Halfway Home: 25 Albums You Need to Hear from 2010


Now that June is nearly over, we’re just about halfway through 2010. How did that happen? And what about all that great music you’ve been hearing about for months that you never quite got around to checking out? Never fear: Our rundown of 25 notable albums from the first half of the year will help you catch up. Of course, lists like this are always controversial and incomplete. So if you don’t see your favorite release, don’t flip out — just add to the collection by leaving your picks in the comments.

Yeasayer – (Secretly Canadian)

Why: Many preferred the eclectic, spiritual strains of the band’s debut All Hour Cymbals, but we remain true believers. Yeasayer’s version of pop is compelling, complex, and catchy, with a surface that’s absolutely flawless.Watch: “O.N.E.”

Harvey Milk – (Hydra Head)

Why:Because people who say they don’t like metal haven’t heard Harvey Milk.Download: A Hydra Head mixtape featuring Harvey Milk’s “I Know This Is No Place for You”

Titus Andronicus – (XL)

Why: In a year when blog hype has been dominated by the whatever-dude ramblings of chillwave practitioners, Titus Andronicus gives us hope for the future of indie. Their music is grand, anxious, and earnest, with lyrics that actually have something to say.Watch: “A More Perfect Union”

Beach House – (Sub Pop)

Why: Beach House’s melodies are slow, languid, and expansive — just like the perfect summer afternoon. Plus, as the band has said, Teen Dream is their baby-makin’ album.Download:Walk in the Park

Sleigh Bells – (Mom + Pop)

Why: “Former Poison the Well guitarist Derek Miller made a radical musical shift when joining forces as Sleigh Bells with vocalist Alexis Krauss — whose own teen-pop past belies the visceral sounds of the band. Finding the meeting point between melody, noise, and all-out enthusiasm, Treats plays like a rabble-rousing cross between the Go! Team, Crystal Castles, and [M.I.A.] herself.” — Doug Levy, Daily DoseDownload: “Tell ‘Em

Erykah BaduNew Amerykah Part 2: Return of the Ankh (Universal Motown) Why: Turns out that what mainstream R&B has been missing is soul. On the new album, Badu is funny and tender without losing her sharp edge. Download: “Window Seat”

Caribou — Swim (Merge) Why: We will listen to anything with Dan Snaith’s name on it, but an album that marries his signature psychedelia with heavy electronic beats earns a special place in our record collection. Download: “Odessa”

LCD Soundsystem — This Is Happening Why: An obvious pick, we know. But if James Murphy doesn’t want us to fall in love with his albums, he should stop taking cues from one of our all-time favorite records, Iggy Pop’s The Idiot. Watch: “Drunk Girls”

Double DaggerMasks EP (Thrill Jockey) Why: Double Dagger have never put out even a mediocre album, but the six-song Masks may be their most consistently powerful to date. In tracks that attack retro rehashing and dissect domestic routines, the band is the best argument we can think of that punk is still relevant. Download: “Pillow Talk” Watch: Double Dagger perform “Sleeping with the TV On” live on the Flavorpill Fix

Charlotte GainsbourgIRM (Because) Why: Gainsbourg’s collaboration with Beck is as perfect as we anticipated. Her voice is sweet and hazy and faraway, which makes an entire album inspired by the singer/actress’s head trauma a lot more enjoyable than perhaps it should be. Watch: “Time of the Assassins”

Gil Scott-Heron – (XL)

Why:A true, genre-defying titan of music has returned with some of his most penetrating music ever. This stuff is timeless.Download:Where Did the Night Go

Hole – (Mercury)

Why:Another great and unexpected comeback, Nobody’s Daughter completely makes up for the embarrassment that was America’s Sweetheart. This is the music of a woman who, despite what you read, knows she’s made mistakes trying desperately to salvage her legacy — and succeeding.Download:“Samantha”

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (4AD)

Why:Remember when only weirdos listened to Ariel Pink? That time is over, but if you listen hard and don’t mind unabashedly pleasurable melodies, then this new release may just become your favorite.Watch:“Bright Lit Blue Skies”

