Thursday, December 23, 2010
In case you missed it: here are albums 50 through 26 on our list.
25. Ben Folds/Nick Hornby - Lonely Avenue
At times, it seemed like I was the only out there who liked this album (the critics certainly didn’t). Hornby's lyrics are a perfect match for Folds' quirky voice and the piano is amazing as always. I especially like “Levi Johnston’s Blues,” the lyrics are witty and it’s nice to hear Ben on a Rhodes rather than a baby grand. - JS
I love this disc. I’ll just ditto what Jenna said. - CD
One I missed out on. Time to update the wish list. - AC
24. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
A creative collaboration between the Shins' James Mercer and the man with the golden touch, Danger Mouse. The Broken Bells project turned out better than I thought it would. It is certainly better than any Shins output in some time, and Mr. Mouse adds just enough to not distract from Mercer's mellifluous vocals. - AC
23. Coheed & Cambria - Year of the Black Rainbow
This album takes modern progressive rock to another level. Adding drummer Chris Pennie from The Dillinger Escape Plan was a perfect choice for Coheed. Must Listen: "Guns of Summer." - MP
This is an interesting fit into their discography. It’s the prequel to the Amory Wars story, which I don’t understand at all, and it sorta fits musically right around their first album. I don’t know; it doesn’t have the same juice for me that the “Good Apollo” discs do, but it’s still solid. - CD
22. Butch Walker - I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart
The singer, songwriter, producer and former Marvelous 3 frontman showcases his many talents here. While he seems to enjoy his soulful songs, the rocking social satire of "Trash Day" is this effort's standout track. - TN
Way better known as a producer than a recording artist, and that’s a shame. The only artist/band I will go out of my way to see every time he comes to town. There isn’t a bad song on this disc. - CD
21. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
20. School of Seven Bells - Disconnect from Desire
Disconnect From Desire was this year's Fantasies (by Metric) for me. Never heard of 'em, and completely blew me away. Almost every song on this album is uniquely gripping in some way. - SB
A huge leap forward from their debut, which in itself was a stellar album. Captivating and transcendent. - GC
An enchanting but somewhat disjointed album. This didn’t quite make the cut for my personal top 50, but I did spend a lot of time listening to it last summer. - AC
I missed that School of Seven Bells had a new one. Damn. This countdown is gonna get expensive. - TN
19. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
I may be a bit biased toward BSS because I think they are post-rock geniuses. It’s not their best release, but this album compares nicely to their previous self-titled album and You Forgot It In People albums. I appreciated it so much more after seeing them perform most of the record live in Boston in September. Must Listen: "Forced To Love." - MP
Honestly, I was disappointed with this long-awaited record. While the Canadian collective hits a groove on songs like "Texaco Bitches" or "Meet Me in the Basement," too much feels like unfinished ideas thrown on record. - TN
I was really looking forward to this album, but like Tim, I was disappointed. Still, a few tracks, like “World Sick” and the aforementioned "Forced to Love" and "Texaco Bitches," are worth more than one listen. - AC
18. Tracey Thorn - Love and Its Opposite
My friend Tim was raving about this album by the lead woman from Everything But the Girl, so I had to check it out. After listening through once streaming online, I had to buy it at the next available opportunity. Her voice is hypnotic, and these powerful songs are full of elegance and verve. - GC
"Who's next?" the voice of Everything But the Girl sings in opener "Oh, the Divorces": "It's always the ones that you least expect." And who would expect Thorn to reappear with a masterpiece of an album about growing older? But with tracks such as "Long White Dress," "Hormones" and "Singles Bar," she imbues wisdom and memorable songs galore. - TN
17. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
This one's not immediately accessible like Illinois, but it's worth the effort. I think. I'll have to wait and see if it holds up.- MD
16. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
The best pop/rock ear candy of 2010. I was only marginally familiar with these guys before this album came out, but “Laredo” got in my head sometime this summer and never left. Great harmony, reminiscent of CSNY, but with a little more edge. - JS
Must Listen: "Laredo." - MP
Not on my list, but I did like this album a lot. It's funny, I have friends that are big Band of Horses fans that didn't care for this album at all. - MD
15. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
Here’s an idea: Create a concept album based on an ancient dystopian movie most people have never seen or heard of: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Thankfully, someone in the music business saw something promising in the crazy idea, and in the zany but soulful style of Janelle Monae. For sheer ambition alone, Ms. Monae’s debut album deserves to make the list. - AC
14. Sleigh Bells - Treats
Is it punk rock for cheerleaders, or cheers for punk rockers? Either way, Sleigh Bells Treats is a fun, hand-clappable treat. - AC
I once described my evolution into a Sleigh Bells fan thusly: “WTF is this, I hate this... Man, that stupid Sleigh Bells song is in my head... Hmm, what was that song called again? Maybe I’ll give it another listen... OMG I love Sleigh Bells!” - GC
13. Drive-by Truckers - The Big To Do
Lord help me, but I do love me some good southern rock, especially the way this six-piece group delivers it: a blazing three-guitar assault a la Lynyrd Skynyrd and song-stories that evoke the styles of the holy trinity of southern short fiction: Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty and Barry Hannah. Whether they're singing about dead papas, deadbeat husbands or dead-end jobs, the Truckers strike a chord, dead on. - AC
At least two reasons to love this album: "Drag the Lake Charlie" is one of the funnier/darker songs you'll hear. And "Birthday Boy" has the killer lyrics "Pretty girls from the smallest towns/Get remembered like storms and droughts/That old men talk about for years to come." But marvelous moments of mayhem and mortification suffuse their latest Southern Gothic rock effort. - TN
It's already been said, but the songwriting/storytelling on this album is phenomenal. - MD
12. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty
Straying from Andre 300 and OutKast, Big Boi goes goes solo to deliver some bass-thumping tracks that surprisingly sound.. well.. new. In a world of southern rap music filled with cliches, overused auto-tuning and sizzurp, this album stands out as a true achievement in originality in production and lyrics. It’s my pick for best rap album of the year. Must Listen: "General Patton." - MP
Even though Kanye was my number one album of the year, this was my favorite rap album. I bought this on cd so I could keep it in my car, which is how I’d like to think Big Boi would want it experienced. - MD
11. Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
The themes on this album are very dark - suicide, the loss of a loved on etc., But Earle’s voice and the phenomenal backing band help lighten the mood a little and the result is a great mix of blues, Gospel, and alt-country. He keeps keep getting better with every album, and although the bar is set pretty high here, I can’t wait to see where he goes next. - JS
His name is Earle (the son of Steve Earle), and his middle name is a nod to Townes Van Zandt, so the mantle of great musical expectations must weigh heavy on the shoulders of this talented roots musician. But JTE has discovered his own style, and it shines brightly through this collection of dark-themed songs. - AC
10. Spoon - Transference
With apologies to the many friends who love the band, this would be higher if I was into Spoon ... but too much of their stuff just comes off as too smugly self-satisfied, imho. Can't argue with their overall skills, though. - TN
This Austin band returns to their roots with clever lyrics delivered in painful earnestness by lead singer Britt Daniel, all overlaying straightforward foot-tapping rock with high reverb. - AC
I see where Tim’s coming from, but yet it works for me. There’s enough meat here to keep it interesting. “The Mystery Zone” and “Written In Reverse” are both very cool, and I really enjoy “Out Go The Lights.” - CD
