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John’s Top Ten Albums of 2010

Another year, another top ten list. Out of the 24 albums I heard this year, I discovered a barrel full of albums I liked, but not very many that I loved. Though there’s still a lot out there that I’m yet to check out, most notably the latest from Arcade Fire who I’ll give a chance someday and I’m sure there’s others. Anyhow, it was still a good year for me and music in general, so here’s my final ten in all it’s glory.

10. Matt & Kim – Sidewalks

Though the songs aren’t quite as memorable or the catchy as the tunes on the joyous Grand, key and drum duo Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino have really stepped up their game in the studio. Almost every track on Sidewalks sounds as big as the New York borough they hail from. I just wish there were more individual tracks that stood out but what it lacks in catchy singles it makes up for in grooves which will keep you movin’ all day long.

9. The Drums – The Drums

From the moment I heard “Let’s Go Surfing” I was excited for this indie debut and for the most part it was worth the wait. I think it’s the approach more than anything that excites me here. Surf music with an 80s touch? Or is it 80s music with a Surf music touch? All I know is I’m digging the synths and dueling guitars with more beach twang than you could wave a board at. These guys have really established an attractive sound without being derivative and punched out some poppy tunes along the way.

8. Neil Young – Le Noise

Initially this wasn’t even going to crack my top ten, but somehow it became implanted into my brain like a distorted rock n’ roll tumor. Now that’s a true testament to Neil’s presence, songwriting, and guitar playing as Le Noise is no more than Neil, a guitar, and the light touch of producer Daniel “Le Noise” Lanois. That’s all it is… And it hella rocks! Still I can only imagine how much more it could of rocked with ya know, like drums and bass. Though that doesn’t change the fact that these are great songs and Neil hasn’t lost any of his edge, it’s only evolved into Old Man angst.

7. The National – High Violet

It’s been a gradual process, but I’ve finally come to appreciate the sleepy allure of The National. Seriously that guy really needs to get some sleep, but I suppose that’s what makes The National well, The National. It’s meaningful and emotional music with a kind of sophistication that remarkably feels genuine. You could go on with all that kind of over analysis, but really it’s just music that feels vey honest and soulful and I find that very appealing.

6. Happy Birthday – Happy Birthday

The fact that I even found about this band is pure luck. I was just randomly flipping through radio stations one day when somehow, I stumbled across the delightfully catchy “Girls FM”. I don’t remember what station it was and haven’t heard it on the radio since, so if it wasn’t for that moment I may have never found about this punchy pop/punk trio. The album is essentially a blender of melodic pop and whiny garage rock, but it grows on you and I’m really glad I discovered this little rock nugget.

5. Spoon – Transference

Seeing that it would be darn near impossible to replicate the awesomeness of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon returns to more familiar territory with Transference. Meaning it’s more of Spoon’s trademark, unconventional rock approached in the most basic way possible and I’m always down for that. Not to mention the sheer rawness accompanied by the presence of Britt Daniels (One of my favorite vocalists in modern rock) always gives me chills. If You’re not much of a Spoon fan this probably wont win you over, but it you are pump it up.

4. The Black Keys – Brothers

What a year for The Black Keys with the release of their most successful and arguably best album yet. I feel like I can’t even flip on the TV without seeing one of their bluesy tunes in some kind of commercial (Usually ones about trucks). The sound is bigger, the riffs are infectious, and these new tunes just might be their best yet. It rocks, it’s funky, it’s bluesy and it’s full on primal emotion. I think it helped that they expanded their sound beyond just drum and guitar and I pray they continue this approach. I wish I could make it higher but my final three is in my eyes, too damn solid.

3. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

What I love about James Murphy, is it’s like he’s a rock and roller working in the Electronic medium, resulting in Electro/Pop that sounds like no other. From the slow, building, synth of the eight minute “Dance Yrself Clean” I was hooked and here I am as someone who usually doesn’t care for long songs. Whether it’s a 3 minute or 10 minute song, James Murphy always finds ways to keep it fresh and exciting, it’s too bad I didn’t give him a listen until so late in the game.

2. Vampire Weekend – Contra

I didn’t know how this preppy pop group would be able follow up their smash debut, but by golly, they found away. So here we have it, another worldly rock record that even treads electronic waters and stays afloat. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the absolute, best followup anyone could of asked for and from here on, I think we can look forward to many, many, years of this group producing great music.

1. MGMT – Congratulations

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood albums of the year. I mean critics liked it well enough, but there seemed to be an outcry from listeners that felt alienated. As for me, I get it, and I love it. Such a bold and daring move for a still relatively new band, I applaud the experiment, but really it’s the quality of the music that makes it such a proud achievement. I think I described it in my original review as, “Like if The Flaming Lips and The Beach Boys had an orgy.” A statement that I still wholeheartedly stand by. Like a psychedelic surfs up across unknown rock waters, or whatever the hell that means, Congratulations is a delightful enigma. Perhaps the fact that this album is so hard to describe maybe one the reasons I love it so.

Honorable Mention

She & Him – Volume 2: There are some great old school pop tracks on this second collaboration between actress/musician Zooey Deschanel and musican/producer M. Ward. It almost has a similar sway to the songs of Roy Orbison, unfortunately it loses some pep as the album descends into sleepy ballads.

The New Pornographers – Together: This was originally my number ten until I realized I never actually listened to the whole thing. It’s good, but I kind of need to uh, listen to it first before I come to a conclusion.