20. Tom Jones
- Praise & Blame
While I have always liked Tom Jones, I have never really given his post 1980 albums much thought. He has always attached himself to whatever musical movement was hip at the time, from dance, to R&B, to Hip-Hop, with mostly disastrous results. However, when I read that he was going to be recording with Ethan Johns for this album, I felt a glimmer of hope. Like the Joe Cocker
album Johns produced a few years back, Praise & Blame
is a rootsy affair, with religious undertones. In my view, it is easily the best Tom Jones album released in my lifetime.
What Good Am I?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGawnVcpzB4
Sometimes I don't know what to think about Weezer. One one hand they released some of the best power pop records of the 90s, and then on the other, they have turned themselves into the alternative version of Smash Mouth
in more recent years. However, I still keep buying their new records hoping they will go back to what they do best. And while Hurley
isn't exactly their best, it is a good record that tends to have more in common with their rock roots, rather than their duets with Lil' Wayne
. A definite step forwards for a band I didn't expect anything from.
18. Liz Phair
I love this woman. She doesn't give a fuck. And this album is the ultimate testament to that. Supposedly this is the album that lost her her record deal with Dave Matthews
ATO Records. And it is easy to see why. It seems she went purposely out of her way to create something that most people couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes. Thankfully I am not one of those people. It is an interesting record, but it is not going to win her any new fans. However I think that is exactly what Liz wanted. Like I read somewhere recently, this record is trash, but unlike her last two records, at least this is interesting trash.
Bang Bang: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTN3Xbgb8xo
17. Richard Barone
While The Bongos
are considered power-pop royalty, lead singer Richard Barone's solo career has mostly gone unnoticed. However, having big name producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie
, Iggy Pop
) producing this the majority of this album (how did Richard Barone swing that?), I would of thought this would have possibly opened Barone up to a wider audience. However, sadly it doesn't seem to have worked. But for fans, this album is a real treat. A nice folk-pop album, that might be one of his best ever. A good starting point for people who have not heard his work outside of The Bongos
16. The Scruffs
Another sadly under appreciated band. While to most power-pop buffs, the first Scruffs album Wanna Meet The Scruffs?
is rightly considered a classic of the genre, the latter years have gone by mostly unnoticed. While I would consider this probably the weakest of the 5 albums released since their 1997 comeback, this is still worthy addition to my best albums of the year list. It's just a really good power pop album, and fans of Big Star
, The dB's
and similar bands should take notice.
Making of the album: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny3LwkOnldc
- Red Velvet Car
As legendary as these ladies are, I still don't think they get the respect they deserve. They had an incredible string of fantastic rock records in the 70s, and while maybe not as abrasive as bands like The Runaways
, The Wilson Sisters were among the first females to truly rock out like the boys. I think Red Velvet Car
might be their best album since their 70s heyday. And while it may not be as hard and heavy, it is a rootsy rock album, combining blues and folk that results in a stylish, mature album. They have finally hit their stride again.
14. Erykah Badu
- New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh
I've loved this woman since the first time I heard On & On
when I was 11 years old. I don't think she has ever released a bad record, and New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh
is another fantastic addiction to her discography. Whereas New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
was brilliant, it was very much a difficult listen. It was very much a concept record, and seemed to contain very little actual songs. For those people that found part 1 a tough listen, part 2 is easily much easier to grasp. While it also has a similar concept, it is a much lighter record, with actual songs. A much easier starting point than part 1.
Window Seat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hVp47f5YZg
13. Neil Young
- Le Noise
Man this is good. While a lot of people have felt lukewarm about Neil's more recent efforts, there has been a lot of great music there. Chrome Dreams II
is one of my favourite Neil albums, and I really enjoyed Prairie Wind
. Le Noise
may be the best one yet. Even though the album was produced by Daniel Lanois (Emmylou Harris
, Bob Dylan
), it has very little of his signature techniques. This is basically Neil with his guitar and the amp turned up to full. While I find some of the mixing techniques distracting (what is the point of adding effects to Neils vocals? And the vocal panning is equally as annoying), they can't really take away from how good this set of songs is.
