Midyear Report: The Best Music of 2010 So Far

  • Publish Date: July 6, 2010
  • Comments: ↓ 92 user comments

Monae, Monae, Monae

2010 The ArchAndroid
by Janelle Monae 90
High Scoring Albums by Year
2009 Merriweather Post Pavilion
by Animal Collective 89
2008 London Zoo by The Bug 90
2007 From Here We Go Sublime by The Field 90
2006 Savane by Ali Farka Toure 94

We're only halfway through with 2010, but already we have an album with better reviews than any disc released in all of 2009. A protégé of OutKast's Big Boi and Sean Combs, the Atlanta-based singer-songwriter-dancer Janelle Monáe released her first full-length album in May after first making a name for herself with her 2007 EP Metropolis. The ArchAndroid 90 -- a science fiction-influenced mash-up of pop, funk, rap, and virtually any other genre you can think of -- is the year's best-reviewed album so far, and cements Monáe's place as one of R&B's most creatively ambitious young stars.

Overall, a total of 42 new albums released over the past six months met or exceeded a Metascore of 81, which is where we begin dividing the good albums from the great ones. At this same point last year, we had 38 albums in such lofty territory -- so perhaps things are improving after a lackluster 2009. In fact, the second half of the year is already off to a great start, with this week's new solo release from OutKast's Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot, earning raves from critics.

Below, we look at best- and worst-reviewed albums released through the first half of the year.

