lists, music

My Favorite Records of 2010

My Favorite EPs
I felt like I heard more EPs this year than in all my previous years combined, due to both the dwindling resources within the music industry and my continued personal trending toward less established musicians. But, seriously, man, everyone from hardcore The Devil Wears Prada to electronica Andy Hunter put out an EP this year. I also listened to a lot of music from the non-profit, ministry-minded Come&Live, whose artists come up with their own resources through fans. I will always prefer the length and completeness of the album format, and I hope it doesn’t go away, but frankly, four or five song recordings are way easier, quicker, and cheaper than full albums, and as long as record sales continue to plummet, I think the EP is here to stay.
Honorable Mentions: Bradley Hathaway – A Thousand Angry Panthers, Andy Hunter – Collide

5. Oh Brother – The Death of Day
Moving progressive post-rock or whatever

4. Josh Ehrmann – Stone’s Throw
Reflective indie songwriter

3. Enlou – Body of Water, Body of Friends
Indie rock or whatever

2. Lovelite – Nearness
Euro-synth-pop lounge worship
My full review for Nearness

The Ember Days - Finger Painting EP - Album Cover
1. The Ember Days – Finger Painting
Fantastic worship disguised as a lush, ambient, soft pillow that is mostly instrumental. This EP would be top 10 if I mixed it in with the full albums. With a strong execution of Explosions-In-The-Sky-type guitars topped with strings and light vocals, every second of its thirty-one minutes is ripe for quiet worship, prayer, or simple rest and refreshment. And it’s free off, although it’s totally worth a donation.
My full review for Finger Painting

My Favorite Albums
A lot of people seemed to think that 2010 was one of the best years for music in a long time, but I didn’t feel like I found as many outstanding albums this year as I have in the past. A lot of my favorite bands put out new music that I really liked but not on the same “classic” level as their previous one or two releases. That being said, the year was still full of enjoyment and surprises. I continued to expand my palate, from the little Christian self-publishers that no one’s heard of (#17, #4) to more “mainstream indie” fare (#20, #15, #10) to metal (#13) and even hip-hop (#12, #5). There are plenty of musicians making quality music today – some seeking to glorify the Creator, some unknowingly exposing deep truths about the human condition, and some doing a little of both. Read on, my friend, and thank you for your time…
Honorable Mentions: Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz, Abel – Lesser Men, Men As Trees Walking – 1518

20. Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away
Layered indie folk storytelling searching for peace and purpose. It’s seasoned with a little too much doubt and cynicism for me to truly identify with, but it’s simple and honest.

19. Lakes – The Agreement
Soft acoustic pop with creative instrumentation and lyrics that express earnest desires and ambitions to take risks, keep commitments, and drive bikes into the city.

18. Johnny Cash – American VI: Ain’t No Grave
So what if he’s been gone since 2003? These previously unreleased songs from the legend’s final days are simple, moving covers about death and the afterlife.

17. Insomniac Folklore – LP
A delightful cacophony of acoustic guitars, accordions, honesty, satire, minor chords, and fascinatingly deep bass vocals.

16. My Epic – Yet
Moving progressive post-rock or whatever with lyrical themes about keeping the value of this world in perspective.

15. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
This pretty much set the new standard for epic indie folk rock. Check out that banjo!
Watch the music video for “The Cave”

14. Jars of Clay – The Shelter
Collaborative power anthems about worship and community. My “CCM” album of the year.
Listen to “Shelter”
My full review for The Shelter

13. Living Sacrifice – The Infinite Order
The pioneers of Christian metal release a new album. Need I say more?

12. Flobots – Survival Story
I don’t quite share their political worldview (and they use a few words that I don’t), but I strongly admire Flobots’ passionate pursuit of justice and truth, and their longing to heal the world’s brokenness. Challenging lyrical flow with real instruments: violin rap for the win!
Listen to “Airplane Mode”

11. House of Heroes – Suburba
It’s not as clever or sweeping as the last one, but it’s another collection of catchy tunes and soaring harmonies.
Listen to “Burn Me Down”

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs - album cover
10. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

It’s the indie album that everyone got crazy about this year, and it’s full of jaded yet insightful reflections on the pace of modern society.
Listen to “Suburban War”

Showbread - Who Can Know it - Album Cover
9. Showbread – Who Can Know It?

The Raw Rock Ballad is a new leaf even for Showbread, abandoning the screams (and the business model) of their Tooth & Nail past to give away slow but well-developed tunes about (what else?) failings, forgiveness, and freedom.
Watch the music video for “You’re Like A Taxi”
My full review for Who Can Know It?

Underoath - Disambiguation
8. Underoath – Disambiguation

Spencer Chamberlain takes full lead of this powerful crew as they craft the thick atmosphere of another world you can envelope yourself in, painting the heavy themes of someone caught in darkness desperately searching for the light of freedom.
Watch the music video for “In Divison”

Lecrae - Rehab
7. Lecrae – Rehab

Bringing Christian rap to new heights, Lecrae trades the big beats of Rebel for a larger variety of sounds and relaxing pop grooves, all with the trademark, uncompromising lyrical devotion.
Watch the music video for “Background”
My full review for Rehab

6. As I Lay Dying – The Powerless Rise

It may have been impossible to top their 2007 album that got me into metal, but this follow-up is no disappointment; it’s not groundbreaking, just superbly executed. With Lambesis’s lyrics, this is basically philosophy and theology set to metalcore. I’ll take it.
Watch the music video for “Parallels”

The Chariot - Long Live
5. The Chariot – Long Live

Hardcore isn’t all screams and feedback. Throw in some horns, harps, beat poetry, and old radio station jingles, and what’s not to like? But it’s not all random accessorizing either; the churning, chaotic rhythms connect the guitars, drums, and vocals with impeccable precision, and it sounds better and better each time through.
Watch the music video for “David De La Hoz”
Or listen to “The Heavens” which feels like the trailer for an epic warrior movie

The Skies Revolt - Plastic Revolution
4. The Skies Revolt – Plastic Revolution

Wow, this was definitely my surprise album of the year. I thought this energetic party of shouts, synths, and cymbal crashes would only be enjoyable live, but each song has its own flavor and I kept listening to it all year long. Topped off with some quirky yet introspective lyrics, this might be the most unique wholesome fun you’ve ever had.
Listen to “False Glory And Praise”

Children 18:3 album cover for Rain's A Comin'
3. Children 18:3 – Rain’s A’ Comin’

The three siblings’ mind-blowing debut is still my #1 from ’08, and while this one is less energetic and too short (only 9 full new songs), it’s still got catchy jams that show these homeschooled punk kids maturing both musically and lyrically. Hop on now!
Listen to “Oh, Bravo” and try not to tear up on the bridge
My full review for Rain’s A’ Comin’

Flatfoot 56 - Black Thorn
2. Flatfoot 56 – Black Thorn

Easily their strongest recording to date, these Chicago punk rockers manage to capture the energy of their crowded live shows while also throwing in some beautiful ballads to help us catch our breaths. As always, the bagpipe and mandolin give an extra kick to the uplifting experience.
Listen to “We Grow Stronger”
My full review for Black Thorn

Timbre - Little Flowers
1. Timbre – Little Flowers
Known primarily for being featured on everybody else’s albums (see albums #4 and #5, EPs #4 and #5, and the last 2 mewithoutYou records), this Nashville harpist leaves the melancholy Winter of her last album for a lush, gorgeous spring. With a friendly array of vocals, bells, strings, and more, you don’t want to miss this rejuvenating garden of patience, perspective, and joy.
Listen to the instrumental track “Fireflies”
My full review for Little Flowers