Top Ten Albums of 2010 (First Half)

In the same way that I stop considering albums for my year-end list in early December, because things need to spin successfully for at least a couple-three weeks before I consider them to have legs, I cut off my first-half list of contenders in early June, meaning it’s now the time to commence with the listmakery. Huttah! Old music critic habits die hard! Here, then, are the ten new releases that have rocked my world the hardest over the past six months, in alphabetical order by artist’s name, with links to help you explore:

Broken Bells, Broken Bells

Fang Island, Fang Island

Frightened Rabbit, The Winter of Mixed Drinks

The Joy Formidable, A Balloon Called Moaning

The National, High Violet

Owen Pallett, Heartland

The Radio Dept., Clinging to a Scheme

Sleigh Bells, Treats

These New Puritans, Hidden

Yeasayer, Odd Blood

In 2008, I gave Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight my album of the year honors, and if 2010 ended today, they’d probably take the title again. The only thing giving them a run for the money thus far is The National’s High Violet. Both of them are melodically lush, richly arranged albums, with The National’s disc being defined by singer Matt Berninger’s awesome baritone (deftly complemented by the whole band, but especially drummer Bryan Devensdorf), while Frightened Rabbit’s signature sound hinges upon Scott Hutchison’s reedy and emotive Scottish burr. The most unusual albums in the bunch are probably by Owen Pallett and These New Puritans, both of whom incorporate elaborate, orchestral arrangements over interesting mixes of rock, pop and avant garde music. I wouldn’t expect to find two albums in a single year mining that lode.

All things considered, this is a pretty accessible group of records, especially by my standards. I must be mellowing. Quick! Emergency Napalm Death infusion from 2009! Grrrrrrrraaagghhhhhhh!!! Mmmmm.

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