The Top 50 Albums of 2010

Treble staff
Treble's Top 50 Albums of 2010

30. No AgeEverything In Between (Sub Pop)

Before No Age released their third album, they were already approaching the top of their game. What Everything In Between brought to the table was a giant leap in songwriting and melodic complexities that only Dean Spunt and Randy Randall could put forth. Though many dismissed the album for its extra coat of polish, just as many couldn’t help but fall in love with this record’s melodic graces. Fusing elements of punk and noise much as on their other albums, No Age amplify the production quality and even added a third member, for touring purposes, enabling the sound to grow on a larger scale. If you happen to have picked up the LP, you’ll realize how easy it is to get lost in this album. – Jordon Chiarelli

29. The Radio Dept.Clinging to a Scheme (Labrador)

Though Swedish dream-pop outfit The Radio Dept. has built up only a relatively short catalog of music in their 15 years together, they’ve made each of their handful of releases truly count. With third full-length Clinging to a Scheme, that especially holds true, its ten streamlined effects-pedal and drum-machine daydreams standing up as their best set of songs yet. While its blissfully, danceably bitter single “Heaven’s on Fire” is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, “Domestic Scene” reveals a hazier, more melancholy kind of pop hallucination, and “The Video Dept.” is the band’s full commitment to a shoegazer aesthetic. Clinging to a Scheme is drunkenness on a summer afternoon, or a lucid moment of ecstasy in the wee hours of the morning. It’s the kind of mood enhancer that renders all other chemicals entirely unnecessary. – Jeff Terich

28. Gil Scott-HeronI’m New Here (XL)

After a multi-decade spanning career of legendary, socially conscious and uncategorizable music and poetry, Gil Scott-Heron’s first new album in more than 15 years finds the husky-voiced urban soothsayer still existing on his own plane. With the production aid of XL label head Richard Russell, Scott-Heron treads strange and new ground, including industrial blues (“Me and the Devil”), a Smog cover (the ironic title track), and the exhilarating weirdness of “New York Is Killing Me.” Interspersed between tracks are bits of recorded conversation, shedding light on the wisdom and humility Scott-Heron has built through his trials and tribulations over the years. Yet most touching are the “On Coming From a Broken Home” bookends, paying tribute to his grandmother Lillie Scott over samples from Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights,” perhaps returning the nod to Kanye after “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” briefly showed up on Late Registration. No two songs on this album sound alike, yet Scott-Heron’s voice grounds them with a consistently powerful humanity. I’m New Here is the best kind of reinvention. – Jeff Terich

27. Broken Social SceneForgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

A lot of bands put a lot of effort in sounding like Broken Social Scene these days, but Forgiveness Rock Record proves the original is always best – even if you have to wait five years between albums. The good-natured bashing of You Forgot it in People still laces Forgiveness Rock Record, but the songs are also given room to breathe. With many of the group’s key players releasing solo material since 2005’s somewhat disjointed self-titled album, this latest release also finds a renewed sense of cohesion. From the insistent crescendos of “World Sick” to the humorously upbeat “Texico Bitches” and the brassy swing of “Art House Director,” the album makes full use of all the talent at the band’s disposal, and should make fans more than willing to forgive the band’s hiatus. – Elizabeth Malloy

26. Best CoastCrazy For You (Mexican Summer)

Maybe the most surprising album of the year, Best Coast’s Crazy for You came out of left field and took indie rockers by storm. Best Coast’s brand of low-fi surf pop inadvertently made their debut release, which came out in July appropriately enough, the album of the summer. Crazy for You is a short, innocent little surf-pop record, very much in the vein of the Beach Boys (easily one of frontwoman Bethany Cosentino’s biggest influences) captivating audiences with its simple and jangly hooks and honest and relatable lyrical content. In a relatively short span of time, Crazy For You had turned Best Coast from west coast hipster diamond in the rough to leading indie act. Don’t be surprised if you notice everyone else singing along to “When I’m With You” the next time you catch them live. – Jordon Chiarelli

