I was not able to listen to as much new music in 2010 as I would have liked, but I managed to find some new favorites, from both new and old bands. So pull up a chair, put on some headphones, and check out my favorites from the past year. I’m sure there’s something here for everyone.
1.) The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
This album became one of my all time favorites from nearly the beginning and there was never any doubt that it was going to be my favorite album of the year. It seemed impossible that Arcade Fire could ever release another album as good as their first, Funeral, but they did it one better. I really wanted to see them when they came to town a few months ago, but $40 per ticket and playing at a crappy venue was just too much. I have missed them twice now and will probably always regret not going. Their ticket prices keep going up (I am tempted to go see them in Chicago in a few months, but now tickets are $50). As usual, you won’t hear the best songs on the radio. Be sure to check out We Used to Wait, Suburban War, and Sprawl II. We Used to Wait was used in this online interactive video The Wilderness Downtown using HTML 5. They claim it looks best using the Google Chrome browser, but it worked fine for me with Firefox.
2.) Light Chasers – Cloud Cult
Wow. Despite being huge here in Minneapolis (after all, they are a local band), I had never spent much time listening to their music. But their latest album is a masterpiece and I’m going to have to spend some time with their back catalog. While it is hard to pick out specific songs, since they flow together so well, you’ve probably heard Running With the Wolves and shouldn’t miss out on You Were Born, Room Full of People in Your Head, and Forces of the Unseen. The only complaint is the excessive robot voice on Exploding People and The Guessing Game. This album also had the best cover art by far. The album is definitely telling a story and it is hard to recommend you do anything but listen to the whole thing in one sitting.
3.) Brothers – The Black Keys
I thought Dan had outdid himself last year with his debut solo release, but he’s just getting warmed up. Brothers is packed full of rockin’ blues. They need to release a Guitar Hero/Rock Band just for this album. I can’t even imagine how awesome one of their shows would be. Time to add these guys to my “must see” concerts list. Tighten Up and Howlin’ For You get the most airtime, but you’re missing out if you haven’t listened to The Only One, The Everlasting Light, Unknown Brother, oh, just go get the whole album. You can thank me later.
4.) Odd Blood – Yeasayer
After my first listen, there was no way this was going to end up on my list, let alone fourth. Sure, Ambling Alp and Madder Red are two of the best songs released this year (and back to back to help start off the disc) but I just couldn’t seem to listen to the whole album in one sitting. But I kept it in my play list and I found that I would never skip any of the songs when they came up in shuffle. All of the songs are really good, perhaps so good that I can’t handle them all at once. Other good songs to check out include O.N.E. and I Remember. “You’re stuck in my mind, all of the time.”
5.) Gorilla Manor – The Local Natives
The second half of the album tails off into some R&B styling that I’m not fond of, but the rest of the album is brilliant. I’m sure you’ve heard Airplane (I heard it in a Barnes and Noble a few months ago) but be sure to check out Shape Shifter and Wide Eyes. I love the duel vocals and their music blends nearly as well as their voices. As usual, I heard them after their first concert here in town. I heard it was a great show and that their album doesn’t really do them justice. But for some reason the last three or four songs on the album just don’t work for me.
6.) Ghosts – One for the Team
I’ll admit that the songs on the album kind of run together and sound the same, but it’s hard to fault them for finding a good thing and sticking with it. Another local band from Minnesota, they get some good airtime on our local radio station. Check out Every Little Thing, I Got Tamed and Ha Ha for a good sampling of what you’ll find on this solid album. Like The Local Natives, this band does a really good job of integrating multiple vocals and not just having a front man with backups.
7.) Broken Bells – Broken Bells
The combination of Danger Mouse and the Shins’ front man don’t mean much to me, other then it’s made a pretty good album. October (opens up with a simple, but powerful theme and builds on it), Mongrel Heart (has an amazing horn bit near the end, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it was synthesized), and Vaporize (another good use of some horns) are my favorite songs. I normally don’t care for bands with so much synthetic sound (Yeasayer is also an exception) but they’ve got a good thing going here.
8.) Koonyum Sun – Xavier Rudd
Xavier gets a little too much reggae for my liking on this one. While still a good album, I prefer his work on Food in the Belly and Dark Shades of Blue. He also didn’t feature playing the didgeridoo as much, which I think kept this album from being better. He has such a unique stage presence as a solo act that teaming up with a dedicated bassist and drummer detracts from what makes him so good.
9.) Forgiveness Rock Record – Broken Social Scene
This album starts off so well. Chase Scene just jumps out of the speakers and makes you get up and dance. But the rest of the album can’t quite meet the raised expectations. Not nearly as good as You Forgot It In People, but it is still a solid album. Art House Director is another really good song.
10.) The Reluctant Graveyard – Jeremy Messersmith
The third Minnesota based artist on my list this year, this is his first album that I have been able to like. He tends to have too much of a Beach Boys flair for me (Violet! is a good example). Reluctant Graveyard, however, has some really good songs. A Girl, a Boy, and a Graveyard is by far my favorite.
- Feast of the Hunter’s Moon – Black Prairie
Apparently, some of The Decemberists don’t have enough to do so they made another band. Mostly instrumental, but one of the few songs with vocals, Red Rocking Chair, is amazing. Go now and listen. You won’t regret it.
- Made the Harbor – Mountain Man
I just started listening to this album after they were announced as the opening band for The Decemberists show next month here in town. The entire album sounds just like Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. A really good female folk trio and it will be fun to see them live.
- High Violet – The National
Everyone seemed to love this album but I haven’t listed to it enough to put it any higher. What I have heard shows promise and I can recommend that you check it out.
- Down the Way – Angus & Julia Stone
This brother & sister duo from Australia make great acoustic folk music. Hold On and Big Jet Plane will give you a good sample.