SNAVE's TOP FIFTY ALBUMS OF 2010 (the final edition!)
Among others, I did not hear the Elton John/Leon Russell collaboration, nor did I hear the one by Black Eyed Peas, "Treats" by Sleigh Bells, "King Of The Beach" by Wavves, "Plastic Beach" by GorillaZ, the new Dead Weather (although I have it, just haven't heard it yet), Crystal Castles, "Crazy For You" by Best Coast, "Contra" by Vampire Weekend... so I still have lots of work to do! I don't listen to "country", hip-hop or rap, so there won't be any of those artists represented in my list.
And there are STILL probably a number of these I have forgotten or overlooked.
Some of this will look similar to what was on here last time, but there were a few "late arrivals"... So HERE GOES... and this is IT!
1. The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - Well worth the wait, full of the usual high energy. More polished than their previous albums, some die-hard fans see them selling out with this release... but I like the idea that their sound is gradually becoming more accessible to more people. A great band, a great CD, and they have a great future.
2. Neil Young - Le Noise - I thought Neil had gone away, but he is definitely still here! This is a guitar effects tour de force, with producer Daniel Lanois helping Neil create some amazing sounds. Good songwriting too. Check out "Hitchhiker" and "Peaceful Valley Boulevard"! Good work, Neil!
3. Foals - Total Life Forever - Some may refer to Foals as a "math rock" band... lots of intricate patterns and guitar interplay in their music. This is very atmospheric, very pleasant. One I can't help but come back to repeatedly.
4. Beach House - Teen Dream - I don't know how to describe this music. It is sort of like folk music, sort of like pop, and always very dreamy and relaxing. Nice songwriting with good lyrics and pleasing arrangements. Some of the better-crafted music around today. Thanks to J. Marquis for getting me started as a Beach House fan!
5. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest - Beautifully textured songs, great arrangements, nice performances. Because I like a fair amount of reverb and good melodic tunes, this one is right up my alley. Love it! It's music that causes me to stop and go "Whoa..."
6. Caribou - Swim - I finally heard this one all the way through, and must admit I was a bit taken aback. I should know by now that just listening to samples of songs on iTunes is not the way to go about judging whether or not I like an album. That's what I did at first with this one, but once I heard this one from start to finish, I realized that the songs have a way of building. By the time I am a couple of minutes into each song, I am captivated by what the artist (Dan Snaith) is doing. It is electronic music, but electronics done very well!! Thanks to my daughter Katie for turning me on to Caribou!
7. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? - BJM leader Anton Newcombe does whatever he feels like doing, and with this album he has abandoned his late 60s sound and gone for a mix of beats and drones in creating a dark, danceable atmosphere. An interesting new direction for one of the most talented (and frustrating) artists in the business.
8. Shpongle - Tales Of The Inexpressable - Simon Posford and Raja Ram create some of the best electronic music around. This stuff is ear candy, and each track is a journey. If you like relaxing ambient stuff that tends to have a beat and also tends to take various twists and turns as it tickles the brain, this is your ticket. Thanks to my friend Rand for introducing me to Shpongle!
9. The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream - This band will take you right back to the 60s. A nice, dark, throbbing acid rock vibe. Nothing very technical going on with these guys... just lots of pounding, primitive drums and psychedelic guitars. "Telephone" is one of my favorite songs of 2010.
10. The National - High Violet - These guys just keep putting out good records. A great American rock band, with hints of folk and artiness throughout. No bombastic guitar solos here, and for these songs, such things aren't necessary as the songs carry themselves. I have seen them live at Sasquatch a couple of times, and they are wonderful live.
11. Robert Plant - Band of Joy - I forgot about this one, I love it, I had to include it. He has one of the best voices on the planet. His cover versions of two songs by Low (especially "Silver Rider") are amazing. Again, thanks to J. Marquis for getting me to hear this one!
12. Widespread Panic - Dirty Side Down - I tend to like this band's live material a lot better than what they do in the studio, but this is a great studio effort. Here they mix up rock, jazz and blues in a very nice way. Well worth the listen, and it will draw you in if you like Southern-flavored stuff. Thanks again to Rand on this one.
13. Minus The Bear - Omni - Very tight band, with a very focused sound. At times they are funky, at times they rock out, and they always have layers of different things going on, making for a very interesting listen! A Sasquatch band in 2010.
14. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record - Another typically busy-sounding mess of a BSS album, although this time the band has been stripped down to a core of about five or six people (instead of the usual 10 or 12!) Propulsive arrangements that churn around and make you want to dance! Also great at Sasquatch in 2010.
15. Massive Attack - Heligoland - Electronica, but with emotion. Very intense music, good lyrics, good vocalists they use. Their show at Sasquatch in 2010 was the best I saw all weekend.
16. Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart - This band from Vancouver, B.C. gets a great late Sixties and early Seventies vibe going at times. Excellent hard rock with a psychedelic edge.
17. Mojo - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - nice and relaxed, with a lot of the songs being done in very few takes. It's fun to hear this band stretch out and jam a bit! They're so good and have been at it for so long, they can pretty much do anything they want.
18. Dr. Dog - Shame Shame - This some of the best good-timey sit-on-the-porch-and-have-drinks rock and roll music I have heard in ages.
19. Belle And Sebastian - Write About Love - Stuart Murdoch and his friends are back after a hiatus with more somewhat precious geek-pop for librarians. Excellent melodies, good songwriting in general. The band continues to show maturation with each release!
20. Mogwai - Special Moves - A live recording of this ambient post-rock group from Scotland. If you like musical atmospheres, there are lots of them on this disc.
21. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding - I had never heard Superchunk prior to getting this CD on a whim. This is some of the best and most exuberant power-pop stuff I have heard in a long time.
22. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows - These guys aren't dead, they are just ripening beautifully with age. Beautiful songs, great vocal harmonies, some real jangle going on in here. "Sometimes I Don't Need To Believe In Anything" is one of the year's best songs, in my opinion.
23. Brian Eno - Small Craft On a Milk Sea - Another of modern music's "old masters" is back. There is a lot of quiet stuff on here ala "Music For Airports", but then there are some faster more intense numbers full of electronic spiders and scorpions, kind of akin to what he was doing on "Nerve Net". Lots of the usual genius on display.
24. School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire - While their first one "Alpinisms" was a bit lighter, the new one tends to be more beat-heavy. If My Bloody Valentine can't be together, this band may be the next best thing. There are some great propulsive tracks here, and the one called "I L U" is heartachingly beautiful. The DeHaza sisters have great voices, and ex-Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis work so well together... and take my word, if you have a chance to see them play live, don't miss them!
25. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor - Lots of rhythmic stuff here, good vocals, great arrangements.
26. The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night - I love this one. Lots of melodic noise, with nice singing and some excellent guitar solos. Ambient passages are interspersed among other beautiful passages of thick sound.
27. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul - Last album by the late Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse, features all kind of guest cameos on vocals and some good song arrangements and production.
28. Gavin Harrison - Circles - with help on vocals from collaborator O5RIC, the Porcupine Tree drummer gets into some heavy-duty prog rock. The drumming is amazing.
29. Philip Selway - Familial - solo effort by Radiohead's drummer is not what one would expect: it's mostly soft-sounding cerebral folk music! Selway shows he is a very capable songwriter. He doesn't do much drumming here, he leaves most of that up to Wilco's Glenn Kotche (and Wilco multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansome helps out a bit as well).
30. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms - I don't like it nearly as much as their two previous albums, but I still like it.
31. Soundtrack from The Kids Are All Right - This has a good collection of artists, including David Bowie, Tame Impala and Deerhoof. It plays quite nicely as a good "mix CD".
32. Mumford And Sons - Sigh No More - It's like a vocal quartet with a banjo thrown in, and then you add the bass, drums and acoustic/electric guitars. Very nice music, always melodic.
33. Broken Bells - Broken Bells - If you like James Mercer of The Shins and if you like Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), you will like this record. "The High Road" may be one of 2010's best songs.
34. Interpol - Interpol - They sound kind of sterile at times, kind of cranky here and there, sort of robotic, kind of angst-ridden... but I still love 'em. This is a step back in the right direction after their major-label dabbling with "Our Love To Admire" (Capitol Records). It's like a mix of that album plus their second one, "Antics". I still like their debut album from 2002, "Turn On The Bright Lights" the best, and sadly all their output will always be measured by that album. But their later ones have merit, and shouldn't be ignored because their energy is different than that of their first one.
