Favorite albums of 2010
Well, here it is. A years worth of music wrapped up in just 20 entries. Sort of a daunting task, but one I actually look forward to each year.
As always I must stress these are my "FAVORITE" records of the year. I also don't fall in to the traps of thinking some is good/great just because. Spoiler, there is no Kanye West on my list. The record came out in late November yet it bumped almost a full years worth of other records on virtually every list (print or online). Seems suspect to me. I've heard it, once but wasn't thinking "wow this is right up there with _____".
Anyway, just my thoughts. The rules are simple, going back to 1996 when I first really committed to making a list. No Live, best ofs or eps can make the list. The cd/album has to have been released in the calendar year and I *must* own the cd/album. Simple.
Well dig in...and pass judgement. Song samples vary from streams to you tube clips to complete album downloads. Feel free to comment away, tell me I am full of it, or I missed the boat on ____ or how could I have even liked _____. It is all in good fun.
20 - Girl Talk - All Day
Okay this is sort of cheating and purists will call foul. 372 song samples make up this album, or collection of mashups. The real fun when you listen is to pick out the samples. Blending hip hop with hard rock it will keep you busy. Really designed to be a "one long track" many of them really can stand on their own. A record to put on when you need to get stuff done.
Stand Out Track(s) - Kinda sorta all of it really.....
Previous List Appearances - Feed the Animals #14 2009
Here is an idea of what Girl Talk does. This is the lead off track called Oh No. If you dig you can still download the whole thing for FREE...right here.
19 - The Ocean - Heliocentric
One thing about my tastes in music you will find it varies. Look at #20, then this, the #18 to give you an idea. This cd was passed along by a friend and I only recently found out it is part one of a double album. Heliocentric is the fourth album from this German experimental metal band. Now before you push off "metal" hear me out. The music is heavy, complex and continually interesting. Its not just foot to the floor, it has some great structure. Lead vocalist Loïc Rossetti has that cookie monster growl to his voice, but where it fits, it really fits. There are some epic tunes on here, 5+ minutes is the norm for tracks and they are each mini passages in and of themselves. Probably not for everyone, but if you get it, you'll get it.
Stand Out Tracks - Firmament, Swallowed by the Earth, The Origin of Species
Previous List appearances - this is the first
Here is an audio only clip from YouTube for "Firmament"
18 - Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
So lets get this straight, in your liner notes you list nine members of the band, then 13 "Additional" members and 10 "guests" you are in for one heck of a diverse record. The album opens up with a guitar driven "World Sick" and the band all seems to come together and really sets the tone for what you'd expect..a big sounding record. The horn section on "Art House Director" is a strong and cool touch to this perky rock record. The blend of male and female voices on the record really are refreshing, but full on instrumental rippers like "Meet me in the basement" really shine as well, almost having you long for a fully instrumental album.
Stand Out Track(s) - Art House Director, Meet Me In The Basement
Previous List appearances - Self Titled #19 2005
The link here has four tunes you can sample from the record.
17 - Deftones - Diamond Eyes
File under "the difficult sixth album?". The band wanted to do some quick turn around but a band tragedy (bassist Chi Cheng was in a terrible car accident that put him in a coma) slowed things. The band had all but completed an album, but shelved it after the accident and began to work on this record. With the deftones things are not always as they seem. Sure the band is heavy, hard and at times almost brutal. They will mix it up though, with tracks like "Beauty School" showing a little more mellow side of the band. The band continues to release solid records and this charted high for them on the album charts. Chances are if you like(d) the deftones you'd like this record as well.
Stand out Tracks - Rocket Skates
Previous list appearances - White Pony #18 in 2000, Saturday Night Wrist #15 in 2006
Check out Rocket Skates.
