So you'd like to...

check out the top 40 new artists of 2010

A guide by Matthew Lee "rank-and-file music reviewer" (United States)
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01 The xx xx. 2010’s Mercury-prize winning trio strums atmospheric, minimalist, emotional songs echoing with whispering melodies, eerie handclaps, and lyrics wrought with depth. Classics include “Islands,” “Crystalised,” “Heart Skipped a Beat,” and the Candi Staton remake “You Got the Love.” Technically released in ’09, but an essential for all 2010 best-of lists.
02 Eli “Paperboy” Reed Come And Get It. Stunning soul singer brings the horns and miracle Motown sounds of yesteryear on major label debut. Check “Name Calling,” “Come and Get It,” and the rockabilly-lite “You Can Run On.”
03 Chiddy Bang The Preview [Explicit] and Opposite Of Adults EP. Mix electronic bling and indie hip-hop, yield the bangingest rap/DJ duo from Philly, with best tracks remixing Darwin Deez, MGMT, and Gorillaz; their version of Tinie Tempah’s “Pass Out” tops the original.
04 Marina & the Diamonds The Family Jewels. British band pulsates with anti-materialist satire (“Oh No!”), anti-conformist directives (“I Am Not a Robot”), and a frank, charismatic lead singer.
05 Sleigh Bells Treats. Dark, strangely singalong indie cheerleaders’ obscure lyrics might prevent teen anorexia (“Tell Em”) and– reruns? (“Crown on the Ground”) – but whatever they’re singing about, it’s loud.
06 Nicki Minaj Pink Friday (Deluxe Version) [Explicit]. Part Lil’ Kim, part Katy Perry, part spectacle, this BET Award winner’s pink Barbie persona had the most pop potential with “Right Thru Me,” yet saves smartest lyrics on Eminem duet “Roman’s Revenge” and militaristic “Massive Attack.”
07 Darwin Deez Darwin Deez. Discount freak folk with a pop twist, a Beck-spawned imitator too poor to buy his own samples who mashed his own Casio beats. Top tunes: “Bad Day,” “Radar Detector,” “Up in the Clouds.”
08 The Drums The Drums. Urgent post-punk crossing indie and surf pop, this NYC band’s guitars referenced the Strokes (“Forever and Ever Amen”), yet recalled Beach Boys’ harmonies (“When I Come Home”).
09 Gold Panda Lucky Shiner. Essex UK act masterminded two of the best instrumental tracks of the year (“Snow & Taxis”; “You”) with dizzying chops, percussive twists, and spliced effects.
10 Tinie Tempah Disc-Overy. Bleeping like Legend of Zelda, “Pass Out” intro’ed the best new UK rapper of the year whose rumbly drum and bass beats (“Simply Unstoppable”) and anthemic tunes (“Frisky”; “Written in the Stars” with Eric Turner) rang in 2010.
11 Mumford & Sons Sigh No More. Their 2009 epic folk debut hit the US this year, jangling with lovely nostalgia (“Winter Winds”), finding strength in pain (“The Cave”), and crossing over to rock radio with bluegrass-tinged “Little Lion Man.”
12 Wavves King Of The Beach. Breakthrough came in ’10 for this band I saw live who mashed their best under 3-minute songs (“Super Soaker”; “Post Acid”) in their hometown of San Diego to a crowd that adored their distorted, snotty noise-punk.
13 Maximum Balloon Maximum Balloon. TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek delivered guest stars (Karen O, David Byrne) and dance-ready bleeps to this side-project soundtrack to the next Brooklyn art-house event. Best track is “Groove Me” with UK newcomer Theophilus London.
14 Bruno Mars Doo - Wops & Hooligans. Bonus cool points for modern doo-wop fusion by this Hawaiian hip-hop/R&B songwriter who froze the charts with a modern classic (“Just the Way You Are”), a pop “Grenade,” and guesting with Cee-Lo and B.o.B adding to the portfolio. Minus cool points because I had that fedora first.
15 Delphic Acolyte. BBC picked them no. 3 for the Sound of 2010, their alt-dance (with a dash of Klaxons) tracks fulfilling the promise: “Doubt” and “Counterpoint” spun into a dreamy headspace.
16 Joy Orbison Hyph Mngo. Maybe I’m a bit late, but this massive garage/grime/dubstep scientist killed the Janet Jackson loop on decade-ending “Hyph Mngo.”
17 Ke$ha Animal and Cannibal. Wobbling in with a hangover and auto-tuned chorus, I witnessed this pop/electro “singer” stumble through the “TiK ToK” video at no. 1 in Holland in November ’09 and predicted it would, like a rash, catch all over US radio this year. I was right. She hit no. 1 again in November with EP leadoff “We R Who We R.”
18 Mac Miller. Pugnacious Philly teen name-checks his Nikes, w***-smoking ways, and Jewish ethnicity on effortless, witty tracks, including samples of a girly 60’s Linda Scott record (“Knock Knock”) and Owl City’s “Fireflies” (“Don’t Mind If I Do”).
