2010 was a great year for music with great releases from many artists and bands and across genres. I didn’t get to listen to everything that the kids at Stereogum, Pitchfork or your local newspaper get to sample, but I managed to pick 6 albums as my favorites. Not necessarily the best, but albums that I’ll most likely keep queuing up on my iPhone. Without further ado.
- Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More: The whole album is a revival of the soul. From beginning to end, the raucous and swirling combination of bluegrass, folk and rock cover the entire spectrum of emotion. The album is immediately accessible to the casual listener. As for individual songs, Little Lion Man was the radio hit, but Awake My Soul, The Cave and Timshel highlight the band’s range. Seeing Mumford live is a must with the songs possessing more intensity as a crowd of 3,000 sings along.
- The National – High Violet: Dark, brooding and complex, The National created a challenging listen. Modern themes of anxiety, paranoia and alienation aren’t easy sells. It may take several spins to fully appreciate Terrible Love, Anyone’s Ghost or Runaway. Lemonworld is the most upbeat track while Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks serves as the album’s cathartic closer.
- The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart: They possess a unique blend of folk and full band singer songwriter acoustics. Ghosts, Lost in My Mind, Sounds Like Hallelujah and Heaven Go Easy on Me stand out in their debut.
- Sleigh Bells – Treats: Noise pop, fuzz-distortion rock, whatever you want to call it, Treats is a loud, thumping amalgam of noise and dreamy, sugary vocals. At 32 minutes, it’s the proper length to get your blood going without causing aural exhaustion. Tell ‘Em begins the assault, Infinity Guitars throttles and the one, two, three of Rachel, Rill Rill and Crown on the Ground provide the hooks.
- Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record: Broken Social Scene continue to do what they do best, create instrumental driven songs that you can tap your toes, bob your head or sway side to side to. Texico Bitches, Meet Me In the Basement and Water in Hell are standouts.
- Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans: The best pop album of the year features a ukulele prominently. From the thrashing Grenade, soon-to-be-played-at-every-wedding Just the Way You Are, Marry You, Count on Me… it’s an enjoyable confection without any filler or hollow tracks. (I’m looking at you, Black Eyed Peas.)
Some other thoughts:
Arcade Fire deserve a mention as The Suburbs was a good album, but I think it felt too long. They deserve props for what they were trying to do. Kanye and his Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy proves he’s a premiere artist with a vision and ego. Taylor Swift’s Speak Now blended growing introspection, song craft and tabloid media into pop culture. Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor made a punk rock concept album using the Civil War as an allegory to modern life.