Best Music Of 2010: TL

author TL date 26/01/11

As a year draws to an end, it has been our tradition to bring you a comprehensive article outlining the important developments in the world of rock music in the past 12 months. This year the format has undergone a major transformation, however, and instead of presenting you with a wall of text exceeding in length that of an average dissertation, each major contributor has been given free hands to formulate their own article with a sole requirement: it should include a list or lists of some sort.

And with that, the obligatory editor's opening to this series of articles, ladies and gentlemen, this is it, the moment you should have all been waiting for. It's time for the most awesome, the most open-minded, the most razor-witted, the most aesthetically aware, the most self-deluded, and last but not least the most awesome - writer; to present to you the 2010 album top-something list that matters! Okay, so lesser minds have lately tried to boil my preferences down to "dramatic indie rock", but as the list below will show, I have a far wider assortment of recommendations cooked up for you.

Not so fast though, my load is not to be blown so soon, and to drag out proceedings with something else than bravado, I want to take this opportunity to be real about a few things. First off, as I've been trying to remember records for this list of mine, it's hit me that there aren't really that many heavy releases going on it. In thinking about it, you could suspect that I've grown soft with age, but while I will admit that I've probably become more selective with my appreciation for heavy music, I feel like I still appreciate angry noise as much as the next dude. The fact is however, that despite my intentions of checking out new records from bands I respect a lot - like The Chariot, Norma Jean, The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Psyke Project - I just haven't gotten around to it. This could feed into theories of people wanting to listen to music that fits their state of mind, as I have admittedly been so at peace with my surroundings this year, that it borders on the square and uncool. Hence, if there's one fatal flaw in the list that follows a few paragraphs down, it is that it lacks representation from the more chaotic and extreme end of the musical spectrum.

This tendency has an upside to it as well though, because while young and enthusiastic music fans are often overly impressed with bands because they are "extreme" or "unique", five years of constant reviewing has brought me to the point where I'm much more interested in the subtleties of style and execution, than I am in how many notes can be squeezed from a guitar at high speed, or at just how angry/sad/depraved it's possible to sound. This perspective I hope, will mean that the albums I list will indeed have either a very long-lasting sound, or a consistenly high level of song-writing, if not both. Anyway, like AP, I will try to contain my ranting within three paragraphs, and start giving you some fuckin' lists:

The one-hit-wonder section

This department is reserved for songs that I have kept coming back to many a time, even if their album/EP of origin wasn't quite strong enough as a whole to find itself to the main list. It doesn't - like the title suggest - mean that the parent bands are good for only one good song, it just means that this one song in particular kicked ass and that you people should hear it. Also, there are probably more that deserve to be on this list, but these songs were especially chosen because of them generally being under-appreciated. Anyway, here they are, in the order in which I remembered them:

THE LIST aka. Best Music of 2010 - TL's picks

Okay, so this is it, the list of albums I've liked the most. To be honest, I have been quite hard to impress this year, hence I've only included fifteen records on this list, trying to look past the hype of much-talked about records, and instead going for ones that either blew me right out of my socks when I heard them, or ones that have grown to seem like albums I will remember for years in the future:

Just outside:

15. The Classic Crime - Vagabonds

Singalong-friendly, earth-bound pop-rock

The kind of record which initially seems a bit simple, with it's straight-forward compositions and sentiments, yet before you know of it, you're popping it on again and again because it's so catchy and affirming. Words like "I may not have a perfect voice, but I still sing from the top of my lungs" will stay with you for years.

14. Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History

fast-paced, light-hearted indie-rock with some dark twists

An album that, if you haven't already heard of it, it is likely that you will very soon, because on it Two Door Cinema Club have presented a distillation of what classy, lightweight indie-rock should sound like. Devilishly infectious and memorable.

13. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

larger than life, ambitious post-punk

This record probably had the strongest sound of any record made in 2010, and it followed its own concept without compromise. This may have meant that it took considerable effort to really become friends with its songs, but even if you don't remember them individually by name, the sheer passion and intensity of the album is one that'll stick with you for a long time

12. Four Year Strong - Enemy Of The World

good-times music/bearded-dude-core

Truth be told, as big as I was on "Enemy Of The World" around its release, it's not a record I've been re-spinning much lately. That's no problem though, because as soon as this baby comes on the stereo, it will instantly transport the listener to a place of sunshine and no worries. A pinnacle record for the growing pop/hardcore movement that stands tall above it contemporaries, and likely won't be topped any time soon.

11. My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys

adventurous, laser-pistol-shooting, super-accessible, super-colorful, modern glam-punk

In my opinion, the best records of 2009 were the ones that dared to follow their band members' crazy visions to the furthest places, and while such megalomania was all too rare in 2010, My Chemical Romance delivered as certainly as they were expected to, "Danger Days" may never outgrow the legend of "Black Parade", but compared to other releases this year, none were quite as playful or energetic. An excellent rollercoaster-ride for un-pretentious music fans.

10. My Epic - Yet

vast, cinematic soundscapes, epic progressions, massive climaxes

While Rinoa and Devil Sold His Soul have harvested roses in AP's list, I find it weird that, if you're looking for that kind of epic music, you're not looking to a band that has the word "Epic" in its name. Especially considering that this record deals in a similar style of music, only pursuing it with more effieciency and versatility. If you liked those records but wouldn't mind something where each song doesn't sound the same as the last, and where each song isn't 60 years long, then give this a try instead.

9. Wolves & Machines - Ailments

melodic, melancholic, passionate indie/post-hardcore

There were a lot of bands surfacing in 2010, that seemed heavily influenced by Brand New's "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me", and while many of them were decent, only a few were excellent, and LP debutants Wolves And Machines were fantastic. More than a handful of the songs on "Ailments" have massive, potential staying power, and the way elements from indie, punk-rock and post-hardcore come together on the album, represents one of the few things in 2010 that made me stand back and say "wow, I'm not sure I've heard anything like that before".

8. The National - High Violet

moody, gloomy, yet occasionally triumphant indie-rock, drenched in coolness

The National is a band that is supposedly indie, yet everyone who likes music are talking about them, and their shows sell tickets by the truck-load. Personally I only got into them this year, but after checking out most of their stuff, I can say with some confidence that "High Violet" is one of their best records, jam-packed with immersive songs that sound like catharsis. But you know this, unless you a) don't like music at all or b) are some kind of genre-purist who stubbornly denies listening to anything other people like. In either case, it sucks to be you, because this is the kind of record about which I can get cocky and say that, if you have any idea about what's good, there's no way you won't enjoy it.

7. Frightened Rabbit - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

exhilarating, atmospheric Scottish indie/folk/rock

It's hard to describe what's so good about "The Winter Of Mixed Drinks", except by saying that it's the wonderful kind of record that seems to make it worth celebrating feeling down. You know how great it is when a record has a song that takes the listerner from humble, simple beginnings, to a layered, festive climax? "...Mixed Drinks" has several of those, effortlessly making the most of a plethora of sounds and quirky Scottish vocals.

6. Conditions - Fluorescent Youth

powerful melodies, soaring choruses and raw conviction

Okay, so there are records on this list that have a more versatile approach to soundscapes and song-writing. There are records on this list that have lyrical content that is less obvious and, let's be honest, self-righteous. There probably aren't any albums on this list however, that are as consistently energetic and catchy, and having no-nonsense lyrics doesn't hinder a band much, when the listener is made to feel like singing along to every single chorus. It might not have much by means of backwards, cryptic, artistic qualities, but it will make you feel like raising hell for a band that wants to sing about other things than just heartbreak.

5. Circa Survive - Blue Sky Noise

ethereal, atmospheric, post-hardcore royalty

To still call Circa Survive post-hardcore feels almost like an insult to them, considering the universes between the artistry displayed by them and by bands otherwise affiliated with the genre. "Blue Skye Noise" is a marvel of curious atmospheres, moving and memorable songs, and a razor-sharp mastery of sound. The kind of album other bands can only stare at in amazement and wonder if they'll ever create anything as intensely emotive.

4. Jimmy Eat World - Invented

possibly the band we will look back at in 40 years and call 'best emo band ever'

Jimmy Eat World is a band that is referenced for comparison almost every time a new emo/rock/punk band emerges, which is no surprise considering how the band almost single-handedly dragged the genre out of the basement over a decade ago, dropping three excellent consecutive albums to cement its status as the top dog in the genre. Since then, the style has had a million billion bands drag it in different directions, and the term 'emo' has become musically meaningless, and maybe that's why it feels so unbelievably good to hear a new Jimmy Eat World record celebrate everything that everyone has consistently failed to copy. Nobody can write music that is simultaneously melancholic, nostalgic and triumphant, except for Jimmy Eat World, and "Invented" somehow makes it sound as relevant today as it was ten years ago.

