I would say that this year had some really solid releases from a lot of really talented musicians. It's always hard for me to pick the top ten and this year was no exception, but I just can't help but love list making.
(If you don't want to read my Ke$sha rant, skip this paragraph and go right to the top ten list,)
Also, let me just say that I really contemplated putting Ke$ha on here but just couldn't do it. I love that girl to death but in terms of talent and artistic cred, she is no where near some of these bands on the list! I just couldn't put her on the same list as The Black Keys. Just not gonna happen. Animal was fun and a really good pop record but when all is said and done, it's a pop record and my motto with pop music is, you can listen to it (and you should,) accept it, embrace it but also know that usually the people who make pop music are money makers and nothing more. There's no heart or musical talent behind the music. Once again, it's just an opinion and I don't mean to offend anyone who would consider their main genre of music to be pop. By the way, I have the same opinion on Katy Perry's Teenage Dream which was another record I listened to a lot this year. Okay, I'm ranting...anyway, here they are:
10 She & Him - Volume Two
Zooey and M. Ward released their inevitable Volume Two in March of this year with even more critical acclaim than their initial collaboration, Volume One. I have to say that I couldn't have agreed more with the critics. Volume Two had a lot more original material by Deschannel and Ward and it seemed more like a cohesive album than Volume One, which seemed very scattered with a cover every other song and not meshing well together like an album should. Volume Two also had a lot more stronger and prominent original songs including "Thieves," "In The Sun" and "Gonna Get Along Without You Now."
9 Margot and the Nuclear So & So's - Buzzard
Even though this isn't the best Margot album (I'm looking at you, Dust of Retreat,) and probably the weakest of the three, (or four, should I say?) it's still Margot and the Nuclear So & So's and they will always have a spot on my yearly list if they've released an album. They're such a unique band, both with lyrics and sound, it's impossible not to commend them for that in general. Buzzard seemed very experimental for the band and the without the presence of Emily Watkins I think this was the perfect time to re-evaluate their sound and see where they want to go later in their career. Even with mixed reviews, Margot fans still seemed to appreciate it (from what I've heard from other fans, at least). Key tracks include "Birds" and "Will You Love Me Forever?"
8 Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
This was a very important album for Joanna Newsom. She's maturing as an artist, which is great because she's pretty much not afraid to try anything musically. Her instrument repertoire doubled with this album, from harpsichord to electric guitar. The only qualm I have with this album is the fact that she's obviously trying to alleviate her signature voice, which is one of my pet peeves when artists do this (i.e. Tom Gabel on Against Me's White Crosses. What are you doing?!). So what if some people don't like it, which has been a common complaint with Newsom, usually this means that for the people who love this artist, it's one of the artists' redeeming qualities and something special that makes them the musician they are. Embrace your unique voice, Joanna! Please don't try to hide it! Key tracks include "Easy" and "Good Intentions Paving Company" (probably my favorite Joanna Newsom song ever...so far, of course. She's definitely not going anywhere and there's plenty more music to come from her!)
7 Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
In May, Band of Horses came out with their third album and oh, what a third album it is! Even though there are a lot more slower tracks than on Cease to Begin, I've always thought that this band can most definitely pull them off and can make me want to listen to them over and over again (in fact, one of my favorite songs on Cease to Begin is "Detlef Schrempf,") so it wasn't a problem for me, as it was for some other fans. I think "Blue Beard" and "On My Way Back Home" were some of the most beautiful songs to come out in a while. They definitely deserve any grammy nomination they've gotten this year and I hope they'll continue to release solid albums because I love the fact that I can always depend on that. Key tracks also include "Laredo" (of freakin' course!) and "Dilly."
6 Hellogoodbye - Would it Kill You?
Okay, so I really expected NOT to like this album. Like, I was preparing myself months ahead of time, trying to accept that the Hellogoodbye I once knew just isn't the Hellogoodbye they are now. While that is still absolutely true, I ended up loving Would it Kill You? I just wish that Forrest would just re-name this new band because it certainly isn't Hellgoodbye anymore. There isn't a trace of the original band to be heard in this music which is perfectly fine because the music is good, it just seems like it would be right to just wipe the slate clean and come up with another name for the band. Key tracks include "Find Something to Do," "Getting Old," "You Sleep Alone" and "Would it Kill You?"
