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The Best Albums of 2010: #41 through #50

The Y! Music Playlist Blog

These are selections #41 through #50 in our Best Albums of 2010 countdown series.

#41. The Age Of Adz by Sufjan Stevens 

Released:  October 12, 2010
Label: Asthmatic Kitty
Metacritic Score: 83
Charts: #7 The Billboard 200, #2 Top Digital albums, #1 Top Independent albums, #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #1 Top Rock albums
Amazon Link

Sufjan Stevens has injected a good deal of electronica into the music on The Age Of Adz. I must admit, that Stevens' live performances of these songs are just plain embarrassing. Not sure what he's trying to accomplish with the live show, but whatever it is, it's not working. But his lack of talent in the visual and performing arts has nothing to do with his talent as a recording artist. And this record is ambitious, interesting and just plain fabulous.

#42. Truth & Salvage Co. by Truth & Salvage Co.

Released: May 25, 2010
Label: Megaforce
Metacritic Score: N/A
Album Charts: N/A
Amazon Link

The North Carolina roots music outfit Truth & Salvage Co. have toured extensively over the last couple of years with The Black Crowes and the Avett Brothers -- and this record was actually produced by Crowes frontman Chris Robinson. The band has a heavy country leaning, but they also have a lot in common with a group like The Band. There is no shortage of great songs here, but that's no surprise considering the band has four singer/songwriters on its roster.

#43. Black Noise by Pantha du Prince

Released: February 9, 2010
Label: Rough Trade
Metacritic Score: 83
Album Charts: #49 Top Heatseekers, #14 Top Elecrtonic albums
Amazon Link

Pantha du Prince has created an important piece of minimal techno on 2010's Black Noise. Recorded in the Swiss Alps, you can almost hear the cold air blowing over the mountaintops as sunlight shimmers off the snow. Warm synth melodies and the clanging of wood blocks and bells help make the listener feel as if they're outside is some mythical and spiritual place, listening to nature reverberate.

#44. jj n° 3 by jj

Released: March 9, 2010
Label: Secretly Canadian
Metacritic Score: 71
Album Charts: N/A
Amazon Link

Swedish duo jj have released their second full-length album jj n° 3 on Secretly Canadian after the enormous amounts of buzz generated by their debut single, jj n° 1, and their first album, jj n° 2. This newest release is a blissful ride that combines angelic indie pop with decidedly new age elements. It works in a way that makes me think we may hear many of these songs on future film soundtracks as the unobtrusive music conveys a wallop of emotion.

#45. I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Released: April 6, 2010
Label: Daptone
Metacritic Score: 81
Album Charts: #6 R&B albums, #15 The Billboard 200, #22 Top Canadian albums, #2 Top Independent albums
Amazon Link

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings have a problem with being labelled a "retro act". Well I must disagree strongly with those who slap them with this designation. First of all, classic soul is a genre that is far more appealing than the vast majority of newer modern genres and it deserves to continue in its purest form. Not only do Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings accomplish this, but they're creating songs which stand on their own, apart from genre. And besides, how is drawing inspiration from the Arcade Fire any more groundbreaking than drawing it from Aretha Franklin?

#46. Messenger by Joe Pug

Released: February 16, 2010
Label: Lightning Rod
Metacritic Score: N/A
Album Charts: #35 Top Heatseekers
Amazon Link

Here's another debut album that grabbed me from the first listen this past year. Joe Pug sounds like a seasoned pro on Messenger. But unless you follow the singer/songwriter Americana circuit, this is probably a record you missed in 2010. So do yourself a favor,  get a copy of this record, lock yourself in a room and listen. And listen on a real stereo system in a comfortable place, not on an iPod out walking the dog. Give it the attention it deserves and be rewarded.

#47. The Desert Of Shallow Effects by Miles Kurosky

Released: March 9, 2010
Label: Majordomo
Metacritic Score: 68
Album Charts: N/A
Amazon Link

The indie band Beulah created a lot of buzz in the late 90s and early 00s, but they called it quits in 2004. It has taken Miles Kurosky, the frontman of that band, 6 years to return with his first solo effort, The Desert Of Shallow Effects. The music here sounds well-planned, but effortless. The album is peppered with horn sections and a myriad of instruments to support the song structures, but they never sound out of place and the production always sounds natural.

#48. Volume Two  by She & Him

Released: March 23, 2010
Label: Merge
Metacritic Score: 73
Album Charts: #6 The Billboard 200, #3 Top Digital albums, #1 Top Independent albums, #1 Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums, #1 Top Rock albums
Amazon Link

She & Him have chiseled their laid back California vibe  into a fine point on their second full-length outing. The first volume released by this indie star/actress team earned major kudos from the critics and even topped some best of 2009 lists. Well, Volume Two is better. Zooey sounds more comfortable and the songs have a bit more grabbing power. It's now official: it is possible for an actress to make a successful transition to music.

#49. Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus

Released: May 4, 2010
Label: Warp Records
Metacritic Score: 85
Album Charts: #88 The Billboard 200, #23 Top Digital albums, #3 Top Electronic albums, #17 Top Independent albums
Amazon Link

No record has broken as much new ground as what Flying Lotus has on Cosmogramma this year. You simply have never heard anything like this. It's space jazz electronic fusion. Artist Steve Ellison has taken a bunch of divergent elements and combined them in such a way that it will challenge your ability to comprehend. This record takes work and repeated listens. In the end, Cosmogramma provides the most value per dollar spent of any record I've heard in 2010.

#50. How I Got Over by The Roots

Released: June 21, 2010
Label: Def Jam
Metacritic Score: 85
Album Charts: #3 R&B albums, #6 The Billboard 200, #3 Top Rap albums
Amazon Link

The Roots are the only band that have made my top 100 albums list twice. Just releasing two mediocre projects with their schedule would have been an accomplishment, but to create so much great music in such a short amount of time is inspiring. How I Got Over is a lower-key album than what we are used to from the Roots, but they handle each track with precision and a smoldering beauty that only the most accomplished musicians can hope to achieve. The album includes a parade of special guests and is worth the price of admission just to check out the cameos.

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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