UNCLE ZEKE'S TOP 10 of 2010
1. STARS - "FIVE GHOSTS"
I first came across this Canadian Indie-Pop group back in 2002 (give or take a year or two) and was smitten by their catchy Pop sensibility. They had everything that I looked for in music..... creativity, production, clever songwriting, nice vocals and hooks. After all, what is a great Pop song without a hook?
Over the years I had heard bits and pieces of their music and had enjoyed everything that I heard, although I never picked up any more of their music. Then, fast forward to Spring of 2010. I was listening to an NPR "All Songs Considered" podcast, where host Bob Boilen, along with his ragtag group of commentators, brought to the table their favorite forthcoming releases. Amid the plethora of new music being introduced to the listener was the song "FIXED", from the forthcoming new album, "STARS".
Simply put, I was blown away. I had a stinking suspicion, at that point in time, that the Stars album was going to be my favorite of 2010. I wasn't wrong. Complete with catchy songs, beautiful vocals and quirky lyrics (it has been said that Stars writes the world's saddest lyrics set to the world's happiest music... and that is a rather accurate statement), this album has everything that I enjoy in music.
2. Jónsi - "GO"
This debut solo album from Jón Þór Birgisson, lead singer of Icelandic Art-Pop ensemble, Sigur Ros, is one of the most stunning listens I have ever heard. The only thing that keeps this album out of my top spot is the fact that some of the more upbeat "singles" from the album take away from the magic of the moodier music.... music which on several occasions have moved me to tears. The crown jewel of this album is the song "Tornado", which I now consider one of my favorite songs of all time.
3. AZURE RAY - "Drawing Down the Moon"
Joining my record collection in late September, the latest album by Indie duo, Azure Ray, was absolutely brilliant from start to finish. I have considered myself a fan of Azure Ray for a few years, including the solo work of Maria Taylor. This album did something that their previous work had never been able to accomplish.... it captivated me from the moment the needle hit the record, until it once again lifted up, 40 minutes later. Well, to be fair, it DID lift up at the end of side one, but you know what I mean. Complete with some of the tightest harmonies in popular music, this album is sure to please fans of Indie music as well as those of well produced Alternative Rock.
4. BRENDAN PERRY - "Ark"
This brilliant piece of work, brought to us by the male half of DEAD CAN DANCE, has yet to be released in the United States (as far as I know), yet it still comes in at number 4. This album was recorded... or should I say, performed... entirely by Brendan Perry. Upon first listen, you will be blasted by Mr. Perry's venomous words, words which have been heavily influenced by the state of the world over the last 10 years, thanks to a select group of world leaders who felt the need to begin an unjustified war to benefit their own selfish desires. I won't name names.
Let me just say... even if you aren't necessarily "liberal", if you are a Dead Can Dance fan, you NEED this album.
5. THE BLACK RYDER - "Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride"
I bought the ticket. Really, I did. It was just over $30.00. Well, in reality, I bought the ticket to see The Cult. I wasn't aware at the time that The Black Ryder was going to be opening the show. Heck, I didn't even know who The Black Ryder was, when I walked through the doors. Well... that isn't entirely true. I had watched a couple of videos before leaving the house, and I had liked what I heard. However, that still didn't prepare me for what I was to hear. What I heard was some of the most beautiful "noise" that I have ever heard. There was no way to describe the live music of The Black Ryder, with the possible exception of "a beautifully orchestrated tapestry of noise". Yeah... that sums it up. I was mesmerized. In reality, on a few of us truly got it. I understand why they weren't understood by most people. Upon the casual listen, it really was just a bunch of guitar feedback. However, IF you were fortunate enough to find yourself lost in their sound, you understood that that feedback almost had harmonies of it's own. There were layers of sound that, together, created an utterly beautiful noise. And so is the album....
6. ARCADE FIRE - "The Suburbs"
Again, the Canadians succeed in rocking my world. Truth be told, this is the second time that the Canadians have succeeded in rocking my world while telling tales of life in suburbia. The first being the RUSH album, "Signals".
As previous efforts from Arcade Fire, this album is an eclectic mix of clever lyrics and non-traditional instrumentation. Simply put, people... it's great.
7. ANBERLIN - "Dark is the Way, Light is a Place"
I first discovered the music of Anberlin back in... oh... 2005. I think. Don't quote me on that. It may have been 2006. Either way, I was at the Wal-Mart, browsing through music in their extremely vibrant and eclectic music selection. Oh, by the way, if you didn't smell it... the previous sentence reeked of sarcasm. Anyhoo... where was I? Oh, yes... I was browsing through the CD selection down to Wal-Mart (also, forgive my poor grammar... it shows up when I am talking about the Wal-Mart) and decided to check out the unknown CD on one of their listening stations. The subject of my aural investigation? "CITIES", by Anberlin. I was blown away. That album was amazing from first note to last. And, if that isn't enough, they have done very little over the years that has not blown me away. Such was the case of this latest offering. It's short... short, but sweet. VERY sweet. Energy, melody, passion.... it's all there.
8. BEN FOLDS/NICK HORNBY - "Lonely Avenue"
What is more enjoyable to listen to that the usual witty sarcasm of Ben Folds? Well, the answer is when Mr. Folds collaborates with one of the best known British authors of our generation, Mr. Nick Hornby. Mr. Hornby is best known for writing the books "HI FIDELITY" and "ABOUT A BOY", both of which were adapted into successful films. In the case of this album, Ben Folds created music to the witty (and occasionally VERY sarcastic) words of Nick Hornby. Heck, there's even a song about that trampy daughter of Sarah Palin. Not that I'm judging.
9. GOLDFRAPP - "Head First"
This latest offering by Alison Goldfrapp and her longtime musical partner, Will Gregory, is probably my favorite of the batch. Some may say that is probably just more Pop friendly, and that may be the case... but I still LOVE IT. It is far and away the best 80's album of 2010...... far and away. If you don't believe me, just listen to the first single, the man-bashing anthem, "ROCKET".
10- JOHN MELLENCAMP- "No Better Than This"
This album is barely cracking the Top 10 based on what it is. Yes, it's a good album... but, in all honesty, I don't listen to it often. I really need to be in a mood for it. What it is is a genius work with the help of producer, T-Bone Burnett, best known for his work on the soundtrack of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". Mr. Burnett knows Americana. And, at least since 1985, John Mellencamp is a perfect example of Americana. He sings about real problems... real people... real situations. And, if that wasn't enough, he teamed up with T-Bone to record this album in three historic (and historically haunted) locations: Memphis Sun Studios, Savannah First African Baptist Church and Room 414 in San Antonio's Gunter Hotel. All songs were recorded in mono around a single microphone. I stumbled across this album on vinyl, and I really wouldn't want to listen to it any other way. It was meant for vinyl. It is as "traditional" Americana as it gets... and I love it.
2010 "Honorable Mentions"
- Jenny and Johnny- "I'm Having Fun Now"
- New Pornographers - "Together"
- Jakob Dylan- "Women and Country"
- Eric Clapton- "Clapton"