Friday, November 19, 2010

Music Roundup: My Top 10 Albums of 2010

Interestingly, almost none of the artists from my 2009 Music Roundup appear on this year's list. In fact, few of them released albums this year at all. MF Doom's out-of-nowhere live album is a notable exception, but it's Dan Auerbach who makes the list for the second consecutive year. Auerbach's 2009 solo album, Keep it Hid, was a definite favorite of mine, and this year he's back with an outstanding Black Keys album. As is always the case with my subjective "best of" lists, these titles are not ranked. This is just an opportunity for me to share some of my favorite musical experiences, in the hope that you might enjoy them as much as I have.

Some thoughts on the performers and recordings:

We waited a long time for Big Boi (one half of the Southernplayalistic duo Outkast) to make his solo debut. The grandiosely titled Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty exceeded sky-high expectations, proving that Andre Benjamin isn't the genius in the group - at least, not the only one.

The above-mentioned Black Keys album, Brothers, manages a synthesis of everything the band does well with just the right amount of innovation. There has been considerable, some might say excessive, Black Keys rhapsodizing here at the Media Corner. But, the blame lies squarely with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney - for making awesome music.

The country blues string-band Carolina Chocolate Drops are not a new group, having originally formed in 2005, but they were a new discovery for me. Their latest record, Genuine Negro Jig, is comprised of traditional songs brought to vibrant life. Their interpretation of "Cornbread and Butterbeans" is probably the most joyous, endearing recording I heard this year. Another standout is their soulful take on the 1930s standard "Why Don't You Do Right?" performed by band-member Rhiannon Giddens.

Little Brother, heroes of the rap underground, dropped what may prove to be their last album, aptly titled Leftback. It's ample evidence that these guys were at the vanguard of a hip-hop movement that I earnestly hope to see continued.

Little Brother-member Phonte makes a guest appearance on The Roots album How I Got Over: a profound, serious-minded musical exploration that, I would argue, exceeds any standard that the group had previously set for itself. If there's a more soulful, culturally relevant group than The Roots working today, I don't know who it is.

Magnetic Fields mastermind Stephin Merritt applied his scabrous wit to a folk-based sound that he hasn't explored this fully since the dawn of the '90s. Track twelve on Realism is my favorite song title of the year: "The Dada Polka."

My Top 10 Albums of 2010:

Teen Dream - Beach House

Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son of Chico Dusty - Big Boi

Brothers - The Black Keys

Genuine Negro Jig - Carolina Chocolate Drops

Cosmogramma - Flying Lotus

Leftback - Little Brother

Realism - Magnetic Fields

How I Got Over - The Roots

You Are Not Alone - Mavis Staples

Admiral Fell Promises - Sun Kil Moon

The runners up:

Album of the Year - Black Milk

Pilot Talk - Curren$y

Harlem River Blues - Justin Townes Earle

The Stimulus Package - Freeway

I'm New Here - Gil Scott-Heron

Contra - Vampire Weekend