Best albums of 2010 part 2: numbers 16-20

OK, I'm going to cheat.  I couldn't separate two albums as my choice of the last entrant into the top 20 so we'll have joint number 20s; Gaslight Anthem and Free Energy.

Some similarities here; both US rock bands, both consciously retro in sound and feel, but with a contemporary energy and excitement.

Free Energy (Stuck on Nothing) are five kids from Pennsylvania who must have been raiding their grandparents, never mind their parents,  record collections for their influences - Thin Lizzy, T Rex, Free, Cheap Trick .... All done without a hint of parody, and with infectious verve and wit.

Gaslight Anthem can sound like a Springsteen (with the E-Street Band) tribute act at times, but again their commitment and songwriting skills see them rise above this; at their best they live up to their idol and mentor's standard.

So, at 19 now, we have Titus Andronicus with The Monitor. The first of two almost insanely ambitious and largely successful 'concept albums' from US mavericks in the top 20, this is a rock / punk epic linking current day with the story of the US Civil War, and it is as mad and brilliant as that sounds.  Pogues, Clash, Springsteen, hardcore and thrash are all in there, along with touches of folk, recorded speeches of Abraham Lincoln and the kitchen sink....

At 18, Two Door Cinema Club with Tourist History. One of a very few new British (Northern Irish in their case) indie bands to break through this year as their great reception at Reading Festival proved.  Bloc Party, Vampire Weekend influences in there but fresh, tuneful and fun.

At 17, the Mynabirds with What we lose in the fire we gain in the flood. The US seems to have been churning out these great female singers this year, and white soul girl Laura Burhenn  can sound scarily like greats such as Dusty Springfield on this collection of old school R' n B / soul / pop numbers.  Much better than Duffy.

And finally for today, at 16, Bombay Bicycle Club with Flaws. A band of 20-year-olds doing a sensitive, low-key acoustic album to follow up a successful indie-rock debut seemed like a pretty silly move, but Flaws was well received and seems to have justifiably extended BBC's fanbase.  Beautiful songs, playing and singing and an album that everyone from the teen indie fan to Grannies should like.

Back tomorrow with 15-11....

First Voice

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