9. John Mellencamp - No Better Than This
An amazing production. In order to capture a true old-timey feel, Mellencamp and his band went to great lengths to create this album. Specifically, they took their instruments, single microphone and mono-recorder to three sites: the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia, Memphis’ legendary Sun Studios and the San Antonio hotel where Robert Johnson recorded “Crossroads.” The result is raw, rough songs of loss, sorrow, joy and longing. And life. No Better ThanThis is Mellencamp’s best. - AC
I really wanted to like this, but it was just kinda bleh for me. I do like how Johnny Cougar continues to reinvent himself, but there wasn’t anything on this disc that I found myself wanting to listen to again. - CD
What Andy said. Great album. - MD
8. Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Yeasayer is an odd band. Their last album, All Hour Cymbals, didn’t quite resonate with me. But Odd Blood is poppier, catchier, more accessible. The tunes are danceable, even. It sounds as though Yeasayer has been listening to a lot of Passion Pit and has smoothed over the rougher edges of their previous efforts. Good stuff. - AC
Put a group of diverse and talented musicians in a room with every instrument and sound at their disposal, and you can only hope something this fun comes out of it. Here’s proof: Must Listen: "O.N.E." - MP
I liked their debut, but this album really catapulted Yeasayer onto a new level. A delightful blizzard of beeps and blips swirls around a strong crop of songs. And I won’t lie and say that “Ambling Alp” didn’t guide me through a few personally frustrating moments: “Now, the world can be an unfair place at times / But your lows will have their complement of highs … You must stick up for yourself, son / Never mind what anybody else done.” - GC
7. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More
These guys have much energy; it sounds like they want to jump right out of the speakers. A great debut album, hopefully a promise of what's to come on future releases. - JS
From the moment I first heard the driving tour de force that is “Little Lion Man” on WERS, I was sold. The edgy amalgam of Americana-meets-UK folk rock is a galloping, emotional headrush. Their songs pulse with life and urgency and won’t be denied. This album feels essential, in part because the members of the band play and sing as if their lives depended on it. - GC
I was actually hoping this was from The Amazing Mumford of Sesame Street fame. (I didn’t know he he had kids!) It’s not. - CD
Y’all win. I’ve caved and finally bought this album. And am enjoying what I’m hearing. - TN
I still don't get it. A few tracks are solid, and the acoustic guitar work is decent, but the majority of this album leaves me cold. - AC
6. Vampire Weekend - Contra
Just when you thought the over-hyped music blog darlings of 2009 would fold their tents and fade away, a la Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, they surprise you with ska/reggae riffs and lyrically sharp tunes about growing up and growing old. - AC
I was completely prepared for these guys to hit the sophomore slump hard. It didn’t happen. I loved this album and its smart songwriting, ridiculous rhymes that somehow work (“In December, drinking horchata/I’d look psychotic in a balaclava”) and the echoes of Paul Simon’s “Graceland.” If I was basing my list strictly on my iTunes playcount, this would have been my number one album of the year. - MD
This is a win for me. A fun listen, top to bottom. And for what it’s worth, I still give a (bleep) about the Oxford comma. - CD
5. New Pornographers - Together
Probably the most cohesive album this collective has ever put together. And finally, they let the jewel that is Neko Case truly shine on a few tracks -- most notably “Crash Years.” - AC
This album took a while to grow on me, as I wrote about previously, since I was blinded by my love for “Challengers.” But, like I said, this may be the fullest realization of the band to date. Neko Case really steps out and shines (not that we needed to know she was a gem), and Dan Bejar is at his most accessible. And A.C. Newman continues to steer his pop ship in enlightening directions. - GC
Another solid power pop album by the New Pornographers, with more Neko Case this time around. Those poor kids at Calvin College missed out. - MD
4. The National - High Violet
I like The National, but find it maddening that a band that can produce such effortlessly catchy fare as "Bloodbuzz, Ohio," "Lemonworld" and "Conversation 16" can have so many tracks on this (or any) album that fall flat. But the high points are, as always, remarkable. - TN
Is it boring to say that The National have created yet another masterpiece, and that there is little one can offer in the way of critique for their fifth full-length album? Matt Berninger continues to confound and mesmerize, and he and his bandmates continue to expertly weave their layers of lush and compelling songcraft. No, something this captivating can’t be boring. - GC
Ooh! Listen to me! I’m arty! Bleh. - CD
According to this list, High Violet is the favorite album of 2010 among “Dads who used to drink a lot (or still do).” Umm.... Seriously, another beautiful, brooding album from these guys. - MD
3. Girl Talk - All Day
Sometimes you just have to ask: "Was there an album I simply couldn't stop listening to for weeks?" That would be this record, which drops hook after hook, beat after beat in sensational succession. While I could ponder how Gregg Gillis pushes the envelope of this (controversial) genre or the brilliance of "Jump on Stage" samples running from Portishead to Radiohead, it's much easier to just dance -- anytime, anywhere -- to the excessively catchy music. - TN
More fun from the master masher. And best of all, it was available for free. - AC
Girl Talk has pretty much perfected the art of the party mashup with this album. Even though he doesn’t dig too deep in his record bin for old classics or indie treasures, his selection of pop combinations is incredible. If you’re interested in seeing a breakdown of all the tracks used, visit http://www.mashupbreakdown.com/ - MP
2. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
What is there left to say about this album, after Pitchfork gave it a 10.0 and it’s been covered by every critic alive? Say what you will about Kanye, but his triumphant return to the spotlight backs up all that bravado. This was my number one. - MD
Say what you will about Mr. West, he can create soundscapes like nobody’s business. While I’m turned off by some of the subject matter of this album, the creativity and technical marvels embodied in each track garners all my respect. - AC
Even though he’s one crazy dude, you have to give him credit for pushing the hip-hop genre in new directions with every new album. His producing skills are on full display on this album. Must Listen: "Runaway" - MP
1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
From the opening “Lake Shore Drive”-style piano rag of the title track, this album had me hooked. This, the band’s third album, is their most sweeping and ambitious. Taking on the themes of identity and spiritual survival in the world of superficiality that is “the suburbs,” this project is as sprawling as the title implies. Bonus: this amazing video experience, The Wilderness Downtown (view in Chrome), is one of the most amazing interactive experiences of the year. - AC
I keep thinking this album seems overrated, until I listen again and realize just how great it is. While perhaps only "Rococo" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" sit among the band's greatest tracks, the consistently compelling material in a story arc critiquing our modern suburban life stands up to the hype. -TN
1. Punch Brothers - Antifogmatic
Chris Thile and his so-called "acoustic super group" push the boundaries of acoustic music and create some very unique and catchy sounds. It's a genre-bender spanning bluegrass, folk, jazz, rock, and more. Every person I've played this album for has loved it, regardless of what kind of music they liked. With tight playing, great harmonies, and creative songwriting, it's by far my favorite of 2010. Take a listen to "You Are" and you'll see why — I apologize in advance if it's stuck in your head from now until New Year's Day:
2. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More
These guys have so much energy; whenever I listen to this album, it sounds like they want to jump right out of the speakers and into my car, office, living room, or wherever else it's playing. Hopefully this is a promise of what's to come on future releases. These guys are also on my "must see live" list for 2011.
