Photograph by Max Weiland

Concluding our list of the best albums of the year, today we bring you our top ten. Though the airwaves are currently plagued by some kid from Stratford, Ontario with a terrible haircut, these are ten albums that will have a lifespan far beyond 2010. As always, thanks for reading, we hope you’ve enjoyed visiting our site this past year as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. See you in 2011.

Released on 4AD

10. The NationalHigh Violet

Not much has changed for The National since Boxer, for better or worse. Matt Berninger still sings about drugs in an apathetic baritone, while Antony and Bryce Dessner layer drum hooks below guitar hooks below lugubrious three or four-note melodies. High Violet is a statement that the band have pretty much found their sound, and it’s very good listening, though it isn’t the high-water mark Boxer was. It features no ‘Fake Empire’-style polyrhythms, nothing quite as quizzically heartbreaking as ‘Brainy'; if anything, it’s cleaner and slightly louder than earlier releases, adding a touch more of Springsteen by way of The Hold Steady. The epic thickness of their sound is as comforting as ever. Clap your headphones on, dial the volume up, and lie back for 48 minutes on a road trip through your mind. Who cares exactly what a lemonworld is? It sounds good. — Josh Penslar

Released on 4AD

09. DeerhunterHalcyon Digest

It becomes clearer with each new Deerhunter album that lead Bradford Cox takes his musical influence from anywhere he can find it. The mixtapes he releases on his band’s blog have always been a diverse grouping of whatever he has gotten his hands on recently. Deerhunter’s latest album, Halcyon Digest, is no different in its eclectic inspiration. Beginning with ‘Earthquake’ right through to the tribute to the late Jay Reatard on ‘He Would Have Laughed’, each track has its own character both in terms of production and lyrical style. For instance, tracks like ‘Memory Boy’, ‘Fountain Stairs’, and ‘Coronado’ find the band tapping into their classic rock roots, even pulling out a saxophone at points. Though Deerhunter are always moving their sound forward with each new album, on Halcyon they still make use of the layered guitars which have become their trademark as on highlight ‘Desire Lines’, which begins as one of their poppier songs, then explodes into a spacey jam that you can lose yourself in for the final three minutes. — Kyle Sikorski

Released on Arts & Crafts

08. Broken Social SceneForgiveness Rock Record

To those that thought Broken Social Scene had nowhere to go but down after their turbulent self-titled album and the middling Broken Social Scene Presents… series, Forgiveness Rock Record shows that the band still has much to offer. By recruiting a new producer in John McEntire and paring down the main band to a comparatively scant seven members, the group feels rejuvenated and focused, with the lack of sprawl allowing for the core to truly make an impact. Whether it’s Lisa Lobsinger, long-time live replacement female vocalist, affirming her place in the band with the excellent ‘All to All’,  Andrew Whiteman bringing out the horn section on ‘Art House Director’, or Kevin Drew teaming up with guest Sebastien Grainger to deliver the driving ‘Forced to Love’, each track offers its own special vibe. Broken Social Scene is still the centre of the Toronto music scene, and Forgiveness Rock Record shows that a little forgiveness goes a long way. — Kevin Kania

Released on Labrador Records

07. The Radio Dept.Clinging to a Scheme

Greatly anticipated by fans despite (and due in part to) various delays, had Clinging to a Scheme never been released, it could have become the indie pop equivalent of the Beach Boys’ SMiLE. Released it was, and with it The Radio Dept. went from being an obscure shoegaze/lo-fi/dream pop/electronic/irresistibly Swedish band with a rabid cult following to one of the most unlikely hits of 2010. Continuing their lyrical fondness for a melancholic simple life, Clinging showcases the definitively unambitious band at their most adventurous. On album standout ‘Heaven’s on Fire’, following a brief call to arms wherein Thurston Moore denounces “the bogus capitalist process that is destroying youth culture,” the band enters with guitars so bright and a chorus so lovely, it could almost be mistaken for a love song. Despite never sustaining a major chord for long enough for anyone to break a smile, Clinging to a Scheme is perhaps the best remaining example of punk’s celebration of youthful rebellion, under heavy sedation. — Daniel Hernandez

Released on Secret City Records

06. Basia BulatHeart of My Own

Of the albums on this list, Heart of My Own is probably the album I’ve listened to most this year; I’ve played it plenty of times on my own, but it is also the record that friends and roommates grab off the shelf most frequently. I’ve thought a lot about why this might be, and I think it comes down to truth. Bulat’s music is raw emotional truth distilled in song, it is not dressed up, it is not dressed down. The pared down arrangement of her voice and her harp is augmented by the complex melodies she is able to tease from her many-octave instrument. Bulat makes a lot sound like a little, despite the studio album having many heavily instrumented tracks, her live act never suffers even in a solo performance. This is best evidenced on the heart-wrenchingly beautiful ‘The Shore’, where the only sounds are Bulat’s voice and a single reverberating hammer plucking out the strings of her harp and our hearts. — Justin Everett

Released on DFA Records

05. LCD SoundsystemThis Is Happening

After seeing the James Murphy-scored Greenberg this year, I remember feeling that the film played like an extended music video for the seminal track ‘All My Friends’. “Youth is wasted on the young,” Rhys Ifans’ character says with resignation in the film’s second act. Much of LCD Soundsystem’s second album Sound of Silver feels like it can be summed-up by this sentence, but it’s Greenberg’s immediate retort to Ifans that describes the mood of this year’s This Is Happening: “I’d go further, I’d go life is wasted on people.’’ There’s a cutting sarcasm and twisted wit to the way Greenberg phrases this thought, and it’s in that context that I feel this album was made. This Is Happening goes a step further than to create space between the young and old, instead differentiating between the old and the wise, the wise and the self-righteous, and the self-righteous and the purposefully-ignorant. If Sound of Silver was about aging in a room full of young people, This Is Happening is about living in a room full of vacuous people. And if you wanted a hit, baby, this album’s full of them. — Sal Patel

