The task of selecting our favorite records from any 12 month period can prove to be an arduous one and 2010 was no exception , as we could have easily expanded the list to 20 and still missed a few quality LP's. In the last year we have witnessed what can only be described as a renaissance of indie rock, with the return of our favorite 90's bands like Guided By Voices, Superchunk, and Pavement as well as a promising new crop of bands like Male Bonding, Wild Nothings, and Allston's ambient punks, Young Adults. We thoroughly enjoyed what we heard in 2010 and look forward with great anticipation to the deluge of 2011 releases to come. However before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let us commemorate what we consider to be the 10 best records of 2010.
As we've done in years past we consult our music libraries in our homes, itunes, and last.fm as well as those records that always seemed to find their way onto the car stereo. We'd like to mention the following releases that were inexplicably left off the list but deserve a mention as well as a listen: Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love, Calories - Basic Nature, and Weekend - Sports , to name but a few. We've taken the liberty of embedding songs from each album featured. Thanks to Soundcloud for being good sports and making these track available to us. And now without further blabbering our favorite records of 2010.
1. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor [XL Recordings]
A concept album about the American Civil War seemed like a project better suited for The Decemberists than New Jersey punk goliaths, Titus Andronicus. However it only took about about a minute for us to realize our preconceived notions were completely misguided. Although there is a conceptual theme throughout, The Monitor is about Titus fronter Patrick Stickles' love/hate relationship with his home state of New Jersey, just as much as it's about the struggles, hardships, and ideals of the Civil War. We found ourselves reaching for this album over and over and it never let us it down. The Monitor is an ambitious record no one will argue that, but it's also a flawless and impassioned one from beginning to end.
Review/Purchase from XL Recordings
Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
2. No Age - Everything in Between [Sub-Pop]
As the founding fathers of the DIY scene in LA centered around the all ages performance space, The Smell , Randy Randall and Dean Spunt have delivered hard and honest punk over the past few years without a misstep. This album continues that tradition and finds No Age a little more accessible but not less engaging or jarring. If Everything In Between is there most listener friendly album it's also their most varied, with charging punk, ambient electronics, and luminous distortion. Everything in Between is a sparkling pop record with a sense of adventure and chaos.
The AGP Review / Purchase from Sub-Pop
No Age - Fever Dreaming
3. Los Campesinos! - Romance is Boring [Wichita/Arts & Crafts]
A darker and meaner sounding record than their two preceding full lengths, not that those were exactly Yummy Yummy Yummy, I have Love In My Tummy, but Romance is Borring finds Los Campesinos! delving deeper into the their favorite topic, the decay of romantic relationships. This would make for a grim listening experience if the songs weren't the bands strongest to date. There are Listed Buildings and Straight In at 101 are fine examples of Gareth Los Campesinos (no one uses surname in LC!) gift of delivering comical and often devastating lyrical compositions. Romance is Boring is a near perfect cacophony of noise and pop from a band on the verge of something great.
Review/Live Review/ Purchase from Arts & Crafts
Los Campesinos! - There Are Listed Buildings
4. Boston Spaceships - Our Cubehouse Still Rocks [GBV, Inc]
With this years reunion of Guided By Voices' classic line up it's understandable if you missed a release or two from The Fading Captain. But it would be criminal if you didn't take at least a few minutes to examine the excellence of album #4 from Pollard's Boston Spaceships. I don't know if it's the rock solid line up of Chris Slusarenko and John Moen or if it's that Bob saves his best pop songs for the Spaceships. Either way Our Cubehouse Still Rocks is dexterous record of pop, punk, and prog. Not that we want the GBV reunion to ever end, but when it does we look forward to the attention and praise Our Cubehouse Still Rocks justly deserves.
The AGP Review/Purchase from The Factory of Raw Essentials/Rockathon
Boston Spaceships - Come on Baby Grace
5. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding [Merge]
Little did we know the return of Superchunk would be this triumphant. After a nine years of inactivity Chapel Hill's indie rock institution delievered Majesty Shredding, a record that recalls the band early to mid 90's heyday of energetic guitar pop. Just when Superchunk have absolutely nothing to prove comes 11 frantic pop burst that pogo through the first few tracks, slowing down occasionally to catch their breath, only to come charging back again and again. Majesty Shredding serves as a great reminder of the caliber of band that Superchunk is, as well as nice introduction for new fans. Majesty Shredding can sit proudly next to the bands best work.
