2010: My Top Ten Albums

10/ Motion City Soundtrack – ‘My Dinosaur Life’

Arguably their most coherent and consistent effort since 2005 breakthrough Commit This To Memory, My Dinosaur Life offers up nuggets of pop punk mastery, finally putting Motion City in the same league as their contemporaries such as New Found Glory and Blink 182. ‘Worker Bee’ has you hooked from the start, where as ‘Pulp Fiction’ shines through its wordplay and nods to the silver screen. Their most accessible effort to date.

Key Tracks: Worker Bee, Her Words Destroyed My Planet, @!#?@!, Pulp Fiction

Watch Her Words Destroyed My Planet

9/ The Hold Steady – ‘Heaven Is Whenever’

After 2008’s sublime and well received Stay Positive, on a first listen Heaven Is Whenever felt a little underwhelming by comparison. With the wound from the departure of keyboardist Franz Nicolay in early 2010 still sore, the album marks a return to a more straight-forward rock orientated sound. With tracks such as first single ‘Hurricane J’ and the superb ‘The Weekenders’ leading the charge, regardless of any disruption within the band, The Hold Steady continue to deliver their own blend of bar room America.

Key Tracks: The Sweet Part of the City, Soft in the Centre, The Weekenders, Hurricane J

Watch The Weekenders

8/ Four Year Strong – ‘Enemy of the World’

It was beginning to feel like an eternity since pop mosh quintet Four Year Strong exploded onto to the scene back in 2007 with Rise or Die Trying. Even last year’s stop gap Explains It All did little to plug the void, despite offering up some ridiculous but brilliant 90’s covers. So it was to much relief back in March when Enemy of the World finally dropped. More importantly, it rocked. Tracks such as ‘Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)’ and ‘Find My Way Back’ are instant pop punk classics, that brought an early summer as the band enjoyed an appearance at this year’s Slam Dunk fest.

Key Tracks: It Must Really Suck To Be Four Year Strong Right Now, Wasting Time (Eternal Summer), Find My Way Back, Nineteen With Necktatz

Watch Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)

7/MGMT – ‘Congratulations

Few bands have divided opinion in 2010 (and possibly ever) as much as MGMT and their second album Congratulations. Ditching the hipster cool of debut Oracular Spectacular, the band delved much deeper into their psychedelic roots for the follow up. Whilst ‘Flash Delirium’ is arguably one of the strongest singles of 2010, in contrast ‘Siberian Breaks’ offers a 12 minute progressive and mainly instrumental offering; showcasing a band not afraid to ditch the formula which brought them to notoriety in favour of something completely new and wonderfully odd. For those quick to slate the album for its lack of commercial appeal; it’s your loss, as Congratulations unravels a little more with every listen.

Key Tracks: Song for Dan Treacy, Flash Delirium, Siberian Breaks, Brian Eno

Watch Flash Delirium

6/ Band of Horses – ‘Infinite Arms’

If Fleet Foxes defined Americana in 2009, in 2010 that crown certainly belongs to Band of Horses. Having enjoyed a relatively cult following with previous efforts Cease To Begin and Everything All The Time, it was about time the rest of world finally woke up to this Seattle quintet. This, the band’s major label debut, is as you would expect, everything the band have become cherished for, with added polish and trim. From opener, the gloriously orchestrated ‘Factory’ and onwards, they have delivered their most consistent to date, with the likes of ‘Compliments’  and ‘For Annabelle’ earning their place amongst the bands best work.

Key Tracks: Factory, Compliments, Laredo, Evening Kitchen, For Annabelle

Watch Compliments

5/ The Gaslight Anthem – ‘American Slang’

It’s no secret I love Gaslight. And with this the band’s third album came with such great expectation (pun intended). So perhaps it’s of no surprise that American Slang, which for a long time I expected to be the one album to mark my 2010, only comes in at number 5. Not that it is a bad album by any means; on the contrary, tracks such as the ‘The Diamond Church Street Choir’, The Clash feel of ‘The Queen of Lower Chelsea’ and the supercharged ‘Orphans’ rank up their with my favourite Gaslight tracks. Just that on the back of so much expectation, American Slang ended up feeling somewhat of an anti-climax.  The closest Gaslight can get to ‘selling out’,  without crossing that all important point of no return. A great album, that sadly just didn’t quite reach the same highs as Sink or Swim or The ’59 Sound.

