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Since I no longer visit In This Very Ring, I’ve decided to transport this yearly tradition to my own blog. Every year, the denizens of that board post their top ten albums of the year. Being the music lover that I am, I never miss a year. So without further ado, here are the top ten albums of 2010.

10. We Are the Fallen – Tear the World Down

You can tell right away that I am no hipster. I loved Evanescence’s debut and I am not ashamed to admit it. This album, featuring three members who bailed out from Amy Lee’s ego plus a former American Idol contestant, is more Evanescence than Evanescence is. A comparison of Tear the World Down to The Open Door demonstrates just how important Ben Moody was to the band. It is sad that the fetishization of singers in today’s culture means that We Are the Fallen will inevitably be labeled a ripoff, despite Moody, John LeCompt and Rocky Gray having as much right to the Evanescence sound as Amy Lee.
Recommended: Tear the World Down

9. Aldious – Deep Exceed

Aldious is an all female, visual kei, metal group frequently compared to the slightly better known Exist Trace, who also released an album this year. The band’s sound is melodic and dramatic, their lead singer having one of the better voices in metal today.
Recommended: Luft

8. Santana – Guitar Heaven

Carlos Santana continues his current modus operandi of using guest performers on every track. Guitar Heaven is an all covers album with a different, usually very well known singer on each track, though Carlos’s unmistakable guitar work is the real star on each track.
Recommended: Back in Black (with Nas), While My Guitar Gently Weeps (with India Arie)

7. Michael Jackson – Michael

Let’s face it, Michael Jackson before he died was in a bit of a slump. On History he wasn’t in a very good mental state, and the song quality showed it. On Invincible he sounded like he was trying too hard to sound modern. On Michael he sounds like Michael Freakin’ Jackson again. Even the guest stars, Akon, 50 Cent, and Lenny Kravitz actually add to the experience rather than sounding forced.
Recommended: Hold My Hand, Going Hollywood

6. SADS – The Seven Deadly Sins

Kiyoharu is a true legend in the visual kei scene. He is the former lead singer of the pioneering Kuroyume who just about every visual kei band since, including superstars like Luna Sea and Dir en Grey, has tried to sound like. SADS is a completely different band from Kuroyume. While Kuroyume had a sort of heavy pop sound, SADS is straight up metal, and not the nu-metal/death metal hybrid that Dir en Grey degenerated into, but full fledged melodic metal that fellow visual kei trendsetters X-Japan would be proud to call their own.
Recommended: Evil, Malibu Sugar

5. Lee Jung Hyun – Chil Jip

I’m not a fan of hip-hop, but somehow Korea’s techno queen managed to hook me. That the album contains the earworm of the year in “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo” doesn’t hurt, but there’s more to it than simple catchiness, a quality the album is swimming in. Lee has moved from her original Europop sound into more of a modern hip-hop sound combined with some rather nice ballads and a touch of J-pop, including the oddly Malice Mizer-esque Miro. Good pop music is hard to find, so it deserves recognition when it comes along.
Recommended: Eenie Meenie Miney Mo, Wae Irae, Miro, Yeon

4. Cali-Gari – 11 Ja Nai

In the country that gave us “Yatta,” Hard Gay, and the Hello Kitty vibrator, “weird” is a relative term. Cali-Gari aren’t quite as weird as those things, but their music certainly qualifies as quirky. It helps that the foursome has three singers, all of whom sound like they forgot their meds. Their music is abrasive, dissonant, and demented. All of those qualities are subdued on this album in favor of more straight ahead alt-rock, though the undercurrent of blithering lunacy remains.
Recommended: Chikage, Heddo, Manequin, Chronic Dance

3. Speed Metal Sound – Vanishing Village

The Touhou series of games has produced a closet industry of amateur musicians stealing the melodies of its background music and turning them into everything from black metal to dance pop. Speed Metal Sound are one of the lesser known groups whose modus operandi is to take those melodies and arrange them into an entire album of X-Japan sound-alikes. It’s better than it sounds, by a huge margin.
Recommended: To Knife, Scarlets, Kurenai no Yakata

2. Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns

As I said before, I never claimed to be a hipster. I am not ashamed to admit to liking popular bands unironically, and I am also a huge fan of artistry in rock music. With this in mind, A Thousand Suns quite literally made my jaw drop. Having dropped any pretense of being a metal band, Linkin Park embraced their inner artist, turning in an ambient, progressive, almost Enigma-esque album. Mike Shinoda’s rapping on “When They Come for Me” is pretty much the only element that is unmistakably Linkin Park. The end result is a seamless classic.
Recommended: Burning in the Skies, When They Come for Me, Robot Boy

1. Duran Duran – All You Need is Now

And just when I thought it was too late in the year for Linkin Park to be unseated, the boys from Birmingham return with their best album since 1993. Producer Mark Ronson described it as the third album they never made, claiming that they went off the rails with their third album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, after their self titled debut and the classic Rio. I disagree with Ronson in one respect; I think Ragged Tiger is Duran Duran’s best album ever. That doesn’t make the assertion that All You Need Is Now is a follow up to Rio any less accurate. After nearly twenty years of genre hopping and a failed reunion, the wild boys return to an updated version of their classic sound. To say they sound rejuvenated is an understatement.
Recommended: Girl Panic, Being Followed, Runway Runaway, The Man Who Stole a Leopard

Five Bonus Songs

Obviously ten albums could never completely encompass all of the music released in the year. Here, then, are five songs not appearing on the above albums that are worth checking out:

X-Japan – Jade: “Jade” is nowhere near as good as its predecessor, “I.V.” and I really wish they would let Sugizo play a normal solo instead of those atonal whammy bar squeals (though he and Pata do get a bit of the old harmonies in.) That said, this is still X-Japan: Yoshiki can still write, drum, and play piano like no one else, and Toshi is still one of the best melodic metal singers around.

ENOZ – Lost My Music: ENOZ is a fictional band created for the anime series Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu fronted in universe by the title character, Suzumiya Haruhi. Haruhi’s voice actress, Hirano Aya, is the next big thing in anime, and proves herself to be a hot singer. Funnily enough one of the most endearing parts of this song is just how awful the lead guitar is… just what you’d expect from a high school girl trying to play a part that is way above her technical ability. What makes the guitar so bad its good is not that it is simply bad, but that it accurately mimics the amateurish fumbling of a intermediate guitarist trying to be a shredder. It doesn’t hurt that the bridge is also an earworm for the ages.

Buck-Tick – Django: Because nothing says entertainment like an aging Japanese glam-rocker going, “Bibbity bobbity boo.”

Metric – Black Sheep: Anyone who knows my musical tastes knows that I loathe punk and garage rock. Thus it should come as no surprise that the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack left me more than a little underwhelmed. There was, however, this hidden gem; five minutes of good, old-fashioned college-rock goodness full of thudding bass, delicate singing, and analog synths.

Godsmack – What If: Song of the Year. Godsmack’s fifth album, The Oracle is easily their best since their second, and barely missed making the top ten. This song possibly kept it on the list longer than it otherwise would have lasted. “What If” is the sort of musically mature epic one would not expect to share album space with songs like “Crying like a Bitch,” and “Whiskey Hangover,” but there it is anyway. Driven by a single, insistent riff the song is over six minutes long and contains zero padding.


One Comment

  1. I’m so out of it when it comes to knowing music. 😦

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