Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top Albums of 2010

The following albums are what I consider the best released this past year. They are only in alphabetical order.

Corinne Bailey Rae - "The Sea"
Bailey Rae's sophomore album is a true testament to an artist's emotions producing great work. She began writing for the album until she went on hiatus after the accidental death of her husband, saxophonist Jason Rae. A couple of years later, she returned to her writing and produced what is probably one of the most emotional albums I've heard this year. With undertones of one of my favorite jazz/blues/soul singers, Nina Simone, Bailey Rae proves that you don't need a quick release to keep on top of your game, you only need tap into that true emotion which shines through to all audiences. Favorite track: "The Sea"

B.o.B - "The Adventures of Bobby Ray" 
I'm really not that into hip-hop/rap, but B.o.B's "Adventures of Bobby Ray" is that good ... for a rap album. Like Kanye West before him, B.o.B has produced an album that features fierce rap along with R&B for the Top 40 radio crowd. He's also recruited some pretty impressive talent to assist on the vocals for the album: Bruno Mars, Lupe Fiasco, Paramore's Hayley Williams, T.I., Janelle Monae, and Weezer's Rivers Cuomo, and Eminem. This fills the void that rap almost left me with the disappointing production of the Black Eyed Peas' "The Beginning" album. Favorite track: "Airplanes"

V.V. Brown - "Travelling Like the Light"
Wow! Where did V.V. Brown come from!? Of course, the literal answer is England. But to call her eclectic is an understatement. She takes R&B and blends it just perfectly with pop rock, admitting that the album was inspired by 1950s music and electronic music. I saw a show on MTV called World of Jenks where the documentarian Andrew Jenks followed Brown while she was an opening act on tour with Maroon 5. I was surprised and also disgusted with the audience's reaction to Brown and how easily they discarded her music just so they could listen to some uninspiring adult contemporary Top 40 rock. Sometimes, the masses don't realize how truly good original music can be even if it hits them on the head. Luckily, I don't think Miss Brown is going anywhere. Favorite track: "Shark in the Water"

The Gaslight Anthem - "American Slang"
I have to admit that I'm a little late to the party when it comes to rightfully praising The Gaslight Anthem (my first album I bought by them was "The '59 Sound"), but I've listened to all of their albums before that and now am a certified fan. So when I heard they were releasing a new album, I was more than excited. They are Bruce Springsteen meets Social Distortion ... with maybe a little of The Clash thrown in. Although "The '59 Sound" still reigns as my all-time favorite, this album of pure, unadulterated rock ranks above most released this year. Favorite track: "Bring It On"

Michael Giacchino - "Lost: The Final Season"
The fact that Giacchino has not received a Grammy or Emmy for best score for Lost (he's been nominated) is true evidence that the academies that vote for such awards have something seriously wrong with them. Each season's scores are all works of art ... especially when set with the brilliant visuals. Still, his score for the final season is his masterpiece! If you like any kind of score soundtracks and aren't even a fan of the TV show, I still recommend purchasing this album. Favorite track: "Moving On"

Glee Cast - "The Rocky Horror Glee Show"
With episodes dedicated to Madonna and Britney Spears, all Gleeks wonder what the show has next on its list for dedication. Luckily, they tackled one of the best musicals around, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. For a show that focuses on outcasts and freaks, it was only fitting that the show tackle the ultimate musical dedicated to outcasts and freaks. Favorite track: "Time Warp"

Glee Cast - "Glee Soundtrack, Vol. 4"
Why stop there with Glee? Yes, I love the show. But that's not the only reason the soundtracks on here grace this list. Say what you will, but the show's cast puts ANY American Idol wannabe's rendition to shame. There are so many good songs on here that it's difficult to pick just one favorite. I look forward to more from this talented cast (and hope that Springsteen may be on the horizon). Favorite tracks: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Forget You"

Cee Lo Green - "The Lady Killer" 
Gnarls Barkley's Cee Lo Green has gone and accomplished something that I was hoping would eventually happen: he's released a true male soul/R&B album in the vein of a 1960s soul concept album (albeit it is a very contemporary concept). Touches of Motown soul and pop R&B make this a hit! Nearly every song on this album is infectious head-bobbing, dancing, singing-in-your-head-for-days music. Plus, his hit song "F*@k You" is a great empowerment song that can be blared after a break-up/being dumped. This may not sound like your cup of tea, but, at least give it a try. Favorite track: "F*@k You"

