Houston Calling

Houston Calling‘s favorite albums of 2010

December 21st, 2010 · 6 Comments

2010 was another great year for music, with more musicians blurring genres and creating wild and interesting styles and sounds. It’s simple for lesser-known bands to spread the word about their songs these days, and hopefully this widespread availability and new ways of finding out about and distributing music continues to expand. It will be interesting to hear what 2011 brings.

Here we go…

Houston Calling‘s favorite albums of 2010


1. Minus the Bear, Omni
(Dangerbird)
Without a doubt, I listened to this album more than any other during 2010. While lyrically simplistic–which admittedly could turn some listeners off–the music on Omni is really what kept me coming back. The drummer is amazing and the songs range from breezy pop singalongs to stoner-worthy jams. As it’s been said, this is the “classic rock of the future.”

VIDEO: “Hold Me Down” (live)

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
2. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
(Merge)
I’ve only given Arcade Fire’s albums a cursory listen or two over the years–ignoring the buzz as I sometimes do–but I was curious about this album after reading a few articles about the concept behind The Suburbs and frontman Win Butler’s connection to Houston (via The Woodlands, anyway). Only a few songs in, I immediately knew this album was something special and it’s continued to stay in my playlist.

VIDEO: “Ready To Start” (live)

The Black Keys, Brothers
3. The Black Keys, Brothers
(Nonesuch)
All of The Black Keys’ albums are excellent, but Brothers helped the Ohio duo earn some well-deserved attention this year. I could listen to nothing but this music for the rest of my life and be perfectly content.

VIDEO: “Next Girl” (live on Jools Holland)

Scott Lucas & The Married Men, George Lassos The Moon
4. Scott Lucas & The Married Men, George Lassos the Moon
(G&P)
Just when you think you have someone pegged… Local H‘s Scott Lucas strips down with a new band of Chicago musicians and creates a mellow and beautiful batch of songs. Sure, the lovelorn angst is still there, but Lucas masks its brilliantly by letting the music instead take center stage. With “Extra Special Bitter,” Lucas has written his greatest song to date–and that’s impressive after nearly 20 years making music.

VIDEO: “Extra Special Bitter” (live in Austin)

Band of Horses, Infinite Arms
5. Band of Horses, Infinite Arms
(Columbia)
It took me a while to pin down what songs I kept humming to myself over and over again after a particularly long commute or day at the office, but inevitably it was something from this album.

VIDEO: “Dilly”

Wild Moccasins, Skin Collision Past
6. Wild Moccasins, Skin Collision Past
(Self-released)
While I wasn’t big on the band in its infancy, Houston’s own indie popsters definitely won me over with a combination of lively shows (SXSW!) and this stellar set of songs–especially the catchy title track. While it’s easy to concentrate on the singing duo, it would be a disservice not to mention the band’s excellent musicianship. This is a band to watch.

VIDEO: “Skin Collision Past” (live)

Midlake, The Courage of Others
7. Midlake, The Courage of Others
(Bella Union)
After the critical success of The Trials of Van Occupanther, anything this Denton-based band did was going to have naysayers in an uproar. Some deride The Courage of Others as drab and overly reliant on 70s British folk. Others (like me, for instance) like that sort of thing. Repeatedly it seems.

VIDEO: “Acts Of Man”

Maserati, Pyramid Of The Sun
8. Maserati, Pyramid Of The Sun
(Temporary Residence)
The death of drummer extraordinaire Gerald Fuchs thankfully didn’t keep the Athens band from not only making a new album but experimenting with new directions. Pyramid… is one of those albums that’s perfect for late night drives.

VIDEO: Live in Athens

The National, High Violet
9. The National, High Violet
(4ad)
Another band I pretty much ignored until now, The National’s dark–almost gothic–music quickly won me over. That High Violet is on a lot of year-end lists is no surprise, and well-deserved.

VIDEO: “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

Co-Pilot, The Course Of Empire
10. Co-Pilot, The Course of Empire
(Self-released)
Here’s what I wrote about this EP in my review (which you can read here): With its new EP–five tracks of sedate, lush soundscapes punctuated by moments of balls-out, fuzzy rock–Co-Pilot lets the songs, each of which flows into the next, very gradually build to the point where you’ve almost accepted that there won’t be a breakdown into the amped-up thrash that, while stereotypical of the genre, never fails to work.

MP3: “Land Empires”

Everest, On Approach
11. Everest, On Approach
(Warner Bros.)
Having seen this band–which includes former members of Earlimart and Great Northern–live three times this year, and listening to the album countless times, it’s easy to see why Warner Bros. took such an interest in the band this year. Lead single “Let Go” is undeniably catchy, and the band’s ability to write a great pop song while still being able to jam makes them a standout.

