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2010 Sound-Off: The best albums of 2010

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2010 has come and gone and while we weren't here writing for the entirety of it some of us were definitely listening. As we prepare for the coming year, and all the badassery it holds [I totally have dibs on new Decemberists and new GaGa - Xzyliac], a few of us thought it'd be worth it to reflect on some of our favorites in 2010. Read on as vApathyv, Xzyliac, and newcomer Crackity Jones share what they considered to be the highlights of the year. Who knows, maybe you'll find something you missed.

Crackity Jones’ 5 Favorites of 2010



Album: The Age of Adz
Artist: Sufjan Stevens
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Released: October 12, 2010
Genre: Electronica
*Sub-genres: Art Rock
Sounds like: Sufjan dropped some Acid

Well, well, well look what the cat dragged in. It's been far too long since we had a proper Sufjan Stevens album come out. Not only did Sufjan give us a brand new album but we also got a brand new hour long EP. Before some of you get too excited you need to know that this album is very different than Sufjan's previous albums. Sufjan does a lot of experimenting here and throws around some hip-hop beats and even makes use of the infamous auto-tune. I think the most amazing thing Sufjan did with this album was put in a 25 minuet long song. Yeah, that’s right, a 25 minuet long song. It's called Impossible Soul and he totally played it live when I saw him in Kansas City a month or two ago. Sufjan is a brilliant song writer and it's so good to have him back. I look forward to his next move.

Personal favorite tracks: Impossible Soul (pt. 1) , Impossible Soul (pt. 2) , Too Much



Album: One Life Stand
Artist: Hot Chip
Label: EMI
Released: February 1, 2010
Genre: Electronica
Sounds like: Dancing

Hot Chip is one of the most fun bands you will find on the scene today. Hot Chip is a electronica band that is headed up by the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of the electronica scene. This album is a bit more serious than some of their previous works and feels much warmer. The album is very soulful and as the title suggests its more about love than it is dancing or just having a fun time. Despite all of that the album still has its fun moments, it's just that this album is a bit different than some of their previous albums, and that, is not a bad thing at all. Hot Chip is here to stay and will continue putting out amazing album after amazing album and manage to still find time to release some remixs here and there.

Personal favorite tracks: I Feel Better, Hand Me Down Your Love, Brothers



Album: The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964
Artist: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia Records
Released: October 19, 2010
Genre: Folk
Sounds like: Bob Dylan in his prime

I may get some flack for this since most of these songs were already available and it's just a collection of old recordings and some bootlegs. However, this is a list of MY favorite albums from this year so it stays on the list, and not only does it stay on the list, it stays on the list at number 3! Bob Dylan is easily one of the most brilliant musicians of our time. He writes some of the most touching and heartfelt songs out there. He is also responsible for the best protest songs ever made and other political songs. The Witmark Demos is a collection of Dylan songs from the 60's, with this you're getting Dylan, his acoustic guitar, and his harmonica, that's it. You've probably heard a lot of the songs featured here but you may have not heard the version found on here. There are also some Dylan songs that just never ended up on an album for whatever reason. I just keep coming back and back to this set of songs this year. May Bob Dylan live forever!

Personal favorite tracks: I'd Sure Hate To Be You On That Dreadful Day, Don't Think Twice, It's All Right, Man On The Street



Album: Plastic Beach
Artist: Gorillaz
Label: Parlophone, Virgin
Released: March 3, 2010
Genre: Alternative
*Sub-genres: Hip-Hop
Sounds like: A cartoon band getting together with all their friends and making a stellar album

I'm happy, I'm feeling glad, all because the Gorillaz are back! 2010 saw the release of the brand new Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach. 2D, Murdoc, Noodle, and Hobbs are back to rock your house! They also brought a lot more friends to the party than thy usually do. This album has guest appearances from Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Lou Reed along with a few others. In case you just awakened from your coma the Gorillaz are what are known as alternative hip-hop, they aren't quite an alt. rock band and they aren't really rap. One thing I love about the Gorillaz is they are one of those bands that almost everyone seems to like, it's nice when a band like that comes a long. If you haven't seen it I would suggest you look up the Stylo music video as it has Bruce Willis in it and its a great song.