3. Preservation Hall Jazz Band - An Album Benefiting Preservation Hall and the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program
I first came across this album in a little Rolling Stone article and knew it wasn't one to miss. Tom Waits, Ani DiFranco, Jim James, and more contribute their vocals to New Orleans standards to benefit the city's legendary music venue, which The guest vocalists backed by the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Great music made for a great cause, what more could you ask for?
4. Josh Ritter - So Runs The World Away
I'd been a casual fan of Josh Ritter until my boyfriend took me to see him do a solo acoustic set in Lewisburg, WV in October. To say that I was blown away by the show is an understatement. Ritter's has an amazing stage presence and kept us on the edge of our seats for more than two hours as he chose songs from his extensive catalog. This album does a great job of capturing his live sound and is a nice return to a slightly softer sound after the more electric turn on "The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter."
Josh is also really, really funny, as evidenced by this little story he told at the show I saw. Pardon the person with the annoying laugh:
5. Mose Allison - The Way of the World
Of all the "new to me" artists I discovered in 2010, no one struck me as much as this 80-something bluesman from Tippo, Missisippi. His piano playing is simple and every word he sings sounds like it's coming straight through his teeth, so he's definitely not for everyone. But, something struck me when I head "My Brain" on XM while driving to work one morning. Mose teamed up with producer Joe Henry on this album, his first in 12 years, and the result is a modern take on the sound he's been honing for the past 60 years. Here's "My Brain" (pardon the weird sheep):
Thanks again to Andy and the other higher ed music critics for the opportunity to contribute this blog. See you in 2011!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
50. Best Coast - Crazy for You
Ethereal, retro-inspired surf pop. Perfect background music for these long, cold, wistful winter days. - MD
49. The Black Crowes - Croweology
A great mix of Black Crowes tunes, old and renewed. - AC
I really enjoyed this. They didn’t do much with some of the songs, but some of the updates, like “Soul Singing” and even “She Talks To Angels,” are excellent. - CD
48. Tokyo Police Club - Champ
Sometimes indie groups lose their direction by their 3rd album, but Tokyo Police Club keeps growing with this one, following up A Lesson in Crime and Elephant Shell. Must Listen: "Breakneck Speed." - MP
47. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Social Network Soundtrack
Fits with the film so well, but even without it, would still be a joy to listen to. If you have any interest at all in how this soundtrack came about, inside the studio and out, you must watch this 45-minute panel discussion. - SB
46. Laura Veirs - July Flame
45. Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone
Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy produced this album for the woman who once formed one-third of the 1970s R&B band the Staples Singers. Now in her 70s, Mavis can still belt out great blues-inspired tunes that will make you want to get saved again and again. - AC
Overall the album was a little too gospel-y for me to make it into my top 25, but the collaboration with Tweedy does produce some stellar tracks. Best track: the cover of CCR’s “Wrote a Song for Everyone.” Better: this acoustic version (where Tweedy actually smiles).
44. John Legend and the Roots - Wake Up!
John Legend and the Roots artfully recast a handful of ‘70s-era soul tunes from the likes of Marvin Gaye and Harold Melvin. This album’s gem is the live-recording cover of Bill Withers’ anti-war anthem “I Can’t Write Left-Handed.” - AC
43. Of Montreal - False Priest
After the letdown that was Skeletal Lamping, I was afraid this band of freaks had lost their groove. With False Priest, they re-discovered the danceable beats and quirky lyrics that make them so much fun. - AC
42. Sade - Soldier of Love
Sade has remained relevant since 1984 (!) with soulful songs and sex appeal, and the latest disc works that formula well. The occasional new trick or two is OK, but it's rich texture of Sade's voice that always brings us back. - TN
I’d forgotten just how silky smooth this songstress’s voice is. Soldier of Love was a great reminder. - AC
41. Brandon Flowers - Flamingo
The rest of The Killers wanted to take time off, but their talented frontman decided to put out a solo album that offered a frank look at his hometown, including the masterfully written "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas." While not as good as the full band's output, Flowers' vocals + sharp lyrics = jackpot. - TN
Yeah, this is a Killers album. Maybe not a great Killers album, but it’s the same stuff. - CD
40. The Black Keys - Brothers
Pass me the whiskey. The Black Keys strip down their bluesy rock to the bone and create the best rock album of the year. - AC
I got this too late to put on my list, and I started to feel like I missed the boat a little bit... but it sorta falls flat after the first five songs or so. - CD
39. The Roots - How I Got Over
Must Listen: "Radio Daze." - MP
38. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig
I love their modern take on old-time music. A standout is the cover of "Hit 'Em Up Style," a pop hit from the early 2000s, that sounds worlds better with a little fiddle and banjo in the mix. - JS
Great old-timey tunes presented with minimal production. As it should be. - AC
37. Stars - The Five Ghosts
Like most Stars efforts, this album combines brilliant flashes like the male-female storytelling of "Dead Hearts" with pedestrian filler, but enough haunting moments make it worth remembering.
