So it feels like just yesterday that I wrapped up one of these series counting down my favourite albums of a select year, long past. In reality, it was only about a month ago but that one that I did for the year 2000 took almost two years to complete! Given this, you might think I would be reticent to start up another of these series, at least not right away, but not so. It’s almost like it feels like there’s something missing without one of these Best Albums series on the go.
This time around I am jumping ahead a decade to revisit 2010, a year that was actually quite amazing musically. I counted down my thirty favourite tunes of the year on these pages just over five years ago and I already did a similar countdown of my favourite albums for the year on my old music blog a bunch of years before that. Thus, it’s familiar territory we’re treading here (but not too familiar), many of the albums that will grace this list have a place in my vinyl collection, and those that aren’t there already are definitely on my wish list.
If you’ve followed me through one of these series before, you’ll recognize today’s post as the tease, introducing the five albums that round out the latter part of my top ten. From here, I used to out my five favourite albums for the year on a weekly basis and then, I tried stretching that to a bi-weekly basis. For this series, I make no promises but I am aiming to wrap this up in three to four months so maybe we’ll see a post every two to three weeks?
But before we go further, I’d like do a bit of a spoiler and a bit of indulgence and share a handful of albums (in no particular order) that didn’t quite make the list but are still worth your while:
- Steve Mason “Boys outside” – the solo debut by the ex-Beta Band frontman is all kinds of psychedelic groove
- Delphic “Acolyte” – another debut, this one the first of only two albums from the enigmatic, alternative dance group from Manchester
- The Like “Release me” – the all-female quartet led by Z Berg went from alt rock to retro girl group, beach blanket bingo on their sophomore record
- Frightened Rabbit “The winter of mixed drinks” – with their third record, the Scottish indie rock sextet continued a string of amazing albums that didn’t end until frontman Scott Hutchison’s death in 2018
- Beach House “Teen dream” – the Baltimore-based dream pop duo found their footing with their third record and never looked back
With those out of the way, let’s delve into my top ten for reals. And of course, as we do, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on my picks and what your own would be, if you had to rank your top ten albums for 2010, in the comments section provided with each post.
John O’Regan made two records under the moniker Diamond Rings back in the early part of the previous decade. I remember seeing the album cover of the first of these, “Special affections”, for the first time and thinking that the image portrayed by Diamond Rings on it was an amalgam of Morrissey, David Bowie, and David Gahan of Depeche Mode. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s a definite 80s edge to the record. Its ten tracks ran the gamut, creating an expansive play school for O’Regan’s inner frontman to let loose in and laid down a solid base for his astonishing voice. The most obvious comparison point for his vocal work might’ve been Ian Curtis with his deep hued baritone timbre but there was more swagger here, invoking the glam of, say, Jarvis Cocker, Brett Anderson, and yes, David Bowie. For me, “Special affections” was a blast of pure oxygen the first time I listened to it, energizing my every fibre. Oh… and it sounded great on the dance floor.
Gateway tune: “Wait & see”
Kingston, Ontario-based Bedouin Soundclash’s fourth record, “Light the horizon”, was easily my favourite of the ska/reggae band’s albums. It is a solid ten tracks that leave it all on the floor, as opposed to the previous two albums that had as many forgettable moments as they did memorable ones. From the opening number, “Mountain top”, you can hear a subtle difference in their sound. I had always tended to attribute it to the addition of the incredibly talented Sekou Lumumba on drums here but perhaps it is more than that. There really is plenty of exuberance to go around, in not just with the drumbeats but also in Eon Sinclair’s bass lines, which you can feel dancing up and down your spine. Frontman Jay Malinowski, too, riffs along as if newly inspired and his pseudo edgy vocals keeping things real.
Gateway tune: “Brutal hearts (feat. Coeur de Pirate)”
There was very little dispute that LCD Soundsystem’s third album, “This is happening”, belonged on the multiple end of year lists that it appeared on for 2010, given its pretty much universal acclaim and the belief at the time that it would be James Murphy’s final album under that moniker. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, we now know that the group reunited a few years after that “final” 2011 show at Madison Square Garden, released a studio album and another live album and continue to tour these days, but we won’t hold that against “This is happening”. The dance punk album is only nine tracks long but it clocks in at well over an hour, every song save for one is longer than five minutes. It’s like Murphy enjoyed playing with these songs so much that he couldn’t let go of them or perhaps decided that the remixes were much more fun than the original recordings. I, for one, trust his judgement on this point. The songs on “This is happening” end exactly when they should, like perfect guests at the wildest of house parties, they never overstay their welcome.
Gateway tune: “I can change”
The Drums’ self-titled, debut album and their last as a proper four-piece was like an extended ode to all music that is considered retro. If I were to reduce my thoughts on “The Drums” to three words, they would have to be “energy”, “energy”, and “energy”. Each song is bursting with (and pardon the oxymoron here) fresh sounding retro vitality. Channelling and blending the sounds of their influences in the post-punk of the eighties and the free and easy pop of the sixties, The Drums take peppy doowop rhythms, speed them up to double time and blast it all with synthesizer melodies that climb and slide down all kinds of staccato scales. I’ve heard them compared to The Smiths, Joy Division, and The Cure and I’d have to say: “yes, yes, and yes”. So if you’re a fan of these bands, as I am, the chances are good that you might enjoy more than a couple of the twelve tracks on the album.
Gateway tune: “Best friend”
The fifth album by the supergroup/indie rock collective based out of Vancouver, British Columbia is complex and simple, quiet and bombastic, raw and fey, earthy and alien. And I’m not purposely being contradictory here. A lot of people have bemoaned the fact that The New Pornographers have gotten away from the punchy edge that coursed through their first two or three records but that has never bothered me. Even though I also enjoy their early work, right up until this year’s release, “Challengers” and “Together” were my two favourite New Porno albums. It is here that their sound has grown, either Newman had given in a bit to Bejar’s bizarre ideas or he himself had lost some of his marbles. The band has never sounded typical but on “Together” they felt like they were exploring the periphery of their own boundaries and the results are slightly darker (if that’s possible) and more cohesive but not. I know. Contradictory.
Gateway tune: “Crash years”
Stay tuned for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.