2009 was the best music year of my life. There were releases that fell outside my top ten that could have easily been top 2 or 3 in any other year. 2010 started off rather disappointing, but by the end, I had 74 releases that were to be considered for my top 25 of the year. Typically, I only list full-length albums so this list doesn’t include phenomenal live albums like The Avett Brothers Live Vol. 3 or fantastic EPs like the releases by The Heyday and Son of a Bad Man. I also didn’t include the absolutely stellar ( AND FREE ) release from Girl Talk, All Day, though it’s by far one of my favorite albums. I’m sure as I move forward, a lot of these might change, but as I am writing this, here’s my top 25 of 2010.
* Note: Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More came out last year and it was my 2009 #1 as you will see here. Had I counted it as a 2010 release, it would have been number 1 this year too.
25. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
“What do people really hope? Does anybody even care? I bet you get a lot of compliments down there.” – Compliments
Band of Horses’ previous release, Cease to Begin, was my favorite CD of 2007 and I still listen to that album. Infinite Arms is a solid follow up, but I was slightly let down by the promise shown in CtB. Over the course of the year though, I’ve grown to really enjoy this record. It’s much more mature than the previous releases and you have to take it for what it is, a rock album. The guys have seemingly found their niche, and I see big things in the future for Band of Horses.
24. Matthew Puckett – Red Flowers
“So get me out of here, take me out of here. I need to touch down, wrap my head around what happened here.” – Land
I blogged about Matthew Puckett earlier this year and I wish I’d heard of him half a decade ago because his older stuff is just as good. Puckett’s been composing scores and soundtracks for tons of television shows, and ABC seems to love the guy. He’s currently producing and writing with several artists, so here’s to hoping that he doesn’t go all Marshall Altman on us. Right Pete? I’m in love with the entire album but “Everything That I Want” always stands out. I’ve already posted this song once, but here it is again. Enjoy.
Everything I Want
23. Spoon – Transference
“All I need’s a word to get me started. All I need’s a look.” – Is Love Forever?
Spoon has been doing their thing for over 15 years now. Seven CDs worth. Britt Daniel and the guys just keep getting better too. Over the years, they’ve tightened their sound, while allowing Daniel’s vocals to run wild. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga consisted of a few incredible songs that made up an album, where 2010′s release, Transference consists of songs that make an incredible album. No immediate standouts, but absolutely no filler songs either – just a damned fine record from start to finish.
Written In Reverse
22. Matt Pond PA – The Dark Leaves
” This is not how I want to be forgotten. This is not how I want to leave remains.” – Remains
There are few bands that can do no wrong as far as I am concerned. Matt Pond PA is one of those few. I’ll admit, I was slightly put off by The Dark Leaves at first, because it’s a much more somber release than Several Arrows Later and Last Light. It took more time for me to grow to love this album, but in part, that’s why I love it. More than any other MP PA album, I dissected this one, exploring every song repeatedly. Pond is a superb songwriter and as the band moves forward, I’d like to see them continue to shy away from the hipster sound. To be honest, I’d like to at least hear what they’d come up with on an alt-country song or two.
21. Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown
“Oh if you take my hand, I’m gonna get you outta here.” – Pony Up
Following up the masterpiece that is Only By The Night isn’t an easy task, but Kings of Leon do a pretty good job. There’s no “Sex on Fire” and there’s certainly no “Use Somebody,” but most listeners will be satisfied if they go in to this album knowing that. “Back Down South” is a personal favorite and I also can’t get enough of “Pony Up.” The guys have somewhat moved away from the garage rock sound and now seem perfectly comfortable being exactly what they are – one of the best rock and roll bands alive.
Back Down South
20. Adam Crossley – Anvil of a Heart
“Whatever happened to me? Got caught in between what we had and what I thought we should be.” Won’t
Adam Crossley is the first new addition to the list and if he keeps it up, he’ll see a few more before he’s done. Anvil of a Heart is a whispy, well written record – the perfect CD for a day by the pool. If you dig a little deeper though, there’s some substance to the sugary sweet songs Crossley’s written here. Apparently his song “Beautiful World” has already gotten radio play (a fact I’d know if I’d listened to the radio in the last decade), and there are a few songs on the album that I think could easily be devoured by the mainstream.
* This CD might have come out in 2009, but I am not sure, and the copy I have says 2010 on it. So don’t send me hate mail if I’ve gotten this one a year late!
