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Top 15 Albums of 2010 – #15, #14, #13

#15 MAPS & ATLASES – Perch Patchwork

Maps & Atlases

Best Folk Rock Album

Perch Patchwork is the debut effort from Chicago quartet Maps and Atlases, which really starts off strong with the instrumental “Will” and “The Charm”, a song which begins with a two chord melody and faint percussion that epicly builds into a marching band chant, with lyrics floating on top throughout. “Living Decorations” gives a cool, slightly more poppy feel, and the three of these songs help to establish the feel of the rest of the album. The single, “Solid Ground”, keeps in with the thematic sounds established previously, which provide an excellent foundation for this track (which is already fantastic on its own). But everything seems to sort of drop off and go on a tangent after this, the rest of the album being an amalgamation of old folk and recent indie, which is sort of upsetting since the beginning of the album evokes beginnings similar to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, with epic theatre-esque arrangements. Still a great album, and worth a listen.

key tracks: “Solid Ground”, “Living Decorations”

Get Perch Patchwork on iTunes

Visit the Maps & Atlases website

#14 THE BLACK ANGELS – Phosphene Dream

The Black Angels

Best Rock Revival Album

Phosphene Dream is The Black Angels’ third album, and thematically, it certainly departs from the rest of their discography. Where their first two albums were very much dark neo-psychedelic, Phosphene Dream aims to revive uppity ‘50s pop with The Black Angels’ own unique twist. The result is positive, as this group is now moving into the mainstream light, with great help from the single “Telephone”. Some serious studying of ‘50s-era blues artists surely went in to this collection, while still maintaining the neo-psychedelia that this group has become known for. “Yellow Elevator #2” is a fantastic example of this, as the beginning is very clearly rhythm & blues, with a transition to a psychedelic breakdown and finish midway through the song. The single “Telephone” isn’t fresh in terms of music—this song’s exact pattern was mimicked by every rhythm & blues player of the ‘50s, and had a revival in Stevie Ray Vaughan during the ‘80s—but fresh in a modern sense, in that any bands today that try to revive blues try to do so subtly. The Black Angels clearly aren’t afraid of true blues, and this work is proof of that.

key tracks: Telephone, Yellow Elevator #2, The Sniper

Get Phosphene Dream on iTunes

Visit The Black Angels’ website

# 13 BAND OF HORSES – Infinite Arms

Band of Horses

Best Soft Rock Album

With very positive reviews across the board and a Grammy nod for Best Alternative Music Album, Infinite Arms comes in with its head held high against most of this year’s releases. The strongest part of Band of Horses’ sophomore release is the vocals, with the best harmonies that mainstream rock has heard since CSNY and Alice in Chains. The album is soft and rootsy, which admittedly gets pretty dry sometimes and hard to stay engaged with. However, there are more than plenty catchy parts to this album which will stick with you after you’ve heard it in entirety. The more upbeat songs really do stick with you (“Dilly”, “NW Apt.”), and bring a well-needed wakeup in between the more relaxing parts of the record. A couple of the slower songs are gems, and in a delightful change of pace from today’s usual slow songs, are positive and uplifting (“On My Way Back Home”). The best part of this album is its ability to keep with a general sound while eliciting a difference between each track, which feels as an album should—more like a book or a movie than a “collection of good songs”.

key tracks: “NW Apt.”, “Dilly”, “Blue Beard”, “Compliments”

Get Infinite Arms on iTunes

Visit the Band of Horses website