2010 was a pretty stellar year for albums, and if some of my favorites hadn’t let me down with releases that didn’t totally do it for me (Spoon, Arcade Fire, Sufjan) this would have been an even more difficult list to compile. But here they are – my favorite albums of the year. I won’t proclaim these the “best” albums of 2011, but they’re the ones that resonated with me most and that I found myself coming back to time and time again.
1. The National // High Violet
High Violet may not be quite the album that Boxer was, but that doesn’t keep it from being my favorite of 2010. It’s been in high rotation here at FiTi since its release in May, and is no less satisfying dozens of listens in than it was on the first. For my money, there’s not a better rock drummer out there right now than Bryan Devendorf.
MP3 Download // Bloodbuzz Ohio
2. Frightened Rabbit // The Winter of Mixed Drinks
I may have had high hopes for the follow-up to The Midnight Organ Fight, but my expectations were surely not this high. Artistically, it’s hard to imagine that Scott Hutchison and the Frabbits could have landed in more satisfying territory, in a space where they seamlessly manage to maintain the intimate lyricism and emotional appeal of the album’s predecessor while pushing their musical arrangements into far more expansive, anthemic directions.
Be sure to check out our interview with Hutchison, and our review of the Frabbits sold-out show at the Paradise back in October. Hutchison returns to Boston for a solo set opening for Josh Ritter at House of Blues on Feb. 11.
3. Lost in the Trees // All Alone in an Empty House
No new band immediately spoke to me this year quite like Lost in the Trees. All Alone in an Empty House is at turns heart-wrenching and at others uplifting, ebbing and flowing from hushed acoustic moments to startling orchestral flourishes. You can see the band open for Neko Case at the Wilbur Theatre on Feb. 3 or the Calvin Theatre in Northampton on Feb. 4.
MP3 Download // A Walk Around the Lake (via Anti-)
4. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists // Brutalist Bricks
Ted Leo never seems to let me down, though his first album for Matador is probably my favorite Leo/Rx album since Hearts of Oak. He kicks off a winter solo tour at the Brighton Music Hall on Jan. 21.
5. Beach House // Teen Dream
After a pair of perfectly pleasant albums, Teen Dream finally made Beach House a go-to band here at FiTi. This January release was an immediate album-of-the-year contender for many, and didn’t slip much for me over the course of 2010.
MP3 Download // Norway
6. Janelle Monáe // The ArchAndroid
I wasn’t in much of a mood for R&B and hip-hop this year, but this album was just impossible to overlook. It’s a thoroughly impressive first full-length from a thoroughly intriguing young artist who teams with Big Boi one minute and Of Montreal the next.
7. Seabear // We Built a Fire
Sigur Rós’s Jónsi deservedly got a lot of attention this year for Go, but the more subdued Seabear released my favorite Icelandic album of the year. We Built a Fire is definitely worth tracking down.
8. Menomena // Mines
I’ve been fascinated with Menomena since I first got my hands on their hand-crafted, flip-book-packaged debut, I am the Fun Blame Monster. This experimental rock trio has one of the more unique sounds you’ll find in indie rock.
MP3 Download // TAOS (via Barsuk)
9. The Head and the Heart // Self-Titled
I was a little late getting in on this one, but I haven’t stopped spinning the Seattle band’s self-titled debut since I finally picked it up in November. The buzz is that the aptly named, folksy indie-pop band is hooking up with Sub Pop, setting bigger things in motion for 2011. You can see the Head and the Heart at the ‘Dise when they open for Dr. Dog on Feb. 19.
10. New Pornographers // Together
For some reason, this album seems to have been overlooked this year. I personally loved it more and more as the year went along.
Shearwater // The Golden Archipelago
The Tallest Man on Earth // The Wild Hunt
Jónsi / Go
LCD Soundsystem // This Is Happening
Tim Fite / Under the Table Tennis (free download at www.timfite.com)
The Black Keys // Brothers
Kanye West // My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Villagers // Becoming a Jackal
Local Natives // Gorilla Manor
Mumford & Sons // Sigh No More
La Strada // New Home
Meursault // All Creatures Will Make Merry
Los Campesinos! // Romance is Boring
Titus Andronicus // The Monitor
Deerhunter // Halcyon Digest
No Age // Everything in Between
Big Boi // Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son Of Chico Dusty
Laura Veirs // July Flame
Plants & Animals // La La Land
Stornoway // Beachcomber’s Windowsill
Glasser // Ring
Dum Dum Girls // I Will Be
Lissie // Catching a Tiger