5 Broken Bells - Self Titled
Pretty much anything DJ Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins do is brilliant so it's obvious that a collaboration between the two is going to be epically amazing. I really hope they decide to work together again because it seems they work together extremely well. They both come from very different music backgrounds but when mashed together to form this sound, it's really something that should be treasured. Key tracks include "The High Road," The Ghost Inside" and "Sailing to Nowhere."
4 Jimmy Eat World - Invented
This was definitely a surprise because Jimmy Eat World's previous effort, Chase This Light, wasn't exactly awe-inspiring in my opinion but they came back with Invented in 2010, which mirrored my favorite Jimmy Eat World album ever, Futures very much so. There is just something about them I've always found to be very special, something that makes them different from other bands that came out of that 1990's emo scene, (The Get Up Kids, The Promise Ring, Reggie and the Full Effect, etc.) they just seem to really understand how to play that genre and play it in a way that works. Key tracks include "Heart is Hard to Find," "My Best Theory" and "Stop."
3 The Black Keys - Brothers
The Black Keys are one of the bands that I will always associate with this year because I listened to them A LOT. The first time I listened to Attack and Release, their album right before Brothers in 2008, I was hooked and then when I listened to Brothers was even more enamored by them. Dan Auerbach can really do no wrong in my eyes and I can't say enough good things about this record. Key tracks include "Next Girl," "Tighten Up" and "The Only One."
2 Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
At first, this album kind of flew under my radar, I knew it released but honestly didn't have much interest in it only because I didn't really like Neon Bible too much and figured Funeral was a diamond in the ruff. After hearing from some friends that The Suburbs was in their opinion, the best Arcade Fire album yet, I decided to give it a shot and from then on, The Suburbs and I started quite a beautiful, musical friendship. Not only great musically but also really thought provoking and poetic lyrics, commenting on our society's emphasis on suburban life and if the American way really is the best way. One pleasant surprise on this record for me was one of the very last songs, "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" sung by front man Win Butler's lady, Régine Chassagne. It's a great experiment for them, dabbling into electronica with a little legitimate 1970's disco influence mixed in and they really made it work. I'm hoping they experiment with this sound further. Even though this is number two on my list, I do consider this and my number one almost tied. There was some really great music produced in 2010 and this album was one of the many highlights. On a side note, I'm really hoping they win Album of the Year at this year's Grammy's. They really deserve that award and that sometimes isn't the case unfortunately for any of the artists nominated on any given year. Key tracks include "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," "Ready to Start," "Modern Man" and "City With No Children."
1 Vampire Weekend - Contra
Contra came out in the beginning of 2010, January 11, to be exact, which was eleven days after I moved out of my parents house and got an apartment with two of my friends and was on the verge of starting graduate school in Albany. I didn't dorm at college, I was able to commute and had a pretty good social and home life so decided to do that instead so when I moved out, it was a pretty big deal for me and it was a lot to get used to. During this confusing time in my life, I found it really comforting to have some new music that was actually good (because at the time for some reason, there was kind of a lull in that, towards the end of 2009 things kind of slowed down,) and an album I could play from beginning to end. Almost exactly a year later, I can still count on Contra to be amazing and I am able to play it from beginning to end and love every minute of it. That's what I call a timeless record: an album that you can put on at any point in your life, doesn't matter on the day or how much time has passed since the album came out, and still enjoy it like it's the first time you've heard the record. Maybe it's because it has a little bit of a sentimental aspect for me since it reminds me of that time where I was trying to figure out this new life in Albany I decided for myself after I graduated college, but I decided to put Contra as number one and not The Suburbs because of the whole "timeless record" idea. I'm pretty sure The Suburbs is a timeless record as well but not enough time has passed for me to know that for sure yet. Anyway, Vampire Weekend really delivered on their second album. Music journalists and web sites kind of always implied that they were destined to be "one album wonders" so to speak, and that their hype from their self titled would eventually get to them. However, the band proved this theory wrong with giving us one of the best alternative rock albums of 2010. Key tracks include "Holiday," "Run," "Giving Up the Gun" and "Diplomat's Son."
All photos courtesy of Last.FM