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2010 Faves: 30 Record Albums We Really Enjoyed

Posted by January 9th, 2011 No Comments »

Robert Plant was the singer for Led Zepplin: FYI2010 Faves
30 Record Albums We Really Enjoyed

In our estimation, 2010 was a banner year for music. Evidence for this assertion lies in the number of albums that received votes for this countdown. With nearly 70 albums appearing in top 5 lists from twenty contributors, this was the most difficult countdown to assemble in our 14-year history.

We’ve pared it down to 30 great records, some of which you’ll recognize from other year-end lists and some you may not. We’ve also included a list of the others that received votes. 

30) Band of Joy – Robert Plant
Robert Plant is having a nice little career resurgence. After 2008’s Grammy™-winning Raising Sand with Alison Krauss, Plant stayed in the genre by reviving his long-dead pre-Zeppelin band’s moniker Band of Joy. He partnered with Americana stalwarts Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin and seems content to leave the songwriting to others and abandon any resemblance of the Golden God of the 70s and 80s. Plant is clearly fascinated with American roots music, and he makes some nice choices, covering not just legends like Townes Van Zandt, but also Texas’ Milton Mapes. Where he used to try to reach the heavens with his voice, he’s become a quiet song interpreter, and it suits him. – Adam Lawrence

29) Maniac Meat – Tobacco 


28) Phosphene Dream – The Black Angels


Adam's active on this band's message boards27) The Grand Theatre, Volume One – The Old 97’s 

There was a time when the Old 97’s could do no wrong. Even their first
foray into pop music, 2001’s Satellite Rides, was a smashing success.
After that, wives were married, children were had, solo careers were
launched, and houses were purchased all over this land. Unfortunately
from then on their albums pretty well sucked. 2010 changed all that,
with the release of the four-song covers EP Mimeograph and the band’s
eighth full-length, The Grand Theatre, Volume One. There are many
returns to form here – Rhett Miller’s songwriting is back to being
melancholy, Murry Hammond is still writing hard-to-understand
masterpieces, and guitarist Ken Bethea plays like he gives a shit again.
To top it all off, the band is no longer relegated to recording
Miller’s solo material castoffs. Why, it feels like 1999 all over again!
– AL

26) Plastic Beach – Gorillaz


25) The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack


24) Shabazz Palaces & Of Light EPs Shabazz Palaces


New Pornographers? Better or Worse than Old Pornographers?23) Together – The New Pornographers

AC Newman and Dan Bejar are two of the best songwriters working today,
but that’s only half of the attraction to the New Pornographers.
The other is Newman’s unparalleled skill as an arranger. Every New
Pornographers song has its own internal momentum. Like a steam
locomotive, once the song gets rolling it’s impossible to stop. There’s a
consistent chugging. The guitars aren’t merely strumming, but creating
intertwined rhythms that float and dip into the incomparably synced bass
and drums, always at the perfect moments. After the disappointing and uninspired Challengers, it’s good to see them back on top with
Together. They sound mature but reinvigorated. – Aaron Semer

22) $O$ – Die Antwoord 


21) Forget  – Twin Shadow   


20) You Are Not Alone – Mavis Staples    


Fuck you too dude. 19) The Lady Killer – Cee Lo Green 

I waited a long time to see how Cee Lo Green would unleash the greatest
weapon in his arsenal, That Voice. That Voice is
Al Green high on coke crossed with Frank from The Rocky Horror Picture
Show, performed by a Christina Aguilera-Mahalia Jackson mash-up. Then
add a horn section and put some fuckin’ stank on it. Lady Killer made my
list because it’s a little ambitious and a lot audacious; it showcases
That Voice quite nicely with a modern-day Motown vibe that is both
understated pizazz and in-your-face soul. The theme is consistent and
familiar, but it’s also really fun. My favorite thing about the album
is this: singalongability. Perfect for fellow car and shower-singing needs. –
Marika Malaea    

18) The Big To-Do – Drive-By Truckers         


17) Everything in Between – No Age


Sssssssssss16) III – The Budos Band

I’ve been a fan of Brooklyn’s Dap Tone label since the beginning, and
their Budos Band III takes me on an Indiana Jones-style adventure
that also happens to be funky as hell. It’s not often that a fully
instrumental band can keep my interest for an entire album, but III isn’t even the first time they’ve achieved this feat. They write
funk songs that move and change, seamlessly blending parts and sections.
But the larger achievement on III is the consistency of theme
throughout the album. Read the song titles – "Rite of the Ancients,"
"River Serpentine," "Mark of the Unnamed". Listen to the music – a blend
of exotica, African, Indian, and Meters-style funk. Look the album
cover – a coiled cobra. It’s a complete package, and the overall effect
is a mini vacation for the mind.  – AS

