Friday, July 23, 2010

Top 15 Albums of 2010 So Far

It's about halfway through the year, so I figured it's a good time to post "best of so far" kind of thing. So anyway here goes:

1. Harlem - Hippies (Matador). 60's pop/rock done in a lo-fi way with punk influences and incredibly catchy songs. This probably won't still be #1 at year's end, but I can't say I've listened to another album more often than this so far in 2010.

2. Wavves - King of the Beach (Fat Possum). The best 8 or so songs to lead off an album I've heard in a long time. No more explanation needed. Just get it and listen. I was starting to think maybe Jay Reatard was this generation's Kurt Cobain. He did have the whole dying young thing to boot. But now I'm thinking maybe the Wavves' Nate Williams is that guy. Oh, and the former Reatard rhythm section is now backing him to add to the greatness.

3. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor (XL Records). So you have a 5-piece rock band from NJ who decided to make a Civil War concept album for their sophomore release with song titles like "No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future", "Four Score And Seven", and "The Battle of Hampton Roads" (an epic 14-minute marathon that sounds like about 5 different songs), with lots of references to Abe Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, and war. On its face it sounds like recipe for major suckage. But somehow they pull it off. Their sound is similar to the Hold Steady but more lo-fi. So you can hear Springsteen and 80's post-punk influences along with Billy Bragg, the Clash, and even some heavier stoner rock ala Queens of the Stone Age and even some stuff with fiddles reminiscent of the Celtic/punk of Dropkick Murphys. The lead single, "A More Perfect Union" may be the best song of 2010. You will be guaranteed to replay it a few times after you first hear it.

4. Jesse Malin & the St. Mark's Social - Love It To Life (Side One Dummy). Very lean 10 songs no filler...all in all another superlative effort by Malin. Ryan Adams produced it.

5. The New Pornographers - Together (Matador). This whatever-piece band from Vancouver just keeps getting better and better. 5 albums in now they have yet to release an album that wasn't good. It's actually difficult to find too many songs that aren't good. AC Newman and Dan Bejar are main songwriters and sing most of the songs and they are aided with talented female vocalists Kathyrn Calder and the great Neko Case.

6. Male Bonding - Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop). British 3-piece punk band lo-fi and are similar to other trios like Husker Du and Nirvana in places, but they fit well with other similar bands (Vivian Girls, No Age, Wavves, etc).

7. The Best Coast - Crazy For You (Mexican Summer). Similar to Harlem 60's pop/rock melodies with a lo-fi punk aesthetic. It kind of sounds like the Ronettes or Dusty Springfield meets Husker Du's wall of sound.

8. The Soft Pack - S/T (Kemado). The band formerly known as the Muslims returns with a more marketable name and a nice follow up to their 2009 debut album, then self-titled as The Muslims.

9. Alkaline Trio - This Addiction (Epitaph/Heart and Soul). I guess it was a disappointing effort compared to their previous work, but I found this album growing on me as the year went on. I doubted it'd still be in my top 10 by now, but here it sits. The title track, "Dine Dine My Darling, "Fine", "Dead on the Floor", and "Piss and Vinegar" are good tracks....most of the rest are fair. For punk purists beware of the trumpet solo on "Lead Poisoning."

10. Drive By Truckers - The Big To-Do (ATO Records). The Truckers keep cranking good Southern rock albums year after year with very little notoriety. The latest may be their best or 2nd best ever.

11. Against Me! - White Crosses (Sire/WEA). I believe this is their 5th proper release and their 2nd on a major label. But whereas their previous album, New Wave, didn't seem to have the requisite polished sound that usually occurs when a pop/punk act goes from indie to major label, you can definitely hear the changes on White Crosses. Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, etc) produced it giving it a "bigger" cleaner more arena-friendly kind of sound. That caused points to be deducted for me as it sounds like they are conjuring the Killers on a few songs, but overall the songs are good enough to overcome this.

12. Delta Spirit - History From Below (Rounder). Solid follow up to their good 2008 release. They are sort of like Dr. Dog....give them a listen if you like Dr. Dog you won't be disappointed. The songs "911" and "Bushwick Blues" are worth it alone.

13. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be (Sub Pop). Good record and one of my favorites earlier in the year, similar to Best Coast and Harlem but just a notch below. "Jail La La" is a great track. Several others too. And any band whose name is based on a combo of a Vaselines' album and an Iggy Pop song scores extra points.

14. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks (Matador). Good record by Ted Leo which may end up being his last for awhile. From what I'm reading it sounds like he may be temporarily retiring from the music making part of the biz.

15. The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever (Vagrant). I guess this is album is a bit disappointing compared to their previous string of stellar releases but still solid.

Top 10 songs of 2010 in no particular order:

Spoon - "Trouble Comes Running"
Titus Andronicus - "A More Perfect Union"
Drive By Truckers - "Birthday Boy"
The New Pornographers - "The Crash Years"
Jesse Malin & St Mark's Social - "Burning the Bowery"
Alkaline Trio - "This Addiction"
Harlem - "Be My Baby"
Delta Spirit - "911"
Wavves - "Post-Acid"
The Soft Pack - "Answer to Yourself"

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