As nearly anyone who is well-versed in the art of making lists—particularly top 10 album lists—will attest, 2010 was a year for heaps and heaps of fantastic music. That said, for some reason, I didn’t have much difficulty deciding on my best of list. I think maybe this is because I focused on the albums that got the most listening love as opposed to ones that I maybe thought were better but didn’t turn to nearly as much. My top 10 list is, more so than ever before, a list of my favourite releases this year (going by U.S. release dates, of course). These albums are the ones that I craved on a regular basis, and to an extent, they’re the ones that defined me and my year.
#10 Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (09.14.10)
I’ve always had an awareness of this band due in large part to the amazing Merge Records roster, but never considered myself a fan. When this album came out, I didn’t pay much attention to it either. Things changed when I saw Superchunk perform at Treasure Island Music Festival. My expectations when they went on stage were zero. When they finished their set, I was blown away. They had so much energy in the live performance, and the music was so so good! Immediately I started listening to this album and it has been on my radar almost non-stop since. Extra cool facts about the band: the bassist (Laura) and I share the same birthday, and lead singer (Mac) is a total hottie.
#9 Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (04.27.10)
Admittedly, I first got my hands on this album last year after listening to a handful of one-off or demo recordings. I knew then that it would become a favourite, and when the album came out, it was still just as fresh, interesting and attention-grabbing as the first songs I’d heard. This band has such a pop-infused sound yet it (thankfully) fails to have that watered-down feeling that a lot of poppy bands have. The guitar work has that Bloc Party-esque feel with an urgency that borders on math rock, and Alex Trimble’s voice is so smooth. I’m definitely excited to see what else this band puts out in future years.
#8 Jim Bryson & the Weakerthans – The Falcon Lake Incident (10.19.10)
I’m not going to lie – if it weren’t for the Weakerthans’ name being attached to this album, I probably wouldn’t have looked into it. But since I did, I’m glad I did. It sounded musically just as I expected it to: indie-folk-y with that trademark Weakerthans’ sound. But that’s not to sell Jim Bryson short ‘cause the guy’s obviously a fantastic singer-songwriter, and this album inspired me to go out and get my hands on the rest of his stuff. There are some upbeat songs but also some beautiful strands of melancholy. Plus points: this is one of those albums that I totally dig but can also play around my parents and have them enjoy it as well (or at the very least, tolerate).
#7 Yeasayer – Odd Blood (02.09.10)
I don’t know what the deal is, but apparently a lot of the bands I’ve gotten into in the past few years are considered “psychedelic,” which is just weird because I don’t really think I’m “into” psychedelic music. But maybe they’re mislabeled, or maybe I’m being proven wrong. Regardless, Yeasayer rules. They’re the perfect mix between rock band and electronic band and write strong, pronounced pop songs with interesting and engaging percussive interplay. Odd Blood only served to further solidify the band as not only good songwriters, but unique ones. I seriously dig what they’re doing and the brash, bold sound they aren’t afraid to assert.
#6 Pantha du Prince – Black Noise (02.08.10)
I wasn’t terribly interested in this album when it came out, but one rainy day in October, I put it on and it was the perfect soundtrack for that kind of day. And it has continued to be the perfect soundtrack for those kinds of days, as well as any time where I just want to hang out and relax with good beats in the background. As a fan of post-rock, there’s a definite appeal, but the electronic element is a bit trickier for me. Still, the album manages to be spacey and ethereal, yet incredibly complex and driven, without getting all techno-y or “out there”.
#5 No Age – Everything In Between (09.28.10)
While I am a fan of fuzzy, distorted, raucous, dirty, experimental punk, few bands can pull it off just right. No Age can. And with only two members, it’s even more impressive. While I liked their past albums, I loved this one. It is equal parts catchy, lo-fi and jarring. As a band, they manage to balance perfectly between the genres of shoegaze and noise, and they do it so well. With “Everything In Between,” this is seemingly perfected. To add to the already-established awesomeness of the group, they are one of the best band interviews I’ve ever had (interesting, insightful) and they’re both vegan! Double win!