Come back here, World!15) So Runs the World Away – Josh Ritter 

Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter is so ludicrously talented that a critic’s
trope like “singer-songwriter” is a genuine insult. His sixth
studio album, So Runs the World Away, populates a world so fully formed
that the characters who inhabit it have to be based on real people.
That’s a tall order, once you realize that those characters include an
ancient mummy who falls in love with the woman who discovered him, or an
explorer who, convinced there is a New World under the North Pole,
falls in love with his ship. Maybe there’s a pattern here.  – AL

These guys used to be from Seattle14) Infinite Arms – Band of Horses

Critical acclaim and Grammy nomination aside, Infinite Arms manages to be both a great
album and a step backward for former Carissa’s Weird member Ben
Bridwell. Leaving Sub Pop to produce and fund their own album, Band of
Horses actually bucked convention and made a slicker and more sterile
album than their last effort Cease To Begin. This may be the band’s
natural progression now that the line up is set and is no longer a long
list of collaborators. In fact, “Older,” the best song on the album, was written and sung by newcomer
Keyboardist Ryan Monroe. With the slick recording I can’t help but long but long for the band’s two previous and "dirtier" albums, but this is still a great collection of songs. – Tim Basaraba

13) Innerspeaker  – Tame Impala


Buy all of these guys' records now12)  Failed Graves The Lights

Failed Graves is the best of The Lights’ three very good records, if
only because it perfectly illustrates what makes their music so
compelling. It isn’t their ability to weave familiar influences in to a
unique sound without sounding derivative (although that certainly helps;
studied listeners will hear the Fall, Joy Division and Pavement
references throughout), it’s their ability meld classic pop elements
within their otherwise dissonant sonic approach. There’s a seemingly
lazy, nervous energy that runs through Failed Graves, giving the
listener the feeling that things could explode into chaos or slide in to
a slick baseline and catchy guitar hook at any point. – Matt


11) Sit Down, Man / Shut Up, Dude mixtapes – Das Racist


Soul & Hip-Hop Stars Sure Love Aliens10) ArchAndroid – Janelle Monae

Robots and androids are inextricably linked to hip hop culture, from
Zapp and Roger through the current humping of AutoTune. Janelle Monae,
however, managed to turn it into something fresh with her debut album,
The ArchAndroid. Influenced by Metropolis, Philip K. Dick, and David
Bowie, The ArchAndroid is all over the place, in the best way. Glam,
classical, opera, R&B, and hip hop all converge to take up OutKast’s
freak flag and wave it. I mean, if they’re not using it…  – AL

Why so glum, Kid? 9) Man on the Moon II:  Legend of Mr. Rager –  Kid Cudi 

No sophomore slump for Cleveland hometown hero Sott Mescudi, better known as Kid Cudi. This Kanye protégé has grown up fast with another dark, deeply personal "concept" album. That growth is most glaring on "GHOST!" a song about
addiction and losing touch with reality. St. Vincent (4AD) appears on
"MANIAC," a track that prominently displays Kid’s willingness to
experiment. The songs dark lyrics are the antithesis of the soaring
sound-scape, which seems to recede and flow much like the tide. And "Erase Me"
sounds like the best Weezer song in recent memory.
– TB 


8) Heligoland  – Massive Attack    


And I want a new bicycle, and some new jeans, and a teddy bear

7) Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter   

In a perfect world, all "alternative" radio stations would have
Deerhunter in heavy rotation. On Halycon Digest, Leader Bradford Cox and company took the
best elements from their influences (Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine,
The Breeders), added a slight psychedelic twist, threw in a dab of Motown
and released one of the best albums of the year. – Ben Allen

We like these guys and so do normal people6) Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons

It shouldn’t work as well as it does. Take a liberal amount of earnest,
lovelorn lyrics about Love, Truth, and Trust, mix with bearded harmonies
straight outta 2008, deliver with Glen Hansardian sincerity, sweeping
strings and horns, shake, repeat. That’s Sigh No More in a nutshell. But
it does work, almost in spite of itself. Just about each track it a
toe-tapping crescendo builder with at least one line that makes you say,
“Wait, did he really just say that?” and yes, in order to like this
album, you may have to drop a couple layers of that ironic indifference
that you worked so hard to cultivate over the years. There’s a danger of
these tunes that threatens to topple over into Coldplay-esque
ridiculousness, but for now anyway, they’re on the right side of things.
After all, Coldplay never had a kickass banjo player. – AL

