30. My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky by Swans
I’m not overly familiar with Swans, but this record was the kind of brooding post-rock I’ve come to enjoy after trying out Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky. A very enjoyable record with an amazing sense of mood.
29. Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus
Flying Lotus has been praised by so many, but I often find their music difficult. It’s a strange mesh of jazz, electronica brought together by the tight rhythm. Yet instead of being confusing, the nearly-alien effort is mesmerizing and worth many repeat lessons.
28. Innerspeaker by Tame Impala
Extremely washed-out psychedelic rock seems nice enough, but the production level brings this to a real high point. It’s a lot of fun to just sit back and play this really loud and let the Lennon-esque voice and swirling guitars hit the ears.
27. Expo 86 by Wolf Parade
Wolf Parade have never returned to the heights of their debut record, but each subsequent release has still been worth hearing. The vocals are still strong, the guitars still fun and the songs still infectious. I advise trying to think of this apart from Apologies – it stands better alone.
26. Infinite Arms by Band of Horses
This record is confusing, with a three song super start and a very light country-rock remainder. Of course, those top three songs are indispensible. Taken separately the rest of it is also quite enjoyable, but it’s very different. It will grow on you, so come in with open ears.
25. The Brutalist Bricks by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
It’s easy to push aside “typical Ted Leo” as something relatively uninteresting, but this record is just as great as its predecessors. Super-tight instrumentation, overwhelming hooks and thought-provoking lyrics all add up to make this one of the best releases this year.
24. 99 Songs of Revolution by Streetlight Manifesto
I’m biased as a trumpet player in picking a ska record. Yet I’d argue that this stands strong even aside from my passions. The horns are rock solid and the interpretation of each song on the record (they’re all covers) is sometimes shocking and always fun. Get up and move to this stuff.
23. Champ by Tokyo Police Club
Pure pop infection comes out of these guys. The singing is strong and emotive enough to keep you engaged while the guitar work pushes it over the edge. It’s hard to hear these songs without getting them caught in your head for weeks. And I dare you to find “Bambi” weak.
22. Go by Jonsi
That voice. Oh man that voice. Much like on the proper Sigur Ros releases, Jonsi steals the show with his performance. Top that off with dense sound and an exceptional rhythm section, and you realize what a great individual songwriter and musician Jonsi is.
21. Together by The New Pornographers
After a slight misstep in Challengers, the New Pornos come back with a wonderful record. While the vocal prowess never went away, the songwriting wasn’t quite there on the last release. This time it’s all back. Strong melodies, and some stunning standout songs (“Crash Years” and “Your Hands” especially) make this a record to own.
20. The Monitor by Titus Andronicus
Here we can watch punk rock evolving into something much more. Long compositions and weighty subjects are combined with the work ethic of a punk group to make a spectacular release. The glorious guitars, a great lo-fi feel and raw singing all sound amazing, and make this one of the best releases of the year.
19. Romance is Boring by Los Campisenos
I love me some pure pop, and this year has been full of it. Los Campisenos have excellent energy, and lovely singing, both elements that are basically prerequisites for this kind of music. But what really makes the record stand out are the crafty musical turns. You’re always left breathless, wondering where they’ll go next.
18. Total Life Forever by Foals
This album has soured over time for me, but its standing speaks to how strong the record actually is. It’s a massive change from their last record, turning from a sort of chaos to something closer to The Bends. Ringing guitars, complex song structure and engaging musicianship make Foals a respectable band with a very good record.
17. Let it Sway by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
More pure pop manages to show up on this list. This manages to edge out Los Campisenos by being more addictive. Particularly, super-single “Sink/Let it Sway” is brilliant with exceptional guitars and propulsive drumming. Thankfully that isn’t the only good song on the record. That kind of melodic excellence and light brilliance is carried in every track.
16. Best Coast by Best Coast
Lo-fi isn’t an insult here. Instead it describes the warmth and accessibility of this record. The strong lead vocal is clearly the focus of most tracks, but everything else manages to make every thing seem whole. In particular, I can’t get away from the excellent low tones of the guitar and underlying bass. It all adds up to a fun indie experience that is near the best of 2010.