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Matthew Tsai

Written by: Matthew Tsai (12/06/10)
IntroductionThere were a lot of albums that didn't make this list but unquestionably deserved to. A lot of those could theoretically be interchanged with the latter half of the list, so as you can imagine, compiling this was "hard," to use a euphemism. I won't include an honorable mentions scroller because it'd be just that - a scroller, but some of the albums I had a hard time accepting wouldn't make it on the list are The Radio Dept.'s Clinging To A Scheme (some incredible Swedish alt-pop), Circa Survive's Blue Sky Noise (the first CS album I could stand, and a beautiful one at that) and Corinne Bailey Rae's emotional charmerThe Sea. I listened to a lot of Northwest alternative too; albums from Sara Jackson-Holman, Little Beirut, and Portugal. The Man were all legitimate contenders. I wasn't as impressed by heavy music this year, but I did like the Norma Jean album, and the few songs I heard from Underoath's latest. Then there were some of the brilliant albums from Future Recording's catalog, and I didn't even get around to listening to critically acclaimed albums by the likes of Josh Ritter and Gifts From Enola.

But I did manage to narrow my options down to a top 10, so peep that below, as well as some other painstakingly categorized countdowns.


Top 10 Full-lengths of 2010


Number 10#10: The Flatliners - Cavalcade

I'm not typically a big fan of Canadian bands. Alexisonfire might be one of my favorites but that's about it as far as my knowledge of music from the country "up there" goes. Cavalcade, however, turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Irresistible album art, scathing melodic punk, ska-laced jams - in a year where I didn't get around to as many punk releases as I would've liked, Cavalcade represents its genre with enough vivacity to tide me over. "Monumental" is downright cinematic (directors take note, it'll fit right at home in a war flick) and is probably my song-with-pop-punk-influence of the year.

Sounds like: The Lawrence Arms, Banner Pilot, Dillinger Four
Listen


Number 9#9: Native - Wrestling Moves

Wrestling Moves is just flat-out intriguing. Shouted vocals meet noodling and often catchy guitar work to spawn one of the wildest (and yet somehow at the same time, the tamest) albums of twentyten. Oh, can't forget to mention the slick drum patterns. Is it too soon to call this post-hardcore revival? Whatever the genre, Wrestling Moves is good, and that's all that really matters anyway.

Sounds like: Minus the Bear, These Arms Are Snakes, At the Drive-In
Listen


Number 8#8: Make Do And Mend - End Measured Mile

No surprise here. End Measured Mile has a gritty shell and melodic innards. It's fun, frequently angry music. Dig in.

Sounds like: A Wilhelm Scream, Hot Water Music, Jimmy Eat World
Listen


Number 7#7: Massy Ferguson - Hard Water

Seattle's Massy Ferguson is one of the underground Americana scene's most exciting up-and-coming bands. Hard Water is spilling with alt-country tunes inspired by my homeland, the Great Northwest, so naturally, I have an intense connection to this album. It doesn't alienate you if you're not from the Northwest though, so don't hesitate to give it a spin. Hard Water might not be the most original album, but it's certainly one of this year's most passionate.

Sounds like: The Hold Steady, Son Volt, Drive-By Truckers
Listen


Number 6#6: Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

The Age of Adz is technically my introduction to Sufjan. I could never fully get into his (what felt to me like) paperthin pairing of voice and banjo, so Adz was surprisingly powerful. I'll probably forever be fascinated by the album's background story, as well as its spiritual themes and electronic-meets-orchestral arrangements. That part in "I Want To Be Well" that moans "I'm not fucking around" over and over again? Cath-ar-sis.

Sounds like: Older Sufjan meets Kanye West's ambitiousness, the next Iron & Wine album maybe?
Listen


Number 5#5: Arcade Fire - Suburbs

I've always hated sunsets because they signify that more than half the day is over. Something about Suburbs reminds me of sunsets, but I don't hate it - I'm entranced by it. Combine its vibe with the fact that it's about suburban life (lyrics like "All my old friends they don't know me now" chill me to the core), and Suburbs, to me, becomes eerie. Eerie, but hauntingly beautiful.

For fans of: The National, Belle & Sebastian, Bruce Springsteen
Listen


Number 4#4: The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

I have a love-hate relationship with Gaslight. Their obsession with emulating the "oldies" annoys me sometimes, but the tunes they write are just too good to pass up on. American Slang was likely my most played album of 2010 by a long shot. For a band that I occasionally can't decide whether to like or dislike, that's pretty incredible. They seem to be coming into a sound of their own though, so as long as they keep evolving and refining, I think the scale will always be tipped in favor of "like."

For fans of: Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Against Me!
Listen


Number 3#3: The Tallest Man On Earth - Wild Hunt

Wild Hunt is probably the most emotional album I've heard all year. Kristian Matsson gets better with each release, and this one is no exception. He brought back the intricate guitar work and poignant lyrics from the last one here, but the melodies are ten times as sweet.

For fans of: Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, Deer Tick
Listen


Number 2The Reign of Kindo - This Is What Happens

This Is What Happens is a beautiful album in the truest sense of the word. There's no way its breathtaking fusion of spirituality, melody and jazz would've landed anywhere outside of my top 10, and it just happened to be good enough to nab the number 2 spot. "City Lights and Traffic Sounds" will no doubt become a quintessential winter jam in the years to come.

For fans of: This Day and Age, Deas Vail, As Tall As Lions
Listen


Number 1#1: Menomena - Mines

Mines is sweet. It's technical and fun, an all around brilliant addition to their discography. I don't think there's a track on here that I don't like, not to mention don't get blown away by. If you haven't heard this, don't miss out on what I think is emphatically the album of the year.