Fun Fact: Their new album that was just released, The Fall, has a song written in my hometown, The Joplin Spider

Personal favorite tracks: Superfast Jellyfish, On Melancholy Hill, Some Kind of Nature



Album: The Suburbs
Artist: Arcade Fire
Label: Merge
Released: August 2, 2010
Genre: Indie Rock
Sounds like: Hipster Heaven

Actually I wasn't all that impressed with this album the first few times I listened to it, but like a lot of my favorite albums it took a little bit of time to grow on me. Now that this album has grown on me I really think its a brilliant piece of music that you'll be hard pressed to top with anything else that came out in 2010. Arcade Fire are from Canada and have quickly rose to the ranks to become one of the most adored indie rock bands in the business today. They have a large sound and tend to use a lot of strings and some horns on occasion. They write about how the world today is, and how they view it. Understandably a lot of those songs are not the most bright uplifting songs out there. Even though a lot of their songs are kind of depressing when you break em down they are still absolutely beautiful. The Suburbs marks another evolution in the bands career and another step on the ladder to world domination. If you are a recent convert to the Arcade Fire way of life then I only have one piece of advice for you, GO LISTEN TO FUNERAL RIGHT NOW! LIKE RIGHT FREAKING NOW!!!

Personal favorite tracks: Modern Man, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains, The Suburbs

TL;DR: 2010 was an amazing year for music, GO SPEND MONEY ON MUSIC!!!

- Crackity Jones

I also posted my Top 50 albums of 2010 over on my blog, Buzz McFlamethrower

vApathyv’s Favorite 5 of 2010

2010 was a bit of a whirlwind year for me. For starters, I finally got to meet a group of people I could openly gush about music with, and the fact that we're still goin' on is fanfuckingtastic. Musically there was still plenty of eye-openers for me as well, like me finally getting to pick up the drums on a regular basis, jamming live with my uncle's band because their singer couldn't make it (A highlight of my year actually), and of course, a shitload of awesome albums by awesome people. But enough intro, let's get goin'.



Album: Ironiclast
Artist: The Damned Things
Label: Mercury Records
Released: December 14, 2010
Genre: Hard Rock
Sub-genres Metal, 70's/80's-esque metal especially. A bit of Southern Metal too.
Sounds like: Fucking Rock N' Roll man!

Hey, I just reviewed that album, how could it possibly show up in my best of already? BECAUSE IT'S THAT GOOD. Seriously, if you're the slightest fan of the days of old, when bands like Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, and good 'ole Led Zeppelin dominated the rock and metal scenes, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. They take the hallmark sounds of yesteryear and sprinkle a little of their own modern influences into the mix to stir up something that's just sheer rock n' roll perfection. This has fast become my party album of choice (Sorry Andrew W.K).

And I couldn't go without mentioning just how talented each member is...yes, two of the members are from Fall Out Boy and you probably hate that. Well, fuck you. A 'clever' reason to dislike something deserves just as clever a response. But we can't fail to mention the awesome shred cred brought from members of Anthrax, and of course, two of the boys from Every Time I Die, one of my favorite groups out there right now. I've said it on many occasions that anything Keith Buckley lends his talents to, I'll follow. The man is simply put one of the greatest vocalists I've ever seen in a band, a man who has been called a “Master of all forms of screaming”, and just so happens to have a great singing voice as well. I don't want to make it sound like the entirety of the band's greatness rests on his laurels (Because it definitely does NOT), but it would be missing a lot if he wasn't around.

Personal favorite tracks: Friday Night (Going Down In Flames), We've Got A Situation Here, Handbook For The Recently Deceased

TL;DR: I already told you man, it rocks!



Album: Stone Temple Pilots
Artist: Stone Temple Pilots
Label: Atlantic Records
Released: May 21, 2010
Genre: Rock
Sub-genres Alt-rock, and some of their grunge influences still show from time to time.
Sounds like: Another great, pure rock n' roll revival from a group most of us never expected to be relevant again.

