Saturday, December 18, 2010

The BIG End of the Year List: The Best & Worst of 2010

So another year in music has come and gone, and along with every other music-related website, I am going to give you a list comprising of the albums that I thought were great in 2010, along with some of the more disappointing listens of the year.  Each album mentioned has a concise review to go along with it, along with an mp3 just in case you missed out on the record when it came out * Someone complained about the mp3s so I had to take them down...sorry*.  So sit back and take a look at the list after the jump and feel free to voice any concerns you have in the comments section below.


1. The National High Violet

The National followed up their breakthrough album Boxer, with High Violet, a collection of hauntingly beautiful and often times heartbreaking songs.  High Violet is a masterpiece of middle-class turmoil, a perfect assembly of songs focused on the plights of the everyday modern man.

2. The Tallest Man on Earth The Wild Hunt

With a voice that commands attention, whimsical arrangements and absolutely jaw dropping skills up and down the fretboard (not to mention occasionally tickling the ivories), the second album by Sweden's Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt, was an engaging and fun listen that had me coming back for more again and again.

3. Crystal Castles Crystal Castles (II) 

Crystal Castles came back in 2010 with an album that was more coherent and less gimmicky than their debut album.  Crystal Castles managed to bring back all of the elements that made them memorable on their debut and excise all of the frilly stuff that made them seem like a novelty act (almost).

4. Twin Shadow Forget 

Twin Shadow came out of nowhere (for me at least).  I picked up his debut album and was pleasantly surprised to find a unique blend of dreamy pop, 80s new wave and introspective lyrics.  Despite my initial apprehension to the album due to all of the blogger buzz, I found this album simply too good to ignore in 2010.

5. Gorillaz Plastic Beach

For some, Gorillaz constitutes a guilty pleasure.  Admitting you like a "fictional" band comprised of cartoon caricatures of self-indulgent celebrity is difficult to justify.  Fortunately, however, the music speaks for itself.  Gorillaz third album is easily their most cohesive and accessible work.

6. The Black Keys Brothers

The Black Keys are the perfect example of rock & roll revival.  An impressive and gritty album that conjures the spirit of any number of blues rock legends from Muddy Waters to Jimi Hendrix, easily one of their strongest offerings to date.

7. Spoon Transference

Transference saw Spoon focus on their instruments after the "indulge-every-studio-whim" of their last album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which was a critical and commercial success.  Transference was a return to their roots, with simpler arrangements that saw an increased tension between instruments, which made for a compelling listen.

8. The Radio Dept. Clinging to a Scheme

A more refined album than their shoegaze origins proved to be the right move for the dream pop band from Sweden.  With a larger emphasis on synths over fuzzy buzzy effects pedals, Clinging to a Scheme was a fun, unabashed pop record and an incredibly welcome surprise in 2010.

9. Sleigh Bells Treats

Noisy and abrasive, Treats had an interesting mixture of aggressive and menacing songs paired up against mid-tempo songs that were grounded in 70s pop.  The album definitely delivered on the ability to weave in and out of genres, and was unlike anything else I heard this year.

10. Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record

BSS has an uncanny ability to craft beautiful pop songs that sound as if they were recorded by a bunch of friends having the times of their lives.  Maybe that's because that is what BSS is, a collective of musicians who get together and can easily write songs about romance, forgiveness, and masturbation.


1. MGMT Congratulations

10 songs.  All of them boring.

2. The Klaxons Surfing the Void

A couple of diamonds in the rough here, but overall a bombastic, auditory assault without much direction.  The album is messy and lacks focus.  Bonus points for space cat though.

3. We Are Scientists Barbara

I know, most of you probably had no idea that We Are Scientists even released an album this year, and honestly it's probably better if it stayed that way.  Supposedly a return to the sound of their breakthrough album With Love and Squalor, Barbara lacks the hooks to make it truly memorable.

4. Broken Bells Broken Bells

This album failed to impress me despite the strength of the singles.  Most of the tracks that appear are filler, causing me to lose patience in them and skipping forward to the songs I actually liked.  With all of the talent behind this album I was crestfallen to admit that it didn't live up to the hype. 

5. Arcade Fire The Suburbs

This was a tough call because I actually enjoyed this record, a lot.  I suppose I decided to include it on my "most disappointing" list was simply because it is their weakest album.  Arcade Fire had a brilliant debut, a slightly weaker sophomore album, and now, an album that is good, but hardly great.

The following are albums I liked this year that found themselves creeping into my playlists and mixes.  These albums aren't necessarily the best of what 2010 had to offer, but they were damn good, or at the very least, deserved a mention.

 Two Door Cinema Club Tourist History

One word: Infectious.  This album was so catchy I found myself listening to it quite often.  At roughly 30 minutes there simply isn't any room for filler songs.

The Drums The Drums

Much like Two Door Cinema Club, the catchy surf pop of reverb-ophiles The Drums made them instantly listenable.  It was hard to find someone who disliked this band in 2010.

Yeasayer Odd Blood

Aside from what is surely a contender for worst album art of the year, Yeasayer managed to meld synth-pop, world music and psychedelia into their own brand of indie music.  The album is a bit hit or miss at times, but is ultimately a rewarding listen.

Die Antwoord - $O$

This rap-rave group from Cape Town, South Africa may seem like a joke, but being signed by a major label isn't.  Say what you may about their music, and they may only be a passing phase, but one can't deny that Die Antwoord didn't do too bad for themselves in 2010.

 Band of Horses Infinite Arms

There are some really memorable tracks present, however there are a few which are mediocre at best.  This is the first record which was written and recorded by permanent members of the band, marking the first time the recording process hasn't been a "revolving door" of musicians, but somehow this seemed less cohesive than their previous albums, that being said, its still a great album.

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