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The Best Albums of 2010: #1 through #10

The Y! Music Playlist Blog

Another year is almost over and I've been spending many hours putting together this list of the very best albums released in 2010. After much deliberation I've selected what I feel are the top 100. I freely admit that I've probably missed some that deserve to be here. As is true for all people, I have a finite amount of time available. So even with listening to upwards of 400 new albums each year, I simply can't hear them all. So please add your own favorites to the comments if you feel I have overlooked something deserving. All I ask is that you review the whole list first and tell us WHY your favorite album should have made the cut. A comment like, "What! No Eminem!" or "Arcade Fire sucks!" is not an valid argument and will promptly be laughed at and ignored. Additionally, pointing out that you have not heard something automatically disqualifies you from having an opinion about it.

I've provided the highest chart positions and Metacritic score for each of my selections. Obviously, any list like this is skewed by the author's personal tastes and opinions. My hope is that by providing the numbers about how each record charted and how critically acclaimed each one is you can get a more rounded view of my picks.

To clarify some of my parameters: 

In order to to be considered for my year end list the record had to be a full-length studio album. I did not consider live albums, greatest hits albums, compilation albums, self-distributed product, reissues or EPs.  Also the record had to be released in the U.S. sometime in 2010. Some of my picks may have had a limited release on an small label, or may have come out in a different country in 2009.

So with those parameters in mind, here are my selections for #1 through #10.

#1. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

Released: August 3, 2010
Label: Merge
Metacritic Score: 86
Album Charts: #European Top 100 albums, #1 the Billboard 200, #1 Top Canadian albums, #1 Top Digital albums, #1 Top Independent albums, #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #1 Top Rock albums
Amazon Link

No album brought me back again and again like The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. After the first listen I found myself constantly drawn back to it. I cannot count how many times I hit the replay button on this one. In fact, it really interfered with the number of new albums I spent time with this year because I had such a strong desire to listen to only this album. Its brilliant underlying suburban lyrical theme, the complex, but well-built arrangements, the infectious melodic hooks, the emotional dynamics and the overall shimmering beauty of this album rose above all others for me. It's so good there was never a moment that I doubted my #1 pick for this year's list. 

#2. High Violet by The National

Released: August 3, 2010
Label: 4AD
Metacritic Score: 84
Album Charts: #European Top 100 albums, #3 the Billboard 200, #2 Top Canadian albums, #1 Top Digital albums, #1 Top Independent albums, #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums
Amazon Link

Listening to The National evolve has been an enthralling experience. They are growing in musical leaps and bounds with each new album. High Violet is their newest high water mark. They have become masters of combining emotion-stirring atmospherics with pop song structures. The many hours they put into creating High Violet has led to an album you will love and cherish for decades to come.

#3. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

Released: November 22, 2010
Label: Def Jam
Metacritic Score: 92
Charts: #1 R&B albums, #1 The Billboard 200, #1 Top Canadian albums, #1 Top Digital albums, #1 Top Rap albums
Amazon Link

I admit that I usually root for Kanye to fail. Many of his inconsiderate public actions and statements have made him an easy guy to dislike. As an artist he's been both brilliant and dismal. His 2007 release Graduation was a monumental success on all levels, but he followed it up with the pathetically lazy 808s & Heartbreak. But all the drama is secondary to the music and no critic can listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and not be awed by its complexity, its emotion, its breadth and its reach. Kanye has indeed redeemed himself, and them some. At least musically.

#4. Band Of Joy by Robert Plant

Released: September 14, 2010
Label: Rounder
Metacritic Score: 83
Album Charts: European Top 100 albums, #5 The Billboard 200, #7 Top Canadian albums, #9 Top Digital albums, #2 Top Rock albums
Amazon Link

I find it sad that a good many Led Zeppelin fans don't see the value in what Robert Plant has been doing lately. Plant has already claimed the titles king of rock and father of heavy metal, but now he's earned royal status as an Americana performer. An accomplishment attained not because of his past, but because of his present. This new album features Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller on a well-selected grouping of remakes. It continues to expose the comfortable place that Plant has built for himself. A place we first started to understand when he crafted the stunning Raising Sand with Alison Krauss.

