Apollo’s 2010 in Music

Last.fm is my favourite music service for many reasons, including its ability to log each bit of music I listen to. For 2010, Last.fm has created a beautiful visualization of global and personal listening history, and I’m using it to look back on the music I loved last year. Let’s run quickly up my top 20 artists of the year.


At the end of my stay in Ontario, I listened to Nova Scotian Joel Plaskett‘s Three album a lot as a parallel to my excitement for heading back home. It made a beautiful soundtrack for a train ride across the country.


Broken Social Scene is an easy band to keep coming back to celebrating. Forgiveness Rock Record, released in May of 2010, was another fantastic album from a band who has released a string of fantastic albums.


Strawberry has been a favourite band of mine for years, and it still seems strange that other people haven’t fallen in love with them too. Luckily, you can find four of Strawberry’s releases available as free downloads, so you don’t have to miss out on beautiful pop tunes.


Plastic Beach and the single “Doncamatic” kept Gorillaz in my attention throughout 2010. The catchy, inventive and strange pop this group produces is always a welcome shift for me.


Ed Kowalczyk created many stirring songs with his former band Live, and has continued to produce stunning pieces of music. I was especially pleased that he has brought a greater focus to the spiritual aspect of his writing, which was always the strongest appeal of Live’s music for me.


The Smashing Pumpkins have been significant to me for years. I’ve continued to follow Billy Corgan in his musical endeavors, and I’ve been enjoying the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope EPs as they are released.


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are magnificent and terrible and I often find myself drawn into their songs of violence, love and strangeness. This year I also greatly enjoyed their side project Grinderman.


Stars are another band I have an undying love for. June’s The Five Ghosts was another pop masterpiece and kept me company on my journey across Canada at the end of that month.


Butch Walker sure can write a killer pop song and 2010 saw the release of some of his best on I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart. When I want heartbreak songs with a sense of humour, I return to Butch and his expert songcraft.


I love genre mashups, and Voltaire surprised me with his delightful dark-country album, Hate Lives in a Small Town . Voltaire is consistently funny and entertaining, and plays with genres in a refreshing way.


Siouxsie and the Banshees were magnificent. This autumn I listened extensively to the band’s entire discography and gained a deepened appreciation of Siouxsie Sioux’s vocal work.


I mentioned Live earlier in Ed Kowalczyk’s entry, but there’s more to say about the band. This was a band that influenced me quite a lot in my teens. “Dance With You” is still one of my favourite love songs, more than 11 years after it was released, and “I Alone” is still one of the best spiritual rock songs ever recorded.


Buck 65 has been making music for 20 years, and his eclectic brand of hip hop wins me over with every release. Secret House Against the World, Situation and Talkin’ Honky Blues are beautiful, weird albums.


Meat Loaf is an incredible performer, and in 2010 I greatly enjoyed his Hang Cool Teddy Bear album. There’s a lot to be found when going through his previous albums, too, and I spent hours with each of his Bat Out of Hell albums.


I was enchanted by The Crüxshadows from the first time I heard them, in 2005. The band’s rich use of mythological references and anthemic lyrics make the music a lot more compelling than I would have expected from darkwave dance music.


Crash Test Dummies released an absolutely beautiful album in 2010 and drew me back to their playful, melancholy and inventive world. Oooh La La was my December album; it played on the coldest mornings as I walked to work and the strange instrumentation kept it alive through countless listens.


Of all the artists I listened to for the first time in 2010, Janelle Monáe captured my attention the most. I fell in love with ArchAndroid because of Monáe’s glorious style and her blending of science fiction with a full spectrum of musical genres. The philosophical, social and political elements of her lyrics and style have been inspiring and heartening additions to pop music.


For as long as I can remember, Collective Soul have been one of my favourite bands, with me through the best and worst in my life. In 2010 I revisited each of the albums the band has released and found energy and solace in the best of their work.


Matthew Sweet is the most under-rated songwriter of the past 20 years. Since 1990’s Girlfriend, he has been making dazzling pop-rock albums. In Reverse, Sunshine Lies and Blue Sky on Mars are albums I return to over and over, always finding some new spark of genius.


Hawksley Workman released two of his best albums in 2010, Milk and Meat. Hawksley’s emotional range and superb songcraft have long made him a favourite of mine, but this year he was especially important to me from January into the Spring.

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