40. These New Puritans – Hidden

Spelling Zone with an “X” isn’t the only trick up these young Brits’ sleeves.  It is easy to see any one of the band’s cited influences (RZA, Aphex Twin, Sonic Youth, to name a few) in Hidden’s ADD-style shape shifting, but neither ADD nor influence dependence show in the lofty sophomore album.  Their sodic implementation of raw percussion and varied orchestral arrangements are as new and advanced as any, reaching a pinnacle of tasteful avant-garde. – JP

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“We Want War”

39. Sleigh Bells – Treats

WARNING: Do not operate this album near any fault lines, glass menageries, black diamond ski trails, pregnant women, active volcanoes, dogs, mountain passes, chandeliers, sealed carbonated beverages or chronic nose bleeders. Except for “Rill Rill”. That’s a nice, little ditty. Regardless, Sleigh Bells’ groundshaking debut is worth the imminent early hearing loss. – RW

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“Treats”

38. Wolf Parade – Expo 86

If Wolf Parade is really through, their music will most certainly survive.  Their most intergalactic album yet, Expo 86 ruffles through starry synthesizers and ringing guitar at a trotting pace.  The steady drum beat doesn’t take away Wolf Parade’s trademark anxious energy, especially on standouts “Ghost Pressure” and “What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had to Be This Way).” – JP

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“What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had to Be This Way)”

37. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

In the most ambitious album of 2010, Joanna Newsom took up more of our time (and space on our hard drive) than any other artist this year. Her behemoth triple LP threaded in and out of tales about horses, jackrabbits, kingfishers, and about a dozen other woodland creatures. The chamber-folk opus displayed Newsom’s skills as a composer. Ranging from bouncy piano pop (“Good Intentions Paving Company”) to harp lullaby (“Baby Birch”), HOOM contained some of the most lush and rewarding songs of 2010. – BK

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“Good Intentions Paving Company”

36. The Morning Benders – Big Echo

Although it was a quiet year in the studio for Grizzly Bear, bassist Chris Taylor had a large hand in producing a number of 2010 indie successes. Big Echo is a large splash for a band gaining a lot of attention. It’s tough to wipe that smile off your face the second the crisp crackle of static kicks off “Excuses,” truly one of the most pleasant tracks of the year. – RW

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“Excuses”

35. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty

What does a reunion where the Dungeon Family and the P-Funk clan come to town sound like? A lot like Big Boi’s solo debut. Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty is so much more than half an Outkast album. From the soul of “Turns Me On” to the swagger of the party track of the year “Shutterbug,” Daddy Fat Sax puts “Who’s Your Caddy” way back in the past. – RW

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“Fo Yo Sorrows”

34. GonjaSufi – A Sufi and a Killer

GonjaSufi sparked a hard discussion with A Sufi and a Killer. Lo-fidelity has been a movement in music for far longer than most care to remember; birthed in the dark ages of recording technology as the only option, popular music has long sold audiences on the novelty of fidelity. Whether it was the Velvet Underground’s self-conscious contradiction of norms in the ’60s, the punks in the ’70s, the SST movement in the ’80s, Robert Pollard in the ’90s or the In the Red Recordings and glo-fi movements of the ’00s, most forms of rock music have experienced an underbelly of acts opposed to letting us hear them for what they are. For some, A Sufi and a Killer may play too heavily off this novelty, but I’ve listened to this album a lot just trying to make sense of it, and have walked away mostly pleased; give GonjaSufi credit for stimulating the mind, if nothing else. – DA

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“Candylane”

33. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker

The first album from Australian foursome Tame Impala combined some of the year’s heaviest riffs and trippiest melodies in one of 2010s strongest debuts. Tame Impala packed quite a punch with Innerspeaker, which took us on a rollercoaster ride through Zeppelin-esque blues-rock jams (“Lucidity”) to 1960’s Pink Floyd psychedellia (“Solitude Is Bliss”).  While comparisons to lesser Australian rock groups such as Wolfmother were inevitable, the boys in Tame Impala went far beyond mere copycat nostalgia trip and honed in on their own sound while still wearing their influences extremely well. – BK

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“Solitude is Bliss”

32. Sharon Van Etten – Epic

Few musicians more successfully stun audiences with just a guitar and a voice than Sharon Van Etten.  To take nothing away from her work ethic, she writes, plays, and sings with the mastery with which one can only be born.  Just sixteen months after her brilliant 2009 debut, Because I Was in Love, she released a slightly fuller album that makes brilliant use of droning harmoniums, mournful strums, and candid poetry from one of today’s most exciting up-and-coming singer-songwriters. – JP

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“A Crime”

31. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

Jack White definitely created some buzz in 2010, what with his online admonishments, “Triple Decker” records, headphones, vinyl paper hidden tracks, White House performance, and his collaborations with Dungen, Laura Marling, Danger Mouse, Conan O’Brien, and Jay-Z.  Did I miss anything?  Probably, because this man was all over the news.  Oh yeah, then there was that little sophomore album from his “side-project” with The Kills’ Alison Mosshart and company that turned the blues on its head for the second time with spine-tingling guitar stabs.  Is it better than last year’s Horehound?  Hard to say.  Is it one of the best of 2010?…
– JP

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“I Can’t Hear You”

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Comments ( 1 Comment )

DA: Just a little note for anyone using the “Breakfast” link to sample Pilot Talk I, that’s the original mixtape version without co-production by Ski Beatz. The album version takes the sample loop and asks a live band to replay it, as well as extending the trumpet/saxophone and bass playing across the whole verse rather than a simple 4 bar loop. Some people prefer the original version linked here, I personally prefer the remix by a whole lot. Both are great, though, and the lyrics don’t change.

Nodima added these pithy words on Jan 30 11 at 9:50 pm

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