16 - The Roots - How I Got Over
The Roots are a lot more in the collective conscience as they are the late night band for Jimmy Fallon. The band jams with many of the artists that appear and the latest cd features 11 tracks with guests (14). When you feature a very tight band and compliment it with the ranges of "Monsters of Folk" and Joanna Newsom to John Legend you are getting a broad spectrum of feel and influence. The style of music is not always something I focus in on, but as you can tell with the roots making my list with each release since 2002 the band continues to be consistent, at least with me and there is always something I can take from their records.
Stand out Tracks - Dear God 2.0, Radio Daze, How I Got Over
Previous list appearances - Phrenology #15 2002, Tripping Point #24 in 2004, Game Theory #20 in 2006
Check out the track "How I got Over here (parental advisory)
15. Red Sparowes - The Fear is Excruciating, but therein lies the answer
Shocker! Another "post rock" band finds their way on to the list. A little lighter of an affair from these guys, but still not a soft rock album. The songs are still over 5 minutes long, and none crack the 8 minute mark where in the past that seemed the norm for the band. Not breaking a lot of new ground here, but still always hold attention when the music is playing.
Stand out track(s) - A Hail of Bombs. A Swarm
Previous list appearances - Every Red Heart Shines Towards The Red Sun #15 2006, At the Soundless Dawn #7 in 2005.
The Track "A Hail of Bombs" can be heard here.
14 The National - High Violet
There is always something about these guys that feels "European" but they are an New York via Ohio band. Singer Matt Berninger is about as mellow a lead singer as you'll ever hear. His haunting baritone compliments a support cast awash in piano, strings and dramatic chord and musical progressions. If the musicians were not as accomplished this could be a pretty "downer" of a record. Nothing really gets beyond 4/4 time and the lyrics are heavy but at the same time this is where an album can be perfect at any time of day, on any occasion at any event, you just need to decide when you want to be swept away.
Stand out Track(s) - Anyone's Ghost, Afraid of Everyone, Bloodbuzz Ohio
Previous List appearances - The is the bands first list appearance
Check out Bloodbuzz Ohio
13 - Vampire Weekend - Contra
Having a full year to spend with a record can be a blessing and a curse. Contra was released in early January and was first put on hold as time was spent writing, listening and reading all the year end best lists. When the dust settled this ten track 36 minute collection showed on first pass it would be a strong contender for this years list. The lead track "Horchata" has everything from double bass to piano to guitars. The quirky guitar parts chirp out over, under and around lead singer Ezra Koeings vocals. It is hard to place the indie band under a real tag. Harmonies on "White Sky" sound like Simon and Garfunkel at times while the synth pop added to the tracks have a fun 80's feel to them. If you take your time with this record you'll catch your toes tapping on more than one occasion and a fair amount of "previous track" button presses on your player.
In recent months the bands "Holiday" could be heard selling automobiles and clothing further pulling folks to their catchy hooks all over again.
Stand Out Track(s)- California English, Run, Giving up the Gun
Previous list appearances - Self Titled #8 in 2009
Check out "Giving up the Gun" right here. Oh, and what heck since it was the holiday song you loved to hate from the Honda ads...here.
12 - Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
This band is in a tough spot. Darlings to the critics this band can't do a single thing wrong it seems. They released this album with something like 8 variations of the covers and there are probably a few fans that dropped the money on the various covers, you know, just cuz. Once inside the record though all grumbling can be laid to rest. The band is the strongest when Win Butler and Régine Chassagne share the vocal portions. When each is solo it doesn't have as much bunch, but the band is very "full" a lot of the time. You also mix strings and piano with your standard rock band instruments. A little uneven at times for my tastes, the band still makes darn good records.
Stand out Track(s) - Ready to Start, We Used to Wait, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Previous List appearances - Funeral #2 in 2004, Neon Bible #9 in 2007
We Used to Wait, check it.
