Friday, January 21, 2011

Albums of the Year for 2010

There isn't as much going on around here in the winter, in my mind there is but I can't work on most of the projects due to the snow, so I am expanding my typical topics a bit.  Music has always been an important part of my life so I am going to share my top 10 album list of 2010. No particular order...sort of.  Click each title for a link to Amazon (you can also hear samples of the songs there). and PS...if you click a link to amazon from this blog and buy the album I get some money!  Consider it a donation to the farm animals! Thanks!

10) Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs : Beg Steal or Borrow-this album reminds me of warm summer days as I listened to it quite a bit this past summer.  Ray lives in a farm, plays with vintage motorcycles and has a very manly beard.  Hmmmm, remind you of anyone?  He has a timeless sound.  Love his voice.  Check out his live performance of Beg, Steal, Borrow from Jimmy Kimmel:

9) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Mojo -It's more about Tom Petty than this album itself.  The man still puts out great albums and throws one hell of a concert.  We saw him at Darien Lake this past summer and he tore through some of the best rock and roll of our time.  This album in particular is a very bluesy affair and Mike Campbell, probably one of the more under-rated guitarists of our time was told by Tom to turn his amp up to 11.  He did and the results prove just that!  Check out this video of " Learning to Fly" from this past year's tour.  It isn't from MOJO but it's my favorite song from TP and the Heartbreakers:

8) Luke Doucet: Steel City Trawler-Arguably Canada's busiest musician, and one of its best.  Luke is one of the touring guitarists in Sarah McLachlan's band but more importantly he has a pretty stellar career of his own as a singer songwriter and producer.  I first happened upon Luke a few years ago when I went to see Kathleen Edwards at the Town Ballroom in Buffalo.  He was the opening act and for the first song he sang it through an old telephone giving a great sound.  WOW!  I have been hooked ever since.  That was 3 albums ago.  His new album is great and Sarah and I were lucky enough to see he and his wife, Melissa McClelland play in the Sarah McLachlan show at Shea's, it was a mindblowing show.  Stay tuned for more on Melissa in a future post.  And PS: Luke plays one of the most beautiful guitars I have ever seen and heard-a white, hollow body Gretsch he has named "The White Falcon."  It's more than a guitar, it's his band member.  Here is Luke with his White Falcon (notice his wife Melissa, in the background looking somewhat jealous...since you're probably reading this Melissa, I had to throw that in there.) Check out his video  for "Thinking People" from this album:   Also stay tuned for an interview that I am conducting with Melissa McClelland that will be posted on the blog soon!

8A) publisher's note:  not sure how I managed to forget about one of my favorite albums of the year initially so let's think of this list as a top 11!
The National: High Violet-My former band the stephen hero was doing what they are doing some 10+ years ago, so yea, we were ahead of our time.  This is a fantastic album that begs to be listened to in order get a handle on just what it is.  Lush, rhythmic tracks paired with a very unique rich vocal.  They hail from Brooklyn via Cincinnati.  Check out their video for "BloodBuzz Ohio" here: and "Terrible Love" here: and lastly "Anyone's Ghost" here:

7) Gord Downie & The Country of Miracles: The Grand Bounce-Gord Downie is the lead singer of quite possibly the best Canadian band ever, The Tragically Hip.  The Grande Bounce is his third solo album.  Previous releases married rock, pop, poetry and a generous dash of the avant garde.  His latest effort is more straight forwward rock and roll.  His backing band The Country of Miracles is stellar and with them he has put out an album that is top notch.  Many of the songs could easily be on a Hip album, they are that good.  Not that this album needs to sound like the Hip, but simply put, it does.  They put on a moving set in Niagara Falls, NY this past summer.  Check out the video for "The East Wind"

6) Crazy Heart Soundtrack-It's the Dude's finest hour, since well the Dude!  For readers that are familiar with me, it's true I have a man crush in Jeff Bridges.  He absolutely deserved the Oscar win for this film.  He was Bad Blake, the washed up country star that was trying to get his life back in order.  We named our barn cat after him-Bad Blake.  He was so much this character that it was hard to believe that he was acting.  Not only that, but Jeff played the songs and sang them as well making for a truly real film.  The soundtrack coupled Bad Blake's songs from the film with other old school country songs that appeared in it as well.  A great listen.  Sarah and I saw Jeff and his band play these songs at a show up in Canada this past September.  Only for Jeff Bridges would I miss The Black Keys show on the same night at the Town Ballroom.  Here is a video I created using the song "Somebody Else" from the film:

