Lists And Mixes

20 Must Hear Albums from 2010: A Mid-Year List

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I know, I’ve owed this one to you, my readers, for a few months now. The plan originally was to concoct a sort of mid-year recap of the first half, dictating a slew of wonderful albums that may or may not come to find a spot on the inevitable end-of-year list. A hint at what may come. But that didn’t happen. I added a few hobbies to my seemingly never ending list of things that eat away at my time (see above photo) and it fell down the priority list.

In that I have come to realize I am just like my father. We both take on too much, more than we can really grasp alone, and we do it because we enjoy it. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But all asides, well… aside, back to the topic at hand: music. Now that I’m here, sitting comfortably in the confines of my home at the too-early hour of 8 a.m. on a Sunday, I am ready to compile the list. Get ready, this will likely take all week.

These are artists and albums that have put a bug in my ear — a parasite that forces me to gorge myself on great tunes over and over. They are good… no, great! These are the albums that I would, were it the end of the year, likely use to compile my top twenty. The disclaimer being, as always, that I am probably leaving one or two out. We begin with a few honorable mentions…

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Honorable Mentions

A few artists require the venerable tag of honorable mention, not necessarily because they don’t deserve to be on the list, but because of one of the following reasons. First, I haven’t really had a full chance to listen to the album (1 and 2). Second, the album is not yet out (3-5). Here are a few honorable mentions:

1. Brothers by The Black Keys
2. The People’s Record by Club 8
3. Elf Power by Elf Power
4. Where The Messengers Meet by Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band
5. One Of Us by Pomegranates

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Travellers In Space and Time by Apples in Stereo

To be honest, Apples in Stereo’s extensive history as a band has often eluded my attention, and when garnered, it has been hit and miss. This in not the case with Travellers in Space and Time, which is hit after hit after hit. I love it. And I’m slightly obsessed with the videos they made for “Dance Floor”.

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Avi Buffalo LP

Avi Buffalo by Avi Buffalo

I find it hard to express just how great this album is, with all its complex musical intricacies and lyrical intimacy. Avi Buffalo has created something entirely special, something good at heart, something purely reminiscent of the better part of being in your late teens with all the opportunity and excitement at your fingertips. That, at least, is what I get out of this album, and it’s brilliant

Download: “Remember Last Time” by Avi Buffalo

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Teen Dream by Beach House

I can honestly say that I love every single song on this album. Teen Dream is, in my humble opinion, an absolute masterpiece. And just as I knew that last year would be dominated by Venice is Sinking, and ’08 would be topped by Fredrik, I strongly doubt any album can knock Beach House off that cherished spot. Sure, it’s too early to predict a best album, but don’t be surprised come January 1 if Teen Dream sits comfortably at the top of my list.

Download: “Norway” by Beach House

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Crazy For You by Best Coast

God do I love that beachy, garagey sound, and Best Coast is one of the latest artists fitting the description to capture my attention. Their new album Crazy For You is a wonderful display of summer pop songs that bathe in the most beautiful reverb and fuzzed-out guitars. From “Boyfriend” to closing track and single “When I’m With You”, this band is poised for more greatness. Let’s hope they keep churning out tunes as powerful or more so than the ones on this album.

Download: “Boyfriend” by Best Coast

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Home Away From Home by The Blank Tapes

In a way, The Blank Tapes remind me a bit of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. Both bands create a quirky style of off-beat, obscure pop; both have a unique personality all their own. But where SSLYBY failed to grab my attention beyond a few songs (not a fault of their own, this one hangs on my head), The Blank Tapes have garnered my attention several times over thanks to tracks like “Black Hair”, “We Can Do What We Want To” and “Flashing Before Your Eyes”.

Download: “We Can Do What We Want To” by The Blank Tapes

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A Mouthful by The Dø

I checked out The Dø a while back to mixed feelings, but when I had a chance to dig a bit deeper into A Mouthful, I fell in love. Not only does this band create relaxed, swanky upbeat pop, but that lead singer’s vocals are downright mystical! Much of this is due to the band’s European heritage, hailing from both Paris and Helsinki. One listen to either “At Last” or “On My Shoulders” and you’ll likely feel the same.

Download: “At Last” by The Dø

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I Will Be by Dum Dum Girls

Like Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls is all about that fuzzy, lo-fi summer garage sound. And like Best Coast, it too is female-fronted. The vocals here, however, are a bit dreamier and slightly less pointed. Not quite beachy. Putting the two albums beside each other, it would be very difficult to pinpoint which would ultimately take the cake. At this point, Best Coast is the one that dominates my playlist, but there’s nothing that says Dum Dum Girls won’t steal that spot away come year’s end.

“Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout” by Dum Dum Girls

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Maintenant by Gigi

Nick Krgovich has always had a penchant for the past. The music he creates blends a time long ago with one quite current, often resulting an obscure sound both mystic and beautiful. It is written all over the stuff he puts out under No Kids, and perhaps even more so with new project Gigi. Mixing with modern artists like Pomegranates and Karl Blau, Gigi is reminiscent of highly lovable 50s pop.

