I don’t want to step on you guys’ toes. I know that every summer we present our annual Music Awards and allow you readers to vote on your favorite albums of the past 365 or so days. But since I’m a know-it-all and since I like piling on the credit where credit is due, here’s a little rundown of some 817 albums that came out this year that are worth several Music Awards trophies and more, starting with my pick for best album of 2010, EPIC RUINSVoid Mariner and the Mystic Boogie of the Sacred Line.

EpicA dynamic listen from start to finish, the album is alternately heavy and melodic, wonky and poppish. Like the best conceptual long-players from the ’70s (In the Court of the Crimson King, Close to the Edge, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), Void Mariner consists mostly of suites and elongated jams rather than individual verse-chorus-verse tracks, and it also is united lyrically, telling the story of an immortal man, the title character, who’s searching for that ever-elusive meaning of life, the universal truth. Schlocky on paper? Sure, but not in execution. The musicianship is tightly focused and deadly serious, and even though the lyrics skew toward sci-fi and fantasy, they’re never lurid or ribald. If anything, EPIC RUINS deserves credit for doing something other than baby-come-back tunes or thinly veiled diary entries.

Picking the second best 817 album of the year wasn’t easy. Lotsa competition. But for No. 2, I’m gonna have to go with The Burning HotelsNovels. Even if every other song were crap –– they’re all good, though –– the album would still be in my top 10 based on “Austin’s Birthday” alone. The song, with its twinkling-then-charging guitarwork, propulsive drums, and sweet vocal melodies, is that good. Based on “Allison,” a post-Novels track that just came out, the Hotels seem to be heading in a less angular, less gritty, less post-punk, and more moody and synth-y direction. Good for them. But I hope co-frontmen and songwriters Chance Morgan and Matt Mooty never lose their instinct for catchiness. One microscopic notch below Novels is The OrbansWhen We Were Wild, another album chock- full of gems but featuring one of the best 817 songs of all time. “Barely Someone Known” is the first song I’ve ever heard that blends gorgeous Beach Boys-ish three-part harmonies with blasting bar rock. Though “Like a Liar” has begun to stand out as a single –– it’s getting a lot of airplay and was recently chosen as NPR’s Song of the Day –– “Barely Someone Known” is an idiosyncratic masterpiece. The rest of the album moves through Old 97’s territory: It’s raw, loose, and full of crunchy guitarwork but simultaneously bright, fresh, and hyper-melodic. A smidge right below When We Were Wild sits my fourth favorite album of 2010, Telegraph Canyon’s The Tide and The Current, a grand, sweeping collection of sometimes melancholy, sometimes uplifting songs about the human condition and humanity in general, featuring organic instrumentation arranged with an orchestra’s precision. Other top 817 albums of 2010 include Stella Rose’s Drag, Eaton Lake TonicsRancho Folly IV, Luke Wade and No CiviliansTomorrow’s Ghosts, Titanmoon’s We All See Stars, Cityview’s Big on the Inside, and The DangitsGreatest Hits, Vol. 1.


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