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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 12/17/2010

Lists: Chris Richards picks his top 10 albums of 2010

By Chris Richards

kanye westAll eyes and ears were on Kanye West in 2010. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Into the ‘10s we go! It’s gonna be crowded. In a decade that promises so much pop music, artists will have to invent new ways to infiltrate our overstuffed iPods (still the reigning gadget-aphor for our overstuffed lives).

Kicking it off, 2010 was all about bravura strokes and shoulder shrugs, a year where our greatest talents cut through the data flow by assuming the entire planet was listening, or assuming that nobody was listening at all. There were epic masterpieces, sprawling double-discs, heart-rending comebacks . . . and albums about getting stoned and wishing your cat could talk.

Here are the year’s ten best:

1. Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
You love him or you hate him, but it’s probably both. In the finest hour of his turbulent career, West broadcasts his complexity in high-definition: his petulance, his wit and his drive to create the most breathtaking pop music of our time — something he can now check off his to-do list.

2. Jamey Johnson, “The Guitar Song”
He sings in the baritone of God and carries a guitar covered in Sharpie squiggles — autographs from the likes of Haggard, Nelson and other country music royalty. Now Johnson’s sweeping double album raises the question: How long before he has to sign it himself?

3. Sade, “Soldier of Love”
After a decade in self-exile, Helen Folasade Adu returned with her darkest, most paralyzing effort. R&B’s most enchanting voice has never sounded this smooth and her pain has never sounded this sharp.

beach houseBeach House's vintage keyboards made for an irresistible sound. (Benjamin C. Tankersley/FTWP)

4. Beach House, “Teen Dream”
On its third album, the Baltimore indie duo aimed to capture the giddiness of teenagerdom. No dice. Instead, “Teen Dream” dazzled with vintage magic — like an old slab of Fleetwood Mac vinyl evaporating into an inky mist.

5. Best Coast, “Crazy For You”
Other bands tried to create this year’s Great Rock Album by penning opuses on suburban ennui and the Civil War. Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino did it by singing about weed, TV, her crushes and her cat.

6. Robyn, “Body Talk”
Who’s that girl? The Madonna of Sweden? The Gaga of blogland? Think of it this way, America: Everything the Black Eyed Peas do horribly wrong, Robyn does exactly right, tempering clinical dance-floor pop with the messiest of human emotions.

7. The Soft Pack, “The Soft Pack”
Here’s a lottery ticket of a band — one that garnishes the ancient guitars-bass-drums recipe with a singer who sounds profoundly bored, yet somehow ends up dropping one of the most invigorating rock albums of the year. Everybody wins!

drakeDrake's debut proved him worth of the A-list. (Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

8. Drake, “Thank Me Later”
With so many rap rookies shouting for our attention (See: Flame, Waka Flocka), Drake quietly cooed his way onto hip-hop’s A-list with a thoughtful dissertation on fame, fortune and romantic fallout.

9. Choc Quib Town, “Oro”
They hail from Colombia’s Pacific coast, but Choc Quib Town’s charismatic twist on American hip-hop pushed the trio onto the margins of our global dance floor.

10. Randy Houser, “They Call Me Cadillac”
Big mouth, big voice, big old chip on his shoulder — everything felt super-sized on the country singer’s sophomore disc, especially “Whistlin’ Dixie,” his chest-puffing entry in the Southern rock canon.

By Chris Richards  | December 17, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Lists  | Tags:  Beach House, Best Coast, Choc Quib Town, Drake, Jamey Johnson, Kanye West, Randy Houser, Robyn, Sade, The Soft Pack  
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