Wednesday, 15 December 2010

10 Best Albums of 2010

I still don't know how I feel about this year in music, to be honest. I spent a lot of it busy with work and various commitments, and I don't remember any particular major musical events that made the year particularly memorable for me. Yes, there was Michael Jackson's death, and there was the world discovering Janelle Monae, but that's all I can think of, if pressured. The Grammys were predictable, the VMAs were predictable, and most of the music that came my way this year was by independent artists generally below the radar, rather than from major-label signings.

2010 seemed to be a year defined by the escapism of electro and the sincerity of folk. As a culture, we seem to crave descending into our own Monster Balls, locking the doors, and doing whatever we want - within reason, of course. People seem to be aggressively resisting hype - even when someone genuinely talented comes along, like Janelle Monae, people still resist.

A lot of the artists on my list either kept their head above water and refused to hop on the electro-pop bandwagon so many seemed to be on, or took electronica and worked it into their personal vision, tapping into the Top 40 zeitgeist while remaining true to themselves. Some are established acts, some are newcomers, but above all these are the records that fascinated and captivated me in 2010.

10. Pomplamoose, Tribute to Famous People
9. She and Him, Volume Two
8. Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz
7. Laura Veirs, July Flame
6. KT Tunstall, Tiger Suit
5. Joanna Newsom, Have One On Me
4. Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid
3. Miss Emily Brown, In Technicolor
2. Corinne Bailey Rae, The Sea
1. Mumford and Sons, Sigh No More

How Does My List Stack Up?
  • PopMatters
    • The ArchAndroid - #1
    • Have One On Me - #13
    • The Age of Adz - #19
  • Paste
    • The ArchAndroid - #2
    • Sigh No More - #3
    • The Age of Adz - #9
    • July Flame - #23
    • Volume Two - #30
  • American Songwriter
    • Sigh No More - #2
    • July Flame - #10
Honourable Mentions:

Click on each album title to hear a song from that record.


  1. How about Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy". It's a great album that has received near-universal acclaim. Since the basis for the list is (almost) solely based on other critics' point of view, let's apply that metric and put Kanye's album on the list (because it is higher rated than half this list.)

    Or is this blog just going to cover alternative music at the expense of great non-alternative music?

  2. Thank you for your comment! I would have replied earlier, but a death in the family and my busy holiday schedule prevented me from doing so.

    My list is not designed "almost solely on other critics' point of view"; my list was begun back in July and continued to develop until several weeks before publication. I put together the list of other publications' choices, as I did last year, afterwards. Would such claims as yours be raised if the publications selected had been Rolling Stone (which had none of my picks) or Pitchfork (which released their list after my posts were published), as I was able to do last year?

    Your argument that my blog is ignoring worthwhile non-alternative music can be seen as valid. However, for an album to be considered worthwhile these days, I have to feel emotionally invested in it.

    Many "non-alternative" music released this year that I considered for possible inclusion on my list did not provide an opportunity for emotional investment. Kanye West's latest was one such example; he gets credit from me for his ambition, his stable of guest artists, releasing a 35-minute music video and cunningly releasing his album when most publications are beginning to compile their end-of-year lists.

    Despite all this, I didn't feel an emotional connection to the album; it struck me as a work that had a lot of time and effort put into it but came up short on humanity. Perhaps that's a by-product of West's own public persona, but regardless, the album failed to resonate with me on an emotional level.

    I don't want to completely dismiss any album as worthless because good money is spent making them, and to actually continue to make albums in a culture that is becoming gradually opposed to the album format takes some courage, I think. If an album can't engage me on an emotional level, it's difficult to persuade me to continue having a relationship with that particular work.