Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Personal Top 5 - Andrew Careaga

So many good albums came out in 2010, it was tough to narrow my selections down to five favorites. So I had to employ the "desert island" test: Which five albums from this year would I load into my mp3 player if I were to embark on a three-hour tour and end up stranded on a desert island? (The underlying assumptions being that the island had a limitless supply of electricity, and that I would bring along a charger for the mp3 player.) Here are the five.

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

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