2010 releases

12 Top Albums of 2010

This year, I was really hoping to just skip the pontificating and disclaimer-filled opening paragraph that always seems to accompany “Best Of” year-end lists, and dive right into it. Alas, it was not to be.

Because, to be honest, I found 2010 strange; about 90% of my favourite music bloggers called it the best year for music of the 2000s… but I just didn’t see it. There are plenty of bands that seemed to kill it in the music blogosphere that just didn’t tickle my fancy at all. Surfer Blood (seriously guys, can someone explain their appeal to me?), Broken Bells (yes, I get it, it’s the dude from The Shins and Danger Mouse… doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to dig it though), Warpaint (meh) and Sleigh Bells that appear on pretty much every other “Best Of” list that you’ll read this year, that don’t get a look in here.

Here’s the thing: 2010 had its shining moments in terms of singles and EPs (please, please check out Matthew and the Atlas if you haven’t yet), but the really good albums were few and far between.

That said, here’s a few of them.

Tokyo Police Club Champ12. Tokyo Police Club – Champ
It’s been near on three years since I first wrote about Tokyo Police Club on this blog, so it’s nice to see the boys come of age with their album, “Champ”. While it doesn’t quite have the same frenetic high points of Elephant Shell, “Champ” is a more mature, comfortable release then their previous two. This song was a perfect example of that; a tune that creeps insidiously into your head and makes itself at home, rather than jumping up and down demanding your attention.
Listen: Tokyo Police Club – Not Sick
+ Buy from Amazon

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor11. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
You either love “The Monitor”, or you hate it… I don’t think there’s any middle ground on this one. Because either you hear these songs as raw and cathartic, or you hear them as vulgar noise. But, as hard as it is to sometimes stick with this one, I’m glad that I did. Sounding like some sort of bastard love-child of the Hold Steady and Conor Oberst, this album pulls absolutely no punches… and could be one of the great punk albums of the last few years.
Here’s something for you to consider: if you’re a Hellblazer fan, this is exactly the type of album I’ve always imagined John listening to.
Listen: Titus Andronics – Richard II
+ Buy from Amazon

the tallest man on earth - the wild hunt10. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
Back when I first wrote about Kristian Mattson in 2008, I said of his first album that “the production on “Shallow Graves” is exactly that sound that I love… scratchy and warm. It honestly feels as if Matsson is performing these songs live in your kitchen…”. This album loses that intimacy slightly, but is still an absolute cracker. As always, the combination of voice and guitar (interchangeably taking lead) is all Mattson needs to pull you in. I’d urge you to sit down somewhere outside and watch the leaves blow in the wind while listening to this album through top-notch headphones. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something here that reconnects you with the simple things in life.
Listen: The Tallest Man on Earth – The King of Spain
+ Buy from Amazon

yeasayer - odd blood9. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
My first reaction, back when I first reviewed Yeasayer, was that it was simply “too much”. I’m not sure whether I’ve changed or they’ve changed, or whether we both have, but this year’s release, “Odd Blood”, was – as Goldilocks said – “just right”. “Odd Blood” suffered a fair amount of backlash from music bloggers who – I think – were simply hoping for another “All Hours Cymbals”. Which is a shame, as I think it’s a cracker. Give it a go… I promise, synths will have never sounded as good.
Listen: Yeasayer – O.N.E
+ Buy from Amazon

joe pug - messenger8. Joe Pug – Messenger
You know, there’s nothing that I can say about Joe Pug that I haven’t said before, so I won’t bore you too much with this review (I’ll just let you click through those links and read them at your own leisure). Suffice to say, Joe is still one of my favourite artists of this decade, and seeing him live earlier this year only cemented that standing. This album, “Messenger” finds Joe backed by a full band, which is a radical departure from his debut EP… but it works.
Listen: Joe Pug – Messenger
+ Buy from Amazon

