best albums of 2010 (so far)

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Friday, June 25th, 2010

best albums of 2010 (so far)

for those concerned with nerdy, useless information, at noon on friday, july 2, the year will officially be half over (or, um, half full?). as the cliché informs, the year has flown by. so far, i would affirm that it’s been a good year. no doubt, some particularly terrible things have occurred personally, but then again, some particularly incredible things have occurred as well. you win some and you lose some.

in addition to personal experiences, it’s been a good year for music. as i’ve mentioned before (and beyond the obvious observation), i consume a lot of music and it’s been a good year to do that. a little over a hundred albums have graced my itunes in 2010 so far and of those, some are good, some are bad and some are just plain ugly. some, of course, have been particularly great. i thought i’d share the great ones with you.

i decided at the (nearly) halfway point of 2010—much like others—i would put together my top 10 albums of 2010 (so far). you’ll find in my list that i’m pretty all over the place. you’ll find some stuff i would have predicted and others that i could have never imagined loving so much (and some people who i’d never heard of prior to this year). alright, here’s the list.

// UPDATE //

oops! there was a glaring omission to my list. mumford & sons’ sigh no more was released internationally last october (of 2009) and that’s when i got the album. it came out in the states in february, so technically, it’s a 2010 release.

what makes it most glaring is that it probably would have been as high as #5. definitely a list FAIL. so, i’ve reuploaded the mix with the song the cave as a bonus track, of sorts. so there ya go. enjoy.

10. she & him :: volume two. ah, zooey. ok, so beyond the obvious love for zooey deschanel, she & him, with their follow-up to 2008’s volume one, continue to put out good, fun indie pop that is perfectly suited for the summer. another stellar release from deschanel & m. ward.

9. broken bells :: broken bells. the equation is simple: danger mouse + [insert anyone’s name] = brilliance. following the breakout success of the relatively short-lived gnarls barkley, it was hard to see how danger mouse could create something that lived up to the expectations. with broken bells, he did just that. i still prefer gnarls barkley, but his partnering with the shins’ james mercer was a great move.

8. fair :: disappearing world. much like the aforementioned broken bells, when producer aaron sprinkle turns singer, it’s a very good thing. sprinkle came onto my radar several years ago with his solo album lackluster and since that time, everything he’s produced or personally created has been consistently good. disappearing world doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a solid album that features the singing, songwriting and production of sprinkle.

7. janelle monae :: the archandroid. this is one of those albums that i couldn’t have predicted how good it was going to be. when it first released, i would have put it in my top 3 or 4 albums of 2010. granted, it has slipped due to lack of sustainable listening, but it still retains a spot based on the creativity and innovation and uniqueness of monae.

6. jennifer knapp :: letting go. this may be a strange way to begin a blurb about the #6 album on my list, but this album has a little more bark than bite. yes, it is #6 on my list, but leading up to its release, i would have thought it would receive as high as a 2 or 3 spot. the hype—driven by knapp’s revelation of her long time relationship with another woman—created quite a buzz in the lead up to the album. it didn’t deliver on the immense hype, but it is certainly a good album that long time knapp fans will connect to.

5. court yard hounds :: court yard hounds. let me just get this out of the way: yes, i’m a dixie chicks. ok, now that that’s off my chest, let’s proceed. the court yard hounds are, in fact, 2/3 of the pop country group dixie chicks. sans lead singer natalie maines, martie and emily have created a really great folk/country/pop infusion. if i didn’t know any better, i’d think some of the songs are late-90s sheryl crow music and that’s a very, very good thing.

4. lissie :: catching a tiger. if this were a cassette version of this album, it would already be worn through after less than a week of playing. simply put, lissie’s debut full-length album is my latest musical obsession. she put out a very promising ep several months ago and this is one of the rare examples where the lp lives up to the hope that was created. it’s sort of an indie/folky/pop kind of sound that features great vocals and equally great songwriting. this album could actually move up on this list as the year progresses.

3. punch brothers :: antifogmatic. if i’m being honest, the punch brothers’ debut release in 2008 was immensely disappointing. no doubt, it featured incredible instrumentation, but truthfully, i really wanted chris thile vocals. what we didn’t get with punch, we got with antifogmatic. the album plays like a more intricate, full-sounded nickel creek album. from the traditional to the avant garde, everything works on this album.

2. jakob dylan :: women and country. this is one of those albums that snuck up on me. i expected to like it, but certainly did not expect it to land at the #2 spot on this kind of list. in the mid-90s, dylan sought the production of t-bone burnett for the fledgling wallflowers and with this album, he once again partnered with burnett, producing his best work—either with the wallflowers or solo—to date. with introspective songwriting, background vocals from neko case and the right mix of folk & country, this album has everything a great album needs.

1. the black keys :: brothers. at the beginning of 2010, if you would have given me a list of 10 albums—this one included—and asked me to choose my top 10, *maybe* this album would have landed in the top 7 or 8. maybe. their previous album, attack and release was basically a ‘meh’ for me, so brothers had little chance of me being interested. and then i heard it. wow. by no means would i classify myself as a fan of blues rock, but these guys have redefined it—much like the punch brothers are redefining traditional/bluegrass music—and brought it to a new level. from the opening strokes of everlasting light to the gritty “ugh” that opens sinister kid and everything in between, this album is head and shoulders above any other album in 2010.

so, there ya go. feel free to agree or disagree or throw an online tantrum. the debate line is open.

as a bonus, because i love you, i’ve decided to throw together a little mix with a track from each album. so, click here to download a copy.