Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2010

According to itunes I acquired 3,062 songs or 8.7 days or 208.4 hours worth of music in 2010. I've spent the past month meticulously combing through it all trying to figure out just what I liked the best from this year but in the end I decided to use two specific rules for making my list:
1. I had to have paid for the album
2. It had to have a high play rate
Based on these rules I arrived at a list of 17 that were clearly at the top. Putting it in order was the hard part. I hate odd numbers but the reason for 17 is that there was a large drop off in number of times an album was played after number 17, so I'm just going with it. There were plenty of albums that I bought but were forgotten after a month or quite a few that I only have 4 or 5 songs from, so they got ruled out (like Kanye West, The National, and Kanye West). The top ten are all albums that I can listen to start to finish without ever wanting to skip songs which is why there are no listening recommendations, just listen to them all. Here it goes...
17. CEO - White Magic [Buy]
I know this is a really awkward number but it's my list and I can do what I want. I felt I really needed to include this because when I think back to the summer all I hear is chill wave/electronic music all the time and this was the one I listened to the most. Certainly when you look at this album as a whole it has the most to offer and is one of the most cohesive albums that we heard off the chillwave market this summer. It is filled with sunshiny optimism, I couldn't get enough of it during the summer months and I'm pretty excited to have remembered it during the winter months too.
Recommendations: Come with me, White Magic, All Around, Love and Do What You Will

16. Various Artists - Twistable Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to the Songs of Shel Silverstein
Yes, this is a children's album, technically. But I loved it. Andrew Bird's "The Twistable Turnable Man Returns" was one of my most played and favorite songs of the year. There is a lot of twang to it but with Dr. Dog, My Morning Jacket, and Black Francis it has a modern spin.
Recommendations: The Twistable Turnable Man Returns, The Unicorn, Queen of the Silver Dollar

15. Basia Bulat - Heart of My Own [Buy]
She played one of my favorite concerts of the year. Her songs are truly beautiful and uplifting from the lyrics to the composition. This album is like the sun coming out after a dreary rainstorm. I will always remember her saying, "I'm going to softly folk rock you all." And that's what this album is.
Recommendations: Go On, Run, Gold Rush, Heart of My Own, If Only You

14. Sarah Jaffe - Suburban Nature [Buy]
This 14 song is one big dark rumination, with at least half of the songs being the kind you want to play on repeat for hours. A lot of her songs build you up to crashing cresendos and compelling choruses that stick with you for days.
Recommendations: Clementine, Summer Begs, Better Than Nothing, Perfect Plan

13. Frontier Ruckus - Deadmalls and Nightfalls [Buy]
I really enjoyed this album and even though I liked their previous album better, this one got played a lot especially on those grey days when it was hard to get out of bed. Every song is a poem put to gentle guitars and occasionally aided by the saw, banjo, and trumpets. After an especially long weekend I went to their show, only to have 10 other people show up and now "The Upper Room" always reminds me of sitting on the cavernous room's wooden floor and being completely overwhelmed with emotions.
Recommendations: Nerves of the Nightmind, The Upper Room, Silverfishes

12. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs [Buy]
I love listening to this album in the car and the drums at the end of "Suburban War" still gives me chills. There are a few songs I skip but there were plenty of other songs to choose from that were flawless. This was one of my most played albums this year.
Recommendations: Suburban War, We Used to Wait, Sprawl II

11. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker [Buy]
There was nothing else that came out this year that was even remotely like this psychedelic rock album. If you ever thought this music died with the sixties, Tame Impala is single handedly giving it a new life in 2010. In fact, just the other week I got pulled over for speeding because I got too distracted while listening to this album. It definitely takes you to another place.
Recommendations: Solitude is Bliss, Lucidity, Runway Houses City Clouds

10. Glasser - Ring [Buy]
Those voices, the percussion, the everything, even down to the little clicks and yelps...they've always left me speechless. So much in fact that I have four posts on Glasser that are still in drafts because I could never verbalize anything about this band. I always wanted to say this album is unsymetrical but that statement was too hard to justify. This album blew me away from start to finish.

9. Menomena [Buy]
This album is a little bit schizophrenic but that is what keeps me listening over and over. If any album ever deserved to be described as "interesting" this is one of them. It makes you an active listener because you can't just zone out listening to this one.

8. Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks [Buy]
A friend once described this as being "too indie" for their listening pleasure. But I think that's why I like it so much. It reminds me of the stuff I loved back when I had time to fully and wholeheartedly love bands. Nothing makes me feel better than jumping around and stomping my foot while belting out the words to "The Loneliness & The Scream", and I really do scream it, just to prove I exist.

7. Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away [Buy]
Full disclosure: I am a long time and huge fan of Josh Ritter. I've seen him in concert more times than I can count and more than I've seen anyone else. I was really excited for this new album and it didn't disappoint. It is one that grew on me day by day and then month by month, it is probably still growing on me seeing as how every time I listen I find something new to love. It is one of the most accessible albums on this list and I love that this is someone who is going to stand out for years to come.

6. Sharon Van Etten - Epic [Buy]
All I can say is it shreds my soul to pieces, little tiny pieces.

5. Fitz & The Tantrums - Breakin' the Chains of Love [Buy]
I love the story behind the formation of this band almost as much as the album itself. I love hearing this bittersweet soul-funk album that seems to say "let's get back together, oh wait, you did me wrong I don't want you anymore" but with a bajillion times more eloquence and with dancey sing-along tunes sans guitar. This is a great trend in music, reviving the sound of motown, and more people need to hop on this soul train.

4. Future Islands - In Evening Air [Buy]
No other voice stood out for me quite the way frontman Samuel Herring's did this year. I always find it hard to believe that it was all recorded in a Baltimore living room because dear god is this an amazing album with a lot of depth to it.

3. First Aid Kit - The Big Black & The Blue [Buy]
How did I not see this on any Best Of List? They may be young, but their music is incredible. I listened to it for months straight. When I saw them live, I got misty eyed, ok actually I cried twice (there were some other factors too but their music was a catalyst). I thought I had overplayed them throughout the summer but when I recently went back to this album, I found I could never tire of it. It is one of the rare album's that I know every single word to.

2. Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice [Buy]
I'm a bit surprised this made it up to the top too, but it belongs here, of that I am sure. I really thought he was going to win the Polaris Prize this year but he won plenty of other awards anyway. I wish I could offer some concrete description of this album but I'm blinded by love.

1. Head and the Heart - Head and the Heart [Buy]
I must have said it a hundred times now but this is easily my number one album. It got the most plays this year by a long shot and I'm still not tired of it. It's rough around the edges, like you might expect from a debut album, but it also has a lot of warmth and feeling that you can soak right up as you are stomping your foot and singing along.
Albums that weren't released in 2010 but still listened to obsessively in 2010:
Hey Marseilles - To Travels and Trunks (2008) [amazon $9]
Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More (2009 this is debatable) [amazon $5]
Anna Ternheim - Leaving on a Mayday (2009) [amazon $9.50]
Lost in the Trees - All alone in an empty house (re-released by Anti in 2010, originally released by Trekky in 2008) [amazon $5]
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (2009) [amazon $5]
Robert Francis - Before Nightfall (2009) [amazon $9]
Coeur De Pirate (2008) [amazon]

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