Key Tracks: American Slang, The Diamond Church Street Choir, The Queen of Lower Chelsea, Orphans

Watch American Slang

4/ Villagers – ‘Becoming A Jackal’

It takes more than just a distinctive voice to standout in the increasingly swamped industry. However when you combine that voice with deeply introspective songwriting and hauntingly sparse production what you’re left with is something truly moving. There’s an easy comparison to be made with Bright Eyes at their stripped-back acoustic best; particularly with tracks such ‘Home’ and ‘The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)’, a compliment Conor O’ Brian and his fellow Villagers will never tire of hearing. But make no mistake, whilst their debut album may follow a familiar formula, there’s endless potential for whatever may follow. 2010’s best newcomer by far.

Key Tracks: Home, That Day, The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever), Twenty Seven Strangers

Watch That Day

3/ Arcade Fire – ‘The Suburbs’

One of the most anticipated releases of 2010, there was an overall feeling that Canadian collective Arcade  Fire had something to prove after 2007’s more brooding and macabre Neon Bible. Could the band once tipped as Alt rock’s brightest hope recreate the magic of debut Funeral? Yes and no. Whilst many will still long for the childlike innocence of the debut, The Suburbs marks a huge leap forward with the band offering a fresh new, and mature sound. From the understated grooves of ‘Modern Man’ and ‘Suburban War’ to the more aggressive force of ‘Month of May’ the album sees the band return to their creative peak.

Key Tracks: Modern Man, Ready To Start, City With No Children, Suburban War, Month of May

Watch Ready to Start

2/ Foals – ‘Total Life Forever’

Managing to to completely reinvent themselves, whilst remaining knowingly familiar is a feat Foals deserve much praise for. Ditching the disjointed urgency of debut Antidotes, Total Life Forever is the Oxford quintet coming of age as they grow into their own sound. From the instantly memorable ‘Blue Blood’, the beat heavy romp that is ‘Miami’,  through to the truly epic ‘Spanish Sahara’ the album is wonderfully inventive from a band many had mistakenly pigeon-hold as just another guitar band. Well worthy of its 2010 Mercury Prize nod, for my money there’s no been a more innovative and fresh British album for a long time.

Key Tracks: Blue Blood, Total Life Forever, Spanish Sahara, This Orient

Watch Spanish Sahara

1/ The National – ‘High Violet’

It has been a great year for albums. And by great, I mean GREAT. Any of this top 5 could have been the all important Number 1. Easily. And yet, since upon first hearing High Violet back in May I knew there was only one album to define my 2010.

It’s all ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ fault. Upon first hearing it on Later with Jools, the juxtaposition of Matt Berninger’s trademark baritone vocals, mixed with emphatic, and at times euphoric, rhythms blew me away, and forced me to to give the band I’ve previously passed on another go. From there, like any classic album, my favourite track has constantly shifted, from the more immediate ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ and ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’, before the more patient ‘ Terrible Love’ and ‘Anyone’s Ghost’ stole focus, as did the darker ‘Conversation 16’ and ‘Sorrow’. Completed with an unforgettable outing at this year’s Glastonbury festival, plus a breathtaking performance in Manchester in November, my 2010 will forever belong to The National and High Violet.

Key Tracks: Terrible Love, Anyone’s Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio, Conversation 16, Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

Watch Bloodbuzz Ohio

2010’s Other Honourable Mentions

Jack Johnson ‘To The Sea’, LCD Soundsystem ‘This Is Happening’, Metric ‘ Vampire Weekend ‘Contra’, Gorillaz ‘Plastic Beach’, Jimmy Eat World ‘Invented’, Alexisonfire ‘Dog’s Blood EP’, Insect Guide ‘Dark Days and Nights’,  Deftones ‘Diamond Eyes’, Brandon Flowers ‘Flamingo’,  Weezer ‘Hurley’, Manic Street Preachers ‘ Postcards From A Young Man’, Kings of Leon ‘Come Around Sundown’, Lostprophets ‘The Betrayed’, My Chemical Romance ‘Danger Days; The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys’ , Hot Chip ‘One Life Stand’, Alkaline Trio ‘This Addiction’, Faithless ‘The Dance’, Klaxons ‘Surfing The Void’, Interpol ‘Interpol’, A Day To Remember ‘What Separates Me From You’, Kanye West ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’.

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