5) Fitz & The Tantrums: Pickin' Up the Pieces-I discovered these guys by accident one night watching Carson Daly.  I was blown away and watched the entire song without blinking, wanting to hear and know more.  What I was seeing and hearing was pure 1960's soul/R & B elevated by a great sense of fun and style, all held together by a white guy, named Fitz.  If the Black Keys hadn't put out "Brother" this album would be album of the year for me, easily.  It is a timeless sound and this CD hasn't left my car stereo for the past 3 weeks.  It is that good and it makes me feel good.  Play it loud!  Check out this video:

4) The Secret Sisters: Self Titled -Gorgeous harmonies over an old school country sound sung by 2 sisters with voices that will melt you heart.  A perfect sounding album.  Perfectly produced by the ubiquitous T Bone Burnett (ps-he also produced the Crazy Heart album and just about any other country (not pountry aka pop country but country) album).  My dad is also really digging this album!  Check out their live performance of "Tennesee Me" on Letterman:

3) The Flaming Lips: Embryonic-My other man crush, Wayne Coyne.  This album came out in 2009 but I didn't get it until 2010 (no idea why) so it has made the list.  This past summer we saw The Flaming Lips put on a life affirming, life changing and brilliant show at Artpark.  Because of this show, which was comprised mostly of this album, I will never look at music the same again.  It made me realize that we are obligated to be good to one another and to love life.  These things have always come easy to me to understand but never before has music and one musician, Wayne Coyne, re-affirmed these concepts so much.  I have to share a video from this tour because it is a visual spectacle like no other.  My Flaming Lips review (including Todd photos: appeared in the December 2010 issue of Playgirl magazine, yes, that magazine.  Check out this video:

Wayne is also one of the most accessible and genuinely nice rockstars out there.  He game me his home address on Twitter for God's sake so that I could mail him copies of the review.  Not only that but he signed 2 copies of the copies we mailed him (one for Todd and one for me) and sent them back to us.  YESSS!!!

2) James: The Morning After the Night Before -a pair of mini albums (released as a full length in the US) that came out last year by one of my favorite bands and arguably one of England's best kept secrets.  They have been around since the early 80's (influencing the Smiths-that's how long they have been around) and the fact that they are still writing new relevant music, but more importantly playing shows that are full of more life and energy than those of bands half their age.  They are not greatest hits shows.  Bands at this point in their career often get comfortable goind through the motions, happy to take your money, play the hits and one show is the same as the next.  Insert audience.
Not James, on their most recent US tour in support of these albums they played a set that pulled from 57 of their songs, making each show different from the next.  The grace and energy and love of playing that this band has is unparalleled.  They have changed my life.  These albums are among their best, some 30 years into their careers.  We saw them in Philly this past summer and in Toronto in 2008.  Perfection!  One of my best friends named his son after this band.  Enough said.  They have a daughter due in March, sorry little Ted Nugent! ;)  Here is a live video of a show they played in NYC this past Sept.  Here is a live version of "Tell Her I Said So" from NYC:  The song is called "Dust Motes": Both are from this album.  Here is one of their best songs ever, played live from this past tour, "Ring the Bells":
1) The Black Keys: Brothers -This album is about as near perfect as one can get.  Two nerdy looking white guys have written an album full of soul, fuzzy guitars and a nice thump.  They hail from Akron, Ohio.  It's funny that for the album that has spent the most time in my car stereo this past year and that I have told pretty much everyone to check out is for some reason causing the most difficulty for me to write about.  It's that good, you simply have to hear it.  Had tickets to see them at the Town Ballroom only to miss the show due to a scheduling conflict with the Jeff Bridges show that same night...again, not too many people out there that I would have missed this show for.  Here they are playing "Howlin' for You": and the album version of "These Days":

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