My 10 Favorite Albums of 2010

Now that I’ve written up my thoughts on the year in television, it’s time to turn my attention to the year in music. 2010 wasn’t nearly as good for me as 2009 or 2008, years in which I found bumper crops of new bands to enjoy. In fact, compared to last year, 2010 looks like pretty slim pickin’s. But there’s still enough stuff to make a Top 10 list, so here goes.

Keep one thing in mind: while the shows in my  Top 10 TV list were listed in order, the following albums are not. Music is such a subjective thing. Some albums are good for when you wanna be mellow, while others are good for cranking up and driving around. In my mind, it just doesn’t seem fair to “rank” them.

Brian Eno – Small Craft on a Milk Sea – Aside from his early work with Roxy Music, I’ve never been a fan of Eno’s “pop” music. I had one listen to 2008’s Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (a collaboration with David Byrne) and promptly deleted it off my computer. But Milk Sea is more like his ambient albums, and a good one at that. Like the rest of Eno’s ambient work, though, you have to be in the mood for it.

Duran Duran – All You Need is Now – The Fab Five (or, I guess, the Fab Four) finally got smart and decided to stop trying to appeal to teenagers with this disc, which is a callback to the circa 1983 Duran Duran we all know and love. Producer Mark Ronson said that he was trying to create a “follow-up to Rio” with this disc, and while I’m not sure it hits that high mark, it’s one of their best albums in years.

Stars – The Five Ghosts – “Wasted Daylight” is one of my favorite songs of the year, so this album probably gets more props than it should. Especially since the singing duties in Stars are shared between (male) Torquil Campbell and (female) Amy Millan. Remember when you’d listen to a Dead Can Dance album and you’d fast forward over the Brendan Perry songs? Yeah, Stars is like that too. But when Millian sings, it’s pretty indie pop. That said, their cover of “A Fairytale of New York” is a crime against humanity; it’s “came in 18 to 1”, not “10 to 1”, you douchebag!

Vampire Weekend – Contra – College music hasn’t had this much fun with nerd rock since They Might Be Giants hit the scene. Vampire Weekend might not be the best band ever, but they’re an awful lot of fun, and this is a great album.

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream – I think it’s incredibly amusing to hear people of my age criticize Katy Perry… using the same exact arguments our parents tried to use against us with Madonna back in 1985. Let’s face it folks, Perry is cute and quirky, has a body that just won’t quit, and puts out solid pop hits. And, unlike many of her contemporaries, Perry actually writes most of her own stuff. So you go girl – ignore the haters!

A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Autumn, Again – Kind of a late-era, poppy Cocteau Twins for the 2010s, this album is really quite good. I expect to soon hear one of the songs off this disc on one of those TV shows with a “hip” soundtrack, like Chuck or Grey’s Anatomy. And how can you not like an album with songs titles like “This Assclown Eats Ambien OR Nobody Likes You” and “Drink Drank Drunk”?

Sleigh Bells – Treats – Not every “chick band” I listen to sounds like Au Revoir Simone! Brooklyn-based Sleigh Bells might have a female lead singer, but their sound is all about loud guitars and metallic sound effects. Their debut album doesn’t have “balls” exactly, but it’s certainly not a “let’s sit around and talk about our feelings” kind of disc, either. Lisa thinks they’re a bit obnoxious, so I don’t get to listen to the in the car very often.

One Night Only – One Night Only – You know how The Killers have that “inspired by the 80s” sound? Crank that up to 11 with these guys. I’m convinced that you dropped this album’s lead track – “Say You Don’t Want It” – into the playlist at an 80s club or 80s radio show, few would notice it as out of place. I was actually surprised by how much I liked this album – it’s rock-solid pop music, folks!

Devo – Something for Everybody – Devo wasn’t my favorite band back in the early 80s. I mean, sure, I liked them as much as the next guy, but they were on the radio so often and I had so many friends who had their albums that I just didn’t feel obligated to buy them myself. And then I didn’t think about Devo for a long time, aside from occasionally putting them on retro playlists. But then I met a couple here in Charlotte who are HUGE Devo fans, so much so that their “Devo love” is infectious. I got this album as soon as it came out… and I really like it. It sounds just like the Devo I remember, only updated just a touch, and with lyrics relevant to today (“Don’t tase me, bro!”). I suppose it’s better late than never that I rediscovered them, huh?

The Thermals – Personal Life – I dunno why I like this band so much… especially since they’re from Portland, Oregon (ewww! – East Coast for life, yo!). I took a shine to them with their previous disc, Now We Can See, and really started liking them with this album. It’s just indie pop-punk stuff, but it sticks with me. And the fact that Lisa’s asked me who the band is three times when listening to them on the iPod in the car tells me that I’m on to something (she wouldn’t have asked that often if she didn’t like it).

Honorable Mentions

This is just a short list of some of the other 2010 albums I liked that didn’t make the cut. I’m sure that I’m forgetting a few, so don’t send me emails if I’ve forgotten one!

Angus & Julia Stone – Down the Way
Beach House – Teen Dream
Best Coast – Crazy for You
Blonde Readhead – Penny Sparkle
Bryan Ferry – Olympia
Cassette Kids – Nothing on TV
Chapelier Fou – 613
Daft Punk – Tron Legacy (soundtrack)
Karaocake – Rows & Stitches
Kisses – The Heart of the Nightlife
The National – High Violet
She & Him – Volume Two
Weep – Worn Thin
Windsor For The Derby – Against Love
Yeasayer – Odd Blood

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