I love music. A lot. And I’m one of those guys who also loves year-end lists. I love to see what stood out from the year to other people. I love to find things that I missed. What oftentimes happens is that, if you look at year-end lists, you find that there are certain circles within which you tend to agree with more than others.
But what happens when you don’t line up with those lists with which you expected to? That’s what happened to me this year. Is it because I’m getting older? Or is it just that I didn’t think many of albums I expected to like were as good as other people did? I’ve been a bit disappointed with how similar most people’s year-end picks are. While people used to lean towards “indie” music to actually be independent, it has largely become nothing more than another commercial racket.
I mean, I liked the Arcade Fire’s album, I liked Vampire Weekend but neither were very moving for me. And yet, those albums topped many lists. Did I miss something or is there some sort of pressure to be considered “hip” by making sure certain bands appear in your list? Maybe I’m just too cynical? Whatever it is, I realized that this year, my list is pretty different from many others I’ve seen. For what it’s worth, here are my top 25 favorite albums of 2011, perhaps notable as much for what’s not listed this year as what is?
First, a word of explanation about two albums that might have been near the top of the list this year but don’t appear, and why. First, The Medicine by John Mark McMillan and second, Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons. You see, the music industry is a weird animal. Mumford and Sons was my #2 pick in 2009 because I first heard it in 2009. A friend recommended it and I downloaded it as a European release. But, it was released in the US in February of 2010. So, it will appear on many people’s 2010 lists and I probably could have included it again but it just didn’t seem right. John Mark McMillan finds himself in a similar situation. Though his album The Medicine was originally released in 2008, he was picked up by a label and the album found a 2010 re-release. So, for me, it’s not truly a 2010 album, though “Skeleton Bones”could certainly qualify as song of the year for me anyways! So, you may say that it’s technicalities that kept them off my list, but I say that it’s technicalities that put them on yours.
My Favorite Albums of 2010:
25: The Opiate Mass: Volume Two: Albatross
24: The Guggenheim Grotto: The Universe Is Laughing
23: Vampire Weekend: Contra
22: Soma Communities: The Story
21: The Black Keys: Brothers20: Delta Spirit: History From Below
19: Shearwater: The Golden Archipelago
18: Derek Webb: Feedback
17: JJ Grey and Mofro: Georgia Warhorse
16: Jónsi: Go
15: The Autumn Film: The Ship and the Sea
14: Arcade Fire: Suburbs
13: Broken Bells: Broken Bells
12: Matt Haeck: Western States EP
11: Howe Gelb: Melted Wires/Howe Gelb and A Band of Gypsies: Alegrías/Giant Sand: Blurry Blue Mountain
10: Sufjan Stevens: Age of Adz
09: Sun Kil Moon: Admiral Fell Promises
08: Junip: Fields
07: The National: High Violet
06: Local Natives: Gorilla Manor
05: Konono Nº1: Assume Crash Position
Yes, it’s repetitive. Yes, they play home-made instruments. Yes, they seem strangely sedate for playing such infectious music live but there’s something a Konono Nº1′s music that has always grabbed me. 2010 saw another stunning release from this band:
04: Joe Pug: Messenger
While Messenger didn’t grab me quite the way Pug’s Nation of Heat EP did, Pug has demonstrated once again that Bob Dylan is still the most influential voice in American music and that, when we listen close enough, he can give a musician their own voice as well. Pug doesn’t do anything new, but what he does do, he does extremely well. Sometimes the best music is also the most straightforward:
03: Wovenhand: The Threshingfloor
Yes, Wovenhand (or is it Woven Hand?) has a very distinct sound. Yes, you know it’s David Eugene Edwards when you hear it. But somehow, they manage re-creating themselves within their defined sound around lyrics that contain more Scripture references than many sermons. And they do so in bars and festivals across Europe. People are often offended by the lyrics yet they keep coming back for more:
02: Doug Burr: O Ye Devastator
Ever since seeing Burr open for Bill Mallonee several years ago, his music has been part of my life. He explores themes of loss, redemption, love and heartache in an almost typical alt-country/folk way. But he does so in a way that’s all his own. He is quickly developing his own sound and the confidence to continue growing. O Ye Devastator is a superb album throughout and only makes me more excited to watch this artist develop.
01: Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives: Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives
Just when it seemed to me that Doug Burr had a lock on the top spot in this list, late in the year came along Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives. I kept thinking that I knew the name “Drew Grow” and then realized that he played with one of my favorite bands, Five O’Clock People. But here, Grow comes out, after a series of EPs, with a fully developed sound all his own.
2010 Concerts of the Year:
- Joe Pug at the Rhythm Room (02/08/10)
- The Autumn Film at the Whiten Veranda (05/08/10)
- Mumford and Sons at the Rhythm Room (06/07/10)
- Bill Mallonee at the Thomas Listening Room (08/06/10)
- Joe Pug at the Sail Inn (11/02/10)
2010 Song of the Year:
Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives: “It All Comes Right”