30 December 2010

Top Five Albums of 2010

Let me start this post by commenting on the year in music: 2009. It seems that every year I come up with a respectable yet righteously opinionated list that seems perfect; however, and this happens every year, I always seem to miss the memo on a few bands and then receive the message later on down the road. Case in point: Mumford and Sons, Florence + the Machine, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. All three bands released better than mediocre albums in 2009 that could have drastically altered last years list, but alas, I did not discover them until this year, 2010. In particular, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero's "Home" is a slightly better than incredible song that I have not gotten tired of (it was even the theme song to Emily and me's road trip).

This years' list was the toughest in years. Solid albums by Bad Religion, Broken Social Scene, Tame Impala, Murder by Death, The Walkmen, Josh Ritter, and my beloved Neil Young are not even in the five honorable mentions let alone albums of the year. Also, for your consideration, I chose to include the rankings from other music publications such as Rolling Stone, Pitchford and Spin as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Scott Mervis's list.

Anyways, Happy New Year to all of you. May the year bring good health and good fortunes to you and all of your families.

And on to the music...

5. The Gaslight Anthem American Slang
Released 15 June 2010 (Side One Dummy)

A little more polished, a lot less punk, but still packing that crucial mixture of heart+soul that has been constant for these Jersey boys for three full-lengths and one e.p. They're doing Godfather Springsteen proud.

Other Rankings: Spin (36/40)

Key Tracks: "American Slang," "Bring it On," "The Spirit of Jazz"

4. Arcade Fire The Suburbs
Released 3 August 2010 (Merge Records)

I'm going to get a lot of shit for this album being this high on my list, but let me explain...

I've been an Arcade Fire fan not since the very beginning, but since Funeral was about a year old. The first song I ever heard was "Rebellion (Lies)" on MTVU my freshman (or sophomore...I can't remember) year in college. I went out and bought the album and thought it was good but not great (with the exception of "Wake Up" which, in my opinion, is the perfect song). In 2007 I got an advance copy of Neon Bible from my college radio station, 88.1 WRSK. This was the album that hooked me, and as a result, I went back and listened to Funeral a lot more,and, as a result, better understood what the band was trying to accomplish both musically and, more importantly, emotionally with its auidence. If you've ever seen the Arcade Fire live or have seen live footage you'll understand this: they put it all on the line each time they pick up their instruments. I felt connected and held this band in such a high regard.

But alas, I can't say I felt this same connection with The Suburbs. And I honestly don't know why, and that bothers me. The album is solid all around; great songs, great music, great tracking from song to song, but there is nothing that grabs me like their first two albums did. The more I think of it, the more I reason that at eighteen and twenty-one, I needed to feel part of something bigger like the Arcade Fire; but at twenty-five I've already found enough of that in music, writing and film-I need that same connection in the relationships I make with others. That may not make sense to any of you, but I dont' need music to save me anymore and maybe, just maybe, that's why I'm not as connected to this band as I once was.

Other Rankings: NME (2/75), NPR (Top 50 of 2010), Paste (7/50), Pitchfork (11/50), Rolling Stone (4/20), Spin (3/40), Spinner (5/30)

Key Tracks: "The Suburbs," "Ready to Start," "Half Light II,"
"The Sprawl II"

3. Titus Andronicus Monitor
Released 9 March 2010 (XL Recordings)

This album is just strong all around. It's filled with fun and hate and keys and it's really hard to stop listening.

Other Rankings: NPR (Top 50 of 2010), Paste (5/50), Pitchfork (10/50), Spin (15/40), Spinner (12/30)

Key Tracks: "Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Dimensions and the Madness of the Crowds (Responsible Hate Anthem),"Four Score and Seven," "Theme from 'Cheers,'" "And Ever"

2. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Beat the Devil's Tattoo
Released 9 March 2010 (Vagrant Records)

Most people don't know this because I've never told them, but B.R.M.C. put on a show at Slippery Rock University in the winter of 2006. They were supporting their almost-entirely acoustic album, Howl. Hardly anybody came but it made no difference to the band-they killed! What I remember most, aside from the show being the moment that made me into the fan I am today, was this obsession they had with distortion; they tried bending notes and sound in such a way that it completely filled every spare inch of the room but it didn't come off as too loud or excessive (although, in truth, they are the loudest band I have ever seen). Beat the Devil's Tattoo is the band's first studio album, in my opinion, to capture this live feel.

It took me a good while to get into this album; the songs just didn't immediately grab me as past releases did; however, I think the constant and consistent listening made me appreciate singers Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes more as lyricists and songwriters. It seems with this release that although their songs feature the same themes as albums past (addiction, war, struggle, love), the message seems to be more upfront and direct.

Other Rankings: none.

Key Tracks: "Beat the Devil's Tattoo," "Bad Blood," "Evol," "River Styx," "Long Way Down"

1. The Black Keys Brothers
Released 18 May 2010 (Nonesuch)

This is probably the first time I've been left speechless; I can't say enough or make a single comment that will do this album any justice. It's raw, sexy, honest, catchy, and the great thing about it is that the Black Keys know they're writing better music than what almost all of their peers are coming out with.

Other Rankings: NPR (Top 50 of 2010), Paste (46/50),
Rolling Stone (2/20), Spin (30/40), Spinner (11/30)

Key Tracks: "Everlasting Light," "Howlin' for You,"
"Tighten Up," "The Only One," "Ten Cent Pistol," "Sinister Kid,"
"Unknown Brother," "Never Gonna' Give you Up"

Honorable Mentions

Band of Horses Infinite Arms
Released 18 May 2010 (Columbia)
Key Track: "Northwest Apartment"
Other Rankings: Paste (14/50), Spinner (30/30)

The Head and the Heart The Head and the Heart
Released 29 June 2010 (CD Baby.com/INDYS)
Key Track: "Ghosts"
Other Rankings: none.

Pete Yorn Pete Yorn
Released 28 September 2010 (Vagrant Records)
Key Track: "The Chase"
Other Rankings: none.

Ted Leo + the Pharmacists The Brutalist Brick
Released 9 March 2010 (Matador Records)
Key Track: "The Mighty Sparrow"
Other Rankings: Spin (33/40)

Vampire Weekend Contra
Released 12 January 2010 (XL Recordings)
Key Track: "Giving up the Gun"
Other Rankings: Paste (27/50), Mervis (6/10), NME (24/75), Pitchfork (6/50), Rolling Stone (6/20), Spin (11/40)

Looking forward to 2011...

~ Bright Eyes The People's Key 15 February 2011
~ Death Cab for Cutie Keys and Codes (spring)
~ The Decemberists The King is Dead 18 January 2011
~ Drive-By Truckers Go-Go Boots 15 February 2011
~ Fiona Apple
~ Flogging Molly (May)
~ Foo Fighters (spring)
~ Frank Turner (spring)
~ Iron and Wine Kiss Each Other Clean 25 January 2011
~ The Pains of being Pure at Heart (March)
~ P.J. Harvey Let England Shake 14 February 2011
~ R.E.M. Collapse into Now 8 March 2011
~ Red Hot Chili Peppers
~ Snow Patrol
~ Social Distortion Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes 18 January 2011
~ Thurston Moore
~ Wilco

Modest Mouse and Queens of the Stone Age owe us one...just saying.

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