Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 25 of 2010

I started this and never finished it, but I have the overall ranking on a post-it on my desk at work. Might as well post it...

December is again upon us, and for the past several weeks one thought has dominated my waking hours: what are my favorite albums of 2010. As with 2008 and 2009 I've selected 25 worthy candidates and ranked them from top to bottom in an order with which I'll once again certainly find fault. I consider 2010 to be one of the best years for new music in quite some time. The majority of my favorite bands released new albums this year, including two that reformed from previous breakups. I believe in 2010 I purchased more new records and CDs than any year since 1998, my first year at UW. That semester I was burdened with a surfeit of cash, few friends on campus and a legal prohibition from purchasing alcohol, so I did what came naturally and spent hour after hour in the record stores on State Street. This year was slightly different, if only in that I don't live on campus and I can imbibe legally. A combination of great deals, good luck on my part and a new-found interest in vinyl had led me to increase my already formidable collection significantly. I'm still processing through everything I've gotten this year and in the interest of making this list I've focused on 2010 releases for the past month. Unlike the past two years I have really concentrated on my rankings, as subjective as they may be. For the past six months I've kept a list of new releases at my desk at work and in the last month I started the draft rankings. My list is now cluttered with notes, covered in Post-it notes and is generally indecipherable; still I'll give it a shot. There were no clear-cut winners this year - in fact I consider the top four almost interchangeable. So without any further preconditions or excuses here is my Top 25 of 2010:

#25: Alejandro Escovedo - Street Songs of Love
I really do love Alejandro Escovedo. I've been buying his new records since 2001's A Man Under The Influence, and 2008's Real Animal was my #11 on the year. But I have this theory that every other Escovedo album is great and unfortunately this album almost serves as confirmation. When I first bought this I honestly thought it would be my biggest disappointment of the year. There is one reason and one reason only - the female backing vocal tracks on most all of the songs. There's few things in life I find more off-putting than the addition of prominent female backing vocals on otherwise great rock songs. It's not like these are duets either, more like "woo woo's" in the choruses and refrains. I'm not trying to be a misogynistic dick or anything, I just don't care for the higher pitch of the vocals and I find it really, really distracting. So why is this on the list? My mother really loves this album. After repeated listenings on the drive down to Illinois on Thanksgiving I had a chance to hear beyond what I found grating and truly appreciate the uplifting yet tortured romanticism in the songs Al has written. It's a good album, and minus one little piece it would be one of my favorites of the year. Stand-out Track: "This Bed is Getting Crowded" [link]

#24: Look Mexico - To Bed To Battle
I hadn't really heard much of Look Mexico before this year, making this band one of a better finds of 2010. I heard an interview Sound Scene Revolution a year or so ago and placed the band on my mental list to revisit at a later date. I never got around to doing so until the band went and put out their sophomore album on my favorite label Suburban Home and I picked up a copy of the vinyl. Look Mexico has a tight, dark aggression hidden behind their pleasant sunny sound. I especially enjoy the almost orchestral range of their songs, which expertly skirt the line between haunting and overly melancholy. Stand-out Track: "You Stay. I Go. No Following." [link]

#23: Spraynard - Cut and Paste
I make it a regular habit of checking If You Can Make It as it's been a wellspring of excellent music legally available for free. Spraynard, certainly the best named band on this list, released Cut and Paste

#22: The State Lottery - When The Night Comes

#21: Tim Barry - 28th & Stonewall

#20: The Whigs - In The Dark

#19: Defiance, Ohio - Midwestern Minutes

#18: Dan Padilla - As The Ox Plows

#17: Alkaline Trio - This Addiction

#16: Glossary - Feral Fire

#15: Josh Ritter - So Runs The World Away

#14: I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch In The House - The Sounds Of Dying

#13: The Thermals - Personal Life

#12: Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

#11: The Gamits - Parts

#10: Backyard Tire Fire - Good To Be

#9: Drive-by Truckers - The Big To-Do

#8: The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever
When I think of the backing vocals I want to drop this to #24. Otherwise I really love this album.

#7: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks

#6: Iron Chic - Not Like This

#5: Off With Their Heads - In Desolation

#4: Against Me! - White Crosses

#3: The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

#2: Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me

#1: Titus Andronicus - The Monitor