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CoS Year-End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

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    albums thumb 260x260 CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010The end of the year — CoS‘ fourth on the Internet — approaches, closing a very exciting run. It has been arduously difficult to decipher the commotion over my iPod blasting a ton of new music, and for this, I am thankful. Let us cross fingers that the nukes don’t come out blazing during the New Years’ parties, or else I will miss the fireworks of a loony self-fulfillment.

    We could sit here and reminisce on everything of prominence over the past 365 days, and all of you gracious readers that strapped us into the #1 Music Blog position on About.com could bask in nostalgia’s glorious sun shower. In the essence of practicality, while revisiting landmark albums like Exile On Main St. and Pretty Hate Machine, dismantling Consequence of Kanye at the culmination of his Dark Twisted Fantasy, and doling out five stars to Arcade Fire, we had the chance to compile this lovely Top 100 list for your critiquing and commenting pleasure.

    This is the cream of the crop from all walks of genre, sub-genre, and fused genres alike. This is the definitive mark, two-thousand-ten’s best album releases, summarily graphed — and generously bled for — by your favorite Web site’s dedicated writers and contributors. So much has happened in such a minute expanse of time, we could not feasibly compress it all into a single article, but nonetheless, here lies the certifiable superlative one-off for 12 months’ worth of music.

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    [cue the confetti strands and silly string]

    Significant moments leave a deep impact during December; we start wondering if things were given due justice. Questions arise as to why certain obligations might have been neglected (did you listen to even half of the albums on our list yet?). Perhaps many will silently renew devotions for the sake of a new year. Personally, I try not to guilt myself too harshly; After all, humans are imperfect creatures. Forget about making some last-minute proclamation of weight-loss goals and nicotine withdrawals. Why not focus on enjoying that year-end martini? If you want to lose pounds or finish your novel, do it for your own reasons, not because it’s the standard.

    Make 2011 a time of positive build, not redundant letdown. Other usual goal selections are still worthy causes, but nothing is ironclad. If another passing birthday has taught me anything, it is that life is too short to bitch and moan. Think of the positives instead of the negatives, and you will find that the music sounds much sweeter than it did. The rose tint is absent, the naggers are quieted — What remains is the soothing remedy of a happy medium, the way it makes sense for you.

    Welcome to the end of 2010 — May your resolutions be fruitful, may your Armageddon be swift, and may your record collection exponentially grow in value. May Chinese Democracy be your how-to guide for overhype. May the last lone Walkman live long and prosper. And may your iTunes gift card see plenty of use.

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    In bowing out, we implore you… pop the Scroll Lock from your keyboard — it’s obsolete now.

    -David Buchanan
    Senior Staff Writer

    100. Black Label Society – Order of the Black

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    Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde have both released albums this year: the former’s Scream, the latter’s latest Black Label Society disc, Order of the Black. While Scream seems to have fallen from grace (despite being entertaining enough), Black Label Society have risen from the grave. With old school rising to the nth degree, Order of the Black is definitely one of the best heavy metal albums all year. Is it favoritism if Wylde shares a birthday with my daughter? -David Buchanan

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    99. Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo

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    High school must have been a trip for this fresh-out-the-suburbs band that only recently graduated. Following in the ’60s-recalling footsteps of fellow indie poppers MGMT, Avi Buffalo’s self-titled debut gives us innocence on mushrooms, and plays like their own personal summer of love. “Truth Sets In” and “Five Little Shits” show the craftsmanship behind the music is top-notch. Noodly guitars form flower-child pop rock with forays into folk and country as on “One Last”. The lyrics may be a little high school, but Avi Buffalo write music like pros. The guitar work alone sounds 20 years older, as they work through one sunny jam after another. Avi Buffalo couldn’t have come at a better time, what with so many throwback rock bands making their mark in the past year. While timing is everything, so is having a solid record where every track stands out. With an album like this, it sounds like the next generation will be all right. -E.N. May

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    98. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

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    Nowadays, rock and roll music is married to a lot of different genres, be it rap, pop, various forms of world music, etc. Rare is the truly good album that is just plain rock and roll. However, The Gaslight Anthem proved rock can still just be rock, with the down-on-their-luck punk rock of American Slang. Pain and frustration roar through the speakers, all on the backs of big, booming guitar and tight-as-it-comes drumming. The album showed that while rock music is drifting further away from its glory days, there’s still tons of room for the good, old-fashioned stuff. -Chris Coplan

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    97. Caribou — Swim

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    When an artist makes a turn towards pop, one wonders whether the artist has actually improved or simply tricked the listener into accepting the music. I wondered this after hearing Merriweather Post Pavilion and The Suburbs, but 48 listens later each, I’m pretty sure those are both still good albums. Like, 90 percent sure, but I didn’t need to be converted. Caribou sparked these same questions for me with Swim, and going with my instinct was the right choice. It’s hard to put this down, as they used to say when albums were physical objects. Even if you’re not on drugs, Swim will make you feel like you are. It’s not just for dance music junkies though — Caribou has much more to offer than a beat and some synth fiddling. -Harry Painter

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    96. Tokyo Police Club – Champ

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    After a somewhat disappointing debut LP in Elephant Shell, which failed to capture the spark of their A Lesson in Crime EP, Tokyo Police Club returned in 2010 with Champ. Like its name would suggest, the album feels triumphant in that it reintegrates that catchy vibe and also sees the band expand their lyrical concepts by adding a dash of worldly cynicism and diversifying their sonic output with lots of effects and improved instrumentation. Consider this the band’s musical equivalent of Rocky making it to the top of the stairs. -Chris Coplan

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    95. Mike Patton – Mondo Cane

