Most Underrated Albums Of 2010 – What’s Yours?

Now you know what our top 50 albums of the year are, the time’s ripe for a good old chinwag/argument about which albums you feel have been unfairly overlooked in 2010.

Do you think Kings Of Leon’s ‘Come Around Sundown’ got short shrift? Did your favourite compilation of Tuvan throat singers unfairly miss out on chart glory? Or, as writer Alex Hoban posits, is Justin Bieber’s ‘My World 2.0’ actually a paradigm shift in socially critical pop music rather than the crywanking pheromone fountain we thought it was?

Fight your favourite’s corner in the comment section, and in the meantime, here are the NME staff and freelancers’ picks of an undeservedly unpopular bunch.

Emily Mackay, Reviews Editor
Effi Briest – ‘Rhizomes’ (Blast First Petite)

“If only this New York six-piece had thought to befriend a Red Hot Chili Pepper or two (Flea’s always on the lookout for new mates, right?) perhaps their brilliant debut might have shared in a tiny portion of the love heaped on Warpaint’s, Only kidding, Warpaint, please don’t hurt me. Propulsive drums, haunted vocals, wound-raw guitars and a loose-limbed experimentalism that recalled PiL made for a hypnotically lush listen.”

Laura Snapes, Assistant Reviews Editor
I don’t even know where to start. Brassland Records released two astonishing albums this year…
Clogs – ‘The Creatures In The Garden Of Lady Walton’ (Brassland)
“With the fetid mush of lo-fi slackerism in the air, it was a pleasure to hear a band rejoicing in the sheer limits of sonic intricacy. Clogs’ fifth album is their first to properly feature singing, with Shara Worden’s startling operatic trills igniting Padma Newsome’s complex, pin-sharp arrangements.

“Sufjan and The National’s Matt Berninger feature elsewhere, demonstrating Clogs’ impressive ability to straddle classical and indie spheres, where marimbas and mandolins elegantly court electric guitar and whiskey-voiced vocalists. It’s a challenging listen – particularly ‘The Owl Of Love’, a baroque waltz with overpowering vibrato – but match their sublime effort with willing ears and the rewards are endlessly worthwhile.”

Buke & Gass – ‘Riposte’ (Brassland)
“Arone and Aron of B&G have pretty interesting backgrounds – she works in a bike workshop, fixing and tinkering with two-wheelers. He works as part of the Blue Man Group, building bizarre custom instruments for the cultish painty-faced performers. Their mechanical knack led them to create their own instruments – the “buke”, a baritone ukulele, and the “gass” (rhymes with bass), a guitar and bass hybrid. Together they sound a little like a fucked up, bluesy Deerhoof with Marnie Stern singing on top, or PJ Harvey moving to the Appalachian mountains and getting drunk on tree sap and wielding an axe, yet at the same time, they sound like nothing you’ve ever heard before.”

“Also deserving of some serious accolades is Anais Mitchell – ‘Hadestown’ (Righteous Babe) Prior to this, Anais had released three charming folk albums that were lovely, but ultimately fairly unremarkable. ‘Hadestown’ changed all this. It’s a folk opera about Orpheus and Eurydice, but transported to post-Depression New Orleans. That probably sounds incredibly pompous, but I promise, it’s anything but – it’s one of the easiest, most glorious listens of the year.

“Anais takes the role of Eurydice, and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon is Orpheus, whose heartfelt song dissolves some of the malignant evil of Hades’ soul – pretty perfect casting, huh? It’s a masterpiece in narrative songwriting, and Anais’ interpretation of the myth is so sublime that the music breaks free of its original context to become a set of genuinely stunning love songs that could come from any period in time. I can’t recommend this enough.”

Ben Hewitt, writer
White Hinterland – ‘Kairos’ (Dead Oceans)

“With the trademark strings ditched for bewitching synthesisers and the DNA of Fever Ray mapped firmly into its blueprint, ‘Kairos’ proved to be Casey Dienel’s most accomplished record yet: sensual, sexual and utterly scintillating.”

Krissi Murison, editor
LoneLady – ‘Nerve Up’ (Warp)

“As the stage name suggests, Lonelady is one-woman Julie Campbell on a very isolated sonic adventure. Recorded in an abandoned mill on the outskirts of Manchester her debut Nerve Up was a startling retro-future collision of uptight guitars and uneasy pop that criminally – although perhaps fittingly – spent 2010 moping in obscurity.”

