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The Best Albums of 2010

The year 2010 seems like a wonderful dream that never happened.

A pandemic was actually ended, believe it or not. Americans finally could get cheap, decent healthcare with the passing of the Affordable Care Act. HIV was officially declared insignificant as a health risk. And the iPad debuted.

Sure, a lot of terrible things also happened — floods, earthquakes, nuclear arms proliferation, suicide bombings, Justin Bieber. But it all seems so … manageable compared to now.

Musically, 2010 was the year that pop music officially regained the throne.

Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas, and Susan Boyle dominated the charts and radio, while Taylor Swift’s inevitable crossover to full-time pop act accounted for several million copies sold of Speak Now. According to Billboard, only one “rock band” reached the Top 10, and the quote marks are there because that band was Train.

Outside of the Top 10, life was considerably more interesting, which brings us to the Top 25 of 2010, according to Discogs.

This is the fifth such list we’ve done in conjunction with Spotify, and it was compiled using data from the Discogs community’s Collections and Wantlists. These are the 25 albums from 2010 that appear most often in both databases — the most-owned and the most-wanted.

Enjoy.

Top 25 Most Collected and Wanted Albums of 2010

My Chemical Romance — Danger Days- The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys

25. My Chemical Romance — Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

My Chemical Romance lightened up on Danger Days, a concept album about a 2019 apocalypse (only one year off, guys!). It’s a technicolor story filled with street-kid heroes, a villain who works for an evil corporation, and, of course, rock and roll. Singer Gerard Way later turned it into a comic book, which is entirely appropriate. While it seems counter-intuitive to describe MCR as fun, Danger Days is just that.

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Gorillaz ‎– The Fall

24. Gorillaz — The Fall

This the second Gorillaz album released in 2010, the lesson being that having animated band members rather than flesh and blood is a sure-fire path to productivity. Much more direct and spare than Plastic Beach, released earlier, Damon Albarn recorded the album on his iPad while touring and later added a handful of guests. His pop instincts are unerring here, and the simple, low-key nature of the recording works in his favor; sometimes less is more.

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Johnny Cash — American VI- Ain't No Grave

23. Johnny Cash — American VI: Ain’t No Grave

This is, so far, the final installment of the American series of recordings that the magnificent Cash made with producer Rick Rubin. It’s the second posthumous American album, and even though Cash’s son has said that enough material remains for several more albums, it’s clear that Rubin meant this as the final statement. The songs are largely about reflection and death, assembled by Rubin as if it’s a virtual memorial service. One could argue that it’s a bit cheesy in that regard, but there’s no denying that Cash’s immense spirit drives the performances in all the right ways.

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Electric Wizard — Black Masses

22. Electric Wizard — Black Masses

There’s something lovably demented about Electric Wizard, an English doom metal band that tries really fucking hard to love Satan and hate nearly everything else. It can be almost comical even as they’re melting your face. Head wizard Jus Oborn is totally serious in that he feels strongly that the world needs rebellion and outsiders, but it’s doubtful that he really despises literally everything. He definitely makes some of the heaviest metal around.

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Deerhunter — Halcyon Digest

21. Deerhunter — Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter is one of the more unlikely modern bands from America’s South. At one time, there were plenty of weirdos and free thinkers roaming Georgia, from where Deerhunter hails. I mean, when you think about it, what’s more weirdo than the B-52s? Deerhunter makes smart, surprising, intricate art-pop, and Halcyon Digest is a treasure chest of wonders that gets better the more you stop trying and just listen.

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Katy Perry — Teenage Dream

20. Katy Perry — Teenage Dream

There was a time when Katy Perry was unstoppable. Great songs, epically fun shows, a legit sense of humor — and then she hit a wall built out of pointless celebrity beefs and a career-killing need to prove herself relevant. She was better than relevant on Teenage Dream — she was timeless. This album is the essence of big dumb fun, a pure and completely charming distillation of hopes, dreams, and the glory of living in the moment.

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MGMT — Congratulations

19. MGMT — Congratulations

This is an album worth sticking with even though the initial impulse might be to move on. It has a very different vibe from MGMT’s 2007 debut, Oracular Spectacular, much more playful and celebratory. But anyone who loves David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy will discover a less ambitious kissing cousin on Congratulations, which has miniature electronic prog epics (“Someone’s Missing”) balanced by sweetly weird ballads (“I Found A Whistle”).

