A new decade – same old routine. I think back on that year like it was something truly special. The fact that it was beginning a new set of ten years in which we would collectively gather music together and, from afar, judge it – made for a special moment indeed. Overall the entire year was impressive, but as always there were only a select few that left that majestic mark on us, as critics/fans/what-have-you? You know the drill.
Jarrod Church’s #1 Album – The Emptiness by Alesana
In several instances during this little excursion known as MEB Ranks, I have backed off my original assessment and re-ranked to a new. Being that 2010 was only a few years back and being that The Emptiness is so remarkably impressive, it was nearly impossible to recognize any other. Up until the band’s cover of Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around…” I had always found the lineup completely annoying and believed that they would never fill me with the musical goodness that other similar acts had shown. It was always a sad story, simply due to the fact that they are such a remarkable live act – sheer brutality. When their concept album released in early 2010, the anticipation was quite high (due to the JT cover), and oh my, did it hit hard. The band missed nowhere with that release and although the tone of both clean/unclean vocals is oftentimes met with harsh criticism, they’re only seeing positive remarks from this one.
Jacob Testa’s #1 Album – Selfish Machines by Pierce the Veil
Before this album, I was only a very casual Pierce the Veil listener. However, Selfish Machines made it so that I will anticipate anything the band puts out for the rest of its career. The record is dynamic, emotional, and diverse, and the level of detail that went into perfecting each song really shows. While Vic Fuentes’ voice might be an acquired taste, it’s undeniable that what he does with it on this album is something special. The instrumental parts are top-notch, and the songwriting is simply phenomenal. If anyone managed to grab a copy of this on vinyl before it sold out and wants to let me buy it, let me know.
Jason Gardner’s #1 Album – Zombie EP by The Devil Wears Prada
Let’s be real for a minute. Before the Zombie EP, The Devil Wears Prada was on the verge of doing something truly special within metalcore. They were gaining a huge buzz with their previous record With Roots Above and Branches Below, and they had hinted at new material. Turns out, they’d taken a slightly less serious turn into something darker, grittier and just plain more fun. The Zombie EP was only five songs, but it incorporated elements of metalcore, death metal and storytelling into what is arguably among their greatest writings so far. It set a high bar that Dead Throne chipped at without leaving their roots in the dust. Simply put, it was stunning.
Alexandra Brueckner’s #1 Album – The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
For once, the Grammys got it right when Arcade Fire was awarded Album Of The Year for The Suburbs. For many of us, returning to the home where we grew up brings along a cascade of emotions. We’re simultaneously wistful for the past, thankful that we got out when we did, content with the familiar, and incredulously surprised at how much things have changed, whether it’s for better or worse. Win Butler, Régine Chassagne and company perfectly hit on each of those emotions, and the tracklisting of The Suburbs is as musically diverse as its thematic content. From the fully rocking “Month of May” to the synth-heavy “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” to the swoon-worthy “We Used to Wait,” the songs of this album, at once massively accessible and ambitious, are totally varied without ever sounding unfocused or conflicting. For anyone who has ever come home again – so basically, every single one of us – The Suburbs resonates perfectly. Couple that emotional complexity with perhaps my favorite Arcade Fire lyric ever – “Pray to God I won’t live to see the death of everything that’s wild” from “Half Light II (No Celebration)” – and The Suburbs is a no-brainer for my choice as the best album of 2010.
Landon Defever’s #1 Album – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
Kanye West is a musical genius – there’s no denying it. Say what you will about the rapper’s personal life, egotistical attitude, questionable media outbursts and cringe-worthy snap decisions, but when it comes to his true craft, Mr. West has yet to disappoint. After being shamed by most of the world for crashing Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards, the artist needed to come back with a record that would catapult him back to the top. Enter My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: a stunningly well-crafted masterpiece that’s not only the best record of 2010, but also remains to this day the best album of the decade thus far. West brings together an elaborate collection of tracks that truly evaluate the psyche of one of hip-hop’s most misunderstood behemoths. From the guest-heavy accompaniment of “All of the Lights” and “Monster” to the repetitive power of “Runaway,” MBDTF is a well-constructed, unforgettable album in every sense of the word.
Benjamin Wieber’s #1 Album – Ø (Disambiguation) by Underoath
A lot of people lost faith in Underoath after drummer/singer Aaron Gillespie departed, but those who chose not to stick around till the end surely missed out. One of the many great things about this band is that their sound progressed with each record they released, with Disambiguation being no exception. They had to learn how to keep doing what they do without having Gillespie around, and they succeeded. Lead vocalist Spencer Chamberlain took hold of the reigns and nailed both heavy and clean vocals; this was best demonstrated in the track “Paper Lung.” Other notable tracks are the opener, “In Division,” and the closer, “In Completion.” Every song on the record is worth a listen though. Disambiguation was a perfect way to wrap up a pretty spectacular year in music, particularly because of its array of moods and overall cohesiveness. RIP UØ.
Alek Wiltbank’s #1 Album – Dreamhouse by Tides of Man
Tides of Man’s second release is a masterpiece – melodic hardcore a-la Circa Survive mixed with technical skill and soaring vocals. Dreamhouse is a collection of songs that are as complex as they are progressive. The instrumentals alone can carry the group but with the added element of Tilian Pearson‘s vocals, the songs have a catchiness that makes them stick in the listener’s mind like glue. Powerful riffs and tricky timing make the album a musical journey that packs a punch. While the guitars run loops, the rhythm section creates a groove that anchors the music in a head-bobbing beat. Most of the songs start with intensity which only grows; rarely does Dreamhouse slow down and when it does (the title track, “A Faint Illusion”), the result is a beautiful ballad. Tides of Man took me by surprise with this release and it still reigns as the best album of 2010.
Tim Dodderidge’s #1 Album – Returners by The Ghost Inside
The Ghost Inside involuntarily became one of my favorite bands over the past few years. Without even thinking, I would blast them in my car every day on the way to work. I played Returners on repeat, and the actions became almost automatic to me: plug in iPod, scream along to every song, feel the emotions that each track produced. If there’s anything about hardcore music that I love, it’s emotional lyrics and a powerful message, and Returners is the perfect emotional metal album to me. The Ghost Inside uses themes that range from anger, sadness, happiness, togetherness, and hope to fuel the instrumentation. An assemblage of excruciatingly heavy breakdowns are scattered throughout the album, and Jonathan Vigil’s vocals mirror the lyrical themes as he shouts out an assortment of memorable lines (most notably “What do you stand for?”). I live by the ideas concentrated within this 39-minute hardcore-influenced metal masterpiece, one of the most vigorous and emotionally unrestrained albums I’ve ever heard. It’s off the hook, to say the least.
Johnny Frazier’s #1 Album – All Day by Girl Talk
Pittsburgh-based mash-up artist Girl Talk has been perfecting his sound ever since the release of the groundbreaking album Night Ripper. With All Day he achieved this perfection, creating a 90-minute romp through mash-up glory. His concerts aren’t concerts so much as 5,000-people dance parties. While many mash-up albums quickly sound dated, this one not only holds up but never has any dud moments where a mix just doesn’t work. If you’re a fan of the genre or just looking for something fun to listen to, I cannot recommend Girl Talk’s third album enough. It’s the cream of the mash-up crop.