cee-lo-green-the-lady-killer7. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer
What can I say? I just love this dude’s eccentricity. Apart from the lead single, “Fuck You”, and an absolutely gorgeous cover of the Band of Horses’ “No one’s Gonna Love You”, I’m not sure that this album will would rate as highly with too many casual listeners. But for someone who has, since the Goodie Mob days, watched with absolute fascination as Cee Lo constantly reinvents himself, it’s an intriguing release; and one that confirms, yet again, that Cee Lo is in a class of his own.
Listen: Cee Lo Green – No One’s Gonna Love You
+ Buy from Amazon

the black keys - brothers6. The Black Keys – Brothers
Probably my favourite Black Keys album. Stripped down to the bare minimum, the fuzzy riffs and Dan Auerbach’s oh-so-melting falsetto combine to an absolutely bliss-filled record. Dudes had fun making this, you can just tell… and that always leads to the best tunes.
The perfect album to spin on a seedy morning after, when the sun’s still a little bright to look at, but you’re glad to know it’s there, nonetheless.
Listen: The Black Keys – Everlasting Light
+ Buy from Amazon

mavis staples - you are not alone5. Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
Mavis Staples may be in her 70s, but I defy you to listen to that voice without falling in love with her… even just a little. This record, lovingly produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, is one I listened to a lot these last few months, when I needed a bit of cheering up. If nothing else, Mavis Staples demonstrates how the best of us endure. And damned if I’m not going to do the same thing.
Standouts include the Tweedy-penned title track, Randy Newman’s “Losing You”, and the below cover of Rev. Gary Davis’s “I Belong to the Band”.
Listen: Mavis Staples – I Belong to the Band
+ Buy from Amazon

frightened rabbit The Winter of Mixed Drinks4. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Ok, let’s be upfront here… this is no “Midnight Organ Fight”. I’ll freely agree that Frightened Rabbit’s 2010 release is not quite there. First off, the band moved ever so slightly further away from their folkier tunes that made me fall in love with them, to a more full-bodied, grandiose sound. Part of that probably has to do with the fact that Midnight… was spurred on by a breakup, while “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” seems to be an album of acceptance. But all of the aforementioned points still couldn’t stop this album getting a spot in this list. Because it’s a cracker.
Listen: Frightened Rabbit – Not Miserable
+ Buy from Amazon

arcade fire the suburbs3. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
A really bleak, unsettling album… filled with bloody singalongs. Trust Arcade Fire to pull that one off. The more spins I gave this album, the more I liked it. Initial listens gave me a “eh, this is not bad” reaction, whereas I was hoping for a Furneralesque “Holy shit” reaction. But with each listen, I realised that this album was perhaps the album that speaks most to 2010… the desperation ever-present in the most mundane setting really resonated, and I have a feeling this album will continue to grow on me as my sense of nostalgia does.
Listen: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
+ Buy from Amazon

the national high violet2. The National – High Violet
With two albums in my Best albums of the decade post, it shouldn’t be any surprise that The National cracked into this list.
Let’s be clear though, “High Violet” is a completely different beast to both Boxer and Alligator, but so it should be. Most of the guys are in their late thirties now, and that world weary optimism seems all the more authentic and accepting these days… and I feel like I’m growing up with them.
Listen: The National – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
+ Buy from Amazon

the roots - how i got over1. The Roots – How I Got Over
Hells yeah. Such a great, great record. Jimmy Fallon’s house band prove that, if anything, the constant collaborations have revved their recording life back into high gear. This album just sounds… warm. It recalls the old-school hip hop feeling I got when Mos Def laid down some awesomeness in Brown Sugar, or De La Soul circa late-90s. And I’ve missed that for so, so long in the hip hop world.
With enough collaborations to keep the indie kids happy (Monsters of Folk, Joanna Newsom to name a few), I really think this album will stand the test of time.
And Black Thought still absolutely kills.
Listen: The Roots – How I Got Over
+ Buy from Amazon

2010 releases music videos

Spike Jonze and Arcade Fire – The Suburbs [Video]

You always seemed so sure That one day we’d fight in In a suburban world
your part of town gets minor So you’re standin’ on the opposite shore
But by the time the first bombs fell We were already bored
We were already, already bored

– Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”

Only Spike Jonze could bring the tale of lost innocence that is Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” to life like this. Easily one of the most powerful and haunting music videos I’ve seen in years. Feel like being unsettled? Then watch it below.

