Well, it’s getting very close to the end of 2010, and seeing as there aren’t going to be a lot of new albums released between now and the new year I thought I’d share my 10 favourite albums of the year. Let me stress that these are my opinion, and by making this list I’m by no means saying that these are the definitive top ten of the year, rather those that I’ve most enjoyed.

10. Tift Merritt – See You on the Moon













The fourth album from alt-country singer/songwriter Tift Merritt features a set of laid back tunes that are perfect for chilling out. Merritt has repeatedly slipped under the radar commercially, but she is critically praised time after time and it’s easy to see why with this album. Merritt hasn’t created anything out of the ordinary or groundbreaking with the album, but it’s a mature collection of songs that will ultimately stand the test of time.

9. Hurts – Happiness













Apparently the 80s are back. Or at least you’d be forgiven for thinking so if you heard this album and went searching for the release date. For most artists, sounding like the 80s would equate with sounding dated or just running out of ideas, but not so for Hurts. These guys take the best of 80s synthpop, and combine it with modern pop sensibilities to create an icy (and really good!) debut album. Shades of grey and shards of glass are what I associate with this album, so it’ll be interesting to see if more ‘colour’ gets introduced as Hurts progress.

8. Olafur Arnalds – …and they have escaped the weight of darkness













Another album of imperceptible beauty from the talented Mr. Arnalds. Not really much more to say about it – just listen and let the beauty of it wash you away. Sometimes words can be overrated.

7. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can













20 year old Laura Marling has certainly made her mark in 2010, topping NME’s list of the hottest artists right now. Yet, somehow you get the feeling that polls and awards and all that jazz don’t really make a difference to Ms. Marling. She has crafted a emotionally poignant and lyrically superb sophomore album with ‘I Speak Because I Can’. It’s easy to draw comparisons to other folkies that have come before, like Joni Mitchell or Neil Young, but in truth Marling stands on her own and this album proves that she may be the leader in a ‘folk renaissance’.

6. Sia – We Are Born













The inimitable Sia made a 180 from her downtempo albums with this year’s ‘We Are Born’ a fresh take on pop music from one of Australia’s best talents. For an album that has apparently been six years in the making it does not sound at all dated, despite having the odd ‘retro’ moment from time to time. Sia doesn’t care how much fun she’s having on this album. It’s as if she’s saying to the listener ‘it’s time to loosen up’ and before you know it, that’s just what you’re doing!

5. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown













What’s a band to do when they are suddenly blasted out of indie obscurity into the main arena thanks to one ubiquitous album. Some play it safe and just recycle the ideas that won them success previously. Some take a complete left turn and lose all the accolades they had received. Others don’t deal so well and just implode. Kings of Leon, on the other hand, did neither of these things and instead followed up the success of ‘Only By the Night’ with a collection of mature, and arguably more subdued tunes that ultimately showcased their willingness to evolve rather than be pigeonholed. ‘Come Around Sundown’ isn’t as immediate as ‘Only…’ but nevertheless it reveals itself to be a worthy contender, and basically those that can’t deal should just listen to something else.

4. Ellie Goulding – Lights/Bright Lights













Ellie Goulding was always going to have a lot of pressure with her debut, following in the footsteps of Florence + the Machine as ‘Sound of 2010’. Arguably, she didn’t live up to the expectations. So why is she on my list you ask, and at number 4 no less!? Because when it all comes down to it, and all that hype crap gets forgotten about Goulding has delivered an excellent album. Whether or not folktronica is as apt a description as her record label saw fit to throw around is questionable, since the songs on here are really just straightforward electro-pop songs. Nevertheless it’s an impressive collection and the reissue ‘Bright Lights’ shows that Goulding will become an even more promising talent as she expands her musical palette.

3. Robyn – Body Talk













Robyn claimed the throne of pop this year, whether or not her chart success reflected it. There’s no denying Robyn has come a long way since her late 90s debut produced by Max Martin, where she was churning out the same droll pop a la Britney Spears. Since going indie and basically doing whatever the fuck she wants her music has taken a turn and for the better as ‘Body Talk’ displays. Representing a culmination of three mini-albums released throughout the year, ‘Body Talk’ showcases a range of bold and individual dance-pop songs that establish Robyn as the most supreme popstar. Long live Robyn!

2. Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs – God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise













I’ve fallen for Ray LaMontagne and it was this album that cemented my admiration. ‘God Willin’…’ is a remarkable album, reviving Americana roots and blues and injecting a good dose of folk-rock to create a record that feels familiar without sounding stale and without retreading what countless other artists have already done. LaMontagne here makes the decision to collaborate with outside artists and the combination is rewarding as it offer LaMontagne’s music a new dimension. Words don’t really do this album justice, but it’s certainly well worth a listen.

1. The National – High Violet













Well here it is – my number one. Perhaps not surprising given the amount of press The National have been receiving this year, but still a well deserved amount of attention in my opinion. The National are a band that I only got into this year, and it was ‘High Violet’ that immediately captured my attention. Moving away from the alt-country leanings of their earliest albums (this is their fifth) and the indie rock of their previous two, ‘High Violet’ provides an accessible yet no less rewarding listen. I think what makes ‘High Violet’ such an impressive album is its ability to balance the more accessible aspects of rock while still retaining a unique identity in the flood of albums that have hit the scene this year. The National have a great future ahead of them (and a lot to live up to now!) and I can see them only getting better.

Honourable mentions:

  • Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back
  • Brandon Flowers – Flamingo
  • Marina & the Diamonds – The Family Jewels
  • Richard Skelton – Landings
  • Goldfrapp – Head First
  • Johnny Cash – American VI: Ain’t No Grave
  • Brooke Fraser – Flags
  • Gareth Liddiard – Strange Tourist
  • Katie Noonan & the Captains – Emperor’s Box
  • Vampire Weekend – Contra

Dishonourable mentions:

  • Hole – Nobody’s Daughter