20 Solid Albums from 2010

Here we provide you with a short list of 20 solid albums from 2010 that might make good gifts for the music lover in your life.

By Michael Borrelli
Published December 17, 2010

With Christmas fast approaching and 16-year-old nieces and nephews to placate, isn't it your turn to be the "cool" relative by contributing to their musical education?

Though big labels and corporate radio stations would have you believe that everyone wants Justin Beiber under the tree this year, Myboytheriotgirl is happy to disabuse you of this notion.

Here we provide you with a short list of 20 solid albums from 2010 that might make good gifts for the music lover in your life. Happy holidays all round!

-- Megan & Mike

Crowd Pleasers

Hooded Fang - Album

This debut LP from Toronto's Hooded Fang is hands down our favourite album released by any Canadian band this year. The septet, named after Jacob Two-Two's friend, blends energetic multi-instrumental pop with quirky, sometimes dark lyrics. A must-have for any lover of Canadian indie-pop, this band is poised to explode in 2011.

The music speaks for itself: "You know, you know that the things we say/Cut through the air like a cold wind calling/I know, I know that the highway steam/Runs through our veins at the break of reason"

Ear candy: Hear Highway Steam

Best Coast - Crazy for You

At barely more than half an hour long, Crazy for You packs a dozen tracks together into a package that evolved from our favourite songs of summer into our favourite true "album" of 2010. Bethany Cosentino sometimes sounds like Courtney Love, but she sure knows how to get a lot out of a simple premise without getting boring: almost every song hits on the themes of unrequited love, mental illness, and weed, but the music stays fast and punchy.

The music speaks for itself: "I lost my job/I miss my mom/I wish my cat could talk/Every time you leave this house, everything falls apart."

Ear candy: Hear Happy

The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme

I'm not sure if it's because we share a northern climate, but we love Scandinavian bands, and The Radio Dept. is one of Sweden's best. This third LP from the dream-pop trio clocks in at only 35 minutes and leaves you longing for more.

The music speaks for itself: "I want to/I always wanted to belong to/The Freak scene/Or anyone who had their mind to/Never follow suit again"

Ear Candy:* Hear Heaven on Fire

The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

Folkie Kristian Matsson (aka The Tallest Man on Earth) does his best Dylan impression on his critically acclaimed The Wild Hunt. This is another beautiful, must-hear Swedish album that is in no danger of leaving our ears now that the snow is falling.

The music speaks for itself: "Oh, but rumour has it that I wasn't born/I just walked in one frosty morn"

Ear Candy: Hear You're Going Back

The Morning Benders - Big Echo

After years of touring with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Yo La Tengo, and Grizzly Bear, this four-piece indie rock band originally from Berkeley, released Big Echo to strong reviews. Songs go from chamber-pop to shoegazing rock, and even though it's one of those albums that takes a few listens to appreciate, persistence is rewarded.

The music speaks for itself: "And I made an excuse/And you found another way to tell the truth/I put no one else above us/We'll still be best friends when all turns to dust"

Ear Candy: Hear Cold War

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

The Suburbs is a very strong release from a band that already has their name on two of the most talked about Canadian albums in past 10 years. The Grammy-nominated disc is a superb concept album that's heavy on the social commentary while remaining impeccably listenable.

The music speaks for itself: "I feel like I've been living in/A city with no children in it"

Ear Candy: Hear The Suburbs

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

Although once rumoured to be James Murphy's last album as LCD Soundsystem, we think that this raucous, disco-inspired ode to 21st century modern life signals there's a lot more to come from this NYC-based dance-rock outfit.

The music speaks for itself: "You on the outside/Me on the inside/There's advantage to both/(Advantages to both!)"

Ear Candy: Hear Pow Pow

The National - High Violet

Receiving glowing reviews upon release, High Violet and has already taken home an award from Britain's influential Q magazine. It has a melancholic streak running through it which projects a dark mood without overwhelming the listener.

The music speaks for itself: "I think the kids are in trouble/Do not know what all the troubles are for/Give them ice for their fevers/You're the only thing I ever want anymore"

Ear Candy: Hear Anyone's Ghost


Though just as easily lumped in with some of the cream of the crop, above, these artists stand out because of their connection with our fair city.

Caribou - Swim

Hamilton's own Dan Snaith follows up on his Polaris Prize winning Andorra with a brilliant piece of organic electro-pop that was short-listed for this year's Polaris. The lead track, Odessa, might be the best Canadian song of the year.

Sarah Harmer - Oh Little Fire

Burlington's singing, songwriting beauty is back after nearly five years with a return to a pop sound after exploring folk on I'm a Mountain.

Luke Doucet and the White Falcon - Steel City Trawler

Though born out east, Luke Doucet has adopted Hamilton as home, and the former Veal front-man's 2010 disc encourages people to do as he did: trawl the city for its beauty.

Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night

Maybe not strictly local, but this release from the Montreal post-rockers certainly lives up to its name.

