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The 77 best albums I heard (thus far) in 2010

Album covers

For decades now, I’ve been fortunate enough to immerse myself in glorious music every December, either reliving what I already know to be my favorite albums from that calendar year, or adding new discoveries as I peruse the lists of other critics and talk to friends whose opinions I respect. These year-end lists are never going to be complete — it is about the process more than the final product, as I’m sure there will be literally a dozen or more riveting records released in 2010 that I don’t come across until 2011, or 2015, not to mention the inevitable omissions that will disappoint me only because of the lost opportunity to pay forward the joy they have provided.

Last year’s list, which turned out to be 72 records, was published in MinnPost about this time. For 2010, I see that I have 77 titles. While pretty catholic, the material is weighted toward my love of jazz and, for lack of a better tag, black pop/r&b/hip-hop. But the only criterion here is that these records made my existence burn a little brighter with the infectious inspiration of their art.

I’ll repeat what I said last year: This is the list as of today. I’m sure the order will change in the next day or two — maybe even dramatically, as I try to place records I am just hearing with ones I’ve been playing for months, like the Corinne Bailey Rae. But what does remain constant is that I heartily recommend everything on this list to any open-minded reader and listener. I only wish there were time and space enough (at MinnPost, and in my life) for a description of each one.

On a tip from a reader-responder last year, I realize that some of you want a little bit of pigeonholing to help you whittle down what you may find interesting. While I believe that our tastes are broader than we imagine, I’ll provide a “genre key” after the list to help those who know they hate bluegrass or jazz or whatever.

Finally, thanks for reading, and please chip in with your own suggestions.

1.  Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-a-fella)

2.  Myra Melford’s Be Bread The Whole Tree Gone (FH 12 Records)

3.  Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green Apex (Pi)

4.  Cee-Lo Green, The Lady Killer (Elektra/Asylum)

5.  Charles Lloyd Quartet Mirror (ECM)

6.  Grinderman Grinderman 2 (Anti-)

7.  Broken Bells Broken Bells (Columbia)

8.  Sclavis/Taborn/Rainey Eldorado Trio (Clean Feed)

9.  Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra (First World)

10. Big Boi Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam)

11. Dave Holland Octet Pathways (Dare 2 Records)

12. Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy)

13. Rufus Reid Out Front (Motema)

14. Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band Legacy (Compass)

15. Robyn Body Talk, Part 1 (Cherry Tree)

16. Corinne Bailey Rae The Sea (Capitol)

17. Big K.R.I.T. K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (Direct Connect)

18. Teedra Moses Royal Patience Compilation … A Love Journey (self released)

19. Ryan Keberle Heavy Dreaming (Alternate Sides Records)

20. Christian Scott Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord)

21. Los Campesinos! Romance Is Boring (Arts and Crafts)

22. Frank Kimbrough Rumors (Palmetto)

23. Issac Delgado L-O-V-E (Masterworks Jazz)

24. SF Jazz Collective Live 2010: 7th Annual Concert Tour (SFJazz Records)

25. Eric Harland Voyager: Live By Night (Space Time)

26. Jeremy Pelt Men of Honor (Highnote Records, Inc.)

27. Randy Weston The Storyteller (Motemba)

28. Patti Griffin Downtown Church (EMI/Credential)

29. Chico Trujillo Chico de Oro (Barbes Records)

30. Yeasayer Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian)

31. Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman Dual Identity, (Clean Feed)

32. Sleigh Bells Treats (Mom & Pop Music)

33. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone)

34. The Nels Cline Singers Initiate (Cryptogrammophone)

35. Christian Zacharias Mozart: Piano Concertos Vol. 6 (MDG)

36. Bilal Airtight’s Revenge (Plug’s Research)

37. The Infamous Stringdusters  Things That Fly (Sugar Hill)

38. Agalloch Marrow of the Spirits (Profound Lore)

39. Gorillaz Plastic Beach (Virgin)

40. The National High Violet (4AD)

41. Chucho Valdes Chucho’s Steps (Four Quarters Entertainment)

42. Jamey Johnson The Guitar Song (UMG/Mercury)

43. Clogs The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland)

44. The Gaslight Anthem American Slang, (Side One Dummy)

45. Erykah Badu New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) (Motown)

46. The Walkmen Lisbon (Fat Possum)

47. Ozomatli Fire Away (Mercer Street Records)

48. Carolina Chocolate Drops Genuine Negro Jig (Nonesuch)

49. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Portrait in Seven Shades (Jazz at Lincoln Center)

