2010 was an incredible year for music, and it was truly difficult choosing the top ten albums of the year. Of course, there are some wonderful works missing, but that is the challenge of the top ten. Each of our writers had a different ballot, but this will hopefully reflect (as well as it can) the divergent tastes and opinions of our staff as well as a slice of 2010′s best.
1. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
An almost universal choice for album of the year amongst music publications, it’s tempting to search for an upset to counter such hype. Fantasy might be overrated, but no other album this year has the sprawl, ambition, and sheer strength of personality. It’s farce, tragedy, romance and one hundred percent Kanye.
2. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
Arcade Fire moved their obsessions to middle class rot in this sweeping epic. Sure, it’s too long and occasionally polemical, but it’s an album that strives to capture the scope of modern life in all its messiness.
3. The National: High Violet
The National continue to be one of the most reliable bands in indie rock. High Violet is a moody, dense work that remains remarkably listenable. It exists firmly within the same melancholy niche as their last couple of albums while achieving a greater sense of tone and musicianship.
4. LCD Soundsystem: This is Happening
By far one of the most technically accomplished albums of the year, This is Happening reveals greater and greater depths upon each new listen. The production is almost Byzantine. It’s a beautiful labyrinth of impeccable musicianship and music theory that never forgets its dance roots.
5. The Walkmen: Lisbon
Every element of this album is as precise as it sounds. The Walkmen are artists who never forget their craft. Sad and dejected as this album may be, they find beauty in what’s broken.
6. Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
It’s been a good year for hip-hop. Big Boi showed the world that he could be just as compelling and strange without Andre. His flow has never been sharper, and the music remains bouncy fun.
7. Sleigh Bells: Treats
Before Treats dropped, the buzz around Sleigh Bells was almost deafening. “Crown on the Ground” was everywhere, and every publication drooled over the beautiful Alexis Krauss. Like their label owner, M.I.A., the music could have easily gotten lost in the hype. Instead, they delivered one of the freshest albums in years. Propulsive, fun, uplifting—it defies genre. It’s an accomplished, confident sound from a band only beginning to find its voice.
8. Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles II
It’s easy to get tired of Crystal Castles. Because of their on-stage antics, they’re often discussed in an unflattering light. However, their music remains some of the most dynamic and accessible electro-pop being made today. It remains technically accomplished while wearing pop on its sleeve.
9. Tallest Man on Earth: The Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt is one of the more intimate albums of the year. It’s a gentle look into the soul of life and love. There’s nothing showy about this album. It invites the listener into a world where the past is fading but never forgotten.
10. Spoon: Transference
Spoon’s been making solid rock for years. Transference may not shock anybody, but the writing has rarely been more compelling. The band seems to have more energy than in years. Even the songs in demo form show a group as viable as ever.
Let us know your top ten albums of the year in the comments!