Wednesday, January 3, 2001

McQ's Favorite Albums Of 2010

2010 was a great year for rock n' favorite since 2005, just a ridiculous number of Highest and Strong Recommends.

I just moved the final 2010 release I'm considering into my car rotation, so will hopefully be able to close out at least the rankings by November.

Of what I have listened to, albums I've already reviewed are listed with their album covers. Clicking on these will take you to my review.

Albums I have yet to review are listed just by title. Clicking on these will take you directly to's listen/purchase page for that album.

Last updated 05.12.2012. 75 releases fully reviewed so far, 116 ranked.


1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West: A legitimate watershed, MBDTF permanently pulls rap off the streets and into the realm of personal fantasy and biography.  Why do I say permanently?  Because this record, with it's truly epic, monstrous beats, makes near every other rap album released in the twenty-plus years since Public Enemy's Nation Of Millions seem boring by comparison.

2. High Violet - The National: Nothing original here, other than rock 'n roll craftsmanship applied at the highest possible level. A perfectly executed album.

3. The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae: Review pending.

4. This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem: Just another witty, brilliantly paced, near bullet-proof collection of extended dance-rock gems from one of the very best acts in popular music over the last half decade.

5. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire: Review pending.

6. Hadestown - Anais Mitchell: Recruiting the aid of some of indie rock's biggest contemporary stars, Anais Mitchell records the definitive soundtrack to her stage musical, Hadestown...a recasting of the Eurydice/Orpheus myth in depression-era America...and produces an utterly unique folk album for the ages.

7. Quarantine The Past - Pavement: Fabulous, non-chronological but wonderfully sequenced greatest hits package from one of 90s most influential indie acts.


9. There is Love In You - Four Tet: Stunningly intricate but easy on the ears glitch-oriented electronica. One of the very best releases in this genre of the last few years, and a great place for those new to electronica to start. Almost a Highest Recommend.

10. The Monitor - Titus Andronicus: Born to Run meets Meatloaf's Paradise Under The Dashboard Lights in this rollicking, shaggy, high-energy mess, one of most ambitious expressions of youthful dissatisfaction in quite some time.

11. I'm New Here - Gil Scott Heron: A comeback of sorts, the sound of one of rap's most important predecessors attaining peace with his life and what it has meant. Unique, funny, challenging, and at times very moving.

12. Odd Blood - Yeasayer : Mad scientists at play kick out one of the most spirited, upbeat, and quirkily infectious dance rock stews of recent years. Uneven, but the high points are stellar.

13. Public Strain - Women: Simultaneously ugly and captivating, no 2010 album better rewards repeat listening than this mysterious, dissonant, hynotically compelling lo-fi release out of Calgary, Canada.

14. Halycon Digest - Deerhunter: Review pending.

15. The Body Talk Series - Robyn: Review pending.

16. Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus: Review pending.

17. Total Life Forever - Foals: In a dramatic stylistic shift, jittery math-rock/ dance-rock mergists Foals adopt the haunting textures of Radiohead's In Rainbows and produce one of the best and most soulful UK releases of 2010.

18. Grinderman 2: Review pending.

19. Treats - Sleigh Bells: Cooing girl-group pop vocals combine with sledgehammer industrial noise to create one of the most unique and exhilerating releases of 2010.

20. True Love Cast Out All Evil - Roky Erickson and Okkervil River: Comeback album of the year.  13th Floor Elevator's lead singer Erickson emerges after three lost decades to join forces with fellow Austinites Okkervil River for a moving account of his horrorifying, troubled past.  Simple and profound.

22. Crystal Castles (2010): For the most part, their signature Atari 2600 processor sound is gone, but otherwise, this sophomore effort contains just as strong and eclectic an assortment of vocally manipulated electro-pop nuggets as Crystal Castle's winning 2008 debut.


23. Mines - Menomena: Review pending.

24. In Evening Air - Future Islands: Swirling 80s synth rock textures and fabulous Tom Waits-flavored vocals power the most passionate break-up album of the year.

