Midyear Report: The Best Music of 2010 So Far

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  • Publish Date: July 6, 2010

Monae, Monae, Monae

Image
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
Atlantic909.0
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.
3Homeland
by Laurie Anderson
Nonesuch879.7
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.
5Cosmogramma
by Flying Lotus
Warp858.7
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
4AD848.2
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
4AD848.6
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
DFA/Virgin848.2
Technically LCD's worst-reviewed LP to date (by two points), This Is Happening continues one of indie rock's most impressive success streaks.
14Treats
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
Motown837.9
The R&B artist's warmer, more personal sequel to 2008's New Amerykah Part One scored equally big with critics.
16Blackjazz
by Shining
The End836.0
If you buy only one album of Norwegian industrial prog metal this year, make it Blackjazz.
17Swim
by Caribou
Merge838.9
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.
24Hidden
by These New Puritans
Domino829.5
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
Distort828.5
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
Domino827.8
Kieran Hebden's first Four Tet release in five years found him relying more heavily on straight electronica and less on post-rock.
27Brothers
by The Black Keys
Nonesuch818.8
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
XL817.2
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
Heavenly818.4
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
Astralwerks819.1
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
Anti818.0
The first new album for Erickson in over a decade found the former 13th Floor Elevators leader backed by indie rockers Okkervil River.
32Shadows
by Teenage Fanclub
Merge819.5
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
Koch816.0
The fifth album from the Northern California heavy metal band was more popular with critics than Metacritic users.
34Condors
by Nedry
Monotreme818.0
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
Type818.3
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
Daptone819.5
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
Domino818.7
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)

  • Christopher  

    Great year so far.

    My top 10 so far are:
    1. The National - High Violet
    2. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
    3. Beach House - Teen Dream
    4. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
    5. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot
    6. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
    7. Sleigh Bells - Treats
    8. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
    9. Liars - Sisterworld
    10. The Drums - The Drums

  • Peter Kauffman  

    My favorite album of the year so far is Spoon's "Transference." I think it's their best yet.

  • Hipster  

    The post above was brought to you by Pitchfork's best new music.

  • Rice Krispies Dave  

    1) Flying Lotus-Cosmogramma
    2)Sleigh Bells-Treats
    3)Titus Andronicus-The Monitor
    4)Janelle Monae-The Archandroid
    5)This Is Happening-LCD Soundsystem
    6)Have One On Me-Joanna Newsom
    7)Swim-Caribou
    Snakes For The Divine-High On Fire
    9)Teen Dream-Beach House
    10)I Speak Because I Can-Laura Marling

  • Brian  

    1. LCD Soundsystem - "This is Happening" (the best record of 2010 so far, bar none)
    2. The National - "High Violet"
    3. Spoon - Transference
    4. Beach House - Teen Dream
    5. Vampire Weekend - Contra
    6. Wolf Parade - Expo 86
    7. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
    8. Champ - Tokyo Police Club
    9. What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood - The Mynabirds
    10. Fogfiveness Rock Record - Broken Social Scene

  • The Dane  

    1. The National - High Violet
    2. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
    3. Sleigh Bells - Treats
    4. Vampire Weekend - Contra
    5. Spoon - Transference
    6. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
    7. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
    8. Four Tet - There is Love in You
    9. Beach House - Teen Dream
    10. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today

  • Adam  

    1. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
    2. Wavves - King Of The Beach
    3. Los Campesinos! - Romance Is Boring
    4. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
    5. Vampire Weekend - Contra 6. Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker
    7. MGMT - Congratulations

  • Andrew  

    1. Joanna Newsom—Have One On Me
    2. Anaïs Mitchell—Hadestown
    3. Laurie Anderson—Homeland
    4. Janelle Monáe—The ArchAndroid
    5. Picastro—Become Secret
    6. Crystal Castles—Crystal Castles
    7. Josephine Foster—Graphic as a Star
    8. The Knife—Tomorrow, In a Year
    9. Clogs—The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton
    10. Zola Jesus—Stridulum EP

  • yoprince  

    Janelle Monae - Archandroid
    Drake - Thank Me Later
    Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot... Vampire Weekend - Contra
    Sleigh Bells - Treats
    Yelawolf - Trunk Muzik (mixtape)
    Theophilus London - I Want You (mixtape)
    Yeasayer - Odd Blood
    The National - High Violet
    Dom Kennedy - From the Westside, With Love (mixtape)

    most disappointing:
    The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
    Eminem - Recovery
    Lil Wayne - Rebirth The-Dream - Love King (may grow on me)

  • D  

    1. This is Happening- LCD Soundsystem
    2. The Monitor- Titus Andronicus
    3. Sir Luscious Left Foot- Big Boi
    4. Archandroid- Janelle Monae
    5. Heaven is Whenever- The Hold Steady
    6. The Wild Hunt- Tallest Man on Earth
    7. The Drums- The Drums
    8. Astro Coast- Surfer Blood
    9. The Soft Pack- The Soft Pack

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