They don't make music like they used to. That's the general reaction I'll get from my dad whenever I bring up the latest concert I'm going to or album I downloaded off iTunes. To a certain degree, he's right. His generation had a slew of influential performers and songwriters (Lennon, McCartney, Dylan... I could go on) who made music that moved, inspired, and provoked. Today's music doesn't do that in his book. I get that, but disagree. You can still find music with meaning in 2010. You just have to look for it.
Contrary to this year's Grammy nominees which heavily promote syrupy commercial acts, 2010 was a big year in quality. Whether it was a melancholy tour de force from our neighbors to the north or a twisted fantasy courtesy of a hip hop icon, 2010 featured a diverse array of influential music that stuck with me, and will live on long after there's a cure for Bieber fever.
Here are my top ten albums of the year followed by my 50 favorite songs. I don't pretend to be a music expert. I tend to favor indie rock over everything else, but enjoy a good Top 40 tune every now and then. I'd love to hear your picks...
- Arcade Fire - The Suburbs: I'm convinced ten years from now, this album will still remain in the top three of the decade. This 16-song masterpiece is a sad, moving album aimed directly at today's youth and social scene. Listen to the album often enough, you'll have a different favorite song that day. "Deep Blue" currently floors me.
- Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More: The best band debut album since Fire's "Funeral." Yeah, I said it. More than "Little Lion Man," these British country alt-rockers perform like they've been playing for decades with awesome musicianship and deep lyrics.
- Broken Bells - The unlikely one-two punch of Danger Mouse and The Shins' James Mercer created a near-flawless debut album featuring rocking, moody pop tunes like "Vaporize" and first single "The High Road."
- Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: In one Swift kick, the ego-master silences all haters by releasing one of the best albums (if not the best) he's made. Biting lyrics matched with cool sampling, and wonderful collaborations Mr. West commands our respect.
- The National - High Violet: The Cincinnati natives hit their stride with their latest and best effort. While the tunes are all dark in nature, each track inspires especially "Bloodbuzz Ohio."
- The Black Keys - Brothers: Ohio's blues-rockers have done it again... "Tighten Up" was my best song of the year, but their album's no one-hit wonder. If anything, the album gains momentum as it goes on.
- Florence + The Machine - Lungs: My friend Allie wants to "see more" from the band besides the overplayed "Dog Days Are Over." I say listen to the album... from start to finish it's a showcase of skilled songwriting and music making.
- The xx: With a sound all their own, this band managed to live up to its hype with an impressive, polished debut. Even "Intro" - a song without words - managed to pump you up.
- Deluka - You Are The Night: These British rockers have a fan in me. New grooves matched with an 80s new wave dance beat - this was definitely the year's most danceable record.
- Stars - The Five Ghosts: More amazing Canucks! I'm a newbie to this Canadian rock band, but this album made me purchase the rest of their catalog.
50 Favorite Songs (In no particular order and with some mainstream thrown in pre-annoying airplay)
1. Power- Kanye West
2. The High Road- Broken Bells
3. Vaporize - Broken Bells
4. XXXO - M.I.A.
5. Later On - Kate Nash
6. Deep Blue - Arcade Fire
7. VCR - The XX
8. Dancing On My Own - Robyn
9. Beg Steal or Borrow - Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs
10. Hard - Rihanna
11. Sigh No More - Mumford & Sons
12. Sprawl II - Arcade Fire
13. Dynamite - Taio Cruz
14. We Used to Wait - Arcade Fire
15. OMG - Usher
16. Nevada - Deluka
17. Like a G6 - Far East Movement
18. Let's Go Surfing - The Drums
19. Swimming - Florence + the Machine
20. All of the Lights - Kanye West
21. Islands - The XX
22. Someone's Missing - MGMT
23. Animal- Miike Snow
24. Your Hands (Together) - The New Pornographers
25. Dog Days Are Over - Florence + the Machine
26. Moth's Wings - Passion Pit
27. How You Like Me Now? - The Heavy
28. Hey Cool Kids - Cloud Nothings
29. Madder Red - Yeasayer
30. Black Sheep - Metric
31. Alejandro - Lady Gaga
32. Tighten Up - The Black Keys
33. Airplanes - B.o.B. w/ Hayley Williams
34. Bloodbuzz Ohio - The National
35. Louder Than Ever - Cold War Kids
36. You Will Leave a Mark - A Silent Film
37. In My Head - Jason Derulo
38. Whataya Want From Me - Adam Lambert
39. Friends - Band of Skulls
40. Nothing But Our Love - Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
41. Symphonies - Dan Black
42. Forgetting - David Gray
43. White Blank Page - Mumford & Sons
44. Hustle and Cuss - Dead Weather
45. Home - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
46. Bulletproof - La Roux
47. Not Afraid - Eminem
48. Hands - The Ting Tings
49. Compliments - Band of Horses
50. Just Breathe - Pearl Jam