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    Mondo Cane in one sentence: Mr. Bungle meets ’50s Italian pop with a backing orchestra. Seriously, it’s Mike Patton! Weird is not his calling card — it’s his genetic makeup, and I look forward to more operatic productions in the future. At the very least, a Mr. Bungle reunion? Pretty please? -David Buchanan

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    94. Cotton Jones – Tall Hours in the Glowstream

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    Not many records do an artist’s influences perfect justice, creating something strangely fresh without sounding like imitation. But Tall Hours in the Glowstream, Michael Nau’s dreamed out, smoky, hazy exploration of country’s golden age, is exhilarating in both its authenticity and dreamy beauty. -Drew Litowitz

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    93. Laurie Anderson – Homeland

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    Homeland is a sprawling and desolate quasi-sequel to Laurie Anderson’s first breakthrough 1984 performance piece, United States Live. This revisiting of America rides on the back of economic desperation, global unrest, and the new electronic reality. It’s a fascinating and haunting perspective on our day and age, from America’s greatest performance artist. -Cap Blackard

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    92. Weezer – Hurley

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    On Weezer’s eighth full-length album, Hurley, the band did what they do best; they made a Weezer album. And as always, Rivers Cuomo kept it close to the heart. He and the guys rehashed the glory days “back when Audioslave was Rage” on the Jackass sing-along “Memories”. Rivers kept the power pop Weezer alive too, with “Ruling Me” and “Hang On”, but also wrote some personal and emotional songs like “Trainwrecks” and “Time Flies”. No matter how many releases they have, Weezer showed us that all they will do is rock. At least as long as they have the limbs to do it. -Ted Maider

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    91. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night

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    Shoegaze and ’70s AOR make for a strange combination, but together they make The Besnard Lakes‘ sophomore LP, The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, which sees the band continue to sharpen their sound with lush, slow-burning jams. Jace Lacek’s classic guitar work and resonant voice fit perfectly with Olga Goreas’ acidy soprano. Turn it up, bang your head, and vibe out. -Jeremy Larson

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    90. Antony and the Johnsons – Swanlights

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    More a step sideways than a step backwards, the new album by Antony and the Johnsons doesn’t quite reach as many high points as his previous two albums, but it doesn’t have many low points either. It’s another very solid effort from one of the most unique voices in modern music. Adding more guitar-based songs gives this album a wider palate than before, but the highlights are still Antony and his piano. His voice, like always, is the main attraction, and his lyrics are just as affecting as ever. The centerpiece of the album is the title track, a mysteriously sprawling song that is simultaneously one of the strangest songs Antony has ever produced and also one of his best. If his self-titled effort was an introduction, I Am a Bird Now was his breakthrough masterpiece, and The Crying Light was the solid followup to a near perfect album, then Swanlights proves that Antony is here to stay. -Carson O’Shoney

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    89. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

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    Singer Gareth Campesinos! wants to talk to you about sex. And death. And fighting. And football. And everything in between. Seems like a lot of material to shove into one album, right? Yet, not only does Romance is Boring cover all of this and more, it does so in a dramatic, sarcastic, and anthemic fashion. The sprawling, 15-song effort is full of tasty moments to digest over multiple listens. The band covers sparse arrangements, noise rock, and even what the casual observer may call a hit song. Numbers like the title track, “There Are Listed Buildings”, and “Straight in at 101” are certainly highlights, but this is a record you should hear from beginning to end. Romance may be boring, but Los Campesinos! is anything but dull. -Joe Marvilli

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    88. El Guincho – Pop Negro

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    The man who has been hailed the “Panda Bear of Spain” followed up his immensely successful sophomore album, Alegranza!, with yet another album of his curiously eccentric brand of pop music. Although this release did not receive the same acclaim as its predecessor, it was, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable pop albums of the year. Opening track “Bombay” proved not only to be perhaps the sunniest, most memorable track on the album, but also provided one of the coolest videos of the year. El Guincho stayed true to form on Pop Negro, losing absolutely no integrity, having instead created yet another enjoyable work from his zany imagination. Spanish speaker or not, everyone will be able to understand the obvious musical prowess showcased on this album. -Winston Robbins

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    87. The Thermals – Personal Life

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    It ain’t easy squeezing a respectable catalog out of three chords. Few bands do it well, but The Thermals have thankfully stepped up to join the ranks of artists like The Bouncing Souls and Bad Religion as the modern day torch carriers of power punk. Unlike their earlier work, Personal Life displays more new wave tendencies, with lovelorn, bass-heavy tracks like “Only for You” and “Never Listen to Me” owing more to The Cars than The Germs. But mellowed out or not, 10 perfect songs in under 35 minutes is an equation that can’t be beat, even by their younger, rabble-rousing selves. -Dan Caffrey

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    86. Interpol – Interpol

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    Even though Carlos D was in the studio for Interpol‘s fourth go-round, the self-titled LP will always be associated with the visible bassist’s departure soon after its release. This is not completely unfair; If it weren’t for Paul Banks’ distinctive monotone, it would be hard to recognize this as an Interpol album. True, it’s not the Interpol we remember and expect, and it’s no Turn on the Bright Lights. But, my, did this LP not deserve to be ignored the way it was. This is more an album of scattered standout moments than one of constant pop perfection, but given repeat listens, those standout moments are worth the time. It’s hard to give Interpol the benefit of the doubt at this point, but here’s hoping the future improves for the New Yorkers. -Harry Painter

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    85. Four Tet – There Is Love in You