19. Benjy Davis Project – Lost Souls Like Us
“It’s a mistake, it’s a lesson. It’s a heartbreak, it’s a blessing. And no one ever needs to tell you so, you just know” You Just Know
Benjy Davis Project’s last album, Dust, was an absolutely brilliant release. In fact, the year it was released I ranked it only behind Sequoyah Prep School’s Ghost Town and William Fitzsimmons The Sparrow and the Crow. This year’s Lost Souls Like Us was my most anticipated release of the first quarter and while I was initially disappointed, it’s grown on me. Dust is the kind of album that will be nearly impossible for BDP to top, but LSLU gives a solid effort. There’s a radio-friendly tune, “Stay With Me” and a haunting ballad “You Just Know.” All in all, a great release.
18. Sean McConnell – Saints, Thieves and Liars
“Someday I hope that you get tired of waking up with thieves and liars” – Looking For A Good Time
I blogged a few songs by Sean McConnell back in November and I’ll say now that this CD has only gotten better as I keep listening. McConnell’s songwriting is just spot on. Sean has co-written with tons of bands and his contributions can be heard on recent albums by Plain White T’s, Jason Castro and the newest hit by Randy Rogers Band. Sean is a staple in Nashville and he’s got a pretty nice tour schedule for the remainder of the year. If he’s within driving distance, I highly recommend checking him out.
Saint’s Heart In A Sinner’s Skin
17. Jimmy Eat World – Invented
“When I finally finished school, it was the first thing that I did. What every townie kid dreams of, I packed and started west. ” Coffee and Cigarettes
I love Jimmy Eat World and have for years. Clarity is one of my favorite CDs – ever – and my favorite concert in history was when JEW came to Boston on their Clarity 10 year anniversary tour. Their most recent release, Invented, is exactly what I expected from the guys. There are songs that I’ve used on a workout mix, there are songs that I run to, and there are songs that I’d be able to use for sleepy plane ride. It’s their diversity that makes them great. It didn’t hurt that they worked again with Mark Trombino who also produced Clarity and Bleed American. This is just another solid album to add to the long list for Jimmy Eat World.
16. Sleeperstar – Just Another Ghost
“Not gonna try to fix you, it’s a punishment for all your crimes.” Disengage
I keep a list of bands I’d really like to see live and right now, Sleeperstar is pretty damn high on that list. I just imagine a small venue with big sound. I guess you’d say this is their debut album, since To Speak, To Love, To Listen is only a seven-song teaser. JAG is a damned good record. It’s a little more than your typical pop album in that the accompanying music could stand alone. The album is well written throughout, but the combination of solid lyrics along with one of the fullest sounds I have heard in a while really make this album stand out. Like most Texas bands, they do it big and when it’s right, it’s damned good.
We Go Tonight (Say It Again)
15. Jonah Smith – Brooklyn Session
“There’s been twenty storms this year so far but it’s wind instead of rain. And the sky’s so dusty you can’t see a star but they’re out there just the same.” Gold and Green
Tons of my music comes from my friend Krissie C. If you follow her on Twitter, she’s bound to mention some amazing bands – along with frightening stories about bugs. But I digress, Krissie’s Winter Mix came across my desk a few weeks ago and I cracked it open to find tons of new artists. One immediately stood out though, so with that I give you Jonah Smith. Vocally, he’s part soul and part Americana – it’s a voice that certainly doesn’t correspond to his Brooklyn, NY address. I’m glad I got Krissie’s mix when I did, because without it, I may have never heard this wonderful album.
Gold & Green
14. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
“You found bandages in the band, stitches in the radio.” Boxer
The Gaslight Anthem is a New Jersey band through and through. Nearly every second of every song reminds you that they’re from working class America – and band of underdogs. Their breakthrough album, The 59 Sound, absolutely exploded onto the scene and glowing words from their idol, Bruce Springsteen, helped broaden their fan base. This album should help even more than any words from the Boss could. I’ll admit, I figured this release would not come close to its older brother but American Slang is at least as good. It doesn’t contain the sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs anthems as 59 sound, but there’s more depth. It’s a great CD by a band that I’d rank as one of the most underrated in the business.
