For the Hype Machine’s List of 2010, I am writing what I believe are the 10 best albums of this year. I originally created a list of what I believed were the 21 best albums of the year, but had to whittle down the list to simply 10. It was a daunting task, but based on my personal preferences, this list really caps off how great the year was in music.
10. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
I’ll admit, I’m a bit late on the Broken Bells hype. Yet after hearing countless praise for their album and breakout music, I feel like I fit in with many Americans watching the MTV Video Music Awards, when the nominees for 2010 Best Breakthrough Artist were announced, yelling at the screen “WHO THE HELL ARE THE BROKEN BELLS?” I didn’t check them out until late this year, but I must say, I am quite amazed with their sound. It seems strange, Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley paired up with James Mercer of The Shins, yet this duo’s self-titled debut album received critical acclaim all across the board, from music magnates Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, etc. If you’re in the mood for some smooth pop, alternative, indie, or whatever your tastes, many will find the sound of Broken Bells pleasant, comfortable, peppy and sometimes psychedelic.
- Must listens: “The High Road,” “Ghost,” “The Mall & Misery”
9. Scissor Sisters – Night Work
This one is more of a personal pick, because if you were to ask most people what their top albums of the year, many would leave this off the list. However, being a longtime Scissor Sisters fan, I was extremely eager for its release, and satisfied with what came out. Night Work is extremely Sisters-esque, with a slightly more dark and sexual theme than their previous releases. Each song is, well, about sex, but the songs are catchy and lovable–typical SS style. The singles “Any Which Way” and “Invisible Light” are two stand-out songs from the album. Even though some of the material is forgettable, this album is definitely another step in the right direction for the Scissor Sisters.
- Must listens: “Any Which Way,” “Invisible Light,” “Running Out,” “Whole New Way”
8. B.o.B – B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray
Early this summer, the radiowaves were graced by a new voice in American Hip-Hop music, when Atlanta-based singer B.o.B. released his debut single “Nothin’ On You,” accompanied by another new voice in music, Bruno Mars. The single hit the top spot in the US Billboard Hot 100, and the debut album followed in April. After his hit, B.o.B along with Paramore lead woman Hayley Williams, released yet another chart-topping hit in “Airplanes.” What followed was commercial success for the singer.
With an array of featured artists like Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Janelle Monáe, and T.I., among others, B.o.B’s debut album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray makes the list of the Top 10 albums of the year based on the production of the album and immense backing of the featured artists. Although the middle of the album seems to lag with B.o.B’s solo work, his featured singles have had large success on the charts, and is a great listen and great debut album, paving way for B.o.B to release material with more effort and collaboration to an already-waiting audience.
- Must listens: “Don’t Let Me Fall,” “Nothin’ On You,” “Past My Shades,” “Bet I,” “Magic”
7. Ellie Goulding – Lights // Bright Lights
After topping the BBC Sound of 2010 poll (past winners including the successful Little Boots, Corinne Bailey Rae and Mika) and winning the Critics’ Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards, in addition to six nominations from multiple awards including Best Female Artist and Best Breakthrough Artist, Ellie Goulding’s debut album Lights was one of the year’s most anticipated releases. Her album hit the coveted #1 spot on the UK Albums Chart and she became one of the UK’s most successful new acts of the decade.
2010 proved to be a successful debut year for Goulding, with her singles reaching high positions on the UK Singles Chart. Goulding re-released her album on Nov. 29, 2010 as Bright Lights. The re-released album included an Elton John cover of “Your Song”, which as of writing, has hit #2 on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Goulding’s highest-peaking single to date. Along with a magical voice that cannot be matched and excellent songwriting, Lights and Bright Lights are excellent debuts for the English singer. If she continues to go into the direction she is heading, she can easily become one of the UK’s most famous female vocalists.
- Must listens: “Starry Eyed,” “Your Biggest Mistake,” “Lights” (Bright Lights), “Your Song” (Bright Lights)
6. Drake – Thank Me Later
In a string of debut albums, one of the most anticipated and successful of the year is Drake’s debut album Thank Me Later. After the release date being pushed back several times, Drake’s album has been nominated for numerous awards, including Album of the Year. After his previous success in “Best I Ever Had” and collaboration “Forever,” Drake has been named a star on the rise by MTV and BET.
Drake’s powerful songwriting is prevalent in the album, and the reason I enjoy this album so much is the fact that you can really tell that Drake took the time to write and record his music. Every song has a message, and no song on the album seems to be ‘filler’ space, but a record that took time, effort and passion. Drake is already a star, and Thank Me Later is a powerful debut album, leaving those to see what direction he will take his music into next.
- Must listens: “Show Me A Good Time,” “Fancy,” “Unforgettable,” “Miss Me,” “Thank Me Now”
5. Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy
Fairly unknown in the Americas, UK-based Tinie Tempah became one of the hottest new Hip-Hop icons of Britain. His single “Pass Out” climbed to the #1 spot on the UK Singles Chart shortly after its release, with the following singles all charting in the Top 5. His latest single “Invincible,” featuring Kelly Rowland, is due out this Christmas. His debut album, Disc-Overy was released the 1st of October, and includes the likes of Eric Turner, Labrinth, Swedish House Mafia and Ellie Goulding (Yes, Ellie Goulding).