Sam Wolfson, writer
Ciara – ‘Basic Instinct’

“While the rest of R&B was resting-up after catching a particularly nasty of case of the David Guettas, Ciara only went and made a sleek, cocksure record filled with post-watershed lyrics and The-Dream’s body-poppin’ beats. Released next week, it’ll miss out on end-of-year fanfare but it’s worth this footnote to say this record has confirmed Ciara’s place as first-in-line heir to Aaliyah’s vacated throne.”

Chris Parkin, writer
The Books – ‘The Way Out’ (Temporary Residence)

“A pathologically precise album from NYC’s spoddiest duo, who’ve leavened their clever-clever musique concrete with rib-tickling funnies in a seamless fusion of polyrhythms, sampled hypnotherapy tapes and perfectly skewiff melodies.”

Gavin Haynes, writer
We Are Scientists – ‘Barbara’ (Masterswan)

“If you have failed to listen to We Are Scientists’ Barbara in 2010, then you have failed at 2010. Throw yourself into the sea. But not before you’ve wrapped your anvil ‘n stirrups around Music Go Music’s pitch-perfect pass-off of ‘70s pop, ‘Expressions’. This from a man who HATES Abba. Oh, and a big up-yours to everyone who voted for Liars.”

Tom Edwards, writer
Blitzen Trapper – ‘Destroyer Of The Void’ (Sub Pop)

“Sub Pop’s most barking noise-poppers dusted off their parents’ record collections for this folk-prog-Americana epic. Flawed, perhaps, but few bands could make such an about-turn sound so genuine.”

Uffie – ‘Sex Dreams & Denim Jeans’ (Ed Banger)
“The deliciously foul-mouthed new mum finally got around to releasing a debut album, and as with many of the finest pop records its effortless cool left many a critic scratching their heads.”

Paul Stokes, Associate Editor
Interpol – ‘Interpol’ (Matador)

“It’s not too surprising that many gave this album short shrift, because, like a old master, the New Yorkers’ fourth album on yields up its gems over time. From the metallic first impressions, persevering listeners will discover that ‘Interpol’ is actually an enchanting and ultimately reassuring meditation on modern isolation versus real human connections. Driven by Daniel Kessler’s bold, atmospheric guitars and Carlos D – playing his swansong – intricate orchestrations, you should never write the dark lords off.”

Chief – ‘Modern Rituals’ (Domino)
“An album full of big, bold emotions to enhance anyone’s life.”

Jeremy Allen, writer
Ed Harcourt – ‘Lustre’ (Piano Wolf Recordings)

“Consistently Ed Harcourt is a shining beacon over the bounding main of mediocrity that is the male singer-songwriter sector these days. ‘Lustre’ only reinforced his unsung eminence.”

Marian Paterson, Photo Director, and Ben Swank, Third Man Records
Ty Segall – ‘Melted’ (Goner)

“Single-handedly winning the argument that lo-fi home recordings can be more liberating than limiting. Best rock and roll album in the past five years at least.”

Nobunny – ‘First Blood’ (Goner)
“Just cause the dude dresses as a gross rabbit and has songs like ‘(Do The) Fuck Yourself’ doesn’t mean he’s not one of the best songwriters working on this or any other planet.”

The Strange Boys – ‘Be Brave’ (Rough Trade)
“This record makes me feel like I got a five-day binge hangover and I’m laying on the couch crying for reasons I don’t understand and I like it. PS: This band does NOT rip off the Black Lips, so just get that jive outta your skulls right now.”

Alex Hoban, writer
Justin Bieber – ‘My World 2.0’

“A more astutely conceived critique of a world caught in the throes of a painful global recession than Kele could ever manage. By virtue of its sheer dreadfulness, the Biebz proved laudably paradigmatic with this shit of a record.”

John Doran, writer
Moon Duo – ‘Escape’ (Woodsist)

“Moon Duo are a Wooden Shjips side project who forge together the acidic grooves of Loop, Suicide and The Stooges for discerning listeners who have set controls for the heart of the couch.”

David Moynihan, Editor, NME.COM
Caribou – ‘Swim’ (City Slang)

“Well done the guys at Rough Trade for making it their album of the year. This beautiful, psychedelic, dancy work from ex-Manitoba man Dan Snaith is utterly deserving of the title. And it hasn’t had half the attention it deserves for masterfully soundtracking the summer with warm and uplifting highlights like ‘Sun’ and ‘Odessa’.”