25. Four TetThere Is Love In You (Domino)

Four Tet is known for sounds at their scapiest, but what you’ve got here is an alarm clock with no snooze button. Inspired by Kieran Hebden’s DJ residency of sorts at Plastic People, There Is Love In You lands his career misson of post-whatever diffusion squarely in the middle of the club — albeit a rather cerebral one. “Angel Echoes,” the de facto title track, and “Sing” deal in the usual ethereal glitch and album-closer “She Just Likes To Fight” represents a sort of high point for Hebden in his on-off quest to sound like a raucously full band. But this is dance music that adheres to the principle of quiet noise. “Circling” hits a Germanic ice patch before spinning into a near trance-like dirge; “This Unfolds” luxuriates in gulping hi-hats and a layer of background hiss like so much gossip. “Love Cry,” the signature piece, is a raging raver; Joy Orbison’s splendid remix added a libertine lilt but barely improved on the song’s glorious low end. – Anthony Strain

24. WomenPublic Strain (Jagjaguwar)

It’s hardly a secret now that those who venture off into the rather vague free territory of “indie rock,” or whatever one would like to call it, are looking for something extra in their sonic/cultural experience, even if it’s simply higher volume. This is what allows us to tolerate Sonic Youth, The Jesus Lizard and The Jesus and Mary Chain in the first place. Women are a reminder as to why we do this repeatedly. Public Strain goes so far as to encapsulate those existential bouts we can’t otherwise handle. Like the album our exterior experience is often encased in huge walls collapsing in on us as the elements pound them, wear them down and deafen us with their howls, booms and claps. But Public Strain is not important merely for its representation of our inevitable crushing terror; rather it’s that melodic hush that comes up from within the chaos, enveloping us in a slow drift into permanent sleep, reassuring us that everything is going to be okay, even if it probably isn’t. – Chris Morgan

23. Owen PallettHeartland (Domino)

While several of the year’s finest releases were maximalist epics, Owen Pallett’s Heartland was epic in an altogether different fashion. Pallett’s abstract pop songs swell with cinematic grandeur. It’s clear his skill as an arranger forms the core of Heartland and as a result he’ll go places most other artists today wouldn’t dare. How many other major releases this year feature both pizzicato strings and analog synths? Truly Pallett has a flair for creating deeply affecting work rich in movement. Rather than merely dressing up the songs on Heartland, his ornate orchestrations form the backbone of his creations. Meanwhile, he’s also cooking up flawless string arrangements for Arcade Fire. But make no mistake, even if he had nothing to do with The Suburbs, this would still be an extraordinary year for Pallett. – Chris Karman

22. The WalkmenLisbon (Fat Possum)

A decade into their career, the Walkmen have spent the better part of six albums just being the Walkmen. Sure, they have a winning formula, but you’d think it would be getting old by now. Somehow, in spite of their continuing resistance to change, on Lisbon the band sounds more vital than they have in years. Singer Hamilton Leithauser’s reliably despondent wail is as affecting as it’s ever been. There are a few new sounds here – most noticeably the mourning horn arrangements, which are a perfect touch – but by and large the Walkmen continue to stick to what they know best and they excel at it like no other band out today. Only the Walkmen could sincerely call a song “Woe is Me” and get away with it. Typically maudlin songs like “Blue as Your Blood” and “Stranded” rank among their best. – Chris Karman

21. EmeraldsDoes It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)

Improvisational, ambient, drone, experimental, psychedelic – there are seemingly as many ambiguous genre tags to describe Emeralds’ music as the Cleveland group has items in their discography. Yet among the various albums, CD-Rs and cassettes in Emeralds’ vast catalog, Does It Look Like I’m Here? is their prettiest and most cohesive effort to date. Compressing throbbing electronic frequencies into gorgeous, often intense melodies and climaxes, the group blends science fiction with serenity, frequently sounding a lot like the album’s eerily cool album cover looks. There’s a powerful escalation on “Candy Shoppe,” a nigh-techno buzz in “Double Helix,” and an elegant minor-key waltz in “Now You See Me,” one of the album’s best showcases for Mark McGuire’s guitar work. What genre Does It Look Like I’m Here? falls under is debatable, what it is is breathtaking. – Jeff Terich

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