Monday, December 27, 2010

My Favorite Albums of 2010

Last week I posted my list of Favorite Archival Albums of 2010. Today's list is comprised of albums of "new" material released during this calendar year. It wasn't really too hard to keep up with new releases in 2010, as streaming services like [for the first half of the year],, NPR's First Listen, and allow one to stream albums for free. As well, vinyl and CD prices are fairly low right now which allowed me to purchase a good amount of PVC and polycarbonate platters, respectively.

Anyway, let's get to the list. I have known my likely favorite album of the year since early summer, though the rest of the list has been in flux up to this morning. I was shooting for a top 15 list, but I couldn't make 'em all fit without cheating. Here is the list of my 16 favorite albums of 2010, along with some honorable mentions:

1) Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (at and stream on grooveshark)

It was not really much of a competition for the number one slot. This was by far and away my favorite album of the year. This release is all over the map musically, with no song sounding the same as the one before it--funk, soul, Disneyesque interludes, tripped-out folk, paranoia-infused crooning, sharp electric guitar licks, wistful ballads, etc. Plus it has the added benefit of being a concept album set in a futuristic sci-fi world with an interlocking storyline of survival and rebellion. It is as if Ms. Monae intentionally set about the task of punching all your faithful blogger's buttons, both musically and lyrically. I hope she "keeps it weird" as her career moves forward and that she stays this ambitious.

2) Titus Andronicus: The Monitor (at and stream on grooveshark)

Angst --> Ambition --> New Jersey -->Indulgence -->Brilliance

3) Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void (at and stream on grooveshark)

Few albums were in more frequent rotation this summer than the 5th album by Portland's BT. Starting with the prog turn(s) in the opening track and on through the laid-back vibe of the remainder of the album, it was the perfect soundtrack to my June through August. I think I am probably in the minority on this album as I like it even better than 2009's Furr (and also 2007's Wild Mountain Nation). BT have a knack for getting away with some fairly schmaltzy lyrics at times (on par with early career Neil Young). Yet they somehow work. I am not sure how they pull it off. After the Gold Rush, mofos.

4) Ty Segall -- Melted (at and stream on grooveshark)

The Bay Area's one and only garage psych king. One of my great finds of the last year. I am now working my way backward through the Segall oeuvre. Don't make him carry the Jay Reatard (RIP) mantle--give him some breathing room.

5) The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack (at and stream on grooveshark)

Yes, there are Jonathan Richman, Velvets, and surf rock influences here, but I think the band gives us considerable value-added with the nifty songwriting and the churning arrangements. Play this loud, mofos.

6) Bee vs. Moth -- Acronyms (at

I reviewed this album (well, sorta reviewed it and linked to some of the album's tunes) a few months back.

7) Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (at and stream disc 1 on grooveshark)

I gave this wonderful triple-vinyl album a lengthy review back on the 1st of May.

8) The Budos Band – III (at and stream on grooveshark)

The soundtrack to what you should be doing right now instead of reading my blog.

9) Roky Erickson with Okkervil River – True Love Cast Out All Evil (at and stream on grooveshark)

Look, I’m not one of those dudes who is at your local indie record store, flipping quickly through the crates of vinyl, wearing a Roky shirt, and muttering about creatures with atom brains; but I am a fan of Roky and glad he can surface again with this great artistic update. I am not a big fan of the Okkervil River production and some of the arrangements, but the albums rises above those shortcomings. Goodbye Sweet Dreams.

10) The Fall – Your Future Our Clutter (at and stream on grooveshark)

American translation: Get off my lawn. Get off my Goddamn lawn.

11) Of Montreal – False Priest (at and stream on grooveshark)

I know that this album is underwhelming to certain OM fans, but Side 1A of the double vinyl set contains the best LP side of pop songs of the year for me. Sides 1B, 2A, and 2B are each a nice spin as well. I look forward to seeing where OM go next. "I participated in all your protests / Supported your stupid little blog / Got a Bowflex / Wore colored contacts to match your dress."

12) Grinderman – Grinderman 2 (at and stream on grooveshark)

Keep on keepin' on, Mr. Cave. Weird to be following you into middle-age. Who woulda thunk it? Mofo is 53. I hit the big 4-0 next month. Listen to this album instead of reading Tom Wolfe's Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. And certainly don't do both at the same time, etc.

13) Various Artists -- Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine (at and stream on grooveshark)

A tribute album to one of my very favorite songwriters. The album includes prime Prine covers by the likes of Bon Iver, Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket, Josh Ritter, Lambchop, Justin Townes Earle, The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Sara Watkins, Drive-By Truckers, Deer Tick, and Those Darlins. I am only a fan of about half of these artists, but the majesty of Prine's songwriting shines through on each and every respectful track.

14) Ted Leo And The Pharmacists -- The Brutalist Bricks (at and stream on grooveshark)

Contains my favorite opening line of an album this year: "When the café doors exploded, I reacted, too. Reacted to you, reacted to you.”

15) Maximum Balloon -- Maximum Balloon [tied](at and stream on grooveshark)

This is Dave Sitek's (from TV on the Radio) solo album. Lots of special help on here: David Byrne, Karen O, Kyp Malone, and Theophilus London. I am very ready for a new TVotR release. Signs point to 2011?

15) Midlake -- The Courage of Others [tied](at and stream on grooveshark)

Grap your flute, don your cloak, and meet me in the forest. Hurry up, we have little time.

Some honorable mentions, in no particular order:
•White Denim – Last Day of Summer
•King Sunny Adé – Bábá Mo Túndé
•Mulatu Astatke – Steps Ahead
•Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am
•Various Artists -- Twistable Turnable Man: A Musical Tribute to Shel Silverstein
•Willie Nelson – Country Music
•Harlem – Hippies
•Thee Oh Sees – Warm Slime
•Trampled by Turtles -- Palomino
•Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
•Magnetic Fields – Realism
•AfroCubism – Afrocubism
•Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
•Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band – Legacy
•Nels Cline Singers – Initiate
•Ray Wylie Hubbard -- A: Enlightenment B: Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C)
•Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
•Marc Ribot -- Silent Movies
•Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way
•Phosphorescent – Here’s to Taking it Easy
•Wolf Parade – Expo 86
•Alejandro Escovedo – Street Songs of Love
•The Steeldrivers - Reckless
•Bryan Ferry – Olympia
•Laurie Anderson - Homeland
•The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
•Orquestra De Tambores De Alagoas -- Bantus E Caetes
•The Black Keys – Brothers
•Mavis Staples – You are Not Alone
•Konono No. 1 -- Assume Crash Position
•Richard Thompson – Dream Attic
•Menomena - Mines

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