#4 Aloha – Home Acres (03.10.10)
It’s difficult to be unbiased when I talk about this band, due to the fact that they’re my favourite band ever (or at least have been for the past seven or eight years running). And honestly, I wasn’t certain what to make of this album at first. I mean, it certainly isn’t my favourite of theirs. And I don’t know about anyone else, but when my favourite band puts out an album that isn’t my favourite, there can be this persistent nagging feeling to give up on them, like it won’t get any better. It’s irrational and stupid, but considering 2002’s Sugar is my favourite and there have been four releases since, I have definitely had some fragile, tenuous moments with this band. Yet I still love Aloha so much. The musicians themselves are talented people who I also respect as individuals, which is important. Lyrically, they blow me away. Musically, each of the songs they’ve written – taken at face-value and standing apart from the albums they appear on – all manage to be incredibly beautiful, intricate and adventurous. Every album is truly different from the ones which came before, but those departures are still very much within the confines of the band’s sound capabilities. I just hope that with the new babies and wives and careers, this band still continues to make music together so they can keep making my top 10 lists.
#3 Local Natives – Gorilla Manor (02.16.10)
My best friend initially tipped me off to this band earlier this year, which is surprising, because I have a reputation of discovering bands before the rest of my peer group and introducing them to my friends. And at the very least, I always know of a band, even if I’ve never heard them. So when I finally heard Local Natives and then made the connection to a previous conversation with the aforementioned best friend, I was blown away that not only had I not heard of the band sooner, but also with the fact that he had gotten into them before me (I never said I wasn’t a music elitist slash kind of a dick). But regardless of the sequence of events, what’s most important here is the fact that Local Natives rule. I know they’re one of those Silver Lake-based bands, which only says so much (it’s like the Brooklyn of the West Coast, or something) but they are seriously legit. What first struck me about this band was the lead singer’s vocal similarity to the singer of my favourite band (see #4), but afterward I got past that, I got hooked on the percussion, as well as the lovely melodic and harmonic interplay.
#2 Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II (04.23.10)
When the first Crystal Castles album was released, I listened to it because the band was a favourite of my best friend at the time. But she also loved hyphy quite seriously, and so I never gave the album a fair chance, favoring listening to the Health collaborative gem, “Crimewave,” over the rest of the album. Repeat listens to that album years later and the same verdict: unimpressed. But at some point during the past two years, Crystal Castles stepped it up more than just a notch. And while I had zero interest in hearing this album when I first found out about it, one or two consecutive listens made me realize that it’s one of the best albums I’ve ever heard this decade. To me, it sounds like Alice and Ethan finally stopped dicking around with lo-fi intentions and got serious about writing quality, intricate music that still managed to not be too polished. This is the sophomore album that I always dream about – one that further defines a band and propels it past the territory of “hype”. And the beats totally rule.
#1 Tokyo Police Club – Champ (06.08.10)
These kids own. Seriously, I just assumed that Tokyo Police Club was around my age or maybe older, but they’re all in their early 20s, and when I found this out earlier this year I was amazed. Go them. This album though. Wow. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever heard in my lifetime. But it’s good. Solid. Cohesive. Full of great melodies, and for such a young band (age-wise and tenure-wise) they’re not afraid to be experimental within the confines of the full sound they have. I seriously love every single song on this album, and have been waiting for the longest time to hear an album where I’ve literally loved all of it from beginning to end. Tokyo Police Club, thanks for making that come true for me. And, I am so excited to see what these fellas churn out in the coming decade!
(Aside from these albums, there is always the occasional album that you either discover or rediscover at some point, and while it wasn’t released in that year, it still becomes one of your most-loved albums of the year. For me, that album is Wilco’s Summerteeth. When I was going through a particularly rough patch at the end of the summer, my friend Oliver [who certainly knows his stuff, musically-speaking] suggested I listen to the album. His recommendation did not let me down, and I found it was the perfect companion for my dismal and melancholy moods.)
Below, you can download a single-mp3-mix I made that consists of one track from each of the albums, each track being my favourite (or one of my favourites) from its album (the one exception being the Superchunk song, which is the acoustic demo version of my favourite song from the album).
- Tokyo Police Club – Wait Up (Boots of Danger)
- Crystal Castles – Suffocation
- Local Natives – Airplanes
- Aloha – Microviolence
- No Age – Fever Dreaming
- Pantha du Prince – Lay in a Shimmer
- Yeasayer – O.N.E.
- Jim Bryson & the Weakerthans – Up All Night
- Two Door Cinema Club – Something Good Can Work
- Superchunk – Crossed Wires (Demo)
Hope you enjoy! In the meantime, I’m curious: what albums made your lists this year?