2007 Releases artists artists to watch for in 2008 digital downloads guitar music

Things I probably should have told you in 2007.

In the course of writing this blog, I come across a lot – and I mean, a lot of music. Some of which I’ll blog about, some of which never seems to get its own post.

I was organising my files recently, and came across plenty of songs that I probably should have told you all about in 2007, but which – for whatever reason – never quite spurred me to write a full post. So, in clearing out these files into the “2007 Releases” folder, I thought I would do a bit of a roundup post, and combine them all here.

In other words, please note that this is NOT a “best of 2007” compilation; it is simply a post of good songs from 2007, that you should hear.

With that out of the way, let’s get onto the music!

(Once again… to all new visitors, simply click the “play” icon next to the song name to listen)

All The Way Down by Glen Hansard


Glen Hansard - All The Way Down

One of the most talked-about soundtracks of 2007 – and deservedly so – was the Once OST. Comprised of songs by the films two stars (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova), the soundtrack was hauntingly beautiful.

This song, “All the way down”, along with “Leave”, was perhaps my favourite of the album. The aching line “You have broken me, all the way down” easily wins my award for most breaking lyric of the year.

You can still listen to the entire soundtrack at the Once movie site.

I managed to catch Hansard with his band, The Frames, when they were opening for Bob Dylan on his recent tour out here. They were amazing, and confirmed to me that the man is easily one of the most important voices in modern music.

Listen: Glen Hansard – All The Way Down


I Was A Daughter by Basia Bulat


Basia Bulat - I was a Daughter


I’m still surprised that this didn’t make an entry. At 24, Basia Bulat is another artist that I should add to my “Artists to watch for in 2008” category.

Her youth belies an intensely creative soul, and an artist who is totally unafraid. Obvious influences include Joni Mitchell (to whom she has been compared more than once), but Basia displays a voice and style that is all her own; sometimes fragile and whispy, and at other times strong, passionate and sultry, Bulat is the master of changing her vocal delivery to suit the content of the song.

This song, “I was a Daughter”, is taken from her “Oh My Darling” debut album, and was easily my debut album of the year.

Oh. And did I mention she’s my musical crush for 2007?
She is.

Listen: Basia Bulat – I Was A Daughter

No One’s Gonna Love You by Band of Horses


Band of Horses - No one’s Gonna Love You


A little Morning Jacket, some Shins, and a hint of Built to Spill, and you’ll end up with something like Band of Horses. This song, taken from their “Cease to Begin” album, is more emotionally direct than anything from their 2006 debut, “Everything All the Time”, but despite the desperately cheese-laden title line, the song is a gorgeous slow-jam, with the cracking “If things start splitting at the seams and now / It’s tumbling down hard” showcasing Bridwell’s expressive voice.

Listen: Band of Horses – No One’s Gonna Love You

Heretics by Andrew Bird


Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha


Well! Didn’t Andrew Bird grow up in 2007? The rueful reflection of Bird’s 2007 release, “Armchair Apocrypha”, and in particular, this song, “Heretics”, had me more excited about Bird than his past releases.

The off-kilter pop songs are still there, but there’s something more about his reflection of the world as something beautiful, yet unsettling, in this album than his previous.
Here’s to more of this.

Listen: Andrew Bird – Heretics

Listened On by Lightning Dust


Lightning Dust - Listened On


Black Mountaineers Amber Webber and Joshua Wells side project, Lightning Dust, came out of nowhere and knocked me on my ass. While Black Mountain displays it’s 60s psychedelic love, Lightning Dust is far more sparse, and far more reflective.