I don't know if you guys ever gathered, but I'm actually quite a big fan of the 90's era of music. Stone Temple Pilots was probably one of my favorites out of that era, and they've kinda been around for a lot of things in my life. They were the first CD I ever got (A greatest hits compilation). They were the first vinyl I ever bought (Core). First Guitar Hero song I ever played (Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart). How I met my current girlfriend (Over two years ago, playing Sex Type Thing in Rock Band at Otakon '08). So...call me biased, but I kinda already figured I'd like this album before it came out.

...But I didn't think I'd like it this much. This album exists as a solid reminder that, 18 years later, STP is still more than capable of putting out something great. Drawing heavily from 60's and 70's country and rock influences, they manage to somehow sound different and yet still sound just like they've always sounded all at once. And of course, Scott Weiland can still make his voice sound all kinds of varied, even when he's fresh out of rehab. That's not to say the rest of the band can't keep up- The DeLeo brothers are just as sharp as they've ever been, perhaps moreso, and drummer Eric Kretz is still able to remind me why he was one of my favorite drummers of the era, even if they've kinda left their more heavier and grungy sound behind. Still, the fact of the matter is, Stone Temple Pilots is still around, and they still rock. At this rate, they may just become the next Aerosmith.

Personal favorite tracks: Take A Load Off, Hazy Daze, Fast As I Can

tl;dr: STP still exists, and they're still great.



Album: 4x4=12
Artist: deadmau5
Label: mau5trap/Ultra Records
Released: December 6, 2010
Genre: Dance
Sub-genres Practically ever other applicable genre of electronic music.
Sounds like: deadmau5 dun did it again y'all.

This year, I found myself in a perplexing state of affairs. New albums by Daft Punk, Pendulum, AND deadmau5? Three of my favorite electronic acts out there? Hell, if that new Justice album wasn't hitting 'til next year I'd be in heaven right now. But, while Daft Punk threw out an excellent movie score, and Pendulum brought the beautiful fury I've always loved them for, I have to give deadmau5 the nod for this one. If there's one thing Mr. Joel Zimmerman will always be good at (Aside from having an adorable cat, running a Minecraft server, and being one of the most internet-conscious, down to earth people in the music business), it's making great beats.

And of course, this album does not disappoint either. Continuing his tradition of making albums with an almost zen-like flow to them, you could probably put this on at a party and let it play all the way through and nobody would even know there's no DJ playing. Deadmau5 has always been the type of artist who's CDs almost sound like a live performance on their own simply because of how well everything syncs up. But aside from that, you'll see a bit more on the fast-paced side then you'd expect. Tracks like Sofi Needs A Ladder and One Trick Pony are certified club bangers, and I'd be surprised if Some Chords didn't show up in future DJ's rave playlists throughout the world. Simply put, deadmau5 is still proving he's one of the greats.

Personal favorite tracks: Some Chords, Sofi Needs A Ladder, One Trick Pony

tl;dr: deadmau5 keeps the party going. Again.



Album: Sigh No More
Artist: Mumford & Sons
Label: Glassnote Records
Released: February 16, 2010
Genre: Folk
Sub-genres More folk
Sounds like: Something I never expected to like.

Funny story- I've never liked folk. Aside from my boys Against Me!, with their crazy folk-punk ways, I've pretty much stayed away from the genre. Yet, I heard a song on the radio last night. It caught my attention because the radio DJ, before playing the song, was like “So, this next song I'm about to play, it's not a popular song. It's not a radio hit, it's not really requested by anyone, and it's only barely something our format can play. But I'm going to play it anyways.” And a song called Little Lion Man by an English Folk quartet called Mumford & Sons plays, and I'm floored. I go home, get the album, and fell in love instantly. There was so much emotion pouring out of these songs that I was captivated, and it wound up leaving such a mark on me that I HAD to put it up here (Sorry My Chemical Romance, you were still a pretty good album).

The way they manage to weave literary references (Expect a lot of Shakespeare and Steinbeck from their lyrics) into their own talented instrumentation (All four of them are multi-instrumentalists, none of them really stick to one instrument, even during live shows) is captivating, not to mention the subtle way it can rattle at you in both the best and worst situations. Few songs capture that feeling better than Thistle & Weeds. Starting out as a slow, silent affair, it eventually catapults into an explosion of intensity and emotion, before suddenly collapsing into the silent state it met you in. I tell people many times that music tends to rattle me from an emotional level, much more than most people...I'm a bit of a sap like that. But I don't think I've ever felt, FELT, such a feeling from music before this album.

