No. 7:
Dangermouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

An album by Dangermouse and the brilliant, sorely missed Mark Linkous (aka Sparklehorse). Recorded ages ago. Released this year. A collaboration with James Mercer of the Shins, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, Frank Black of the Pixies, Iggy Pop, Nina Persson of the Cardigans, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, David Lynch, and Scott Spillane of Neutral Milk Hotel and the Gerbils. If that info doesn’t convince you of its brilliance, then this track will:

No. 6:
The Black Keys – Brothers

Finally Detroit’s Black Keys get the breakthrough album they have long deserved. Brothers is the coolest sounding record of 2010. Here’s proof:

No. 5:
Anais Mitchell – Hadestown

Loved the concept of this Alt-Country Opera so much I reviewed it on this blog earlier this year.
The crux of what I wrote was this:

‘Hadestown is a ‘folk-opera’ that retells the Ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus must embark on a quest to rescue his wife Eurydice from the underworld, with Mitchell composing all the songs and performing the role of Eurydice. A whole host of alt country/folk vocalists have also contributed , with Justin Vernon (better known as Bon Iver) playing Orpheus, Greg Brown as Hades, Ben Knox Miller (of The Low Anthem) as Hermes, Ani DiFranco as Persephone, and Tanya, Petra and Rachel Haden (‘The Haden Triplets’) as The Fates.

The score moves through the complete spectrum of Americana, moving from folk to country to ragtime, exploring the heritage of american music while managing to sound timeless and contemporary, all set against the backdrop of Mitchell’s version of the Underworld, Hadestown and the plot of Orpheus and Eurydice’s story. The songs work as individual pieces but listening to the complete piece you can appreciate the tapestry of style and vocals that Mitchell and producer Todd Sickafoose have achieved. Each of the contributers are well fitted to their role, particularly Justin Vernon, whose delicate emotional style is perfect for the poet Orpheus, while Greg Brown’s growl adds the right amount of gravitas to the pronouncement of Hades. It is a remarkable recording.

The following song is a heartbreaking performance by Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) as Orpheus, lamenting Eurydice’s descent into Hadestown: