These are the 10 albums that made the biggest impact on me during the last twelve months. There might be “better” albums out there, if there are they either didn’t resonate with me or I never heard them.
You might be able to cry, “Fanboy!” on a couple, but I really feel that all inclusions are really really really solid albums.
As in past years I have leaned on last.fm for help in keeping track of what I am listening to. It just makes sense if I am listening to something a great deal that I probably like it a great deal. This year, however, last.fm was of less help as more and more of my listening was away from the computer. Nonetheless, I still love last.fm and encourage you to check it out.
So, without further ado, I present 10 albums that are decidedly not annoying or boring…
10. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
The 10 spot was something of a tossup between any number of albums. I give it to these Scots on the tiebreak that one of my absolute most favorite songs of the year is on this album. See the honorable mentions at the end to see who else very well could have taken the 10th position.
Check out – Swim Until You Can’t See Land
9. Old 97’s – The Grand Theatre Volume One
This alt-country outfit has been kicking around for years. I have always been aware of them, but it wasn’t until this album that they really grabbed me.
Check out – Champaign Illinois (live version)
8. April Smith & The Great Picture Show – Songs for a Sinking Ship
The sole female representation on the list makes music that sometimes sounds like it would be as home in the 30’s, 40’s or 50’s as it is today. Lou Grant would not like it. It’s got spunk.
Check out – Colors
7. The 88 – The 88
Power Pop. No more, no less. At times they sound British Invasion-ish, at others Steely Dan-ish, I don’t know I just dig it.
Check out – The Ought to See You Now
6. Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
Still dripping with a heavily 60’s influenced sound the boys from Philly keep getting better and more polished.
Check out – Unbearable Why
5. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
This is the album that I wish Bruce Springsteen was capable of making. Some of the slower numbers don’t really work 100%, but when they turn it up these boys really bring it on.
Check out – Bring it On
4. Vampire Weekend – Contra
When Contra came out in the early part of 2010 I told myself that I wanted to like it. I am not so sure of that looking back. I put it down after only a few listens, but as the year went on I kept finding myself drawn to songs of the album as they hit the airwaves. I returned to it come fall and really was amazed at how much I did indeed like it. My like for it was almost derailed however when Honda started absolutely flooding the airwaves with a commercial using “Holiday”. Thankfully it’s not nearly as awful as Hyundai’s holiday themed commercial!
Check out – Horchata
3. John Wesley Harding – Sings to a Small Guitar Vol 1
Three years, three inclusions of JWH on my list (in my defense, I counted his last studio album among the tops for both 2008 and 2010). This time the album is a collection of demos. Just Wes and his guitar. Full band like last year’s Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead is great, and I look forward to more Full Band Wes in the future, but there is something about a man and a guitar that just does it for me, and if that man just so happens to be my favorite singer/songwriter then I am golden.
Check out – The Album on Wes’ site (I couldn’t find any youtubage)
2. PT Walkley – Nice Guy Johnny Soundtrack
This is perhaps a bit of an oddity to appear on a top albums list as much of the music on this album was previously released. In fact three of the songs appeared on last year’s Mr. Macy Wakes alone, which I had as my third favorite album of last year. A couple other songs are even older. As the title would indicate this is the soundtrack to a film called Nice Guy Johnny. You may not have heard of it as it was an independent offering of Ed Burns (he of The Brothers McMullen and She’s the One fame). The film was made on a shoestring budget and distributed almost solely electronically. The songs on the album run the full emotional range of the film and although most were not written exclusively for the film could not fit it any better if they were. The film was alright, the album stellar.
Check out – Save the World
1. Mumord & Sons – Sigh No More
I knew within minutes of my first listen to this one that it was going to place very high on my year end list. Every song on the album hits me ‘right there’ on each and every listen, there isn’t a single dud. This English folk-rock band utilizes accordion, banjo, dobro, double bass and assorted other instruments to produce an album that makes me think that this is the album the Avett Brothers would have released last year if they grew in the UK, exposed to the London folk scene. No wonder it wound up as #1 for me as the Avetts took that honor last year. You may have heard “Little Lion Man” on the radio with all the “f-bombs” dropped, “I really #@&*$!+^ it up this time, didn’t I my dear…”.
Check out – The Cave
Honorable Mentions: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Self Titled, Backyard Tire Fire, Good To Be, Spoon – Transference, John Mellencamp – No Better Than This, Lissie – Catching a Tiger, The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever, Local Natives – Gorilla Manor, The Walkman – Lisbon, Eli “Paperboy” Reed – Come and Get it, Broken Bells – Self Titled, Band of Horses – Infinite Arms.