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20 for ’10: Best Albums of the Year

December 31, 2010

Pernice Brothers - "Goodbye, Killer"

Lead singer Joe Pernice has a very smooth voice that is soothing to the ear, yet disarming to the brain due to his emotionally distant delivery.  The subject matter on this latest release ranges from steamy paperback novelists of the ’70s to bizarrely-named Virginia cities. 

Featured track:

Something for You

The Jim Jones Revue - "Burning Your House Down"

This band has nothing to do with Kool-Aid, despite what inferences you might draw from their name. It’s just raucous old-school piano-pounding rock and roll played several digits past 11.  Though not quite as fantastic as their debut, this sophomore effort is still very good. 

Featured track:

Righteous Wrong

Old 97's - "The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1"

Dallas’ favorite sons are back with an album that is a true return to form, after several years drifting away from their Texas dance hall roots.  The title leads us to believe there is a sequel in the works, and if it’s this good, we can’t wait! 

Featured track:

The Magician

Kings of Leon - "Come Around Sundown"

After a couple of sub-par albums coinciding with their storming of the mainstream, these former Southern-fried indie rock darlings recapture some of their dormant magic with this surprisingly good set of songs.  Let’s hope they continue trending back toward their original sound, rather than revert to their attempt at becoming Dixie’s version of Nickelback. 

Featured track:

Beach Side

The Greenhornes - "Four Stars"

Quite a few bands out there try emulating the gritty guitar rock sound of the ’60s, but few sound as authentic as these guys – two of whom comprise half of The Raconteurs (try doing the math on that…and show your work!). 

Featured track:

Hard to Find

Deer Tick - "The Black Dirt Sessions"

This latest release from these Rhode Island roots rockers is a powerful mix of heart-wrenching confessionals driven by raw emotion laid bare.  Few voices are more revealing than that of frontman John McCauley. 

Featured track:

When She Comes Home

Miles Kurosky - "The Desert of Shallow Effects"

This is the first solo album from the long-time leader of now-defunct indie darlings Beulah.  He picks up where he left off by delivering a very Beulah-esque batch of melodically intricate tunes. 

Featured track:

I Can’t Swim

The Hold Steady - "Heaven is Whenever"

After losing one of their most instrumental (literally) members, they respond with a release that pushes the envelope of their comfort zone, yet ultimately delivers one of the year’s most interesting and rewarding albums. 

Featured track:

The Weekenders

The Silver Seas - "Chateau Revenge!"

This band from Nashville used to be known as The Bees U.S., before changing their name prior to their previous release.  Their second under this new moniker is largely a light and breezy affair, yet it really resonates from an emotional perspective.  The vocals and instrumentation are reminiscent of Josh Rouse, which is certainly a positive attribute. 

Featured track:

Somebody Said Your Name

The New Pornographers - "Together"

Canada’s indiest supergroup brings back the frenetic power pop sounds that were in such short supply on their last two sub-par efforts.  This is the best they’ve sounded in years. 

Featured track:

Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk

The Volebeats - "The Volebeats"

These Detroit-based retro rockers radiate a warm analog sound that puts the listener in a time machine straight back to the early ’60s.  With 19 tracks clocking in over an hour, this eponymous album delivers both quantity and quality. 

Featured track:

1,000 Miles of Confusion

Glossary - "Feral Fire"

This sibling-led combo from Middle Tennessee brings it with a potent mix of full-tilt rockers and heartfelt ballads.  The brother-sister vocals compliment each other in a way few others can. 

Featured track:

Your Heart to Haunt

The Black Keys - "Brothers"

This Akron-based two-man powerhouse brings back Danger Mouse for another tour of duty at the helm, resulting in their most complete and complex sounding album to date.  Every track is chock full of audio dynamite. 

Featured track:

Sinister Kid

Damien Jurado - "Saint Bartlett"

This prolific indie folkster is back with possibly his finest album yet, with music that will penetrate your eardrums and your soul.  He’s equally comfortable playing songs that are stripped bare as those drenched in feedback.  Few possess his versatility. 

Featured track:

Arkansas

Broken Bells - "Broken Bells"

This collaboration between The Shins’ frontman and one-half of Gnarls Barkley proves to be extremely fruitful as a bounty of delicious sounds are harvested throughout.  We’re hoping this isn’t simply a one-off side project, as more from these two in the future would be great to hear. 

Featured track:

The High Road

Ryan Adams and The Cardinals - "III/IV"

Indie’s most unpredictable genre chameleon and his backing band dole out a double-disc set of late-’80s-fused melodic rock.  Some of the song titles and lyrics may seem a tad silly at first blush, but the sound is undeniably great. 

Featured track:

My Favorite Song

Drive-By Truckers - "The Big To-Do"

No band illustrates “the duality of the Southern thing” better than these long-time rockers from Athens, GA.  This is one of their most solid efforts yet, with nary a track of filler to be found. 

Featured track:

Birthday Boy

The Soft Pack - "The Soft Pack"

These San Diego punksters rode a cool wave onto the scene this year with an album full of catchy riffs and urgent vocals.  This was one of the freshest sounds we’ve heard in a long time.  Here’s hoping we’ll hear plenty more from them in the years to come. 

Featured track:

Pull Out

J. Roddy Walston and The Business - "J. Roddy Walston and The Business"

Our favorite album cover of the year adorns the front of this excellent self-titled release from Baltimore’s rowdiest gang of raucous rockers.  It’s a fitting image that could very easily depict what the end of a night hanging out with these guys might look like.  We love their unique sound and edgy energy. 

Featured track:

Brave Man’s Death

Bobby Bare, Jr. - "A Storm, A Tree, My Mother's Head"

Our album of the year is this autobiographically-inspired opus from the son of an old school Nashville legend.  Backed here by the tremendous My Morning Jacket, he brings together all of his influences and experiences to craft this pinnacle of his career and our year-end list. 

Featured track:

Swollen But Not the Same

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