Song - Artist - Album
Blues to Elvin - John Coltrane - The Heavyweight Champion
I spend an unhealthy amount of time in the last few months of every year pondering which albums are going to make my top 10 list come December. (Have I mentioned that I really enjoy making lists like these?) After a lot of debating with myself and listening to albums on repeat for multiple days, I have settled on my list, which I went through on my radio show on December 18th. And if your favorite of the year isn't on here, no need to fret! I will be hosting a special 3-hour show this week to ring in 2011 as I am filling in for Nick, beginning at 10pm on New Years Eve and ending at 1am in the wee hours of New Years Day. All other good music that I didn't play on my first best of 2010 show will be played on this one. I'll be bringing some tunes, some friends, my guitar, and a bag of confetti. It'll be good.
The #10 spot on my countdown this year is non-existent. I did this a few years ago as well, and I have a pretty good reason for it: every year, at least one really good album will come out that I either don’t give a good listen through at first or I just don’t discover it at all until a couple years later and regret not finding out about it sooner. By keeping #10 blank, I can fill that in with whatever album is not in my top nine that I find myself playing a lot in years to come. As you read through my list and perhaps think of an album that you feel is worthy but is not on my list, feel free to fill in the blank for yourself.
9. Sundowner We Chase the Waves (Asian Man)
Chris McCaughan of The Lawrence Arms returned this year with the follow up to his 2007 debut album Four One Five Two, which was released on Red Scare Records. Absent this time around is Jenny Choi, who provided back-up vocals and violin on Sundowner’s first album, though Lawrence Arms and Smoking Popes drummer Neil Hennessey supplied backing vocals and acoustic bass on both albums. We Chase the Waves is a half hour worth of well-written sing-a-long acoustic songs about life, the sea, and baseball, and while it keeps the listener intrigued through each of its ten tracks, it doesn’t have the instant “hit-worthy” songs that exist on Four One Five Two. All in all, it’s a good album and worth a listen if you’re a fan of The Lawrence Arms or good acoustic music in general. Hopefully now that McCaughan has two solo albums out, the Larry Arms can record a new full length.
8. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists The Brutalist Bricks (Matador)
The Brutalist Bricks is Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ sixth album, and is one that really grew on me over the course of the year. There are no surprises on the record, as it the standard, catchy as hell punk-infused rock-n-roll that Ted Leo is known for, but this one is perhaps easier to get into than some of his previous albums. Tracks like “The Mighty Sparrow” and “Bottled in Cork” will make you want to keep this album on repeat for a while, and all of these songs are also absolutely amazing live.
7. Defiance, Ohio Midwestern Minutes (No Idea)
Defiance, Ohio is a band that continuously gets better with each record, and their fourth full-length, Midwestern Minutes, is no exception. A couple tracks from this album were previously released in 2009 on their Songs for the Icarus Project EP, but they fit in with the rest of Midwestern Minutes quite nicely, and there is a good balance of faster, in your face songs such as “Dissimilarity Index” with slow tracks like closer “Everyone Else on the Other Side.” Defiance, Ohio is the quintessential folk punk band, and this record helps prove that. I can’t help but listen to it on repeat and wish I was at a bonfire surrounded by people with guitars and fiddles and making beautiful songs like the ones on Midwestern Minutes.
6. Paul Baribeau Unbearable (self-released)
Paul Baribeau’s third album Unbearable is noticeably more polished than his first two records, but the ten songs are still undoubtedly his own. Clocking in at only twenty-four minutes, Unbearable is an album of honest music, which is what I love so much about Paul Baribeau. His songs are simple, both in terms of music and lyrics, but are extremely heart-felt tales of unrequited love or love lost. Several of the songs on this album were released in more raw recordings prior to the record coming out, however that does not diminish the quality of Unbearable at all; one of the repeat tracks, “Rolling Clouds,” is actually my favorite Paul Baribeau song. If you have never listened to Baribeau before, I would recommend starting out with this record.
