Sunday, January 2, 2011

My Top 10 Albums for 2010

As the syllables “U2” came out of my mouth, the conversation stopped as if a waiter had dropped a tray full of china in the middle of a crowded French restaurant.

One of the first debates I ever got into with friends was “who is the greatest rock band?” It’s a typical conversation over drinks but when argued by people who play cover music in bars and people who claim to understand music on a spiritual level, the debate becomes very boring and predictable. There is a judgment that is passed by certain music lovers that has always bothered me. You know whom I mean, the ones who think that anything popular is instantly unlikeable. One of the guys actually said to me "Dude, do you know how much good music never gets heard?!"

I had to fight the urge to laugh. No man, I've only been going to shows since I was 15 to see acts that most people have no clue who they are. 

So when I said that I believed that U2 is the greatest rock band now and maybe ever, well, the look of disbelief raced across the faces of the quasi-strangers that I was talking to. The retorts were as easy to see coming as fat kid going after wedding cake. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Doors, and Queen all came flying out. All fine selections but I don’t own every album by those artists. I do own all 12 U2 albums and can listen to them all still to this day.  

This debate actually pushed me towards sports as a profession to be honest. I debate music as “in my lifetime” because I wasn’t alive during the 60’s. I wasn’t alive during most of the 70’s even so how can I debate something as personal as music when I wasn’t around to experience it? Ani DiFranco has had a much bigger impact on me than Simon and Garfunkel.

I’m 33. The people I was debating this topic were 31 to 26. They weren’t around it either but that didn’t stop them from sounding like something from a Dazed and Confused scene with bands they were throwing out. I just don't get into what WAS in music. I like to talk about IS going on with it. 

Yet to me, there is no right answer when debating the topic of music. In sports, you can argue stats, performance, and records. In music, you have ticket sales, album sales, radio play, and other money driven numbers that have nothing to do with the emotion of the art. Is Ke$ha better than Laura Marling cause she sells more records? No. But it’s personal, how the music has touched you, affected you and maybe a girl in Milwaukee likes Ke$ha more cause she can relate to her music more than Marling's. I didn’t want to debate emotion for the rest of my life. It takes away from my own enjoyment of the beauty so I decided to not pursue a career in music. 

I think the movie "Almost Famous” was the perfect explanation of how I feel about music. When you get too close, you lose something. 

So in that vain, here is my Top 10 Albums for 2010. And you can argue with me if you want, but don’t get mad if I don’t engage you.

10. Speak Now by Taylor Swift 

If you love music, you love Taylor Swift. I don't care if you're a country fan, a pop fan, or whatever...the girl is just flat out talented. Her third studio album just continued to prove that Swift will be a force in the music world for years to come. Sure, she is still really young and lots of her fans are girls under the age of 18. So what? Taylor is not Ke$ha or Brittany. So far, Speak Now has seen all 14 tracks appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart after it was released on October 25th. The first single "Mine" has made it to No. 3. Articulate and smart, Swift is the type of artist that you are completely comfortable allowing your kids to idolize. My 11 year old sister went to go see Swift in concert this summer and came away even more in love with her (if that were possible). Swift has the amazing ability of writing songs that speak to people twice her age while still maintaining a youthful shock to how successful she actually has become. Here's to looking for forward to even more from the amazing singer/songwriter.

9. Distant Relatives by Nas and Damian Marley 

The Marley family has been making amazing music for generations. I think if you were born in the 70's, Bob Marley's Legend album was required owning. I'll never forget driving around Cape Cod in high school during the summer listening to Bob. In college, things slid into Ziggy Marley and his amazing spin on Reggae music, touring with his father's backing band - The Wailers. Damian Marley has taken his career into hip-hop and "Distant Relatives" is an amazing album. That doesn't mean Nas isn't a star on this album as well. I prefer listening to rap music that has purpose and a message. I don't like hearing about ho's and drugs in every other line. The track above is my favorite off the album.

8. Mt. Desolation by Mt. Desolation

I've written about this album before on this blog, but if you like country with a different spin - this album is amazing. Keane writer Tim Rice-Oxley and member Jesse Quin joined forces with members from The Killers, Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale, and others to form this new band that released their first album in October. Being a huge Keane fan, I knew of this album and was counting down the days till it was released. "State of Our Affairs" is the best track on the album in my opinion but there are several really interesting tracks to discover.

