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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Music Roundup 2010

Has it only been a year since I last did this? Feels like five. Which would be the number of different places we've lived/stayed for at least a week this year (at least 2 months each in 4 of 5!). More on that in a future post. But 2009 seems like a lifetime ago. Maybe that's partly why this year in music feels so much fuller than last--the boom that follows the bust. The top half dozen or so albums on my list for this year all could have been my #1 for last year. So, without further ado, here's my annual metaphysical perfection.

1) Band of Horses, Infinite Arms. Good to see this CD get a Grammy nom, but it still slipped under the radar of most critics, many of whom seemed confused by its more subdued pace than Cease to Begin (2007). For me it was a slow reveal, but with songs like "Laredo," "On My Way Back Home," "Dilly," "Evening Kitchen," and "Older," I'll be listening to this one for years to come. Sounds a bit like Neil Young singing campfire songs with My Morning Jacket.

2) Patty Griffin, Downtown Church.

3) Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues. Smooth, old school rockabilly that sounds a bit more like his middle-namesake than his dad. I saw him play guitar on a few songs with his old man in an epic three hour show at 328 Performance Hall back when I was in grad school and he was maybe 13. Go watch this clip of him on Letterman a couple of weeks ago, singing the indelible title track. A few more faves: "Christchurch Woman," "Workin' for the MTA," and "Rogers Park." Mrs. TMcD needs to hear this CD at least twice a day and gets the DT's if it's not within arms reach at any given moment.

4) Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown.

5) Black Keys, Brothers.

6) Arcade Fire, the Suburbs.

7) Spoon, Transference.

8) John Mellencamp, No Better Than This. Speaking of old school. The 13 songs here were all recorded in mono, mostly at Memphis' Sun Studios, but a few at Savannah's First African Baptist Church, and one in room 14 of San Antonio's Gunter Hotel, where Robert Johnson recorded his first blues classics. They sound like lost recordings from more than half a century ago.

9) Robert Plant, Band of Joy. Is this as good as Raising Sand? Probably not. But it's got some really great tunes, notably covers of Richard Thompson's "House of Cards," Low's "Monkey," and (my favorite) Townes Van Zandt's "Harm's Swift Way."

10) the National, High Violet. A close call between this and Vampire Weekend's much loved Contra. But the epic brood of "Bloodbuzz, Ohio" edges the eponymous pop of "Holiday" by a nose.

One oddity of this year's list is that half of it involves either Nashville acts (#s 2, 3, 4, 5; the Keys are recent transplants) or Nashville recording (2, 9). Add in the White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather and whatever other side project Jack White decides to start next week, and Nashville has quietly become the center of the rock and roll universe. So I'd be amiss not to mention another act that almost made my list, Glossary, the belles of the Boro. These guys (and girl) have been around for a decade or so, and they're our local answer to the Drive By Truckers. Feral Fire sounds like Thin Lizzy playing the honkey tonk. "Lonely is a Town" is especially great: barroom stomp with surprising poetry. The album as a whole can feel repetitive, but I do love this band.

Did you guys hear anything good this year?


At 9:59 AM, Blogger fronesis said...

Will have to check out that Mellencamp album. My big music of 2010 was The Beatles. Bought the so-called Box Set when it finally came out and have been discovering on my own the genius that the world has known about for so long. But there's a big difference between knowing that, and knowing a huge amount of their music, on the one hand, and going back and really listening to each and every album, on the other.


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