So instead of dragging this thing out any longer, and seeing as how my motivation has been at an all time low recently, I am just going to be sort of brief this year. There are 14 albums that I would say are solid 5 star albums (actually there were 15, but one was a greatest hits album, and sorry kids, but those aren’t eligible), so I will rank those for you in one nice little post (that is, if anyone even reads this anymore). The “rest” will be briefly presented following the top 14 as well, because, hey, they just barely missed the mark, and it isn’t fair to count them as down an out when they were really close in some cases. Let’s do this:
My top 14 albums of 2010:
1. Robyn – Body Talk
: All I can really say is wow; Robyn killed it this year, and dominated my ear drums and my attention. I had a hunch that she had the top spot the moment I heard Dancing On My Own
, and release after release of singles from the three stellar EPs Body Talk parts 1-3
proved that hunch to be true; only to be punctuated with an exclamation point with the full album release, Body Talk
(which compiles tracks from the three EPs). I am glad Robyn is making music this fantastic, because there is no one even close to her making pop right now. Seeing her live in November was delightful icing on the cake; it was sincerely the best concert I’ve seen in a long time. Standout Tracks: Dancing On My Own, Hang With Me, Indestructible, Fembot, Time Machine.
2. Sara Bareilles – Kaleidoscope Heart: Those of you that know this blog know that I have a special place in my heart for Ms. Bareilles, and this is because she is such an incredibly talented musician. Her sophomore effort was on par with her debut; it was chock full of fantastic songs about love and loss, all set to beautiful melodies and pop sensibility. She showed a bit of growth with this album without abandoning that sound that lets you know it is Sara B; the sound that I fell in love with the very first time I saw her live. Overall, a great follow up to an amazing debut; she clearly has the talent to back up the hype I’ve been building about her. Standout Tracks: Basket Case, Hold My Heart, Machine Gun, King Of Anything.
3. Marina and the Diamonds – Family Jewels: Marina had me salivating for the last half of 2009 for more material after I fell head over heels with the amazing I Am Not a Robot, and with her debut Family Jewels, she did more than just deliver; she nailed it! Marina is a breath of fresh air, and a true artist. She isn’t afraid to experiment with different sounds, but in the end, knows how to write a killer hook with an irresistible backing track. This album is fun from beginning to end, and it was well worth waiting until 2010 to get my hands on it. Standout Tracks: Oh No!, Hollywood, I Am Not A Robot, Obsessions.
4. The Script – Science and Faith: Wow, this was a major surprise for me; while I really enjoyed their debut, I had no idea they had this much punch hidden in their arsenal. This is the album that many pop-rock outfits wish they were good enough to make, and the Script make it seem effortless. Almost every song on this album screams hit, and it’s funny that the song they have currently on the radio still spinning is from their debut that came out three years ago (especially when they have a whole new album of would-be replacements). Perhaps with the recent proper release of this album stateside, the Script can go from two “old” hits kicking around on US radio, to bona fide stars; this album has the grit, and the pure strength to back them up on that quest. Standout Tracks: This = Love, For The First Time, If You Ever Come Back, You Won’t Feel A Thing.
5. The National – High Violet
: The National were one of those bands that I had heard people talk about, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t listening. Well, in comes the video for Bloodbuzz Ohio
, and I am suddenly all ears. These guys are wrought with emotion both in the music and lyrics; it goes all of the way through to the core. This album is melancholy, damaged, but beautiful in its quest to be loved. I’m glad I paid attention. Standout Tracks: Bloodbuzz Ohio, England, Sorrow, Lemonworld.
6. Sleigh Bells – Treats: This is one that we will either agree is brilliant, or you will disagree and hate it; either way, it’s one of my favorites of 2010 hands down. I first heard of Sleigh Bells when I saw them open for Major Lazer, and I was blown away. They are raw energy, and their debut rattles your eardrums from beginning to end. The more I listened to this album, the more I came to appreciate the nuances of each song, and the way in which they danced so close to the edge of the insane to make such powerful rock-hip-hop driven music. This is album conveys pure untapped energy, an energy that captured me completely; and I am so glad to have discovered them in 2010. Favorite Tracks: A/B Machines, Tell ‘Em, Infinity Guitars, Riot Rhythm.
7. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can: I feel bad, because I kind of wrote off Laura Marling previously; I liked her first single a few years ago, but didn’t really feel the rest of her debut. After a fellow blogger turned my attention the incredible Rambling Man, I quickly snapped up her new release, and loved it from beginning to end. This is a powerful album, and comparing Marling to a second coming of Joni Mitchell is more than clearly hitting the nail on the head; this woman is extremely talented, and we should all be glad that she has chosen to speak (and sing) so beautifully. Standout Tracks: Rambling Man, Goodbye England (Covered In Snow), Maid By Maid, I Speak Because I Can.
8. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
9. Antony and the Johnsons – Swanlights
I actually heard this at the very end of 2009, but luckily, it wasn’t released in the US until 2010, so it gets to make the list. This album is beautiful from beginning to end, and the tone and quality of the lead singer’s voice is amazing. This album really has its ups and downs, going from all out strumming rock and roll to tender ballads; both of which they do very, very well. These guys have been getting a lot of attention, and it is all well deserved; after one song, you too will notice the raw talent they possess (but listen to the whole album, because it is all fantastic!). Standout Tracks: The Cave, After The Storm, Little Lion Man, Timshel.
While I don’t want this to be a criticism, this album didn’t blow me away nearly as much as 2009’s number 2 album, The Crying Light
; simply because that album is perfect in every way, and perfect is hard to follow. That being said, on Swanlights
, Antony coos that ‘everything is new’, and while his tender broken-ness is still forefront, he tries a few new things musically, and makes for some very beautiful results. Overall, another wonderful album from one of my favorite artists, which is always a welcome treat. Standout Tracks: Fletta, The Spirit Was Gone, Thank You For Your Love, Christina’s Farm.
10. Jonsi – Go
I’ll be honest, I was never a fan of Sigur Ros; not because I didn’t like them, but simply because I haven’t heard their music. While I may not know them, the band’s lead singer Jonsi stepped out on his own, and I am all ears now. The first time I heard Go Do, I was mesmerized; I thought, what the fuck is the amazing fairy music, and why in the hell do I love the shit out of it?! Well, shortly after, I heard the impressive album Go, and I was hooked on this fantastic out artist’s solo effort, which is filled to the brim with whimsy and delight. His style reminds me a little of Bjork; simply in the way that he so comfortably dances a strange, yet completely delightful jig outside of the box, and couldn’t seem any happier to be doing it that way (well that, and they both hail from Iceland!). This album took me by storm, and it is one that I have seen rightfully on many other’s top album lists for 2010 as well. Standout Tracks: Go Do, Animal Arithmetic, Tornado, Hengilas.
11. Melissa Etheridge – Fearless Love
Melissa is the ultimate rock and roll chick, and she shows with this new album that she still firmly has it. After beating cancer, and a break up, Melissa turns to expressing her feelings in the music, and has made a passionate and very well crafted pop/rock album. I have always been a fan of her lyrics, and she doesn’t disappoint on Fearless Love. She may not have reinvented her style or the wheel with this album, but what she does is what she has been doing well all along; make some great music. This is one artist that proves that longevity is possible in the music industry, and that quality is at the forefront of their craft; Melissa seems to only be getting better with age. Standout Tracks: Fearless Love, Company, Heaven On Earth, To Be Loved
12. Kate Nash – My Best Friend Is You
13. Vampire Weekend – Contra
While it becomes clear early on that Kate was noticeably harder, and more in your face on this album, I was more than pleased that she didn’t totally abandon her whimsical charm and cleverness in the process. I absolutely love the way in which she crafts her lyrics, and the way she tells stories in her songs, and she keeps that going on this album. I can’t help but think, however, that Kate was a bit upset at times during the recording of this album, because she goes a bit off the deep end at moments, but manages to pull it back and has made a great sophomore album overall. It’s not as radio friendly as her debut for sure, but it’s Kate through and through, and as a fan, I definitely enjoyed it. Standout Tracks: Do-Wah-Doo, Paris, Pickpocket, Kiss That Grrrl, I Hate Seagulls.
I was unnecessarily hard on Vampire Weekend last year. When Horchata
came out, I was really disappointed, because I LOVED their debut, and I didn’t really care for that song at all. Well, my disdain maintained, and I largely ignored this album for way too long. Looking back, I don’t know what my problem was, because this album is actually a great build on their amazing debut, and is wonderful throughout. I guess I was in a bit of a funk, and I took it out on them, which, in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t, because again, Contra
is wonderful. Oh well, I guess this means I am making amends, because it is turned out to be one of my favorite albums of 2010. Standout Tracks: Giving Up The Gun, California English, Cousins, White Sky.
14. Erik Hassle – Pieces
While this album should have come out in 2009 (it was released in Sweden only as Hassle) it got renamed and slightly tweaked, and finally got the chance to be released early in 2010. Despite featuring brilliant pop song after brilliant pop song, this album didn’t really go anywhere, and even though his amazing ballad Hurtful was a free download on iTunes a while back, people still aren’t paying this guy the attention he deserves. His music is fresh, and he is making fantastic pop music that deserves to dominate the airwaves. I just don’t get how people this talented get grossly overlooked (and in this case time and time again), but I can only hope this guy knows that there are those of us that love his music, and hope that he keeps doing his thing, and keeps killing it like he did on Pieces (and Hassle for that matter). Standout Tracks: Hurtful, Amelia, Isn’t It Obvious, Back To Bed.