11 - Intronaut - Valley of Smoke
Sophomore album from this Southern California band fuse odd melodies coupled with double bass drum pounding and swooping bass work. The vocals are a little "growly" at times but it fits the music that being played. A theme I am comfortable with. Information on the band was sent to me by a friend and I was really one the fence since "proggy metal" can be so hit or miss with me. In the end it blew me away, and still does. Well worth your time. A satisfying and heavy record that will satisfy the most critical of ears (for fans of the genre).
Stand out track(s) - Sunderance, Below
Previous list appearances - none, they are first timers
YouTube audio only clip for "Sunderance" is right here.
10 - High on Fire - Snakes of the Divine
Right from the start of every High On Fire record I am never let down. Driving guitars, pummeling drums put an immediate smell in your nose that mixes booze, body order and probably a hint of weed. Matt Pike is no Dylan in the lyric department and doesn't have an angelic voice by any means, but with a name like High on Fire you get what you get. A heavy gut punch that will make you long for a cruise in an old camaro with the windows down.
Stand out track(s) - Snakes of the Divine, Fire Flood and Plague
Previous list appearances - The Art of Self Defense #7 in 2000, Surrounded by Thieves #12 in 2002 and Death is this Communion #19 in 2007
You will need a bar of soap to wash up after getting beat to the ground with Snakes of the Divine.
09 - The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
Americas best bar band is back, releasing albums at a "Kiss in the 1970's pace". The departure of long time multi instrumenatlaist Franz Nicolay didn't slow the band down. The opening track "The Sweet Part of the City" is awash with slide guitar and buzzy fills. By the second track long time fans (and new fans) get a solid idea of what the band is about..and that is rock anthems. You'll find all through foot stomping clap alongs and chanting chorus'. On top of all these good praises this record just *sounds* good. Everything is in perfect balance. No band these days makes me want to drink domestic beer and wave a lighter around at a concert than this band.
Stand out track(s) - Soft in the Center,
Previous list appearances - Boys and Girls in America #1 in 2006. Stay Positive #3 in 2008
08 - Budos Band - III
Thanks to the web site Last.FM I stumbled upon this NYC based band. Couple that with a "making of III" clip on the bands site I fell in love right away. With drums "from the pocket" and a deep soul feel this record hung with me from the start. If you like music that sounds like it came from a 60's soul review you can't go wrong. Baritone sax is right up there in the mix with the horns and no vocals allow the focus to be totally on the music. Probably my favorite "new to me" band in 2010.
Stand out track(s) - Rite of the Ancients,
Previous List appearances - none, they are first timers
This is the video from you tube that sold me. There are three tracks on this clip with some short interview stuff in between.
07 - Goonies Never Say Die - No Words to Voice Our Hopes and Fears
Lets put it out there, we are lucky there is an actual physical cd from the band. Had to order it direct, but being a "i want the cd in my hand" sorta guy it was worth it. Post rock w/piano?! Yeah it works. The Blackpool, Northwest, UK sextet blends just that right amount of bass and drums with the piano to give a nice approach to the whole "quiet/loud" of the post rock genre. Oh, you get the walls of guitar and they will blow your hair back, they just have a not so usual instrument to help push that forward. The chaos might confuse some, but it will invigorate others.
Stand out track(s) - The Wrong End of a Trembling Knife
Previous list appearances - none, they are first timers.
Video for "Wrong end of a trembling Knife" can be viewed right here
06 - Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
The first thing that grabs you with Band of Horses is the voice of Ben Bridwell. The high falsetto at times is complimented off strings, acoustic guitars and sometimes buzzing guitars. Tracks like Laredo roll off the guitars with a simple back beat but with an infectious hook. Bridwell does this time and time again. As pretty a record as it is you just need to have the space and time to listen. Not quite dinner music, but not really something you'd put on to get a party started either. Put this on after the bulk of party guests have left your next BBQ, sit on the patio/deck and just be taken away.
Stand out Track(s) - Laredo, NW Apt.