“I wanted this album to be really raw, not only in terms of the production but the guests. I was only interested in working with people I really respect and who I’m a fan of,” Tempah said of his album. Tempah is a great rapper, yet brings a new twist to the tables of modern Hip-Hop music. He combines his lyrical strings with a fanfare of synthesizers and electronic beats, to give a futuristic and progressive sound. Although Tempah is a big hit in the UK, “Pass Out” was released in the United States on Nov. 16, and Tempah hopes to expand his audience into the States. The reason this album gets such a great rating is simple: Tinie Tempah writes great lyrics, and produces catchy music. It’s hard to dislike.
- Must listens: “Illusion,” “Written in the Stars,” “Frisky,” “Wonderman”
4. Robyn – Body Talk
Although this list has many debut albums for the year’s breakout stars, the list also includes many eagerly-anticipated albums from previously successful artists, and one of these artists was Swedish-based Robyn. Although fairly low-key in the U.S., Robyn has had worldwide success, most notably in the United Kingdom and in her home country of Sweden.
I previously wrote a review of this album for my university’s student newspaper The Daily O’Collegian, which the review gave me e-mails of agreement about the just how fantastic this album really is. You can read the review here. I’ll leave out many details that I’ve already covered, but give you the basics. If you like pop, then you’ll love this album. I almost want to go as far as Robyn saved the pop genre, yet I suspect much backlash (especially from Gaga fans). So I’ll leave you to judge for yourself. This album defines dance-pop. Love. It.
- Must listens: “Dancing On My Own,” “Indestructible,” “Time Machine,” “Call Your Girlfriend”
3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Let’s be honest, when has Mr. West delivered a dud of an album? His four previous albums have all reached the #1 or #2 spot on the US Billboard 200 charts. Since 808s and Heartbreaks, Kanye has had an interesting couple of years in the media spotlight. Can we get much higher?
Kanye takes his anger, his creativity, his inspiration, his passion, his art, his lyrics, his all, and puts that effort into MBDTF. He ditches the auto-tune from 808s and instead uses his lyrics and his style. As evident in songs such as “Runaway,” West is not looking for favor from the public in his music. He is trying to move on from his infamous incident from the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, yet neither pleading for sympathy nor forgiveness, but apathy. Personally, I think West is a Class-A douche, yet I am in love with almost everything he has ever performed and/or produced. Hats off to Mr. West.
- Must listens: “Dark Fantasy,” “All of the Lights,” “Runaway,” “Lost in the World”
2. Vampire Weekend – Contra
I almost completely forgot about this album because it was released so early on in the year, that when I think of music of 2010, this album doesn’t come to mind until I Google it’s release date. However, the early release date of the album gave New York-based Vampire Weekend the entire year for the album to take effect. And what an effect it was. The album gained almost universal acclaim, and hit #1 on the US Billboard charts. A fantastic sequel after their successful debut album, Contra has sold over 400,000 copies in the US only.
Fans of previous Vampire Weekend work have hailed the album as a great continuation of their work. SPIN Magazine praised the album, calling “the balance of classical, rock, and world instrumentation, cagey rhythms, and stunning prettiness isn’t just architecturally resplendent, it’s reassuringly sweet and strangely moving.” To be honest, this album would have been #1 until August of this year, when the #1 album came out, but it has got to be one of the top albums of all-time.
- Must listens: “Horchata,” “Holiday,” “Giving Up the Gun,” “Diplomat’s Son”
1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Hitting more than 13 magazine’s top album lists, reaching the top album spot in seven countries and a Grammy nominee for Album of the Year 2010, the Arcade Fire’s latest release The Suburbs is a surprising turn from their roots of Funeral, released back in 2004. Keeping this review short, all I can say about this album is: listen. Even if you weren’t an Arcade Fire fan to begin with, give it a listen. Possibly the greatest album of all-time.
I say this with a bit of egotism, believing this album to be the greatest of all because I think so. However, this album really is a story in itself. Lyrics for this album are inspired by Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler’s experiences of growing up in the suburbs of Houston. According to Butler, in an interview with NME Magazine, the album “is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs – it’s a letter from the suburbs.” Win Butler describes the overall sound of The Suburbs as “a mix of Depeche Mode and Neil Young,” stating that he wanted the album to sound like “the bands that I heard when I was very young, and wondered what those crazy noises were.”
So why is this the album of the year? You just have to give it a listen.
- Must listen: The whole album.
- Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite — One of my personal favorites of the year, Kylie put out a stunning 11th studio album, and the single from it “Get Outta My Way” is just amazing.
- Ke$ha – Animal — Surprisingly, this is one great album, if listened from beginning to end. Put her auto-tune aside, you can learn that she’s actually great at producing chart-topping material, which is what the public wants. Her ballads “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” and “Blind” are my two personal favorites.
- Gorillaz – Plastic Beach — Gorillaz once again have made an album that says so much. Kudos to their continued efforts. If you are curious about the Gorillaz, make Plastic Beach one of your must-haves, especially with their re-release out soon enough.
- Mike Posner – 31 Minutes to Takeoff — I just love the sound of Mike Posner. His tunes are very synthesized, melodic, and his voice is just great in that creepy way. I cannot wait to see what he does next.
- LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening — LCD Soundsystem is one of those underrated bands that I just LOVE. Their new album just continues to showcase their amazingness.