As mentioned before, I don’t claim to have heard all of the music that was released in 2010, but here are some of my favourites anyways. Like I said earlier, feel free to comment, disagree, tell me what I left out, share your own favourite albums, etc…Here we go:

10) Brothers – The Black Keys

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5SHOX6eomk

The Black Keys’ albums are somewhat formulaic in a sense. One knows what they’re going to get when they start to listen to a Black Keys album. If you’ve heard one Black Keys album, you’ve heard them all. That doesn’t change the fact that their albums are friggin awesome. The bluesy, soul-tinged, grungy rock of the Black Keys is as good as it ever was on Brothers. You’ll find tons of great song-writing and guitar riffs throughout.

9) Toro Y Moi – Causers of This

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gxhLiNypVU

This album is just so different from anything else I’ve heard. I guess that’s why it sparked a whole new genre of music called Chillwave. The amount of filters on this album will make you wonder at first if the album was mixed properly until you really understand what they were going for. What with the undeniably dope, synth-oriented beats, and some great vocals, this album definitely stands out as one of the best, most original albums of 2010.

8 ) Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0BnCgDWJIs

It’s not everyday that a concept album is executed as flawlessly as The Gorilaz’ Plastic Beach was. Everything about the album was executed so well, from the lyrics, to the guest features, to the lush instrumentation that provided the backdrop for the album. This album was not as much of a music album, as an experience. Damon Albarn and co. took contemporary music and essentially flipped it on its head. I’m not a huge fan of concept albums, or the album would definitely be higher on the list.

7) Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDAx-lID6YA

There’s a general consensus amongst most people that Andre 3000 was always  the best lyricist in Outkast. Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, Big Boi’s first solo album, finds a Big Boi who is eager to show and prove that he is no slouch on the mic either. Big Boi murders almost every song on this album. If you like rap and you have not heard this album, you have some listening to do! The production on this album is also top-notch, showcasing Big Boi’s ear for unique instrumentation, a trait that was also common within Outkast. With this outing, Big Boi has solidified his position as one of the Game’s best emcees.

6) Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkmW1m9lIPI

This collaboration was an Indie Rock fan’s wet dream come true. With such high expectations, it was a wonder the album was able to stack up as well as it did. Danger Mouse proves once again to be one of the most versatile producers in the industry, and provides a great backdrop for the Shins’ James Mercer to flex his vocals over. Plenty of catchy melodies to keep the listener interested throughout, and an overall great listen.

5) Vampire Weekend – Contra

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1e0u11rgd9Q

Contra is a very strong follow up to Vampire Weekend’s first album. I might always be a bit biased towards Vampire Weekend, given that they were the first Indie Rock band that I ever really liked, but all bias aside, I think this album’s really cool. The expectations were set so high with the first album that this one might not QUITE stack up, but it’s a great album on its own merit. The catchy melodies and cool instrumentation from the first album are still around, but have been somewhat pushed aside in favour of more mature song-writing. Aside from the tiny bit of autotune, I loved every bit of this album.

4) Good Things – Aloe Blacc

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZjPxThvSaI (Since I think everyone’s heard “I Need a Dollar” by now)

This album is dripping with so much soul, you’d think you were in South Korea. Get it? “Seoul” is the capital city of South Korea. I’m SO funny. But seriously, this entire album is an homage to better times. From the great instrumentation, to the bluesy lyrical content, to Aloe Blacc’s amazingly soulful voice, the album would fit in perfectly with anything made in the 70s. If everyone listened to this album at least once, the world would be a better place.

3) The Roots – How I Got Over

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgUTLQdcC_o

The Roots emerged from their late night cocoon with one of their strongest outings in years, and that’s saying something for a band who is as consistent as they are. The production is nothing short of magnificent and Black Thought’s lyrics are some of the most insightful I’ve heard in a while. What I particularly love about this album is the way that The Roots incorporated more sample-oriented production without sacrificing the live-instrument feel that they’re known for. This is something that I felt was missing on The Tipping Point (the last Roots’ album that was sample-heavy). The whole thing is brought together by great guest spots from Joanna Newsom, Blu, Phonte, and John Legend.

2) Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Sample Song (Though I doubt it’s necessary): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghc_fc4R1rI

The ONLY gripe I have with this album is that I think the promo tour kind of spoiled it a bit. By the time I had heard the finished package, I’d heard so many G.O.O.D. Friday Leaks, snippets, and unfinished versions, that it didn’t hit me with the impact that it should have (compared to if I’d heard the whole thing at once). That aside, it’s an amazing, friggin’ album. I can’t say I didn’t expect it though. Kanye West is a genius. Pure and simple. Everyone knew that the only way for him to gain back the public favour after Taylor-Gate (though, I never cared about that) was through focusing on his music and creating a great album. That is exactly what he did. Kanye West, once again, redefined the borders of hip-hop production while creating an album that is dripping with bravado, emotion, and sincerity in every syllable. Look no further than “Lost In The World” to see an example of both of these things. The song samples Bon Iver’s “Woods”, which is a song that no other hip hop producer would dare to touch. There’s nothing about this song that screams “hip-hop” but Kanye’s crashing percussion makes the song into a jam. At the same time, Kanye’s almost spoken-word lyrics seem so abstract that they must be a reflection on personal experiences. Even more sincere is “Blame Game”, where Kanye talks extremely candidly about his relationship with Amber Rose, giving a listener chills in their spine, as the vocal effects mimic Kanye’s mental state about his relationship. These songs are contrasted with songs like “Gorgeous” and “Dark Fantasy” which are, by far and away, some of the most unmistakably dope songs of Kanye’s career. Can’t wait to see how Kanye follows this up.

And the number one album of the year was, *drumroll*

1) Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rv8sSoEhPY

Wow. What can I say about this album? You’d really need to listen to it to understand HOW good it is. If someone had told me 5 years ago that I’d love an album by a semi-cabaret artist like Janelle Monae, I’d tell them that they were crazy. At the end of the day though, it is an undeniably creative album by one of the most original artists of our generation. First thing’s first, Janelle Monae’s voice is amazing. One might think that Lauryn Hill herself was channeling her spirit through Janelle Monae’s body. This is apparent in songs such as “Neon Valley Street” or “Say You’ll Go.”  Other songs range from cabaret, to R&B, to Funk, to Rock, to Soul, and to almost every genre you can think of BUT country and heavy metal. Equally as impressive as Janelle Monae’s voice is the way she can adapt to every single one of these genres without skipping a beat. The production is also flawless, providing the perfect back-drop for Janelle Monae’s talents to be put on full display. Honestly, any words I use to compliment this album will sound unspeakably lame. You really have to listen to it.

Bonus Album: Shad – TSOL

Sample Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-mAMH5S6VA

I got through making the list of my top 10 albums of the year when I realized that I’d forgotten this one! At this point though, I didn’t know which of the albums I could take out of my top 10 to substitute this one. This album definitely deserves to be on the list though, I just can’t figure out where. So, deal with it. If you haven’t heard of Shad yet, you should check him out. This dude out of London, Ontario is an amazing lyricist. TSOL is such a cohesive package from start to finish. Shad can go from kicking funny battle raps one second, to kicking introspective lyrics that never sound too preachy the next. The production is also stellar, never sounding too low-budget, which is a problem with many underground rappers. it doesn’t hurt that he has members of Broken Social Scene doing background vocals either. Great album.

Honourable Mentions:

Spoon – Transference

Beach House – Teen Dream

Bonobo – Black Sands

Eminem – Recovery

The Roots & John Legend – Wake Up!

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