Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 2010

As the first decade of the third millennium comes to a close, you may have noticed that, when I like a band, I really like a band, to the point that their releases tend to dominate my Top 5’s. So it is that fully three of the artists on my Top 5 Albums of 2010 have made consistent appearances in Top 5’s over the last 10-15 years – indeed, two of them even appeared just yesterday on my Top 5 Albums of 2009. It’s not necessarily due to a lack of familiarity with other material; it’s just, hey, if it’s not broken, why fix it?

5. HEARTLAND HIGHWAY (Sister Hazel)

Heartland Highway

Only a year passed between the release (ha) of Release (2009) and the release of Heartland Highway (2010); and considering Sister Hazel usually take more like 3 years between albums, this quick turnaround might lead you to suspect the latter is a bit of a throwaway. Not so at all. Heartland Highway lives up to its name, as SH crank up the Southern Rock quotient on their tuneful alt-rock, hit the ground running with a truly world-class road song (“The Great Escape”), and only get better from there.

4. WOULD IT KILL YOU? (Hellogoodbye)

Would It Kill You?

You might expect a band named after one of the Beatles’ most infectious late-60s pop songs to have something of a retro bent. And there are certainly plenty of classic sounds on Hellogoodbye’s second LP: plush Beach Boys harmonies, swooping string arrangements, and a bevy of pop-rock love songs. But bandleader Forrest Kline owes just as much to the likes of the Shins, Weezer, and Panic! At the Disco, lending Would It Kill You? a timeless quality.

3. BANG GOES THE KNIGHTHOOD (The Divine Comedy)

Bang Goes the Knighthood

There’s a song here entitled “The Art of Conversation,” and Bang Goes the Knighthood feels like an album-length masterclass in that lost art, as Neil Hannon turns his sparkling wit on everything from ruthless bankers to giddy lovers to adorably awkward teenage hipsters. Appropriately, then, the music is some of Hannon’s jauntiest, eschewing moody Scott Walker-isms while still maintaining the artful balance between subtlety and theatricality that has characterized most of his work this century.

2. THE ARCHANDROID (Janelle Monáe)

The ArchAndroid

Janelle Monáe is the closest thing to a Stevie Wonder our generation has. She has the same wide-ranging tastes, the same masterful command of pretty much every contemporary African American musical idiom (and then some), and the same elastic, chameleonic vocal prowess that marked out Stevland Judkins as perhaps the mightiest R&B musician of his age. And between The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady, Ms. Monáe is well on her way to claiming the same title for hers.

1. WRITE ABOUT LOVE (Belle & Sebastian)

Write About Love

Remember what I said about liking a band? It would certainly explain why Belle & Sebastian have topped the list three times now (four if you count God Help the Girl, which you should), and placed on two other occasions. There’s just something about Stuart Murdoch’s impossibly wistful songwriting that hits me where I live. Write About Love continues in the poppier vein the band has mined since 2003; but whether The Life Pursuit or If You’re Feeling Sinister is your B&S touchstone, you won’t be disappointed.

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3 Responses to Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 2010

  1. I don’t know the first two artists but Divine Comedy, Janelle Monae and Belle and Sebastian are some of my favourite acts. On Bang Goes the Knighthood, Niel Hannon consistently serves an almost embarrassing of songwriting virtuosity – on a silver platter!, while Janelle Monae’s triple album is a feast of delights encompassing rock, r’n’b, futuristic production touches and gorgeous jazzy soul – she rightly deserves the comparisons with prince. Good choices, Tom.

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