#9. Ryan Star
Welcome to the Backstage Pass year-end countdown. Happy holidays! This week, we'll be counting down the best albums of 2010 and next week we'll tackle the singles.
10. Taylor Swift, “Speak Now” (Big Machine): Swift manages to tell stories that are both personal and universal, while stretching a bit with her country-pop arrangements to suit her better. “Mean” and “Mine” aren’t just great songs for a 21-year-old, they’re great songs period.
9. Ryan Star, “11:59” (Atlantic): As the title suggests, everything on “11:59” feels like it’s on the edge of a major shift. Star maintains that edge on uptempo songs like “Start a Fire,” as well as his poignant, big rock ballads “Breathe” and “Last Train Home.”
8. Rihanna, “Loud” (Def Jam): Rihanna gets her groove back with a regained desire to have a good time and a string of irresistible dance hits to provide the soundtrack. From the Europop of “Only Girl (in the World)” to the laid-back, island-tinged “What’s My Name,” it’s a party and even when she slows things down for “Cheers (Drink to That),” she’s still, you know, drinking.
7. Tracey Thorn, “Love and Its Opposite” (Merge): It all sounds so fragile – the restrained piano, brush-stroke percussion and the spare, poignant stories about grown-ups that Tracey Thorn tells. But its core is immovable, the pure beauty of her voice and her desire to make the wrenching "Oh, the Divorces," the bittersweet return to dating in "Singles Bar" or the wedding-phobia of “Long White Dress” as true to real-life as possible.
6. LCD Soundsystem, “This Is Happening” (DFA): So much club style, so much elegant synth-pop, so many great lines that it becomes almost impossible to escape James Murphy’s groovy little world once he sucks you in. You may start with the catchy “Drunk Girls” or the rebellious “You Wanted a Hit” or the desperate “I Can Change,” but “This Is Happening” is so good, you’ll likely stick around for the duration.