Friday, December 31, 2010

Best albums of 2010... sort of

So I decided to check out what my, uh, peers at Blurt included in their year-end lists, if only to make sure I didn't forget some great album that wowed me back in May that I completely forgot about. Turns out, I'm really out of touch when it comes to rock albums this year. I mean really out of touch. I own about two of the albums that made their Top 50 list. The rest of them I either didn't know about or only read about. Or in the case of Joanna Newsom, I just ran the other way. With all that time I spent keeping abreast of jazz albums, I became clueless re: the big releases of 2010. Except of course for the Arcade Fire. Duh.

But, um, didn't the New Pornographers release a new album this year? Sure, any shanleyonmusic reader knows that I'll love it BUT DIDN'T ANYONE ELSE?

So here's my list.....

1. Pernice Brothers - Goodbye Killer (Ashmont). To put it effusively, Joe Pernice is one of the best lyricists around. He knows how to tell a story, which sounds like a writer's cliche, but when you listen to him, you realize why people say that line in all sincerity.

2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge). This is probably the first and last time a #1 Billboard album will ever make my year-end list (well, maybe Double Fantasy would've counted), but everything everyone says about this album is true. And though I didn't grow up in the suburbs, I do relate to the feeling of your past slipping away as you cling heavily to it. And the trick with that online video? Brilliant.

3. New Pornographers - Together (Matador). Surprise, surprise. After 2007's Challengers, which dipped a little too much into the mid-tempo department, this album came back and found the group sounding pretty solid and upbeat.

4. Nels Cline - Dirty Baby (Cryptogramophone). It's not really a rock album. But it's not really a jazz album either, though both downbeat and JazzTimes gave it a glowing review. It's a work of art in itself AND it sounds good. Refer to my review on this site for more details.

5. Kathryn Calder - Are You My Mother? (File Under: Music) In which the keyboardist of the New Pornographers shows that she has some great songwriting ideas up her sleeve that everyone would be fools to ignore her (yeah, that's a hint to you). This album is beautiful and at times poignant.

6. Nellie McKay - Home Sweet Mobile Home (Verve). A lot of times I get really really into an artist's album while writing about it, only to cool off after the deadline is met. Though the faux-reggae and salsa almost gets too clever for its own good, McKay's new album holds it together, with lyrical depth (with claws out, in some cases) and hooks that I wish I wrote.

7. Susan Cowsill - Lighthouse (Threadhead) OK, this actually made the Blurt list at #50. Much of its weight rests on "River of Love" the genuinely moving tribute to both Susan's brother Barry (who wrote the song) and the power of love in general, but you can't argue with a power like this. For awhile I thought I was reading too much personal stuff into it - my bandmate's father's death, the eventual death of a close friend - but not so. This song is heavy. And the album proves that when life deals you a shitty hand, there's only one thing to do - Get up the next day and work your way back.

8. Moby Grape - Live (Sundazed). It's more a historical album than one that should be in a "new" list, but it makes you realize that as good as the Grape was on its first album, they were even better live. And when I say "better," I mean "with few peers."

9. Richard Barone - Glow (Bar/None). The one-time singer of the Bongos returns with an album of pure pop, in all its splendour.

Ok, let's leave it at that. I'll be honest, I wanted to include Azure Ray's Drawing Down the Moon on the list because I remember really enjoying it when I reviewed it for Blurt. But the band's label couldn't be bothered to send me anything more than a stream of the album, so I haven't heard it since I wrote the review in July. Hey guys, I'm not going to sell your CDs. If you really want to make sure of that, just watermark them. Hell, don't even do it. Just say you did and slap a sticker on it saying that I'll be in big trouble if I do anything with the CD. If I like the music, I'll hold onto it. If I don't I'LL THROW IT AWAY. There are already plenty of good CDs that I don't listen to cluttering up my house. I might as well just pitch the lousy ones. Or maybe I should mail them back to you.

Anyhow, that's my warped view of 2010 releases.

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