Released on Paper Bag Records

04. PS I Love YouMeet Me at the Muster Station

If someone had told me at the start of 2010 that a band named PS I Love You from Kingston, Ontario would hold a position between LCD Soundsystem and the Tallest Man on Earth on our year end list, I would have stood dumbfounded. On one side stand two artists, who between them sound like Bob Dylan, have been nominated for multiple Grammys, and have dethroned Lady Gaga on the Billboard charts. On the other side, a band that Google frequently associates with a romantic drama starring Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank. None of this does justice to the glorious garage rock that spews collectively from Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson at an alarming rate on their debut release Meet Me at the Muster Station. The record is akin to experiencing a mash-up version of the battle scenes in 300 and Lord of the Rings played at three times the speed on an IMAX screen. Meet Me at the Muster Station is a momentous epic destined to live on for many years. — Jan Kucic-Riker

Released on Dead Oceans

03. The Tallest Man on EarthThe Wild Hunt

Folk music is enjoyed best when it has a chance to burrow. Its best lyrics are cryptic enough to haunt you and explicit enough to cut deeply; its best songs become part of you. The Wild Hunt is 2010’s standout contribution to this acquired taste of a genre, like The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Hometowns a year ago and Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago the year before that. Kristian Matsson isn’t the kind of folk musician who aims to be a political voice or an anthropologist of the old, weird America. He’s satisfied to create beautifully old-fashioned songs with effortless melodies and lyrics straight out of the notebook of a nineteenth century country poet, augmented by the charming gracelessness and twenty-first century symbolism of a creator of Americana whose first language is not English. The Wild Hunt is not only a rare sophomore album that outshines an already excellent debut, it’s as good of a folk album as you’re likely to find. — Josh Penslar

Released on Merge Records

02. Caribou Swim

The latest installment from Dan Snaith’s mathematical mind doesn’t fit as a modular component (the little bit that a neophyte numerophile could glean even partially from his Ph.D. thesis) with the rest of his work. With Swim, he traded in Andorra’s dense dreaminess for a dark disco sound. Even among the screeching horns, melodic winds, bell chimes, woodblock percussion and keyboard layering, the relative sparseness compared to his previous lush, psychedelic themes is striking. The result is somehow jointly danceable and introspective; prominent beats intersect with echoed lonely sentiments to create melancholy to the power of awesome. Earning him his second Polaris Prize nomination and propelling him to the forefront of indie coolness, Swim adds to the growing proof that The Artist Formerly Known as Manitoba knows the equation for musical perfection. — Sabrina Diemert

Released on Merge Records

01. Arcade FireThe Suburbs

Emerging from a quiet couple of years, over the course of a few months Arcade Fire unleashed the The Suburbs upon the world, capping off their return by playing Madison Square Garden and catapulting themselves into the upper echelon of true rock royalty. Eschewing the epic bombast of Neon Bible, The Suburbs instead brought forth a more organic and nostalgic sound with the effects of urban sprawl on youth as its main theme. ‘Suburban War’ suggests a conflict, the album is somewhere between an attack and a defense of suburbia, whether lashing out at the kids during the bruising ‘Month of May’ or feeling more charitable as on the title track. It’s rare to hear an album concept so well executed, but beyond the lyrical themes, the music stands tall as well. Standout ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’ dabbles in electro-pop, a relatively untested field for the band. The haunting piano of ‘We Used to Wait’ would have been enough, but inspiring The Wilderness Downtown, the interactive video that brings you back to your childhood home, perfectly illustrates the imagery this band can inspire. As solid as this album is, ‘Ready to Start’ suggests Arcade Fire is just beginning to show what they can do.  For these reasons and more, Arcade Fire are worthy of receiving Ca Va Cool’s highest honour as the best alb—YO WIN, I’M REALLY HAPPY FOR YOU, AND IMMA LET KEVIN FINISH, BUT I HAD ONE OF THE BEST ALBUMS OF ALL TIME!

—um of the year. — Kevin Kania

Ca Va Cool’s Best Albums of 2010

20. Diamond Rings – Special Affections
19. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
18. Land of Talk – Cloak and Cipher
17. Shad – TSOL
16. Vampire Weekend – Contra
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
14. Beach House – Teen Dream
13. Belle & Sebastian – Belle & Sebastian Write About Love
12. Wild Nothing – Gemini
11. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
10. The National – High Violet
09. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
08. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
07. The Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme
06. Basia Bulat – Heart of My Own
05. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
04. PS I Love You – Meet Me at the Muster Station
03. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
02. Caribou – Swim
01. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Tags: Arcade Fire, Basia Bulat, Broken Social Scene, Caribou, Deerhunter, LCD Soundsystem, PS I Love You, The National, The Radio Dept., The Tallest Man on Earth

— , December 24, 2010    1 Comment
Comments:

Justin I was surprised, in a good way to find Heart of My Own on this list. I picked it up in kingston and heard it for the first time driving along 33 and on the ferry floating towards the County. I then listened to it over and over again for about a month driving back and forth from work, as it was in the Jeeps CD players, and i didn’t want to risk taking it out of the cd player to be destroyed.

While I find the mountains at my door so i will probably grab for the record too.

— Lost Prawn, December 27, 2010
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