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The Best Music of 2010 – Part 3

Cee Lo Green took the world by storm in 2010 with The Lady Killer Cee Lo Green took the world by storm in 2010 with The Lady Killer

Like most people, I find myself in a reflective mood this final week of the year. As a lover of great music, it’s hard not to look back on the releases of 2010 and feel pretty damn satisfied. There was a raft of great new music from both old favorites and newcomers alike, and in almost any genre you can name. Gaslight Anthem, Cee Lo Green, Teenage Fanclub, Wu-Tang alumni, Janell Monae, Band of Horses, The National, Iron Maiden and Jamey Johnson are just a few of the artists who hit me hard this year. If it’s a sign of things to come for this second decade of the 21st century, then the future is bright. Without further ado, here are my highlights of what went down in 2010, from rap to country to punk to pop, in no particular order.


Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

Cee Lo Green took over the internet in the latter half of 2010 with his sensational single “F**k You,” which proved that the old model of hit-making is being completely overhauled. The song is a straight up piece of sonic confection laced with hilarious profanity, and deserved every stitch of attention it got for both its infectiousness and audacity.

But what few people realized was that “F**k You” was just the first taste of one of the best R&B/Soul albums to come down the pike in a long time. Cee Lo’s delivery is refreshing, and the mood of The Lady Killer is fun but never lets you forget that it is the work of sheer talent. Nearly every track is a toe-tapper that sticks in the listener’s ear long after the disc has stopped spinning.

Circa Survive – Blue Sky Noise

Circa Survive’s third full-length, their first on a major label, was also their first to crack the Top 20, hitting #11 at its peak. Blue Sky Noise shows off the band’s curious style, which sounds like prog rock played by pop-punkers, at its most mature.

Blue Sky Noise also displays a continuation of Circa Survive’s thoughtful guitar work synched with high-pitched vocal harmonies and oddly punctuated rhythm section work. Through it all, the band’s experimentation is never alienating or excessively math-y, but consistently inviting - a difficult challenge that is well met by Circa Survive.

Teenage Fanclub – Shadows 

Posies – Blood/Candy

Two of 2010’s best pop-rock albums came from bands whose biggest impact was felt in the ‘90s, but both Teenage Fanclub and The Posies proved that they can still produce compelling and relevant music in the 21st century. I think just the fact that I’m talking about Shadows and Blood/Candy in a year that saw a new full-length from The New Pornographers should tell you all you need to know about how exceptional these two power pop albums are.

Teenage Fanclub has come a long way since the seminal Bandwagonesque hit shelves back in 1993, but their essential knack for injecting pop-hooks into everything they do has remained in tact. The band is a little cleaner around the edges, and mellower, but might be better than ever for the evolution displayed on Shadows.

It’s a similar story with The Posies, whose reflective brand of power pop showcases in 2010 much of what made them great in their heyday. Like Teenage Fanclub, that heyday was also in 1993, when The Posies released the unforgettable Frosting On the Beater. Unlike with Teenage Fanclub, however, The Posies new album sounds like it could have been right at home back then. The classic Posies sound and songwriting are just as I remember them, and I couldn't be happier.

Army of the Pharaohs – The Unholy Terror

The Unholy Terror, the third full-length by underground hip-hop supergroup Army of the Pharaohs, marks the return of Apathy to the AOTP fold, and it’s he who contributes the strongest performances among an abundance of talented MCs. Celph Titled and Planetary also show up with the same knock-em-dead rhymes fans of underground hip-hop have come to expect.

There are some innovative sounds bumping in the album’s beats too, which are a collection of contributions from a number of producers, making for an eclectic listening experience. But the record is still anchored by a common vibe among the collaborators, and one that proves the best hip-hop of the year wasn’t on the radio.

Jimmy Eat World - Invented

In this world, there are few things you can count on, but Jimmy Eat World is one of them. Ever since 1999’s breakout influential album Clarity, the band has been delivering solid songwriting packed with emotion, power, and hooks galore. Invented finds the Arizona quartet hanging out in familiar territory, with subtle variations on the themes that have made them so successful for over a decade now.

For most listeners, Jimmy Eat World will never outdo the majesty of Clarity, but I’ve always been completely satisfied with the trajectory of their output since that monumental album. And even if Invented flirts with elements of dance-rock that I normally find obnoxious, Jimmy Eat World is so firmly rooted in the style, composition, and structure that are the band’s strengths, that every track turns out to be a winner.

Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier

Speaking of consistency, heavy metal legends Iron Maiden have been a band you can rely on for most of their 30+ year career. With their 15th studio full-length, The Final Frontier, Maiden have once again served up an unbeatable dose of metal in their classic style.

Featuring the classic ‘80s line-up plus third guitarist Jannick Gers, The Final Frontier finds Iron Maiden sounding just like they did in their prime. And the band is as popular as ever with their 2010 album debuting at #1 in 30 different countries around the world, and peaking at #4 on US Charts, matching their highest position ever. Not bad for a bunch of fifty-somethings into their fourth decade of rocking.

Dailey & Vincent – Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers

Dailey & Vincent are the hottest act in bluegrass these days, and with good reason. Their 2010 full-length featured the duo and the rest of their cohort tackling country classics made famous by The Statler Brothers. Thanks to this spectacular recording, Dailey & Vincent cleaned up at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards and have been nominated for a Grammy as well.

Before they got together, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent were already two of the most accomplished bluegrass musicians on the landscape, but often played supporting roles as part of big name acts. Now they’ve taken centerstage and show no signs of relinquishing the spotlight. In a genre that continually turns out astounding artists making incredible records, Dailey & Vincent have done well to establish themselves as the cream of the crop, and on a tribute album no less. For fans of exceptional musicianship, multiple airtight harmonies, and timeless songwriting, Dailey & Vincent Sing The Statler Brothers is indispensible.

Alcest - Écailles de Lune

Alcest is essentially a one-man project, the brainchild of singer/multi-instrumentalist Neige, and continues to move through lush territory with the release of Écailles de Lune.  Much like 2007’s Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde, Alcest has progressed away from its roots as a black metal band and towards something of a shoegaze sound. The French black metal scene has produced some of the most avant garde metal of the 21st century, but Alcest is minimally metal at this point although still displaying some minor black metal tendencies from time to time. It makes for an esoteric mix that is at times challenging, but ultimately pleasing.

No matter how you want to try to classify the sounds coming through your speakers, the bottom line is that Écailles de Lune is a beautiful and haunting album. Patient listeners will reap the rewards of spending time with Alcest.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes

One of the all time great rock records was reissued in 2010 with a bonus disc of material to accompany the original release. The bonus material is fine, but most of it isn’t essential. Rather, it’s the chance to revisit Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ greatest album that is cause to rejoice.

Damn the Torpedoes features the classic Petty numbers “Refugee,” and “Don’t Do Me Like That,” as well as some of the best deep cuts of the ‘70s, like “Even the Losers.” The album found the Heartbreakers battling their record label with their very careers on the line, but the result was a masterpiece. In 2010, we got to enjoy it all over again.


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Last modified on Thursday, 18 October 2012 12:32

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