Previous List apperences - Everything All the Time #2 in 2006, Cease to Begin #15 in 2007
05 - Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
Big swooping bass lines and chiming guitar chords are a running theme on this record. Stephen McBean and Amber Webber are in perfect harmony on the opening tack "The Hair Song" that sets the tone for a very solid and focused record. The Vancouver based band blend hard rock with psychadellia but at the same time its neither of those things. I find some great pop sensibilities on the record that are a far cry from "heavy", yet the band can hammer down when need be. There are tastes of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple and Sabbath smattered about on this record. Its a very accessible record. More people should be paying attention to them.
Stand out tracks - The Hair Song
Previous list appearances - although they came close in 2008, this is their first trip to the list.
The Hair Song
04 Maserati - Pyramid of the Sun
In late 2009 drummer Jerry Fuchs died suddenly and there was many questions on what the Athens based band would do next. After ample time to grieve the band hunkered down in the studio and using many drum lines Fuchs had created the band put together the record. Being an instrumental band the cohesion of the members is key as each must find their role and often times just "do their jobs". Each member does just that. The two guitars bounce off the rolling bass lines that are always present and the drumming is tight as ever. A difficult record to make the band came out of this one "that" much better. A track like "We Got the System to Fight the System" is enough to win many a new fan..or at least a curious and appreciative head bob.
Stand out track(s) - Pyramid of the Sun, We Got the System to Fight the System, Bye M'friend Good bye.
Previous List appearances - stunned to admit, but I believe they are first timers.
We got the System to Fight the System
03 The Sword - Warp Riders
A fantasy metal concept album? Really? It may not get as campy sounding as that but The Sword once again impress. The disc opens with the instrumental riff monster "Acheron/Unearthing the Orb" and as much a sucker for instrumentals as I am its the "sung" songs that really stand out. "Tres Brujas", the lead off single has Sabbath like riffs and real strong drum work. The band plays up the path of the album really well, and "concept" aside the bulk of the tracks can stand on their own. The guitar tone is just to die for. It is that blend of compressed/distorted sound will get even the stiffest of fans to bob heads and toss up the "devil horns". The album showed up on more than a few "best of" lists that I read this year so I know I am not alone on this one. You can read what the fantasy/concept is on the Wiki
Stand out track(s) - Tres Brujas, Arrows in the Dark
Previous List appearances - Age of Winters #4 in 2006
02 Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - I learned the Hard Way
Ms Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings have done it once again. Sharon Jones just makes me feel good. Music has the power to do that to you and its hard to listen to his firecracker of a woman and not crack a smile. Her command of the stage is brought right in to the studio and the stellar backing band compliment her every move. What you think is soul music, this is it. Toss in that 'retro soul" tag that likes to be tossed around and you've got it. Binky Griptight leads the tightest of bands and Sharon goes from gruff to calming at the drop of a hat. Honestly, if you don't like at least ONE song on this record you have to be dead.
Stand out track(s) - Money, The Reason (to showcase the band), Without a Heart
Previous List appearances - 100 days, 100 Nights #3 in 2007
Behold the voice and the band as she destroys on Money.
01. Jónsi - Go
Personally the most anticipated record of 2010 and easily the most played cd of 2010. Sigur Ros front man Jónsi takes a break and spreads his creative wings on this stunningly beautiful solo album. Written and recorded with his long time partner Jónsi goes almost exclusively in English on the album and his haunting falsetto has all the more punch as you hang on each word. When he sings "let them grow" during "Go Do" chills start at my feet and shoot up my back. This record moves me. It makes me feel awesome..its really hard to describe. There are times when listening I feel like I could stop a train and other times I want to just sit in utter silence and soak it up like a sponge. There are not enough good words I have for this record. A record that is not for everyone but for me, record of the year...easily.
Stand Out Tracks - Sinking Friendships, Go Do, Animal Arithmetic, Around Us, Grow Till Tall
Previous list appearances - first as a solo artist.
Give the track