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Sarah Rodman'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

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By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / December 19, 2010

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JAMEY JOHNSON “The Guitar Song’’ Here is that rare gem: a double album where every cut is vital, from the blackly morose ballads to the firewater-breathing honky-tonk blasts. A towering achievement from a country singer-songwriter whose talent for penning vivid narratives and choosing the right ones to cover appears to be growing exponentially,

TRACEY THORN “Love and Its Opposite’’ The beguiling voice of Everything But the Girl tackles life’s biggest mystery on her quietly spectacular third solo album and gets to the bloody heart of what is so enchanting and disillusioning about love and, by extension, great pop songs on the topic.

ROBERT PLANT “Band of Joy’’ Haunted and haunting, Plant continues to indulge his fascination with darkly-hued roots music with the help of a simpatico backing band — including Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin — to shiver-inducing results.

BIG BOI “Sir Lucious Left Foot: the Son of Chico Dusty’’ Well worth the wait, this sometimes silly, sometimes solemn missive from the less flashy, but no less dynamic half of OutKast has more bounce than a trampoline factory, thanks to Big Boi’s snappy rhymes, samples, and grooves.

LAURA MARLING “I Speak Because I Can’’ On her sophomore release the British songbird makes good on the promise of her acclaimed debut offering up mostly acoustic songs filled with warmth, depth, and pathos.

DIERKS BENTLEY “Up on the Ridge’’ Stepping off the Nashville conveyor belt to pursue something a little more personal paid off in spades for Bentley on this expansive, precisely picked, and gorgeously sung set which deftly combines bluegrass, country, folk, rock, and pop.

KIM RICHEY “Wreck Your Wheels’’ A songwriter of delicate beauty and wry humor and a singer of truly angelic voice, Richey’s latest round of observations from the merry-go-round of life are tender, tough, and, as always, tuneful.

BLACK DUB “Black Dub’’ Veteran producer Daniel Lanois’s foray into group dynamics yields dreamy sonic adventures from hypnotic reggae to fierce blues and unleashes the force of nature that is Trixie Whitley.

DAVID BYRNE & FATBOY SLIM “Here Lies Love’’ With a stunning cast of nearly two dozen, mostly female, singers — including Sharon Jones, Cyndi Lauper, Nellie McKay, Tori Amos, and Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine — the head Talking Head and the superstar producer/DJ combine disco heat, Latin rhythms, and pop melodies to bring to enchantingly hummable life a pop opera about Imelda Marcos. Seriously.

ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO “Street Songs of Love’’ If the Austin rocker has made a bad record, we haven’t heard it. Ian Hunter and Bruce Springsteen show up to pay their respects on this scrappy, sweet, and sexy ode to the joys and frustrations of romance and reality.

BIGGEST SURPRISE EL DEBARGE “Second Chance’’ Sneaking back onto the contemporary R&B scene after a 16-year absence in which he served time and struggled with substance abuse issues, the silken vocalist proved to be in top form with a set of seductively smooth slow jams and emotionally honest redemption songs.