For fans of: Kings of Leon, Ramona Falls, Man Man
Listen

Some more lists

Top 10 EP's of 201010. Kiven - Two In the Same
9. Banquets - This Is Our Concern, Dude
8. United Nations - Never Mind the Bombings...
7. The Beat Advocate - Self Titled
6. NGHBRS - Hellomind
5. Red City Radio - Spinning In Circles...
4. The Tallest Man On Earth - Sometimes the Blues...
3. Sufjan Stevens - All the Delighted People
2. Seahaven - Ghost
1. Alexisonfire - Dog's Blood


5 Bands That Released Albums This Year I Just Didn't Feel1. Vampire Weekend: I can't help but see Contra as all flash, no substance. And I wouldn't have even remembered it if it weren't for that commercial that uses "Holiday" as background music.
2. The Republic of Wolves: Varuna shows a band that has a ton of potential, but for now, they're just scraping the very surface of this potential.
3. Titus Andronicus
4. Sleigh Bells: I'm not a big fan of the whole low quality production movement in general. Why settle for audible trash when you can achieve decency without sacrificing respectability?
5. The newer pop-punk bands: A lot of them are playing music that was considered "generic" before the whole neon movement, but are getting a free pass for it now, for some reason. Of course, there will always be bands that do the style well and are deserving of praise (off the top of my head, Broadway Calls and The Swellers).


Most Anticipated of 20111. Thrice
2. Portugal. The Man
3. Patrick Stump
4. Iron and Wine
5. I Am Empire
6. Jet Lag Gemini
7. Broadway Calls?
8. The Decemberists
9. M. Ward?
10. Alexisonfire?


Favorite Record Labels in 20101. Paper+Plastick
2. Future Recordings
3. Sargent House
4. Black Numbers
5. Come&Live!


Many thanks to everyone I worked with this year, as well as all the users, who make this site what it is. As always, you can stock what I'm listening to at last.fm or occasionally, on Twitter. Here's to a monumental 2011.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 26.
10:36 AM on 12/21/10
#2
irthesteve
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I don't think I would call Sleigh Bells lo-fi at all, more like overblown exploded-fi
10:55 AM on 12/21/10
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Matthew Tsai
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I don't think I would call Sleigh Bells lo-fi at all, more like overblown exploded-fi
You're right, I meant low-quality production, not lo-fi. Fixing now.
11:13 AM on 12/21/10
#4
irthesteve
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You're right, I meant low-quality production, not lo-fi. Fixing now.
That's better, but I still think the production is just fine, just mixed differently from typical albums. Guitars turned way up, but still slick production... I dunno
11:20 AM on 12/21/10
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Matthew Tsai
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That's better, but I still think the production is just fine, just mixed differently from typical albums. Guitars turned way up, but still slick production... I dunno
I think they were definitely aiming for something "unique" in the production department, and what came out borders on un-listenable for me, so I'm just ignorantly lumping it in the "low quality" category haha.
11:24 AM on 12/21/10
#6
irthesteve
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I think they were definitely aiming for something "unique" in the production department, and what came out borders on un-listenable for me, so I'm just ignorantly lumping it in the "low quality" category haha.
haha, alrightio. I love it, although I am always afraid it will bust my car speakers
05:14 PM on 12/21/10
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SpyKi
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I love seeing The Reign of Kindo so high on someone's list, such a great album.
12:15 AM on 12/22/10
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Menomena and The Reign of Kindo records are great.
12:46 AM on 12/22/10
#9
trojanick
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The Beat Advocate representing SC. Did you go to the Third Eye Blind show?
11:50 AM on 12/22/10
Matthew Tsai
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The Beat Advocate representing SC. Did you go to the Third Eye Blind show?
I actually left before they started playing haha. Apparently they put on a pretty good show though because the girls from the suite across from mine blasted "Semi Charmed Life" non-stop afterward.
11:51 AM on 12/22/10
Deborah Remus
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Glad to see love for the Flatliners. And Arcade Fire are Canadian too so you might be into more Canadian bands than you think, haha. Based on the blurb you wrote anyway.
12:01 PM on 12/22/10
Matthew Tsai
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Glad to see love for the Flatliners. And Arcade Fire are Canadian too so you might be into more Canadian bands than you think, haha. Based on the blurb you wrote anyway.
Oh yeah you're right! Maybe I do like more Canadian bands than I know hahaha
12:06 PM on 12/22/10
Regards
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The fact that you have Come&Live as a favorite label of '10 reminds me of why you're one of the cooler staff members. But no C&L albums on your list, which is saddening

Ascend the Hill will easily be in my top 5. Such a good album.
12:19 PM on 12/22/10
Matthew Tsai
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The fact that you have Come&Live as a favorite label of '10 reminds me of why you're one of the cooler staff members. But no C&L albums on your list, which is saddening

Ascend the Hill will easily be in my top 5. Such a good album.
Unfortunately I like C&L mainly for their message/unique business model. I can't really get into any of the music they release. I think the only release I really like from them is the new Showbread album, which I totally would've mentioned if I had an honorable mentions list going.
01:22 PM on 12/22/10
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Unfortunately I like C&L mainly for their message/unique business model. I can't really get into any of the music they release. I think the only release I really like from them is the new Showbread album, which I totally would've mentioned if I had an honorable mentions list going.
Have you had a chance to listen to the newest Frozen Ocean album? You might enjoy that, it came out a couple weeks ago.
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