25. Avi Buffalo: A real surprise.  Barely out of high school, this Long Beach-based band's nifty little Shins/MGMT-styled debut boasts great hooks and some of the best guitar playing of the year.

26. Teen Dream - Beach House: Indie chamber pop specialists warm up their dense, late night sound just enough to go from a challenging, acquired taste to something almost all will enjoy. Their best and most accessible album.

27. The Sea - Corrine Bailey Rae - Light soul chanteuse returns from four year hiatus and death of her spouse with a much more intimate and emotionally charged collection of free-flowing numbers.

28. Plastic Beach - Gorillaz - It starts and ends with a whimper, and is chiller than these fictional genre masher's first two outings, but the album's long middle section is such a joy, it makes this the best Gorillaz album yet.

29. Brothers - The Black Keys: Review pending.

30. IRM - Charlotte Gainsburg: French actress teams up with Beck to make one of 2010's most eclectic releases.

31. The Way Out - The Books: Review pending.

32. Forgiveness Rock Record - Broken Social Scene: Though not as daring or inventive as past releases, finer honed mixes, melodies and sequencing make this the most accessible and best-flowing collection of ramshackle BSS tunes yet.  A great summer album.

33. One EskimO: Stunning production work elevates every track on this otherwise conventional but very appealing 2009 adult-contemporary soft rocker.

34. Majesty Shredding - Superchunk: The pride of Chapel Hill return after a nine year hiatus with one of the best punk-pop albums of the year. 

35. Heartland - Owen Pallett: Strings, strings, strings. A dense, at times difficult to process, but ultimately very rewarding orchestral pop narrative from Final Fantasy founder and violinist Owen Pallett, his first release under his own name.

36. Contra - Vampire Weekend: Though it can be accused of trying too hard, and doesn't match the charm of their fantastic 2007 self-titled debut, Vampire Weekend's sophomore effort proves these young Ivy Leaguers are going to be around for quite a while.

37. First Four EPs - OFF!: Review  pending.

38. How I Got Over - The Roots: Review pending.

39. Curiouser - Kate Miller-Heidke: Review pending.

40. Ring - Glasser: Review pending.

41. Gorilla Manor - Local Natives: Folk rock harmonies through the roof. Fleet Foxes get an Eagles-sized dollop of Southern California studio gloss in this flawed but at times very impressive debut.

42. Transference - Spoon: Spoon reverts to it's earlier, rawer sound after 2007's lush Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, with solid but, for this act at least, unspectacular results.

43. The Winter of Mixed Drinks - Frightened Rabbit: Lacks the killer high points of predecessor The Midnight Organ Fight, but the likability factor for this earnest, folksy Brit-pop band remains high.

44. Armistice - Mutemath: This cheesy 2009 mainstream prog-rocker was hardly a critical darling, but the hooks work, the rockers swagger, the ballads boast all manner of well applied production touches, and the band's drummer seriously kicks ass. A guilty pleasure that's more fun than some of the bigger name offerings on this list.

45. A Sufi And A Killer - Gonjasufi: Review pending.

46. Swim - Caribou: Review pending.

47. My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky - Swans: Review Pending. 

48. Innerspeaker - Tame Impala: Full-length debut from these young Australian jam rockers possesses no truly great songs, but offers up an engaging, subtly original take on otherwise familiar psychedelic tropes.

49. Here's To Taking It Easy - Phosphorescent: The sound of The Byrds' Sweetheart Of The Rodeo given a contemporary lyrical spin.

50. Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons: Folk and bluegrass dolled out in arena-rock sized portions by this earnest, sometimes clumsy, but often quite effective young English band. 

51. Go - Jonsi: Sigur Ros' frontman Jon Thor Birgisson steps out on his own to explore the poppier direction established by 2008 Sigur Ros single Gobbledigook. But don't worry diehards, there are still enough epic builds here to wet you whistle.

52. Sky At Night - I Am Kloot: Review pending.

53. The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night : Two phenomenal tracks anchor this dense, moody, psychedelic merge of Beach Boy flavored vocals and epic arena rock crescendos.

54. Heaven Is Whenever - The Hold Steady: America's favorite indie bar band goes glossy, softer, and slightly country this time around on their best sung but slickest effort to date.