Zeus - Say Us

After a 2009 EP that showed a lot of promise, the Toronto-based pop-rock band that used to back up Jason Collet doesn't disappoint.

And More!

For the adventurous music lover on your list, perhaps try one of these more conceptual, esoteric and imminently "alternative" musical selections that spent a lot of time in our heads:

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in Hamilton's North End. He tweets @BaysideBadger.


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By adrian (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 14:11:39

Great list! I like the new LCD Soundsystem album, though it's not as strong as Sound of Silver. But it's Arcade Fire that's really held my attention over the past while. The Suburbs is an amazing album, and it's particularly relevant to RTH readers, given its subject material. Highly recommended.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 14:29:51

The Golden Dogs - Coat of Arms.

Zeus has two ex Golden Dogs (Carlin and Neil) in the band and Carlin helped produce the album. The Golden Dogs, a great Canadian band going on 10 years strong now.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 14:55:49

Awesome, Mr J., thanks for the suggestion--we always love hearing new stuff--and Bucky nominated stuff no less!

Agreed, Adrian. The Suburbs would definitely resonate with many RTH readers, and given the declining importance of "albums" in our downloadable, piecemeal culture, it's nice to be able to highly recommend something that explores a single, coherent idea.

Oh, and we forgot to mention, you'll be able to hear all of these artists/albums on MBTRG's 3hr "Best of 2010" show, airing/podcasting Dec 29th. This week's show is a Best of the Rest show, and next week will be a Super Indie Christmas, which will be a nice antidote to the canned Xmas music polluting your ears in malls and over soft-rock radio.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 15:51:05

Thanks Michael for this list. I will check out some of the bands here I'm not familiar with. The Suburbs is indeed awesome. I've just recently discovered the Avett Brothers and their 2010 album, Live, Volume 3 I have found awesome. mrjanitor, didn't realize the Golden Dogs have a new album, I really like the one album I have of theirs but haven't listened to it lately. For those who liked Starsailor, James Walsh has put out an EP that I enjoy. And Tired Pony, Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol's latest project, is quite excellent I would say.

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By urbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 16:44:35

Great list! The Suburbs hasn't left my car's cd player for months.

To this list I'd add: The Hold Steady's disc "Heaven is Whenever", The Flobots' "Survival Story", Wolf Parade's "Expo 86", Jimmy Eat World's "Chase This Light", Mumford and Son's "Sigh No More" (I know that one is technically '09 but its still an awesome album) and Minus The Bear's 'Omni".

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By CombustableHuxtable (anonymous) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 17:03:33

Nice picks. Some you may not have heard.
I hate myself for liking the Kayne album ...

Sufjan Stevens - age of adz
Flying lotus - cosmogramma, pattern grid ep
James Blake - 3 eps (bells sketch, cmyk, klavierwerke)
Black keys - brother
Gonjasufi - sufi and a killer
Deerhunter - halycyon digest
Kayne West - my beautiful dark twisted fantasy
Titus andronicus - the monitor
Onehtrix point never - returnal

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By SpaceMonkey (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 17:42:41

I like your taste Michael. Some great tracks in your list.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 18:22:36

How could I forget these!

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - "The Brutalist Bricks"

Broken Bells - Self Titled

Broken Social Scene - "Forgiveness Rock Record"

Coheed & Cambria - "Year of The Black Rainbow"

Comment edited by UrbanRenaissance on 2010-12-17 17:23:34

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By arienc (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 19:44:48

Great list...definitely Arcade Fire's latest is the king, and a worthy nominee for Album of the Year.

The National's High Violet is an excellent one too. Also check out the Drums' self-titled, the Courteeners' Falcon, and Belle & Sebastian's Write About Love.

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By mike_sak (registered) | Posted December 17, 2010 at 21:12:33

toronto's own owen pallett came out with a pretty sweet album, heartland, early in the year. saw him in hamilton at the ill-fated lincoln alexander theatre, and it was a wicked show.

here's him playing during a lightning storm at guelph

Comment edited by mike_sak on 2010-12-17 20:15:29

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By subtlehustle (registered) | Posted December 18, 2010 at 00:36:00

lets not forget bike for three, one of the side projects of buck 65 and hawksley workman's "robot heart" and a little bit of flash lightnin'

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted December 18, 2010 at 09:55:01

Two Canadian albums I forgot to mention that are under the radar but that we enjoy are Royal Wood's The Waiting and Wilderness of Manitoba's When You Left the Fire. If you like softer melodic music that is a bit off centre.

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By Al DeSantis (anonymous) | Posted December 20, 2010 at 15:23:36

I have to agree with Coheed and Cambria's Year of the Black Rainbow. I even got the deluxe edition because it came with a novel, really!, co written by one of my favourite sci-fi authours. And the Tron: Legacy soundtrack by Daft Punk is absolutely killer, sort of a combo of 80s Casio music and dramatic orchestral flourishes.

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