This was a pretty interesting year. But amid all the craziness I managed to find some good records. It wasn’t favorite year for music, but it was still a good one. Here’s what I enjoyed the most in 2010.
(Hop Hop, 2010)
The only thing that makes me happier than putting this EP on is knowing that it’s 100% a product of Lexington. James has nothing but good things ahead of him if he keeps up the great work with Idiot Glee — and with his debut due out next year on Moshi Moshi, I have no reason to doubt that he’ll be on my favorites list again next year.
(self released, 2010)
As I said when I first discovered this group a week or so ago — this record’ late-in-the-year release was a great “ha ha” to any pop fan who already made and posted their year-end list. This record is exceptionally solid and has held up well on repeated listens — not often something you can say about the area of pop Summer Fiction occupies.
(Def Jam, 2010)
One of the smartest hip hop groups of all time refuse to break their streak of good records. I was a little surprised by the decision to sample Monsters of Folk/Jim James, but it turned out great. I guess that’s why they’re the Roots and I’m just a fan.
Ben Folds is doing a remarkable job of sustaining greatness this far along in his career. Teaming up with Nick Hornby was a bold choice that paid off very, very well. And it takes some real skill to write a smart, catchy song about Levi Johnston.
(Asthmatic Kitty, 2010)
I would have figured that Sufjan’s return would have yielded at least a top 10 score, but that’s not the way it played out. The songwriting is rock solid, but the production lost me at times.
(self released, 2010)
Hooked by Cult’s involvement on “Sail It Slow,” reeled into the boat and gutted by the rest of it. The fact that it’s free doesn’t mean it’s not quality. Snatch it up while you still can and then join me in crossing our fingers to hope for years and years of more great music from this group.
(Friendly Fire, 2010)
I got my first taste of Eggs while riding through the Finnish countryside. When I got home the record sounded just as sweet as it did thousands of miles from home. These Danish imps have crafted a record that succeeded where so many of their idols have lately fallen flat.
I hesitate to call myself a “National fan” — I mean, I like them but in my experience being a National fan is like being a soccer hooligan. They’ve got some dedicated fans. But even though the bug hasn’t bit me solidly yet, I still loved this record. It’s dark, deep and dynamic.
(Sub Pop, 2010)
Here’s a record that — while fairly acclaimed — didn’t really seem to get the attention it deserved. If they can toss out another one as good as this, I’d bet that they’re going to see a Shins-like explosion that reaches into their back catalogue. But until then, you and I can sit here listening to “What’s In It For?” for a long, long time.
(Modern Art, 2010)
Forget Devo, this record truly has something for everybody. It covers the full and diverse spectrum of indie pop — how could it not make my list?
(Fat Possum, 2010)
My fondest memory of this record is listening to it on full blast in the car while driving at night through a rainstorm. The sound filled my car up and warmed me like a hot bath. Their last record was good, but Sleep Forever is just fantastic. The union of Jesus and Mary Chain production with Wavves-esque songwriting turned out to be better than anyone would’ve thought.
(Fat Possum, 2010)
I was so completely surprised to love this album. I didn’t really enjoy his debut and had already become tired of his on stage antics. But hey, a solid record can shut up the critics/fans/etc.
(Sub Pop, 2010)
Anyone agree this is his best comedy album yet? I’m a so-so fan of his previous ones, but this blew me away.
(French Kiss Records, 2010)
Les Savy Fav’s live show > Les Savy Fav’s albums. However, both sides of that equation are great.
Owen dropped the Final Fantasy title, polished his already shining sound and wound up crafting a true work of art. Love it.
(Mom + Pop, 2010)
Finally, a record that gives the cheerleaders and the high school punk rockers some common ground. If I’d made a list at the halfway mark of the year, this record would have fared a lot better. This was a lot of people’s jam album of 2010 and I was no exception.
A lot of people were let down by this one. A lot. But working in a record store, I can tell you that I ran across a ton of people who were overwhelmingly thrilled with it (same goes for the new Vampire Weekend — it takes all kinds). It wasn’t exactly what I hoped for, but I thought it was really impressive. I hope this band never goes away.
I was pretty let down with Ted Leo’s last effort, so this time I was actually a bit shocked that I loved — not liked — his new record. It’s a little grittier and more punk than his work that originally hooked me, but it’s just another side of a very complete artist.
Was this the direction I hoped they’d take? Not really. Have they done a bang-up job with it in spite of my wishes? You bet.
After their last snooze of a record, the New Pornographer’s Together sounds even sweeter. Every part of the group we love is back: Dan’s moody songs, Neko and Carl’s harmonies, the crunchy riffs and more. They hit every mark on this one.
(Def Jam, 2010)
If the internet continued on the same path for the next 10 years, more words will have been written about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy than WWII (either way it gets the better rating). I doubt this’ll be the album to convert non-hop hop fans, but it is the one to delight fans of the genre. The production on the first five tracks are the stuff of dreams — very diverse and lofty dreams.