Love & War: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skJddbSJQjA
- Catching A Tiger
I first heard of Lissie through Courtney Love
. She used to talk about her in her infamous Myspace blogs, and earlier this year she posted a link to Lissie's cover of Bad Romance on her twitter page. Needless to say to anyone who has seen it, it was brilliant. And thankfully, her debut album is just as good. Equal parts Nellie McKay
and Emmylou Harris
, with a dash of Neko Case
thrown in, I think Lissie is the most exciting artist to come out in recent years, whos career I think I will follow for a long time. While the album is a tad long, I think it is a promising start for a new generation of female artists who will hopefully wipe the Katy Perry
's from the public consciousness.
When I'm Alone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i7jNwv_3oc
11. Gil Scott-Heron
- I'm New Here
To be honest, I had never really heard of Gil Scott-Heron
prior to this year (I don't think he has much of a following, if any, in New Zealand). But when I read about his life and listened to a couple of his older records, I was excited when it was announced he was releasing his first album in 16 years. And my God, what an album. While it is short, clocking in at under half an hour, I'm New Here
a powerful statement. The atmosphere created by the abstract beats and crass spoken word is among the darkest albums I have ever heard. His cover of Smog
's I'm New Here
is fantastic, but the whole album is incredible.
Me and the Devil: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OET8SVAGELA
10. The Pretenders
- Live In London
Chrissie Hynde and her gang are probably my favourite live band. Each time I have seen them has been a revelation for me, so this album was an exciting release for me. After the disappointing, and easily worst album Loose Screw
was released in 2002, Chrissie took 5 years to release the follow up Break Up The Concrete
, which was thankfully a big return to form. Live In London
is a continuation of that record. It is just an incredible live set, and demonstrates how amazing a musician and songwriter Chrissie Hynde is. I'm not normally big on live albums, however in my view, this is an essential purchase.
Snippet of all songs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EG_PNvnDRw
9. Teenage Fanclub
I love this band. It goes without saying that they released some of the best albums of the 90's, and have continued to release fantastic records into the 00's. The 2005 album Man-Made
in my opinion was one of their best ever, and Shadows
continues in that same vein. It has incredible production, very tight and smooth and yet individualistic (I have never heard an album that has similar production to Man-Made and Shadows). While is doesn't have the immediate appeal that their earlier albums have, with continued listening Shadows
reveals itself to be a really good album, lowkey, but brilliant. And totally impossible to dislike.
Baby Lee: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6UuoS7kd-g
- Grinderman 2
I'm never sure what to say about Nick Cave. I'm no major fan or fanatic. Some days I really love his music, and others I cannot stand it. However, I always find the time to give his new records a try. I really loved the last Grinderman album, and the last Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
album was fantastic. Grinderman 2
is probably my favourite of 3. It's heavy shit. I don't think it is as immediate as the first record, but i think it reveals itself upon further listens to be a sort of heavy classic rock sounding album, but at the same time not for the faint at heart.
Heathen Child: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKznZUtKntg&has_verified=1
7. The Posies
I didn't expect this album to tickle my fancy at all. I like The Posies
, but their more recent records have been muddling affairs (in fact I found Every Kind Of Light
to be totally unlistenable). But this album I surprisingly found this to be one of their best albums, and extremely easy to listen to. I can't quite figure out what they did differently, but this album is so good. One of the most surprising entries on my end of year list.
Licenses to Hide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5YqoISSz0c
6. Nina Hagen
- Personal Jesus
Ah Nina. Is there anyone more awesomely weird? I'm sure most Nina fans won't like this album. But screw it. Despite the crazy Christian lady she has become, I really like this album. The production is impeccable. The song choices are fantastic. And her voice is just as awesome as ever. I find nothing to dislike about Personal Jesus
, and despite her reputation as a punk rocker, Nina Hagen
has delved into pop, big band and trip hop. This is just another musical venture, and I for one find her restless experimentation part of her charm.