This track, “Listened On”, from their debut album (fittingly titled “Lightning Dust“), is ghostly, quivering, and beautiful.

Listen: Lightning Dust – Listened On

Nothing’s Lost by Patrick Park


Patrick Park - Nothing’s Lost


I came across Patrick Park relatively late, with his second album, “Loneliness Knows My Name”, but at that time was undecided as to whether he lived up to the hype or not.
With his 2007 release, “Everyone’s in Everyone”, however, this doubt is solidly put to rest. Patrick Park is one of those artists who can reflect your emotions is a single line.

This track, “Nothing’s Lost”, takes your head against it’s shoulder and consoles you with it’s lulling rhythm.

Listen: Patrick Park – Nothing’s Lost


Your Rocky Spine by Great Lake Swimmers


Great Lake Swimmers - Your Rocky Spine


With it’s Nickle Creek-like tones, this was one of the singles of the year for me. A mixture of indie-folk, roots melodies and alt-country, the music of Great Lake Swimmers is at once graceful, comforting, full of loss and isolation, and ridiculously beautiful.

An ethereal whisper of an album that is hauntingly beautiful, “Ongiara” (from which this song, “Your Rocky Spine” is taken) is a must-listen from 2007.

Listen: Great Lake Swimmers – Your Rocky Spine

Skinny Love by Bon Iver


Bon Iver - Skinny Love


Skinny Love by Bon Iver is a song that grows in power the more you listen to it; as if, with each individual listen, it breaks a little more of you off. I’ve heard it described as a “quiet, gentle punch to the heart”, and I couldn’t put it better myself.

A song of desperation, loneliness, and loss such as this one resonates deep in your heart; listen to his plaintive “I told you” lines, and you’ll know what I mean.

The album from which this is taken, “For Emma, Forever Ago” is one for the weepy folk-lover in all of us.

Listen: Bon Iver – Skinny Love


Lake Michigan by Rogue Wave


Rogue Wave - Lake Michigan


2007 saw Rogue Wave release their third-studio album, and the first for Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Fairytales label, “Asleep at Heaven’s Gate”; hopefully, this will be the one that catapaults them to the masses.

This album has a shimmer and jangle that wasn’t as prevalent in their previous releases; and there is something ridiculously catchy about this handclapping single, Lake Michigan.

Listen: Rogue Wave – Lake Michigan


No Cars Go by Arcade Fire


Arcade Fire - No Cars Go


I know, I know; Arcade Fire? How much more mainstream can this blog get?

Seriously though, Arcade Fire’s 2007 release, “Neon Bible”, was a ridiculously good album. Coming off their scorcher debut, “Funeral”, most critics weren’t expecting them to follow up with something as worthy as this.

While Neon Bible certainly sees the band taking on some big issues (particularly the religion questioning “Antichrist Television Blues”), it never lets you forget that, ultimately, Arcade Fire are about celebration.

Never more evident is this than on the single, “No Cars Go”. Spine-tingling, wailing vocals, combined with drumming that punches the song along, and instrumentals that build into an almost film-worthy epic ending show that Arcade Fire are here to stay.

Listen: Arcade Fire – No Cars Go


Sun In An Empty Room by The Weakerthans


The Weakerthans - Sun in an Empty Room


Well, honestly… when you get down to it, when have The Weakerthans ever disappointed us? 2007 saw them release the excellent “Reunion Tour” album, which I cannot recommend more. In fact, I’ll rather let Paste Magazine’s review speak for me:

“These are songs of brutal beauty, little rock n roll vignettes that perfectly capture the malaise of the peculiar, disorienting times in which we live.”

This track, “Sun in an empty room”, highlights John K Samson’s incredible command of narrative lyrics; indeed, as much as he protests against the label, Samson really is an indie poet laureate. His weary, wry observations possess an underdog nobility that you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.


Listen: The Weakerthans – Sun In An Empty Room


Tonight by Hard-Fi


Hard Fi - Tonight


I’ll be honest: Hard-Fi’s 2007 release, “Once Upon a Time In the West” didn’t quite live up to their debut album “Stars of CCTV” for me. There’s something about the anger in their songs that seems to have lost its authenticity for me.

