Music

AltOhio's Top Albums of 2010

Darren C. Demaree

Over the last couple of weeks, fourteen (14) AltOhio contributors and editors submitted their lists of their favorite albums of the year. This is the summation of those lists. (There is no order to the list.)

Justin Townes Earle "Harlem River Blues"
This is the second straight year Earle has made the Top Albums list. This one is a full step closer towards the Country Blues than "Midnight at the Movies", but as he as proven with all of his albums thus far, Earle can do no wrong.

Start by listening to the title track "Harlem River Blues", I love the background organ.
Sufjan Stevens "The Age of Adz"
Near brilliant at times, Stevens takes things in an odder and more electric angle on this one. It feels like the exploration will never end for this very talented musician. I worry that some day he will only produce ambient sound records for alarm clocks, but until that happens he is a great listen.

Start by listening to "I Walked", it's has the requisite "cool" sound to it, but is lyrically touching as well.
Horse Feathers "Thistled Spring"
Horse Feathers is one of my favorite bands. Justin Ringle, the mastermind of Horse Feathers, does a great job of using his lyrics to create both story and landscape. The sparse, almost haunting music behind it is quite lovely as well.

Start by listening to "Cascades". "The noose was broke / the witness was the cascade"
Antony and the Johnsons "Swanlights"
Antony and the Johnsons can divide a room of music fans pretty damn well. If you love Antony, as I do, it's almost a religious experience to listen to this music. If you don't dig it, then one song is enought to turn you off the rest. With "Swanlights" he's given us a slightly lighter touch musically, but still gives us that haunting, unequivocal voice in a new batch of songs. This album is more appreciative and less searching lyrically. Judge that how you may.

Start by listening to "I'm In Love", there is an underlining drive to this song that grabs you.
Band of Horses "Infinite Arms"
On their third studio album Band of Horses added a couple of touring mates to make their sound a little more lively than past attempts. "Laredo" was even a small radio hit on the indie stations. I'm excited to see them branch out a little, but stil have kept a few toes in that old Band of Horses pool.

Start with "Laredo", a catchy Band of Horses track is undeniable. Like a shot of Jameson dropped into a Guinness. You didn't need to do it, but it's real nice.
Cee Lo Green "The Lady Killer"
This album is infinitely listenable. Adding retro R & B and Soul sounds, mixed with the current Cee Lo sensibilites that have always been so radio friendly, you have his best album to date.

Start by listening to "F**k You", it might be the best song of the entire year.
Crazy Heart "The Soundtrack"
Jeff Bridges and Ryan Bingham singing songs mostly written by T-Bone Burnett was can't miss. Even Colin Farrell does well singing on this album. I bought this album on Itunes half way through watching the movie.

Start by listening to "Brand New Angel. "The Weary Kind" is a great song, it did win an Oscar, but "Brand New Angel" is perfect.
The Black Keys "Brothers"
A colleague of mine wanted to disqualify the Black Keys for sneaking out of Ohio, and moving to Nashville on the sly. I imagine someone saw moving trucks though, and this album was an overwhelming choice by the AltOhio contributors. Outside of their BlackRoc compilation, I imagine this is as big of a sound as The Black Keys can make. They've become masters of the studio, that is for sure.

Start by listening to "Tighten Up", there's a good reason you've heard this song everywhere.
Joe Pug "Messenger"
See this man live, do it now, thank us later. Anyway, on his first full length album Pug delivers on every song both with the folky twang, and quick strumming he delivers in his live performances. Throw in a couple of beautiful ballads, and you've got a great album.

Start by listening to "Not So Sure", it's a beautiful song.
Josh Ritter "So Runs The World Away"
Josh Ritter is one of the top five songwriters working today. He takes storytelling, the wink and truth of it, and does it better than almost anybody. On "So Runs the World Away" he takes us on a trip, both in story and in music. The music seems to deepen with each album, and anytime the musician part of a great writer grows, you better watch out.

Start by listening to "Change of Time", it keys the whole experience.
Kanye West "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"
Kanye West has taken the popular rapper motif and plunged it inward on his last couple of albums. Revealiing, critical, self-aware, and full of catchy flow, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is definitely one of the best rap albums of the year.

Start by listening to "Monster". The cast list for this track includes Kanye West, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, and Bon Iver.
LCD Soundsystem "This Is Happening"
On "This Is Happening" LCD Soundsystem stayed with their fastball down the middle (as it were), but they have a great fastball. James Murphy does thissort of thing pitch-perfectly. It took me a few years to warm up to LCD, but I'm there now.

Start by listening to "Drunk Girls", it's such a cool song.
Mumford & Sons "Sigh No More"
"Sigh No More" is more than just the single "Little Lion Man". This English band dipping a full heel into Americana, has put together a really good collection of songs for their first album. There is plenty of driving fiddle, plenty of tales of loss, and plenty of quality all the way around.

Start by listening to "Timshel", it's a beautifully quiet song. Anyway, you've already heard "Little Lion Man".
Neil Young "Le Noise"
This man just won't stop making great albums. He's going to be dead, and we'll find five great albums he buried in the American West as a treasure hunt. This one I thought was special in comparison to his most recent albums. Really stripped down, and really cutting at certain points, "Le Noise" surprised me in a good way.

Start by listening to "Hitchhiker", it's my favorite Neil Young song in a long while.
Rufus Wainwright "All Days Are Night: Songs for Lulu"
I own all of this man's albums. He's had me hooked since the song "In My Arms". What he's done with "Lulu" is expand even further on his piano and operatic sounds. The man does indeed write operas. As he moves in this direction he is losing some of his quirkier pop talent, but surely that can not be mistaken for a lessening of the quality.

Start by listening to "The Dream", it really has all of the things he does best.
Beach House "Teen Dream"
There seem to be a lot of electronic/folk/pop duos these days. No matter the others Beach House is one of the best. Sometimes catchy, sometimes haunting, and produced brilliantly "Teen Dreams" was a real maturation from their last effort "Devotion".

Start by listening to "10 Mile Stereo", and start by listening to it as night when you're driving away from the bar. It works completely.
The National "High Violet"
They keep getting better, both with their vision and their production. They've always had beautifully written and beautifully sung tracks, but I thought "High Violet" had almost no lulls in it. I'm not sayin there were many more on other albums, but this one felt complete to me.

Start by listening to "Bloodbuzz Ohio". Like I would have picked anything else.
The Tallest Man on Earth "The Wild Hunt"
Kristian Matsson, the tallest man himself, delivers a raw and rangy vocal performance on his second album. Always strumming the guitar in unison, there is something beautiful about this music. Something that brings you closer to it, because there is nothing between you and the songs. I like that.

Start by listening to the title track "The Wild Hunt". "I left my heart to the wild hunt a'comin / I lived until the call / And I plan to be forgotten when I'm gone'".
Arcade Fire "The Suburbs"
There is something both dark and lovely about this album. What also helps is that it's Arcade Fire performing it, and they seem to carry this music further and deeper than you thought possible. You don't always know what exactly is happening in these songs, but that comes no where close to ending the enjoyment.

Start by listening to "We Used to Wait". My favorite Arcade Fire song.
Vampire Weekend "Contra"
From start to finish this album is pure catch. It's just fun. That, by the way, is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes silly, sometimes flirty, but always driven by great percussion choices, I imagine Vampire Weekend will be doing this for a long time.

Start by listening to "Giving Up the Gun". I never switch this song off the radio.