Personal Jesus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpz0WOSwnZI
5. Dax Riggs
- Say Goodnight to the WorldDax Riggs
has become one of my favourite artists in recent years. From his sludge metal band Acid Bath
, to indie rock with deadboy & the Elephantmen
, he has consistently created some incredible music. His last solo album was amazing, and he has topped himself with this one. It is an incredible singer songwriter record, with a touch of Tom Waits
inspired blues. It is incredibly haunting, and extremely dark. And in a world where hipsters are obsessed with bland indie rock and Kanye West
, Dax's style of rock and roll is a breath of fresh air.
Say Goodnight to the World: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlDxcLKDgNk
- Cargoe Twenty-Ten
Most people have never heard of Cargoe, which is a great shame. They were victims of record label distribution problems, and after releasing their lone self-titled album in 1972, they disappeared. While not strictly a power pop band (they merged power pop with southern rock and the Beach Boys) this debut album to most power pop aficionados is considered a classic. Now, 38 years after their debut, they have finally gotten around to recording and releasing what was supposed to be the original follow-up. I never actually expected Cargoe to release another album, so this album has to be the biggest surprise of the year.
Head to the website to listen to the album: http://www.cargoemusic.com/
3. Don McLean
- Addicted To Black
Apart from the Cargoe
, Addicted To Black
has to be my most surprising album of the year. Don McLean's post-American Pie career has remained a mystery to me, so when I read he was releasing a new album this year, which might possibly be his last, I new it would be a good time to start. Surprisingly this album is quite dark. Melancholy even. Which totally caught be off guard. The album is filled with dark lyrics and distorted guitars, but at the same time a lot of the tracks are quite uplifting. Addicted To Black
runs the gamut from country to folk to rock, and McLean masters them all. Don McLean has joined other artists like Loretta Lynn
, Neil Diamond
and Johnny Cash
in having released some of their best and most critically acclaimed records later in their careers. But what makes this album more remarkable is that this is a self-released record, recorded with no outside producer and without the backing of any hip young artist. If it is really his last album ever, then it is an excellent record to go out on.
I Was Always Young: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elHcEq6zC3Q
- Something for Everybody
Man, this album is a lot of fun. I've always liked Devo, and the side projects members went on to create, like Jihad Jerry & The Evildoers
and The Wipeouters
, were awesome. I even liked the last Devo album Smooth Noodle Maps
, but this album trumps them all. The production on this album is impeccable, and the songs are all top notch. They have created an album that easily could be played along side their classic records, but without trying to repeat history. I hope to hell that this isn't their last album, because this album is so bloody good that I selfishly want more.
- Nobody's Daughter
This album hit me like a ton of bricks. Not since I first heard Tusk
have I heard an album that so greatly affected me. When I first heard the demos for this album recorded with Linda Perry, I knew it was going to be an incredible piece of work. The 4 year wait was excruciating, but after hearing the finished product and the awesome band Courtney Love
has finally got behind her, the wait seemed all worth it.
I'm not even going to go into "is this really Hole or not" argument, because Hole to me was always Courtney Love's vision, and to think otherwise is ridiculous. What matters to me is the music, and what's here is just the most powerful, most extraordinary, most satisfying record Hole have ever made. The songs here are among the best Courtney has ever put together (we cannot mention this without mentioning Hole guitarist Micko Larkin who is probably the main reason this album even saw the light of day after all these years), the lyrics are so quotable, and the songs so brilliant I can't really sum up how much they have affected me. For Once In Your Life
is the best song I have heard all year, and moves me in ways that most songs can't every time I hear it. Someone Else's Bed
is absolutely stunning, and has one of the best and most powerful choruses Courtney has ever written. Nobody's Daughter
is absolutely epic, and probably Courtney's Pièce de résistance. It's like her own Gold Dust Woman
is a tribute to her late husband, and quite honestly, her saddest song since Sugar Coma
If you go into this album wanting another Live Through This
you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Nobody's Daughter
is a folk rock/singer songwriter record at it's heart, and a powerful summation of Courtney's life over the past five years, and quite honestly, I could write a damned essay on it. But I shouldn't have to convince anybody. This is such an incredible piece of work, and if you can't figure out how to appreciate it, it's your loss.
Happy Ending Story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGwRuOpS0Fg