Sunday, December 19, 2010

Personal Top 5 - Ron Bronson

My Top 50 albums list was comprised of a cacophony of genres, representative of how I listen to music most of the time. From classical to indie, folk to jazz, hip-hop to metal, 2010 offered up a delicious buffet of musical tastes and I choose to sample from all over the map. In the end, I had to choose five albums that stood out among the rest.

Here they are:

5. Curren$y - Pilot Talk
Quite possibly the hardest working man in hip-hop this year, New Orleans native Curren$y finally hit the mainstream in 2010 releasing Pilot Talk in July and Pilot Talk II in late November. (Pitchfork gave both albums over an 8.) He rhymes a lot about what you'd consider usual rap fare -- girls, cars and his consumption of a curious product sold in Colorado dispensaries -- but what makes this brilliant is his laid-back, workmen like approach to the craft.

This isn't radio-friendly music by any stretch and the tracks aren't rife with choruses that always make them memorable. Instead, it's got the feel and flow of a mixtape, but without the abruptness and is good enough to be background music. His wordplay is second-to-none and in contrast to say, Kanye West, his braggadocio is demonstrated through the work his does on tracks.

The best hip-hop album of the year, hands down.

4. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
I debated this album and his September EP, Sometimes The Blues Are Just A Passing Bird, which might have been more complete than this album, but in the end decided to go with the full-length LP. The Tallest Man on Earth is the nom de guerre of Swedish musician Kristian Matsson and The Wild Hunt is his debut release.

The beauty of his music is it's complexity and it's simplicity -- at all once. Matsson manages to weave lush arrangements with the strum of his guitar and leave it at that. No drums or backup singers litter these tracks, so the first time you play it, it's as if he's sitting in your living room playing for you. He sounds as good on wax as he does in person (I saw him this past May) and does little to dissuade the notion that you're listening to his generation's up-and-coming troubadour.

Standout tracks include: King of Spain, The Wild Hunt, Troubles Will Be Gone

3. Tides of Man - Dreamhouse
Easily the hardest choice I had to make. Why? Tides of Man make the transition into a band that sounds like Circa Survive melded with Coheed and Cambria on this album. In other words, the ultimate emo acquired taste LP. Either you'd love it or hate it. Well, I loved it.

Standout tracks: Echoes, A Faint Illusion, Statues

2. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
For years, I had friends who raved about Joanna Newsom. I couldn't spend much time with her though. But the first time I heard Have One On Me, I realized that she'd crossed over into one of my favorites. This LP is easily her most accessible -- despite 3 LPs -- and that says a lot when many of the songs go on for seven minutes or more. The lyrics alone could sell you, but she mixes it with flawless arrangements that rely less on her vaunted harp and instead, let her voice and piano do the talking.

From Have One On Me, Good Intentions Paving Company, Does Not Suffice to Easy, this album is an emotive masterpiece that will demand your attention. No, it might not convert the masses to Joanna fandom, but you can't help but hear it and appreciate the handiwork.

1. Laura Veirs - July Flame
Another album of an artist I saw live in the past year. I first heard this album several weeks before it's release, at a Laura Veirs concert. I didn't like it, because it was extremely unfamiliar and I'd been pining for tracks like Spelunking, Don't Lose Yourself or Galaxies and for a while what I got were these songs I'd never heard. So I passed up a chance to get the album early, to have her autograph it or to pick it up on wax.

I waited for it to be released in January and immediately ate my words upon hearing it. It certainly lends itself better on LP, but live renditions since then still work. It's not much different than past Laura Veirs work, it's heavily reliant on her poetic folk lyricism. What makes this best, is how the entire album holds up with each song as memorable as the previous. It's beautiful, stoic and a perfect winter album.

Standout tracks: July Flame, I Can See Your Tracks, Where Are You Driving?, Carol Kaye


  1. Your eclectic tastes never cease to amaze me, Ron. I'm embarrassed to say that I only possess one of these five works -- the Tallest Man on Earth album (which clocks in somewhere after my top 50 for the year). It's always fun to read your picks and views.

  2. Yeah, I know I show here with choices out of left field. But I sometimes can't help myself and want to give people a wide range of stuff, because that's how I've always wanted to listen to music even when my tastes weren't as broad or eclectic as they've evolved to now.

    Thanks for doing this project, it's always fun.

  3. I'm not embarrassed to say I've never heard of a single one of these artists. (I thought I was the oddball in musical tastes among us!) But I'll seek out Tides of Man.

  4. Like Andy, the only one of these I have is the Tallest Man on Earth (number 17 on my list). That's the best part of doing this -- I always know I'm going to discover something new I'll dig from you and the rest of the crew.