I first heard this album performed live in its entirety at a concert, so I may be biased, but this is a strong addition to the Stars discography. “We Don’t Want Your Body” is a fun, dance-y track, and I find that there is a lot on this record to groove to. At the same time, appropriate to the title, there are some more grief-stricken moments, as well. That range, of course, is par for the course with Stars. - GC
36. Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo
35. Jonsi - Go
I’m not a big fan of Sigur Ros, so I was prepared to be let down by this debut from their front man, Jonsi. But freed from the dark, post-goth tones of his band, Jonsi releases an upbeat, poppy collection of tunes. - AC
I’ve never listened to Sigur Ros, so I had no expectations for this one. Other than that, what Andy said. This is just a fun album. - MD
34. Robert Plant - Band of Joy
The former Led Zeppelin front man surprised many a few years ago by teaming up wit bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss. This album, a collection of rootsy covers and traditional Americana, is an even more pleasant surprise. - AC
Similar to what Mellencamp did with “No Better Than This,” Plant has found a sound that is age appropriate and allows his voice to shine in its current state. - JS
Really? Boring as hell. I feel like this disc would be so much better with... say, either Alison Krauss or Jimmy Page. - CD
Really? Hell is boring? AC/DC lied to me. P.S. - This was the second-best album of the year, in my book. - AC
33. Beach House - Teen Dream
32. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
The closest I’ll ever get to a rave is this album. - AC
Party in a box. - GC
31. The Tallest Man on Earth - Wild Hunt
The Swedish Bob Dylan? - MD
30. Alejandro Escovedo - Streets Songs of Love
An underrated troubador, Alejandro Escovedo’s 2010 has some great tracks. A great comeback after his previous album, which was a bit of a letdown for even the most die-hard fan. - AC
This is a terrific album by the nearly 60 year-old Escovedo. The guitars rock, and the lyrics of songs like “Down in the Bowery” (written for his teenage son) resonate: “I hope you live long enough/to forget half the stuff they’ve taught you./And when it’s all said and done/I hope you’ve got your own set of rules to hang onto.”
29. Hot Chip - One Night Stand
This is more than a dance record. It has elegance and flair that carries well off the dance floor. Musically, it is a striking accomplishment.. - GC
28. Tame Impala - Inner Speaker
27. The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
New Jersey’s heirs apparent to the blue-collar rock of Springsteen, the fellow New Jerseyans who make up The Gaslight Anthem are not afraid right into those big shoes and make some big music. - AC
I kept coming back to this one again and again. A solid rock album that is indeed reminiscent of some guy named Bruce. - MD
26. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles
Favourite Music of 2010
by Joel Goodman
I have heard some great music this year. In my recent memory I can't remember the last year I had a batch of personal favourite albums. It might have been in college. Usually only one or two really impress me. Cynical am I? Okay, maybe. But also really particular in what strikes my fancy.
So, top five, best records of 2010 (in my own opinion, as it were):
5. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
Driving home from someplace on the Chicago toll roads, WBEZ’s “Sound Opinions” guys were featuring this record and it immediately caught my ear. It’s an amazing marriage of R&B, soul, electronic, rock, doo-wop, and cinematic sounds. Janelle’s voice is so powerful throughout each song and the music is even more infectious.
Interestingly enough, the story behind the album is even more interesting and eccentric than the fact that The ArchAndroid is a concept album about androids taking over the world and finding emotion, etc. The album itself was recorded in so many different ways – from your typical studio setup to middle-of-the-night bedside inspiration recordings. Even so, every song flows together like it was meant to be there. An “emotion picture” as they liked to market it…
4. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night
Man, what a great, powerful album. The minute I first listened to it, I was shot back to my college dorm room where I had Sunny Day Real Estate’s How It Feels To Be Something On cranked LOUD. This Besnard Lakes record combines all the charm and old-timeyness of beard folk with the crunch and sound layering of 90s Shoegaze producing an emotionally stirring sound scape that impressed me like nothing since SDRE has.
3. Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love
Write About Love is a pretty significant departure from B&S records of old, and while a few tracks resound with the somber melancholy of If You’re Feeling Sinister, melodically it’s more in line with The Boy With The Arab Strap, though significantly more joyful.
I remember a lot of longtime fans up in arms because of the use of synthesizers on this album. Are you kidding me?? With how spot-on the song writing is, I think the synths add more than some other instrumentation would have.
Through all of the great sounds and songs, I have a couple of minor issues with the record. As a whole, you can tell the band has been on hiatus. It doesn’t feel as complete as their past records, with some songs feeling completely out-of-place (not any less great, just odd). There’s the duet with Norah Jones on Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John, that feels a little off, but is a great song nonetheless. One of the B-sides sound particularly like a Jayhawks song (Last Trip) and I think it was wise not to include in the official mass-market release. Then again, there are tracks like I Want the World to Stop that make any of these qualms irrelevant.
2. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Amazing, amazing, amazing album in its own right, Contra was the perfect followup to Vampire Weekend’s first major release. It showed incredible growth, impeccable songwriting, and an all-around more mature package of work. I tend to be sceptical of second albums, and especially when it’s tailing an album that was so popularly lauded by the mainstream. Regardless, I think Vampire Weekend are talented guys with a lot to offer.
Contra retains the band’s signature African rhythms while adding in more synthesizers and a progression of music with catchy hooks, a song seemingly custom-tailored for the radio crowd, and a wide range of subject matter.
A good friend of mine who does remixes got a copy of the self-title release to me about a month before it hit anywhere else and I fell in love with it immediately, independent of the hype that surrounded the album on MTV and the festival circuit. I had a hard time imagining how Contra, a followup album, could be better. But it is.
1. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
You know, it’s been a really, really long time since a single album has given me a full track listing of brilliant tracks that fit together so perfectly that I wake up in the morning craving a nice long listen. This is my absolute, #1 favourite album of the year.
One day on Facebook, I saw a recommendation that Ryan Adams (yes, the Ryan Adams) had made on his fan page. First of all, I was impressed that he maintains his own page, but second, DRA is probably my favourite artist of all time thus far, and any recommendation he gives is one I am going to check out. He had said this about the album:
this album has blown my entire mind. It’s making me work 10 times harder than I was. I can’t begin to imagine how a person could write these songs. This is surely the work of a genius. I needed to pass this along to you. DRA
And it really is. Instrumentation, songwriting, her incredible vocals. It’s just a brilliant album that everyone should own and cherish. I had it on rotation for almost three months. For a long time I would wake up in the morning with one of her tracks in my head and would listen to the album over and over again at work.