Jónsi – ‘Go’ (XL Recordings)
“Phantasmal vocals and soaring otherworldly anthems from Sigur Ros’ Icelandic talisman. ‘Kolniður’ and the English-sung ‘Go Do’ are joyful highlights. And if it all gets a bit too ‘Enya’, just remember Crystal
Castles are fans.”

Ash Dosanjh, writer
Ice, Sea, Dead People – ‘Teeth Union’ (Lost Toys Records)

“A visceral debut that swells with fury. If Bedford’s Ice, Sea, Dead People are not hailed as saviours of a desolate neo-apocalyptic future plagued by X-Factor contestants, it will be a crying shame.”

Ailbhe Malone, writer
You Say Party! – ‘XXXX’ (Paper Bag)

“The third album from this lot was unfortunately shrouded in sadness after the death of their drummer, Devon Clifford. It’s a pity in many ways – not least because this is their best work yet. Leaving behind the shrieking of yore, ‘XXXX’ is gothy new wave – think Karen O down the graveyard. To add to the eeriness, there’s even a track named after Twin Peaks‘ Laura Palmer.”

Tony Naylor, writer
Matthew Dear – ‘Black City’ (Ghostly International)

“In a way, techno don Matt Dear’s “pop” albums are difficult to love. They’re rhythmically complex, waywardly melodic, emotionally opaque. Which, perversely, is why ‘Black City’ is still intriguing, still fresh and inscrutable, several months on.”

Leonie Cooper, writer
Dan Sartain – ‘Lives’ (One Little Indian)

“Alabama’s go-to man for post-millennial rockabilly riffs proves he’s as spiky as ever with his fifth, sharp-shooting collection of stompin’ and twangin’ stoner Sun Studio songs.”

Joseph Stannard, writer
VHS Head – ‘Trademark Ribbons Of Gold’ (Skam)

“The reactivation of Manchester’s legendary Skam Records (Boards Of Canada, Gescom) came in 2010 with this gloriously hyperkinetic splatterfest constructed chiefly from samples of Blackpool producer Adrian Blacow’s extensive ex-rental videotape collection. Crammed with hectic edits, maniacal melody and a disarming poignancy, this was an under-the-radar masterpiece.”

Mike Williams, Features Editor
Titus Andronicus – ‘The Monitor’ (Merok)

“A gobby, fighty drunk rock belter all about the American Civil War. It’s epic, and in ten years time, people will look back at it as one of the albums of the decade, not just the year.”

Alex Denney, writer
Tamaryn – ‘The Waves’ (Mexican Summer)

“Sexier than Zola Jesus and more chilling than Salem, San Fran duo Tamaryn might have lacked the originality of some of 2010’s more conspicuous debutantes but they more than made up for it with their beautifully underplayed, fire-and-ice dynamics. Vintage shoegaze pop with a coldwave kicker, ‘The Wave’s was like a love-letter to an invisible world, lovingly sealed with arsenic kisses.”

Twin Shadow – ‘Forget’ (4AD)
“Twin Shadow’s omission from the Top 75 is an outrage and a betrayal of a generation’s hopes and aspirations; frankly you should be up in arms outside the NME fat cats’ Southwark HQ (très chichi, let me tell you) waving sternly-worded placards and booting the windows in RIGHT NOW. Oh, alright then: I forgot to vote for him as well, which is a crying shame because Forget is well worth getting kettled for and basically the album Bowie should’ve made after ‘Scary Monsters’.”

Tame Impala – Innerspeaker’ (Modular)
“When people hark back to psychedelic music nowadays it’s usually certain qualities they end up replicating — the nursery-rhyme tweeness, the quasi-mystical pining for a new Aquarian dawn, yadda yadda yadda. Tame Impala just make do with being mind-meltingly awesome, tossing all the clichés into the white-hot crucible of their talent ‘til it becomes molten, even dangerous again. Flying Lotus is a big fan and really, there’s no better compliment than that.”

Fraser McAlpine, writer
Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring (Witchita)

“All the bratty spleen of their early, super-indie youth, channelled into flinty, adult disdain, and a song about the healing qualities of the seaside. Extra points awarded for the indie treason of ‘Straight In At 101’  – “I think we need more post-coital and less post-rock,” indeed – and for making a bloody-minded racket when everyone else was obsessed with poise, minimalism and waistcoats.”

View NME’s albums of 2010 in full

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