This year, while being the year I was probably the most disconnected from the American music scene that I have ever been, was still the best year for music that I can remember. There were some great tours (that I missed most of), and even better records. I can honestly say that any of my top four records this year could have topped last year’s list. It was just an amazing ride of a year, and while there were plenty of lows personally, there were even more highs — including the day that AP.net linked my site and I almost hit 1000 pageviews — and the music never has been better. But before we start, remember, these are my favorite records of the year, and are not necessarily the “best.” So now, without further aduei, I give you my top 10 records of 2010, starting with…
It’s a record that I came upon very late in the year –only about a month ago did I listen the whole way through — but it turns out everyone was right about it. The National are a band that I am painfully unfamiliar with, so I really can’t write much about them as a band, but I can say that this little melancholy record hit home for me. It’s simple, elegant and uplifting all at the same time, and it was a terrific find for me personally.
9. Taylor Swift – Speak Now [Big Machine]
Shut up. I love her music and I love this record. Nothing much else to say, really. Moving on.
8. Four Year Strong – Enemy of the World [Universal Motown/Decaydance]
What appeals to me about this record is that it hits most of my favorite elements of punk music all at the same time. There are catchy choruses, quality musicianship, and every now and then, a quality scream. The record showed maturity from their previous Rise or Die Trying and when it boils down to it, Enemy is just a catchy record.
This is unfortunately a record that I feel got lost in the shuffle for a lot of people because of how early in the year it was released (Jan. 19), but it is still a great one. I think this is the best record that the long-running band have ever written, a record that unlike some of its predecessors, doesn’t really have a drop off in quality. Not only that, but frontman Justin Pierre is back in fine songwriting form here, dropping his quit-wit and pop culture references in almost all of the songs, instead of just a few like was lost on Even If It Kills Me.
Yes, there may be a bit of an overcrowded scene for punk-frontmen who make acoustic records nowadays, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t a beautiful record. Here, McCaughan crafts a thoughtful record that can be soft one second and then upbeat immediately after. “In The Flicker” is a great leadoff track and from there, there simply are no trip-ups. And on a side note, while it was cool of him to include some Larry Arms tracks on his first release, to hear just solo songs on this one is even better.
Loud, angry, yet melodic. These guys are poised to break out any second now, and this record is the reason why. Brimming not only with potential, but also with amazing raw energy in each song, Chamberlain Waits is a record a million other bands in the genre wished they would have put out first. My only complaint: could have used a Clash cover.
If this is the defense of pop-punk, then the genre is in safe hands. Catchy, fast, and did I mention catchy? These Jersey boys would have the pop-punk record of the year if weren’t for another area band (who we’ll get to later), but that doesn’t mean this album should be forgotten. Songs like “Al Sharpton” are just what the genre has been lacking in the few past years, “Fantasy Girl” is an absolutely perfect pop song, and on a more personal note, “World Favorite” hit home perfectly.
Another group that keeps shifting their sound, Fake Problems just kills this record to the best of their abilities. It’s tighter than their previous releases and instead of a record of random songs collected together, Ghosts is a fully cohesive album. They keep the random instruments to a minimum and, for the most part, keep the tone down for the record. But that’s a good thing because, as it turns out, Fake Problems are at their best when in full-on indie rock mode a la “Songs For Teenagers.” “Soulless” also gets my vote as song of the year.
Who would have thought that one of the most soulful records of the year would have come from a bunch of white guys from New Jersey? But that’s the thing about the Brian Fallon & Co., they just keep surprising us. Again, like on each previous record, The Gaslight Anthem came with a revamped sound, but still killed it. Technically, this is the best record on this list, with Fallon’s songwriting is years ahead of where it should be, and each member of the band knocking their respective instrumentation out of the park. The reason this doesn’t top the list is simple though, I had higher expectations. Maybe I expected more songs, or maybe I expected a different pace. This isn’t a bad record, it’s a actually a great one, but it’s not tops for me.
Which, of course, leaves us with the number 1 record, The Upsides. Not a bad song on the album. At all. And unlike some other people in the blogosphere, it did not take any time for me to connect with this record. The first time I gave it a spin, that was it; done. Not only is the album catchy, well-done and thought-provoking, but it hits home perfectly on almost every track. Not too get too personal, but it’s like Soupy was living my life while writing this record. From critiquing the lows of college life on “My Last Semester,” or hating the shit out of Fred Phelps on “Dynamite Shovel,” or letting people know what they probably already did on “Hey Thanks,” everything was like it was coming out of my mouth. Not to mention that “This Party Sucks” perfectly encapsulates my entire month of May.
This is the record that got these guys signed to Hopeless Records, and then they go and re-release the record with the scarily similar to my life “I Was Scared And I’m Sorry,” but this ranking is not counting the re-release tracks. Musically, the band made huge strides on the record,toned down the overbearing keyboard and figured out that they don’t need to scream. Connections aside, Soupy is miles away from where he was in songwriting ability on Get Stoked On It! and, of course, the album benefits from it. This is what pop-punk should be. Relatable, catchy, and something you can move around to. The Wonder Years will be headlining tours soon enough, and this will be the reason why.