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Top Albums of 2010 

Where Kanye, Nick Cave, the National and the Black Keys landed on our charts

click to enlarge Grinderman
  • Grinderman

10. RVIVR : LP
9. Phantom Glue : Phantom Glue
8. Neurosis : Live at Roadburn
7. The Melvins: And the Bride Screamed Murder
6. Russian Circles : Geneva
5. Black Keys : Brothers
4. Forest Swords : Dagger Paths
3. U.S. Christmas : Run Thick in the Night
2. High on Fire : Snakes for the Divine

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1. Grinderman : Grinderman 2

Matt Pike and Nick Cave were gunning for the top spot on my list. What to choose: battleax-toting frost beasts or inbred prostitutes taking clients in double-wides? Hmm. Cave pins Pike. Why? Warren Ellis. Where he sits in the background with the Bad Seeds, Ellis is Cave’s secret weapon in Grinderman. And on 2, they string together a psychotic, pilled-up pop sound. It is beautiful and tragic, witty and cynical. Where Cave is a genius with his pen, Ellis is prolific on his electric bouzouki and epileptic violin. Together they make music that could break souls and wage wars.

10. Tim Kasher: The Game of Monogamy
9. The Thermals: Personal Life
8. Against Me!: White Crosses
7. Motion City Soundtrack: My Dinosaur Life
6. Mt. St. Helen’s Vietnam Band: Where the Messengers Meet
5. Rocky Votolato: True Devotion
4. Tokyo Police Club: Champ
3. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
2. Aloha: Home Acres

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1. Caribou: Swim

The nine tracks that make up Swim seem more like a collection of audio dreamscapes than an album. Caribou blends smooth layers of electronic melody over a dissonant array of percussion, creating a flow that can be both danceable and soothing. Put on a pair of headphones and prepare to be dazzled as the sounds swirl by. No need to your dip your toes into the musical waters of Swim — dive in headfirst. The water’s fine.

10. Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More
9. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: The Social Network soundtrack
8. Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest
7. Broken Bells: Broken Bells
6. The Dead Weather: Sea of Cowards
5. Animal Collective: Campfire Songs
4. Hot Chip: Hot Chip
3. Perfume Genius: Learning
2. Tame Impala: Innerspeaker

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1. The Black Keys: Brothers

Time off is a good thing. The Black Keys’ 2004 album, Attack & Release, was a bit tired and lackluster compared to the group’s previous slew. Their 2010 release, Brothers, is the perfect blend of (quasi-) reinvention and nostalgia for this bluesy rock duo. Lovesick melodies about wayward women and wanton desire get dragged across rock-and-roll guitar jaunts. Vocals are jagged and twangy, blending just the right amount of playful energy with sustained melancholy. It’s sexy. Period.

10. Belle and Sebastian: Write About Love
9. Crocodiles: Sleep Forever
8. Klaxons: Surfing the Void
7. Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love
6. Best Coast: Crazy For You
5. Peter Wolf: Midnight Souvenirs
4. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
3. Tom Jones: Praise and Blame
2. The Black Keys: Brothers

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1. Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs: God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise

With stunning moments of beautiful brilliance and some world-weary lamenting, LaMontagne’s newest record gets right up close and personal with the listener. This isn’t a record to from which to snag songs for an iPod playlist: It’s meant to be listened to as a whole, where it can be as satisfying as your favorite old book.

10. Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record
9. Drive-By Truckers: The Big To-Do
8. Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest
7. Walkmen: Lisbon
6. Local Natives: Gorilla Manor
5. Weekend: Sports
4. Surfer Blood: Astro Coast
3. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
2. Morning Benders: Big Echo

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1. The National: High Violet

It’s hard to say what’s more important to the National: Matt Berninger’s heavy baritone or his personal demons. The latter provides all the fodder for his arresting, poetic lyrics, while the former delivers them in unmistakable, solemn tones. On High Violet, the band conjures the perfect backdrop in mile-deep layers of sweeping orchestration and a frame-by-frame attention to every musical subtlety, resulting in an album teeming with a rare kind of complicated beauty.

10. The Depreciation Guild: Spirit Youth
9. Joanna Newsom: Have One on Me
8. Liars: Sisterworld
7. Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid
6. Burzum: Belus
5. Sleigh Bells: Treats
4. Four Tet: There Is Love in You
3. Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
2. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

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1. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: Before Today

Ariel Pink’s Before Today is a vision of a world where long-forgotten ‘70s AM pop ditties roam among layers of crackling haze and sparkling melodies. Pink’s aurally frustrating recording techniques — seen by many as the demise of his possible success — are the source of much of his indelible charm. His shameless love of soft pop and his abrasive low-fidelity recording style makes Today both clever, fresh and a classic of its time.

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