#5. Astro Coast by Surfer Blood

Released: January 19, 2010
Label: Kanine Records
Metacritic Score: 79
Album Charts:  #124 The Billboard 200, #2 Top Heatseekers, #19 Top Independent albums, #40 Top Rock albums
Amazon Link

Surfer Blood are creating indie pop surf music for a new generation. There's something about the sticky-sweetness of simple pop hooks and heavy, dripping reverb that have appealed to surfers since The Beach Boys first kicked off a surfing musical counter culture back in the early 60s. This is music that will make you happy whether you surf, or not.

#6. The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monáe

Released: May 18, 2010
Label: Atlantic Records
Metacritic Score: 91
Album Charts: #4 Top R&B albums, #17 The Billboard 200
Amazon Link

The ArchAndroid is a hyper-ambitious, science fiction concept album. It's amazing that it was pulled off at all, and credit must be given to all who allowed this piece of art to be created in a world where the radio hit single is all the executives care about. In addition to the sprawling concept, ArchAndroid has detailed (and expensive sounding) production and the most important aspect of all -- Janelle's incredible vocal talents. This album is worth three times the price and will take you many listens before it starts to sink in.

#7. Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty by Big Boi

Released: July 6, 2010
Label: Def Jam
Metacritic Score: 89
Album Charts: #3 R&B albums, #3 The Billboard 200, #2 Top Digital album, #3 Top Rap albums
Amazon Link

Big Boi's first proper solo album was a long time in the making and it sounds like the time was well spent. Sir Lucious is a substantially indulgent album that's as diverse as it is tight. Big Boi moves through the tracks in such an effortless way that the album sounds like it's always existed, we just needed him to put it all together for us. I would say that Big Boi's official solo career has been kicked off with a very big bang.

#8. Halcyon Digest  by Deerhunter

Released: September 28, 2010
Label: 4AD
Metacritic Score: 86
Album Charts: #37 The Billboard 200, #16 Top Digital albums, #7 Top Independent Albums, #9 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #13 Top Rock Albums
Amazon Link

Halcyon Digest is a euphoric dreamscape of an album. It's fuzzy, but gorgeous. If you would close your eyes and picture yourself floating in the sky on a fluffy white cloud, or breathing underwater in an ocean of shimmering warmth, or perhaps laying on a soft bed of dry moss in an enchanted forest you may have the beginnings of the kind of place this album will put you for a short time. Atmosphere abounds and the best thing you can do is just let it take you where it will.

#9. Forget by Twin Shadow

Released: September 28, 2010
Label: Red General
Metacritic Score: 85
Album Charts: #24 Top Heatseekers
Amazon Link

Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear fame produced this debut chillwave album by the newest Brooklyn indie wunderkind, George Lewis, Jr., who calls his project Twin Shadow. The sound has a lot in common with Ariel Pink, but at times the vocals take on an eerie Morrissey-like quality. The end result works amazingly well and Forget is an album that truly is as good as the hype suggests.

#10. Easy Wonderful by Guster

Released: October 5, 2010
Label: Aware/Universal Republic
Metacritic Score: 80
Album Charts: #22 The Billboard 200, #5 Top Digital albums, #2 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #5 Top Rock Albums
Amazon Link

Sure, Guster has been lumped in with an adult alternative label that has become like the cousin who, once cool, has grown old and is now divorced, unemployed and penniless. But Guster has proven that old-school alterna-pop is still a valid form of art as long as it starts with great songs. And Easy Wonder is full of them. It may not be fully accepted by the bearded, cardigan-wearing indie set, but do you really care? I certainly don't.

 

More albums of the year:
1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-80, 81-90, 91-100

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