Tag Archives: top 10

Best Albums of 2010

Here we go, another look back at the music that made 2010 more bearable and more awesome. Admittedly, the past couple of months have been made more difficult by my laptop video card being on the fritz (and thus removing me from my iTunes lifeline), so this list is compiled with a slight handicap and without some of the extras I’ve included in years past.

Also, this year, I tethered my effort closely to the second annual Higher Ed Music Critics collaboration, where 10 higher ed web marketing professionals and music nerds came together to collectively determine the best 50 albums of the year. Here’s the rundown: 51-21926-501-25

Listed below are my own top 50 of the year. As usual, feel free to agree/disagree/debate/recommend in the comments! (For historical reference, here’s where I was mid-year.)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 hypnotic, and these powerful songs are full of elegance and verve.
  4. The Love Language – Libraries – The Love Language‘s “Libraries” recalls what I fell in love with about bands like The Kissaway Trail and Wild Light: earnest, melodic, and rich tracks, which founder Stuart McLamb calls “emotional fight songs.” One of my happiest surprises of the year.
  5. John Shade – All You Love is Need – Shade, a Boston-area artist, approaches acoustic pop perfection. His songs ring true, seemingly coming from a genuine place without guile or malice.  (Bonus: You can download his album for free, or name your own price.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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 needed to know she was a gem), and Dan Bejar is at his most accessible. And A.C. Newman continues to steer his pop ship in enlightening directions.
  8. 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.”
  9. Cloud Cult – Light Chasers – One of the most unabashedly sincere and true-hearted bands in indie rock offers up another winner, facing complex issues of love and grief and longing head-on, armed only with lush melodies and dynamic songcraft.
  10. School of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire – A huge leap forward from their debut, which in itself was a stellar album. Captivating and transcendent.
  11. Stars – The Five Ghosts
  12. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
  13. Jenny and Johnny –  I’m Having Fun Now
  14. The Acorn – No Ghost
  15. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
  16. Vampire Weekend – Contra
  17. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
  18. The Kissaway Trail – Sleep Mountain
  19. Marching Band – Pop Cycle
  20. Versus – On the Ones and Threes
  21. Weakerthans and Jim Bryson – The Falcon Lake Incident
  22. Magnetic Fields – Realism
  23. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks
  24. Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
  25. Girl Talk – All Day
  26. Sleigh Bells – Treats
  27. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Up From Below
  28. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
  29. Freelance Whales – Weathervanes
  30. Freedy Johnston – Rain on the City
  31. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  32. Spoon  – Transference
  33. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – The Social Network score
  34. Laura Veirs – July Flame
  35. Pernice Brothers – Goodbye, Killer
  36. We Are Scientists – Barbara
  37. Peter Wolf – Midnight Souvenirs
  38. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul
  39. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?
  40. Nada Surf – If I Had a Hi-Fi
  41. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
  42. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
  43. Eels – End Times
  44. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
  45. Mates of State – Crushes
  46. John Hiatt – The Open Road
  47. Kingsley Flood – Dust Windows
  48. Static of the Gods – Knowledge Machine
  49. The Morning Benders – Big Echo
  50. The Futureheads – Chaos

Top Songs of 2009

The other day, I posted my top 10 (and then some) albums of 2009. While I remain steadfastly pro-album in a music culture increasingly revolving around the single track (thanks, iTunes), a rabid consumer of MP3 blogs such as myself can’t help but amass a thorough collection of individual tracks. Sometimes, they lead to a complete album purchase or full artist immersions, but sometimes they stand alone. For this list, I did not include tracks by artists included in my top 25 albums of the year. These are the lone rangers of 2009.

I used tinysong.com (thanks, Andrew) to pull song links for most of the tracks listed below, since apparently Myspace just bought Imeem. So, no downloadable MP3s directly linked below, sorry to say.

Without further ado…

  1. Baby Dayliner – You Push, I’ll Go (This song is only available as a demo; I learned about it from KEXP)
  2. Bell X1 – The Great Defector
  3. The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song (I didn’t even bother putting “Hazards of Love” on my Biggest Disappointment of 2009, though I suppose I should have. This song, though, was exceptional.)
  4. St. Vincent – Marrow (Check out the awesome video)
  5. Roman Candle – Eden Was a Garden (One of my early morning WERS discoveries)
  6. Dirty Projectors & David Byrne – Knotty Pine
  7. Chris Isaak – We Let her Down (A WERS discovery)
  8. Phoenix – 1901
  9. Thunderheist – Sweet 16
  10. Discovery – Orange Shirt
  11. The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa
  12. Wintersleep – Weighty Ghost (Scrounged this from the SXSW free MP3 downloads)
  13. Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – Know Better, Learn Faster
  14. Sea Wolf – Wicked Blood
  15. The Felice Brothers – Run Chicken Run (Another WERS find.)
  16. Paper Moon – What Are You Going to Do With Me?
  17. Nickodemus – Sun Children
  18. The Mary Onettes – Dare
  19. Iron & Wine – Belated Promise Ring
  20. The Hush Now – Hoping and Waiting (Couldn’t find audio, so here is their song “Sadie Hawkins Dance,” also rockin’)
  21. Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Shampoo
  22. Yacht – The Afterlife
  23. Fanfarlo – Luna
  24. Ruby Isle – My Girls (Animal Collective cover far preferable to the original; couldn’t find a link so here is their cover of “Solsbury Hill“)
  25. Phantogram – Mouthful of Diamonds

