By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
Actually, The Suburbs might be it.
3. Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz — Sufjan's incredibly ambitious electro-prog departure from the banjo-plucked folk of his critically acclaimed early work was both stunning and challenging. Adz has some miscues — the much-discussed 25-minute opus "Impossible Soul" chief among them — but the overall product is worthy of high praise.
4. LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening — The dance-punk genre is losing some of its luster, but you'd never know it to hear the latest from James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem project. Calling This Is Happening a "dance" record is a little odd, actually, since it's mostly too slow for that — but it's hard to peg it elsewhere.
5. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — Kanye West has released five classic albums. If anyone lets what he says about George Bush or Taylor Swift dull their appreciation for his work, they're only cheating themselves.
6. Toubab Krewe: TK2 — Count this as my "weird" pick. Toubab Krewe is a North Carolina band that does instrumental rock fusing the music of the American South with that of West Africa. The result is a jammy mishmash of contrasting string sounds that's even better live than on record. TK2 is the sort of album that's hard to tire of, layered densely enough to offer something new every time you spin it.
7. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: The Brutalist Bricks — Nothing super-new here — just thinking-man's punk offered from an always sincere, often funny, and almost self-consciously politically aware 40-year-old from Indiana.
8. Girl Talk, All Day — Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk, is doing something better than anyone has ever done it before. Well, anyone besides his younger self. His latest sound collage, All Day, isn't quite as amazing as Feed the Animals, my top album of 2008, but it's pretty damned good.
9. Weezer, Pinkerton (Deluxe Reissue) — I know some people will bitch about the inclusion of a reissue on a list of the best albums of the year — I'm pretty sure I've never done it before — but the deluxe Pinkerton reissue earns its place. The original 1996 album is obviously a touchstone, but it's the additional album's worth of extra tracks that put this album in my top 10 of 2010.
10. Best Coast: Crazy for You — Another year of great releases from Los Angeles lo-fi bands — Wavves, No Age — with no commercial breakthrough in sight. Bethany Cosentino's delightfully hazy debut, which has just a few songs about some boy she may or may not "like" just a little was the best of the bunch this year.
Name: Chris Hansen Orf
Most played song on my iTunes: "Near You" by Teenage Fanclub
Best concert I saw in 2010: Merle Haggard at Mesa Arts Center
Favorite single of 2010: "Fuck You" by Cee-Lo Green
1. Jamey Johnson: The Guitar Song — Country music fans holding out for Nashville's redemption have their torchbearer in biker-bearded Jamey Johnson, who against all Nashville conventions put out a two-disc collection of mostly self-penned and co-written tunes that hark back to the 1970s golden age of outlaw country. The Guitar Song is not only the best country album of 2010, it's the best country album of the decade. It's a sprawling, bluesy, traditional, pedal steel-laden "fuck you" to contemporary pop/country. And it went gold, too, proving that the public will buy an honest-to-God country album.
2. Marty Stuart: Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions) — Perhaps more than any other contemporary country artist, Marty Stuart respects country music's traditions — in addition to being a shit-hot guitarist and a great singer/songwriter, Stuart is also a published country music journalist and historian. Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions) is a love letter to the genre, a jambalaya of Bakersfield twang, bluegrass, rockabilly and heartbreak ballads.
3. Merle Haggard: I Am What I Am — Merle Haggard is simply the greatest country artist to ever breathe. He has a bigger body of work than Hank Williams, a longer career than Buck Owens or Johnny Cash, and he has remained true to himself throughout country's tectonic shifts through the Nashville Sound and today's current Swiftian country pop.
4. Drive-By Truckers: Big To-Do — Led by singer/songwriters Patterson Hood (son of Muscle Shoals studio legend David Hood) and Mike Cooley (grandson of '40s and '50s country legend and wife-murderer Spade Cooley), Drive-By Truckers' "Neil Young meets Lynyrd Skynyrd" thrash-and-bash twang comes closer to carrying on Uncle Tupelo's No Depression-era country punk blueprint than other band in the genre.
5. Darrell Scott: A Crooked Road — If you listen to contemporary country radio, you've heard some Darrell Scott songs ("Long Time Gone" by the Dixie Chicks and Travis Tritt's "It's a Great Day to Be Alive"), but you've probably never heard Scott singing them. For "A Crooked Road," Scott recorded the double-disc set in his home studio playing every instrument himself. The result is a work of stunning lyrical and acoustic beauty.
6. Whitey Morgan and the 78's: Whitey Morgan and the 78's — These Michigan-based honky-tonkers are a rough-and-tumble bunch whose barroom twang would not have sounded out of place at legendary beer and blood dive The Blackboard in Bakersfield, circa 1965. A little bit Waylon and a little bit Haggard, this is honky-tonk at its best.