7. Night Train by Keane 

If you have read this blog before, you knew this album was going to be on this list. However, it's lower than I probably would have thought it would have been after I put it all together. The EP did not sell well in America and I'm not sure what the future for this band will be in the US. Regardless, Keane is currently in my top 3 for favorite artists and seeing them twice and then meeting the band in Minneapolis this summer was a huge deal to me. Night Train is different than other Keane albums but the song above was released here and should have been a bigger hit than it was. It's my favorite on the record. "We won't be leaving by the same road that we came by" .... exactly!

6. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling

To continue the run on British bands who released albums this year, Laura Marling's second full studio album (third overall) is probably a little higher on this list because how much I love all her work. The 20 year old is kinda like the Brit version of Taylor Swift with a little more attitude. Her guitar playing is tremendous and her voice is haunting. Her songs will stick with you for a long, long time if you are kind enough to expose yourself to her. I Speak came out in March and is filled with songs about women and their role in society. The album reached number 1 on the Brit charts .... Hello America? Wake up to this woman's talents.

5. Recovery by Eminem

This is another album that caused me to write a long entry on this blog after listening to it. Eminem's newest album returned him the level of the elite performers of our time. His honesty on this record brought millions of his fans into his life and showed the vulnerability that caused his explosion in the first place. Em speaks to so many different people through his music that his appeal is nearly universal. I love the beeps in the track above (LOL) but The Roots rocked the backing band!

4. Lungs by Florence and The Machine

Ok - technically this album was released in 2009 but there were some issues getting it out in America and really didn't hit until January of this past year. So, I put it in 2010 ... and BOY what a year for this band. Florence's voice is one of the most unique I've ever heard. There are so many amazing tracks on this album and yes, The Killers are easily heard inside of her music but her lyrics are gripping and the notes she hits are awesome. Fiercely original, I can't wait to see what she does with her second album. On my top list of 5 bands I haven't seen yet, Florence and the Machine sit at number 2.

3. Brothers by The Black Keys

No, not The Black Eyed Peas ... this band from Ohio had a big year in 2010. Brothers came out to mass critical acclaim and the video above is my favorite of the year. Their sound is very easy to distinguish from other rock bands from the Midwest with their mix of blues and rock. Spin Magazine named the band their artist of the year in 2010. Rolling Stone picked this album for the second best of the year. I completely love it. Highly recommend it.

2. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kayne West

By most publications, this is the album of the year. I don't argue with anyone who says that. It is flat out inspiring and amazing on all levels. Intense, personal, and passionate, the first four tracks of this album might be the best beginning to any rap album I've ever heard. It simply explodes in your head. Power is picked by some for the song of the year as well. You might hate Kayne as a person, but as a performer - the dude is sick.

1. Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons

In February, Mumford and Sons' album finally made out in the US. The date you see in the clip above is exactly two years before America would get to hear the talents of this amazing band officially. The confusion on when this album officially came out is one reason why you don't see it listed by most publications. However, in December, it was nominated for 2 2010 Grammy Awards. Laura Marling is close to this band and together they are producing music in England that crushes anything I've heard in America from folk bands over the past year. If you don't own this album, I suggest you run to your computer to download it. Simply put, it's the best work of the year from start to finish. 


Matt said...

My music likes are a little more tunnel vision than most being mostly country, but my favorite album that I got this year (well downloaded) was Brad Paisley - Hits Alive.

I'll let the best album overall debate go on to you and Jon Miller and all the others who enjoy and listen to more genre's than I do.

The Collaborators said...

y'all got quite a list here. Definitely enjoyed a lot of those albums. Wanted to let everyone know that my site just posted our Top 10 Albums of the year list as well. We got a couple overlaps and a couple that yall left off. Check it out and let us know what you think! All comments are appreciated. Thanks in advance for your input!

Mark Weber said...

Well said Matt. But as much as I love U2, the Beatles will always be unbeatable as far as THE group of all time. If you love U2, you have to love INXS. Michael Hutchence and Bono were close friends and Michael inspired Bono. If you haven't read the book about INXS, it's a great read. You would totally enjoy it.

Still miss you in Omaha brother.

Mark Weber

AJ said...

If you think Mumford crushes any American folk, check out the American band that inspired Mumford, The Avett Brothers.

Ali G. said...

You just went up about 50 points in my book.
I'm addicted to Flo - can't get enough. Also, Recovery changed my mind about Eminem, and I'm falling in love with Mumford and Sons!

Anonymous said...

LOVE by Angels & Airwaves was one of my favorite ablums of last year