My wife got me the UK vinyl single of Goodbye England (Covered in Snow) for my birthday in September and the artwork is beautiful. In any case, you should really purchase this album.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
1. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
From the opening “Lake Shore Drive”-style piano rag of the title track, this album had me hooked. This, the band’s third album, is their most ambitious, although Funeral fans would likely and ardently disagree. Taking on the themes of identity and spiritual survival in our world of artifice, this project is as sprawling as the title implies. Bonus: this amazing video experience, The Wilderness Downtown (best experienced with the Chrome browser), is one of the most amazing interactive experiences of the year.
Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - live
Robert Plant - Band of Joy
The former Led Zeppelin front man surprised many a few years ago by teaming up wit bluegrass songbird Alison Krauss. This album, a collection of rootsy covers and traditional Americana, is an even more pleasant surprise.
Robert Plant - Angel Dance
Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
Here’s an idea: Create a concept album based on an ancient dystopian movie most people have never seen or heard of: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Thankfully, someone in the music business saw something promising in the crazy idea, and in the zany but soulful style of Janelle Monae. For sheer ambition alone, Ms. Monae’s debut album deserves to make the list.
Janelle Monae - Cold War
Broken Bells - Broken Bells
A creative collaboration between the Shins' James Mercer and the man with the golden touch, Danger Mouse. The Broken Bells project turned out better than I thought it would. It is certainly better than any Shins output in some time, and Mr. Mouse adds just enough to not distract from Mercer's mellifluous vocals.
Broken Bells - The High Road (Live at The Boat)
John Mellencamp - No Better Than This
An amazing production. In order to capture a true old-timey feel for this album, Mellencamp and his band went to great lengths. Specifically, they took their instruments, single microphone and mono-recorder to three sites: the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, Georgia, Memphis’ legendary Sun Studios and the San Antonio hotel where Robert Johnson recorded “Crossroads.” The result is raw, rough songs of loss, sorrow, joy and longing. And life. No Better Than This is Mellencamp’s best.
John Mellencamp - No Better Than This
(Yes, I know we're only supposed to post the top five. Sue me.)
1. Butch Walker – I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart
I can't overstate the way I feel, musically, about Butch Walker. I discovered Butch about twelve years ago, during the waning days of the Marvelous 3. I love everything he's done, whether it be M3-styled rock, like his solo debut, or moodier singer-songwriter stuff, like 2008's "Sycamore Meadows." He's always doing the right things for me, and this year's disc has been an earworm since the day it was released, way back in January. He's an electric live performer, whether he's with the full band or sitting by himself at the piano. There isn't a bad song on here; this was the album of the year for me, hands down.
2. Ben Folds – Lonely Avenue (with Nick Hornby)
Part of me feels like Ben's been mailing it in since the "Suburbs" album. "Silverman" was good, but thin; and then the "fake leaked" version of "Way To Normal" was better than the real thing. The EP series captured bits of brilliance, however, and his a cappella "greatest hits" from 2009 was a stroke of genius. He got together with author Nick Hornby to write lyrics for this album, and the result is awesome.
3. Avenged Sevenfold – Nightmare
I was despondent over the fact that founding drummer Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater; I'm so thrilled that I finally saw them live two summers ago after twenty years of fan-hood, because I know that they won't quite be the same. Portnoy left to help A7X, whose drummer Jimmy "Rev" Sullivan passed away a year ago; he filled in here, playing the parts as written by Sullivan. Word now is that A7X has decided to move on without Portnoy, and Portnoy says that the DT door is closed as well. Fellas, cut the crap. You need each other the way Steven Page and Barenaked Ladies need each other.
4. Steven Page – Page One
Speaking of guys who left bands... I'll admit that I doubted Steven Page as a solo artist. I heard his dreck with the Art of Time Ensemble, and dreaded what "Page One" would sound like; but it's really a solid -- well, I'll say it -- Barenaked Ladies album, just without the Ed songs. "A New Shore" is great; so are "Marry Me" and "Monogamists." In fact, if you took the best tracks from this, and added the best tracks from
5. Barenaked Ladies – All In Good Time
this, you'd have a really solid BNL album. The thing with BNL was always the interplay between Ed and Steve in the songwriting process. Some will call it sacrilege to compare them to Lennon-McCartney, but they had the same dynamic; you had Ed songs, and you had Steve songs, but they worked so damn well together. They always threw a Jim song and a Kevin song or two on the records, and that was fine, because it added a little side flavor. My fear was that in the absence of Steve, the Ed songs would lose their pop sheen, and that the Kevin songs would be too high in the mix. And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. "Four Seconds" tries to follow their hit single formula, but falls short; it needed Steve in the studio. That said, there's genius here. "Every Subway Car" is brilliant, vintage BNL. "You Run Away," clearly a kissoff to Page, wouldn't have happened without the breakup. It's just... I wanted more.
6. Thunder – Live at the BBC (1990-1995)
My favorite rock band ever; they broke up last summer after twenty brilliant years. This set is a little bloated and way too expensive for the casual fan, but it came with an autographed print, so I pounced. I would have tried to mix up the setlists a bit; I don't know that I need five more versions of "Backstreet Symphony," but whatever.
This isn't a clip from any of these live sets, but it's a good intro to the band:
7. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days
I discovered MCR thanks to the McDonalds/Best Buy Monopoly promotion a few years back; I had a handful of dollars that were about to expire, so I picked up "The Black Parade" on a whim because I loved the single. MCR really bring it here; I'm surprised this didn't wind up on anyone else's lists. It's a solid continuation of what they've always done.
8. Black Crowes – Croweology
Cool reworking of their songs; like a greatest hits, yet somehow better.
9. The Union – The Union
This is where Thunder guitarist Luke Morley landed after the band broke up; he hooked up with young guitar slinger Peter Shoulder and put together a brilliant "slab of rock," as they say. "This Time Next Year" is their second single; go buy it and support Childline Rocks.
10. Slash - Slash
What's not to love about Slash? Saul Hudson wants you to sing on his album, you go sing on his album... and you know it's going to kick your ass. From Ozzy to Fergie, there really isn't anything on here that doesn't deliver.
