Ah, so here it is, the last ten picks for the albums we liked best in 2010. If anything, it was a rather painful process of narrowing things down to 40 albums among the three of us, so there was plenty of great music that we just didn’t have the space (or more honestly, time) to write about. Maybe we’ll get about to doing that in the coming weeks or months. In the meantime, though, enjoy and do stay tuned for our favorite EPs and gigs of the year, which we promise to be quite a blast as well.
Spoon – Transference (Merge)
Seven albums in, Transference may strike one as more of a stopgap than anywhere near a milestone for Spoon, especially when it follows their career highpoint of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007), but Britt Daniel’s sharpening grasp of pop music mathematics continues to fascinate. With tracks like “Who Makes Your Money” and “Written In Reverse”, Transference bowls us over still with the band’s laidback confidence and dazzling low-key experimentalism. – Keith.
Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty)
I think it’s a good thing Sufjan Stevens has left behind that ever-burdening 50 States project. It has most certainly worked well for what it’s worth (two great albums), but with Age of Adz, Stevens sounds rejuvenated from this newfound freedom to be himself, inserting himself into his songs as he always loves to (“Vesuvius”), and still finding room to grow (“Now That I’m Older”) and experiment, even squeezing in (and i dare say pulling off) some auto-tone in that audacious album-closing epic “Impossible Soul”. What a classic this will grow to be. – Dan.
Sun Kil Moon – Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde)
Mark Kolezek returns with an even deeper love for the classical guitar. His lonely sojourns into a landscape of introspective songwriting and deftly written guitar arrangements make this year’s Admiral Fell Promises a gem for the discerning listener. – Brian.
Tigermilk – Social Songs From The Woods (Self-Released)
The Internet is a big place, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that when we routinely read from the same sources, produce the same content, and share the same links. All I know about the band Tigermilk is that they hail from Chile. They may have been named after Belle & Sebastian’s debut album, but there are no similarities. What greets you is the homemade hiss of a four-track, incongruent beats, apprehensive melodies and a whimsical singer that takes no prisoners. Tigermilk makes me believe that their music is the gift that presents itself to the faithful. – Brian.
Tindersticks – Falling Down a Mountain (4AD)
The ever consistent Tindersticks narrative that began almost two decades ago continues in earnest on their more than serviceable eighth album Falling Down a Mountain, lead singer Stuart Staples soldiering on admirably in spite of the departure of several key founding members of the band. From the title track’s sinuous chamber pop to the sensuous Motown soul of “Keep You Beautiful”, Falling Down a Mountain starts off on a robust note and sustains a strong emotional pull throughout its ten songs. – Keith.
Twin Shadow – Forget (4AD)
With the elegant poise of Morrissey and the new-wave sensibility of David Byrne, George Lewis, Jr. has a lot going right for him right now. Released under his Twin Shadow moniker, Forget is anything but forgettable especially under the production of Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, who prepares the album at just the right temperature, cooler than anything you’d hear right now, but warm enough for Lewis’ songwriting and personality to glow in the midst of the chilly air. – Dan.
The Walkmen – Lisbon (Fat Possum)
On their sixth album Lisbon, The Walkmen continues to mine the slow lunging contemplation of their excellent You & Me (2008). Rumbling guitars and brass-band flourishes sit in well with the sense of hard-earned tenacity on Lisbon, while the more raucous rock numbers (“Angela Surf City”; “Victory”) ring true as accessory to the emotional dissonance of growing older. The Walkmen have always sounded best when their music is infused with intimate moments of doubt – a sentiment reflected most keenly when singer Hamilton Leithauser laments “all my great designs never make out of my sleep” – and Lisbon gamely grapples with the romantic woes and other messy contradictions of adult life that we can all identify with at times. – Keith.
Wild Nothing – Gemini (Captured Tracks)
Gemini, Wild Nothing’s gorgeous debut album, is the perfect tonic for anyone who has ever nursed an infatuation with C86 pop aesthetics or fantasized about escaping into 4AD dreams – the pure pleasure of ethereal tunes such as “Live In Dreams” and “O Lilac” are the result of sole Wild Nothing member Jack Tatum’s keen ear for bedroom pop melodies. – Keith.
Women – Public Strain (Jagjaguwar)
There is a curious intensity and clarity of purpose to how Women went about their business on their sophomore album Public Strain, winnowing out the noisy distractions that may have marred their 2008 debut and allowing the sound of their detuned guitar atmospherics to seep into its chain of sonic fantasies. Their love-spelled-backwards post-punk mania has never sounded more beautiful and vital as on the likes of “China Steps” and “Locust Valley”. – Keith.
Yeasayer – Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian)
Following up to 2007’s All Hour Cymbals, Yeasayer retain their signature folktronic flavour that made them one of the most talked about bands whilst throwing in plenty of chromatic surprises. Arrangements come lucid, worldly and dreamy as the band take you on a fun-filled escapade baked with plenty of your favorite herbs. – Brian.