Download: “Strolling Past The Old Graveyard (Feat. Karl Blau)” by Gigi

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Double Jointer by Golden Triangle

Golden Triangle is quite unique. Initially, they reminded me of a clash between the greatest riot grrrl artists of the 90s and, oddly enough, the Bee Gees. Double Jointer drops the latter (for the most part) and instead focuses on heavy, brooding garage rock. There are plenty of favorites here… “Rollercoaster”, “Cinco de Mayo”, “The Melting Wall”. You get the picture.

Download: “Neon Noose” by Golden Triangle

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Hippies by Harlem

Gritty and raw, Harlem’s Hippies is garage pop/rock at its best. About this album, I cannot give out enough praise. It has accompanied me on lone journeys through the countryside, on treks into the city, cranked up and on repeat. Despite the commonality of garage releases of late, you’ll be hard press to find a better 2010 album than Hippies to fit that mold.

Download: “Gay Human Bones” by Harlem

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To Travels & Trunks by Hey Marseilles

To be honest, I thought Freelance Whales would be in this spot. Both bands produce a similar style of orchestral pop. And while I totally dig what the ‘Whales have going on, Hey Marseilles, as a whole, grips me a bit more. “Rio” and the title track are especially noteworthy.

Download: “Rio” by Hey Marseilles

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Failed Graves by The Lights

This year I went through a bit of a throwback phase, diving through my extensive, unorganized CD collection, much of which is still boxed up in some sort from a move nearly a year and a half gone. The basis for this rigid search was The Lights and their debut album Beautiful Bird, which I simply had to find after acquiring their latest album, Failed Graves, which is just as good as that impressive debut, if not vastly better.

Download: “New New” by The Lights

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Piecemeal by Like Pioneers

There are times when you hear an album and everything just clicks — the music, its production, the time you’re listening to it, where you’re listening to it… everything. Experiencing Piecemeal by Like Pioneers for the first time was like that. Their blend of mesmerizing pop with powerful dreamy, almost shoegaze guitar, makes this one of the year’s best surprises. I simply cannot get enough of this album!

Download: “Gift From A Holiday” by Like Pioneers

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Mines by Menomena

Three, four, five listens in, I fell in love. Menomena, as I noted in my review of Mines, has never really been an easy pill to swallow. Their music is a bit out there, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, it requires a few rounds through the record player to truly have that “Ah ha!” moment. Friend And Foe was the same. But when it comes, get ready to be floored.

Download: “TAOS” by Menomena

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Barry And Sherry by Netherfriends

Last year’s Calling You Out was pretty good. In fact, it pained me to leave it out of my best EP’s of the year, coming in just outside at #21. “Bret Easton Ellis Novel” opens Barry And Sherry and I think it tops the best off that EP. There’s plenty of that on Barry And Sherry; it’s more choral which helps differentiate the band from their peers, and there’s less of those Animal Collective-like freakouts. Netherfriends is definitely an artist to keep an eye on as we round out the year.

Download: “Bret Easton Ellis Novel” by Netherfriends

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Serial Killers by Night Driving In Small Towns

Each year there are a few surprises that creep into the top ten, and Night Driving In Small Towns may very well be one of them for 2010. This album reminds me a bit of Headlights thanks to catchy male/female vocals and super bouncy, romantic pop. Serial Killers may have a daunting title, but the songs contained within will lure you to the band’s special place and kill you with its beauty. Beware: you’ll be more than willing to let it.

Download: “Barstool” by Night Driving In Small Towns

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Reality by Real Estate

When I think of that beach-friendly, lo-fi pop sound, two artists immediately come to mind: Real Estate and Woods (stay tuned for the latter). These two, at least for me, conjured my love for this series of sub genres. Reality has this lazy sort of wandering to it, perfect for hot days, cold brews, and daydreaming.

Download: “Younger Than Yesterday” by Real Estate

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Spoon Transference

Transference by Spoon

I cannot remember ever enjoying an album by Spoon — at least in its entirety — as much as I dig Transference. They’ve always created astonishingly brilliant tracks, as heard throughout their library of work, but my listening habits generally sided on those brilliant tracks and refrained from the true, full collective. That is not the case with Transference, which impresses throughout.

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Cracked Love & Other Drugs by Unnatural Helpers

Boasting some of the greatest Seattle artists belonging to some pretty phenomenal bands outside of this one, Unnatural Helpers produces a breathtaking thick style of rough rock that demands attention and requires repeat listens. Cracked Love & Other Drugs is the band’s debut LP, following a few singles, one of which was part of the Sub Pop Singles Club last year.

Download: “Girl In The Window” by Unnatural Helpers

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At Echo Lake by Woods

There really is no other band like Woods, and I’ll chalk that up to the high pitched, fuzzed out vocals. The harmonies are great and melodies better. Not to mention that damn beloved lo-fi beach pop sound so hyped by today’s indie music fan. At Echo Lake easily tops Woods’ last album, and is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.

Stream: “Death Rattles” by Woods

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