The Fire Note Review / Live Review / Purchase from Merge
Superchunk - Crossed Wires
6. The Capstan Shafts - Revelation Skirts [Rainbow Quartz]
Dean Wells, the hook wielding mastermind of The Capstan Shafts recorded and released his most fully realized and focused recordings to date on Revelation Skirts. With assistance from drummer/producer Matt Lemay, Wells' delivers 14 mid-fi pop anthems in just over 30 minutes with not a second wasted. The songs are superbly crafted, concise and catchy as hell. With the brevity of Revelation Skirts we found ourselves listening to this LP multiple times a day nearly every day since it's release. Although the first spin hooked us in, repeated listens have proven that this record is completely addicting and equally as durable. Big guitars and even bigger hooks on Revelation Skirts made for one of 2010 most enjoyable listens.
The AGP Review / Purchase
The Capstan Shafts - Quiet Wars
7. The National - High Violet [4AD]
Ever since being introduced to The National with their 2003 second album, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers we've been hooked on this NYC by way of Ohio quintet and over the past few years they have barely taken a mistep, releasing excellent, albeit dark and brooding records, one after another. High Violet is both powerful and poetic often both at the same time, all while sad bastard vocalist, Matt Berringer delivers his most claustrophobic and harrowing lyrics to date. High Violet spoke to us and reminded us that things don't always work out the way we plan. Being disappointed never sounded better.
Chromewaves Review/Purchase From 4AD Records
The National - Blood Buzz Ohio
8. Clinic - Bubblegum [Domino]
This record was a bigger surprise than Shane MacGowan's new teeth! As big fans of Clinic's kraut rock infused early records we were somewhat underwhelmed by the bands last couple of releases. However that all changed once we heard the reinvention of Clinic on their latest LP, Bublegum. With the addition of dulcimers, harpsichords, and strings the band brings a whole new dimension to the their sound. Through the album's 13 tracks the band reveals a few surprises from behind those surgical masks. Sure there's a few of the bands trademark disorientated fuzzed up stompers, but they also reveal an affinity for classic pop structures and British folk. The album works best when they employ all of these strengths on the same song, like on the stunning closer, Orangutan.
The AGP Review/Purchase From Domino Records
Clinic - I'm Aware
9. Walter Schreifels - An Open Letter To The Scene [AFS]
For his first solo outing, the former Gorilla Biscuits/Quicksand/ and current Rival Schools member Walter Schreifels issued a laid back record filled with acoustic pop strummers. The songs writing is sparkling and frankly is what makes the record shine, well that and Walter's weary albeit captivating vocals. I gifted this record to my brother because that's what great records make you do, they make you want to share the music and tell your friends. Open Letter To The Scene certainly qualifies as a great record.
Clicky Clicky Review/Purchase from Academy Fight Song
Walter Schreifels - Arthur Lee's Lullaby
10. Pernice Brothers - Goodbye, Killer [Ashmont Records]
The superbly crafted tales of love and life that have occupied previous Pernice Brother albums is in tact on Goodbye, Killer. However with a couple of exceptions, Pernice jettisons the familiar ground of chamber pop for the more intimate and road ready acoustics and electric twang featured on the albums 10 tracks. Goodbye, Killer is a bit of grower that slowly unfolds and reveals it's incredible charm with each subsequent listen. Pernice continues to be an amazingly consistent songwiter with very few peers, just listen to Newport News or the impeccable,The End of Faith for your proof. Goodbye, Killer is a sturdy no frills record that treads the line between alt-country and pop beautifully.
The Boston Phoenix Review/Purchase From Ashmont Records
Pernice Brothers - The Great Depression
*The AGP collage was created and photographed by Hamills', Colin, Joshua, Nicole, and Bryan.