Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 Halfway Point Recommendations

Greetings, Rock n' Roll fans,

Thought I'd do something novel here and actually start trying to make this blog useful, so without further ado, here are my recommendations for the best I've heard so far in 2010.

Best of the Best...

High Violet - The National: Fans of previous releases Alligator and Boxer will find little to disappoint them here, the National's lushest and most consistent release of their career. While the highlights aren't quite as strong as say Mr. November or Apartment Story, this album is remarkably consistent...if beautifully orchestrated 80s tinged yuppie malaise is your thing, don't miss this gorgeous murkfest...A definite Strong Recommend, could see me giving it a Highest after having fully processed. Definite album of the year contender

This Is Happening - LCD Soundsystem: As with High Violet, fans of LCD Soundsystem will find little to complain about on this, their third and reportedly final release. It's a touch pricklier and mellower than the previous two efforts, and veers a bit more consistently towards the dance floor than Sound of Silver did, but otherwise everything that made the debut and Silver great - the incredible grooves, the at turns intimate or oddball hilarious lyrics, the unbeatable production - remain. I challenge anyone who doesn't think this band has been one of the very top artists the last half decade...Another album of the Year contender, and because it's a lot more fun than High Violet, a clear Highest Recommend.

Hadestown - Anais Mitchell: Possibly the most ambitious contemporary folk album I've heard since Sufjan Steven's Illinois or Joanna Newsom's Ys, Hadestown walks a more traditional, line musically than those two hybrids, but encompasses a huge range of styles in it's spirited twenty song reworking of the Orpheus/Eurydice love story. With an expansive list of Indie A-listers jumping in to play the various characters, every song feels like an entirely different beast, and yet the whole story retains a fully coherent through-line. If you don't have a taste for bawdy folk, I wouldn't recommend this, but otherwise, there is a ton to love here. Strong Recommend.

Best of the Rest by Genre.


1. There is Love In You - Four Tet: Fantastic set of chill instrumental tracks. Doesn't leap out at you, but wonderful if you pay attention. A Strong Recommend.

2. Odd Blood - Yeasayer: The most inconsistent album of the year, but the top tracks from this bizarro dance-rock band are among the year's best. A Solid Recommend overall, but the high points are great.


1. The Monitor - Titus Andronicus: Hugely ambitious, incredibly passionate Jersey Styled Bar Band rocker loosely structured around a Civil War narrative. Think Born to Run Springsteen meets Bright Eyes' Connor Oberst without an ounce of those two artists structural discipline but three times the energy. A High Solid to Weak Strong recommend.

2. Total Life Forever - The Foals: Sophomore effort from this British Dance Punk act sees them toning down the more spastic elements of their debut Antidotes for a smoother, more appealing sound not unlike what Radiohead was striving for on In Rainbows. Beyond that, it's not a particularly daring album...but in it's best moments the sound is fantastic. Enthusiastic Solid Recommend.

Hip Hop/Soul/R&B

1. Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus: Nearly impossible to describe this album as anything other than cutting edge. A wildly adventurous collection of instrumental samples, most anchored to a jazz element, this album simply has to be experienced to be understood. Probably the most important release of the year in terms of future influence. Strong Recommend

2. The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monae: Unless you live in a vacumn, you've probably caught wind of this sophomore effort from Atlanta native and simultaneous James Brown/Grace Jones impersonator Monae. Another hugely ambitious, genre-jumping album based on a loose narrative scheme, this is one of the freshest sounding albums I've heard in ages, though not nearly as strong or consistent as all those glowing reviews would have one believe. For my part, I find the more conventionally Suite II that makes up the first half of the album fantastic, and the crazier, less soulful or rocking Suite III that concludes the album a bit of a bore. But regardless, it's lead single Tightrope is near impossible to ignore...with it's opening two minutes almost as undeniable in their soul power as Aretha's Respect was forty-plus years ago. This is probably going to top 80% of the year end lists, so might as well pony up the dough now and get in the conversation. Strong Recommend.

3. How We Got Over - The Roots: My Favorite Hip Hop release of year - Solid Recommend.

4. I'm New Here - Gil Scott Heron: A very concise (27 minutes), personal album from legendary groundbreaker of the seventies, whom many consider to be the man who first steered soul towards rap. Many of the tracks are spoken word poetry, but that in no way diminishes the impact of his aging growl when he does choose to sing. A very enthusiastic Solid Recommend.

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