55. A Strange Arrangement - Mayer Hawthorne: Classic Motown reborn through the velvet-voice stylings of a pasty-white, Michigan-born D.J.

56. Black Noise - Pantha Du Prince: Chill, slightly occultish, but never sinister mellow textures power this very consistent electronica release.

57. Miike Snow: Three big time dance producers seek a performance outlet and craft a solid, bright, hook-ridden 2009 electro-pop album with occasionally dark lyrical undertones.

58. The Drums: The spare 80s sound of the early Cure singles gets combined with earnest, innocent lyrical flavor of the early 60s Beach Boys classics in this limited but focused and often charming debut.

59. No Better Than This - John Mellencamp: Review pending.

60. Write About Love - Belle And Sebastian: Far from this wonderful Glasgow retro-pop's finest, but still plenty good enough for rabid fans and newcomers alike. 

61. I Will Be - Dum Dum Girls: Samey, garagey, super catchy 60s girl group harmonies fly past in a hurry in one of the shortest and best lo-fi releases of 2010.

62. Big Echo - The Morning Benders: Review pending.

63. Have One On Me - Joanna Newsom: Uniquely beautiful but often stultifyingly static, you're either going to love or hate this one, but no matter where you stand, don't miss Good Intentions Paving Company, one of the very best songs of 2010.

64. No Nations - Jets Overhead: Gorgeous male/female harmonies power this decent 2009 collection of mellow, early 90s flavored tracks.

66. Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird EP - The Tallest Man On Earth: A fine same year EP follow-up to the excellent The Wild Hunt.

67. Baby Darling Doll Face Honey - Band Of Skulls: U.K. power trio with dueling male/female leads wear their influences on their sleeves in this very derivative but ultimately well-structured, winning 2009 collection of crunchy numbers done in a variety of classic hard rock styles.

68. Small Craft On A Milk - Brian Eno: Review pending.

69. Strange Weather, Isn't It - !!!: Another solid set of dance-punk numbers from this popular Sacramento outfit.

70. The Satanic Satanist - Portugal, The Man: Never great but always listenable 2009 glam-rock romp with more than a passing resemblance to Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie.

71. Brother's Blood - Kevin Devine: Review pending.

72. Sea Of Cowards - The Dead Weather: Review pending.


73. Together - The New Pornographers: Review pending.

74. Hidden - These New Puritans: One of the year's most original releases, an odd, murky, militaristic, tom-heavy stew of 80s new wave, math rock, dance rock, and orchestral influences. I only responded to portions, but for daring listeners out there with a darker bent, this may end up being your favorite release of 2010.

75. Wilderness Heart - Black Mountain: Review pending.

76. Similes - Eluvium: Matthew Cooper returns with his fifth-full length of soothing, ambient works, this time working vocals and drums into the mix.

77. Clinging To A Scheme - The Radio Dept: Dreamy, pretty shoegaze effort out of Sweden delivers a few excellent tracks but possesses a very soft midsection.

78. Love Remains - How To Dress Well: Review pending.

79. Forget - Twin Shadow: Limp choruses diminish this otherwise impressive, romantic, 80s-flavored debut from the promising young Brooklynite many have dubbed "the black Morrissey".

80. American Slang - The Gaslight Anthem: Rampant Springsteen-y lyrical cliches brutally lessen the impact of what nonetheless remains this New Jersey outfit's best effort to date.

81. Expo 86 - Wolf Parade: Though better and harder rocking than previous release At Mount Zoomer, Expo 86 fails to reach the heights of this Canadian indie act's beloved '05 debut, despite the presence of a couple killer tracks.

82. I Learned The Hard Way - Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings: Too great an emphasis on backing band discipline and restraint bogs down this otherwise fine fourth offering of retro-soul numbers from the Daptone label's brightest star.

83. Music For Men - Gossip: Review still pending.

84. Born On Flag Day - Deer Tick: This shaggy, gravelly 2009 collection of Dylanesque country rockers won't blow you away, but it's as easy to hang with as a dear friend.

