Friday, December 17, 2010

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2010

It's the close of another year, which means it's time to create some top 10 lists. While I don't blog about it often, I'm an avid music lover. And 2010 has been a good year for music lovers.

10. Josh White - Achor: The former lead singer of Telecast, and now the lead pastor of Portland church Door of Hope, White's debut album is a stripped-down folksy worship album of creative beauty. The title comes from a passage in Hosea about God's redemption of his people. Favorite songs: "He Who Feeds the Ravens," "Our God is Present."

9. Freelance Whales - Weathervanes: Whimsical and darkly uplifting, Weathervanes features strangely jubilant reflections on ghosts and lonely houses. Sounds like a combination of the musical talent of Sufjan Stevens mixed with the poppiness of Owl City. Favorite songs: "Generator^First Floor," "Starring," "The Great Estates."

8. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: As a white suburban youth pastor, I'm not sure I'm allowed to like this album as much as I do. But Kanye's sheer audacious musical brilliance shines through in this album of crazed ambition. Like many of us, Kanye walks a fine line between prideful delusions of self-grandeur and insecure self-awareness, and it pays off on this album. Favorite songs: "All Of The Lights," "Runaway," "Lost In The World."

7. Vampire Weekend - Contra: The earliest album on this list, Contra is a joy-filled combination of Brooklyn bars and the African plains. My son instantly starts bouncing with glee to the opening song. Favorite songs: "Horchata," "Giving Up The Gun."

6. The National - High Violet: Like cigar smoke and wintery air, High Violet is darkly crisp, paradoxically bleak and refreshing. The drumming is extraordinary, the lyrics are poetic and honest, and singer Matt Berninger's baritone vocals are intoxicating. Favorite songs: "Bloodbuzz Ohio," "England."

5. John Mark McMillan - The Medicine: Probably my favorite worship album of the past 10 years. A North Carolina worship leader and writer of popular worship song "How He Loves," McMillan writes with a raw honesty and theological depth that is rare in the Christian music industry. Plus, he's got a fantastic beard. Favorite songs: "Skeleton Bones," "Carbon Ribs," "Death In His Grave."

4. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More: I was introduced to Mumford late in the year and was instantly hooked. It's energetic British folk music characterized with boldness and intimacy. Lots of banjos, lots of incredible guitar strumming, lots of affecting and spiritual lyrics. Favorite songs: "The Cave," "Awake My Soul."

3. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs: After their previous reflections on death and spirituality (Funeral and Neon Bible, respectively), the Montreal-based band turned their attention to the bleak nature of suburban life. Pondering on the sprawl of concrete and shopping malls, The Suburbs is ambitious without feeling over-the-top. Like a musical version of American Beauty, The Suburbs reminds us that there is a deeper spiritual reality than our cookie-cutter houses, trimmed lawns, and Walmarts. Favorite songs: "Ready To Start," "Half Light II (No Celebration)", "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)."

2. Jonsi - Go: Effervescent and joyous, the debut from Sigur Ros's lead singer is deeply emotive and spiritually enriching. Jonsi can do something beautiful with his voice that gives me goosebumps and causes spontaneous weeping upon every listen. The album is a reminder of the simpler beauties in life-- curiosity, discovery, and the wonder of being a child. I imagine this is what music in heaven will sound like. Favorite songs: "Go Do," "Tornado," "Grow Til Tall."

1. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz: The most surprising and delightful album I heard this year. The musical difference between Stevens' Illinoise--one of my all-time favorites--and Adz is remarkable, yet retains something distinctly Sufjan. Filled with electronic sampling and an ambitious conglomeration of instrumentation, The Age of Adz is musical creativity unchained and unhinged. While deeply experimental, Adz remains quite accessible once you stop expecting to hear the folksy musings from previous albums. It's an album that requires patience to fully appreciate--especially the 25-minute-long climatic song that can only be described as electronic orchestra pop. Brilliant on so many levels. Favorite songs: "Futile Devices, "Vesuvius," "I Want To Be Well," "Impossible Soul."

0. Radiohead - 01 and 10: Not a true album release, per se, the discovery of the interconnection between Radiohead's mid-90s masterpiece OK Computer and their latest In Rainbows reveals the audacious musical genius of Radiohead. When you alternate tracks from each album in a specific order, it creates an incredible meta-album. You can read about the musical discovery here, then immediately go buy both albums and create the playlist. You won't be disappointed.

And just for fun, my top 20 favorites:

20. She and Him - Volume 2
19. Menomena - Mines
18. The Roots - How I Got Over
17. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
16. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
15. Spoon - Transference
14. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
13. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
12. Kings Of Leon - Come Around Sundown
11. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

What's been your favorite music of the year? Share in the comments, or post a link to your top 10 list!


  1. Great list. We're going to have a few similarities. Going to release mine closer to the end of the year.

  2. I wore The Medicine by JMM out when I first got it cause it was soooooo good. well i didn't really wear it out cause i got it on itunes. But if it had been a cassette it would have been ruined!

  3. Have you seen the How to Train Your Dragon music video for Jonsi's "Sticks and Stones"? Pretty cool.

  4. I am trying to like Sufjans new one, but I just can't. Not like his older ones.

    I'm riddled with musical guilt.