Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top Ten Albums of 2010

OK, it's that time of year again. Time for the Top Ten Albums of 2010. Look for future posts including the entirety of the Madison Institute of Musicologists individual lists, as well as an expanded reissue of mine with more coverage.

Here it is:

TIM SPEAKER – Madison Institute of Musicologist Top Ten Night Official Ballot

10. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

The best Bowie album since Heroes.

09. Lower Dens – Twin-Hand Movement

Quiet and slow burning. Really came out of nowhere at the end of the year.

08. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat the Devil’s Tattoo

This album hung in my top five for most of the year. A fist-full of dirty, bluesy, trippy rock n roll songs. Great live sounding production; New drummer provides drive to their most focused and coherent album yet.

07. The Black Ryder – Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

Out of the ashes of The Morning After Girls comes this killer shoegaze record from Australia. Featuring members of Swervedriver, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Black Rebel Motorcycle club, the album sounds a bit like those bands, Slowdive, and Mazzy Star too. Woozy, gauzy, soulful anthems for the morning after. Love love love this record.

06. Crocodiles – Sleep Forever

I liked their first album, but this was a huge leap forward. Shoegaze, BritPop, New Wave, Psych, Garage, etc. plus Jesus and Mary Chain, Spiritualized…from San Diego! So, so hard to leave this out of my top five. Addictive stuff.

05. The Walkmen – Lisbon

An album of the year contender: this breezy, sunny (in the best sense of the term) record was a perfect late summer/early fall time of the year. While not quite as emotionally impactful as You and Me, the superb songwriting, authentic production (can you name any records that sound better than this this year?) and unique vocals give The Walkmen their second 4-star plus album. Beautiful.

04. The Black Keys – Brothers

The album that grew and grew for me as the year went on. Lots of stuff I grew up on are here – blues, soul, r&b, Motown, 60’s pop, garage, psych – wrapped in terrific songwriting. A record I predict will stand the test of time.

03. The National – High Violet

Their seems to be two types of National songs for me: ones I fall in love with immediately, and those I have initial difficulty connecting to, then as time goes on I find my place in. If every other National album sets the precedent, I will be even more into this album this time next year. Half the album – Terrible Love, Bloodbuzz Ohio, England, Conversation 16, Runaway, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks – might have been the best songs written by anyone this year. BTW - I wrote this previous to the release of the Extended Edition.

SIDE NOTE: Had Anyone’s Ghost, Little Faith, and Afraid of Everyone been replaced by You Were A Kindness (so, so, so good), Sin Eaters, Wake Up Your Saints, and the Alternate Version of Terrible Love (a million times better than the original album version) been the running order, the original edition would win my Album of the Year hands down.

02. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

An album about growing up in Saginaw, MI – by someone who has never been there (presumably). You know what? It’s about time that someone has written an American rock n roll album that hits all the right influences – Springsteen, The Clash, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, The Mats, etc. - just to name a few. I can’t imagine they’ve sold a single record in LA, or Miami, or Las Vegas. Straight ahead songwriting that I connect to at the most base level of my existence – a whole album that “feels” like Springsteen’s Bobby Jean – or, what it is like to suddenly be this old. An album I will be listening to in 20 years time. The best compliment I can give this: it’s an album rather than a collection of songs.

SIDE NOTE: I saw them with The Hold Steady in Detroit in July, which has to be the best time/place to see either Gaslight or Hold Steady. One of the best shows I have seen in years.

01. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

An epic, double-album length, fairly-filler-free masterpiece. Again.

THE NEXT FIVE – Just Missed The Cut…

05. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

A real psych-freak out record that sounds like it was recorded in 1967. Weird, dark, live sounding stuff.

04. Grinderman – Grinderman 2

Is Nick Cave the most underrated man in rock? I don’t know, but one thing is for sure – he has put out as much good stuff in the past five years than any single artist. Think about it.

03. Beach House – Teen Dream

An album I really like, but never fell totally in love with. Solid.

02. The Red Pens – Reasons

I first heard this on the radio in Minnepolis in June and had to wait in the car until the DJ gave the song title (Blue Lighter). If I was to start a new band, I’d want to sound like this.

01. Zola Jesus – Stridulum / Valusia EP’s

Confession: there has always been a pasty, cemetery-at-night loving goth kid hidden away inside me. And this appeals to my Cure loving heart.

SONG of the YEAR

Hearts of Love, Crocodiles

The best chorus this side of Noel Gallagher.


Songs The Lord Taught Us, The Cramps

Killer, old school rockabilly, punk record that pretty much invented the Psychobilly genre. I have a deep, deep, deep love of rockabilly and 50’s rock n roll, and this touches all the right bases.