Grinderman just sounds so freeing, doesn’t it? From the moment that the guitars in “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” tear their way out, Grinderman 2 is just a liberating force crafted by the man responsible for some of the best music of the past 20 years.
A bit of a drop for Menomena since their last was named my favorite album of 2009, but I still really enjoyed it. This one’s much darker but still just as meticulously crafted.
(Sub Pop, 2010)
This was the first time I was finally able to let go of my expectations and love a new Wolf Parade album for what it is. For a long time I was so tied to how they sounded in the pre-Sub Pop era that I wanted them to keep rewriting “Modern World” over and over. But now that I’ve conquered that demon, I’m free to realize that they continue to churn out incredible work. Oh and thanks to the “Yulia” video for making me sad every time I hear the song now.
(Dead Oceans, 2010)
I’ve sworn off saying “our generation’s Dylan,” but let’s just say that the Tallest Man on Earth is a great folk singer with fascinating lyrics and a pretty unique voice. And dozens of listens later I still get a tingle down my spine at the one-two punch of “King of Spain” and “Love Is All.”
(Sub Pop, 2010)
For me, Jaill’s That’s How We Burn has been the little album that could. Ever since I grabbed it out of the pile because of the Sub Pop logo, nice album art and novel name it’s been nothing but great tunes for me. The funny thing is that I don’t know ANY song titles on this record. I grab it, hit play and let the album play from start to finish. And if I’m the only one upstairs at work I usually hit PLAY a second time after that.
(Rough Trade, 2010)
At SXSW 2009 I talked to Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and found out he was working with the Morning Benders. Kinda weird since I thought I was the only person in the world who listened to the Morning Benders. So I spend the next year excitedly waiting for some tunes from that collaboration to leak. I couldn’t have been happier with the result or happier for their success.
(Forest Family, 2010)
Maybe I should save the gushy stuff for when their album comes out next year on a major label? “Go Outside” grabbed me (and the entire internet) by the ears and hasn’t let go nearly a year later. Without a doubt this was the freshest new sound I heard in 2010. If they’d put out an album this year I really think I would have picked it as my favorite of the year.
(Secretly Canadian, 2010)
On paper Odd Blood must’ve sounded like a gutsy, potentially stupid move to make. It’s got about half a dozen production decisions that I usually hate and at times it seems a bit ridiculous. But on record it’s fantastic Hats off to Yeasayer for one of the biggest gambles and biggest payoffs of the year. This was my do-the-dishes/clean-my-room album of 2010.
I tried to explain to someone why I can think of this album as both a disappointment and one of the best of the year (I mean, besides the fact that it was kind of a yawn of a year for music). Spoon’s basically been putting out A+ albums for the 10+ years they’ve been on Merge. So when they let loose this creative head-scratcher I was a little saddened to find that it was probably an A- at best. But after spending months and months with it, I realized it helps flesh out their discography so much more than another record in line with the others. “The Mystery Zone” and “I Saw the Light” really pop during their setlists and “Written in Reverse” and “Got Nuffin” are two of their best rockers ever.
(Comedy Central, 2010)
Honestly I’ve probably listened to this album more than any other this year. Aziz isn’t quite to the level of Patton Oswalt or Louis CK, but he is one hilarious SOB. Strange question: am I the only one who things that he starts things off with the only dud of a joke on this album?
(Equal Vision, 2010)
It’s funny to me that an album that ranks so highly on my year end list was one that I was originally a little let down by. This album’s predecessor Satanic Satanist has quickly become one of my favorite albums of recent years, and I really wanted this one to hit me as hard and as fast as that one did. But I can’t force it to be more like its brother — and, really, why would I? American Ghetto is like reading the first third of someone’s autobiography; John Gourley paints a picture of the places and people who helped shape him as a young adult. And though topics range from bars to friends taken in by drugs, the end result still shines are brightly as any album that came out this year.
Full list after the break.
You Ain’t No Picasso’s favorite albums of the year
1. Portugal. The Man – American Ghetto
(Aziz Ansari – Intimate Moments)
2. Spoon – Transference
3. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
4. Cults – 7″
5. Morning Benders – Big Echo
6. Jaill – That’s How We Burn
7. Tallest Man on Earth – Wild Hunt
8. Wolf Parade – Expo 86
9. Menomena – Mines
10. Grinderman – Grinderman 2
11. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
12. New Pornographers – Together
13. Of Montreal – False Priest
14. Ted Leo/Rx – Brutalist Bricks
15. MGMT – Congratulations
16. Sleigh Bells – Treats
17. Owen Pallett – Heartland
18. Les Savy Fav – Root for Ruin
(David Cross – Bigger and Blackerer)
19. Wavves – King of the Beach
20. Crocodiles – Sleep Forever
21. Miniature Tigers – Fortress
22. Avi Buffalo – s/t
23. the National – High Violet
24. Oh No Ono – Eggs
25. Guards – s/t
26. Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
27. Ben Folds / Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue
28. Roots – How I Got Over
29. Summer Fiction – s/t
30. Idiot Glee – EP