Monday, December 20, 2010
5. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs: I keep thinking this album seems overrated, until I listen again and realize just how great it is. While perhaps only “Rococo” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” sit among the band’s greatest tracks, the consistently compelling material in a story arc critiquing our modern suburban life stands up to the hype.
4. Tracey Thorn, Love and Its Opposite: “Who’s next?” the voice of Everything But the Girl sings in opener “Oh, the Divorces”: “It’s always the ones that you least expect.” And who would expect Thorn to reappear with a masterpiece of an album about growing older? But with tracks such as “Long White Dress,” “Hormones” and “Singles Bar,” she imbues wisdom and memorable songs galore.
3. Rocky Votolato, True Devotion: Not quite as phenomenal as his previous effort, “Makers,” but still full of beautifully painted tales of lost love, lovable losers and lovingly lost causes. The well-turned depth he pours into simple refrains like “The less likely you survive” (from “Fragments”) or “Sparklers only burn for so long” (from “Sparklers”) is simply stunning.
2. Dust Poets, World At Large: There’s nothing flashy about this unassuming Canadian foursome: They merely created the best album this year almost no one’s heard. They often tackle issues such as greed (“Deceived by Gasoline”), homelessness (“Big World”), online privacy (“Skeletons in Your Inbox”) and xenophobia (“Border Town”) but always with folksy charm, wit and skill.
1. Girl Talk, All Day: Sometimes you just have to ask: “Was there an album I simply couldn’t stop listening to for weeks?” That would be this record, which drops hook after hook, beat after beat in sensational succession. While I could ponder how Gregg Gillis pushes the envelope of this (controversial) genre or the brilliance of “Jump on Stage” samples running from Portishead to Radiohead, it’s much easier to just dance — anytime, anywhere — to the excessively catchy music.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I was drawn to this album by the amazing and diverse list of contributors (Florence Welch, Steve Earle, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Pierson, Sharon Jones and Allison Moorer, to name a few) and was held rapt by the stories they told about the life of Imelda Marcos and the disco-infused beats and melodies that swirled around them. A fascinating project and an incredible collection of music, this is currently my favorite album of the year.
Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
From the moment I first heard the driving tour de force that is “Little Lion Man” on WERS, I was sold. The edgy amalgam of Americana-meets-UK folk rock is a galloping, emotional headrush. Their songs pulse with life and urgency and won’t be denied. This album feels essential, in part because the members of the band play and sing as if their lives depended on it.
Tracey Thorn - Love and its Opposite
Tim was raving about this album by the lead woman from Everything But the Girl, so I had to check it out. After listening through once streaming online, I had to buy it at the next available opportunity. Her voice is hypnotic, and these powerful songs are full of elegance and verve.
The Love Language – Libraries
The Love Language‘s “Libraries” recalls what I fell in love with about bands like The Kissaway Trail and Wild Light: earnest, melodic, and rich tracks, which founder Stuart McLamb calls “emotional fight songs.” One of my happiest surprises of the year.
John Shade – All You Love is Need
Shade, a Boston-area artist, approaches acoustic pop perfection. His songs ring true, seemingly coming from a genuine place without guile or malice. (Bonus: You can download his album for free, or name your own price.)
Dylan Wilbanks' Top 5 of 2010
When I was writing this, I found I was continually referring to a song or album’s “emotional core.” And this was a year of very, very strong emotions all over the place, from the rage of the Tea Party to the pained disappointment of the political left to the continued struggle of the unemployed to the awkward transparency of celebrities on Twitter. In that environment it feels like artistry requires ripping your heart out of your chest while committing emotional hari-kari -- and now we’re all covered in blood and guts as a result.
Strangely, it took me a while to warm to this year’s crop of albums. They all seemed short of perfect and somehow unable to capture this morass of feelings we’re all having. In the end I was split between two albums for best of, and then Kanye West came along to make the decision for me. Songs, well, there was clearly a #1 for me the moment I heard it, one we’ll look back on in curiosity and embarrassment down the road.
2010 wasn’t a world-changing year in music but a transitional year to something bigger and better. As auto-tuning plays itself out and hip-hop turns into dance music, and as the musical genres continue to fragment like broken glass, the signs all point to something emerging to take rock and pop to a whole new level. What we’re transitioning to, though, I haven’t the foggiest. I just hope it doesn’t feature any more auto-tune.
1. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye West is music’s Manny Ramirez. Ramirez was a notorious distraction in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse, misplaying fly balls, skipping out on games, just being genuinely weird. And yet he was the most productive hitter on the Red Sox’ 2004 and 2007 world champion teams. The craziness was chalked up to “Manny being Manny.”
And here’s Kanye, in the midst of a two-year period where he stepped on Taylor Swift’s big moment, a very awkward conversation with Matt Lauer where Lauer continually asked Kanye how he feels about hurting the president’s feelings (a president who was compared to Hitler and burned in effigy thousands of times in his eight years in office), and a Twitter account that lets a million people enjoy his ramblings like a bunch of rubberneckers looking at a fender bender. Kanye has been, if not really self-destructive, a cautionary tale for having a personal filter and knowing when to shut up.
And what does he turn around and do? Make an album that so wows you with its audacity, with its emotional impact, with its transparency that you just have to sit there and marvel at what is in front of you, like Manny Ramirez delivering a homer over the Monster to win the game. It’s Kanye being Kanye, the most honest man in music.
2. The National - High Violet
Even though it’s #2, I still think this album is missing something. They are even better than what they sound like on High Violet, but they still haven’t found it. No matter: They are the best white guy band in America right now. They’re certainly better than Vampire Weekend, a band that looks like preppie rapists and sounds like they’re strip-mining Graceland. The National has a better record in them, but for right now this one easily beats Contra.
3. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
On Funeral, Win Butler kept the balance right between the big bombast of “Wake Up” and “Rebellion (Lies)” and the intimate but something brewing underneath sounds of “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “Haiti.” Then he lost that on Neon Bible, laying it on thick like Christopher Hitchens were co-writing the songs. On The Suburbs, Arcade Fire return to that feeling, somewhat. Thematically it’s less hopeful and more weary than Funeral, but the bombast is dialed way down from Neon Bible, and the underlying message is less about Suburbs Are Evil and more about We Are Children Of The Suburbs And This Is Our Story. “We Used To Wait” is the prime example of this -- the sense of loss from Funeral, but it never goes over the top, only builds tension until it explodes, and then is as quiet as the digital extinction they sing about.