19 Olly Murs Olly Murs. Chappy Essex-bred X Factor runner-up merged ska-lite and clever lyrics (and cool hats) to take over UK airwaves (“Please Don’t Let Me Go”; “Thinking of Me”) this summer, deserves every bit of his success.
20 B.o.B B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray [Explicit]. aka Bobby Ray, this ATL alt-rapper flipped the script with great duet partners and love (!) songs (“Nothin’ on You” with Bruno Mars), wishing on a star (“Airplanes” with Hayley Williams and Eminem), and er, magic (“Magic” with Rivers Cuomo).
21 Die Antwoord 5 and $O$. Unabashedly louche South African rave/hip-hop act’s unique take on class and culture wobbled playlists this year.
22 Missing Andy The Greatest Show on Earth - Act I. Working class UK foursome’s “Greatest Show” dictated Essex life (“The Way We’re Made”) and staged a rocky battle of the senses (“Sing for the Deaf”).
23 Hurts Happiness. Manchester duo may be more 80s style (Human League hairstyles and Johnny Hates Jazz suits) than substance, but the faith and devotion on video hits like “Stay” and “Wonderful Life” is undeniable.
24 The Pass Colors. Clearly influenced by the Killers, this Louisville, KY group’s likeable indie rock is ready to get the toes tapping, “Colors,” “Trap of Mirrors,” and “Cross Walk Stereo” the surest bets.
25 Paloma Faith Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful?. Well, she’s not quite Amy Winehouse, but the distinctive voice (“Smoke and Mirrors”) and sassy London attitude (“Upside Down”) prove addictive.
26 Carolina Chocolate Drops Genuine Negro Jig. Around for years, this Jig finally got NPR’s attention as adult radio steadily warmed to the fantastic folk-and-jug Blu Cantrell remake “Hit ‘Em Up Style.”
27 Ben l’Oncle Soul Ben Loncle Soul. This Tours-born singer’s “Soulman” and White Stripes cover (“Seven Nation Army”) on his debut record delivered whimsical interpretations of Motown-era melodies.
28 Atomic Tom Moment. The sad but fake tale of losing their instruments (“Take Me Out”) was an excellent viral intro to this mod Brooklyn quartet, with clearly more lyrical surprises to come.
29 The Like Release Me. Major label debut was a precious set of snappy tunes by this Pipettes-like LA band, their best songs priming the best sock-hop era girl group melodies (“He’s Not a Boy”, “Release Me”).
30 Fol Chen Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made and Part II: The New December. Multicultural LA indie-pop group put two back-to-back Asthmatic Kitty CDs out in ‘09/’10, their piano rondo “In Ruins” notably crossing to primetime TV.
31 Oh Land Oh Land - EP. Danish wonder’s muse might well be Salvador Dali, her surreal avant pop (“Son of a Gun”) resonating like contemporaries Gabrielle Cilmi, Maia Hirasawa, and Kate Nash.
32 Two Door Cinema Club Tourist History. Newcomers tread on Futureheads/Editors/Bloc Party territory, most compelling songs being the danceable “I Can Talk” and “Undercover Martyn.”
33 Fitz and the Tantrums Pickin' Up The Pieces. A bit like an alternative Hall & Oates, their take on new-soul (“MoneyGrabber”) is the male version of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
34 Surfer Blood Astro Coast. Though scuzzy “Swim” was their breakout hit, “Harmonix” had more Grizzly Bear-ish harmonies (naturally), and “Floating Vibes” referenced 90s college rock (Pavement, R.E.M.). Plus, great videos.
35 Allison Iraheta Just Like You. Undersung American Idol seimfinalist’s Pat Benatar-esque pop stylings matched with a strong lyrical presence (“Beat Me Up”; “Just Like You”) means there’s more in store.
36 The KickDrums Just A Game and There Might Be Blood. Garage/indie rock duo schooled in hip-hop (“Perfect World” has a remix with RZA) and smart songwriting (“Things Work Out”) show mighty promise – why are they not signed?
37 Miami Horror Illumination. Not from Miami (they’re Aussies), not that it matters – their sunny disco electropop currency could fill any floor – best track “Holidays.”
38 Far*East Movement Free Wired. First ever Asian American group to hit #1 in the US, pop-rap electro jam “Like a G6” also taught us the word “slizzered.”
39 The Joy Formidable A Balloon Called Moaning. Welsh trio’s “Cradle” picked up speed this year, their sound a snug fit with the likes of the New Pornographers and Arcade Fire.
40 Evan Voytas The New Dynamic Sound Of Evan Voytas. Falsetto-favoring Los Angeleno’s DIY R&B-dancepop isn’t quite as polished as Jamie Lidell, but keyboard guesting with Flying Lotus won’t hurt. Best tracks: “Getting Higher” and “Give It Back.”

