Ten Albums I (Really) Liked in 2010

I was inspired by a post over at Popgun Chaos to think about the albums I bought this year (the first full No-CD Year for me, ever, I think. Everything was downloaded). I won’t say how much music I bought this year. Suffice it to say that my iPod is loaded and on most of the time I am around the house (much to the sadness of my family.)

So, here, in alphabetical order, are ten albums (that’s not even a term anymore, is it?) that I kept listening to long after the download had gone cold and which came out in 2010:

1. American Slang, by The Gaslight Anthem.

I really liked their last album — That ’59 Sound — but it was the pure energy bolt that I get from listening to this band that I love so much. (I’d love to see them in concert but they haven’t come to my neck of the woods yet). Sure, there’s more than a bit of refurbished Bruce and others in their sound, style  and lyrics, but I find The Gaslight Anthem as a band that is propelling itself forward in an interesting way.

2. Contra, by Vampire Weekend.

There’s something about these guys that is just too … fake, and yet, I like the off-kilter groove they have going on some songs. Like The Gaslight Anthem, Vampire Weekend has a chance to make some creative strides in the future. Or they might just keep sounding the same. It’s a crap shoot on that one. I was playing this album the other day and my son checked out the title. I thought it was because he liked the song, but he said “that’s the song I keep hearing on that commercial.” Already, Vampire Weekend?

3. Croweology by The Black Crowes.

Many years ago, some friends and I went to go see ZZ Top in concert (yep, many many many years ago) and this scruffy band took the stage as the opening act and blew the audience away. It was The Black Crowes, right on the edge of releasing their first CD (or was it vinyl?). I haven’t always kept up with the band over the years, but this double CD of mostly in-studio acoustic songs is a real keeper, capturing the vitality of Southern blues and rock in a real way. The mix also allowed me time to hear the lyrics and realize, these guys were the real deal (“were” because this is supposed to be their last album before the final break-up, although with brothers, you never know.)

4. Heaven is Whenever, by The Hold Steady.

I’d heard about The Hold Steady for years but never got to listen to them. I finally did, downloading a few of their albums at once, and found the raw energy was just right for me (not for my family, though). They come across like a garage band that has been steeped in both rock and roll, and literature. I like that kind of mix.

5. Infinite Arms, by Band of Horses.

This is one of those critically-acclaimed bands that I took a chance on. At first, I wasn’t all that impressed. But (this seems to be happening more and more), when I plugged in my headphones to listen (as opposed to speakers in the house), I suddenly was transfixed by the aural elements of the songs, and the soaring range of the voice. I had missed that when it was just ambient sound. Up close, the music and lyrics really touched me.

6. The Pursuit by Jamie Cullum

I came to Jamie Cullum when I heard a pop song of his on the radio that caught my attention. What I didn’t quite expect (since I didn’t know anything about him) was his jazz background, and suddenly, this whole mix of fusing pop and jazz opened up to me. (And made me wonder: why don’t more bands do that?) He has a wonderfully rich voice, and his piano chops are great. He’s another one of those young artists on my radar screen for the future.

7. Record Collection by Mark Ronson and the Business International

Ronson was the Producer of the Moment a few years ago, and still has his hand in a lot of European pop and soul. He fuses that old Stax/Memphis/Motown sound with dance beats. That has the potential to be ridiculous, but it’s not. Ronson has some amazing ears and the ability to recruit some amazing talent. This album is sort of like a disco mix, revisited. That sound worse than it is. What it is is an album that will get your butt shaking. It deserves a spin tonight (New Year’s) in your dance mix.

8. Soulsville by Huey Lewis and the News

I know. I know. Huey Lewis? And the News? They’re still around? Yep, and this album of soul songs is a classic. The band has never sounded tighter, and Huey’s voice has held up nicely over the years. Even the originals here sound like classics, as if there had been some time warp into Detroit or Memphis in the 196o’s.

9. Symphonicities by Sting.

I closed my eyes and hoped for the best when I bought this one, since I had not heard any of it. I was doing a purchased based on a music review, which is always an iffy proposition. Here, Sting reworked his and the Police songs into symphonic pop. And you know, it doesn’t always work as well as it should (strings can do that to you) but mostly, the orchestral arrangements give another layer of depth to some old familiar songs. Of course, there is a part of me that remembers listening to The Police back when it was sort of underground and snarked at (in my neighborhood, where the Beatles and Led Zep were kings of the musical heap). That part me — that kid who used to groove on the offbeat drummings, firework guitar and amazing bass —  sort of recoils at this purchase. Still, maybe my old tired ears need some soothing sounds now and then. (ha)

10. Wake Up, by John Legend and the Roots.

I haven’t had time to completely digest this one, since I only recently bought it. But … wow … what a partnership between Legend and the Roots, as they tackle some classic protest soul songs in their own way.

There you go. Some albums of mine. What about you?

Peace (in the songs),

  1. I loved that hold steady album. For awhile my cd player in my car stopped working and that cd was the only one it would play! Definatly great stuff. Did you by chance check out Beach House-Teen Dream? If not you should.


  2. Thanks for the tips Kevin, I also am purchasing few disks of any kind. Podcasts seem to be taking up more listening time. The RSA podcasts are especially interesting to hear that the USA is not the center of the world.
    I have been listening to Joe Bonamassa’s Live at Albert Hall and want to dig into his earlier work this year. Neil Young’s Le Noise keeps creeping into my play list. The more I listen the more I listen. I have to find more time to listen to Patty Larkin’s 25. We are saw the Playing for Change Band again 🙂 and they just keep getting better.

    • I would have loved to see the Playing for Change concert, Jim. I have that recording, too. I haven’t listened to Patti Larkin in some time (there was this album I loved — Strange Fruit? — with her playing the entire thing with acoustic instruments, banging on the guitar for percussion, etc.).

      And wait? The US is not the center of the universe? Dagnabit.

      Happy New Year, Jim. We’ll be reconnecting soon for New Lit.

  3. Kevin,

    I like the Band of Horses as well–they remind me of Fleetfoxes, or is it the other way around?

    I’ve got too many great albums to mention for 2010, so I’ll only mention two. These two are tied for first place on my best 2010 album list:

    High Violet by The National
    The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

    Both albums are worth way more than I paid for them.

  4. A few of my favorites in no particular order…Arcade Fire—The Suburbs, Broken Bells (the Danger Mouse/Shins collaboration), Spoon—Transference, Robyn—Body Talk (great fun), LCD Soundsystem—This is It.

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