Toro Y Moi – (Carpark)

Why:You can’t really avoid listening to chillwave this year, so you might as well go straight to the best of the bunch.Download:“Leave Everywhere”

Liars – (Mute)

Why:For a band that evolves so often and so quickly, Liars are remarkably consistent. Sisterworld is a kind of out-of-body experience, an escape from daily life that’s isn’t better or worse but simply stranger. The tracks jolt from noise to gospel to ambient meandering, the whole album following a kind of dream logic that works entirely on its own terms.Watch:“Scissor”

Future Islands – (Thrill Jockey)

Why:In search of a really bad romance? Look no further than In Evening Air, the Baltimore synth act’s descent into love-wrought misery. Give Disintegration a rest and let Future Islands pick up where The Cure left off.Download:Tin ManWatch:Future Islands perform “Long Flight” on the Flavorpill Fix

Janelle Monáe – (Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy)

Why:“Monáe’s debut full-length, The ArchAndroid, continues the tale of robot-on-the-run Cindi Mayweather, first introduced on her 2007 EP Metropolis. The wildly diverse album includes contributions from Saul Williams, Outkast’s Big Boi, and Athens-based indie rockers Of Montreal, echoing everyone from Prince to David Bowie on its immense 18-track journey.” — Doug Levy, Daily Dose

Zola Jesus – EP

Why: For the first time, Zola Jesus gets the flawless production she deserves. She packs enough dark, syrupy vocals and percussive beats into six songs to make us forget that Stridulum isn’t even a full album.Watch:“Night”

Mike Patton – (Ipecac)

Why:“While Mondo Cane finds the Faith No More and Mr. Bungle frontman singing almost entirely in Italian, his soaring takes on Ennio Morricone, Gino Paoli, and their contemporaries come off as anything but affected. Even if you can’t understand a word, the sweeping scope and emotion of these tracks are sure to speak to you intimately.” —Doug Levy, Daily DoseWatch: “Deep Deep Down”here

Rogue Wave – (Brushfire)

Why:Permalight is a thoroughly enjoyable indie pop album born out of a terribly tough time for Zach Rogue, who suffered two slipped discs in his neck and was left temporarily immobilized. Maybe that’s why the album succeeds in making even the simple hand clap sound so celebratory.Download:Good Morning

Robyn – (Konichiwa)

Why:An angry dance-pop album that still manages to be a whole lotta fun. It’s your official 2010 bender soundtrack.Watch:“Dancing on My Own”

The National – (4AD)

Why:The National has no surprises up its sleeve; they’re still Dad-rock at its finest. But they have such a way with words… depressing, alienated, soul destroying words.Watch:“Bloodbuzz Ohio”

Gorillaz – (EMI)

Why:“Three albums in, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s animated superstars are still going strong, roping in Mos Def, De La Soul, Lou Reed, and Snoop Dogg for a stay on their Plastic Beach… As always, equal attention is given to the band’s visual side, as represented by an immersive online game and a stunning video for lead single ‘Stylo,’ which blends animation and live action and stars quintessential badass Bruce Willis.” — Doug Levy, Daily DoseWatch:“Stylo” here

Drake – (Young Money/Cash Money/Motown)

Why:This hotly anticipated (proper) debut full-length was actually worth waiting for. Drake is one of the best mainstream hip-hop lyricists to come around since his pal Lil’ Wayne. His songs are exciting, well-crafted, unorthodox in all the right places, and not afraid to get emotional.Download:“Miss Me”

Xiu Xiu – (Kill Rock Stars)

Why:Sneaky Jamie Stewart, making a “Dear God, I hate myself” refrain so damn catchy we can’t help but sing along… loudly… in public. Like everything Xiu Xiu does, this music is about reveling in discontent. And since it’s not quite as dark or shrill as 2008’s Women as Lovers, it ought to be more accessible to civilians, too.Watch:“This Too Shall Pass Away (For Freddy)”