However, that’s not to say that the album was totally without merit; this single, “Tonight”, was one of the better products from the album, and with it’s ghostly strings and chant-along chorus hints that there may be life in the boys yet.

Listen: Hard-Fi – Tonight


Impossible Germany by Wilco


Wilco - Impossible Germany


While Wilco’s 2007 release, “Sky Blue Sky” was widely criticised by fans as being a back-slide by Jeff Tweedy into the classic-rock gospel, it produced perhaps one of my favourite Wilco tracks of all-time, “Impossible Germany”.

It’s a warm and inviting listen, one with jazzy chords filtered through the ever-present guitar licks. There’s no noise here, no strange distortions that have peppered Wilco’s latest releases… and I for one think the song is perhaps one of the most powerful Wilco songs for it.

Peaceful on the surface, demented under the water; this is Wilco at it’s best.

Listen: Wilco – Impossible Germany


Murderer by Low


Low - Murderer


Low is not, and never has been, for everyone. Pretty much defining the genre of “slowcore” with their appearance in 1993, they have, however, certainly displayed their longevity.

In 2005, Low attempted to break away from their slowcore label with the harder, bigger sound of their “The Great Destroyer” album. Considering the mixed reception to that album, most thought the band would return to their signature sound. Most thought wrong.
However, just as the album is not a return to their signature sound, neither is it a continuation of The Great Destroyer. Rather, this album strips the songs to the bones and sinews; it’s something else entirely. Violent, scary and beautiful, with this album, “Drums and Guns”, Low show that they’re still kicking.

Listen: Low – Murderer


Boy With A Coin by Iron & Wine


Iron and Wine - Boy With The Coin


Undoubtedly one of the albums of the year for me, Iron and Wine’s
The Shepherd’s Dog
displayed Sam Beam’s steady evolution from lo-fi folkster to refined popsmith.

This stonking single, “Boy With A Coin” showcases a far more lush and full sound that is employed on this album (surely a product of Sam’s collaboration with Calexico in 2005), and is easily one of my favourite Iron and Wine songs.

Listen: Iron & Wine – Boy With A Coin


Thrash Unreal by Against Me!


Against Me! - Thrash Unreal


Included more in this list due to the fact that Thrash Unreal could prove to be one of the most important songs of Against Me!’s career.

2007 saw Against Me! release their first major label debut, “New Wave”, which is in stark contrast to their previously strong DIY ethos.

Lead single “Thrash Unreal” unveils a new penchant for pop sensibility, and the song shows the band’s strength for anthemic, infectious choruses. And – thankfully – Tom Gabel’s harsh growl of a voice remains intact here, and there still seems enough of the Against Me! punk left in the guys.
That said, have Against Me! sold out by their move away from Fat Wreck Chords, and recording with this far, FAR more polished sound?

Time will tell (I’m hoping not), but there’s no denial that the 2007 release, “New Wave”, and it’s lead single Thrash Unreal could make or break the band amongst it’s fans.

Let’s hope there’s still a “I Still Love You Julie” song left in the lads.

Listen: Against Me! – Thrash Unreal


My Mind by Portugal. The Man


Portugal. The Man - My Mind


I’ve heard many people describe “Portugal. The Man” as a more accessible Mars Volta, and I think it’s a fair description; elements of The Mars Volta, and even The White Stripes pop up in their 2007 release, “Church Mouth

With its psychedelic, bluesy prog rock tones, the album is one that you’ll either love or hate; but like the below single, “My Mind”, I encourage you to give it a few spins before making up your mind.

Listen: Portugal. The Man – My Mind


Baltimore by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks


Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Baltimore


Yes, you read that right. Stephen Malkmus, former frontman for all-time greats “The Pavements” was back in 2007, and making delicious noise with his new band, The Jicks.