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1.  xx  by The XX
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2.  Come And Get It  by Eli "Paperboy" Reed
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3.  The Preview [Explicit]  by Chiddy Bang
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4.  Opposite Of Adults EP  by Chiddy Bang
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5.  The Family Jewels  by Marina and the Diamonds
$10.68 Used & New from: $6.67
4.9 out of 5 stars   (81)
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6.  Treats  by Sleigh Bells
$9.49
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7.  Pink Friday (Deluxe Version) [Explicit]  by Nicki Minaj
$11.49
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8.  Darwin Deez [Import]  by Darwin Deez
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9.  The Drums  by The Drums
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10.  Lucky Shiner  by GOLD PANDA
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11.  Disc-Overy [Import]  by Tinie Tempah
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12.  Sigh No More  by Mumford & Sons
$9.72 Used & New from: $3.78
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13.  King Of The Beach  by Wavves
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14.  Maximum Balloon  by Maximum Balloon
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15.  Doo - Wops & Hooligans  by Bruno Mars
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16.  Acolyte  by Delphic
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17.  Hyph Mngo  by Joy Orbison
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18.  Animal  by Ke$ha
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19.  Cannibal  by Ke$ha
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20.  Olly Murs [Import]  by Olly Murs
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21.  B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray [Explicit]  by B.o.B
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22.  5 [Limited Edition] [Explicit Lyrics] [EP] [Import]  by DIE ANTWOORD
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23.  $O$ [Explicit Lyrics]  by DIE ANTWOORD
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24.  The Greatest Show on Earth - Act I  by Missing Andy
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25.  Happiness [Import]  by Hurts
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26.  Colors  by The Pass
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27.  Do You Want the Truth Or Something Beautiful? [Import]  by Paloma Faith
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28.  Genuine Negro Jig  by Carolina Chocolate Drops
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29.  Ben Loncle Soul [Import]  by Ben l'Oncle Soul
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30.  Moment [Import]  by Atomic Tom
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31.  Release Me  by The Like
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32.  Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made  by Fol Chen
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33.  Part II: The New December  by Fol Chen
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34.  Oh Land - EP  by Oh Land
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35.  Tourist History  by Two Door Cinema Club
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36.  Pickin' Up The Pieces  by Fitz & The Tantrums
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37.  Astro Coast  by Surfer Blood
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38.  Just Like You  by Allison Iraheta
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39.  Just A Game  by Kickdrums
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40.  There Might Be Blood  by Kickdrums
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41.  Illumination  by Miami Horror
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42.  Free Wired  by Far East Movement
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43.  A Balloon Called Moaning  by The Joy Formidable
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44.  The New Dynamic Sound Of Evan Voytas  by Evan Voytas
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Customer Discussions about products in this guide
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Is This CD Edited? 1 May 12, 2014
Ke$ha the best 1 Feb 20, 2014
Why all the hate, she's a party, so what. 3 Feb 20, 2014
I hate her annoying voice when she speaks the lyrics 1 Feb 20, 2014
Ted Dwane of Mumfords is an ex-Moulette and plays on their new album The Bear's Revenge 0 Jul 11, 2012
The Theology of "Sigh No More," by Mumford and Sons 10 May 24, 2012
MP3 Album downloader 1 Dec 14, 2011
Only 9 tracks, one of which is a remix? 6 Dec 7, 2010
countdown till pink friday and cannibal :) 1 Nov 21, 2010
Is this the picture disc version? 1 Aug 27, 2010
June 1st? 0 May 17, 2010
Thank God 4 Jan 18, 2010
 
   

About this Guide

 

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Matthew Lee "rank-and-file music reviewer" (United States)
(REAL NAME)   
Qualifications: Amateur rank-and-file music critic
Last updated: 12/13/10
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