Top 5 Albums of 2010

December 2, 2010 — 9 Comments

Apologies to non-music fans out there.  I can’t help but let my other passions bleed into this “thoughts on leadership and college ministry” blog. Consider it cultural exegesis.

December is my favorite time of the Music Year – when all of the “best of the year” music lists come out.

For me, 2010 was the year of the album. 2009 had better songs (Animal Collective’s My Girls, Passion Pit’s Sleepy Head, White Rabbits’ Percussion Gun, Grizzly Bear’s Two Weeks -to name a few) but the albums were not as strong.

This year I’m not nearly excited about compiling my annual “Top 50 songs” (starting next week on the blog!).  Just no clear standouts like last year.  It’s more like I’m compiling the best 2 songs from my favorite albums.

Anyway . . .

Here’s my top 5 albums of 2010:

5. Sufjan Stevens- The Age of Adz

  • Hard to decide where to put this one.  Every time I listen to it, I like it more.  But it’s 5th because it is, by far, the most “challenging” of the 5 albums on my list.  You won’t like most of it at first listen.  And if I were to tell you that my favorite part of the album is in minute 12 of the 25 minute closing track, you would be right to think Sufjan more than a little  self-indulgent.  But this album rewards repeated listens.  I like how Paste magazine puts it: “It’s what you hope for from your favorite artists in your best moments—evolution, a little difficulty and, especially, something new”
  • Download the most accessible song from the album for free: I Walked

4.  Broken Bells – Broken Bells

  • The lead singer of the Shins joins forces with Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame).  The result is great indie-electro-pop.  This is probably my wife’s favorite of these 5.
  • Get one of the best songs on the album for free – High Road

3.  Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

  • The first two songs set a great tone (and are by far the standouts on the album) but this album is greater than the sum of its parts.  Somehow, listened to all-together this album becomes great.  The songs sonically flow together (as many of the songs musically segue straight into the next) and thematically cover the same ground – a solemn lament of life in the sprawling suburbs.

2.  Vampire Weekend – Contra

  • Carefree and happy.  So many good songs on this album (feel free to pick and choose songs – this album doesn’t lose any of it’s greatness when listened to as singles – start with “Run” and “Giving up the Gun” as downloads) .  Sounds like a soundtrack from a Wes Anderson movie.
  • Get Horchata – a great introduction to the album – for free

1.  The National – High Violet

  • Moving and melancholy.  Much like Arcade Fire’s album, this one is best listened to as a whole.  There are a few great songs on the album but they’re so much better when heard in context of the whole.  I’ve listened to this album over 50 times in the 6 months I’ve had it.  So good.
  • What others are saying – Spin Magazine: “No other band makes dark and stormy seem like ideal weather.”  Paste Magazine: “The five-piece’s cerebral rock ’n’ roll makes no apologies for its bleak emotional tenor, and I can’t listen . . . without imagining myself slouching down the midwinter streets of Manhattan alone at 3 a.m., watching my icy breath spill into the dark like cigarette smoke.
  • Get the best song on the album BloodBuzz Ohio (and one of the best songs of 2010) for free

What were your favorite albums of the year?

Would love to hear what you’re listening to and enjoying!


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  • These are just artists I’ve discussed recently. Have to say it’s been a great year of discovering new sounds!!!!

    1. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
    2. Explosions in the Sky – Your Hand in Mine
    3. Stephan Moccio – Exposure
    4. Mae – (m)orning
    5. Bruno Mars – Doo Wops and Hooligans
    *Extra Credit*
    Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus

  • I’ve definitely hear you on Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Sufjan. Especially Sufjan. That album is pure genius.

  • I got tired of Vampire Weekend’s first album after about a summer of listening to it, so I never gave Contra a chance until this week and I’m stuck on it! Especially Horchata! Good call! Broken Bells is growing on me too.
    I know you like Sufjan, but I remember you saying you’re not too big on folk. Have you heard/ do you like Sufjan’s X-mas album? Bought it a few years ago and I still think it was a great investment.

  • timcasteel

    Thanks for adding your list Cassandra! I haven’t heard several of those – Stephan Moccio, Mae’s new album and Bruno Mars.

    And thanks for the affirmation Phillip – Great to hear from you!

    Brett – Glad you liked VW – love that album. I do have the Sufjan Xmas album but don’t ever listen to it. A little too slow for my tastes. My favorite tracks (of the, like, 500 tracks) are the insrumental xmas tunes.

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