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    It turns out that 2010 was an amazing year for emotional, powerful electronic music, but none is more emotionally strong than Four Tet‘s There Is Love in You. It’s a powerful album where a baby’s heartbeat is turned into an actual beat. The vocals, the beats, the atmosphere — it’s all beautiful. -Evan Minsker

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    84. Delorean – Subiza

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    Spanish quartet Delorean know what they’re doing. Subiza offers layer upon layer of samples, synths, and catchy melodies that result in an uplifting, atmospheric album sure to have your toes tapping. Repeated, airy vocals entrance the listener and add even more depth to the already complex and varied soundscape. The album plays like a DJ set, songs flowing in and out of one another, keeping true to the band’s Balearic roots. Animal Collective references aside, Delorean has forged a home in today’s overpopulated realm of electronic pop music. Whether it’s the ,majestic single “Stay Close” or “Warmer Places”, with its anthemic repetition of “Never settle, never settle, never settle”, Subiza does no wrong. -Caitlin Meyer

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    83. Pete Yorn – Pete Yorn

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    Before the drowsy acoustics of 2009’s Back and Fourth and a bubbly collaboration with Scarlett Johansson, Pete Yorn was roughing it up in the garage with producer Frank Blank. At the Pixies frontman’s behest, Yorn swiftly recorded his eventual sixth album in 2008, giving his usual classic rock stylings a newfound sawtooth urgency. Pete Yorn‘s first half is pared down to nothing but crunchy distortion, with power pop nuggets like “Velcro Shoes” and “Badman” recalling a scrappier T. Rex, while the more jangled second half pays tribute to R.E.M. and Big Star. “Come on wheels, take this boy away,” he croons in the twangy closing track. As long as it’s back to where he started, we’ll all be in good shape. -Dan Caffrey

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    82. Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM

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    Inspired by Charlotte Gainsbourg’s brush with death and subsequent time spent in an MRI scanner, IRM reveals Gainsbourg’s continued evolution and maturation as a singer. Through producer and co-writer Beck’s diverse instrumentation which ran the gamut between lush and minimalist, Gainsbourg’s distant, barely there whisper offers the occasional peek behind her mystique. The collaboration between Gainsbourg and Beck is a match made in heaven, with both artists bringing the best out of each other. Who else but Beck could replicate the pulsating rhythm and sense of claustrophobia produced by the machine, and turn it into such captivating music? IRM is two artists nearing 40 exploring and reflecting upon death, and the result is the best Beck album since Sea Change. -Frank Mojica

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    81. Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love

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    A new Belle & Sebastian album is a welcome outcome in itself; Such is the band’s track record. This latest offering doesn’t disappoint, but requires repeat plays to really sink in. Once there, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that B&S have delivered yet another first-class pop album — bright, breezy and accomplished, both vocally and in the tight, rich ensemble instrumentation. -Tony Hardy

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    80. Damien Jurado – Saint Bartlett

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    On his ninth LP, the grossly undervalued alt-folk lion continues his decades-long odyssey into the broken heart of America, working with friend and producer Richard Swift to deliver a collection steeped in vintage sounds and ideas. Damien Jurado‘s work on Saint Bartlett is timeless and penetrating, at once a sonic nod to mid-century production techniques and a reminder of the importance of storytelling in an age that increasingly has little appetite for nuance and reflection. Indeed, his thoughtful, literary tales and troubled, but familiar characters have never seemed so vital. -Ryan Burleson

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    79. Wild Nothing – Gemini

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    Upon listening to “Summer Holiday”, the first single from Wild Nothing’s debut full-length Gemini, it would be too easy to lump the band and its principal actor Jack Tatum in with other bands currently feeding on ’80s nostalgia pop, like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. In fact, tracks like “O, Lilac” do sound as if they came out of the Pains’ playbook. However, the album as a whole is a bit more diverse. Not simply relying on fuzzy tones or shrilly synths as a crutch, Wild Nothing also owe something to early ’90s indie pop for its sound. The more I listened to Gemini, the more I also heard elements of the Drop Nineteens and the Swirlies (or other bands from the early SpinArt roster), especially in the way Tatum plays his guitar. Everything is utilized loosely to help highlight the wistful haze surrounding Wild Nothing’s particular approach to dream pop. The carefree jangle theand gorgeous vocal harmony on “Our Composition Book” is like Galaxy 500 on caffeine. “Bored Games” has an underlying dance beat that is akin to some of the sounds found with IDM artists on Ghostly International, and “Chinatown” is simply a strong pop song oozing with dreaminess. -Len Comaratta

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    78. Fang Island – Fang Island

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    Give credit to these punks. They’re punks in the true sense because their style and sound is something at odds with the status quo. The frugality that 2010 favors in its music is laughed at by Fang Island’s three part guitar harmonies and the band’s exuberant vocal power. Their sound is that of a band incubating until they someday find themselves in a stadium or an arena. You’d be hard-pressed not to have people tell you it’s prog, but underneath there’s a rich cushion of the history of rock, metal, and strong arena melodies. In other words, they make what they do sound authentic — the highest form of currency in 21st century music listening. -Jeremy Larson

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    77. The Drums – The Drums

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    If there was a perfect pop album from cover to cover this year, a strong argument could be made for the Drums‘ self-titled full-length. Coming off the success of 2009’s Summertime EP, the Drums returned with a strong, vibrant album that captured elements of ’60s pop melodies and blended them with the jaded post-punk/new wave attitude of many U.K. bands from the late ’70s. The full-length featured a few repeats from the 2009 EP, including a re-recording of “Let’s Go Surfing”, the hot single that started it all; But newer tracks like “Forever and Ever Amen” and “Best Friend” demonstrate that the band has for-real potential. Their look and sound is vintage U.K. new wave and if they were to be subjected to a time machine accident dumping them out on the streets of post-Punk Revolution London or Glasgow, nobody would bat an eye. With that in mind, the Drums are in no way derivative and they do for the pop sounds of the era what bands like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand did for the post-punk/dance punk sounds of bands like Gang of Four and Wire. -Len Comaratta

