Top Albums of 2010

This was by far the best year for music in recent memory. Normally I have to stretch to find that 10th worthy album, sometimes quite a few more than that. For the first time in the twenty-first century, I could've easily stretched this list out to 20 albums..but rules are rules (even if they're your own meaningless rules). In the end, this list contains a diverse mix that includes albums I didn’t want to like, albums I didn’t expect to blow me away as much as they did, and albums by constantly underrated bands who did what they do best as good as (if not better than) ever. With all of that said, I'm very hopeful that this might just be the first list I look back on in six months without regret.

No. 10
Broken Bells - Broken Bells Cover
Broken Bells
Broken Bells
March 9, 2010
Columbia

I'm not a huge fan of The Shins or most of Danger Mouse's various projects, so imagine my surprise with how much I enjoyed this one. James Mercer's melodies and Danger Mouse's production come together perfectly. The album explores a wide palette of styles and seems right at home in each.

Highlights: The Mall & Misery, The Ghost Inside, Mongrel Heart

No. 9
LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening Cover
LCD Soundsystem
This is Happening
May 18, 2010
DFA

For better or worse, LCD Soundsystem is the most meta band I know. Sometimes the self-awareness grates on me just a little bit, but there's no denying the quality of every other aspect of their music. This is Happening gave me exactly what I would've wanted from them following the terrific Sound of Silver, with more emphasis on their electronic leanings...and, Dance Yrself Clean is the best album opener I've heard in years.

Highlights: Dance Yrself Clean, Home, All I Want

No. 8
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs Cover
Arcade Fire
The Suburbs
August 2, 2010
Merge

It took a few months for me to get around to giving The Suburbs a chance, partially because I disliked Neon Bible that much (loved Funeral, for the record) and partially because Win Butler creeps me out. Whatever the reason, I'm sorry I hesitated because The Suburbs is a great album. Cohesive in tone while not treading the same ground over and over again (which is a real concern with a 16 track album). Arcade Fire made me a believer again, but I'm still left wondering why they have to be so damn creepy.

Highlights: We Used to Wait, Sprawl (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Half Light I

No. 7
Spoon - Transference Cover
Spoon
Transference
January 15, 2010
Merge

One thing Transference proved is how criminally underrated Spoon is by the mainstream “indie” media. Somehow Spoon finds a way to change things up with every album without sacrificing quality or their “Spooniness”, and Transference is no different. Quality song after quality song, all with a yet another new twist on their trademark sound.

Highlights: I Saw the Light, The Mystery Zone, Nobody Gets Me But You

No. 6
The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt Cover
The Tallest Man on Earth
The Wild Hunt
April 13, 2010
Dead Oceans

The Tallest Man on Earth has got to be the best folk music being made today. It's easy to make Bob Dylan comparisons given the vocal style of Kristian Matsson, but that ignores the outstanding guitar work featured on nearly every track. The songwriting is superb and only dwarfed by the dynamic performance.

Highlights: Burden of Tomorrow, You're Going Back, Love is All

No. 5
Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz Cover
Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz
October 12, 2010
Asthmatic Kitty

There's something special in Sufjan Steven's compositions. It's rare when a pop/rock oriented song can be 24 minutes long without overstaying its welcome, but Impossible Soul manages to pull it off. The music is deep and complex throughout and sometimes it feels like maybe some layers could've been left out for the betterment of the music, but after repeated listens it all begins to come together.

Highlights: Impossible Soul, I Want to be Well, Too Much

No. 4
Four Tet - There is Love in You Cover
Four Tet
There is Love in You
January 25, 2010
Domino

Four Tet seems to be an easy artist to overlook in 2010. Probably because he's been releasing top tier music for the better part of a decade, though mostly inside the same box (granted, it's a box he created and is his alone). There is Love in You finds Kieran Hebden taking a step outside that box and setting the bar even higher.

Highlights: Plastic People, Circling, She Just Likes to Fight

No. 3
Beach House - Teen Dream Cover
Beach House
Teen Dream
January 25, 2010
Sub Pop

While I've enjoyed Beach House's prior efforts, those albums can't compare to Teen Dream. In the past I had to be in the right mood to enjoy Beach House, but here they find a way to take the listener to their music's distinctive place, regardless of the listener's mood. It's near impossible for me to single out stand-out songs because it's full of stand-out songs.

Highlights: 10 Mile Stereo, Norway, Zebra

No. 2
Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma Cover
Flying Lotus
Cosmogramma
May 3, 2010
Warp

Flying Lotus is one of the few artists doing truly fresh music today. Cosmogramma is an album, in the truest sense of the word. A number of the tracks may not stand out on their own, but each track leads into the next and contributes to the picture as a whole. It's a compelling mix of modern electronic, hip-hop, a diverse mix of elements from the past and each is fused perfectly together.

Highlights: Do the Astral Plane, Galaxy in Janaki, Intro//A Cosmic Drama

No. 1
The National - High Violet Cover
The National
High Violet
May 11, 2010
4AD

The National are on a real streak with their third straight near perfect album. I'm not sure this is better than Boxer or Alligator, but it certainly belongs in the conversation. I really don't know what to say about High Violet. The songwriting is impeccable. Matt Berninger's vocals (and you can't ignore the wonderful background vocals) make your heart ache. Bryan Devendorf's drum work transforms the songs. In short, it's spectacular from top to bottom, but that's nothing new for The National.

Highlights: Lemonworld, Sorrow, Bloodbuzz Ohio