The days are quickly dwindling on another year, which means it's almost time to present my list of favorite albums for the year. To be honest, I think about it all year long and already have a good idea of what will be on there. But there are still a ton of albums that I'm dying to hear, so I never make my list before I'm able to hear the largest number of possible contenders. So that's what I've been up to the past week or more, listening to releases from 2010 that I think have a chance of making my final list. Here's a crop of the most recent albums to get their chance. I'm pretty sure one or more will make my top twenty.
The Cave Singers - No Witch: The Seattle folk-blues band's third album technically doesn't come out until 2011, so it's a bit of cheat to list it here, but it's fantastic. Simple earthy songs that characterize a lot of Seattle's best music. The album works as a whole too, varying tempos but still feeling consistent. It reminds me of a Cold War Kids reinvented as a blues rock band or Richard Ashcroft if he were born and raised in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Good stuff.
The War on Drugs - Future Weather: This eight-song EP from the Philadelphia indie band is a nice bit of mellow rock. Much like the Handsome Furs, there's a heavy Bruce Springsteen influence here, but none of the Boss's annoying righteousness. A solid, short EP that seems to improve the band's sound from their previous full-length. 'Comin' Through' is a stand-out track in my opinion.
Smoke Fairies - Through the Low Light and Trees: A London folk duo made up of two talented ladies, this is the band's second album but first for V2 records. Like a lot of London folk bands these days, the sound is very Americana. This album reminds me a lot of one of my other favorite albums of the year, Karen Elson's The Ghost Who Walks. Fantastically beautiful songs, this is a stand out album.
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: I've always admired Kanye's mic skills and his complete lack of fear to say whatever the hell is on his mind no matter the time or place. However, his last album (808 & Heartbreaks) was terrible. Naturally, I was skeptical going into this album. I was shocked not only to discover that it is great, but also one of the most interesting hip-hop albums in years. This album is epic, drawing on influences ranging from '70s metal to current indie folk, and all the while being completely unforgiving. As he says in one song, Kanye is going after whoever who has it and they'd better watch out because this is the sound of an artist completely on top of his game.
Junip - Fields: This is Swedish singer-songwriter Jose Gonzalez's side-project which has been here and there for several years. This is their first full-length release. It doesn't stray far from Jose's suburb solo-releases. It's quiet enjoyable, although it feels a bit too much of the same for my ears. I would've liked a little departure. If you like his albums, there's no way you won't also enjoy this album too. "Always" the debut single, is wonderful.
Shad - TSOL: I discovered this Canadian rapper through the video for the outstanding track "We, Myself and I" from this album. However, instead of listening to this first, I listened to his previous album The Old Prince and was somewhat disappointed by that album which varied from great to corny depending on the track. But this album is pretty amazing all the way through. Incredibly smart rhymes that fall into the consciousness rap category blend well with the wall-of-sound samples. Frantic and wonderful.
Sparrow & the Workshop - Crystals Fall: This is one of those rare albums that I can't remember at all how it ended up on my wishlist, but I'm sure glad it did. This Glasgow band sounds like what Mazzy Star would sound like, reinvented as a indie folk band. Jill O'Sullivan's voice is amazing, somewhat like Holly Miranda. This is one of the best debut albums I've heard in a long time. It's impact on me was immediate and heartfelt.
Tame Impala - Innerspeaker: This is the first full-length album from the Australian Neo-psychedelia band. I'd previous heard and enjoyed their 2008 EP and was excited for this. This is solid example of the new psychedelic sound being made by bands such as Black Angels, a sort of trip into the past but with a modern vibe to it. There's heavy influences on here, but it doesn't feel derivative. Definitely more of a summer album than a winter album, it just seems to go along with warm weather and sunlight.
Trembling Blue Stars - Fast Trains and Telegraph Wires: The ambitious new double-album from the London indie band is a beautiful piece of dream pop. I suppose it could be compared to Ride's first album Nowhere. Unlike a lot of albums trying to copy that sound these days, Trembling Blue Stars sound sincere and honest in their sadness. "In Arrivals" is an amazing song.