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    76. of Montreal – False Priest

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    Coming off their proggiest album, 2008’s Skeletal Lamping, of Montreal could have gone any direction with this release. Fans and critics alike criticized Skeletal for being too nonsensical and tough to grasp, which are spot on analyses. Fortunately, of Montreal stuck to their guns for False Priest, expertly cranking out infectious psych-pop. But, of course, in true of Montreal fashion, the sound of the music did not remain static. This album incorporated the usual Prince/David Bowie influences, but also a largely unexplored territory for the psych-rockers: R&B. Citing Stevie Wonder as a major influence for the record, front man Kevin Barnes deliberately included appearances from longtime friend and psych R&B darling Janelle Monáe, as well as Solange Knowles, the younger sister of pop enigma Beyoncé. In the end, the record wasn’t their strongest, but it was a return to the youthful, lovable of Montreal we’ve all become so enamored with. -Winston Robbins

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    75. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

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    My Chemical Romance made its name on vampire songs and screamy music for sad kids. This will only take you so far in terms of earning critical respect, though. They followed up 2006’s heavy-handed concept album The Black Parade with 2010’s Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. This is another concept album, to be sure, but it’s one that rings true and doesn’t overwhelm the music. The album takes us through a radio show piloted by pirate DJ Dr. Death through a post-apocalyptic wasteland controlled by a mysterious corporate behemoth. Luckily, alter-egos the Killjoys are on the loose, providing us with death-defying escapades, corporate defiance, and, of course, some of MCR’s best music to date. It’s still guided by Gerard Way’s snarly, self-indulgent punk vocals, but this time, they’re layered over the top of some solid rock music. Danger Days takes the best of MCR’s skill set and combines it with incredibly listenable, textured rock tunes that will lend MCR some much-needed cultural relevance for many years to come. -Megan Ritt

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    74. School of Seven Bells – Disconnect from Desire

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    For School of Seven Bells, creating atmosphere is what it’s all about. On their second album, they do more than succeed at that lofty goal. Each track transports you to a new location, one that’s different, yet still familiar. It turns from the high-pitched, rhythmic vocals of “Windstorm” to the rave-inducing “Dust Devil” and back to shoegaze without any jarring transitions. The duel vocals of twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza move between angelic and haunting within the same song. Meanwhile, guitarist Benjamin Curtis brings up a whole array of effects that he masterfully uses to his advantage. My recommendation? Lie back, close your eyes, and lose yourself in this album. You won’t regret it. -Joe Marvilli

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    73. Goldfrapp – Head First

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    These days, there are a ton of bands who readily make use of the musical cash cow that is the 1980s. However, none do it as skillfully as Goldfrapp on their fifth LP, Head First. Full of shiny synths, melodies like sweet ear candy, and coming off like ABBA meeting Olivia Newton-John on some glorious dancefloor in paradise, the album is everything most people loved about the ’80s with an update, thanks to some kicking house and dance music. Plus, you don’t have to wear shoulder pads or neon to enjoy it. -Chris Coplan

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    72. Miniature Tigers – F O R T R E S S

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    It was going to be hard to top Tell It to the Volcano, but Miniature Tigers did just that on the followup to their 2008 debut LP. F O R T R E S S was greatly overshadowed by the hype surrounding Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs (which was released a week later), but music fans who overlooked this album missed one of 2010’s brightest nuggets of precision-crafted pop and a timeless collection of songs that our own E.N. May called “so close to perfect, it hurts.” -Ray Roa

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    71. GAYNGS – Relayted

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    GAYNGS’ debut LP led to The Purple One attending (and almost playing at) their first show ever, but what Relayted really accomplished was giving us something to chill to without having to call it “chillwave.” Filled with bowel-shaking low end and airy vocals, the 11-track effort from this super collective – which features members of Bon Iver, Megafun, and Solid-Gold – was surely the soundtrack to many a joint-smoking session. -Ray Roa

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    70. PS I Love You – Meet Me at the Muster Station

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    PS I Love You‘s album was a pleasant surprise this year — a rock ‘n’ roll record without pretensions or frills from a band who broke through with one single. Paul Saulnier churns out some instant hits here: “Facelove”, “Breadends”, and the title track all come to mind. Killer rock, no gimmicks. -Evan Minsker

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    69. Revere – Hey Selim!

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    Revere is an eight-piece London outfit that skilfully blends rock and orchestral instrumentation to create a lush and majestic sound. This fusion, attached to some great songs and an expressive lead vocal, is an explosive mix. This debut album provides a glimpse of the intensity of the band’s live performances through epic songs like “The Escape Artist”. The group is still relatively unknown outside the U.K., but the impact of this album has already led to an invitation to SXSW in 2011. -Tony Hardy

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    68. Rufus Wainwright – All Days Are Night: Songs for Lulu

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    All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu finds Rufus Wainwright in an intense place, both musically and personally, as the album was written as his beloved mother succumbed to cancer. This album, full of love songs to the dark muse, represents a major evolution for the songwriter. He’s dark without being morose (“Zebulon”, “What Would I Ever Do with a Rose”), he’s heartbreakingly earnest (“Martha”), and respectably well-read (“A Woman’s Face”, “Shame”, and “When Most I Wink”, all adaptations of Shakespearean sonnets). The resulting album — performed on tour in a grand, uninterrupted song cycle — is a moving collection of 12 tracks that represents some of Wainwright’s most well-composed and executed work to date, music to be remembered by. -Megan Ritt