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Deftones — Diamond Eyes

18. Deftones — Diamond Eyes

In the 10 years since the nearly uncategorizable White Pony, the Deftones streamlined their sound without mainstreaming. A lot of the album is almost … smooth? Can that be right? Chino Moreno has never crooned as beautifully as he does on “Sextape” and “976-EVIL,” although he makes time elsewhere for plenty of Moreno screams. Diamond Eyes lacks the typical Deftones left turns but still sounds like Deftones, whatever that means.

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The White Stripes — Under Great White Northern Lights

17. The White Stripes — Under Great White Northern Lights

Jack and Meg say goodbye with a double-live album recorded entirely in Canada, which for some reason seems an oddly appropriate farewell. Live White Stripes was a fairly different beast from the studio version, which was “polished” by Jack White to an acceptable level of chaos. Under the Great White Northern Lights doesn’t just sound live but alive, a crucial distinction meaning that all of the warts show, which is perfection for some fans and a downer for others. Let’s go with perfection and hold that lighter high.

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Caribou — Swim

16. Caribou — Swim

The notoriously reliable Dan Snaith has released 10 full-length albums since 2000, under three different names, but Caribou is his most rewarding persona. An electronic artist who resolutely manages to remain warm, organic, and fallibly human, Snaith enthusiastically embraced the dance floor with Swim. This record is one big smile, and there’s something undeniably charming about hearing Snaith’s uncertain voice on top of such gigantic beats.

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Massive Attack — Heligoland

15. Massive Attack — Heligoland

It’s actually a compliment to Massive Attack that its music doesn’t hold up particularly well. That’s not because it isn’t good — it’s at least that and frequently much more — but the sound that they helped create has been so unrelentingly co-opted by the mainstream that it no longer feels compelling. There are tons of great moments on Heligoland, particularly a stretch where vocalists Guy Harvey, Hope Sandoval, and Damon Albarn storm in and take no prisoners.

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Bonobo — Black Sands

14. Bonobo — Black Sands

This is the kind of gently swinging electronic music you hear on Netflix at 3 a.m. while watching a B-movie from Italy about cool people. Maybe they accidentally get involved with the mob, or a corrupt cop. The annoying cute one will be brutally slaughtered. The well-meaning but stupid one will die a hero. The really hot one will be just fine, and as “We Could Forever” plays over the closing credits, he or she will walk down a beautiful beach, emotionally scarred but wiser. And … scene.

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Vampire Weekend — Contra

13. Vampire Weekend — Contra

Future music historians will have a belly laugh thinking about how Vampire Weekend captured the hearts and minds of white people everywhere (but mostly in the northeast region of the United States). As a very wise person once wrote in a comment section, Vampire Weekend is the soundtrack of gentrification — but that absolutely doesn’t make the band racist, by the far the worst accusation thrown its way. Still, it’s hard not to cringe every time Ezra Koenig pulls out his vaguely African “accent.”

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Daft Punk — TRON- Legacy

12. Daft Punk — TRON: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Rarely has a band and soundtrack been so perfectly matched. The inherent 1980s cheesiness of the Tron movies is the ideal foil for Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, and they chew this music into a fine paste. What’s great about this soundtrack is that they don’t try and turn it into a full-blown Daft Punk album but instead find a flawless balance between their usual electronic dance party and a traditional film score.

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Beach House — Teen Dream

11. Beach House — Teen Dream

If you love this kind of semi-detached pop, then you adore Beach House because no one does it better. There’s a deceptive tension — deceptive because “tension” is the last word normally associated with Beach House — that grows from Victoria Legrand’s highly theatrical vocals being applied to such innocuous songs. The whole is generally greater than the sum of its parts, although songs such as “Real Love” are pretty awesome parts.

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Iron Maiden — The Final Frontier

10. Iron Maiden — The Final Frontier

Another decade, another classic Maiden album. 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 — Iron Maiden is the only band to make four Discogs most owned/most wanted lists, and while it looks like the streak will end here it’s at least ending on a high note. The Final Frontier, the band’s 15th album, could use a little editing but largely fills its 76 minutes with top-tier metal delivered with the confidence of master craftsmen. “When the Wind Blows” should be required listening for anyone with a taste for the apocalypse.