Still all crunch and fuzz – but with elegant melodies and flourishes throughout – and laced with Malkmus’ literate lyrics and tender, crackling tone, the song “Baltimore” is a godsend to Malkmus fans.

Listen: Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks – Baltimore


Nikole by George Stanford

George Stanford - Nikole


Another artist who will undoubtedly become huge in 2008, 2007 saw the debut of George Stanford. Endearingly simply titled “The EP” George Stanford’s 5-song 2007 release must simply be a taster for a 2008 full album release; and what a tasty taster it is.

This single, “Nikole”, showcases a piano balladry that fans of Ben Folds are sure to fall in love with.

If there’s one artist who debuted in 2007 who I would place a wager on becoming a household name in 2008, I would wager on it being George Stanford. If it’s not, it would simply be a crime.

Listen: George Stanford – Nikole

Ordinary by The Alternate Routes


The Alternate Routes - Ordinary

From the opening lines of “I’ve been wasting my days good and reckless and true, I have danced in the dark at the edge of the water, swingin my hips at the black and the blue…” you know that The Alternate Routes are something special.

Sounding alternately like Ryan Adams during the verses (and, interestingly, current Cardinals drummer Brad Pemberton features on the skins here), and then David Gray in the chorus, Tim Warren is one of the more exciting voices I heard this year.

While this single, Ordinary, may give you a mainstream image of the band, I encourage you to listen to the entire album, “Good and Reckless and True”; it is a grand, rootsy, absolutely golden album that warrants your attention.

Listen: The Alternate Routes – Ordinary

Fake Empire by The National


The National - Fake Empire

The National came in in 2007 and absolutely blew us all away. Far more understated than their 2005 album, “Alligator”, their 2007 release, “Boxer”, is perhaps the most fully realised release of the year by any artist.

A slow burn of an album, Fake Empire was the single from Boxer that grabbed my attention and held it; an absolutely crushing single, if you didn’t hear it in 2007, grab this now.

Listen: The National – Fake Empire

200 More Miles by the Cowboy Junkies (featuring Ryan Adams)


Cowboy Junkies feat Ryan Adams - 200 More Miles


2007 saw the 20th anniversary of the massively important Trinity Session album from the Cowboy Junkies, and to commemorate the occasion, the Junkies released a CD/DVD combo of performances in the same Toronto church where the original album was recorded.

As if Golden Tiger wasn’t enough for us (but then again, when it comes to Ryan Adams, can we EVER get enough?), the “Trinity Revisited” recordings saw Ryan partner up with Cowboy Junkies to release this beautiful rendition of 200 More Miles.

Ryan was born to perform with the Cowboy Junkies, and I couldn’t haven’t been more happy.

Listen: Cowboy Junkies – 200 More Miles (feat Ryan Adams)

To The Dogs Or Whoever by Josh Ritter


Josh Ritter - To the Dogs or Whoever


Josh Ritter’s 2007 release, “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (with Bonus EP)” was leagues from his 2006 album, “Animal Years”, and that’s saying something as I was a big fan of that album.

To me, Josh Ritter is one of the most underappreciated writers in the current rock/folk scene; witty, wry, rueful and intelligent, it’s time that Josh Ritter got his dues from the general public and not just music blog writers.

That said, I’m not sure that this “To the Dogs Or Whoever” will be the single, to do it. But damn it’s fun.

Listen: Josh Ritter – To The Dogs Or Whoever

Four Winds by Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes - Four Winds

Who would have thought it? Despite the fairly lacklustre album released by Bright Eyes in 2007, “Cassadaga”, Conor Oberst somehow managed to get me interested in his material once again, thanks to the one redeeming single from that album, “Four Winds”.

You’ve brought me back from the brink of abandoning you Conor; and I hope that I stick around for a while.

Listen: Bright Eyes – Four Winds


And there you have it; a choice selection of mp3’s that somehow never made it to a full post here.
Consigned to the “Released in 2007 folder”, it’s now onto 2008.Here’s to a great year everybody!


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