…and the rest:
These are the albums that almost made the cut, but for whatever reason, fell a little short of five-stardom. I’ll make a few brief comments about each. In alphabetical order:
- A1 – Waiting For Daylight: A great surprise from the reforming of a late 90’s- early 00’s boyband. Favorite Track: Perfect Disaster.
- Aqualung – Magnetic North: I’ll always love this band; great sound, consistently great music. Favorite Track: Remember Us feat. Sara Bareilles.
- Broken Bells – Broken Bells: Pairing Danger Mouse with the James Mercer of the Shins; great idea! Favorite Track: Vaporize.
- Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer: Besides the amazing Fuck You! (no, NOT Forget You, the shit radio version; sorry Cee Lo), great album overall. Favorite Track: Love Gun feat. Lauren Bennett.
- Elizabeth and the Catapult – The Other Side of Zero: A little more up and down than their amazing debut, last year’s Taller Children, but still wonderful overall. Favorite Track: Do Not Hang Your Head.
- Goldfrapp – Head First: Almost five stars; just barely missed the mark for me. Full of energy and great danceable tracks; I love how Goldfrapp reinvent themselves with each new album and continue to create such fantastic music. Favorite Track: Rocket.
- Hot Chip – One Life Stand: This one surprised me; I liked the whole album more than I have their previous efforts (which usually just had a track or two to catch my full attention). Favorite Track: I Feel Better.
- Kelis – Flesh Tone: Wow, what a re-invention. She shows that she can kill whatever she attempts. Welcome back Kelis, we missed your sassy ass. Favorite Track: 22nd Century.
- Kylie – Aphrodite: I know my fellow gays will weep that I didn’t declare this second coming, but it didn’t blow me away. I really liked most of it though! Favorite Track: Get Outta My Way.
- Greg Laswell – Take A Bow: Finally got see him live this year, and another great album as well. Favorite Track: Lie To Me.
- P!nk – The Greatest Hits… So Far!! This one is a definite five star album, but it’s a greatest hits compilation, so it doesn’t qualify for album of the year (no matter how great it truly is; P!nk has had a great career… so far!!). Favorite (new) Track: Raise Your Glass.
- Scissor Sisters – Night Work: It starts off and ends brilliantly; really, most of the album holds some of the best stuff of their career. As one of my favorite bands I really wanted to love this wholeheartedly, but I can’t ignore the middle to near-end where things seem to just go weird. Eh, can’t win ’em all, can you? Favorite Track: Whole New Way.
- Stars – Five Ghosts: I love these guys. Great stuff; not many other bands sound like them, and their uniqueness is refreshing and the music is hauntingly beautiful. Favorite Track: We Don’t Want Your Body.
- The Bird and the Bee – Interpreting the Masters Vol. 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates: Great band does a great tribute/cover album; I only hope there are many more up their sleeve. Favorite Track (which is original to them, and not a cover, actually): Heard It On The Radio.
- The Saturdays – Headlines EP: An EP with a couple of recycled tracks, but some AMAZING new songs. These ladies keep on taking their pop higher. Favorite Track: Higher.
- Shayne Ward – Obsession: After two amazing albums, with the last being his best, I had high hopes. Some songs are beautiful and great pop, but it really goes tits up in several places; which is surprising given his track record. The Nickelback cover is completely unnecessary. Favorite Track: Foolish (sadly, the best track wasn’t even on the album; Future Love was just a B-side on the aforementioned Nickelback cover, Gotta Be Somebody).
- Westlife – Gravity: What can I say, it’s Westlife, and here they do what they’ve always done, consistently and wonderfully. More great ballads, and boy band pop that I have loved for more than a decade from these beautiful men; what’s not to love? Favorite Track: Safe.
The Wanted – The Wanted: Some great singles, guys!!
Step Up 3D Soundtrack: There are some MAJOR tracks on this album; my number 3 song of the year came from it!
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Soundtrack: The music in this movie is so much fun!
Well, there it is, my favorite albums of 2010. There was a lot that fell to the wayside this year, because of how busy I was, but there is some really great music on this list. I feel like I didn’t get to know each album like I would have wanted to, again, because of being so busy, and I missed a lot of potentially other great albums out there, but overall, I have to say this list isn’t bad. What do you think? What do you think I missed? Do you think I nailed it? Let me know your thoughts! Now… to start collecting great music for 2011’s best of list!!