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    67. Liars – Sisterworld

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    This dank, echoing gem of an album accomplishes something I didn’t think possible: It comes close to the glory that was Drum’s Not Dead. And Liars achieve greatness on Sisterworld with string arrangements as they did on Drum’s with feedback. Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill, and Julian Gross masterfully produce dark, powerful rock without delving into the overt theatrics of metal or the macabre-for-the-sake-of-it aesthetics of goth material. The disc plays out like the soundtrack to an expressionist horror film yet to come. Not the slasher “he’s right behind you!” type, but the eerie, “what’s going on here” type. -Adam Kivel

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    66. Torche – Songs for Singles EP

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    If Mastodon has its passion for epic themes, and ISIS was Tool with a twist, Torche is most likely a candidate for the second coming of Kyuss and Beaver. Strapped with a wall of stoner metal fuzz, ethereal vocals, and a drummer on speed, 2010’s Songs for Singles EP keeps up the tradition of ’08’s Meanderthal — short bursts of Torche awesomeness that leave ringing in your ears. -David Buchanan

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    65. Everybody Was In The French Resistance… Now! – Fixin’ the Charts, Volume 1

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    Known for his work with Art Brut, Eddie Argos combined forces with his girlfriend, Blood Arm member Dyan Valdes, and came up with a unique concept for an album: make responses to famous pop songs. Whether it’s telling Bob Dylan that ex-girlfriends should think twice or playing the part of Billy Jean’s bastard son, Argos and Valdes crafted a concept album that isn’t weighed down by its concept, instead being free to be smart and funny and appealing without being overly cerebral. Pop music ain’t perfect, but they’re the best maintenance team we could ask for. -Chris Coplan

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    64. These New Puritans – Hidden

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    Tighter around the frame than its predecessor, mixing elements from trip-hop, theatrical music, jaunty keyboard, and avant-garde, Hidden is what future critics will undoubtedly label as These New Puritans‘ 2010 magnum opus. Regardless of who is right or wrong, this Immediate Music meets Interpol for the Dead Man’s Bones fans (the handful left) will stay stuck to your brain, sobriety be damned. -David Buchanan

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    63. Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer

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    Known for being a member of Atlanta-based rap group Goodie Mob, Cee-Lo Green returned with his third solo album like he was the blaxploitation version of James Bond. The Lady Killer was drenched in the sounds of soul, R&B, and top-40 radio from the ’70s, every song about being done wrong by a she-devil. With a voice to match, Green demolished a lot of preconceived notions and forged himself an album of the best vintage sounds he could cull, and that’s as one-of-a-kind as the introverted and bombastic singer himself. In a phrase, he killed it. -Chris Coplan

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    62. The Chemical Brothers – Further

    further CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    The Chemical Brothers‘ seventh studio album holds a special place in the electronic genre. With the romantic swirl of “Snow” and “Escape Velocity” giving way to the soaring highs of “K+D+B” and “Wonders of the Deep”, the Brothers Chemical showed on Further that electronic music can be cool, slick, technical, danceable — and most importantly — emotional, moving, even almost religious. The results are an endlessly listenable album that transports the audience to a higher place. -Megan Ritt

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    61. The Walkmen – Lisbon

    1fde87a6bf5f46eb the walkmen lisbon cover CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Lisbon plays out like the music a civil war-era punk band might conjure up, if time, technology, and knowledge permitted. With click-clacking trashcan drums, minimally vintage electric guitar, occasional strings, lush brass, and, of course, Hamilton Leithauser’s reedy howl, Lisbon takes The Walkmen sound deeper into the past. By imitating the sounds of yesteryear with contemporary instrumentation, Lisbon sounds like something entirely new. -Drew Litowitz

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    60. Ryan Adams – Cardinals III/IV

    ryiiiivpic1 CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    In a year where Ryan Adams released a bunch of crappy demos and a metal album, the realization of the long-awaited Cardinals III/IV was a sight for sore ears. While Adams’ journey into the mythology of metal was a fun distraction, this two-disc album demonstrates what Adams does best: He makes rocking, folksy music with a down-home appeal and lots of deviation and experimentation, songs that, at their core, are universal and eat their way into your bloodstream. It’s good to have you back, Mr. Adams. -Chris Coplan

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    59. Avey Tare – Down There

    downthere CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    In 2010, Camp Animal Collective has been the fodder for the TMZ of indie rock, with every critic and fan pouring over relationship updates (Is Deakin back in the band?),and impatiently waiting for a sequel to the surefire decade list-topper Merriweather Post Pavilion. Meanwhile, Avey Tare (Dave Portner) quietly released this slightly minimal album of electronic textures, full of repetitive journeys through the aural equivalent of a hellish swamp. The dark vibes on Down There were inspired by dark times (his sister’s cancer scare, family deaths), but there’s also a joyful release to the mournful music, like a tripped-out New Orleans funeral march. We’re still impatiently waiting, but this is one hell of a holdover. -Ryan Reed

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    58. Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back

    peter gabriel scratch my back CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Cover albums are often forgettable or regrettable, but when a massively influential artist like Peter Gabriel steps up to the task of reimagining some of his favorite songs, the result is nothing short of amazing. The music is simple, somber, and stripped of any bells and whistles, leaving only raw intentions, pure lyrics, and Gabriel’s passionate voice. This collection of tracks, culled from everyone from Paul Simon to Radiohead, are laid bare, exposing just what makes the originals beautiful and brilliant while lifting them up to an emotional catharsis they may have never intended to go to. What’s more, Scratch My Back is part of a double-album concept in which the artists Gabriel covers return the favor by covering him. If the moons align, the reciprocal follow-up compilation, I’ll Scratch Yours will be out next year. -Cap Blackard