50. Konono No. 1 Assume Crash Position (Crammed Discs)

51. Bassekou Kouyate I Speak Fula (Sub Pop)

52. Best Coast Crazy For You (Mexican Summer)

53. Scott Colley Empire (CAM Jazz)

54. King Sunny Ade Baba Mo Tunde (Mesa)

55. Caribou Swim (Merge)

56. The Roots How I Got Over (Def Jam)

57. Hiromi Place to Be (Telarc)

58. The Heath Brothers Endurance (Jazz Legacy Productions)

59. Meklit Hadero On a Day Like This (Porto Franco Records)

60. Jason Moran Ten (Blue Note)

61. Danilo Perez Providencia (Mack Avenue)

62. Diane Birch The Velveteen Age (S Curve)

63. Dave Douglas Spark of Being (Greenleaf Music)

64. Kenny Wayne Shepherd Live! In Chicago (Roadrunner Records)

65. Twin Shadow Forget (Terrible)

66. Brooklyn Rider Dominant Curve (In A  Circle (3))

67. Eels Tomorrow Morning (E Works)

68. Titus Andronicus The Monitor (XL Recordings)

69. The Chieftains San Patricio (Hear Music)

70. Against Me! White Crosses (Sire)

71. Angelique Kidjo Ojo (Razor & Tie)

72. Geri Allen Flying Toward The Sound (Motema)

73. Peter Karp and Sue Foley He Said, She Said (Blind Pig)

74. Of Montreal False Preist (Polyvinyl)

75. Walter Smith III Live In Paris (Space Time)

76. Thee Oh Sees Warm Slime (In the Red Records)

77. Charnett Moffett Treasure (Motema)


Jazz: 2, 3, 5, 8, 11, 13, 19, 20, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 31, 34, 41, 49, 53, 57, 58, 60, 61, 63, 72, 75,77

Soul/R&B/Hip Hop:1, 4, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18, 33, 36, 45, 56

“Indie” Pop: 7, 30, 32, 40, 52, 55, 65, 67, 74, 76

Rock: 6, 38, 44, 46, 68, 70

“World”/International: 9, 23, 29, 47, 50, 51, 54, 69, 71

Classical: 35, 43, 66

Dance: 15, 21, 39

Folk: 59, 62

Blues: 64, 73

Gospel: 28

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by Jacob Grippen on 12/24/2010 - 12:37 pm.

    Check out

    The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt.

    Great stuff.

  2. Submitted by Jim Meyer on 12/24/2010 - 01:12 pm.

    I am not one of those who favor any and all local artists above the great artists of the world, but I am merely curious if Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code did not make your cut, or didn’t get a long look. Regardless, this annual is appreciated as always.

  3. Submitted by Karl Singer on 12/25/2010 - 01:49 pm.

    Missed some real good ones. I would second both The Wild Hunt and A Badly Broken Code, both great albums. Also….

    Tier 1:
    LCD Soundsystem / This is Happening (probably the second best album of the year)
    Mumford and Sons / Sigh No More
    Sufjan Stevens / The Age of Adz

    Tier 2:
    Kate Nash / My Best Friend Is You
    Ghostface Killah / Apollo Kids
    Matt + Kim / Sidewalks

    Nice list as always.

  4. Submitted by Nila Ouska on 12/26/2010 - 12:03 pm.

    I saw Kenye West on SNL a few weeks ago and I don’t consider what I saw to be artistic, creative or musical. It was pathetic posing pure and simple. I felt embarrassed for him. Seeing him at the top of your list completely stopped me from looking at the rest.

  5. Submitted by Tim Walker on 12/27/2010 - 08:43 am.

    A few things:

    1. I agree 100% with Nila, although I did continue reading.

    2. I was curious how Britt would classify Plastic Beach, an album I enjoyed very much, but found unclassifiable.

    3. I really dug “Free Time” by Shonen Knife.

  6. Submitted by Jeremy Brezovan on 12/27/2010 - 08:59 am.

    See, that’s funny, because I was excited to see Kanye West at the top of Britt’s list. People have developed a near-instinctive aversion to his personal antics, and that’s sad because he’s a brilliant producer. I’m glad to see someone else was able to see past all of that.

    Nila, if you come back, enlighten us and tell us what you consider to be artistic, creative and musical. It’d be a lot more interesting to discuss that than to scroll past another elaboration on “Kanye sucks”.

  7. Submitted by Steve Brown on 12/27/2010 - 01:01 pm.

    One favorite worth mentioning:
    Anders Osborne – American Patchwork

  8. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 12/27/2010 - 03:52 pm.

    The Broken Bells album is the emperor’s new clothes as far as I’m concerned. The first half of the first track is good. The rest is just more forgettable 21st-century pop dreck.

    Pop music these days is so very weak. Pretty much no one makes a good whole album anymore. You’ll hear the one decent track on the Current. The xx is another example. Had huge expectations and ended up hating it, especially the vocals.

    This is why I constantly listen to pop music pre-1986 or so.

  9. Submitted by Mitch Anderson on 12/29/2010 - 09:57 am.

    Glaring omission: The Black Keys/Brothers

  10. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 12/29/2010 - 11:00 pm.

    I don’t care what you say. I refuse to feel guilty for not falling all over myself with endless praise of the latest indietronica album that’s supposed to be the second coming. The bands in the clubs here are the same stuff hawked (for better or worse) by the Current.

    I will give you props for placing Charles Lloyd and Dave Holland in the top ten or so. There is undoubtedly a wealth of great progressive jazz made these days and I can’t get enough of it.

    One other album from 2010 that is AWESOME is One-Armed Bandit by Jaga Jazzist. Unfortunately they’ll never show their ten faces in a club here.

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