VIDEO: “Let Go” (live on Jimmy Fallon) | “Let Go” (official video)

Paul Weller, Wake Up The Nation
12. Paul Weller, Wake Up The Nation
(Yep Roc)
Thankfully, Weller hasn’t lost the creative spark. Many musicians his age are busy rehashing old songs (from other people), and while he’s done that in darker days, over the past few years the former The Jam frontman has made some of this best music since Wild Wood. With this album, Weller successfully melds the rock’n’soul formula he’s been honing since his days with Style Council. “Tears To Cry” is just one gem among many on this album.

VIDEO: “Tears To Cry”

Exit Calm, Exit Calm
13. Exit Calm, Exit Calm
(Sonic Unyon)
These shoegazers keep the Britrock torch alive with an impressive album of fuzzy, droning songs that hearken back to early Verve. It’s a rare thing to hear an album like this these days, and the guys in Exit Calm most definitely know what they’re doing.

VIDEO: “Hearts and Minds”

Steve Mason, Boys Outside
14. Steve Mason, Boys Outside
(Domino)
Former Beta Band frontman Mason has one of the most unique (and dreamy) voices in music, and Boys Outside is an album people will discover 20 or 30 years from now and wonder why they’ve never heard Steve Mason’s names among the best songwriters of this generation.

VIDEO: “Am I Just A Man”

The Roots, How I Got Over
15. The Roots, How I Got Over
(Def Jam)
As if The Arcade Fire and The National weren’t enough, a single listen to this album convinced me I’m an idiot for sometimes ignoring bands with a hype factor. Repeated listens to How I Got Over not only made me a fan but easily became of one my 2010 favorites.

VIDEO: “How I Got Over”

Gorillaz, Plastic Beach
16. Gorillaz, Plastic Beach
(Virgin)
I’m sure Blur frontman Damon Albarn is as surprised as anyone with the success of his Gorillaz “side project.” Plastic Beach may be Gorillaz jumping the shark for some, but there’s no denying the creativity, musicianship, and balls that it takes to make an album like this.

VIDEO: “Stylo”

The Futureheads, Chaos
17. The Futureheads, The Chaos
(Dovecote)

Although the group has never been as big in the States as in its native England, The Futureheads continue to crank out Gang Of Four-inspired songs that will haunt your head for days.

VIDEO: “I Can Do That”

The Pack A.D., We Kill Computers
18. The Pack A.D., We Kill Computers
(Mint)
The female (and Canadian) Black Keys. I was introduced to these guys rather late (thanks Ben!) but quickly became a fan–seeing them live during SXSW sealed it for me. It’s gritty and raw, blues-influenced garage rock.

VIDEO: “Crazy”

Girl Talk, All Day
19. Girl Talk, All Day
(Illegal Art)
It begins with Black Sabbath and includes 373 samples in 71 minutes–including Ice Cube, White Zombie, and Grateful Dead. But All Day‘s most interesting point may be that its hype may be enough to keep musicians from suing since it’s likely no one wants the negative publicity. Has he sampled Metallica yet?

LISTEN:  AllDaySamples.com

Admiral Radley, I Heart California

20. Admiral Radley, I Heart California (The Ship)
Mix two parts Earlimart and one part Grandaddy to get a potent combination of summery pop and laid-back indie rock. I caught the majority of the group’s sets during South By Southwest and was never disappointed.

VIDEO: “Ghost of Syllables” (live) | “I Heart California” (official video)

Check back soon for Houston Calling‘s favorite Houston releases of 2010.

Tags: Miscellaneous · Music · Reviews

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ron Bonham // Dec 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Big ups on #13, we are trying to get them to come to Houston in March. If they do come file it under a do not miss show!

  • 2 Krystal // Dec 21, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Agreed, good call on #13! Good to see other Texans recognize good music. And yes, their live show is a DO NOT MISS!

  • 3 Houston Calling’s favorites Houston releases of 2010 // Dec 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    [...] Wild Moccasins, Skin Collision PastAn album that was also on my overall year-end favorites list, the group really kicked it up a notch with these songs. Here’s what I wrote in my review [...]

  • 4 Advance warning: Unwed Sailor, Co-Pilot at The Mink // Jan 19, 2011 at 9:13 am

    [...] instrumental rockers Co-Pilot–whose The Course Of Empire EP was among my 2010 favorites–plays with Unwed Sailor (whose Little Wars was one of my favorites a couple of years back), [...]

  • 5 SXSW preview: Scott Lucas & The Married Men // Mar 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    [...] In my 2010 year-end favorites list, I wrote that I think “Extra Special Bitter” is the best song you’ve written to [...]

  • 6 Houston Calling’s favorite albums of 2012 // Jan 2, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    [...] Men another try, with predictable–and excellent–results. The band’s debut made my 2010 favorites list, and the latest Local H album appears later in this year’s [...]

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