My top 30 albums of 2010 (including a mix)


Jan 4 2011, 21h24

1. Otis Gibbs - Joe Hill's Ashes

An Americana artist who mixes the political and personal. This is his fourth album (not including his Christmas album) and he becomes a better lyricist with every release. With the last album he stepped up the production and it’s continued to this one. His voice manages to be uniquely smooth and rough at the same time.

2. Codeine Velvet Club - Codeine Velvet Club

A project started by Jon Fratelli of The Fratellis, a Scottish rock band, who joined forces with Scottish cabaret singer Lou Hickey. The results were fantastic. Also the first in a recurring theme for me this year -- lots of guy/girl harmonies and trading of lead vocals. Unfortunately, this band has already split up, with the two artists working on their own projects now.

3. James - The Morning After The Night Before

Technically this is a double EP, but 8 songs each equals an album. The Night Before was recorded first: the band were not together and shared their ideas and music by uploading to an ftp server. The Morning After was recorded over the course of a few days with the band all together. It’s a more mellow affair. When I first started listening I greatly preferred TNB, but as time went on, I’ve now swung the other direction. It’s a big deal to me that the past two releases from this band have been in my top 3 since I found albums from the latter part of their pre-hiatus to be spotty. Tim Booth probably has my favorite male voice.

4. The Rizdales - How The Marriage Ended

Traditional country album by Canadian couple Tom and Tara Dunphy.

5. Eli "Paperboy" Reed - Come And Get It

Old-school soul album that you can’t help but dance to. In fact, when I saw them this summer I’d say at least 75% of the audience was dancing (not just bobbing and swaying). Outside of summerdance, I’ve never experienced that kind of crowd participation.

6. Delta Spirit - History From Below

Basically I’d call it indie folk-rock, which seems to be very popular with me right now (I’d put Good Old War and The Spring Standards into the same broad category). Matt Vasquez is a very good lyricist with an expressive voice (though not really a good one) and the drums have a very prominent place -- two things that lift this album up above the others, but you can also add in a variety of different sounds, some nice harmonies, and a wide variety of tempos. That the 8 minute closing track holds my interest is an achievement in itself. As good as the album is, though, live is where it’s really at with these guys. I’d say they’re currently one of the best live bands touring.

7. Good Old War - Good Old War

Indie-pop, but with a definite folk influence. Lots of harmonies and acoustic instruments. I’m surprised these guys aren’t more popular than they are -- at least in the music circles I travel in.

8. Pete Molinari - A Train Bound For Glory

If you like skiffle, you’ll like this guy.

9. The Spring Standards - Would Things Be Different

Yet another indie folk-rock album, this one with male and female voices. Though the entire album is really good, the songs where Heather Robb has the lead are generally the best. On a couple of songs, where she’s belting it out and they’ve got horns, they remind me a lot of Codeine Velvet Club.

10. Darren Hanlon - I Will Love You At All

A quirky, witty, slightly twee singer-songwriter. I enjoyed this as a bit of fluff from the get-go, but never thought this album would land in my top 10. But the more I listened the more I appreciated his lyrics and he’s got a charming voice. I’ve come to think of him as an Australian Jens Lekman.

11. Murder by Death - Good Morning, Magpie
12. Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy
13. Jon Langford & Skull Orchard - Old Devils
[On record, I find I typically prefer Langford’s albums under his own name over the Waco Brothers. Better lyrics and greater sound diversity. He’s one of the people I think of when I want to argue with people who say they don’t like political music as his songs tend to be more poetic or obscure than most political music I listen to.]
14. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope
15. Barton Carroll - Together You And I
16. Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues
17. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
18. Rhonda Vincent - Taken
19. The Unthanks - Here’s The Tender Coming [2010 US release]
[Traditional English folk group. The first album (billed as Rachel Unthank & The Winterset) was good, but this one is so much better.]
20. Priestess - Prior To The Fire [2010 US release]
[Like 70’s era Aerosmith or AC/DC, but rocking even harder.]
21. Marty Marrone & Tangled Roots - Life Of A Dream
22. Whitey Morgan and the 78's - Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
[There is someone to carry the Merle Haggard mantle and his name is Whitey Morgan.]
23. Roky Erickson with Okkervil River - True Love Cast Out All Evil
24. I Am Kloot - Sky At Night
[The past couple albums from I Am Kloot have been mellow, rather unadventurous affairs, especially after their mind-blowing God And Monsters album of 2005, but John Bramwell is still a great lyricist with a beautiful voice.]
25. Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone
[Great album, but it doesn’t come close to capturing the joy, passion, and love of her live show.]
26. Free Energy - Stuck On Nothing
[While there are no songs here I dislike, it’s a shame that the latter part of this power-pop album really falls off; if all was like the first four songs this would be a top 5 album. Band is great live, too.]
27. Eels - End Times
[I love Mark Everett and this is a really good album, but a bit samey.]
28. The Magnetic Fields - Realism
[Indie-rock done Broadway style.]
29. Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig
[Most of the album is really good, but what really stands out is that Rhiannon Giddens has a heck of a voice.]
30. Suckers - Wild Smile

* * * * *

I've put together a two-volume, year-end mix. The Best, contains two songs from each of my top 10 albums. The Rest, contains one song from my next 20 favorites.

1. That’s Some Dream - Good Old War
2. My Own Sinking Ship - Good Old War
3. Vanity Kills - Codeine Velvet Club
4. I Would Send You Roses - Codeine Velvet Club
5. Name Calling - Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed
6. Time Will Tell - Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed
7. For Eliza - Pete Molinari
8. Streetcar Named Desire - Pete Molinari
9. It’s Not Me, It’s You - The Rizdales
10. To Have Or To Hold - The Rizdales
11. Outdated, Frustrated & Blue - Otis Gibbs
12. Twelve Dead In Sago - Otis Gibbs
13. 911 - Delta Spirit
14. Salt In The Wound - Delta Spirit
15. Sharks - The Spring Standards
16. Queen Of The Lot - The Spring Standards
17. Ten Below - James
18. Rabbit Hole - James
19. Butterfly Bones - Darren Hanlon
20. Modern History - Darren Hanlon

1. Wrote A Song For Everyone - Mavis Staples
2. Mansions of Los Feliz - Eels
3. Yes - Murder By Death
4. To The Brink - I Am Kloot
5. The Mermaid Parade - Phosphorescent
6. Crossed Wires - Superchunk
7. Roman Candles - Suckers
8. You Must Be Out Of Your Mind - The Magnetic Fields
9. Luxury - Jon Langford & Skull Orchard
10. The Testimony of Patience Kershaw - The Unthanks
11. The Court of Love - Rhonda Vincent
12. Turn Up The Bottle - Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
13. Please, Judge - Roky Erickson with Okkervil River
14. My Birth - Swans
15. Lady Killer - Priestess
16. Free Energy - Free Energy
17. Hit ‘Em Up Style - Carolina Chocolate Drops
18. Rogers Park - Justin Townes Earle
19. Weary Day - Marty Marrone & Tangled Roots
20. Let’s Get On With The Illusion - Barton Carroll


  • jcshepard

    I love those Otis Gibbs xmas songs (poor Lloyd the Reindeer) especially since his political songs are so, well, political. A fascinating spectrum.

    Jan 7 2011, 0h03
  • GoodCatGoneBad

    Thanks for the mix, looking forward to listening to it!

    Jan 10 2011, 0h12
  • gerard_d

    Good list, better than all the other samey pitchfork ones.

    Fev 22 2011, 13h12
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