5. Envy Recitation (Temporary Residence)
Simply put, Recitation is an absolutely beautiful album. I’m a sucker for a good hardcore band, and Japan’s Envy not only writes really good hardcore/screamo songs, but they also incorporate aspects of post-rock into their music. The end result is probably the most epic hour of music that has been released all year. There is something for everyone on this album, ranging from straightforward hardcore tracks for those with a short attention span to drawn-out, noodling guitar riffs, including Christmas carol motifs throughout the third track, “Rain Clouds Running in a Holy Night.” Envy has been making music for almost two decades now, and with the release of Recitation they have proven that they are one of the most important hardcore bands around today, and they pretty much put most American hardcore bands to shame.
4. Minus the Bear Omni (Dangerbird)
Minus the Bear is one of my favorite bands, if not my all-time favorite, and it is no surprise that if they are releasing a new album, it will most likely appear on my favorite albums of the year list. However, Omni, their fourth full-length and first on Dangerbird Records, received a lot of mixed reviews, including an embarrassing 3.5/10 rating on Pitchfork. The reasons for Omni’s negative press are quite obvious, however they are the reasons why I love this album so much. Minus the Bear is known for their complex, math rock song structures, Dave Knudson’s finger tapping guitar technique along with his impressive collection of pedals, and lyrics that are mostly about drinking. Omni on the other hand, is an album of mostly stripped down songs, simple guitar chords, and Jake Snyder singing exclusively about sex. As a band who is extremely talented and have already proven on their first three records that they are capable of taking rock music to a whole new level, I appreciate the simplicity of Omni and I really like that they are able to successfully write simple songs as well as complex. The seventh track on this album, “Into the Mirror,” is one of my favorite Minus the Bear songs.
3. Titus Andronicus The Monitor (XL)
This was my most anticipated album of the year, and it definitely lived up to my expectations. If 2008’s The Airing of Grievances was any indication that Titus Andronicus means business, then The Monitor completely confirms that. It’s a concept album about the Civil War, written by a bunch of people barely older than I am. I can play these songs over and over again for days and never get sick of them. They also reference my favorite highway (the Merritt Parkway) in the opening track, “A More Perfect Union.” I said this after their first album was released as well, but it is just so refreshing to hear a good punk band from New Jersey that doesn’t sound like every other punk band from New Jersey, and I hope Titus Andronicus continues to amaze me in years to come.
2. LCD Soundsystem This is Happening (Virgin/DFA)
This is Happening is the third (and possibly last) album from LCD Soundsystem, and definitely the best. Though I have listened to James Murphy’s electronic/dance outfit numerous times, I didn’t truly call myself an LCD Soundsystem fan until the release of This is Happening this past spring. This is by far my most-listened to album of 2010. Some tracks took a little longer to grow on me, such as the nine-minute “You Wanted a Hit” which takes a while to build, while others became instant favorites like “I Can Change” and “Drunk Girls,” but after listening to this album what feels like a million times, I love every track the same. A lot of the songs seem to revolve around a heartbroken theme, but the album is not in the least bit sad. This was my feel-good record of the year, and I expect that I’ll still be playing it quite a bit in 2011 as well.
1. The Tallest Man on Earth The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)
Kristian Matsson, better known as The Tallest Man on Earth, released his second album in April, and between the time it came out and the end of the year (now), I have been listening to it like it is my job. Matsson gets a lot of comparisons to Bob Dylan, which is understandable, but I actually think The Tallest Man on Earth is better. The album is solely guitar, raspy vocals, and at times a banjo or piano, but throughout each of The Wild Hunt’s ten tracks, it never feels as though the music is lacking anything. Matsson is able to create so much drama and tension with just his voice and guitar, which is emphasized even more in his live performances. The seventh track, “Love is All,” is by far the best part of the album, and I just absolutely love the rawness and honesty of the song, especially when Matsson gets to the line, “Love is all from what I’ve heard but my heart’s learned to kill.” Thank you Kristian for this beautiful music; I would have never made it through 2010 without this album.