Everybody makes lists this time of year. “The best, most influential, most talked about (blank) of 2010!”
This is my list. Inspired by a coworker’s annual New Year CD where he compiles the best music that he acquired over the previous year (whether it was new or not). This list is my top ten favorite albums released in 2010. Music is one of those matters of taste – which can be extremely subjective – so it’s really just a peek into my brain, or at least my iPod. But maybe there is something here that you missed and might want to check out.
So without further ado – in no particular order…
Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine – Various Artists
This one was a no-brainer; a handful of awesome John Prine songs covered by some really great artists like the Avett Brothers, Justin Townes Earle, Bon Iver, Drive-By Truckers (who also released a great album in 2010) and Old Crow Medicine Show. I wouldn’t normally put a compilation or tribute album on a list like this – but this one deserves a nod.
Women and Country – Jakob Dylan
I loved the Wallflowers. I admit it. I still listen to Bringing Down the Horse on a regular basis. And even though Jakob’s solo work took a minor detour from the kind of music they were laying down back then. It is just as good. The guy has talent. Throw in the awesomeness of Neko Case, Kelly Hogan and producer T-Bone Burnett and how could you possibly go wrong?
Listen to: Everybody’s Hurting
Release Me – The Like
This one was a complete surprise for me. A coworker introduced me to this indie rock girl group after she bought the album based on a random Amazon recommendation. Heavily influenced by 1960’s British invasion era girl-groups, but performed with the energy and exuberance that you expect from the indie rock scene, plus some slightly twisted lyrics, this album grows on you almost instantaneously.
Listen to: Wishing He Was Dead
Brothers – The Black Keys
I bought this album on a whim after seeing them perform Tighten Up on the Late Show with David Letterman, and was presently surprised that I actually liked nearly the whole thing. That doesn’t happen very often. The duo got a little extra airplay due to a very entertaining and original music video – and they deserved it – but I don’t want them to become the next OK GO, known more for their viral videos than for their music. Because their music is good enough to stand on its own.
Listen to: Howlin’ For You
The Lady Killer – Cee Lo Green
Speaking of viral videos… Yes, this album was launched into the atmosphere by a terminally catchy but oh-so vulgar first single. But I can’t deny that it is a solid, funky, R&B album that I just can’t stop grooving to. When it comes to ladies, Cee Lo has a license to kill!
Listen to: It’s OK
A Thousand Suns – Linkin Park
Surprised this made it onto my list? Don’t be. Honestly I probably wouldn’t listen to them at all if it weren’t for my wife – but I do. (And don’t tell her, but I really like it too.) It is nothing more than good, unpretentious hard rock with hip-hop overtones that doesn’t try to be anything that it’s not. Oh yeah, and they’re one of the few hard rock acts these days that has a lead singer with a truly excellent singing voice.
Listen to: The Catalyst
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
I was initially introduced to Grace Potter by my brother when he gave me her 2007 album This is Somewhere. I only listened to it a few times and liked it okay, but not as much as he apparently did. The moment that turned me around though was her appearance on PBS’s Sun Studio Sessions. She did a cover of the often covered Junior Parker song Mystery Train that totally knocked my socks off. With this album I have discovered that she is the complete package; great song writing, sexy raspy rock & roll voice, and an awesome band.
Listen to: Paris (Ooh La La)
Harlem River Blues – Justin Townes Earle
Son of the legendary Steve Earle and named after legendary Townes VanZandt, this poor kid had a lot to live up to! Luckily for us, he is headed in the right direction. This is just a phenomenal album – diverse but cohesive, if that makes any sense. He ranges from old-school twangy country – to Memphis rockabilly – to gospel – to railroad folk, but it all makes sense and works well together.
Listen to: Harlem River Blues
Infinite Arms – Band of Horses
This one is interesting. It is not quite what I expected – but then again I wasn’t sure what to expect. Forgive my poor description, but it is like alt country in a slow, dreamy state of existence. There are layered vocals and harmonies that give it a spacey, ethereal quality. The song writing and musicianship are fairly simple and understated, but it somehow comes together and works! I’m not sure why, but I really like it.
Listen to: Dilly
God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise – Ray Lamontagne & the Pariah Dogs
This is one of the few albums this year that I actually anxiously anticipated its release, and I was not disappointed. It is probably my favorite album of the year. Ray is a folksy, bluesy, gravelly-voiced crooner with serious shyness issues. (He refuses to make videos and rarely does interviews because he is overly critical of his own work.) He shouldn’t be though. This is just great music – not overly produced, nothing too fancy, just good music. Period.
Listen to: For the Summer