The Queen of Lower Chelsea
13. The Tallest Man on Earth – Wild Hunt
“And I plan to be forgotten when I’m gone. Yes I’ll be leaving in the fall” – The Wild Hunt
Kristian Mattson’s stage name of ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ is amusing if you ever see him live. Mattson’s a small man – with a HUGE presence. They say that a lot of European English speakers pick up their accents from movies or cartoons. Upon hearing one note from Mattson though, you get the idea that he picked his up by listening to Bob Dylan records on repeat. It seems the entire world was late to the party with Shallow Grave, but thanks to its success, The Wild Hunt was not as well kept a secret.
King of Spain
12. Truth and Salvage Co. – Self Titled
“Hail! Hail! The gangs all here with their heads full of reefer and their bellies full of beer.” Hail Hail
2010 was the year of Southern Rock for me. Lots of great bands with raspy voices and lyrics drenched in whiskey ruled the iPod. Truth and Salvage Co. burst onto the scene during their tour with the Black Crowes, and audiences seemed to love their unapologetic, beer swillin’ style. Among the six band members, there are four lead vocalists, but the standout is Walker Young but maybe it’s just that Walker gets the catchiest tunes,. Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson produced the album and he’s definitely becoming one to watch in this genre.
Heart Like a Wheel
11. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – III/IV
“You and I were born to play these parts.” – Typecast
I am from North Carolina. That in itself ingrains a love for Ryan Adams that is unrivaled. It’s been awhile since Adams’ days of releasing three albums a year, but this year, he got back on track. III/IV was recorded during the same sessions as Easy Tiger but don’t be fooled into believing that these songs are throw-aways from those sessions. Though III/IV is a bit rough at times, Adams’ soothing voice and colorful lyrics always bring you back in. It’s obvious at times that Ryan Adams really, genuinely wants to be in a heavy metal band. Unfortunately for the metalhead inside Adams’, III/IV only solidifies his status as anything but.
Breakdown Into The Resolve
10. Wakey! Wakey! – Everything I Almost Said the Last Time I Saw You
“You should take it like a man, and stand silent through it all.” – Take it Like a Man
I blogged about Wakey! Wakey! back in June, and I’m still listening to this pretty frequently. I still contend that it’s the best album title I’ve heard for a “sad bastard CD” in ages and though it can lean towards poppy, I still love it. Frontman/actor Michael Grubbs has serious piano chops and his songwriting is quickly catching up to his unmatched talent on the keys. I’ve not had the opportunity yet to see Wakey! Wakey! live, but I’ve heard great things – and besides you can’t really go wrong with a dude who kills it on piano. Two songs are already on the previous post, but I’ll repost one for the newbies.
9. Honeychild – Nearer the Earth
“I’ll leave the states, so don’t you break my heart.” Tijuana
Adam Duritz gives us great music. Not only does Duritz front one of my favorite bands, he tweets about everything he’s listening to. This year, he tweeted about Runaway Dorothy’s fantastic album and he also gave us a little gem called Honeychild. They’re another band that I blogged about this summer and they helped me make it through a few drives with the windows rolled down – or since I live in a walking city, they helped me through some blistering walks in the Boston heat. Grab this CD before summer though, and crank “The Driving Song” and “Tijuana.”
8. American Bang – American Bang
“All that I need is a reason to let it go, and I know you feel the same.” Whiskey Walk
It’s been tough but most of the releases that I really love, I didn’t share on the blog this year. American Bang is one of those. The Nashville based band is anything but country, but you definitely get the “southern rock” vibe you’d expect from some good ole’ boys. American Bang reminds me a lot of early Kings of Leon, but the sound is much more polished. With the success of KOL, I’m sure there will be a slew of bands that sound something like this, I just can’t imagine many doing better than American Bang does it here.
Wild and Young
All Falls Down – Bonus track
7. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
“Now the water’s taller than me and the land is a marker line. All I am is a body adrift in water, salt and sky.” – Swim Until You Can’t See Land
Frightened Rabbit’s 2008 release, The Midnight Organ Fight, may have been my favorite break-up album of all time. Just track after track of cleverly written “F you” after another. In early 2010, Frightened Rabbit release The Winter of Mixed Drinks, a much different album than its predecessor. It’s more self involved, less of a tongue lashing to an ex. TWOMD though is nearly perfect. It’s obviously far less emotional than it’s older brother, but that also means it’s a bit more grown up. Gun to my head, I can’t pick a favorite of the two, unless I get dumped, then I am headed straight to The Midnight Organ Fight.
