It’s near impossible to pick one top album with the massive amount of music I listened to this year but I thought I’d try to at least give you an idea of what you should grab this year before we start anew.
20. Chief – Modern Rituals
Chief’s Modern Rituals was 11 fantastic shimmering, melodic songs that will tear through emotions, and rock your heart out. Chief has found a way inside with lovelorn lyrics, and an expansive insight into desperation. The album is full of tales of disappointment, loneliness and languishing over love.
Hear it: Your Direction
19. Dinosaur Feathers – Fantasy Memorial
Dinosaur Feathers’ Fantasy Memorial was a shockingly fun album. Its 50’s / 60’s styled pop music was a blast to listen to and they proved to be fantastic at creating multi-layered melodic pop music that was fun to listen to.
Hear: Family Waves
18. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
Band of Horses’ Infinite Arms took a long time for me to begin to love it, but once I did, I found it to be one of the most robust and beautiful, epic albums of the year. What they did so perfectly was to create well written, mid-tempo songs that are as beautiful as they are intricate.
17. Joe Pug – Messenger
Joe Pug’s debut album, Messenger, was a long time coming; after releasing multiple EP’s and traveling the country, Joe finally recorded a full album. It was something to fall in love with; his brand of folk / americana was honest, well natured, wonderfully written and beautifully played.
Hear: The Sharpest Crown
16. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Vampire Weekend brought their sophomore album to us in 2010 and it was certainly one to remember. A second round of their afro-pop indie rock warmed us up in the winter weeks it debuted. Their lighthearted sound, african beats and quirky lyrics could possibly make Paul Simon happy.
15. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Frightened Rabbit has quickly become one of my favorite acts out there; and this album was absurdly fantastic. This was a post post-breakup album with bombastic epic songs about loneliness, misery and rebirth.
14. The Black Keys – Brothers
The Black Keys do it again and again and again. Their dirty blues rock style is cleaned up in the studio these days, but they still rock just as hard, and nowadays their songwriting and musicianship is that much better. For a duo, I’m not sure anyone can top what Dan and Patrick do.
Hear: Tighten Up
13. Delta Spirit – History From Below
The long awaited followup to Delta Spirit’s Ode to Sunshine released this year. They toured this album relentlessly and for good reason; this album is so full of soulful rock that’s energetic, inspiring, and just an absolute blast to listen to.
Hear: Bushwick Blues
12. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Let it Sway
Let it Sway was SSLYBY third studio album the third album I’d listened to of theirs, and by far my absolute favorite. They have really found themselves to be great at making catchy indie/pop rock and on this album there’s a great blend of uplifting, anthemic songs and the melodramatic.
Hear: Back in the Saddle
11. J. Roddy Walston & The Business – Self Title
Total Rock & Roll Renaissance. They play rock music the way it was intended, loose and fast, wild and crazy. Often upbeat and super catchy, this rock music is based on fantastic musicianship driven by piano and huge guitar solos.
Hear: Don’t Break the Needle
10. The Morning Benders – Big Echo
This album was so damn good. The songs by Chris Chu, are some of the best songs written in this calendar year. ‘Excuses,’ is one of the sweetest pop-rock songs we heard this year. Put together with one of the best opening 4 tracks on an album, this was a huge contender for my attention this year.
9. Suckers – Wild Smile
Suckers debut album Wild Smile was one of my favorites. I liked it so much, I saw these guys live 3 times this year. This Brooklyn troupe offer unpredictable music fare that ranges from shimmering guitar songs to erratic, wild gang-melody driven experiments. This album is just plain fun to listen to.
Hear: It Gets Your Body Movin’
8. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
Local Natives came out of nowhere with this gem. The ability to create beautiful harmonies, and wonderful visuals thru songwriting and music made this one of my absolute favorites to listen to. Seeing them live after SXSW was one of my favorite shows of the year.
7. Menomena – Mines
Mines feels like an album as schizophrenic as some of Menomena’s music appears to sound. But this is what makes this sound so special, so different from what you’re used to hearing. They can go from a raucous guitar tearing song to balladry to a darker melancholy feel. All was present on this great album.
6. Jukebox the Ghost – Everything Under the Sun
Its high spirited, fun loving, and a whole bunch of other positive 2 word descriptors. The lead single, Empire, is in my opinion the best pop song of the year. The whole album is filled with addictive pop tracks that will be stuck in your head after just one listen.
5. Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
As well as sharing a birthdate with me, Kristian Mattson shared with us a fantastic album in the Wild Hunt. His acoustic folk blend and his trademark raspy voice made this an absolute favorite of mine. His words are sincere and his playing is simplistic and beautiful.
Hear: King Of Spain
4. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Mumford & Sons exploded this year and for good reason. Their album, Sigh No More is littered with explosive tracks. Although the music is formulaic, that does not detract from just how awesome they are, great songwriting and music that will pound you to submission how could you not love it?
Hear: Little Lion Man
3. Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love
The Isobell-less Belle and Sebastian proved to still be great. Stuart Murdoch is still writing fantastic pop gems. What’s not to like. This album is full of mod inspired 70s pop songs that are growers. Repetition makes this album that much better.
Hear: Write About Love
2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Arcade Fire hit another home run with their 3rd album. They make grand statements with their music. A grandiose album with an epic and haunting mood. The music and writing is so ambitious it was so fantastic to see it follow through into a beautiful album.
1a. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
The 6th proper album from Sufjan Stevens flips the script on what you think a sufjan album should be. Gone are the locales, and historical references, gone are the banjos. Whats left? A moody electronics, deep bass and drums album that is beautiful, epic and truly just electronic orchestral arrangements.
Hear: Too Much
1. Blake Mills – Break Mirrors
Break Mirrors, the debut for Blake Mills, former member of Simon Dawes (what is now Dawes) is a fantastic way to create an album. The craftsmanship, talen, songwriting and musicianship on this album is outstanding. What is more outstanding is throughout all of this, Mills bests seasoned musicians and songwriters at a mere age of 23. This album has everything you could possibly want; exploratory guitar tracks, introspective and sometimes comical writing. Standout tracks to me are the hilariously written ‘Hey, Lover,’ ‘Hiroshima’ which has a great shredding guitar solo (you’ll be surprised) and the album opening ‘Cheers’ which was on my list for best album track ones. It’s hard to find any weakspots on this album (other than its only 30min long) and I think it deservedly sits atop my list of the year.
Hear: Hey Lover
My entire list in no specific order:
- Blake Mills – Break Mirrors
- Arcade Fire – the Suburbs
- Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
- Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
- Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
- Jukebox the Ghost – Everything Under the Sun
- Menomena – Mines
- Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
- Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
- Suckers – Wild Smile
- Dinosaur Feathers – Fantasy Memorial
- Vampire Weekend – Contra
- Joe Pug – Messenger
- Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Let It Sway
- The Morning Benders – Big Echo
- Delta Spirit – History From Below
- Black Keys – Brothers
- J Roddy Walst & the Business – J Roddy Walston & the Business
- Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
- Junip – Fields
- Maps & Atlases – Perch Patchwork
- Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
- Michael Trent – The Winner
- Chief – Modern Rituals
- Broken Bells – Broken Bells
- Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void
- Eli Paperboy Reed – Come & Get It
- The New Pornographers – Together
- Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
- Mt. Desolation – Mt. Desolation
- She & Him – Volume 2
- Free Energy – Free Energy
- Horse Feathers – Thistled Spring
- Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
- Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
- Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
- Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
- Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
- Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Mojo
- Pink Grafitti – Secret Cities