19. The National -- Bloodbuzz Ohio
The National write epic, end-of-the-world-style hymns, and most of the material on High Violet doesn't stand out from what anyone has come to expect from the band -- which is to say, it's phenomenal. Almost any song on the album would've made a terrific single and therefore would've probably made it onto this list -- Little Faith and Conversation 16 immediately come to mind -- but there's no denying that Bloodbuzz Ohio represents everything that makes the National one of the most vital bands working today. It's got a regal elegance to it, one that's highlighted by singer Matt Berninger's trademark baritone and undercut in the best possible way by an arhythmic backbeat. It's glorious, inspirational stuff -- the soundtrack for the moment in which the guy sitting alone with his thoughts is finally struck by the reality that he's letting the one good thing in his life pass him by, and so he pulls his coat up around his shoulders and wanders into the cold night with propulsive determination at his back. It's the music of life.
18. Blonde Redhead -- Not Getting There
There's a running gag that in addition to the ubiquitous asymmetrical haircut, taste for women's jeans and hamper full of ironic t-shirts, what you really need to be considered a respectable hipster is an Asian girlfriend. This probably explains why Blonde Redhead are the reigning darlings of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But while the presence and voice of willowy frontwoman Kazu Makino might make anyone with a pair of functioning testicles run like hell on principle, the fact is that 2010's Penny Sparkle is a hauntingly gorgeous album -- all shimmer and shadows. And while the not-so-silent hand of My Bloody Valentine can be felt sprinkling pixie dust over the entire effort, they've never been a terrible band to emulate, and Blonde Redhead does it oh so well. The first single from the album, though, is reminiscent of a couple of other bands from years gone by: Not Getting There pulsates like a cross between Blondie's Heart of Glass and late-80s Cocteau Twins, and once again, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
17. John Legend and the Roots -- I Can't Write Left Handed
John Legend. The Roots. Covering a Bill Withers Vietnam-era, anti-war masterpiece. That's all that needs to be said. There's no way this couldn't be one of the year's best.
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 20. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti -- Round and Round, 21. P!nk -- Raise Your Glass, 22. Drive-By Truckers -- This Fucking Job
Listening Post: The 25 Best Singles of 2010: 23. Best Coast -- Boyfriend, 24. Anberlin -- Impossible, 25. Fences -- Girls with Accents
Tomorrow: 16, 15 & 14