By now, the legitimate Top 10 lists have all been published, but with three days left in the year, I figured there was still time to sneak one more in. This is simply a list of music I enjoyed most this year. Enjoy.
10. The Five Ghosts by Stars
Easily the creepiest album cover of the year. That aside, Stars remains one of my favorite groups, because they know how to blend consistency with progression. Plus I’m a sucker for guy/girl harmonies and verse trade-offs.
9. Gorilla Manor by Local Natives
Local Natives know how to effectively layer their voices and guitars. They also know how to make Josiah Hatfield dance, and they’re absolutely perfect for long trips to Pittsburgh.
8. Go by Jonsi
Go seems to be a compilation of songs written in the mindset of “Gobbledigook” and “Inní mér syngur vitleysingur”, two of the brighter, more upbeat tracks off of Sigur Ros’s last studio album. While Jonsi is a master of melancholy, I can just as easily appreciate his lighter, colorful side.
7. Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter
“Helicopter” is definitely up there for favorite track of the year, and that alone would be a reason to put this album on the list. Deerhunter master the lo-fi sound, and aren’t afraid to express honesty. Also, Bradford Cox hangs out with his audiences after shows and talks about life, etc. How cool is that?
6. Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene
Earlier this year, I saw BSS perform in the middle of nowhere Ohio in a college field house, which had the acoustical quality of a black hole. During “Sweetest Kill” Kevin Drew sang with his hoodie draped over his face to cut back on reverb, and the band also made light of the fact that Ghostface Killah opened…for obvious reasons. That’s what I love about BSS; they’re simply a fun group, and they seem to have found the perfect balance between melodious song writing and chaos on their latest album.
5. Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan does auto tune now. And he does it well. Adz manages beauty amidst the backdrop of electronic bleeps and disorder, a testament to Sufjan’s outstanding compositional abilities.
4. The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
The Suburbs is an album that still sounds fresh after several listens, which probably means it will withstand the test of time. The best album from Arcade Fire to date.
3. I See the Sign by Sam Amidon
Sam Amidon doesn’t write original music. Instead, he recomposes old folk songs, making them his own. He doesn’t seem concerned with making these songs relevant, but with simply sharing the stories of the long forgotten characters he sings about. While upholding the delicate beauty found on All is Well, Sam Amidon manages to venture into semi-aggressive territory on songs like “You Better Mind”. Plus the guy can break dance…true story.
Check out the full album at BandCamp: http://samamidon.bandcamp.com/
2. Teen Dream by Beach House
Hauntingly beautiful, delicate yet pronounced, Teen Dream was my favorite discovery of 2010. (I admit I was unfamiliar with Beach House until a friend introduced me, but that’s the beauty of music, right?)
1. High Violet by The National
I may have a soft spot for baritone vocalists, but this was easily the most listened to album of year for me. It stayed in my car CD player from May through July nonstop, and has ventured back since. High Violet is The National at their melancholic best. “Put me on the table put flowers in my mouth and we can say that we invented a summer loving torture party,” sings Matt Berninger on “Lemon World”. The National’s lyrics are often self-reflective, but we can all somehow find a way to relate to the stories they tell.
That’s it for this year, folks. Here’s to 2011, and new music from the likes of The Decemberists, Iron and Wine, and Death Cab. And hopefully me.