Each of the last two years we’ve done a top ten with a handful of honorable mentions. This year we decided to expand the Top 10 to a Top 20 and dump the honorables. If an album wasn’t good enough to be in the Top 20, it won’t get a mention. Which means there are a lot of good albums left off this list. If you’re looking for more good music, check out our Twenty-Some lists.
If you’re so inclined, you can check out our top ten lists from 2009 and 2008.
This list is compiled completely by GrantRuby.com. These are our favorite albums of the year. This list isn’t full of pretention, we really like all of these albums, and we think you will like them, too. If you think we missed something, if you think one or more of these simply doesn’t belong, or there is some other egregious error, feel free to leave a comment.
20. MNDR E.P.E. – Released in April, the first release from MNDR (according to Wikipedia, pronounced “mandar”) features four great songs, three of which are club bangers and a ballad for good measure. The duo, comprised of Amanda Warner and Peter Wade, were featured in “Bang Bang Bang,” the first single from Mark Ronson’s third album, Record Collection. The band is rumored to be working on their debut full-length, to be released in 2011. We are very much looking forward to that release as this EP has really set the foundation for some great music from this group. All four tracks here are great, but “Fade To Black” and “C.L.U.B.” are definitely the best.
19. Various Artists The Twilight Saga: Eclipse OST - The third soundtrack in this series of terrible movies is far-and-away the best of the bunch. Featuring amazing songs from the likes of Muse, Beck, Florence + the Machine, The Dead Weather, Vampire Weekend, Cee-Lo Green, Metric, and others, this is one of the most complete soundtracks of modern music in years. Nearly all the music on this collection is exclusive to this release which serves to make the soundtrack that much more engaging. The Twilight series, while a terrible set of literature and movies, continues to set the tone for compilations and soundtracks for this and the following decade. Our favorites are Florence + the Machine’s “Heavy In Your Heart,” Cee-Lo Green’s “What Part of Forever,” and Beck with Bat For Lashes’ “Let’s Get Low,” but just about every song is at the very least listenable, if not something you’d want to hear again and again.
18. Sufer Blood Astro Coast – We recently featured this band in our Twenty-some, Vol. 6 post. As we stated then: “Their sound is a smooth amalgamation of Weezer, Built To Spill, Dinosaur Jr and Pavement. At times wispy, at times charging, but always grooving.” There isn’t much to add to that, really. Give this album a listen and just try not to like it. We dare you. Best songs here, in our opinion, are “Swim,” “Twin Peaks,” and “Floating Vibes.”
17. Ratatat LP4 – We are long time fans of this band. Since being introduced to them in 2007 with their sophomore release Classics. Since then they have put out two more amazing albums, including this year’s LP4. Many of the songs here are from the same sessions that produced their previous album, and the similarities are obvious. As we said in Twenty-some, Vol. 5: “Probably their best album to date. The band put voice on their album for the first time, but not lyrics. There are clips of people talking in several places on the album, but the songs remain strictly instrumental.” Our favorite song on the album remains “Drugs,” but “Neckbrace,” “Mandy,” and “Bare Feast” are all excellent, as well.
16. Delta Spirit History From Below – Another album we featured in Twenty-some, Vol. 5, this album simply does not get old. As we said then, “The band’s unique mixture of indie and southern rock help set it apart from peers like Kings Of Leon, who are more straight ahead southern-arena rock. Delta Spirit hasn’t jumped to writing arena-sized anthems yet.” This San Diego quartet writes such strong songs that this album is the kind where our favorite song changes every couple weeks. We still love “White Table,” but currently “Bushwick Blues” is our favorite. Other stand outs include “Vivian,” “Golden State,” and “Salt In the Wound.”
15. The Drums S/T – We fell in love with this band upon hearing their infectious song “Let’s Go Surfing.” Marco Collins posted the song on his Twitter feed and we immediately downloaded their EP. The album builds on that Beach Boys-meets-Brooklyn sound and adds a touch of emotion to the mix. Opening song “Best Friend” is an ode to lead singer Jonathan Pierce’s best friend who has passed away. The music is very indie-surf rock while the lyrics are very Joy Division. It may seem like an odd pairing, but it works quite well. We saw the band open for Surfer Blood this year and they completely stole the show. Our favorites from this album include “Let’s Go Surfing,” “It Will All End In Tears,” and “I Need a Little Fun In My Life.”
14. Chiddy Bang The Preview – This hip hop duo, comprised of Chidera “Chiddy” Anamege and Noah “Xaphoon Jones” Beresin, burst onto the scene with The Swelly Express, a mixtape that included the song “Opposite of Adults (KIDS),” which samples MGMT’s song “Kids.” The refreshing flow of Anamege combined with the indie-rock influenced beats of Beresin are a beacon of hope in a genre that is muddied by far too many egos that can’t rap about anything but money, girls, drugs and violence. The album samples MGMT and Passion Pit, they have a song co-produced by Pharrell, and Q-Tip sings the refrain on one song. If that alone doesn’t make you want to listen to this then there may not be anything that will convince you. Our faves are “Opposite of Adults,” “Here We Go” featuring Q-Tip, and “Nothing On We.”
13. Atmosphere To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EPs – Some groups put out double albums, Atmosphere puts out a double EP. Don’t call it an album, because the group is working on their sixth album. According to their website, this release is meant to “hold you over until their next official album”. As per usual Slug’s dark lyrics and surprising twists settle nicely over Ant’s decidedly down-tempo beats. Slug may very well be the best storyteller in hip hop today. They may never have a hit, but they will always be making better music than most of what you hear on your local urban top 40 radio station. The highlights of this double EP include “The Best Day,” “Hope,” the pseudo-title track “To All My Friends,” “Shotgun,” and “Scalp.”
12. Gogol Bordello Trans-Continental Hustle – So many bands, especially punk bands, ruin themselves by jumping to a major label. These gypsy punks managed to keep their soul, and actually got better, in the jump to American Recordings. One reason why they managed to not ruin themselves is by having Rick Rubin (who heads American Recordings) produce the band’s fifth album. As we’ve previously stated: “The songwriting continues to mature, but the energy hasn’t diminished at all since their SideOneDummy debut.” The band also continues to have ridiculously high-energy live shows. We saw them open for Primus this year (the fourth time we’ve seen the band) and they have only improved in that area, too. Stand out tracks on this album include “My Companjera,” “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher),” “Pala Tute,” and title-track “Trans-Continental Hustle.”
11. B.o.B The Adventures of Bobby Ray – Like Chiddy Bang, Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr is part of a group of young rappers that are infusing some originality and real artistry into hip hop. His debut single, “Nothing On You,” was a smash. The follow up, “Aeroplanes,” nearly matched the success of the former. The album includes cameos from Bruno Mars (“Nothing On You”), Hayley Williams of Paramore (“Aeroplanes”), Lupe Fiasco, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and Eminem along with several others. B.o.B’s emotionally charged lyrics generally eschew hip hop’s common themes of drugs, money, women, etc and instead tell stories of heartbreak, distress and prejudice. The best tracks, in our opinion, are “Nothing On You,” “Past My Shades” featuring Lupe Fiasco, “Aeroplanes, Part II” featuring Eminem and Hayley Williams, and “Ghosts In the Machine.”
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