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LCD Soundsystem — This Is Happening

9. LCD Soundsystem — This Is Happening

What makes LCD Soundsystem such a great band is the effortless way it simultaneously lives in two worlds: dance and rock and roll. Not that those worlds are mutually exclusive, but LCD just gets it, all of it, and frontman James Murphy is the cherry on top. Not a great voice, sort of dumpy but handsome in that alcoholic uncle kind of way, he’s the aging punk who now gets his jolt of electricity from dance clubs instead of VFW gigs. This Is Happening bangs, has loads of groove and is hilarious, not necessarily in that order.

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8. Flying Lotus — Cosmogramma

On his second full-length album, Steven Ellison dug more deeply into his personal life to craft a loosely-connected series of tributes to his mother and great aunt, who had both recently died. Cosmogramma doesn’t experiment with any single trend prevalent in 2010 but instead experiments with them all, creating a piece of avant-garde electronic music that’s alternately disorienting and soothing. Them Yorke guest stars and great-aunt Alice Coltrane is sampled on “Drips//Auntie’s Harp.”

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The National — High Violet

7. The National — High Violet

While there’s an unappreciated sense of humor threaded throughout The National’s catalog, there’s no getting around the fact that sadness is a dominant theme. It’s almost a band member. On High Violet, the band delivers a signature rumination on the subject, called “Sorrow,” that they later performed for six hours straight at the Museum of Modern Art. Sadness comes up again and again here, personified by Matt Berninger’s ripe baritone but off-set by Bryan Devendorf’s heroic drumming, which is ironic given that no one in the National is sadder than Devendorf.

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Ghost — Opvs Eponymovs

6. Ghost — Opvs Eponymovs

What a joke. Literally. That’s the only sane interpretation of Ghost, a Swedish sort-of metal band that has approached its career with all the sincerity of a cheating ex saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” after you get angry. It’s a talented group of musicians that has become addicted to its schtick, and while songs such as “Death Knell” and “Satan Prayer” sound pretty cool, it’s mind-blowing to think that anyone could take this seriously.

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Tame Impala — Innerspeaker

5. Tame Impala — Innerspeaker

Kevin Parker’s coming-out party caused a minor sensation when released, enjoying widespread success is his native Australia and becoming the band that cool kids worldwide loved to namecheck. Parker’s friendly pop-wise psychedelia, delivered with just the right blend of basement tapes and studio expertise, was like living in an alternate universe where Paul McCartney didn’t embrace only his worst songwriting instincts after leaving the Beatles. Timeless and delightful.

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The Black Keys — Brothers

4. The Black Keys — Brothers

This record was a straight-up soap opera with a happy ending. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were feuding besties, drifting apart after 10 years and five albums together even as their unlikely career ascension was peaking. But they hugged it out! They then made their first multi-platinum record in Brothers, which retains all of the duo’s basement whomp while continuing to add delicious sonic details, like the harpsichord that spices the aching “Too Afraid to Love You.” A great record that’s probably three or four songs too long.

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Gorillaz — Plastic Beach

3. Gorillaz — Plastic Beach

Contact tracing of every genre that influenced Damon Albarn on this record would take days, and even a detailed pie chart couldn’t tell us how he managed to make it sound like a unified production. At its best, this is intoxicating pop music with no clear lineage but loads of swagger, and a strange narrative that wonders if plastic isn’t actually good for the environment. Guests include Lou Reed, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Little Dragon, Mark E. Smith, and Mick Jones with Paul Simonon.

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Arcade Fire — The Suburbs

2. Arcade Fire — The Suburbs

One reason that Arcade Fire’s debut album, Funeral, hit so hard straight out of the box was the opening one-two punch of “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “Neighborhood #2 (Laika),” which expertly dug into the complexities of childhood and families. On The Suburbs, the band fully explores that fertile territory over the course of an entire album, creating (recreating?) a world both familiar and frightening, all based on the childhood of Win and Will Butler. “Wasted Hours” is one of the saddest and truest songs about growing up ever recorded.

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Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

1. Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

No one has made separating art and artist more difficult than Kanye in recent years, but things were different in 2010, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy stands as a compelling masterpiece of production and barely-maintained sanity. Energy comes off these recordings in waves, with multiple tracks demanding the deepest of dives to suss out how — and sometimes why — these beats were made. It’s odd hearing Kanye denounce Donald Trump so thoroughly on “So Appalled” given how he now looks at him with puppy dog eyes, and yes, of course, people can change but damn, Kanye.

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Published in partnership with Spotify.


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