Before we get on with the next 20 albums in my decade-end list, I thought it’d be interesting to break down all 100 by which year they came out.
9 of these albums came out in 2010. 17 of these albums came out in 2011. 10 of these albums came out in 2012. 18 of these albums came out in 2013. 7 of these albums came out in 2014. 9 of these albums came out in 2015. 6 of these albums came out in 2016. 9 of these albums came out in 2017. 12 of these albums came out in 2018. 4 of these albums came out in 2019.
(Yes, I know that the numbers above add up to 101. One of these albums was re-released, and I’m having a hard time choosing which version I like better. That’ll be addressed down below.)
Is it just me, or did the year 2010 did just fly right on by? Usually that’s the sign of a good year, one so packed with exciting adventures that you just can’t seem to capture the time and get it to stand still. But it’s actually been a difficult one for me, a fact which may be reflected in a lot of my personal playlists from the last twelve months. Good music seemed to come out of the nooks and crannies as it does most years, but for a while, it seemed like a lot of the greatest stuff was eluding me. But that which seemed depressing at first became a place of solace during a hard year, and that which was happy became an inspiration to live a life worthy of the soundtrack. So my Top 10 list this year, while it follows my usual habit of emphasizing what I enjoyed listening to over what the critics or the general public or anyone else thought, seems to carry a little bit of extra personal weight, as I found so many moments of joy in absorbing it and in sharing it with other people. Music as a facilitator for community has always been one of my passions, and it’s because of this that I continue to expend so much energy writing about it for the handful of people who will actually read any portion of my long-winded articles.
A lot of the songs that I put on this mix I made at the end of 2010 referenced my anxiety about how quickly time was passing and the year was coming to a close. I was looking for some sort of a beacon of light to shine into what felt like a dark time that I was going through personally. In a way, that may have helped me to get more in tune with the advent season and what several of the classic Christmas carols I’d been singing since my youth were really about. But it’s not all dreariness, intense longing, and regret – there are some beautiful songs in here about release, surrender, the art of learning to let go. And some that simply celebrate the changing of seasons and the positive aspects of autumn and winter that I don’t always stop to appreciate.
In with the New: All the Day Holiday Steven Page (as a solo artist – appears earlier with Barenaked Ladies)
It’s funny how I can look back at some of these mixes that I made a decade ago, and find unintended recurring themes that I might not have been conscious of when I was first putting them together. There’s definitely some surface angst in several of these tracks that reflected conflicts I was dealing with, but what I don’t think I realized was how many of these songs discussed secrets that people kept, personal failings that made them ashamed of themselves, frustrations over situations they couldn’t control. So there’s a sense of catharsis in several of these songs as they compel the listener to bring what is hidden out into the light, to remember that the people who truly love them see their virtues first instead of dwelling on their failings, and ultimately to know when to let go of something that is too big to control, and leave it in the hands of God. I’ve never been very good at any of that, but the fact that I picked a lot of these songs must have been an indication that I was at least trying.
Our big summer trip in 2010 took us to Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria – the latter two of those cities made it our very first time traveling outside of the United States. I think it’s important for us to get to experience new things together for the first time, as it helps us to bond. We traveled a lot that year, and I think it was particularly important to put some emphasis on our efforts to spend time alone together, talk things through during some of the long drives and hikes we enjoyed on those trips, and try to get back to a place of understanding each other better. This particular trip wasn’t a magical fix for everything we were dealing with, but it helped. The contrast is pretty stark between some of the more cynical and despairing songs that made it on to my summer soundtrack for that year, and the brighter and more hopeful ones, but I like how there’s a loose narrative toward the end that seems to hit rock bottom, reach a point of being ready to give up, and then find the strength and courage to climb back up out of it again.
In with the New:
Court Yard Hounds
“Movement” is the word that comes to mind when I think of the late spring and early summer of 2010. It’s a freedom that I almost feel like I was taking for granted, now that I’m thinking about it from the perspective of 2020. The month of May started off with a weekend trip to Vegas. In mid-June, I surprised Christine with another weekend trip, this time to Colorado, where we managed to cram in a National Park visit and one of my “bucket list” concerts all in a single day. In between the two, we moved to a new apartment – only 2 miles away from our old place on Granada near the train tracks, and still technically within the city of Alhambra, but close enough to its northern boundary to have a more peaceful “San Marino ambiance”. On the surface, we were turning over new leaves and doing a lot of fun things, and life was good. Deeper down, more of an unsettling sort of movement was going on. I can still remember the exact moment when a “dark epiphany” hit me that sent me into an emotional tailspin that I’d struggle with on and off for the better part of the next two years. As much as listening to this set of songs instantly brings back my excitement at the newness of our surroundings during that time, it also reminds me of some questions that haunted me at the time – things I would have never thought in a million years I’d ever have to wrestle with.
My soundtrack from the spring of 2010 is… a bit of a hodgepodge, honestly. Most of my soundtracks are, but this one in particular has a bit of an identity crisis. Lots of great music here from across a smattering of divergent genres, but not a whole lot of connecting tissue tying most of it together – and honestly, not as many specific memories tying the music to definitive events in my life. I think this tends to happen during a season of life when I’m reasonably settled and happy – the music I’m drawn to, which might reflect a certain amount of angst or difficult questions, is probably resonating more with stuff I’ve been through in the past, or stuff I’m glad to have never been through. All of this is to say, I’ve realized in retrospect that this is a less autobiographical set of songs than most of my soundtracks turned out to be. Nothing wrong with that – remembering a time in my life when there was a distinct lack of struggle or upheaval is kind of comforting nowadays, considering how isolated, unpredictable and stressful life is for me (and for most of the world!) ten years down the road.
In with the New:
The River Empires
Jónsi (as a solo artist – appears earlier with Sigur Rós)