While overprocessed, Auto-Tuned-to-death pop was the soup of the day during most of 2010—occasionally interrupted by a fresh-faced teenybopper or some Glee-inspired monstrosity—the year actually produced a bumper crop of great music. A great diversity of styles made headway during the year, with the best of it often fueled by a bracing honesty. Others just produced great pop music—which can be just as rewarding.
Album of the Year
The Reluctant Graveyard
Messersmith packs more into this 33-minute masterpiece than most artists could manage at three times the length. Though packed with imagery right out of Edward Gorey, Messersmith’s latest is never maudlin. It helps that a sly sense of humor runs through the entire set; that the songs sport a love of classic 1960s pop without aping the era; and that the arrangements offer a dazzling array of music and vocals.
Other Top 10 Albums
These indie darlings turned into Grammy-nominated rockers with an album that is light years better than any of the other nominations. See, something can come out of living in cookie-cutter communities.
These local superstars put out another intense, cutting-to-the-bone set. Mixing joy, pain, and sorrow, it ended up being a powerful, affirming look at life.
A Badly Broken Code
The local hip-hop artist takes the listener on a harrowing journey that only affirms her skills and the depth of the Twin Cities scene.
Tour-bus incidents aside, this local supergroup had a great year—topped by this compelling set of late-night tunes. Never has the spirit of 10cc been channeled in such a compelling way.
You can have your plastic pop stars. Give me someone with plenty of heart, musical skills, and vocal chops.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Maybe he’s a jerk—then again, it’s not like he beat up his girlfriend, or packed his tour bus with loaded guns—but West always can bring the musical fire, as he does on this dense, driving, and thrilling record.
These Ohio expats skipped out on all the hyphens, and made the best pure rock record of the year. Like a lot of the best albums of the year, real sadness is here, but it doesn’t take the easy way out, or descend into pure maudlin emo-core.
Retribution Gospel Choir
I’m a sucker for tuneful, noisy guitars. Andy Sparhawk and company have them in spades on this set.
Electro-pop was everywhere in 2010, but it was rarely better than on this trilogy of mini-LPs that let the Swede explore the outer reaches of her sexuality and mind.
22 More Great Albums
Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Big Boi Sir
The Big To-Do
Drive By Truckers
The Lady Killer
Cee Lo Green
Heaven is Whenever
The Hold Steady
John Legend and the Roots
The Outsiders are Back
Kings Go Forth
Peter Wolf Crier
Band of Joy
Corinne Bailey Rae
The Bookseller’s House
I Learned the Hard Way
Sharon King and the Dap Kings
The Smoke of My Will
Single of the Year
Cee Lo Green
Best 2009 Album I Didn’t Hear Until 2010
(Even though a copy of it was sitting on my desk for months. I really need to clean it off more often. OK, that’s my new year’s resolution.)
Florence and the Machine
Artists Who Are Probably Great Guys and Write Not-Bad Songs, But I Could Use a Break From
Mumford & Sons
Worst Album of the Year
OK, you made a rock album, Lil’ Wayne. Let us never speak of it again.