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Listing the Year Away: Favorite Albums of 2010

Every year, I make a list of my top 10 favorite albums. This dates back to my years as a music critic, and I’d review 150 records a year. While I’m not listening to that many new albums any more, I do feel like I’m still keeping up with new music, and am as welcome to continue making these lists as anyone else on the internet. Of course, it’s all subjective. These really are just the top 10 titles that popped into my head when sitting to make a list. Truth be told, I enjoyed a ton of new music this year, new bands and new records. Maybe you’ll consider checking out my blip.fm channel at http://blip.fm/michaelsalamone where I’ve DJ’d a lot of it throughout the year.

While I put this list in an order, there’s really no order. These are just 10 albums (12 actually) that I loved listening to all the way through, as many times as I could since they came out this year. There were A TON more great albums this year, many that belong on a list like this. This is just mine.

#1: Let It Sway by Somebody Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

I found this album, their third, to be seriously addicting. The more I listened to it, the more I needed to listen to it again. For a cute, pop influenced indie folk band, this is their most produced record, one where every track could have been a hit for a band more on America’s radar. Yet there is poetry and complexity to every track as well, which gave this record a firm hold on my heart. While there isn’t anything revolutionary about my favorite album of the year, there is something quite soothing and romantic, and don’t we all need a little bit of that?

Sample Track
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Critical Drain

#2 Everything Under the Sun by Jukebox the Ghost

Like my favorite album of the year, my second favorite captures poetic and pop with artful persistence. Jukebox is easily one of the wittiest bands out there, and though I may pigeonhole them into an indie-pop categorization, they definitely experiment with different genres throughout their interesting compositions. Interesting compositions which will haunt you for days, like their name, Jukebox the Ghost, implies.

Sample Track:
So Let Us Create – Jukebox The Ghost

#3 Strange Weather, Isn’t It? by !!! (Chk Chik Chick)

The minute I heard this band, I started dancing, and I haven’t stopped since. Well, not literally. Figuratively speaking though, just thinking about them makes me WANT to dance. So that’s something… !!! is so very much fun, and this album is just one big collection of fun. Just listen to the sample track and boogie.

Sample Track:
!!! – AM/FM from Strange Weather, Isn’t It?

Brothers by the Black Keys

This record is going to be on most music critics’ lists this year, because anyone who listened to it all of the way through fell in love with it on some level. The dark, blues influenced indie rock sound that the Black Keys gave us touched on just about every love-torn emotion anyone could muster. Gone is the fast paced, high energy Black Keys of albums gone by. This thoughtful, laid back sonic mind-fuck brought the band to a new level of cool.

Sample Track:
The Black Keys – Howlin’ For You

#5: Seu Jorge & Almaz by Seu Jorge & Almaz

I struggled with putting a genre behind this record. The best I could come up with was psychedelic Brazilian jazzy indie rock. I don’t care what you label it. I loved it. Seu Jorge & Almaz provide an amazing sound-scape of poetry and jazz elements on this self-titled album. Like most, I best knew Seu Jorge from the Life Aquatic soundtrack. I’m grateful that I gave this album a shot, because as you see, it’s one of my new favorites.

Sample Track:
Seu Jorge and Almaz – A1 Everybody Loves The Sunshine

#6: Wake Up! by John Legend & The Roots

I’m a Roots fan boy. I’ve never made a list in a year that they put out an album that the album didn’t make the list. I watch Jimmy Fallon just for his house band, the Roots. I heart them. This year, they teamed up with John Legend to put out my 3rd favorite Roots album yet. It’s hip, it’s political, it’s funky, it’s sexy, it’s everything you want in a record. Thanks again, Roots crew.

Sample Track:
John Legend & the Roots – Wake Up Everybody (Feat. Common & Melanie Fiona)

#7: Together by The New Pornographers

In full disclosure, I need to also admit that I’m a total New Pornographers fan boy. Every one of their albums is one of my favorite albums. In fact, I weighted this record down my list because of that fact. It maybe is in the top 3. Anyhow, it’s ANOTHER masterpiece from this Canadian super-group. On first listen, I always think that the newest New Pornographers record isn’t as good as the last. By the 5th listen, I always think it’s their best record yet. And it gets better with every listen. I love this band and wish everyone else did too. I think that might be as Utopian of a society as we’re capable of.

Sample Tracks:
The New Pornographers – Valkyrie In The Roller Disco
The New Pornographers – We End Up Together

#8: New Amerykah Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh by Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu’s most R&B album to date still has her Billie Holliday of our generation sound, with even bigger and badder production than ever. Everything that made her an instant sensation is true about her, and this was easily the best R&B record all year. If you like soul music, you should own this record.

Sample Track:
Erykah Badu – Can’t Turn Me Away (Get Munny)

#9: Interpreting The Masters Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John Oates by The Bird and the Bee

I’m a little embarrassed that a tribute album made my list, but it just goes to show the power of Hall and Oates and the talent of the Bird and the Bee. When they were big, I made fun of Hall and Oates a little. I mean, they were white guys doing soul music in the 80s. But their music has stood the test of time. I appreciate it more and more each year, and actually credit them for keeping horns alive during the New Wave era. On THIS record, the Bird and the Bee recreate those great songs in a new, fun, indie way that works yet still preserves the magic of the originals. It’s a beautiful album. Really.

Sample Track:
the bird and the bee – I Can’t Go For That

#10: Before Today by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

I’ve been aware of Ariel Pink for about a decade, but this album grabbed me in a way that I didn’t expect. It’s kind of haunting, kind of psychedelic, all old-school alternative. I don’t think anyone who actually lived through 80’s alternative (not you hipsters who were born in 88 and think you know the 80s from watching VH1 specials) can listen to this record without at least respecting it. I respected it enough to want it on this list.

Sample Track:
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round

Honorable Mentions:

I’m Having Fun Now by Jenny and Johnny

Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and singer-songwriter Johnathan Rice teamed up to make a beautiful record this year. Included are some of the most beautiful harmonies ever recorded, in my humble opinion.

Sample Track:
Jenny and Johnny – Scissor Runner

Lisbon by the Walkmen

Lisbon is the Walkmen’s sixth album, but my favorite of theirs yet. I highly suggest it, especially if you like vintage instruments playing beautiful American rock and roll.

Sample Track:
The Walkmen – All My Great Designs

Of course this list doesn’t do any justice to these bands, these albums, or the the wonderful year in music that 2010 really was. But it might make you remember or check out some stuff that I really liked. And it helped me remember all of the great music I heard this year. So, it’s all good. Have a Happy Solstice Everyone.

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