The Top 50 Albums of 2010

Treble staff
Treble's Top 50 Albums of 2010

40. GrindermanGrinderman 2 (Anti-)

Nick Cave, elder statesman? Maybe, though assistant manager of the Devil’s playground is more like it. By all accounts Nick Cave should be an elder statesman like his peers Thurston Moore or Henry Rollins or Kathleen Hannah but that would be antithetical to everything Nick Cave does and has done. Cave remains as fascinated by the macabre and the melancholy as he was in the 1980s, but he’s managed to be one of the most versatile artists to ever work around repeat themes. He was a noise-monger, a balladeer, crooner, a pop artist and now he is simply a rocker and something of a bluesman. Grinderman’s second album is a rock record at its most evil. Though I may be simplifying somewhat, I imagine that someone near Cave was playing anything by the Rolling Stones and in overhearing it he was all like, “Fuck those guys!” The rest is minor, but no less impressive history. Seriously though, fuck those guys. – Chris Morgan

39. KylesaSpiral Shadow (Seasons of Mist)

Having mastered the art of the heavy long ago, Savannah, Ga. sludge quintet Kylesa have spent recent years attempting (and succeeding at) a balance between metal’s intense, visceral power and the more melodic elements of post-punk and psychedelic rock. But in 2010, the band discovered the best way to make a great metal album is to first make a great rock ‘n’ roll album, which Spiral Shadow most certainly is. While their production still pummels, and their dual drummer assault still punishes with more force than most, their melodies proved stronger than ever, particularly on standouts like “Tired Climb,” “Dust” and the monolithic “Don’t Look Back.” It’s a monster, certainly, and cathartically brutal as always. But more importantly, it’s a showcase for the best songwriting of the band’s career. – Jeff Terich

38. LiarsSisterworld (Mute)

Having gotten their start in New York’s dance-punk scene of the early 2000s, and later doing time in Berlin where the group spawned their groundbreaking third album Drums Not Dead, by the came time to ready their fifth album, Liars had landed yet another world away in Los Angeles, Calif. Delving into varying textures of rock, jazz and dance among other sounds, with Sisterworld, the trio offers what is perhaps Liars’ most thought-provoking collection of songs to date. The influence of the band’s new hometown comes into play heavily throughout Sisterworld, from the violent chaos of “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant,” inspired by an event where frontman Angus Andrews became a witness to a murder, to the sing-song, tongue-in-cheek commentary about their fellow Angelenos on “The Overacheivers.” – Jamie Ludwig

37. The RootsHow I Got Over (Def Jam)

Under the unfaltering leadership of Ahmir Thompson, aka drummer/producer ?uestlove, The Roots have built one of the most consistent and original discographies in hip-hop. Their latest, the remarkably solid How I Got Over, is a sleek and concise conscious-rap counterpoint to 2008’s relatively gritty Rising Down that synthesizes pensive meditations on the American condition in 2010 with impassioned resilience and cautiously optimistic overtones. While not the subtlest of lyricists, Black Thought’s charisma and raw emotion feed into the overarching themes of the record perfectly and are often enough to sell even the occasionally trite turn of phrase. However, the real power of this record lies in the composition of the music itself. Falling back on tried and true strengths — smooth keys, soulful melodies, infectious beats, tight percussive hooks, and rich, layered songcraft — Questo and The Roots band drop some of their strongest jams since their breakthrough record Things Fall Apart. Their gig as in-house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” is a natural fit for these seasoned musicians, but has more importantly embellished and expanded their already active tendency to collaborate with other artists. This time around some notable contributions from R&B crooner John Legend and Los Angeles MC Blu are seamlessly melded with some less-conventional guest spots from indie heavyweights Monsters of Folk, Joanna Newsom, and Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian and Haley Dekle of Dirty Projectors. All speaks volumes of the artistic adventurousness and ability of ?uestlove and The Roots, who are seemingly able to assimilate any disparate group of influences into their own, distinct creative identity. – Derek Emery

36. WavvesKing of the Beach (Fat Possum)

A year apparently makes a whole lot of difference. While Nathan Williams clearly had a handful of nifty tunes beneath the layers of fuzz on 2009’s Wavvves, the buzz that followed was quickly harshed by an onstage disaster, a feud and the departure of Wavves’ only other member. But Wavves, once, now and forever the soundtrack to good times spent under the influence of almost-legal chemicals, remains such a year later. Yet with a new, tighter rhythm section, vastly improved fidelity and their best set of songs to date, the Wavves on King of the Beach is a renewed and re-energized band. “Post-Acid” is two minutes of surf-punk joy. The title track is two minutes of psychedelic euphoria. And “Idiot” is two minutes of self-deprecating hedonism. Maybe not that much has changed after all, but somehow, with a little tinkering, this band of San Diego slackers has come out sounding much sweeter. – Jeff Terich