4. Sufjan Stevens - The Age Of Adz
Talk about an album that divides people. After we saw Sufjan here in Seattle, my wife said, “It was OK... but I really liked the acoustic stuff more.” Given that 80% of the concert was songs from Adz (including a full 25 minute performance of “Impossible Soul” that crescendoed with Sufjan in Kanye slat shades and the backup singers turning into fly girls), she didn’t what get she paid for.
But I was OK with it. It’s clear that Sufjan is trying to shuck off the “acoustic chamber pop” label. He’s trying to become David Byrne and getting there via Gary Numan and Captain Beefheart. And yet, he’s the same old Sufjan, turning words and sounds around each other without losing the emotional core that’s the base of all his music. And while you want to think “Impossible Soul” is the most self-indulgent sitcom-length song since Peter Gabriel put on that flower suit to sing “Supper’s Ready,” by the time the fly girls appear you understand what he’s been trying to do. He’s trying to work out his relationships with God, people, lovers, his fans, and he’s trying to do it the only way he knows how. And in his hands, it’s at times self-indulgent, but all the time it’s interesting and emotionally cathartic.
5. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Noise pop has made a comeback the last few years, with Animal Collective leading the way and Sleigh Bells and Deerhunter coming behind. On Halcyon Digest, though, Deerhunter is starting to become more accessible than Animal Collective, and that can only bode well for them. “Helicopter” is as much a pop single as “My Girls” was last year, but Deerhunter sounds far more capable of repeating the experiment than Animal Collective. They wear their My Bloody Valentine influence like a merit badge, but they’re far more subtle, wanting to sneak in to your parlor with a few hundred amps rather than blast your front door down with a cacophony of buzz.
Also receiving votes: Teen Dream, Beach House; Write About Love, Belle and Sebastian; Crazy For You, Best Coast; Brothers, Black Keys; Interpreting The Masters, Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall And John Oates, The Bird And The Bee; Swim, Caribou; Tron, Daft Punk; This Is Happening, LCD Soundsystem; Have One On Me, Joanna Newsom; How I Got Over, The Roots
1. “Bed Intruder Song,” Antoine Dodson and The Gregory Brothers
This song was 2010. A meme born from real anger and frustration run through Auto-Tune and turned into a best selling download. Covers. Mashups. How dare we see African-Americans this way, we guiltily think to ourselves. Are we laughing at him, or with him? And yet, we keep listening, because we understand the powerlessness, the need for retribution. And it’s so damn catchy.
2. “Tightrope,” Janelle Monae
2010 may be remembered as the year we first found out about Janelle Monae. I hope 2010 is; she’s incredibly talented.
3. “Runaway,” Kanye West
It’s just Kanye being Kanye.
4. “I Can Change,” LCD Soundsystem
Between looking like Brian Ferry on the cover of his latest album and this song’s opening beep-boops of 1980-era synth pop, you have to ask if James Murphy is heading down a get-off-my-lawn nostalgia for youth. And yet, this song sounds so much fresher than the source material.
5. “F**k You,” Cee-Lo Green
The song was so five minutes ago four minutes after it first hit YouTube, but that first four minutes were awesome, the most salty F-off pop song in forever delivered with incredible sweetness.
Honorable Mention: “Fly Scientist,” Chi Duly (Coldplay/Drake), “Not In Love,” Crystal Castles/Robert Smith, “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” The National, “Rill Rill,” Sleigh Bells, “The Wild Hunt,” The Tallest Man On Earth
MGMT - Congratulations
What went wrong, guys? Did you believe your own press too much?
Weezer - Hurley/Death To False Metal
When are we all going to admit that Weezer has degenerated into a Weezer cover band?
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Despite our diverse viewpoints and stylistic preferences, we found common ground on several of the year's musical offerings but plenty of disagreement on where those commonly loved albums fall on the spectrum of overall awesomeness.
Our plan for this blog was to share our consensus picks of the top 50 albums of 2010, but because we have such a diverse viewpoint, we decided to also share our personal top five picks for the year with a bit of commentary on why those five albums are our favorites.
We will share individual picks soon. But first, let's take a look at the 169 albums that didn't quite make it into our final list. Each of these offerings is terrific in the views of at least one of our 10 contributors. Some of them even landed on individual top-5 lists, as you'll soon discover.
The also-rans: the top 51-219 albums of 2010, according to us.
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
Warpaint - The Fool
Wavves - King of the Beach
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Punch Brothers - Antifogmatic
Matthew Dear - Black City
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim - Here Lies Love
Dust Poets - World at Large
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
Various Artists - Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine
Preservation Hall Jazz Band - An Album Benefiting Preservation Hall and the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program
Tides of Man - Dreamhouse
Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
M.I.A. - /\/\/\Y/\
Avenged Sevenfold - Nightmare
Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away
MGMT - Congratulations
Rocky Votolato - True Devotion
The Love Language - Libraries
Steven Page - Page One
Mose Allison - The Way of the World
Curren$y - Pilot Talk
SONOIO - Blue
John Shade - All You Love Is Need
Barenaked Ladies - All In Good Time
Audra Mae - The Happiest Lamb
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis
Thunder - Live at the BBC (1990-1995)
KT Tunstall - Tiger Suit
Zoe Keating - Into the Trees
Neon Trees - Habits
My Chemical Romance - Danger Days
Ryan Bingham and Dead Horses - Junky Star
Autechre - Oversteps
Fitz and the Tantrums - Pickin' Up the Pieces
Tired Pony - The Place We Ran From
Gin Blossoms - No Chocolate Cake
Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
Cloud Cut - Light Chasers
The Union - The Union
Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh
Jaga Jazzist - One-Armed Bandit
Slash - Slash
Harlem - Hippies
Sarah McLachlan - Laws of Illusion
James LaBrie - Static Impulse
The City Champs - The Set-Up
jj - no. 3
Brad Yoder - Excellent Trouble
Roky Erickson with Okkervil River - True Love Casts Out All Evil
The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
Pete Yorn - Pete Yorn
El-P - Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3
Jenny and Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now
Nelson - Lightning Strikes Twice
First Aid Kit - The Big Black and The Blue
The Acorn - No Ghost
Darius Rucker - Charleston, SC 1966
Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love
The Secret Sisters - The Secret Sisters
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - I Learned the Hard Way
The Glitch Mob - Drink The Sea
She & Him - Volume 2
Turtle Island Quartet - Have You Ever Been..?: The Music Of Jimi Hendrix and David Balakrishnan
Atlas Sound - Bedroom Databank Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4
The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream
MC Frontalot - Zero Day
Caribou - Swim
Zion - Atomic Clock
Zac Brown Band - You Get What You Give
Anat Cohen - Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard
Hilary Hahn - Higdin & Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos
The Depreciation Guild - Spirit Youth
The Kissaway Trail - Sleep Mountain
Scorpions - Sting In the Tail
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul
The Two Man Gentleman Band - Dos Amigos, Una Fiesta!