3. The Xcerts - Scatterbrain

Brand New-ish, 90s influenced, Scottish brilliance

For the first five songs of "Scatterbrain", The Xcerts are pretty good. For the remaining seven, they are absolutely excellent. Higher up on this list I talked about how many bands have been influenced by Brand New's "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me", but none of them - none - have nailed the mixture of ragged noise and accessibility as well as The Xcerts do on "Scatterbrain". The record is angry and poppy at the same times, while the sound cheekily reference alternative and post-punk elements that had their golden age before the turn of the millenia. These are great rock songs, as raw and simple as can be, and yet still otherworldy in the distance between their quality and that of the average band of 2010.

2. Secret And Whisper - Teenage Fantasy

super-powered guitars, super-powered vocals, mesmerizing atmospheres

If you're in the business for music that feels like being hit by lightning and suddenly gaining super-powers (and I am) then "Teenage Fantasy" is your record of the year. Nobody, I repeat nobody, gives you as undeniable an injection of pure awesome, as Secret And Whisper do as they kick off this album. The vocal work of Charles Finn is out of this world, sounding like he is about to burst at the seems at any given moment, and the guitar riffs will make you feel like you're holding on to the tail of a comet as it blazes through the solar system. In fact, just remember when you saw Avatar in 3D for the first time? "Teenage Fantasy" is the sonic equivalent to that.

1. letlive. - Fake History

jagged, electrifying, multi-faceted, modern hardcore

This years title goes to "Fake History", because it was hands down the one record that blew me the cleanest out of the water, and had me taking the longest to recover. It is the cure for the enlightened music-fan's loss of faith in the hardcore genre(s). Mostly because it does away with all the bullshit musical restrictions and focuses on expressing the furious social indignation at the heart of the genre, and doing it in a manner that does what the genre is meant to do - It pryes your ears open and makes you listen to what the band thinks is fucked up about society, and you, you're loving the abuse, because for once, this is a wholly different kind of crowbar. Music of this kind has seldom been as raw or as powerful as this is, and more importantly it has seldom been as exciting. If one record of 2010 mattered, this was it.

Retrospective binoculars

Now, just like the last rocket signals the coming end of festivities on New Years Eve, the number one record signals the end of a "Best of the Year" list. To be honest, despite my liking for the records that you've just read about, I have been a little disappointed with the year, given that I haven't fallen in love with more albums than these. I have a theory that it is because I have also been spending time checking out pre-2010 records, and many of them were quite frankly better than what 2010 had to offer. There are actually quite many, but here are a few I feel I must recommend, mostly because I think they haven't gotten the amount of attention from Rockfreaks.net that they deserve (sadly, only two of them have been reviewed - maybe I will rectify this when I have time):

Marianas Trench - Masterpiece Theatre

shameless, theatrical pop-rock, done better than most of what you're used to

Pavement - Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement

90's indie/alternative of unparalled goodness - possibly my favourite of the music I've listened to all year

Biffy Clyro - Blackened Sky

a quirky, fuzzy, soaring debut record of alternative rock from the turn of the millenium, drenched in more emotion than most emo bands can muster

Saves The Day - Through Being Cool

according to many a seminal album, not just for the band but for melodic punk in general - I have a hard time disagreeing

Final words

Other than that, there's not much else to say or do, except start embracing 2011. We've already had our first great record from the hands of Lemuria, and in five days, our friends in Siamese Fighting Fish will release their much awaited debut LP. Other than that, I'll also be looking much forward to new records from the likes of Emery, Taking Back Sunday, Alesana and Panic! At The Disco. Oh, and to the death of myspace, can we put that site out of it's misery already? It's already clear that Bandcamp.com is over 9000 times better, so here's a hearty recommendation for bands to start using that instead. Also there's a chance Rockfreaks.net gets a new design soon, but as we know by now, that's a little Chinese Democracy. So I think I'll shut up now, hasta la vista friends, and stay tuned in this new year!

(Remember that you can click "Related articles" to see the lists of PP, DR and AP)

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