35. Boston Spaceships - Our Cubehouse Still Rocks - As long as Robert Pollard is alive, he will probably release at least a half dozen albums each year. This time around with the Spaceships he is as much into the melodic power-pop/rock faux British invasion styles as ever. It's not as refined or polished as it could be, but Pollard usually never is. He simply ROCKS.
36. Stone Temple Pilots - Stone Temple Pilots - Nice reunion album, the first and last tracks are gems. They get into some sort-of Beatlesque moments here and there, very poppish, almost psychedelic in places. It's a very derivative album (their own material as well as the material of others, but it is nonetheless a well-crafted and very creative album.
37. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening - Like him or not, James Murphy is into creating some of the best danceable party music around. And at the same time you can jump around to this album, it's also fairly arty.
38. MGMT - Congratulations - This time around, the kids stretch out and do some things that are a bit more experimental than on their first album. The track "Brian Eno" is a highlight for me.
39. Spoon - Transference - This is my favorite Spoon album to date. While I have not been enthused about their earlier releases, and while I have not understood the appeal of the band to this point, I think I am beginning to get it. Britt Daniels is pretty good.
40. Royskopp - Senior - My favorite of theirs will always be "A.M.", but this one is also great "chill music". I find their electronica to be some of the most relaxing kind.
41. The Walkmen - Lisbon - Having been somewhat disappointed with their releases since "Bows + Arrows" back at the beginning of the decade, I was pleasantly surprised with this one. I like Hamilton Leithauser's voice, and the sparse arrangements on these songs seem to fit the material nicely.
42. We Have Band - WHB - Echoes of Men Without Hats, but in a positive way. There are some dreamier, ambient kinds of moments here, as well as some synthy dance moments. It's fun stuff!
43. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Grace sings like a cross between Joan Jett and Janis Joplin, and she has a crack band of musicians that create a Sixties-and-Seventies era vibe. And this is all a good thing!
44. Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago - Not as good as either "Palo Santo" (2006) or "Rook" (2010), but still makes me glad this mellow band has continued to do its thing, and that singer Jonathan Meiburg broke away from Okkervil River to do Shearwater.
45. Midlake - The Courage Of Others - A quieter and more melancholy record than their previous release, this one is still very good.
46. Heart - Red Velvet Car - A very solid effort, and if you like Heart (as I tend to) you will like this a lot.
47. Kings Of Leon - Come Around Sundown - "Beach Side" is my favorite song of theirs, ever. "Radioactive" and "Pickup Truck" are also pretty cool. I am gradually beginning to understand their appeal a bit.
48. Robert Randolph and the Family Band - We Walk This Road - I don't like it as much as I liked "Colorblind" (2006) but it's still good! He is a virtuoso on the Sacred Steel.
49. Wolf Parade - Expo 86 - This has taken me a couple of listens, but the more I listen to it the more I look forward to hearing them at Sasquatch in May.
50. And the honorable mention group:
Portugal. The Man - American Ghetto - They need to write some different songs. What they do is magnificent, but it seems they recycle the same two or three songs over and over.
Yeasayer - Odd Blood - "Madder Red" is one of my favorite songs of the year. I didn't care for the rest of the album as much.
Grinderman - Grinderman 2 - I am deciding I like the more delicate and intricate Nick Cave (like on his recent albums with the Bad Seeds) than the caterwauling, violent Nick Cave (as heard here... it's almost like this is a modernized version of his old band The Birthday Party in places!) There are a few good grinding tracks on here, but to listen to it from start to finish is something I find tough.
Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard - I just didn't like it.
AND FINALLY, my "discoveries of the year". I like to mention artists I had not heard or heard much of prior to 2010.
Jets Overhead - Two gals and three guys from Victoria, BC... they are wonderful. They play mostly mid-tempo melodic pop/rock music, and they are very good live.
Ween - Whoa! What a revelation. What else is there to say? They can play whatever they want, in whatever style they want. And often times they can do it with a sense of humor.
Atlas Sound - pleasant stuff, would have been this year's list but it was from 2009.
Phoenix - I thoroughly enjoyed the "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" CD.
Dr. Dog - See blurb about "Shame Shame" above.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros = sunny happy hippie fun!
Portugal. The Man - Almost could have been at home in the early 70s.
Darker My Love - Their first two albums are very good.
AND MY RE-DISCOVERY OF 2010:
RUSH! (the band, not the radio talker!!)
Glad I got to go see them with J. Marquis at the White River Amphitheater... they are fabulous.