The 40 Best-Reviewed Albums of 2010 So Far (Through June 30)
  Album Label Metascore Users
1The ArchAndroid
by Janelle Monae
Her first EP earned Monáe a Grammy nomination; this wildly eclectic debut LP will likely result in several more.
2Ali & Toumani
by Ali Farka Toure And Toumani Diabate
World Circuit899.6
Recorded in 2005, the second posthumous release for legendary Malian guitarist Touré was one of several collaborations with kora player Diabaté.
by Laurie Anderson
The performance artist's first album since 2001 is a politically-charged work that includes collaborations with Antony Hegarty and Kieran Hebden.
4Assume Crash Position
by Konono No. 1
Crammed Disc8610.0
If you buy only one album of likembé-heavy Congolese electronica this year, make it Assume Crash Position.
by Flying Lotus
The year's best-reviewed electronica album is a challenging, inventive, and highly rewarding example of the genre.
6Have One On Me
by Joanna Newsom
Drag City857.8
The harpist's ambitious third release spans three discs and 18 tracks, and managed to match the acclaim for her previous album, Ys.
7How I Got Over
by The Roots
Def Jam859.6
2010's best-reviewed hip-hop album so far is just another in a long string of high-scoring releases for The Roots.
8Wake Up The Nation
by Paul Weller
Yep Roc858.5
Nation is one of the best-reviewed solo releases for the former frontman of The Jam and Style Council.
9Option Paralysis
by The Dillinger Escape Plan
Season of Mist857.0
The year's top metal release is, like the Plan's three previous albums, inventive, aggressive, and musically impressive.
10Before Today
by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
This latest collection of oddball pop songs from the Los Angeles-based Pink is reminiscent of the 1980s (and earlier) in production and instrumentation.
11High Violet
by The National
One of the buzzier indie rock albums of the year so far, High Violet could be a breakthrough for a band that has been firing on all cylinders for years.
12I See The Sign
by Sam Amidon
Bedroom Community848.6
The distinctive-voiced folk singer reworks traditional folk songs -- and an R. Kelly track -- on an album that's full of surprises.
13This Is Happening
by LCD Soundsystem
Technically LCD's worst-reviewed LP to date (by two points), This Is Happening continues one of indie rock's most impressive success streaks.
by Sleigh Bells
Mom + Pop/N.E.E.T.848.7
Signed to M.I.A.'s label, the Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells split the difference between aggressive noise and catchy electro-rock on this debut album.
15New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
by Erykah Badu
The R&B artist's warmer, more personal sequel to 2008's New Amerykah Part One scored equally big with critics.
by Shining
The End836.0
If you buy only one album of Norwegian industrial prog metal this year, make it Blackjazz.
by Caribou
Swim might be Dan Snaith's less immediate and most sophisticated outing of pastoral electronica yet; it's also heavier on techno than prior recordings.
18Black Noise
by Pantha du Prince
Rough Trade836.6
The third album of minimal techno from Germany's Hendrick Weber includes a guest appearance from Animal Collective's Noah Lennox.
19Luck In The Valley
by Jack Rose
Thrill Jockey835.6
This all-instrumental effort for acoustic guitarist Rose (also known as Dr. Ragtime) was recorded shortly before his death last December.
20Eyes & Nines
by Trash Talk
Trash Talk Collective836.3
Certainly one of the most aggressive albums on this list, Nines is the third release from the Sacramento sludgecore outfit.
21Teen Dream
by Beach House
Sub Pop826.8
One of the first great albums of 2010, Teen Dream found the Baltimore dream-pop duo far surpassing their two previous records.
22A Small Turn Of Human Kindness
by Harvey Milk
Hydra Head827.6
The Athens, Georgia experimental sludge metal outfit slowed the tempo and upped the melancholy on these seven interconnected story-songs.
23Avi Buffalo
by Avi Buffalo
Sub Pop828.2
This self-titled release from the Long Beach, Calif. indie band led by 19-year-old Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg is one of the best-reviewed debuts of the year.
by These New Puritans
This expansive sophomore set from the British art-rock four-piece added a full orchestra, a choir, sound effects, and more electronics to the mix.
25Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones
by Cancer Bats
This dynamic third album for the Canadian punk rockers was faulted only for its slightly excessive length.
26There Is Love In You
by Four Tet
Kieran Hebden's first Four Tet release in five years found him relying more heavily on straight electronica and less on post-rock.
by The Black Keys
One of the blues duo's best-reviewed albums to date, Brothers includes a pair of tracks produced by Danger Mouse.
28The Monitor
by Titus Andronicus
The vaguely Civil War-themed "The Monitor" is the second album for the New Jersey indie-rockers.
29The Shadow Of An Empire
by Fionn Regan
The Mercury Prize-nominated Irish singer-songwriter incorporated a full band and more rock-oriented sound into this 10-song outing.
30I Speak Because I Can
by Laura Marling
Another singer-songwriter returning after a Mercury Prize-nominated debut, folk-rocker Marling upped the sophistication on this sophomore set.
31True Love Cast Out All Evil
by Roky Erickson w/ Okkervil River
The first new album for Erickson in over a decade found the former 13th Floor Elevators leader backed by indie rockers Okkervil River.
by Teenage Fanclub
Still going strong after two decades, the Scottish alt-rockers returned with one of their strongest sets in many years.
33Snakes For The Divine
by High On Fire
The fifth album from the Northern California heavy metal band was more popular with critics than Metacritic users.
by Nedry
Veering from glitch to folk to ambient electronica, Condors is the 8-song debut for the London dubstep trio named after a Jurassic Park character.
35Going Places
by Yellow Swans
The Portland, Ore. duo broke up after recording this final album of noisy experimental drone-rock.
36I Learned The Hard Way
by Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
As always, Jones & co. utilized vintage gear and production styles to showcase their retro soul sound; the result was one of their best releases yet.
37Here's The Tender Coming
by The Unthanks
Rough Trade819.0
Formerly known as Rachel Unthank & the Winterset, the band returned with another strong collection of traditional acoustic folk.
38Boca Negra
by Chicago Underground Duo
Thrill Jockey817.0
This fifth album finds the Chicago post-jazz duo (formerly the Chicago Underground Orchestra) honing their improvisation-heavy approach.
39Your Future Our Clutter
by The Fall
It doesn't just seem like YFOC is Mark E. Smith's 28th Fall album; it really is Mark E. Smith's 28th Fall album. It's also a good one.
40July Flame
by Laura Veirs
Raven Marching Band817.4
The seventh album from singer-songwriter Veirs hovers somewhere in between indie rock, country, and folk.

Albums released between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2010 with 7 or more reviews in Metacritic's database were eligible for inclusion. Reissues, EPs, live albums, holiday albums, greatest hits albums, multi-artist soundtracks, and other compilations are excluded. The Metascore is a weighted average of scores from top professional critics, on a scale from 0 (bad) to 100 (good). User scores represent an average of scores assigned by Metacritic.com site visitors, from 0 (bad) to 10 (good). Albums are ranked by Metascore prior to rounding.

