best of (sort of) for 2010

For the past couple years I’ve thought about one of those big “best of” lists that could recommend all these amazing books, albums, etc., but I never feel like I read enough or have enough of a critical ear to make a fair judgement/recommendation to anyone who actually reads this thing. I’ve finally decided to give it a shot, with the disclaimer that this is just what came across my radar this year, with money and free time limiting my scope.

On the music side here’s stuff released in 2010 that I gave a good listen to (listing isn’t based on ranking):

OK Go – Of the Blue Colour of the Sky – decent album, it’s their videos that put them over the top, though.

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks – has it’s moments, but overall not quite what I was hoping for.

She and Him – Volume Two

The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever – I’m afraid the Hold Steady has fallen into that category where I fell so deeply in love with their first couple albums, that anything “new” won’t compare; it’s unfair to the band because it doesn’t allow them to grow as artists. This is a good album, and I suspect it will continue to grow on me down the road.

Eels – Tomorrow Morning – I’ve been on an Eels kick recently, and this one in particular, where Mark Oliver Everett takes a more optimistic turn hits me in the right place.

Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love – B&S fall into the same category as the Hold Steady for me, my opinion is always too deeply influenced by their previous work. In this case however, this feels like a more natural progression from their previous work and Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl project. This one is growing on me and is among my favorites for the year.

Jonsi – Go – Great album, another favorite… if you are into mainstream pop/rock this will probably be a little too “out there” for you, this is a nice counterpoint to what he’s been doing with Sigur Ros.

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record – I know this is one all the hip music bloggers are supposed to love. It has it’s moments, but overall just isn’t quite my thing.

David Bazan – Curse Your Branches – Interesting reflection on one man’s fall from faith.

Vampire Weekend – Contra – Good alterna-pop, even if you’ve never heard of the band, you’ve probably heard their music in a TV commercial.

Girl Talk  – All Day – Gregg Gillis does the mashup thing so well, and it’s fun to listen just to play the “name that sample” game, but part of me wishes this could be something that it isn’t – a Negativland-esque critique of pop culture and politics.

For a broader take on the music of 2010, check out my friend Rudy, he’s got the critical ear and depth of knowledge I respect.

In terms of books my my two absolute favorites that I read this year are Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? and Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. While Godin writes from a primarily a business-marketing perspective and Miller writes from a Christian-memoir one, they both seem to be on a similar tangent, about living life as artists/telling a better story to add meaning in your personal life and to make a difference in the larger world.

I also read Leonard Sweet’s book Nudge and Dwight Friesen’s Thy Kingdom Connected as part of Ooze Viral Bloggers, reviews are here and here – each book had it’s moments, but neither was extraordinary. Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw,  World War Z by Max Brooks, and Under the Dome by Stephen King, were also among the 2010 reads – all 3 are good, but I felt King’s could have been better. I know there are other books that should be on this list, but it’s getting late and I haven’t kept good track of what I’ve read.

I know there are other media I could add to the list: movies, blogs, magazines, but I’ll give that a pass this time out.

[Just as a disclaimer, all the links (except for Girl Talk) are Amazon Associate links so I do get a small percentage if you click and buy].