dum dum girls - I will be
Good Old War - Good Old War
Marching Band - Pop Cycle
Imagination Movers - In a Big Warehouse
Dave Brubeck - Legacy of a Legend
Deadmau5 - 4x4=12
Steel Train - Steel Train
Deftones - Diamond Eyes
Versus - On the Ones and Threes
Tesla - Alive in Europe
The Walkmen - Lisbon
Weakerthans and Jim Bryson - The Falcon Lake Incident
Extreme - Take Us Alive (Live Boston 2009)
Land of Talk - Cloak and Cipher
Magnetic Fields - Realism
Merle Haggard - I Am What I Am
Midlake - The Courage of Others
Pavement - Quarantine The Past
Teenage Fanclub - Shadows
Peter Wolf - Midnight Souvenirs
Stone Temple Pilots - Stone Temple Pilots
Ginger - Ten and 10 (Two)
Mimicking Birds - Mimicking Birds
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below
Axis of Awesome - Infinity Rock Explosion!
J. Roddy Walston and the Business - J. Roddy Walston and the Business
Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Jazmine Sullivan - Love Me Back
Freelance Whales - Weathervanes
The Damned Things - Ironiclast
Neil Young - Le Noise
Freedy Johnston - Rain on the City
Cee-Lo - Ladykiller
Reading Rainbow - Prism Eyes
Mike Patton - Mondo Cane
Owen Pallet - Heartland
Ozzy Osbourne - Scream
Los Campesinos! - Romance Is Boring
Ed Kowalczyk - Alive
Tom Petty - Mojo
Laura Stevenson & The Cans - A Record
The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Truth & Salvage Co. - Truth & Salvage Co.
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Dungen - Skit I Allt
Pernice Brothers - Goodbye, Killer
Various Artists - Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti
We Are Scientists - Barbara
Baseball Project - Broadside Ballads
Joy Kills Sorrow - Joy Kills Sorrow
Eric Martin - Mr. Vocalist 3
Manic Street Preachers - Postcards from a Young Man
Minus the Bear - Omni
Kathryn Calder - Are You My Mother?
Airbourne - No Guts. No Glory
The Whigs - In the Dark
Brooklyn Rider - Dominant Curve
Nada Surf - If I Had a Hi-Fi
Jack Johnson - To The Sea
Angus & Julia Stone - Down the Way
Blackwood Creek - Blackwood Creek
The Vaselines - Sex With An X
Dan Mangan - Nice, Nice, Very Nice
Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Electric Six - Zodiac
Of Mice & Men - Of Mice & Men
Eels - End Times
Taylor Swift - Speak Now
Elvis Costello - National Ransom
Twin Shadow - Forget
Meat Loaf - Hang Cool Teddy Bear
Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
Crime In Stereo - I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone
Mates of State - Crushes
Guster - Easy Wonderful
Shelby Lynne - Tears, Lies and Alibis
Alexander Melnikov - Shostakovich
John Hiatt - The Open Road
Zac Brown Band - Pass the Jar
Aloha - Home Acres
Kingsley Flood - Dust Windows
Bad Religion - The Dissent of Man
Jason Moran - Ten
Static of the Gods - Knowledge Machine
White Wizzard - Over the Top
The Unthanks - Here's the Tender Coming
Court Yard Hounds - Court Yard Hounds
Basia Bulat - Heart of My Own
Sam Amidon - I See the Sign
The Futureheads - The Chaos
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
1. Barenaked Ladies (featuring Michael Buble) - Elf's Lament Couldn't find a proper video for this, so we'll go with this live one, sans Mr. Buble. Cute, catchy, and far and away the high point of their largely throwaway "Barenaked for the Holidays" from a few years ago.
2. Blues Traveler - Christmas The "Very Special Christmas" series is largely hit or miss for me; you could make a great "Very Special Christmas Greatest Hits" based on your own individual preferences. For me, this one (and the Extreme song below) stand out for me. I love the part at the end with the layered vocals.
3. Crash Test Dummies - The First Noel There's a video for this! I'm thrilled. There's nothing not to love Brad Roberts' voice, and although their holiday album is a little thin also, Brad's songs are excellent. "Jingle Bells" is a hit for me too.
4. Darkness - Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End) Oh, how I miss The Darkness.
5. Extreme - Christmas Time Again I'm an admitted hair metal fanboy, but I just love the way this ends, with the segue into "Noel." There are a couple of pretty good hair metal Christmas albums out there, but this is the only song you might already have in your collection.
6. Firehouse - Christmas With You I don't have any idea where this song came from or where I found it, but these guys were/are one of my favorite bands, and I was excited to see that they'd released this.
7. Hanson - anything off Snowed In, really Hanson's "Snowed In" is probably my favorite Christmas album. (There, I said it.) The harmonies are tight, the arrangements are great. Well worth the investment.
8. Billy Idol - Merry Christmas Baby Yes, a Billy Idol Christmas record. Surprisingly good, actually.
9. Billy Mack - Christmas Is All Around The one from "Love Actually," one of the great underrated Christmas movies of our time.
10. Marvelous 3 - Merry Christmas I can't find a version of this online anywhere, but the Marv 3 are maybe the best band you've never heard of. Three albums that got lost in the shuffle before their record label dropped them; this song, according to a fan site, appears on a radio station holiday compilation from 2000. Not their greatest work, but I wanted to get Butch Walker on this list somewhere.
11. Oak Ridge Boys - Hallelujah Chorus I love love love this.
12. Joe Pesci - If It Doesn't Snow On Christmas (NSFW) "Where'd you get these kids from, a bleeping jail?" Brilliant.
13. SNL - Christmas Coming To The USA This makes me cry with laughter every time I see it. It's just so stupid, it's brilliant, and the four of them really sell it.
14. Ringo Starr - Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Ringo's all over the place lyrically here (particularly from 1:12-1:40), and it's like Mark Hudson said "You know what, Ringo? That take totally sucked, but we're leaving it in there, because it's hilarious."
15. Wesley Willis - Merry Christmas The world misses you, Wesley Willis. There will never be another.
Feel free to contribute any forgotten classics of your own below.