Top 10 Albums of 2010
There's just no way around it. Jamey's The Guitar Song is a monster. While it's not an album most can sit down and digest in one sitting due to the dark side of the yin yang decidedly outweighing the light side…(even some of the happy songs carry an air of sorrow) this is truly the best mainstream country album of the year and, quite likely, the last 20 years. Aside from a couple of slightly shoddier songs, the writing is top of the heap - Johnson is without peer in the Nashville mainstream. The bearded one is no savior though; Nashvegas won't change overnight. However, the fact that this record has already moved 500,000 copies bodes well for the future. Jamey may not even have a top 10 hit off this release, but it won't matter. The Guitar Song is a monumental success.
Must listens: Cover Your Eyes, Can't Cash My Checks, How I Don't Love You
Blending his eccentricities with warm vocals, a love of classic soul and a forward-thinking approach, Cee-Lo gave us an album anyone with an appreciation of R&B can love. Even your grandmother would dig it, if it weren't for "F*ck You," the viral smash that begat the sanitized Glee cover hit. The Lady Killer is strange, but comfortable… fresh, but throwback… immediately catchy, but layered. It gets no better in modern R&B.
Must listens: F**k You, Satisfied, Love Gun
In any other year, this would have easily topped my list, especially since it's Two Cow Garage's best album to date. Some say they've abandoned alt-country/rock for power pop, but there's still plenty of twang to go around. The songs are catchier this time around, and yes, poppier, but that doesn't diminish the effect. TCG's songwriting has never been better, and they never lack in the emotion category, making this a true winner.
Must listens: Lydia, Jackson Don't You Worry
FTM interviewee and pal Austin Collins' Wrong Control was my favorite release of early 2010 and has held up to many, many further listens. Austin falls somewhere in the realm of Ryan Adams and the Replacements with some of the Texas soul of the country troubadours. Despite his joking, affable personality, the songs are mostly downers, but in the best ways possible. They're moody but catchy and entirely cathartic. AC deserves a higher standing in the alt-country genre, and with albums like this, it's only a matter of time, not chance.
Must listens: Conventional Lust, Centerpiece
Despite being snubbed by the Grammys (wtf??), this awkwardly titled hip-hop opus is better than that of the anointed King of Hip-Hop, Kanye's, admitted strong new release. It's more accessible, though far from standard rap in this day and age. Big Boi's personality really gets to shine apart from his pairing with Andre 3000 in the legendary OutKast, showing him to be much more than the more street-friendly half of that duo. The beats are unique, the lyrics are top-notch (often hilarious) and BB's delivery has never been better. Here's to showing the youngsters how it's done.
Must listens: Tangerine, General Patton, You Ain't No DJ
This guy is only 23?? Probably the strongest songwriter in my Top 10, Pug is the true modern-day heir to Dylan if anyone is. His songs speak the poetry of an old soul but crackle with the vitality of youth. If he's doing this at this age, think of what's to come.
Must listens: Messenger, Not So Sure, Bury Me Far (From My Uniform)
Bluegrass on meth, Four Loko folk, Americana… I don't know what you want to call this, but I call it good music. Ripping up their instruments like Old Crow Medicine Show with a little less twang and a few less nefarious leanings, Trampled by Turtles sings loud and proud on the up-tempos and low and soulful on the slower numbers. It's all good.
Must listens: New Orleans, Wait So Long
I actually hate this album, but I felt obliged to help out a pal. Seriously, this one's full of catchy alternative pop rock Americana goodness and with songs this good, Kasey's bound for years of being on this list. He's already got a new album slated for early '11 and I can't wait!
Must listens: I Was a Photograph (Blake's Song), All Lit Up
Rodney takes his Texas charm on the road with this set of internationally flavored country tunes about love, loss and unease. Drew Kennedy produces and provides a standout track. What else do you need?
Must listens: Take Me Back Wife, Waiting on the Pain
While Cee-Lo's release tread new ground with an old R&B sound, this one's a complete blast from the past. Fans of Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding will feel right at home listening to these 70's flavored soul songs. Strong writing and even stronger performances propel this album to memorable heights.
Must listens: The Game Gets Old, Window Shopping
The Next 30
11. Paul Thorn - Pimps and Preachers
12. Truth & Salvage Co. - s/t
13. Dirty Sweet - American Spiritual
14. The Black Crowes - Croweology
15. Band of Horses - Infinite Arms
16. The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis
17. Randy Houser - They Call Me Cadillac
18. Hellbound Glory - Old Highs and New Lows
19. The Black Keys - Brothers
20. Drive-by Truckers - The Big To-Do
21. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
22. Sean McConnell - Saints, Thieves & Liars
23. Reckless Kelly - Somewhere in Time
24. Lissie - Catching a Tiger
25. The Dirty Guv'nahs - Youth is in Our Blood
26. The Fox Hunt - Long Way to Go
27. Zac Brown Band - You Get What You Give
28. Emory Quinn - See You at the Next Light
29. Whitey Morgan & the 78s - s/t
30. Randy Rogers Band - Burning the Day
31. The Roots - How I Got Over
32. High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine
33. Elizabeth Cook - Welder
34. John Moreland and the Black Gold Band - Things I Can't Control
35. Great American Taxi - Reckless Habits
36. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
37. Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
38. Marty Stuart - Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions
39. Bleu Edmondson - The Future Ain't What It Used to Be
40. Old 97's - The Grand Theatre Volume 1