The Lowest-Scoring Albums of 2010 So Far (Through June 30)
Album Label Metascore Users
1Rebirth by Lil WayneCash Money Records373.8
2Everybody Wants To Be On TV by Scouting For GirlsEpic443.0
3Eureka by RooneyCalifornia Dreamin'47n/a
4Black Swan by AthleteOriginal Signal526.5
5Sex Dreams And Denim Jeans by UffieElektra545.6
6Animal by Ke$haRCA544.1
7Who I Am by Nick Jonas And The AdministrationHollywood544.9
8Slash by SlashDik Hayd548.5
9Hologram Jams by Jaguar LoveFat Possum559.0
10Bionic by Christina AguileraRCA558.2

What are your favorites?

What are your picks for the best albums of 2010 so far? Let us know in the comments section below.

We're sorry, but comments are closed for this article.

Comments (92)

  • Alexandre G.  

    The Best Music of 2010 So Far:

    1. The National - High Violet
    2. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
    3. The Black Keys - Brothers
    4. Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo
    5. The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
    6. Deftones - Diamond Eyes
    7. Tame Impala - innerspeaker
    8. The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme
    9. Caribou - Swim
    10. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt 11. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
    12. Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
    13. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
    14. Hot Chip - One Life Stand
    15. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
    .... thank you Pitchfork

  • JACE  

    Best so far:

    Crime in Stereo
    The Fall
    Janelle Monae

    Looking forward to

    Iron Maiden
    Aphex Twin

  • Adam  

    1. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
    2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
    3. Wavves - King Of The Beach
    4. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
    5. Vampire Weekend - Contra
    6. The Coral - Butterfly House
    7. MGMT - Congratulations
    8. Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker
    9. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
    10. The Drums - The Drums

  • Jam Jar  

    1. Two Thousand and Ten Injuries – Love is All
    2. Forgiveness Rock Record – Broken Social Scene
    3. A Record – Laura Stevenson & The Cans
    4. Expo 86 – Wolf Parade
    5. High Violet – The National
    6. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
    7. Romance is Boring – Los Campesinos!
    8. I Will Be – Dum Dum Girls
    9. The Bundles – The Bundles
    10. Together – The New Pornographers

  • Isaac  

    Top ones for me are -
    Six Gallery
    John Butler Trio
    These Monsters
    Four Tet
    Massive Attack
    Chemical Brothers

  • Da  

    1. The Archandroid - Janelle Monae
    2. Have One On Me - Joanna Newsom
    3. This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem
    4. Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus
    5. Teen Dream - Beach House
    6. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire
    7. Mare - Julian Lynch
    8. Before Today - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
    9. High Violet - The National
    10. Heartland - Owen Palett
    11. Swim - Caribou
    12. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
    13. A Sufi And A Killer - Gonjasufi
    14. Crystal Castles (II) - Crystal Castles
    15. Astro Coast - Surfer Blood
    16. Contra - Vampire Weekend
    17. White Magic - Ceo
    18. Nothing Hurts - Male Bonding
    19. One Life Stand - Hot Chip
    20. King Of The Beach - Wavves

  • rybut  

    The 3 metal albums in the top 40 (DEP, Shining, High on Fire) are all beasts, slightly dubious about Cancer Bats.

    Other highlights for me are:
    Ihsahn - After
    Triptykon - Eparistera Daimones
    Alcest - Ecallies De Lune
    Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here
    Cathedral - The Guessing Game
    Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
    Delta Spirit - History From Below
    Fang Island - Fang Island
    Sleigh Bells - Treats

  • Max  

    1. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
    2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
    3. Laurie Anderson - Homeland 4. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
    5. She & Him - Volume Two
    6. M.I.A. - Maya
    7. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles II
    8. Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea
    9. Hole - Nobody's Daughter
    10. Scissor Sisters - Night Work

  • mar  

    i don't know ANY of the above artists in the top 40 list, exept for erykah badu and teenage fanclub. fact that i live 4586603492348 miles away from the u.s. might have something to do with that...
    it seems like not much of the great u.s. music is coming out of u.s., like it used to happen in York Times... something to think about.

  • Jesse Harman  

    Some of this is legitimately great. But most of it is Pitchfork hype.

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