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    57. The Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme

    clinging to a scheme CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Hailing from Sweden, relative unknowns (except to a very small, devout following) The Radio Dept. have kept a low profile for the majority of their career, which began back in 1998. And that’s where they’d like to stay, I believe. Does that mean they have to make bad music to stay out of the eye of the masses? Absolutely not. They have released dozens and dozens of tracks that are as solid as any indie pop out there, only they haven’t marketed the music to those selfsame masses. Due to very minimal touring and virtually no deliberate public accolades, The Radio Dept. has remained relatively low key. Clinging to a Scheme is their third official studio album, but was the first heard for many individuals. The album is a testament to a band who has honed in on their craft and made it everything it can/should be. Don’t be surprised if The Radio Dept. continues to release good music, but also don’t be surprised if Scheme becomes their magnum opus. The perfectly placed vocal samples, the wonderfully ethereal musicianship, and the pop mastery are hard not to like, and make for The Radio Dept.’s most polished work. -Winston Robbins

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    56. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack

    the soft pack the soft pack CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    The Soft Pack‘s opening track “C’mon” coaxes listeners to sing along and dance — and with the band’s straightforward, high energy, ridiculously catchy brand of punk rock, they don’t have to try too hard. The simplicity of The Soft Pack‘s sharp lo-fi is what makes their music so charming; You know all of the lyrics to the choruses halfway through the songs, and can’t help but sing along. The album is reminiscent of a night of drunken debauchery with its rapid tempo, atonal vocals and, honestly, endless fun. There’s no profundity in the lyrics, no pretension in the instrumentation. The Soft Pack isn’t out there to hide meaning in their songs, they’re there to make you dance. This honesty and straightforward approach is refreshing, and the result is a downright addictive 30 minutes of punk bliss. -Caitlin Meyer

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    55. Menomena – Mines

    mines CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    On their fourth release, Menomena take everything that worked so well on Friend or Foe standouts like “Muscle and Flow” and spread it all over the place. The Portland, OR trio’s homebrewed approach to music-making can be heard in the playfully layered loops of spontaneous riffs and bangs on tracks like “Tithe” and “Oh Pretty Boy, You’re Such a Big Boy”. Mines gets haunting on “Dirty Cartoons” and “Killemall”, while bringing elaborate rock on “TAOS.” One of their best to date, Brent Knopf and crew have created an accessible record that stays unabashedly unconventional. -Ben Kaye

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    54. B.o.B – The Adventures of Bobby Ray

    the adventures of bobby ray CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    B.o.B had some serious all-star power behind his highly anticipated and fulfilling debut. Hayley Williams, Eminem, Bruno Mars, Rivers Cuomo, and more helped make B.o.B’s dreams come true with one of the best albums of the year. It was a big year for hip-hop, and this album stands as one of the best. The hit single “Airplanes” was everywhere this summer, and “Nothin’ on You” featuring Bruno Mars netted a Grammy nomination. B.o.B shows all of his talents on this album and his vocals are just as good as his raps. The Adventures of Bobby Ray is as entertaining as it is impressive and proved that it was highly worth the wait. -Kevin Barber

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    53. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding

     CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Waiting nine years between albums is a potentially lethal move. But for indie royalty Superchunk, their unique blend of boyish ache and super sweet chops proved that time means nothing when you’ve still got something to say. Despite being in their 40’s, the guys and gal of Superchunk prove on Majesty Shredding that their nervous, awkward ways can still translate into relatable, rocking songs that transcend any generational gap. The album’s so good, we’d consider waiting another decade for the next one if necessary. –Chris Coplan

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    52. Phosphorescent – Here’s to Taking It Easy

    heres to taking it easy CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Phosphorescent‘s last album was a full-length of Willie Nelson covers, so it was relieving to discover Matt Houck and company still had the goods on Here’s to Taking it Easy. His fifth album may be so refreshing because his company is more stable this time around. As Philip Cosores pointed out, it’s Houck’s first time recording an album with a traditional band, and this is reflected in the sound. It feels like we’re experiencing an assault of alt country and folk rock, but Phosphorescent has been under the radar for too long and this record would shine in any era. -Harry Painter

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    51. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

    xllocalnatives CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    This record is a paradigm of artistic collaboration, with the band members sharing creative duties on nearly every aspect of its formation. The resulting indie smorgasbord is alive with ethereal tones and charging rhythms that expose impressive craft for a young debut. Simply masterful harmonies reflect on lost family members and European excursions from an almost Keatsian perspective. Gorilla Manor reveals a group so talented and thoughtful, you’ll wish you’d spent time in the house of the title, waxing poetic about past loves and future possibilities. -Ben Kaye

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    50. Hans Zimmer & Johnny Marr – Inception: Original Motion Picture Score

     CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Equal parts Bernard Hermann and Elliot Goldenthal, Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr‘s encapsulating score to this summer’s strongest film, Inception, echoes of sleek, silver-lined decadence. From the strictly lucid start (“Half Remembered Dream”) to the heart-thudding finale (“Time”), it’s easy to understand why the film lingers in people’s minds, even five months later. In a recent episode of South Park which parodied Christopher Nolan’s film, one of the characters starts mimicking the score in the corner of a room. It’s an incredibly coarse imitation, but the score’s become so iconic and memorable that it’s impossible to be lost on the joke. That says something. It also means South Park‘s reaching pretty far these days. Sheesh. -Michael Roffman

