Monday, January 10, 2011

Personal Favorites of 2010

…and we’re back! After a nice break for the holidays and some nerdy nasal surgery, it’s time for me to get back on the blog horse. What better way to kick off a new year than by working up a year end list. Normally I’m not a big fan of these. Not because I have a problem with looking back over the previous year’s releases or anything, because I do think there’s a lot of merit in that. My problem is that they almost always employ words like “best of” and “most important” or some other pretentious description. Music is so subjective, so personal and hits everyone so differently that listing out what should be considered “the greatest” and what everyone “should” be listening to is kind of elitist. It’s a simple matter of confusing opinion for fact. Most of them just end up becoming a weak “hipster how to” list. So in an attempt to do a year end list in the right spirit, these are some of my own personal favorite albums that were released in 2010 in no particular order. I won’t presume that every one of them will impact you, but they all sure did something for me. To make it even more exciting, I’m going with 11 spots instead of the normal 10 and I’m also creating what I call the “Household Rule.” This rule allows for two separate releases to share one spot if the artists are husband and wife. Both releases would’ve had to have been meaningful enough to end up on the list by themselves as well. Anyways, here’s yet another year end list to add to the ever-growing pile:

The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang: This incredible third album by the passionate New Jersey soul-punks finds them stepping out of Springsteen’s shadow and into their own, well deserved light.

Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now: Having uber-talented duo Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice transition from “frequent collaborators” to “intentional band mates” resulted in one of the coolest sounding album of the year.

The Secret Sisters – The Secret Sisters: When you combine two inseparable voices, T-Bone Burnett’s Midas touch production skills and a slew of vintage country covers you end up with an arresting mix of modern solid gold country.

Tumbledown – Empty Bottle: The best drinking songs deal with Saturday morning rather than Friday night and Tumbledown’s great “alt-punktry” offerings are no different.

Karen Elson – The Ghost Who Walks/The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards: “Household Rule” in effect! While the lady of the manor offered up some gorgeously haunting murder ballads and ghostly folk songs, her husband was creating some of the heaviest, greasiest, riff-based rock n’ roll that’s been out in a while.

Jakob Dylan – Women and Country: The second album on the list produced by T-Bone Burnett is a beautiful folk record full of authentic songwriting, rootsy musicianship, meaningful lyrics and stunning vocal performances by Jakob, Neko Case and Kelly Hogan.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs: The most anticipated album of 2010 didn’t disappoint as Arcade Fire delivered a sprawling conceptual record about growing up in the suburbs that challenges and inspires as it gets you thinking and moving.

Sandra McCracken – In Feast Or Fallow/Derek Webb – Feedback: “Household Rule” #2! The Mrs. released another refreshingly reverent hymns album while the Mr. continued to shed his acoustic skin for an electronic instrumental album based on “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues: Despite some of the personal problems Justin encountered this year, he brought together the vibe of his new home in New York with the roots of his old home in Nashville for a soulful, folksy romp of acoustic based alt-country songs.

The Weepies – Be My Thrill: Husband and wife duo The Weepies returned to the music scene in full force in 2010 with a fun, cozy, indie-folk album that is best enjoyed in the company of the one you love.

Agent Ribbons – Chateau Crone: This eclectic trio of ladies and their musical melting pot are guaranteed to get you moving while they have you guessing where they are going to go next.

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