Personal favorite tracks: Thistle & Weeds, The Cave, Little Lion Man (live)

tl;dr: Beautiful. Simply beautiful.



Album: White Crosses
Artist: Against Me!
Label: Sire Records
Released: June 8, 2010
Genre: Alt-rock
Sub-genres Still has a bit of punk and folk left in it.
Sounds like: A great album through and through.

Man, did I give this album a hard time when it came out. Sure, I liked it, I love Against Me!. They're one of my favorite bands. But I always held it in such harsh regards simply because it didn't sound like the Against Me! that I fell in love with, that it was just too different from the frantic punk-folk ballads of old. Well, bands change over time. And you know what? I still can't stop listening to this album. It doesn't matter that it isn't the same...hell, if anything, it actually benefits from not being the same. It's still an excellent album by one of my favorite bands. And not only that but, even if the delivery is a bit different, the parts that matter are still there in spades.

For starters- Tommy Gabel is still capable of putting every last ounce of passion he can into his songs, and in his singing. The rousing “Do, you remember? When we were young and we wanted to set the world on fire?” chorus from I Was A Teenage Anarchist is powerful in all the right ways, and the standard backing vocals are still there in whole. But perhaps the most important part? They're still just four guys, four really, really unglamorous individuals, having the time of their lives. These aren't a bunch of amazingly attractive rock star guys with gallons of make-up or mysterious guitar virtuosos. It's just some dudes from Gainesville, Florida that got their start playing shows in people's basements. And while the venue may have changed over the years, the band has not- this is still Against Me!. And above all else, that is the only thing that matters.

Personal favorite tracks: I Was A Teenage Anarchist, Rapid Decompression, High Pressure Low

tl;dr:I gave this album too much shit when it came out. If only I had realized how awesome it really was.

-vApathyv

Xzyliac’s Favorite 5 of 2010

In 2009, for me anyway, it was all about pop. Pop was surprisingly good in 2009 with quite a few surprises, and the release of my all time favorite album La Roux. In 2010 however, it seemed my favorites took a turn for the more...obscure. Admittedly not terribly obscure, it doesn't take much to find a Dead Weather track playing nowadays and The Roots have a few Grammy nominations, but not nearly as radio friendly. As much as I tried not to be "that guy" in the end I gotta be honest and say some of the best albums of the year, in my opinion, probably weren't the biggest sellers. Shame really, as some of the tracks off these albums really will go down as some of my favorites of all time. From new discoveries like Tunng to the return of two of my favorite bands ever (The Dead Weather and New Young Pony Club) 2010 definitely met, if not succeeded, my expectations.

Honorable mentions go out to Gorillaz' Plastic Beach, Laura Marling's I Speak Because I Can, Crystal Castles' Crystal Castles II, and the contributing artists work on the soundtrack for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.



Album: Have One On Me
Artist: Joanna Newsom
Label: Drag City
Released: February 23, 2010
Genre: Baroque pop
*Sub-genres Folk
Sounds like: 18th century Joan Baez with an indie edge and Newsom’s own voice

I actually review Newsom’s latest a little while before we started Stereotoid when it was I Review Them In Stereo on my own blog. It was the very first pleasant surprise of 2010 and it was without a doubt one of the best. Have One On Me rings through 2010 as a sign of the power of acoustic instruments. With Newsom’s own unique stylings she manages to remind her audience how much territory has yet to be explored in the folk and baroque genres. From lengthy tales like the title track to the simple and perhaps most beautiful song of the year, ’81, Have One On Me shines from minute one to minute 123.

With her witty style, intelligent lyricism, and bold approach Joanna Newsom easily puts out one of my favorite albums of 2010.

Personal favorite tracks: ’81, On A Good Day, Esme

TL;DR: While not for everyone those who can appreciate Joanna Newsom’s style will no doubt have an album for the ages.



