Critics name the year's best albums – but are they right?

As we publish HMV's Poll of Polls on 2010's critically acclaimed music, Kunal Dutta notes the gap between the pundits and the punters
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Money can't buy you love, goes the song (well, almost). So it would seem with the HMV Poll of Polls, published here exclusively today. The survey – based not on how much fans are prepared to spend on the albums of 2010 but on how much the critics loved them – appears to confirm that the gulf between punters and pundits is as wide as ever.

Tomorrow The Suburbs by the Canadian rock band Arcade Fire will be crowned best album of 2010 by critics from more than 30 magazines, national newspapers and websites.

A scan of the rest of the HMV list confirms it is a world away from the radio charts and popular demand for mega-sellers such as Susan Boyle, Taylor Swift or the Black Eyed Peas, all notable by their absence from the list.

Indeed, at number 49, Take That's Progress barely scrapes into the Top 50, despite shifting 1.5 million copies since its release last month, dwarfing most entries on the poll of polls.

Half of the acts in this year's top 10 have sold 25,000 records or fewer. Aerial Pink's Before Today, at number 10, has sold just 5,000 copies to date. The same is true over the past decade. In truth, while critical acclaim can lead to a surge in sales for some bands, almost as often it has been the commercial kiss of death. The runner-up in the 2010 Poll of Polls, the fifth studio album by the US rock band The National, High Violet, sold just 70,000 copies.

Many reviewers tend to judge albums after just a couple of listens, said the IoS music critic Simmy Richman. "To create a poll based on their knee-jerk reactions is to seriously skewer the results: the albums that reviewers rave about will rarely be the same as those they actually listen to most in private. The Arcade Fire album is good, but is it the best album of the year? Not by a long chalk."

1. Arcade Fire

The Suburbs; 195,000 sales

2. The National

High Violet; 70,000

3. LCD Soundsystem

This Is Happening; 40,000

4. Beach House

Teen Dream; 20,000

5. Janelle Monáe

The ArchAndroid; 20,000

6. Vampire Weekend

Contra; 195,000

7. Yeasayer

Odd Blood; 25,000

8. Gorillaz

Plastic Beach; 280,000

9. Caribou

Swim; 20,000

10. Ariel Pink

Before Today; 5,000

11. Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark, Twisted Fantasy; 50,000

12. Joanna Newsom

Have One on Me; 30,000

13. Gil Scott-Heron

I'm New Here; 30,000

14. Sleigh Bells

Treats; 10,000

15. Foals

Total Life Forever; 65,000

16. Villagers

Becoming a Jackal; 20,000

17. Laura Marling

I Speak Because I Can; 115,000

18. These New Puritans

Hidden; 10,000

19. The Black Keys

Brothers; 45,000

20. Deerhunter

Halcyon Digest; 10,000