When December rolls around the music biz goes on shutdown in the way of hyping new releases, turning its dollar sign eyes to box sets, 2011 concert tours and those year-end lists. “Best ofs” become random fare in the twelfth month, when everyone between the corniest DJ to your co-worker who plays Lady Antebellum all day, has a list of their best of albums this year. The beginning of the year started out strong, where 2010 showed signs of becoming the best year ever for new releases. Things mellowed out by summer, and just as soon as we were about to go back to our Pixies and Stones CDs, the autumn brought more stellar releases.
Everyone has their own tastes and in this age of Facebook, the term "under the radar" almost doesn’t even exist anymore. On the 2010 edition of The Glide 20, there are no secrets or unknowns in store here (except maybe Hendrix somehow slipping in again)– most of these albums are ones you probably own, have downloaded, or perhaps you’ve seen these artists perform live in 2010. But what the f#!k, they are all stellar and go without saying make the best of the year.
So, as we’ve done the past eight years - The Glide 20 – The 20 Best of 2010.
In alphabetical order
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
We almost didn’t want to include this one, but how can we not. When Arcade Fire gets pitted up against Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Eminem for Grammy Album of the Year, you can’t overlook this triumph for little Merge Records. Finally the good guy wins. Yes, the band is now arena worthy as The Suburbs puts them up along with U2, Radiohead, Springsteen in their call and response fan following. Their robust songs are much more of a complete work here, meant to be taken in as a single, hour long journey between adolescence and adulthood.
Check out: “Half Light II,” “ The Suburbs,” “ Sprawl II”
YouTube: Ready To Start
Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo
Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg, frontman of California-based quartet Avi Buffalo sounds like almost any other indie pop voice out there: a little Mercer, Coyne and Martsch. But this young band’s debut is far from generic. The music sounds off-kilter cutesy/tween but they manage to prevail due to the song’s steady beats and charismatic flow that challenges the ears with jazzy guitars and soaring backup vocals. Avi Buffalo aren’t shy about their musical influences, but the end result is still profound.
Check out: “Jessica.,” “What’s In It For,” “Remember Last Time”
You Tube: What’s In It For
Beach House- Teen Dream
With more male/female best coast, sleigh bells, matt & kim duo stuff than we care to count, Beach House’s Teen Dream is no fluff. “Signature lush melodies and dreamy ambiance” is almost cliché in today’s crowded indie scene, but the tracks are downright stunning and makes for a record that will sound stellar in 30-years time. The duo sound bigger than their parts, making the listener wonder – “how did they do that?” While their album cover is barely visible, their sound speaks for itself.
Check Out: “Norway,” “Walk in the Park,” “Zebra”
YouTube: Walk in the Park
Aloe Blacc – Good Things
Aloe Blacc’s ability to re-interpret and reinvigorate the beloved soul sound with remarkable song arrangements makes this debut stand out from the oftentimes cookie cutter format of two chord vamps and throaty vocals. Good Things is a grower, gazing toward the classics for inspiration and standing tall next to the modern champions. Let its charm slowly burn.
Check Out: “I Need A Dollar,” “Green Lights,” “Hey Brother”
YouTube: I Need A Dollar
Black Keys – Brothers
When The Black Keys released their last effort, Attack & Release, it was hyped as the duo breaking out of their blues rock box, but Brothers, has to be Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney’s coming out party. Having been amazingly prolific in recent years has opened up the group’s pallet wonderfully. Sounding spacious and complete, Brothers employs the full gamut of instrumentation for the duo to toy with.
Check Out: “Next Girl,” “Tighten Up,” “The Only One”
YouTube: Tighten Up
Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Danger Mouse has done it again. This time, it’s collaborating with James Mercer in what initially raised eyebrows, but later made us in no rush for The Shins to reunite. Rather than sampling, Danger Mouse brings his own instruments while maintaining the same melodic intensity, and Mercer bringing his signature vocals. There’s not a weak moment in the bunch, and old school analog synths, colorful percussion, horns, strings, and distorted guitar atop Mercer’s lead instrument – his voice.