The Top Albums of 2009

The earliest of my annual top 10 albums of the year lists I can find is from 2002, where my No. 1 album was Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” — also my top album of the decade. Since then, I’ve compiled a musical year-in-review each year, expanding to include honorable mentions and a host of (somewhat quirky) subcategories. I have a lot of fun at the end of each year looking back on the music shaped it (it helped to do a mid-year review — thanks, Dave!), and hopefully this list is fun for those of you taking the time to read it. Some of the best compliments I’ve gotten are when people say they look forward to it each year. That means a lot to me. I also love hearing people’s reactions — in agreement or otherwise! So please, comment below. And stay tuned later this week for a top songs of 2009 post, as well!

Without further ado…

Honorable Mentions

20. Mountain Goats – The Life of the World to Come

I have to admit that I don’t think this album has fully sunk in enough for me to appreciate it fully or perhaps even rank it fairly, but with John Darnielle, I’ve come to assume a certain level of awesomeness. So I’ll take that gamble here.

19. The Hidden Cameras – Origin: Orphan

I feel like these guys are one of the greater sleeper bands of modern rock. They continue to release inventive, charismatic and delightfully lewd music.

18. Girlyman – Everything’s Easy

I was hoping this would be in the top 10, but the studio versions of some of these tracks fall far short of the live versions I’d heard previously. Some of the sameness in the album’s sound dissipates over repeated listens, but still a bit of a disappointment.

17. Wilco – Wilco (the album)

It’s amusing that this jokingly self-referential album (along with the song therein) comes from a group that has quietly become one of the most influential and important in the American rock music world.

16. Mike Doughty – Sad Man Happy Man

I keep on hoping for another “Haughty Melodic” or “Skittish,” but this is still another quality record by Mr. Doughty. Some elements of his Soul Coughing days creep back to the fore, which is intriguing.

15. Bob Mould – Life and Times

It’s a treat to have a second Bob Mould just a year after the fantastic “District Line,” though this perhaps could have been seasoned a bit more.

14. The Swell Season – Strict Joy

They may be broken up, but Glen and Marketa show they will know how to do something right together.

13. AC Newman – Get Guilty

His second solo effort shows greater definition of what Carl is outside of the Pornographers.

12. A Camp – Colonia

Not sure if this means the end of the Cardigans, but if these lush melodies are the new vessels for Nina Persson’s sweet songs, I’ll take it.

11. Bishop Allen – Grrr….

This album was actually in my top 10 before I remembered Tegan and Sara. After what I felt was a disappointing follow-up to their EP-a-month project with “The Broken String” (many of the EP versions of songs outshone their more polished album versions) this is a thorough return to form for one of the best classic pop bands out there.

The Top Ten

10. Wild Light – Adult Nights

My friend Dave introduced me to these guys, and it’s been an album I’ve found myself turning to over and over again this year. Its placement here surprised even myself, but this is simply a fun, engaging record to listen to.

9. Langhorne Slim – Be Set Free

One of the most dynamic live performers you can ever hope to see, I am glad this guy is gaining additional listeners. A few commercials help, sure, but nothing works like a delightful, engaging album. His voice has a twang that makes me sit up and pay attention.

8. Tegan and Sara – Sainthood

This dynamic duo continues to mature, and this album adds to a growing edge and sense of urgency in their compelling indie rock.

7. Passion Pit – Manners

This Boston group shone leadman Michael Angelakos’ falsetto like a spotlight to show the way to stardom, spewing dangerously infectious beats and melodies along the way.

6. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

What can be said about Karen O. and co. except that they are among the best at what they do? They continue to prove themselves as one of the defining rock bands of the decade.

5. Hello Saferide – More Modern Short Stories from…

As I wrote in July, “My favorite quirky Swedish chanteuse spins more tantalizing yarns.” It takes real talent to combine quirkiness with solid songcraft, but that’s what she does, time after time.

4. Eels – Hombre Lobo

This album was a grower, but once it settled it, it wouldn’t leave. It’s a desperate, romantic, heartbroken album, but it seems that’s how Mr. E is the most comfortable. Good news: he’s got another album coming out in just a couple of weeks.

3. John Wesley Harding – Who was Changed and Who was Dead

I just discovered this guy this year, and it turns out that he makes exactly my favorite kind of music—the kind dripping in early 90s melody and story. Luckily, he had a new release this year. It’s like 1992 all over again (in a good way).

2. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Whether she’s covering an obscure band like Sparks or taking on the personality of a weather phenomenon, Neko Case reminded us that she is more than a musician; she is a force of nature.

1. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

This album snuck up on me with a song. That song tied a loop around my heart that pulled me toward the full album, which proved to be just as delightful. And that album led me to a promising back catalog full of similar country-tinged ballads and romps. The best discoveries are those that only lead you to even more.

Certificate of Participation

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – s/t

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeux Phoenix

M. Ward – Hold Time

Islands – Vapours

Built to Spill – There Is No Enemy

Biggest Disappointments

Works Progress Administration – s/t

I’ve hard Glen Phillips and Nickel Creek independently, as well as their collaboration as the Mutual Admiration Society, so I was pretty excited for this so-called “supergroup” effort. But—as with most supergroup efforts, in my estimation—this album fell short. It lacked verve and fell flat.

Stars of Track & Field – A Time for Lions

Their first album, “Centuries Before Love and War,” was a masterpiece, so perhaps I had irrationally high expectations. This album is fine, but not nearly as magical.

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

I really, really just don’t get it.

Best Albums I Didn’t Buy… (though I perhaps downloaded many free MP3s from)

St. Vincent – Actor

Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

Discovery – LP

Elvis Perkins in Dearland

Sea Wolf – White Water, White Bloom

Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

Telekinesis! – Telekinesis!

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down – Know Better Learn Faster

The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa

…or Bought but Did Not Hear Enough Of (the Underlistened)

Brendan Benson – My Old, Familiar Friend

Hallelujah the Hills – Colonial Drones

White Rabbits – It’s Frightening

Metric – Fantasies

Asobi Seksu – Hush

Best Albums of 2010

Laura Veirs

Vampire Weekend – Contra

Spoon – Transference

Watson Twins – Talking to You, Talking to Me

Eels – End Times


Freedy Johnston – Rain on the City


New Pornographers

The Shins

Take Five (Or Ten?): Top 10 Albums and Songs of 2009 (So Far)

My pal Dave over at The Shimmy Shake asked me to compile my top songs/albums/whatevers of 2009 to date, and how could I not help but comply with a request from such a swell guy? I’ve reposted my musings here, but please hop on over to The Shimmy Shake — Dave is increasingly responsible for introducing me to awesome new bands, so you’re best off taking your new music tips from him. He won’t lead you astray.

I haven’t provided an excessive amount of commentary, but hopefully enough to get you interested. Note: I deliberately picked songs that are not on any of the top 10 albums. I cast a much wider net for MP3s than I do for albums, so I think there are some interesting picks in there.  Also, you may have read about some of these songs in previous posts, particularly my summer jams post, so apologies for any redundancies.

Without further ado…


A Camp – Colonia – Another rec from the DP himself. I love me some Cardigans, and while the slower tempo on this record took some time for me to adjust to, I soon fell hard.

Bishop Allen – Grrr… – These guys continue to be some of the most inventive popsmiths out there. Another Boston(-originated) band makes good.

Bob Mould – Life and Times – The man, the myth, the legend – he’s not quitting anytime soon. Another solid effort.

Eels – Hombre Loco – A concept piece revolving around the concept of desire, the inimitable Mr. E leaves it all out on the table once more, and you can’t help but be affected.

Hello Saferide – More Modern Short Stories From… – My favorite quirky Swedish chanteuse spins more tantalizing yarns.

Neko Case – Middle Cyclone – What more can be said? She is simply captivating. This album is a compelling work that demands your attention

AC Newman – Get Guilty – I always feel like AC is better off sticking to his other life as a Pornographer, but his solo work is pretty enjoyable, and this is no different — probably better than his solo debut, actually.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Yes, their band may have the most precious/pretentious name ever, but they put out a heck of a fun record, poppy with a hint of 80s throwback.

Passion Pit – Manners – Yay, another Boston band makes good! Some of the most fun, well-crafted music I’ve heard in a while.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz – YYY albums always sneak up on me. I think they’ll just be alright, and then Karen O never fails to blow me away. ‘Blitz’ is no different.


Phoenix – 1901 – Just a fun electro-poppy cut from some hipper-than-thou French dudes.

Baby Dayliner – You Push, I’ll Go – I imagine this song playing in the car when you’re heading out to the bar. Gonna get a vodka soda, with a lime, with a lime.

The Decemberists – The Rake’s Song – Was not a fan of this album, but this song just kicks ass. Deliciously spiteful.

St. Vincent – Marrow – A fun, dark and crunchy offering from the lovely Ms. Clark.

Mary Onettes – Dare – This song is a delightfully fuzzy new wave throwback.

Owl City – Hot Air Balloon – The DP actually turned me onto this. He described it best: Postal Service Lite. Still fun, though.

Nickodemus – Sun Children – An awesomely catchy summer jam, complete with a great horn section.

Thunderheist – Sweet 16 – Here’s your dirty club cut of the summer.

Paper Moon – What Are You Going to Do with Me? – This Canadian band has not got enough props for their solid head-bobbing pop.

Brighton Port Authority feat. David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal – Toe Jam – Probably my favorite song of the year. The <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hi99JdeBeY”>video</a&gt; is a must-see. Censorship was never so much fun. </span>