Top Albums of 2010

Though I created this site to serve predominantly as an outlet for my thoughts on television, I will occasionally post about other subjects. Those of you who diligently follow my work know that I cover music news for Modern Mystery Blog. As such, I contributed to their list of 2010’s Best Music.

If you click over to that link, you’ll see what my favorite music videos, songs, and albums of 2010 were. Alas, we were only asked for our Top 3 albums. So, I wanted to share my thoughts on some of this year’s other top albums.

20. Angus & Julia Stone – Down the Way

Here in the U.S., Down the Way managed to fly under the radar, even as the vast majority of its songs found their way onto famous television series. However, in their native Australia, this brother-sister duo rocketed to the top of the album charts. Julia’s voice is, simply put, wonderful.

19. Mike Posner – 31 Minutes to Takeoff

After two successful mixtapes, Posner finally released his fully realized debut album in the summer of 2010. Drawing influence from sources as diverse as disco and hip hop, the result is a spectacular dance record. Posner also gets a huge pat on the back for including the scathing “Cheated,” on which he drops the name of his unfaithful ex-girlfriend.

18. Wakey!Wakey! – Almost Everything I Wish I Said the Last Time I Saw You

Conceived as a record that traces the steps of a relationship and the aftermath of that relationship, by lead singer Mike Grubbs, Almost Everything I Wish… is a truly fantastic album about love and its misfortunes.Wakey!Wakey! expands their pallet with each new song, and they stick their landing.

17. The Weepies – Be My Thrill

Composed of almost entirely upbeat material, Be My Thrill is the type of album that just makes you happy. Deb Talan and Steve Tannen’s marriage seems to have only strengthened their musical partnership. Among the album’s many gems was the wonderful “Add My Effort.”

16. The Black Keys – Brothers

2010 was a big year for The Black Keys. Their 6th album, Brothers, brought them widespread acclaim, and rightfully so. A gritty rock album filled with fuzzy guitars and booming drums, Brothers is a career defining record. The video for their single, “Tighten Up,” was on 2010’s best. And, “Next Girl” was one of the year’s best songs.

15. The Roots – How I Got Over

Their album with John Legend may have underwhelmed, but How I Got Over was one of the year’s strongest Hip-Hop records. Not only are the lyrics of this album thoughtful and intuitive, but How I Got Over also sports masterful production.

14. Vampire Weekend – Contra

Everything about Contra seems so effortless that it would be easy to overlook the precision it took to create such an album. Even though Vampire Weekend borrow sounds from classic African music, punk, and Hip-Hop, the album never feels disjointed. In fact, Contra is actually better than the sum of its parts.

13. Justin Nozuka – You I Wind Land and Sea

From my April 15, 2010 review: “You I Wind Land and Sea may be Justin Nozuka’s sophomore album but he sounds like a seasoned pro from its opening note. The songwriting on the album is, in a word, gorgeous. Every song on You I Wind Land and Sea is meticulously crafted but there are two clear standouts. “Woman Put Your Weapon Down,” is a rousing number about a girl prone to starting fights. While, “Swan in the Water” is an ethereal piano number that builds progressively as Nozuka laments a lost love.

12. Lady Antebellum – Need You Now

Need You Now is an infectious country-pop record that verges on perfection. Lead single, “Need You Now,” was one of the year’s biggest songs. And, follow up, “American Honey” shot to the top of the Country charts. The remainder of the album is made up of equally infectious songs, including personal favorite “If I Knew Then.”

11. Lissie –Catching a Tiger

Lissie was undoubtedly 2010’s most underrated musician. Likewise, her debut album Catching a Tiger was largely undervalued by the critical community. What makes Lissie so fascinating is her ability to vacillate between different styles of music without blinking. Catching a Tiger has quiet ballads numbers like “Everywhere I Go,” country tracks like “Oh Mississippi,” and earworms like “Worried About.” Additionally, her cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” is better than the original.

10. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

When a good concept is executed correctly, greatness is achieved. Such is the case with Arcade Fire’s third studio album, The Suburbs. An ode to the suburban area of Houston where band members Win and William Butler grew up, The Suburbs is both nostalgic and prophetic. “City with Children” evokes images of the dystopian future shown in Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 film Children of Men, while the band take a more playful approach on songs like the album’s title track.

9. Brandon Flowers – Flamingo

From my September 24, 2010 review: “Flamingo draws its title from Flamingo Road, on which Sam’s Town Casino is located. Because of that, it would be easy to mistake the album as a mere sequel to Sam’s Town. But, in reality, Flamingo is a culmination of all Flowers’ previous work.” Flowers has always been known for his ability to tell stories and the songs of this album only reinforce how good he really is, “Magdalena” and “Hard Enough” in particular.

8. Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs – God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise

God Willin’ is an album that gets better with each listen. When I wrote my review back in August, I said the album felt “stagnant at points.” But, upon further review, I regret my choice of words. LaMontage took over the producer’s chair for this album and he crafted a rich sounding album with lyrics to match. This album is less flashy then some of his previous work, but its every bit as good.

7. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

As far as I’m concerned, Only by the Night is one of the greatest albums of the last 5 years. So, I was expecting a lot from Come Around Sundown. And, for the most part, Kings of Leon delivered. The album’s exuberant lead single, “Radioactive,” is one of 2010’s best songs. Other highlights include “Pyro” and “Pickup Truck,” the former of which is slated to be the album’s next single.

6. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Touted by some as West’s best album yet, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has the most immaculate production of any album released in 2010. Yet, the lyrics, or lack thereof, detract from the overall quality of the work. West included too many of his G.O.O.D. Friday tracks, which turned My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy into a duet album of sorts. Late Registration has numerous features, but they never detracted from West himself. As much as I love “Monster” and “So Appalled,” the latter should have been left off the album. Then, there is the strange ending tacked onto “Runaway,” which still has me bewildered. Still, the album is undeniably great and West has the song of the year in “Power.”

5. Taylor Swift – Speak Now

Say what you will about Taylor Swift, or me for ranking her album so high, but Speak Now is an admirable piece of work. From my November 5, 2010 review: Swift is one of mainstream music’s saving graces. At a time when three chords and an underdeveloped chorus can score you a Top 10 hit, Swift offers something different to the masses. Her lyrics are sincere and her melodies are consolatory. And, on Speak Now, she was more willing to experiment than she did on her sophomore album. The most frequent criticism of Speak Now has been displeasure with Swift’s youthful enthusiasm, as well as her tendency to romanticize the ordinary. But, those two qualities are precisely why Swift is so endearing.
4. Drake – Thank Me Later

Despite its boastful title, Thank Me Later was actually an understated album. The message of Thank Me Later was simple; “even when you’re famous, life can be hard.” Every song on Thank Me Later is frank, and that honesty goes a long way. Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club put it best in his review, “Drake may be powerfully conflicted about stardom, but on his cohesive, bittersweet, assured debut, he proves himself worthy of the sometimes-blinding spotlight.”

For albums 3-1, head over to Modern Mystery

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