Reasons for Living: My 50 favorite albums of 2010, part three

December 9, 2010

To the tune of the Andy Williams chestnut:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

All the critics are listing

And everyone’s wishing

Their favorite albums appear

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Here is the third installment of my countdown to the best album of 2010.

30. Drake, “Thank Me Later” (Universal/Motown)

Sure, he’s tabloid fodder and a teenybopper. He nevertheless delivers gripping and musically inventive raps about what he knows best: the intoxicating rush of fame, and the loneliness and alienation at the core of a life obsessed with it.

29. Spoon, “Transference” (Merge)

The long-running Austin art-punks’ first self-produced disc doesn’t radically alter the familiar formula—it’s a little more laidback and hypnotic than “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga”—but from the quietly dramatic opener “Before Destruction,” through the unexpected ballad “Goodnight Laura,” to the fractured closing collage of “Nobody Gets Me but You,” it’s another welcome example of the band’s casual genius.

28. Peter Gabriel, “Scratch My Back” (EMI)

Greg Kot doesn’t know what he’s talking about (he called this one of the turkeys of the year). Gabriel’s voice is as strong as ever, and his strings-driven readings of an often surprising set of covers is entrancing, if not quite up to the veteran art-rock god’s most rhythmic and challenging work.

27. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, “I Learned the Hard Way” (Daptone) Now this is the way dusty-groove soul music is supposed to sound.

26. Erykah Badu, “New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh” (Motown)

Dense and powerful, the latest from the neo-soul goddess is as challenging and freaky lyrically as musically, which is saying a lot given this one-of-a-kind talent.

25. High on Fire, “Snakes for the Divine” (Koch)

The reunion with Sleep must have spurred Matt Pike on to reach for even greater heights with his primary band these days. He’s never given us anything less than plutonium-heavy, but this one is even more crushing than usual.

24. The Dead Weather, “Sea of Cowards” (Warner Bros.)

No, not quite as strong as the first one, but a rip-roarin’ good time nonetheless.

23. Teenage Fanclub, “Shadows” (Merge)

On their ninth studio album, these enduring Scots deliver effervescent power pop that’s as fine as anything they’ve ever given us.

22. Superchunk, “Majesty Shredding” (Merge)

Mac McCaughan and his band mates came back from their long break more energized than ever, with my favorite Superchunk record since the enduring “No Pocky for Kitty” in 1991 (and I’ve liked them all).

21. Belle and Sebastian, “Belle and Sebastian Write About Love” (Rough Trade)

Los Angeles really agrees with Stuart Murdoch, and if they dialed back a bit from the upbeat disco of their last outing, they found the perfect merger of their new optimism and their longtime rainy-day moodiness. Even Norah Jones sounded great in this context.

 

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