July 2, 2010
photo via sunbeam17
Six months of 2010 have passed which means it’s time for the annual mid-year recap of the best albums of the year so far. It’s already been a very exciting year for music and with scheduled releases from Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Belle & Sebastian, of Montreal in the upcoming months it look just as great. In the past I have done twelve and half albums for these mid-year lists but there’s so many albums I love this year that I’ve bumped it up to an even 15. So here they are, listed in chronological order (no ranking till the year-end list), the best albums released in 2010 so far.
Laura Veirs – July Flame (January 12, Raven Marching Band)
When there’s so many great albums released in a year, sometimes it’s easy to overlook artists like folk singer Laura Veirs who has made the sleeper album of the year with July Flame. Each song is lovingly crafted to perfection, seasoned with wistful strings, piano, acoustic guitar and Laura’s captivating vocals. It’s a extremely rewarding album and one that find myself returning to again and again.
Spoon – Transference (January 19, Merge)
Spoon is one of America’s greatest rock bands, indie or otherwise, and their consistency is one of the main reasons so it’s no surprise that they’ve made a great album, they’ve been doing it every year or two for the last decade. Transference features a more cerebral, experimental Spoon then the impeccable pop songwriting of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and it allows them to play around with texture and melody a bit more. It results in a slightly less accessible but ultimately incredibly satisfying album.
Hot Chip – One Life Stand (Februrary 9, Astralwerks)
With One Life Stand, Hot Chip have succeeded in becoming more heartfelt and musically accomplished then ever before without ever losing any of their dance-floor appeal. The focus on more straightforward pop songwriting while still having those huge club-banging climaxes bursting with cascading synths and flurried disco results in the band’s most consistent and overall best album yet.
Local Natives – Gorilla Manor (February 16, Frenchkiss)
This L.A.-based quintet seem destined to be 2010’s Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear. They’ve made arguably the best debut of the year filled with dynamic, well-crafted songs that matches intricately-arranged harmonies with a frentic rhythm section and lush instrumention. I assume by the end of the year they’ll also be soundtracking VW commercials.
Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (February 23, Drag City)
Joanna Newsom’s last album took a little while to grow on me but this time I knew what to expect and the Have One On Me blew me away on first listen and has only gotten better over time. The album is overwhelming in it’s scope and ambition and full of beautifully woven and masterfully performed songs like “Good Intentions Paving Company” and “Baby Birch”.
Shearwater – The Golden Arpichelago (February 23, Matador)
Shearwater continues to make gorgeous baroque-pop that specializes in hauntingly beautiful melodies and meticulous instrumental arrangements, marked by Jonathon Meisburg’s striking, dramatic vocals. Songs like “Black Eyes” and “Castaways” are some of their most magnificent of their career.
Owen Pallett – Heartland (March 2, Domino)
Owen Pallett has already created an impressive body of work at his young age whether it’s the lovely albums he created under then name Final Fantasy or the string arrangements he composed for Arcade Fire. This album though is his magnum opus, mixing grandiose, classically-inspired instrumentation and addictive pop melodies to create gems like “Midnight Directives” and “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”.
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor (March 9, XL)
After a solid debut titled after a Seinfeld quote, Titus Andronicus have made a hugely ambitious Civil War-themed epic that’s succeeds on nearly every level. The band is generous in its sprawling guitar shredding, passionate angst-ridden vocals, rowdy bar-rock piano and anthemic, sing-a-long choruses. It’s a fully immersive listening experience that leaves a lasting impression taking you through breathtaking highs and crushing lows.
Jonsi – Go (April 6, XL)
As the lead singer of Sigur Ros, Jonsi helped produce some of the most beautiful, ethereal music of the past decade, and with his first solo album, Go, he continues to excel. The album is a culmination of all of Jonsi’s pop sensibilities, showcasing the artist at his most exuberant and accessible. His music is flourishing with piccolos, strings, guitar and piano both triumphant and awe-inspiring.
Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (April 27, Glassnote)
Two Door Cinema Club have been one of my favorite finds so far this year. Their debut album, Tour History, is a glistening collection of addictively catchy dance-rock that makes for a genuinely exhilarating listen from start to finish. The band follows in the footsteps of their label / tour mates Phoenix in mixing crisp, sunny production with irresistible pop hooks like on the enthralling single “Something Good Can Work”.
Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (May 4, Arts and Crafts)
On Forgiveness Rock Record, Broken Social Scene has trimmed their line-up to seven members which has resulted in more focused and accessible album (with some help from John McEntire’s stellar production). The album still contains all the expansive orchestration, mesmerizing ballads and triumphant hooks that you would expect from the band, plus a few surprises like the delightful mariachi horns on “Art House Director”.
The New Pornographers – Together (May 4, Matador)
Together is the latest in a long line of enthralling power-pop from this ever-growing collective (Will Sheff, Annie Clark, and Zach Condon all contributed to this album). The band is full of experts at writing lively, infectious pop songs and this album features some of their best work to date ranging from the gorgeous harmonizing of “Crash Years” to the crunchy guitar riffs of the title track.
The National – High Violet (May 11, 4AD)
There’s so many things that make this album exceptional, it’s hard to know where to start. Whether it’s the Matt Beringer’s engaging lyrics, the gorgeous instrument arrangements, the massive, anthemic choruses, those mind-blowing drum fills, or just the fact that this is the third spectacular album in a row from a band that is deservedly becoming recognized as one of the best in the world, there’s honestly not a single thing I don’t love about High Violet.
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (May 18, DFA)
After LCD Soundsystem’s groundbreaking 2007 album, Sound of Silver the expectations for the band’s third and reportedly last album have been stratospheric and with This Is Happening, James Murphy and co. have delivered in a big way. For how great the hard-hitting electro beats and addictive guitar riffs are, the album really comes down Murphy’s uncanny songwriting and introspective lyrics and in those departments he knocks it out of the park over and over.
Wolf Parade – Expo 86 (June 29, Sub Pop)
Expo 86 begins with a relentless guitar riff, piercing synths, and Spencer Krug yelping about hammocks, dream-catchers, and minivans, and the album doesn’t ever let up after that. Both Krug and Boeckner have grown monumentally as artists and the tunes found on this album like “Little Golden Age”, “What Would Your Lover Say”, and “Yulia” stand among the most electrifying and passionate rock anthems these intensely creative songwriters have crafted.
The Hold Steady
Tokyo Police Club
Love Is All
The Tallest Man On Earth
Leave your favorite albums so far this year in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Tags: Broken Social Scene, Hot Chip, Joanna Newsom, Jonsi, Laura Veirs, LCD Soundsystem, Local Natives, Owen Pallett, Spoon, The National, The New Pornographers, Titus Andronicus, Two Door Cinema Club, Wolf Parade