Check Out: “The High Road,” “Mongrel,” “The Ghost Inside”
YouTube: The High Road
Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
Dr. Dog has made some excellent albums in their short, sweet history, but Shame, Shame is the first truly great one. The density of the music hasn’t decreased, compared to 2008’s Fate, but the components of the arrangements are rendered more distinct. Having two lead signers with two distinct voices further allows Dr. Dog to carry the legacy of The Band and the Basement Tapes forward – a 60s’ era hybird that never fails to write one great song after another.
Check Out: “Where’d All The Time Go,” “Station,” “Stranger”
YouTube: Shadow People
Jimi Hendrix – Valleys of Neptune
A sixty-minute collection of never-before-released tracks recorded during the transition phase of The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968 and 1969 arrived in 2010. In the course of a dozen previously unreleased studio cuts, the CD vividly illustrates the restless creative urge of the late guitar icon and augurs well for the next phase of archival releases. The recording features the sought after “Valleys Of Neptune” and further goes on to prove what everybody already knows: Hendrix is unparalleled.
Check Out: “Valleys of Neptune,” “Bleeding Heart,” “Sunshine of Your Love"
YouTube: Valleys of Neptune
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way
When you listen to old-school soul singer Sharon Jones and her brassy Dap Kings, you get the sense that if you dropped your iPod the recording might begin skipping vinyl style. This latest collection of retro R&B hits all the right notes, the same ones Jones nailed on her prior release, 100 Days, 100 Nights. The gritty and greasy sounds of gospel, soul and funk, allows for Jones’ pure and soulful voice to soar atop the record’s top notch studio production and one of the slickest horn sections around.
Check Out: “Better Things,” “The Game Gets Old,” “Give It Back"
YouTube: I Learned The Hard Way
Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs – God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise
‘God Willin’ represents the most manic mood swing of LaMontagne’s catalog, which may be a reflection of his debut as producer. Neither matters, as one listen to God Willin’ only proves he’ll likely outlive and outdo most of his peers. The famously reclusive singer is becoming more and more comfortable in his gravelly voice and he’s starting to up his artistic and leadership qualities that are purely sincere, organic and enduring. Although LaMontagne’s Trouble songs will be his most called for, these God Willin’ ones stand up to Trouble and more.
Check Out: “”Repo Man,” “Beg Steal or Borrow,” “This Love is Over”
YouTube: Old Before Your Time
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Building where the Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver sound left off a couple years back, Local Natives mix the full chordal vocal harmonies with jangly instrumentation that is more sunshine than cold winter, without sounding cliché. The mixing electric guitar with strings and piano is dead on, if not technical, along with engaging percussion and straight ahead drive that keep these melodies and harmonies fantastic. Their sophomore album should be one of the more anticipated follow-ups in years.
Check Out: “Wide Eyes,” “Airplanes,” “World News”
Mountain Man – Made The Harbor
Following in the grand tradition of misleading monikers (Thompson Twins, 10,000 Maniacs), Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath are the trio of voices that form Mountain Man. And more than anything else, it’s their voices that elevate Made The Harbor above the babbling brook of Appalachian folk music flowing through indie music these days. Pairing their exquisite harmonies with almost nothing else, Mountain Man creates an album that can be appreciated as much for what it achieves as for what it leaves out.
Check Out: “Loon Song,” “Soft Skin,” “Honeybee”
YouTube: Animal Skin
The National - High Violet
The National with help from the Dressner brothers (the new Greenwoods) have worked hard to cram tons of instrumentation into each track, creating a sonic tone for the 11 presented here, so that the listener is swept up in the album as a whole. High Violet works best as a solitary listening experience during late nights or early mornings, when fear, dreams and desires swirl and mix into one, as the distinct baritone of Matt Berninger further cements himself as one of rock’s true and grandest front-men.
Check Out: “Afraid of Everyone,” “Anyone’s Ghost,” “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
YouTube: Bloodbuzz Ohio
The Orb featuring David Gilmour- Metallic Spheres
Combine the ambient dance sound of the Orb with the mysterious magical guitar tone of David Gilmour and you have the perfect collaboration. These are more soundscapes than true songs but make for great ambient jams, in the form of a modern Pink Floyd: a turn of the century Echoes. And for an album broken up by two sides rather than songs, Metallic Spheres never appears monotonous, as the two artists combine to engage and no matter how much you try, you can never get enough of that Floydian guitar.
YouTube: Metallic Spheres
Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Mojo
Perhaps Mojo should be titled by Mike Campbell and the Heartbeakers, as the long standing under-rated slinger bought a ’59 Les Paul that gives Mojo a raw classic British sound. The band drops the ‘don’t bore us, take us to the chorus’ philosophy in favor of blues, with licks and grooves recalling the Allmans to Jeff Beck, while Petty himself sounds like he’s hit his vocal prime at 59. Mojo has some of the band’s most instrumental appeal since they were Mudcrutch.
Check Out: “The Trip to Pirates Cove,” “First Flash of Freedom,” “I Should Have Known It”
YouTube: I Should Have Known It
Robert Plant – Band of Joy
Many can’t wait for Plant to get out of his Americana phase so he can reform a certain group that broke up 30 years ago; but if he keeps making records like these (following 2007’s heralded Raising Sand), he’s free to do whatever he wants. Plant dove into archives and brought a selection of covers that range from foot stomping to joyous and brooding, along with help from Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. Most importantly, Plant’s voice is as bold as ever, making for his best roots album since Led Zeppelin III.
Check Out: “Angel Dance,” “Silver Rider,: “Harm’s Swift Way”
YouTube: Angel Dance
Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away
Before Ritter penned these tunes, the songwriter from Idaho suffered a case of writer’s block, but you can’t tell he was struggling on his fifth full-length; because on these 13 tracks, Ritter sounds better than ever. There is something haunting about this album. Ritter has always been a masterful storyteller, but he takes it up a notch here; we are drawn into a world of cursed mummies and dark corners where lanterns lead the way – a world where Ritter isn’t afraid of the dark.
Check Out: “Southern Pacifica,” “Change of Time,” “Another New World”
YouTube: Another New World
The Roots- How I Got Over
Who would have thought Joanna Newsom and Jim James would sound so good on a Roots album? With thoughtful samples, this ninth studio album and one of two released by the band in ’10, is rich in genuine feeling, soul, smart production and solid songs. Although they’ve reached a broader scope due to their late night Fallon gig, The Roots still sound as uncompromising as ever, daring to go where no hip hop/rock band has taken live, and pre-recorded music.
Check Out: “How I Got Over,” “Now or Never,” “Right On”
YouTube: Dear God 2.0
Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
Astro Coast is engaging guitar rock that blends experimentation and main stream hooks masterfuly, while putting a high value on sing-a-longs and riffing out. This is a surprisingly strong rookie offering and the easiest comparison to draw would be Weezer’s Blue Album as front-man JP Pitts has an air of young Rivers Cuomo about him. There’s a lot to grasp onto here, as a young Pixies and Sonic Youth also come to mind, as every song manages to mix up its structure, as there is nothing boring on this coast.
Check Out: “Swim,” “Floating Vibes,” “Harmonix”
Yeasayer – Odd Blood
Brooklyn critical darlings Yeasayer have upped the quality ante somewhat from their first effort, and it is apparent from the opening plodding prog-electro feel of “The Children” through the new wave dance rock of “O.N.E.” Although Odd Blood can be mistaken as a hipster take on 80’s pop music, Yeasayer pulls it off courtesy of emotionally resonant lyrics and their ability to write songs that are more innovative than a rehash of what other hip minded acts are trying to produce.
Check Out: “O.N.E.”, “Ampling Alp,” “Madder Red”
YouTube: Madder Red
25 Honorable Mentions
Black Angels – Phosphene Dream
The Budos Band – The Budos Band III
Caribou – Swim
Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse – Dark Night Of the Soul
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer
Foals – Total Life Forever
Galactic – Ya-Ka-May
Gorillaz- Plastic Beach
The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
Hot Chip- One Life Stand
John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
MGMT – Congratulations
Mystery Jets – Serotonin
No Age - Everything In Between
Punch Brothers – Antifogmatic
Railroad Earth – Railroad Earth
Mavis Staples- You Are Not Alone
Screaming Females – Castle Talk
Trombone Shorty - Backatown
Truth & Salvage Co. – Truth & Salvage
Wolf Parade – Expo 86