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IMP's Top 20 Albums of 2010

About 10 year into the MP3 age, we’re beginning to see a return to the more traditional model of music consumption. For example, formerly indie-friendly digital music stores, such as eMusic and Rhapsody, are relying on major labels for a much greater portion of sales than at any point during the past decade. Similarly, where less-known artists dominated internet memes, video games, movie soundtracks, and TV commercials to boost their profiles during the '00s, mainstream artists have gotten savvy and dominated the space in 2010.

Nowhere is the return to the old normal more evident than in the makeup of year-end lists. During the previous decade, the importance of the long tail in music sales gave albums an extended life so that music released in the spring to high acclaim often really picked up speed at the end of the year, punctuated by year-end list notice. However, with a few key exceptions, the critics' 2010 year-end lists were largely dominated by late-year releases. This hearkens back to the CD age of the 1990s, when the most reliable and bankable artists waited until just before the holiday season to maintain chart position through the new year with lots of help from end-of-the-year lists. Just take a look at this year’s IMP list below (or’s year-end critics list aggregator) for evidence: early-year releases from the Gorillaz, Spoon, and Vampire Weekend are hardly seen here, despite excellent reviews last winter and spring.

So, with that nod to the changing times, here is IMP’s first top 20 albums list of the decade. Thanks to all who participated!

IMP's Top 20 Albums of 2010

  1. Kanye West
  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  (Def Jam)

  2. Beach House
  Teen Dream
  (Sub Pop)

  3. Janelle Monáe
  The ArchAndroid
  (Bad Boy)

  4. LCD Soundsystem
  This Is Happening

  5. The National
  High Violet

  6. The Roots
  How I Got Over
  (Def Jam)

  7. Flying Lotus

  8. Titus Andronicus
  The Monitor

  9. Deerhunter
  Halcyon Digest

  10. The Walkmen
  (Fat Possum)

  11. Caribou

  12. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffitti
  Before Today

  13.   Four Tet
  There Is Love in You

  14. Sufjan Stevens
  The Age of Adz
  (Asthmatic Kitty)

  15. Mumford & Sons
  Sigh No More

  16. Agalloch
  Marrow of the Spirit
  (Profound Lore)

  17. Sleigh Bells

  18. Joanna Newsom
  Have One on Me
  (Drag City)

  19. Crystal Castles
  Crystal Castles

  20. Salem
  King Night

-- Ryan Mixtape, 01/19/2011