Nothing Like You
6. Val Emmich – Looking For a Feeling You Never Knew You Wanted
“I open my mouth and contradictions flutter out. I am trying to stay calm but I just want to shout.” - I Don’t Wanna Go Home
Some guys have all the luck. Val Emmich is one of those guys. You’ve seen him in hit shows like “30 Rock” and “Ugly Betty.” He rubs shoulders in Macy’s commercials with P Diddy and Jennifer Lopez. And he is one hell of a musician. Val released his seventh CD this year, and each has gotten better. Looking For a Feeling You Never Knew You Needed is a fantastic album, from the sing-a-long stylings of “Don’t Want to Go Home” right down to the closer, “Call it Off.” Val’s been a hard working musician/actor for years, and if he keeps it up, he’s going to have to choose between the two.
Don’t Wanna Go Home
5. Ryan Star – 11:59
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow may not come” – Right Now
Each year, there’s a CD that sort of works its way into my brain and stays for the entire year. This year, it was 11:59 by Ryan Star. Half a decade ago, Ryan Star gained some fame by competing in Rock Star: Supernova but those performances don’t hold a candle to what Star has done since. Each song on 11:59 is worthy, a rare feat in the day and age of $.99 singles. This CD has everything you could ask for and then some. Killer rock anthems, honest ballads, beautifully crafted lyrics – they’re all here. Star has well positioned himself to be “the next big thing.”
Last Train Home
Start a Fire
4. J Roddy Walston and the Business
“I been pulling thread doing all kinds of evil, I know you hate me baby but don’t break the needle” – Don’t Break the Needle
I had the pleasure of seeing J Roddy Walston and the Business live this year, and I’ve got two words to describe the show. HOLY SHIT. Walston is an absolute beast on the piano, punishing the keys with ‘Jerry Lee Lewis’ like enthusiasm. With all the production tools these days, it’s tough to find a band that sounds much better live than they do on disc. Even though I absolutely love this album, they sound better live. maybe with a little luck, they’ll tour with a band like American Bang, Honeychild or The Dirty Guv’nahs to give us all a nice little rock and roll show.
Don’t Get Old
Don’t Break The Needle
3. Dirty Guv’nahs – Youth Is In Our Blood
“Can’t ignore next door neighbors who pray for rain on the rest of us” – Ain’t it Strange
I featured the Dirty Guvs a little earlier this year and got great feedback from readers. Sounds like everyone who listened loved this release as much as I did. – and how could you not? The Dirty Guvs look like average Joes but then you hear them, and it’s pretty obvious there’s nothing average about James Trimble’s voice. There’s a youtube video of Trimble covering KOL’s “Back Down South” that actually led me back to the original, which I had displaced before hearing Trimble’s take. Whether it’s covering songs from their idols, or doing their own thing, the Dirty Guv’nahs bring a southern style and flair to the table. If these guys ever make it to Boston, I’m gonna cook some BBQ, head to the show and drink a ton of whiskey and cheap brews. It’s what they’d want me to do.
We’ll Be The Light
2. Andrew Belle – The Ladder
” I know a lot about closing doors, but not enough about what opens yours.” – Oh My Stars
Let me start by saying that right now, The Ladder is on sale for $5.99 via iTunes. You won’t be sorry. Now, let’s get to the goods. Splitting time between Chicago and Nashville, I first heard of Belle through his work with Ten out of Tenn, a group of touring Tennesseeans including Belle, Andy Davis and Griffin House. The Ladder is Belle’s first full-length album though and it’s the very definition of ‘your best foot forward.’ The only complaint I have is that “In My Veins” isn’t on the release, and it’s a song that absolutely must be heard. The Ladder released in late February ’10 and was my favorite record for the majority of the year.
Static Waves – Feat. Katie Herzig
1. The Head and the Heart – Self Titled
“All my friends are talking about leaving, about leaving. But all my friends are sittin’ in their graves.” Ghosts
Seattle’s own, The Head and the Heart, doesn’t exactly sound like a “Seattle band” (whatever the hell that means). Their songs are much more “Whiskeytown” than “Pearl Jam” if you know what I’m saying. The instrumental composition is impeccable and lyrically, every single song has at least one line that I’ve written down. Last year I went on and on about how huge Mumford and Sons would be, and though Mumford-esque stardom would be tough to duplicate for anyone, I do believe the Head and the Heart will firmly be on your radar in 2011.
Down in the Valley
Lost In My Mind