Please don't be your last album James. Please don't be your last album James.5) This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem 

If Craig Finn had a smarter, more self-indulged brother, it
would be James Murphy. As much as Murphy’s "aging hipster who would love
for you to believe he doesn’t give a shit even though he’s still
hanging around to belittle everyone so he obviously does give a shit"
act gets old, LCD Soundsystem’s records don’t, and This is Happening may
be their best yet. So good, in fact, that Murphy backpedaled a bit on
his pronouncement that This is Happening would be LCD’s last record.
Here’s hoping it wasn’t, but if this is indeed the end of LCD
Soundsystem, Murphy went out at the top of his game.  – Kasey Anderson

It's hard being humble when you're stuntin' on a Jumbotron4) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

Kayne definitely did what he needed to do to stay in the public eye. But after President Obama calls you a “jackass,” where do you go
from there? For Kayne, the next logical step was to create a near-perfect hip-hop masterpiece. Keeping most of the downtempo, meandering style that made 808’s and
so different  from his previous three offerings, Kayne sings with a childish glee over carefully-crafted epics and alongside a host of perfectly-utilized guest contributors. A master producer and perfectionist, it’s Ye’s lyrics that most impress. Love him or hate him, he’s one of the most interesting personalities in popular music today. – TB

Man do we love this album3) The Monitor – Titus Andronicus

The Monitor confirms that Titus Andronicus has grabbed the baton from
the Hold Steady and is now the young band most effectively emulating
that raw power and joy of 1970s-era Bruce Springsteen & the E Street
Band. Much like the Hold Steady, Titus wraps their Springsteen
influences in a dirtier, punkier package. But on The Monitor, Titus
goes one step further, aping classic E Street drum rolls and guitar
leads while convincingly singing that "I’ve destroyed everything that
wouldn’t make me more like Bruce Springsteen." – Gabe Baker

These guys went to art school2) The Suburbs – Arcade Fire    

Much like their debut Funeral and follow up Neon Bible, Arcade Fire
managed to combine feelings of optimism and hope with a distant
foreboding darkness on The Suburbs. Incredibly, the album is still very
accessible, even with dense, orchestral instrumentation and complex
arrangements. Lyrically, the songs focus on recollections of a simpler
time, when the suburbs didn’t sprawl to the horizon and there was a
sense of community among strangers. – BA

This is the caption for the Black Keys album called Brothers.

This is the caption for the Black Keys album called Brothers.

1) Brothers – Black Keys  

Formerly a divisive subject among our contributors – half lauding the
band as blues-rock gods with one of the most mesmerizing live shows
around while the other half rolled their eyes and called them just the
latest in a string of similar, equally impressive bands in a well-mined
genre – the Black Keys united our affections in 2010 with Brothers,
their most soulful and accessible album to date. While other artists
provided heated debate and disagreements, Kanye and Arcade Fire
especially, Brothers’ soulful sounds appeared on almost every contributor’s list. –

Other 2010 favorites 

Local Albums 





(Also receiving votes: 
Beach House – Teen Dream; Black Breath – Heavy Breathing; Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart; Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of
Chico Dusty
; Devo – Something for Everybody; Daft Punk – Tron Legacy; Drake –
Thank Me Later; Elvis Costello – National Ransom; Frightened Rabbit – The
Winter of Mixed Drinks
; Gary Wilson –
Electric Endicott; Gaslight Anthem – American Slang; Grinderman – 2; Idlewild – Post Electric
; John Mellencamp – No Better Than This; The Joy Formidable – A Balloon
Called Moaning
; Kylessa – Spiral Shadow;
LCD Soundsystem – The London Sessions; Mark Ronson and the Business – Intl
Record Collection
; Mayer Hawthorne
A Strange Arrangement; Midnight Juggernauts – The Crystal Axis;  N.E.R.D. – Nothing; Neil Young – Le Noise; Of Montreal False Priest; Past Lives – Tapestry of Webs; Perfume Genius –
Learning; The Posies – Blood Candy; The
Roots – How I Got Over; Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard
; See Me River – The One That Got Awake; Spoon – Transference; Surfer
Blood – Astrocoast; The Thermals – Personal Life; Truckasaurus – Quarters; U900 – Ukulele Mystery Tour; Vampire Weekend – Contra ; Violens –
Amoral; Weekend – Sports; Yeasayer
Odd Blood; Young Evils
Enchanted Chapel)

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