85. One Life Stand - Hot Chip: Hot Chip focus on their gentler side and domestic Bliss the fourth time out with this steady but mostly lackluster collection of twee dance-rock ballads. They've been much better before.

86. Broken Bells: An intriquing but ultimately luke warm collaboration between Shin's front man James Mercer and uber-producer/Gnarls Barkley founder Dangermouse.

87. The Fool - Warpaint: Debut effort for this L.A.-based all female quartet offers up an original, atmospheric sound, but hampered by recording limitations, the material here plays much better live than it does on record.

88. As I Call You Down - Fistful Of Mercy: Review pending.

89. King Of The Beach - Wavves: The hardest-rocking, most appealing, and most eclectic of 2010's many no-fi surf-pop offerings.

91. The Budos Band III : Instrumental Afro-beat soulsters have an awesome retro sound, but too little variety seriously diminishes the overall appeal.

92. Volume Two - She and Him: In many measurable ways, a superior album to '08s Volume One, but the lack of any knockout singles drops this one down a notch for me.

93. Mind Chaos - Hockey: Lively, funky, 80s-tinged, 2009 party-rock debut boasts a few fine songs and hits solidly overall at first, but really fades with repeated listens.

94. Becoming A Jackal - Villagers: Review Pending. 

95. This Is Still It - The Method Actors: Review pending.

97. False Priest - Of Montreal: Review pending.

98. Upper Air - Bowerbirds: Consistently good, never great 2009 beard folk.

99. Rules - The Whitest Boy Alive: Way cool 2009 chill disco sound needs to be heard, but substantially diminished by way too safe songwriting.

100. Gemini - Wild Nothing: There's nothing wrong with this appealing shoegaze debut, except that many other contemporary acts are presently delivering the exact same type of music better.  For C-86 completists only.

101. Crazy For You - Best Coast: Review pending.

102. Black City - Matthew Dear: This moody, Bowie-esque electro-dance record boasts a phenomenal opening track and a very clear, specific sense of self, but is way, way, way too repetitive.

103. Astro Coast - Surfer Blood: Review pending.

104. Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook - Bettye LaVette: Sterile musicianship and a few very poor song choices mar this otherwise interesting R&B reinterpretation of beloved British rock classics by one of America's greatest living soul singers.

105. Pattern + Grid World - Flying Lotus: Review Pending. 

106. Keep It Hid - Dan Auerbach: Solid but unmemorable 2009 solo outing from Black Keys' frontman. Recommended for hardcore fans only.

107. Relayted - Gayngs: Review pending.


108. Travellers In Space And Time - The Apples In Stereo: A slight shift towards dance textures proves the undoing of one of the most likable indie-pop acts of the last twenty years.

109. You Can't Take It With You - As Tall As Lions: An impressive live act, this now-defunct New York-based band's 2009 effort strives for the proggy instrumental complexity of Bends/O.K. Computer-era Radiohead, but despite a few highlights, ends up more suggestive of incredibly muddled late-era Journey.

110. King Night - Salem: Review Pending. 

111. Play It Strange - The Fresh & Onlys: Bay-area act offers up a bundle of lively, spaghetti-western tinted garage rockers for their third outing, but an obnoxiously low vocal mix dooms most of the tracks.

112. Catacombs - Cass McCombs: Catatonic would be a better title. Pitchfork was all over this late 2009 alt-country release of Gram Parsony ballads, and to a degree I get it. A couple of the tracks are phenomenal. But taken as a whole, the pacing on this album is so excrutiatingly slow that I cannot recommend. Check out the full review and cherry pick this one.

113. I Speak Because I Can - Laura Marling: Review pending.

114. The Age Of Adz - Sufjan StevensAn epic fail. Ultra-ambitious, overstuffed design leads to the dopiest sounding album of the year.

115. Congratulations - MGMT: MGMT's attempt to recreate the sound and loopy charms of light 60s classics like the Zombie's Oddysey and Oracle is admirable, but this album just never comes together.


Option Paralysis - Dillinger Escape Plan: Manically assaultive metalcore offering with a few stellar less aggressive numbers. For contemporary metal fans only.

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