Album: The Optimist
Artist: New Young Pony Club
Label: The Numbers
Released: March 8, 2010
Genre: Synthpop
*Sub-genres New wave
Sounds like: Mature synthpop that doesn’t lose it’s wonder or imagination.

Fantastic Playroom is, and will remain, one of my favorite albums of all time. With its colorful sound and playful aura it’s an album that simply never gets old. And after years of waiting, the sophomore album from New Young Pony Club is finally here. Naturally expectations were high and in a rare display of musical finesse expectations were surpassed. The Optimist is a proud and powerful display of maturity, with the band tackling much more personal and serious themes while still trying to cling to their bouncy style. The result is an album that trumps its predecessor, introduces more complexity, and is a shining example of how deep and mature new wave can be without losing its fun or edge.

Personal favorite tracks: Lost A Girl, Dolls, and Architect Of Love

TL;DR: A fabulous display of the best synthpop 2010 has to offer



Album: How I Got Over
Artist: The Roots
Label: Def Jam
Released: June 22, 2010
Genre: Hip-hop
*Sub-genres N/A
Sounds like: A long walk down a dark peaceful street

While this year had a lot of interesting entries into the hip-hop arena none came nearly as close to my heart as How I Got Over. The album is simply and absolutely perfect. With its soulful approach, personal lyricism, and absolutely flawless delivery The Roots have gone far and beyond themselves and created a hip-hop masterpiece. While 2010 saw a lot of creatively produced hip-hop albums that went further into the realm of synth The Roots’ How I Got Over has done wonders for pushing live instrumental hip-hop. And finally, to make a good album great, the guest cast of How I Got Over, which ranges from Joanna Newsom (who guest on what is frankly the best hip-hop song of the year) to John Legend, is spotless.

Personal favorite tracks: Right On (feat. Joanna Newsom), Radio Daze (feat. Blu, P.O.R.N., and Dice Raw), and The Fire (feat. John Legend)

TL;DR: An unbelievably impressive accomplishment for both The Roots and for instrumental hip-hop



Album: …And Then We Saw Land
Artist: Tunng
Label: Full Time Hobby
Released: March 1, 2010
Genre: Folk
*Sub-genres Folktronica
Sounds like: A digital sunset

It was a tough call between this and Laura Marling’s I Speak Because I Can (great year for folk) but ultimately I had to side with Tunng simply because of how unique it is. With its impressive fusing of synth and production with traditional folk sounds …And Then We Saw Land was without a doubt one of the year’s most atmospheric and impressively creative albums. Tracks like Santiago, With Whiskey, and October make absolutely genius use of subtle but effective digital sound. In an era that’s marked by digitalism Tunng manages to bring together a beautiful medium with whimsy and care.

Personal favorite tracks: These Winds, With Whiskey, and Hustle

TL;DR: A beautiful album filled both with subtlety and power.



Album: Sea Of Cowards
Artist: The Dead Weather
Label: Warner Bros./Third Man
Released: May 7, 2010
Genre: Rock
*Sub-genres Alternative rock, alternative blues, blues-rock
Sounds like: Absolute brilliance. The bluesy soul of Muddy Waters, the rhythm of James Brown, the heart of Janis Joplin, and the heaviness of early Black Sabbath.

Sea Of Cowards is without a doubt my favorite album of 2010. Of all the albums I had the pleasure and displeasure to sample none stuck with me quite as strongly as Sea Of Cowards. It is undeniably one of the heaviest albums of the year, competing only with Crystal Castles, and has a rhythm and style that absolutely unmatched. Its stylish and sexy lyricism is delivered with a near historic performance from the fantastic Allison Mosshart, who truly is the Janis Joplin of her time. Among all this the album even embraces its own fuzzy synth touch which strangely only seems to make a raw and powerful album like this even moreso.

In my opinion, you won’t find any album greater than Sea Of Cowards in all of 2010.

Personal favorite tracks: The Difference Between Us, I Can’t Hear You, Gasoline, and No Horse

TL;DR: My favorite album of 2010 no doubt. Filled from front to back with nothing but soul and power. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

-Xzyliac
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