Jimi Hendrix - "Valleys of Neptune"
With 12 previously unreleased studio recordings (including alternate takes of "Stone Free," "Fire," and "Red House," this release was one of the most wanted albums of any Hendrix fan. The songs were originally recorded in early 1969 but were not officially released until this year. With the other release of Hendrix's box set, "West Coast Seattle Boy," it's been a banner year for Hendrix fans. But this is the most affordable. Favorite track: "Valleys of Neptune"

Mumford & Sons - "Sigh No More"
One of the best imports to come out of England this year, the folk rock band Mumford & Sons released probably my favorite album of the year. Every track on here is nothing short of great ... especially the uptempo ones. It's a wonderful diamond in the rough amongst music that is geared directly toward dance and pop radio. I could go on and on about this album but I'll simply state that it's at the top of good releases this year. Favorite track: "The Cave"

My Chemical Romance - "Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys"
Although I was excited for My Chemical Romance's newest release since their wonderful epic concept album "The Black Parade," I was still skeptical about how good it would be. Sometimes when a musician/band has such a good album, they have nowhere else to go but down. And while "Danger Days" is no replication whatsoever of "Black Parade," it does prove that MCR is no flash in the pan. The concept of a nihilistic future road war (a la The Road Warrior) and the band's alter egos seems a bit forced but the music works. Favorite track: "The Only Hope for Me is You"

Kate Nash - "My Best Friend is You"
Not every critic appreciated Nash's sophomore album but I enjoyed her mix of 1960s girl groups with the punkish Riot Grrrl-type music. Her English cockney accent and clever lyrics make for a great album. Plus, I love the girl group sound of tracks like "Paris," "Kiss That Grrrl," and "Do-Wah-Doo." Another favorite is the cheekiness of "Early Christmas Present." If you're looking for a female artist that is straight-up talent and not just mere mindless dance fodder, then Nash is the pick (it also doesn't hurt that I have a little celebrity crush on her). Favorite track: "Do-Wah-Doo"

Bruce Springsteen - "The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story"
This was at the top of my Christmas list this year, and it was well worth it! For those who don't care much for the 3 DVDs or bonus reissue of Springsteen's 1978 classic "Darkness on the Edge of Town" (and the price that comes with it), a two-disc CD was released with Springsteen's previously unreleased tracks, called "The Promise." But, let's be honest, any die-hard Springsteen fan is going to want the entire package! The extras (which includes an impressive full-size reproduction of Springsteen's spiral notebook in which he originally wrote the lyrics for the "Darkness" album) are well worth the price and I know there's got to be more unreleased music out there. So let's hope a reissue of "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle" or "The River" are forthcoming (hey, I can dream, can't I?)! Favorite track: "The Little Things (My Baby Does)"

Titus Andronicus - "The Monitor"
When I first heard the first two tracks of this album, I thought this is my idea of punk rock!!! It's not the most hardcore, it's got melody, and the songs reach epic (time length) status. But, damn, if it isn't good! Then I heard the rest of the album and I got more of a vibe equivalent to that of The Replacements, The Pogues, The Hold Steady, or even a punk rock version of Bruce Springsteen during his "Greetings from Asbury Park"/"The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle" days. Taking their name from the William Shakespeare play, Titus Andronicus is a New Jersey band who uses the Civil War as a concept album here (i.e., their album title is taken from the USS Monitor, the first warship commissioned by the U.S. Navy during that war; and the song "Four Score and Seven" a homage to a particular 16th President of the U.S.; and quotes from said President spread throughout the album). It's not all fast tempo ruckus, though; songs like "Four Score and Seven" and "To Old Friends and New" feature a slow, swaying, drunk singalong in bits of their music before breaking back into pure rock. The excessive cussing, catchy lyrical hooks and hard-driving guitar licks make this album founded in punk and it's one of my new favorite albums. Special props go to the rockabilly punk "... And Ever" for the use of the classic rock saxophone! Favorite track: "Richard II Or Extraordinary Popular Dimensions And The Madness Of Crowds (Responsible Hate Anthem)"

 Various Artists - "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Soundtrack"
One of the best soundtracks this year! With tracks from Beck, Plumtree, T. Rex, Broken Social Scene, Black Lips, The Rolling Stones, (the best of them all) Metric (whose song poses in the film as belonging to The Clash at Demonhead) and more, this soundtrack completely rocks! The best I can compare it to is last year's successful film soundtrack to (500) Days of Summer. However, while that soundtrack is more likely to have a larger audience due to its alternative sound while this one has more of a garage band rock sound, "Scott Pilgrim" still gives those yearning for a great mix of music a reason to celebrate in 2010. Favorite track: "Black Sheep" (Metric)

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