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    49. Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone

    mavis CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Mavis Staples‘ album You Are Not Alone, recorded with Jeff Tweedy, is everything it should be — an amazing showcase of both talents. The title track is a gorgeous ballad written by Tweedy and expertly sung by the soul legend. The disc also includes a series of amazing gospel tunes. This is the roots album cure for “too much T-Bone Burnett”-itis, and it’s a pure delight to listen to from front to back. -Evan Minsker

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    48. Jukebox The Ghost – Everything Under the Sun

     CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Prog rock is a wasteland of complicated musical creations built for boys. However, thanks to the infusion of happy, piano-powered rock and lyrical sentiments about life as a 20-something on Everything Under the Sun, Jukebox the Ghost found an oasis in the grandiose sound for anyone to come and drink of the sweet water of frenetic, overjoyed pop rock. And, oh, how sweet it tasted. -Chris Coplan

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    47. Frog Eyes – Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph

    frog eyes pauls tomb a triumph CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Paul’s Tomb is the definition of the word epic. Carey Mercer’s already acrobatic, wild voice has an added growl to it, another trick to add to his repertoire. The fuzzed out, clanging guitar that opens the album on “Flower in a Glove” is the standard-bearer of the pomp and destruction within. Drummer Melanie Campbell’s maniacal thumping and guitarist Ryan Beattie’s lightning-bolt stabs lend tracks like the concussive “The Sensitive Girls” and the expansive title track a conquering air. Mercer’s songwriting just keeps getting stronger, tighter, more insular, and more powerful. -Adam Kivel

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    46. Foals – Total Life Forever

    total life forever CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Foals‘ 2008 release, Antidotes, revealed a debut full of rapid percussion, rhythmic guitars, melancholy, and, interestingly enough, an undeniable urge to dance. Two years later, Foals have returned with Total Life Forever, grown and matured. Vocals receive more of a focus in this second outing, and as opposed to competing with entrancing rhythms and guitar, they work together superbly. Furthermore, instead of giving us the beat up front, “Spanish Sahara” and “Blue Blood” make us earn it — and we love every second of it. Sporadic touches of funk bring to life tracks such as “Miami”, the juxtaposition of styles truly allowing both to shine. Each song is markedly different, yet Total Life Forever fits together seamlessly to create a thoroughly engaging, enjoyable record; hopefully this is indicative of future releases from this young band. -Caitlin Meyer

    45. Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns

    a thousand suns CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Before its release, Mike Shinoda described A Thousand Suns as genre-busting. It doesn’t quite reach that level, but it does blow away any restraints on what Linkin Park could be. This is not the same band that showed up 10 years ago as part of the nu-metal movement. Instead, A Thousand Suns features a more mature, experimental Linkin Park, one that took the best parts of their first three albums and threw them into a blender with Pro Tools. After two and a half albums of screaming lyrics about his own life, singer Chester Bennington has joined Shinoda in looking outwards. The band really stepped up their game for this one, making a statement loud and clear — they’re going to make the music they want and they’re here to stay. -Joe Marvilli

    44. Warpaint – The Fool

    the fool CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

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    Warpaint was subject to some sudden focus this year thanks to the band’s live performances of tracks from its still unreleased debut full-length album, The Fool, so its October release elicited unfounded worries of sucktitude. Needless to say, it did not suck; In fact, it’s safe to say this was the best debut album by an all-female indie rock quartet this year. Heh, kidding. But while Emily Kokal’s voice borders on whiny at times, The Fool is every bit the brooding art rock gem that tourmates The xx’s debut was in 2009, and Warpaint will likely have similar overbearing pressure to follow it up. -Harry Painter

    43. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

    i speak because i can CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    I Speak Because I Can is a record that impacts immediately, yet has such depth that you grow fonder of it over time. It marks a true coming of age as Laura Marling goes beyond cataloging the trials of young love and speaks maturely as she explores the roles and responsibilities of full womanhood. The quality of the songwriting is astonishing, as traditional folk sensibilities are seamlessly worked into a modern thesis. Musically, the songs are subtly embellished, yet space is left for Marling’s exceptional vocals to rule. -Tony Hardy

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    42. Wolf Parade – Expo 86

    expo 86 CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Recently, Wolf Parade concluded a Toronto performance with the announcement of the group’s indefinite hiatus. With the sheer energy and masterful avant-pop of Expo 86, I doubt many people saw it coming. On their latest — and potentially last — outing, Krug, Boeckner, and the rest of the pack have created yet another collection of songs bursting at the seams with the coked out, danceable gloss of glam, the intricate song structures of prog, the quickfire licking of math, and the catchy synths of electro. If they are indeed signing off, they bow out with the utmost grace. -Drew Litowitz

    41. Kylesa – Spiral Shadow

    spiral shadow cover CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

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    To consider an intersection between mathcore, punk, and metal is to define the very essence of “heavy.” Kylesa is a pulsating breed of sophisticated, a haunting juggernaut on the verge of scaring you senseless, and 2010’s Spiral Shadow fleshes them out completely. Think you’ve heard everything? Give standouts like “Drop Out” and the title track a try, and whisper, “There’s no place like home.” -David Buchanan

    40. Grinderman – Grinderman 2

    grinderman grinderman 2 2010 cover CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Nick Cave has always been a badass. For years now, he has been pumping out dark and terrifying rock, and his new outfit, Grinderman, has continued the assault with reckless abandon. Their sophomore album, Grinderman 2, took a bit of a more psychedelic turn, but still was able to creep you out and make you want to thrash all over the damn place. With strong lead singles “Heathen Child” and “Mickey Mouse and The Good-bye Man”, Grinderman 2 punched you in the throat, picked you up, did it again, and then you still came back and asked for more. As elder statesmen, Cave and his bandmates continue to push forward and keep consistent, where bands half their age falter and stumble under the pressure. -Nick Freed

