being said, “Daughters of Sorrow” is pretty awesome.

  6. No one’s ever gonna agree on this, but I’d definitely throw Band of Horses’ “Infinite Arms” into the mix, and Laura Marling’s “I Speak Because I Can” is total genius. Mumford & Sons are good but the record tails off around three key tracks and I’m yet to be convinced by “High Violet” in comparison to The National’s previous two records. Laura Veirs’ “July Flame” is worth talking about and if I could throw in an EP it’s be Kassidy’s “The Rubbergum EP”.

    Some interesting logs on the campfire though, and some stuff I’ve not heard of. So, thanks..

  7. Some really good choices here, but I’m amazed at how little recognition Joanna Newsom got for “Have One On Me”, particularly at home in the USA. It’s a TRIPLE album….who does a triple album these days, huh ?
    Lots more that I hope will make it into the list by the end of the year….”Set Phaser To Stun” by The Time & Space Machine, “JJ No3” by JJ, “The Magician’s Private Library” by Holly Miranda, “Where Did The Night Fall” by UNKLE, “Cosmogramm” by Flying Lotus and “WHB” by We Have Band. All lovely stuff, just like the rest of your “So Far…” list.

  8. Pingback: A musical interlude! « För att även jag kan ha något vettigt att säga.

  9. Just stumbled upon your blog, a lot of good choices on your list!

    An album, or more of a collaboration of sorts, that just came out July 12th that deserves some attention:
    Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse’s Dark Night of the Soul has a bunch of solid tracks on it.

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