Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sonic Sunday: The Rest of 2010's Best Albums

And now, the continuation of my July post, The Best Albums of the Year...So Far. Just to jog your memories, the first five albums on the list were:

  • Infinite Arms, Band of Horses
  • Broken Bells, Broken Bells
  • Head First, Goldfrapp
  • Plastic Beach, Gorillaz
  • Together, The New Pornographers
There were also some "honorable mentions," so if you want to see those, please check out the whole post. I'd just like to correct something, though: I take back my honorable mention for Paul Weller's Wake Up the Nation. While I love Paul and think he had one of the best singles of the year (more on that next week), the entire album turned out to be rather disappointing. I think I hastily gave it a nod because the few songs I heard at that point were pretty good and I was just excited that Paul had something new out.

The first five (as well as this five) were in alphabetical (by artist), not preferential, order. But as it happens, that gorgeous Band of Horses album is my absolute favorite of the year. If you don't own it yet...WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Here now are the rest of the best albums of the year:

Brothers, The Black Keys

As you might remember from my Lollapalooza post, I wasn't even familiar with The Black Keys until I caught their set at Lolla this year. They left a huge impression on me (I believe I described their live show as a "face-melting, ovary-exploding sonic blast"), so I immediately picked up this album and as much of their older stuff as I could get my hands on.

Listen to "Tighten Up."
Other choice cuts: "Everlasting Light," "The Only One," "Ten Cent Pistol"

The Lady Killer, Cee Lo Green
Like everyone else in the world, I became instantly hooked on Cee Lo's bubbly single, "Fuck You!," a song that, despite its title and F-bomb laden chorus, managed to become a mainstream hit. (Of course, if I never hear it again on the radio it will be too soon, because the sanitized version really needs to, well, fuck off.) I bought the entire record based on the strength of that one amazing song, cringing all the while in anticipation of this being yet another case of one gem tucked into a sea of filler. However, I'm happy to report that The Lady Killer is an absolute delight. While no other track can touch "Fuck You!" (and no one could really expect that), the record is full of Motown throwbacks and sexy soul numbers, making it an ideal companion for driving, dancing or you-know-whatting. And despite my slight aversion to covers, Cee Lo's unexpected R&B reworking of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You" really knocked me out.

Listen to "It's OK."
Other choice cuts: "Fuck You!," "Wildflower" "No One's Gonna Love You"

Heaven is Whenever, The Hold Steady
I have never liked The Hold Steady. But because all the cool kids (and even some of the uncool ones) talked incessantly about how great they were, I tried to get into them. After giving them several chances, I still JUST. DIDN'T. GET. IT. Then, of course, the praise started up again when they released Heaven is Whenever, but I staunchly refused to listen to any of it. So, imagine my surprise when I was grooving along to an unknown song one day on my beloved WYEP and the DJ said it was something new from The Hold Steady. OK, so one song was decent. It was probably a fluke, right? No. After hearing about 3-4 songs from this record, I had to begrudgingly admit that it sounded pretty damn good. And then once I bought it, there was no longer anything begrudging about my love for it. It's just a fantastic album. Craig Finn's voice doesn't even annoy the hell out of me on this go-round. I don't know what they're doing differently, but I hope it continues.

Listen to: "Our Whole Lives."

Other choice cuts: "Hurricane J," "The Weekenders," "Soft in the Center"

Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook, Bettye LaVette
As I mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of cover songs. So, normally, I would never give a whole album of covers such high praise, but Bettye's latest—an homage to some very deserving Brit Rockers—is worthy. Sure, some songs work better than others; the "All My Love" cover kind of rubs me the wrong way, but that could just be because I'm a giant Zeppelin freak. But the tracks that do work (and that's the bulk of them) are fantastic. The first of these songs that I heard (aside from her stunning version of "Love Reign O'er Me," which she performed at the Kennedy Center Honors a couple of years ago) was the cover of Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy," which is so perfectly transformed that I didn't even recognize it.

Listen to: "It Don't Come Easy."
Other choice cuts: "Love Reign O'er Me," "Nights in White Satin," "Salt of the Earth"

Love it to Life, Jesse Malin & The St. Marks Social
While I think Jesse is a good songwriter (palling around with Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams has gotta be good for something), he's never been able to keep my interest for more than a few songs. (It may have something to do with his clothespin-on-the-nose style of singing.) However, his first single "Burning the Bowery" really won me over, so I checked out the album's song samples on Amazon. It didn't take me very long to decide to buy the whole thing. This record certainly isn't going to change the world (or even the roots rock/alt-country world) but it will make your morning commute totally bearable.

Listen to: "All the Way from Moscow."

Other choice cuts: "Burning the Bowery," "St. Mark's Sunset," "The Archer"


Candy's daily Dandy said...

"Fuck You" is fast becoming my anthem....

McGone said...

I tried. In the comments of the other mid-year installment, I tried my damnedest to tell you about "Brothers."

I'm currently digging Karen Elson's debut album. But, like I said last time, I'm a Jack White devotee. And her being his wife and all...

Still hate Yeasayer.

McGone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
McGone said...

Also, I'll be starting 2011 by seeing the Black Keys in Chicago on New Year's Day. I will make sure my ovaries are secure. Thanks for the heads up.

Heff said...

No "Black Label Society" on your list ? ha.

words...words...words... said...

1. While my love for the Black Keys is true, "Brothers" leaves me a bit cold. It feels like they went away from what they do best.

2. Regarding The Hold Steady, thank you for giving us uncool kids a shout out! "Our Whole Lives" is my favorite from that album, too.

3. I actually like the clean version of "Fuck You" better. I don't have the cleanest mouth for sure, but for some reason the swear feels really out of place in a soul song.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Heff on that one, BLS is good stuff.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Quite a diverse list you have here. I'll have to give a listen to the Bettye LaVette album, as she is quite the performer. And you can never go wrong with the New Pornos. Ditto Band of Horses.

But we part ways at Cee Lo Green. I cannot stand his music! But it's okay, I still love you.

Billy said...

I'd go into details about your list, but you already know I'm right there by your side on 90% of every single word you write, and who wants to write about the other 10% lest it distract from how much I agree?!

I feel badly that BoH is still sitting there in my eMusic cue waiting for me to get it. I hope it's enough that, two days from now when it renews, BoH will be my first "get" allll because of BeckEye.

Awesome list.

Cormac Brown said...

Wow, thanks to Fuse TV and no thanks to MTV/VH-1, I actually know what you're talking about at the end of this year.

Malcolm said...

I started listening to the Bettye Lavette album this summer on the way home from work. Although I liked what I heard, I got sidetracked. I've been meaning to go back and listen to it all the way through. I just have to remember where the hell I put it!

I finally put my top 10 albums list up. We actually share two albums in common.

bloody awful poetry said...

I only got into Broken Bells, Band Of Horses and the new Gorillaz album on your recommendation. Thanks mom! Never particularly cared for The Hold Steady, but for you, I will give them a spin.

Also I think "Fuck You" is this year's "Song Away". Yes?

gennifer6 said...

Excellent choices for the whole year! I love everything Goldfrapp and the Black Keys do, "Plastic Beach" is a masterpiece, so is "Lady Killer". Good thinkin', girl. :)


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