    39. Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame

    shame shame CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Dr. Dog is part of the modern cache of bands that have spent quite some time perfecting its craft. What once was a band of dual personalities finally came together on Shame, Shame. Combining the styles of Scott McMicken and Toby Leaman, the album gives the band one sound meshing McMicken’s Beatles style pop rock with Leaman’s bluesy growl. The harmonies are flawless, and the song writing certainly has its moments of genius. This isn’t anything new for Dr. Dog however, this is just how they’ve always make records. -E.N. May

    38. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

    forgiveness CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    Nary a moment of bloat during its 63 minutes, Broken Social Scene’s fourth album is a joyfully poignant, slow-burning collection of indie pop and post-rock anthems. More cohesive and less chaotic than in the past, the Canadian supergroup continues to epitomize the indie rock collective ideal with the special guest-laden Forgiveness Rock Record. It may have been five long years since their last album, but Forgiveness Rock Record was worth the wait. -Frank Mojica

    37. No Age – Everything in Between

    no age everything in between CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

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    The duo that is No Age made one of the most sonically interesting records of the year with their third album, Everything in Between. The drumming builds and builds throughout every song, while the guitar work sounds totally unique. The opener, “Life Prowler”, is a fine example, with guitar loops building upon and crushing one another, all as the drums set the mood. There’s also plenty of punk shredding, with tracks like “Fever Dreaming”, “Shred and Transcend” (which comes complete with whaling feedback), and the despair of “Valley Hump Crash”. But at the same time, there is plenty of artistic instrumental work with tracks like the longing “Positive Amputation”, the choppy “Dusted”, and the constant aural change of “Chem Trails”, a finale that will keep this album on your stereo for weeks to come. -Ted Maider

    36. Eminem – Recovery

    recoverycoverofficial CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    After a couple of confusing and aggravating releases, Eminem returned this year to release Recovery, and the title could not be more fitting. He kicked his drug addictions, ditched the annoying voice impersonations, and put his focus back on creating witty, quick, and hilarious rhymes, all while producing his best album since 2002’s The Eminem Show. The inspiring single “Not Afraid” and the Rihanna featuring “Love the Way You Lie” both spent multiple weeks at number one. Not only did this release bring Marshall Mathers back into the spotlight, it also revitalized a gifted artist who had lost his ways for years. It’s safe to say, Eminem has truly recovered. -Kevin Barber

    35. Free Energy – Stuck on Nothing

    fefeffestuckckkckckckckc CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    In the opening moments of Stuck On Nothing, lead singer Paul Sprangers optimistically affirms “we’re gonna start a new life, see how it goes.” It’s a fitting allusion to a new musical beginning for a band that formed out of the ashes of Minneapolis rockers Hockey Night. But if Free Energy is an attempt at rock and roll redemption, it appears, then, that this Philadelphia-based quintet has grabbed their second chance by the horns. Stuck on Nothing offers ten throwback songs of freewheeling 70’s-influenced rock seemingly posed to force its way into the ranks of today’s great bar-rock bands. -Max Blau

    34. Owen Pallett – Heartland

    owen pallett heartland CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

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    Trading the Final Fantasy moniker for his birth name, Owen Pallett has fully come into his own with Heartland. Incredibly intricate string arrangements, dynamic and compelling in their own right, nicely complement Pallett’s vocals, syncopated rhythms and synths bouncing between headphones. All of these result in a beautifully complete, complex album, perhaps Pallett’s most accessible work to date. The album is a story, but also a study in song construction and pop perfection. The masterful “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” epitomizes the strengths of Heartland, with upbeat percussion, full orchestral crescendoing, and a triumphant repetition of “I’m never gonna give it to you”, which, like the rest of the album, keeps toes tapping and humming going for hours after listening. -Caitlin Meyer

    33. Jason Boesel – Hustler’s Son

    jason boesel hustlers son CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    As the drummer for indie rock darling Rilo Kiley, Jason Boesel has spent his time making albums that flirted with a kind of country, folk-y feel. For his debut solo effort, though, Boesel dives head first into the heartache like a modern day Kris Kristofferson or Don Henley, living life in the desert and recounting every painful scar on his acoustic guitar. Jenny Lewis had Johnny, but Boesel’s debut shows there’s life outside RK. -Chris Coplan

    32. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks

    tedleobrutalistbricks CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

    It’s easy to forget that Ted Leo was once a mainstay of hardcore music. The energy on The Brutalist Bricks reminds us of Leo’s punk past while maintaining the diverse style that’s made him legendary. On the opening track, “The Mighty Sparrow”, Leo declares that he’s “coming to” and, although this track is classic Leo, that is how the remainder of the album feels, like a reawakening. Lately, the vocalist has expressed his frustration with the music industry and, more specifically, his own career. Perhaps that’s where the sense of urgency heard in this album comes from. Regardless of its source, it is certainly welcome. -Michael Cromwell

    31. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

    sufjan stevens the age of adz CoS Year End Report: The Top 100 Albums of 2010

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    Fuck the 50 States. The Age of Adz, while not as consistent or unanimously life-altering as 2005’s obvious opus Illinois, is an even more important album for Sufjan Stevens. Side-stepping a musical identity crisis (in which he questioned the entire point of releasing another album), Stevens does the long player another service, indulging up to his eyeballs in auto-tune, analog synths, and a boatload of brass and woodwinds. “Fucking around” never sounded so good. -Ryan Reed

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