Thursday, April 29, 2010

Best albums of 2010, so far (another take)

On the heels of Ron Bronson's post about the best songs of the year so far, Andrew Careaga shares his picks for top albums of the year to date.

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.

Drive-by Truckers - Birthday Boy

Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Yeasayer's previous effort, All Hour Cymbals, was an uneven disappointment. Not so with this release. The tunes move fluidly from track to track.

Yeasayer - O.N.E.

Spoon - Transference
I've been a Spoon fanboy from the get-go, but even I had a time warming up to this album. It took several listens to grow on me. But with each new listen, I appreciate this album more. It's nothing fancy. In fact, it's downright amateurish in places. A few tracks sounds like jam session recordings. But Spoon is the master of the awkward tempo transition and chord shift, and their atonal authenticity is part of this album's allure. That, and the solid rhythm section, jangly guitars, occasional lo-fi production, a bangin' piano, a couple of Neil Young references, and lead singer Britt Daniels' gruff and painfully earnest (or earnestly painful) vocals.

Spoon - Trouble Comes Running

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 vocal style.

Broken Bells - The High Road

Vampire Weekend - Contra
Break out your torches and pitchforks, haters. ;)

I know this band's self-titled debut was the most overhyped (and loathed) albums of the previous decade, but this one delivers some solid tunes. Yes, there's some blatant ripping off from Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints going on throughout the album. But what else would you expect from a band of bloodsuckers? At least they know what's worth paying homage to. The best part about this album in my opinion is that, with few exceptions, Vampire Weekend mostly dropped the chamber music that permeated the first album in favor of more driving reggae and percussion. We'll see how it holds up against the competition in the coming months, but for now Contra stays in my top five. How's that for being contra-ry?

Vampire Weekend - Cousins

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Best songs of 2010, so far

Welcome back! Ron Bronson kicks off a quarterly-plus-three-weeks (more or less) review of the best music of 2010, according to us. Stay tuned for more from some of our other contributors soon.

You could be thinking, isn't a bit early for this? Well, it's a lot easier to write an annual list when you have three or four quarterly lists. What sounds good now might not be remembered in November, after all.

Rather than profile albums, I'll just give you a playlist of memorable songs. It's easier to write about songs and there are several albums that I doubt would make into an end of the year list that I think deserve a bit of praise for a track or two.

So here goes:

The xx - VCR

Jakob Dylan - Holy Rollers For Love

First Aid Kit - Sailor Song

The Tallest Man on Earth - Burden Of Tomorrow
The album "Wild Hunt" was released last week and there are easily three songs on that album that should be on this list, but I chose this one because I haven't played it on any other site of mine. Expect a review on this LP sooner or later.

Owen Pallet - Oh Heartland, Up Yours

Erykah Badu - Window Seat

The Watson Twins - Modern Man

April Smith & The Great Picture Show - Colors

Scout Niblett - The Calcination of Scout Niblett

Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man

Laura Veirs - July Flame
Ok, one note about this song. I've been a Laura Veirs fan for years now and finally saw her live last fall. She played a number of songs from the new album (and was offering it for sale, too...) and I wasn't partial to it when I first heard it. But the album grew on me when I heard it on wax. This song wasn't my favorite, but it eventually got stuck in my head and wouldn't leave.

Dr. Dog - Shadow People