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Michael Brodeur's top 10 CDs of 2010

Who rocked the music world this year? Globe critics choose their favorite 10 albums -- and highlight some noteworthy surprises

By Michael Brodeur
Globe Staff / December 19, 2010

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OWEN PALLETT

“Heartland’’ Sweeping in scope, generous in quirks, and stunningly beautiful, “Heartland’’ finds the Canadian composer, violinist, and erstwhile solo artist once known as Final Fantasy recruiting the Czech Symphony Strings and the St. Kitts’ Winds for his most ambitious work to date.

TWIN SHADOW

“Forget’’ A few years ago, when George Lewis Jr. was filling Boston clubs with the avant-indie complexities of his band Mad Man Films, you’d never have imagined this album of shimmering throwback pop coming from him. Now it’s just as hard to imagine taking “Forget’’ off repeat.

BEACH HOUSE

“Teen Dream’’ This Baltimore duo made their name on two albums’ worth of sleepy dream-pop led by Victoria Legrand’s lowing vocals and played on dirgey organs and ticking drum machines. On “Teen Dream,’’ it’s as though the sun finally poured into the dark chambers of their sound.

ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI

“Before Today’’ It doesn’t get more lo-fi than Ariel Pink’s massive back catalog — a sprawling tangle of 4-track cassettes overstuffed with druggy pop experiments. “Before Today’’ finds his vision and sound achieving new levels of clarity without losing any of its trippy vitality.

BEST COAST

“Crazy for You’’ On Best Coast’s blog-detonating debut, singer/guitarist Bethany Cosentino sticks to what she knows: loving boys, missing boys, feeling crazy, and (possibly related) smoking weed. What may sound like the makings of a tortured LiveJournal is actually one of the year’s finest doses of fuzzy garage-pop.

TAMARYN

“The Waves’’ One of the quieter carriers of the ’90s resurgence, San Francisco’s Tamaryn combine smoky melodies (think Mazzy Star or Cowboy Junkies) through a sweet, shoegazey haze. “The Waves’’ might be the softest ride in a time machine you’re likely to get.

TORO Y MOI

“Causers of This’’ In the same way that “Nevermind’’ serves as a cherished reminder of grunge’s glory days, let Chazwick Bundick’s debut as Toro y Moi serve as the prime souvenir of chillwave. His bleary-eyed beats mesh gorgeously with coy melodies on songs that sound like they’ve melted in your tape deck.

DEERHUNTER

“Halcyon Digest’’ Four albums in, Atlanta’s Deerhunter just keeps finding ways to refine the powerful mix of Bradford Cox’s bedroom-pop pathos and Lockett Pundt’s chunky indie-rock gusto. “Halcyon’’ takes their sound to the very edge, and the view is spectacular.

LCD SOUNDSYSTEM

“This Is Happening’’ Part ferocious house party, part ode to the bros of yesteryear, this purportedly final effort from James Murphy’s club-packing juggernaut lands like a big exclamation point at the end of dance-punk’s rambling sentence.

CARIBOU

“Swim’’ For Dan Snaith’s most recent outing as Caribou, he sought to make “dance music that sounds like it’s made of water,’’ and the result is a deluge of woozy textures, plodding beats, and gurgling synths. You may never want to come up for air.

BIGGEST SURPRISE OFF!

“First Four EPs’’ Though this all-star crew of Los Angeles vets (with pedigrees including the Circle Jerks, Redd Kross, and Burning Brides) busts through 16 songs in 17 minutes, it feels more like traveling 30 years back to Redondo Beach for a righteous hardcore punch in the face.