Monday, December 27, 2010

Best of 2010: Albums

It's definitely time to unveil my picks for the best albums of the year. I'm just doing 25 this year (though really I think I could have done 100 if I had all the time in the world) and I'm not going to bother writing a blurb about each or finding all the artwork, mostly because I'm lazy.

If you want to read more about my top 10 picks, you can find a beautifully arranged article I wrote over at In Review Online. Also, you would do well to visit InRO for top 10 features from Sam Mac and Jordon Cronk, who are both superb writers with very unique tastes in music:

My Top 10 albums feature

Jordan Cronk's top 10 albums
Sam C. Mac's top 10 albums

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for (I'm sure):

1. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me

2. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt / Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird

3. Janelle MonĂ¡e - The ArchAndroid

4. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

5. Will Stratton - New Vanguard Blues

6. Owen Pallett - Heartland

7. The Black Keys - Brothers

8. Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone

9. White Denim - Last Day of Summer

10. Josh Ritter - So Runs the World Away

11. Menomena - Mines
12. Robyn - Body Talk
13. Wolf Parade - Expo 86
14. Baths - Cerulean
15. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
16. Maps & Atlases - Perch Patchwork
17. Spoon - Transference
18. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty
19. Patty Griffin - Downtown Church
20. Anais Mitchell - Hadestown
21. Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
22. Woods - At Echo Lake
23. David Karsten Daniels & Fight the Big Bull - I Mean to Live Here Still
24. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
25. Cloud Cult - Light Chasers

Feel free to tell me how inspired my choices are or argue if you feel the need. Keep in mind that there are some albums I've omitted from this list because I can't stand them (Best Coast's Crazy for You, for example) and a few that I probably should have heard that I haven't yet. I guess what I'm admitting here is that these technically aren't the best albums of 2010 by any standard, just mine.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Best of 2010: Live Performances

Alright! I'm back finally back with some new stuff! And I promise I'm going to try and be better about updating this blog next year. But let's get to some best of the year stuff first.

I attended between 20 and 25 concerts this past year, so I obviously can't claim this to be a comprehensive list of the best live acts of 2010, but the following bands really blew me away. Think of this as recommendations for bands to catch in concert next year, or something like that.

So, in no particular order, my five favorite live artists/bands of 2010:

Sufjan Stevens: Say what you will about Sufjan Stevens' divisive new album, Age of Adz, the guy knows how to put on a show. And by show, I mean a laser-light rock opera kind of performance including the entirety of the 25-minute epic "Impossible Soul," which resulted in a sort of awkward dance party throughout Kingsbury Hall. But through all the fuss, Sufjan kept the audience mesmerized with that beautiful voice. I've never experienced anything quite like this outrageous performance, and I doubt I will again.

The Gaslight Anthem: Talk about getting your money's worth. Everyone at this show payed only five bucks to be in attendance, but Brian Fallon and company played for over two hours and seemed thrilled to do so. Fallon sang his heart out and carried a grin the entire evening, and the band was razor sharp as they made their way through what must have been every song in their catalog. I love to see a band that so clearly understands what makes a great rock 'n' roll show.

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings: I have never--and I mean never--seen an artist work so hard during a live performance. Sharon Jones sang, danced, gave monologues that stretched songs into 10-minute jams, ran all over the stage and invited audience members up to join in the party. She must have been up there for nearly two hours, and while I probably would have died from exhaustion, the 54-year-old soul singer just. kept. going. I'll never forget this one, I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

Thao/Mirah: Thao and Mirah sharing the stage for this one-of-a-kind tour proved to be an inspired decision and a treat for fans of either artist (so, bonus for me because I love both of them). The combination of their unique musical personalities along with the intimacy of the evening resulted in one of the more engaging shows I saw this year. They traded songs, sang beautiful harmonies and made it fun each member of the small but appreciative audience. Also, Mirah's dance-music version of "Gone Are the Days" was worth the price of admission.

Rubik: Not too many people know Rubik, the awesomely weird indie rock band from Finland, but these guys are fantastic live. They opened a show to an audience that had absolutely no idea who they were, but by the end of their relatively short set each and every person in that crowd was a convert. They blasted horns, pounded keyboards, and played with such fervor that they simply won us all over and received a standing ovation usually reserved for a headlining act. I can't wait to see them again.