My “Top Music of 2010” List

It seems to me that 2010 was an interesting year for music – at least as far as my (personal) musical tastes are concerned.  This year felt more “tame”, if you will, as compared to the very powerful albums that were released in 2009 – including Silversun Pickups’ “Swoon” and Neko Case’s “Middle Cyclone”.  Perhaps more interesting is the fact that several new-to-me artists are on this year’s list.

Having said that, here is my Top Music of 2010 list, in no particular order.


Jakob Dylan, Women + Country
I confess that I would never have grabbed this album if it hadn’t been for the mention of Neko Case as part of the project.  In fact, the earliest accounts of this album sounded like a collaboration between Jakob and Neko, but that wasn’t the case.  Instead, we have a very Jakob-focused album with Neko (and her backup band, it seems) providing most everything else.  The result, it turns out, is really quite fabulous.  With the infamous T Bone Burnett at the production helm, Jakob has released a collection of songs that is arguably the strongest we’ve seen since the first Wallflowers release – and perhaps even stronger.   The “twang factor” is very high with this album, but that’s bothering me less and less these days, it seems.  All in all, a wonderful release.

Broken Bells, Broken Bells
Evidently The Shins are on an extended hiatus since releasing their last (and very successful) album, Wincing The Night Away.  In the meantime, front man, James Mercer, has fruitfully collaborated with producer Dangermouse to release a surprisingly non-Shins and yet very entertaining album under the name Broken Bells.  Mercer’s unmistakable vocal-style mixed with the slightly hip-hop-flavored undertones of Dangermouse’s production, Broken Bells is at times sparse, electronic, spacey, and moody.  Quite honestly, I love it.

New Pornographers, Together
I’ve had very little time to enjoy this album, thanks to the lack of accessibility via the Zune Pass after the album’s initial release, but as you already know, anything involving Neko Case is probably ok with me.  I’ll confess, though, that the band name has been a turn off for me (and likely others, I would assume), but there’s no denying that this is a powerful release from a talented group of individuals. Pop-inspired folk tunes, is probably the best way to describe it.  Favorite tracks include “Crash Years” and “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”.

Starflyer 59, The Changing Of The Guard
Although I’ve listened to Starflyer 59 off and on since the mid-90s, I wouldn’t have considered myself a “fan” until recently.  In fact, it was probably their My Island album that I fully enticed me to embrace their impressive catalog of  work.  Having said that, I find that their more recent work appeals to me much more than their earlier stuff, which is likely quite opposite of the long time Starflyer fans, of which there are many.  In any event, The Changing Of The Guard is probably my favorite release from Starflyer, with the incredible track, Cry Me A River, as one of my favorite songs of theirs.  I’m sure that this album is not shoegazer-ish enough for the hardcore fans, but a release this strong may just usher in a whole new era of Starflyer fans.  If you haven’t already, give it a listen.

Interpol, Interpol
In my opinion, Interpol has been releasing stronger and stronger albums with each release – and this album is no exception.  Although I still consider this band to be an ‘acquired taste’ – primarily due to the droning vocal style – this may be their most commercially acceptable release yet.  Interpol remains, as always, moody and melancholy, but they have a very ‘indie’ feel about them that I really enjoy.  “Always Malaise” and “Memory Serves” are among my favorite tracks.

Spoon, Transference
How do you follow up an excellent previous album?  Well, if you’re Spoon, then you probably attempt to alienate a portion of your new found fan base with an album that is at times genius, eccentric, and (perhaps) entirely purposeful.  I say that because I get the feeling that Spoon intentionally held back on this album – perhaps in an attempt to not dig too deeply into the Top 40 lists – and in the process limited their commercial appeal with Transference.  Don’t’ get me wrong: there is some absolutely genius material on this album, but it never seems to reach the magnitude of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.  Maybe that’s exactly what they were hoping for…… or maybe this album just isn’t as good.  I don’t really know, but I still like it.

The National, High Violet
My good friend, Ken, recommended The National to me a couple of years ago.  Again, due to inaccessibility via the Zune Pass *and* my lack of interest from the 30 second audio clips of the album, I passed on this band time and time again.  For whatever reason, though, when I saw that High Violet was available, I snatched it up like a Christmas morning toy.  I’ve not been disappointed.  I would definitely consider The National to be an acquired taste, mainly due to the melancholy overtones and uber-low vocals, but for fans of Editors, Joy Division, or Interpol, this album is likely to hit the spot.  Bloodbuzz Ohio is definitely one of my favorite tracks.

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Strangely, previous releases from Arcade Fire did little to excite me.  I enjoyed the song Keep The Car Running just fine, but the rest of the album felt pretty lackluster to me – and certainly not worthy of the hype that it received.  Just my opinion, of course.  I wanted to like Arcade Fire, but it just didn’t do it for me.  The Suburbs, then, was met with fairly reserved expectations, but there was an undeniable sparkle to this album.  I’ve found it engrossing, artistic, and challenging.  Quite honestly, this is a very good album.  The biggest surprise to me?  The fact that this artistic, quirky band receives so much commercial success.  Most of the “good” music goes largely unnoticed by the general public.  Anyhow, this album is well-worth your time.

Over The Rhine
, The Long Surrender
As my wife recently reminded me, the very first music I ever played for her (aside from my own music, of course) was Over The Rhine’s Patience.  Needless to say, I’ve been listening to this band for a long, long time.  Not only that, but I considered their album, Ohio, as my top album of the decade for 2000 – 2009.  I like this band a lot.  I will confess, though, that as they’ve moved toward a more “jazzy” sound, I’ve probably been less enthused with their releases – the difference being “really good” vs. “incredible”, in my opinion.  We had the opportunity to download The Long Surrender as part of a pre-release purchase, which is why I’m including this album in my 2010 list, even though the general release is set for early 2011.  In any event, this album is probably closer to their last release, The Trumpet Child, than any previous release – and that’s exactly what you’d expect.  Having said that, The Long Surrender is slightly less jazzy than their last, and has all of the genius elements that you expect from Over The Rhine.  My wife and I were also fortunate to have seen them “live” very recently, which featured much of their newest album, so we feel more intimately acquainted with this release and the stories of the songs it contains.  Not my favorite OtR album, but a very good album nonetheless.


As always, thanks for reading.


1 Response to “My “Top Music of 2010” List”

  1. 1 Stephanie December 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Mostly in agreement, though The National is a band recommended to Ryan & I that we still have neglected to listen to; will remedy that asap. Our friends Freya & Bryan were at the same OTR show & she can’t stop quoting from the new album, namely “all our favorite people are broken.” We’re huge Arcade Fire fans, I’d count Funeral & Suburbs as tops in last 5 years, & we also love Neko Case so no arguments there. Nice list, Scott!

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