35. Twin ShadowForget (Terrible)

Plenty of artists have plundered the 1980s for inspiration, but what separates George Lewis, aka Twin Shadow, from the average everyday new wave revivalist essentially boils down to his ability to recontextualize it. Forget doesn’t sound like new wave so much as a hazy recollection of it, and it’s not coincidental that the album is, indeed, titled Forget. This is new wave through hardened, melancholy filters, weighted with regretful experiences and dark effects. But most of all, it’s the best new wave bass album ever. Lewis’ basslines thump and slither, making an experience that’s as sexy as it is brooding and sensitive. A crazed fan actually went so far as to stuff her hand into Lewis’ pants without consent. I can’t say for sure whether the Smiths-gone-disco sound of “Slow” or the fierce rhythms of “For Now” are responsible, but they’re certainly suspect. – Jeff Terich

34. YeasayerOdd Blood (Secretly Canadian)

Tighter and more refined than their 2007 debut, Yeasayer’s Odd Blood is ten slabs of sonic sugar, combining shimmering ’80s synth pop, smart lyrics and soaring harmonic hooks in the equivalent of adding a whopping B12 supplement to the dancefloor diet. Upping the album’s bass-heavy body-movers while hedging previous world-music eccentricities does nothing to undermine its overall achievement as a highly cerebral, jubilant album that’s ineffably fun to listen to, because it sounds like it was serious fun to create. Hand claps and saxophone work “Mondegreen” into a dizzily chanted positivist pop mantra euphoria, while guitarist Anand Wilder’s voice is more clearly decipherable than ever, his smile radiating through every trembling delivery, turning anthems like “Ambling Alp” and “Rome” into triumphant rallying cries. With Odd Blood, these relentlessly creative Brooklyn boys assimilate their influences into cohesion, separating themselves from previous comparisons to David Byrne, Grizzly Bear and freak-folk torchbearers Animal Collective, beating them all at their own games by being more inclusive, addictive, and for reminding us to try lightening the hell up about ourselves once in a while. – George Hild

33. The-DreamLove King (Def Jam)

Following an auspicious debut of synthed-up R&B jams and a hit-packed sophomore effort that found Terius Nash both visiting the moon and paying tribute to his favorite collection of R. Kelly bedroom ballads, The-Dream’s Love King completes the `Love’ trilogy with more dazzle, more intrigue and, above all, more satellite transmissions from the Purple One. Less of a collection of singles than a complete statement of one man and his romantic and sexual misadventures, Love King is an awe-inspiring showcase of production, from the atmospheric slither of “Turnt Out” to the Minneapolis sound-inspired grind of “Yamaha.” The latter, when part of the midsection’s “Trilogy,” becomes part of an even more impressive feat, which closes with the cold and bitter “Abyss.” In the end, Nash merely throws up his middle fingers, showing that, in the end, love is evasive and elusive, but it doesn’t really matter. He’s still the king. – Jeff Terich

32. Sleigh BellsTreats (N.E.E.T. – Interscope)

Sleigh Bells’ Treats gave us all a big kick in the ass this year. Not often does a record come along that is so outrageously loud, and Treats is a particularly extreme example. When demos for this album surfaced around the Internet just over a year ago, their raw power stirred up an instant buzz. Treats more than delivered on that promise. What the album gives the listener is those surfacing demos, with better quality amongst other gems all wrapped up into one neat little package. Treats possesses what could be at first be labeled as cheerleader jock jams, but the way songs are composed, vocalist Alexis Krauss brings a sense of danger and sex that would never measure on a prom queen’s radar. Instead it was in the hands of many of us, where it should belong. – Jordon Chiarelli

31. Matthew DearBlack City (Ghostly International)

Matthew Dear is a handsome man, and it’s only the second thing you should know about him. If not for his electronic compositions, he’d be working in a government lab somewhere on the Canadian border, breaking enemy code with his mind, all as an unpaid intern. Numerous 12-inch releases over eleven years leads to Black City, testament to a brainwave that has to tap into reserve power to crush its inspirational coal. Opening number “Honey” is creepy, like Scooby Doo plots from the late ’70s. A Bowie-on-nitrous voice that makes me swear I smell sulfur consumes everything, and by the time “You Put A Smell On Me” tips its raunchy title to its sludgy funk, paranoia overtakes curiosity as the dominant reflex, it’s time to pause and absorb and become it. And if you’re of similar opinion that album art is often representative of the music within, this will raise your average a point. Ghostly, but still handsome, his smoky apparition on the cover fades him into obscurity, forever out of reach, and worth chasing if you’ve ever wonder what might one day be heard by brilliant, and painfully isolated neighbors, friends and family. – George Hild

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