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My Top 10 Albums of 2010

I’m a sucker for big hooks in my music and I think this year’s Top 10 bears that out.

1) LCD SoundsystemThis Is Happening

Obvs. Not as amazing as their previous album, but still one of my go-to albums during the year. Seeing them play two amazing festival headlining shows sure pounded home the point that these songs are best suited for big crowds and should be played VERY LOUD.

WATCH“I Can Change” on Jools Holland

2) SpoonTransference

I generally abhor artists self-producing thjeir albums, but  Transference is lo-fi in all the right ways. It was going to be nigh impossible to improve upon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (my favorite Spoon album since Girls Can Tell), but this was damn close.

WATCH“The Mystery Zone” on KCRW

3) The Soft PackThe Soft Pack

Surf rock is generally not a genre that excites me but the energy and immediacy of this album is impossible to deny. Throw in a ton of youthful exuberance and yes, hooks by the truckload, and you’ve got an album that stayed in heavy rotation on my iPod all year long.

WATCH“Answer To Yourself” on Letterman

4) UnderworldBarking

Finally the “return to form” album that we’ve been waiting for since 2003. I have friends that are big fans of the band that were unconvinced by this album but I absolutely love it. Full of club anthems and dance floor bangers, this albums delivers everything I wanted out of a new Underworld album.

WATCH“Always Loved A Film” at iTunes Festival London 2010

5) James The Morning After / The Night Before

It’s truly amazing that in their third decade together that James is making some of the best music of their career. This album, consisting of two EP’s packaged together for the US, continues the upward trajectory that 2008’s criminally underrated Hey Ma started. Both EP’s tread similar emotional ground as R.E.M.’s Automatic For The People, focusing on friendships, family, aging and death. “Tell Her I Said So” is easily the best song ever written about putting your mother in a nursing home.

WATCH“Crazy” in the Bing Lounge at KINK.FM. Portland, OR

6) Surfer BloodAstro Coast

Every time I saw Surfer Blood live in 2010, I kept thinking to myself that this was a band bred on playing Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Astro Coast has lots of geetar shredding if that’s what you’re after, but luckily the top notch production doesn’t hide any of the songs sonic subtleties or pitch perfect vocals at the expense of the great guitar riffs. “Anchorage” is probably the one song I listened to the most in 2010.

WATCH“Anchorage” Live at KEXP

7) Janelle MonaeThe ArchAndroid

If their first 6 or 7 songs of this album were released as an EP, it would have been Number 1 on this list with a bullet. I don’t think anyone came up with a song cycle as fresh and downright exciting as “Dance or Die / Faster / Locked Inside.” Throw in “Cold War” and the best single of 2010, “Tightrope,” and that’s a very, very impressive debut. I’ve sung Monae’s praises all year and will continue in 2011 since she landed the opening slot on Prince’s tour next year.  Her career is going to go supernova if she gets a few breaks and keeps writing great songs.

WATCH – “Faster” on Jools Holland

8 ) Tame ImpalaInnerspeaker

For me, the biggest loss in eMusic’s decision to ditch the indie labels in favor of the majors is the sad fact that next year I might miss an album like Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker. I downloaded this from eMusic on a total whim and ended up stumbling upon one of my favorite albums of the year. Their retro, psychedelic sound is hardly anything new, but the hooks! They get me every time. I find new things to like about this album each time I listen to it. Do yourself a favor and check out the band’s Daytrotter session from October if you are unconvinced.

WATCH“Alter Ego” Live at Viva Radio

9) Steve MasonBoys Outside

This album actually came out in June but I was unaware of it until a few weeks ago. Mason is the former lead singer of The Beta Band, one of my favorite groups from the early 2000’s. This solo album actually doesn’t stray that far from his Beta Band sound, although it tracks a bit slower and the songs are more stripped-down and soulful. Richard X’s understated production (yes, you read that correctly) puts the focus on Mason’s songs and he really delivers with his best batch of tunes since Heroes to Zeroes.

WATCH“All Come Down”  (acoustic)

10) Teenage FanclubShadows

I never really got into 2005’s Man-Made, but Shadows really struck a chord with me despite sharing Man-Made‘s understated approach and sound. Like I said back when the band came through and played the 9:30 Club a few months ago, TFC is my favorite band that is still together at this point. I am totally in the tank for them. There’s no way this album wasn’t going to be on this list.

WATCH“Baby Lee” Live in Mono, Glasgow

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