’Tis the season to make lists and check them twice. Here at the Sports Juice, we are temporarily jumping out of the sports arena and dipping our toes into the music scene. The Sports Juicette and I love music, love going to record shops and waiting for something to call our name.
My top 50 list is going to differ a little bit from more authoritative lists, which can be found here, here, here, here and here. The list will run through 50 of the albums we purchased this year, which includes albums released outside of 2010.
The Bottom of the Heap
The lowest of the low includes The Bravery and Hold Steady, two releases that really failed to live up to the bands’ previous albums. I wanted the rock ‘n’ roll and ended up with a bit of electronica and introspective folk musings instead.
At the very bottom of the heap was the third offering by the pairing of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. I am a big Lanegan fan dating back to his Screaming Trees days and have enjoyed most of his solo work. His work with Campbell started out so well, meshing his gruff and gravelly voice with her soft and sweet singing. The formula has run dry in Hawk; time for Lanegan to get his band back together for a solo album.
- 50. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Hawk
- 49 The Bravery- Stir the Blood
- 48. Flight of the Conchords – BBC Radio Series
- 47. Pink Martini – Splendor in the Grass
- 46. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
Rounding out the Collection
The next group of records are mediocre additions to our collection. We saw Ringo Starr in concert and decided to throw him a bone. The U2 purchase was replacing a record that was lost a few years back. $2.99 made it an easy purchase.
- 45. Feist – Let it Die
- 44. Ringo Starr – Y Not
- 43. U2 – Zooropa
- 42. Led Zeppelin – Mothership
- 41. Led Zeppelin – II
- 40. Beck – Modern Guilt
- 39. Robert Plant – Band of Joy
Before you click away due to the Zeppelin and Plant albums, hang on just a second. 2010 was not the year that I discovered Led Zeppelin, it was the year that I upgraded the assortment of downloaded music and added to the DVDs and CDs already in the collection. I have no intentions of owning all of their material, which makes Mothership a solid purchase. Robert Plant was actually a purchase of the Juicette; it is a solid album and a nice listen, but not one of my favourites of 2010.
- 38. Flight of the Conchords – I Told You I Was Freaky
- 37. The Lonely Island – Incredibad
The two comedy albums really make up two sides of the same coin. On the one side is the the latest Conchords album, an amusing if not mostly disappointing album of songs from the second season of their HBO television show. My disappointment was in the lack of any new material.
On the awesome side of the coin is the Lonely Island album, which actually came out in 2009. This was a digital download purchase which included most of the SNL digital shorts. My favourites on the album were “Boombox”, with Julian Casablancas and “Natalie’s Rap”, which has Natalie Portman shed her good girl image forever.
- 36. Supersuckers – Live at Bart’s CD and Record Shop
- 35. White Rabbits – Live in Spaceland
- 34. Kanye West – VH1 Storytellers
- 33. The White Stripes – Under Great Northern Lights
The Supersuckers are the self proclaimed greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world, hailing from Arizona. A friend introduced me to the band back in the late 1990s and I have been fortunate enough to witness the magic live. The Bart’s album is a decent taste of the band, including a cover of Outkast’s “Hey Ya”. Given a choice, I would much rather hear them in a bar than at Bart’s.
Kanye’s VH1 Storytellers album is a fun bit of music, ego and dialogue. Personally, I appreciated the talking between songs as his concerts tend to be straight music and performance.
The White Stripes came to Canada and we liked it. This is a bittersweet album and DVD collection in the Juice household. At the top of our list of bands to see live are the White Stripes. A trip to all 10 provinces and 3 territories back in 2007 should have ended the streak. Instead, we were in Europe on vacation while the tour was in Canada. To add to the kick in the gut, the White Stripes played their last show in London the day before we arrived. Oh well, this album will tide us over until their next tour.
Liked the Band, Bought more Albums
- 32. The Black Keys- Magic Potion
- 31. White Rabbits – Fort Nightly
- 30. The Black Keys – Attack and Release
2010 was the year I got with the program and got into the Black Keys. At one point I said to the Juicette that they were just like the White Stripes, only better. The subsequent beating had me rethink my position, but they are much better than day old bread.
Fort Nightly was the first album from White Rabbits, who hail from Missouri. The Juicette and BBC 6 Radio get the credit for turning me on to this band. We will see them one final time on the countdown in a bit.
Chasing New Music Through the BBC
If I could give advice to those who love music it would be to listen to BBC 6 Radio. Even better, have a wonderful Juicette equivalent who listens to it all day and replays the cream of the crop. The following are the albums that were solid. Some of the great albums appear later.
- 29. Stornaway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
- 28. Fanfarlo – Reservoir
- 27. Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig
- 26. Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
There were a lot of good Canadian artists putting out great music in the past year, including one artist who ended up in my top ten. Included below is Canada’s answer to AC/DC, Flash Lightnin’, a couple of albums by Wintersleep (in preparation for a concert we ended up jamming out on) and a great solo record by Gord Downie. To me, The Grand Bounce was a natural progression from many of the folkier sounding songs on The Tragically Hip’s last album, We Are the Same. Well worth picking up a copy.
- 25. Flash Lightnin’ – Flash Lightnin’
- 24. Joel Plaskett Emergency – LaDeDa
- 23. Wintersleep – New Inheritors
- 22. Wintersleep – Welcome to the Night Sky
- 21. Metric – Fantasies
- 20. Gord Downie – The Grand Bounce
New Favourite Bands and Artists
The next group of records all represent music that was new to the Juicette and me. It started last Christmas with my receiving The Bravery and Vampire Weekend records (two bands I knew nothing about). It inspired us to stretch out and try the music that all the kids were into.
The biggest stretch was the Richard Swift 2007 record, which was recommended by the Cold War Kids on a dated podcast I had listened to. He is an interesting dude who writes, produces and plays everything on his records. He also records under different names and different styles. I predict spending a few more dollars on the guy in 2011 .
Outside of Vampire Weekend, the two main recommendations I would suggest are Band of Skulls and White Rabbits. “Death by Diamonds and Pearls” and “Percussion Gun” will get you started.
- 19. The Bravery – The Sun and The Moon
- 18. Florence and the Machine – Lungs
- 17. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
- 16. Richard Swift – Dressed Up for the Letdown
- 15. The National – High Violet
- 14. Band of Skulls – Baby Darling Doll Face Honey
- 13. White Rabbits – It’s Frightening
- 12. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
The Best Albums of 2010
- 11. Cold War Kids – Behave Yourself EP
The Cold War Kids are well within our top five bands on the scene today. Ever since we first heard “Hang me out to dry” a few years ago, we have been on the train. Their January, 2011 “Mine or Yours” release is an early bet for the top of my list next year.
- 10. Julian Casablancas – Phrazes for the Young
- 9. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More
How did Mumford end up so popular playing a genre of music that no one pays attention to, while hailing from England? They play it like they will die tomorrow and we absolutely need to hear them before they go.
- 8. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
- 7. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
The Broken Bells record had a significant impact on our 2010 year of music. It was bought in May in advance of a concert in New York to ensure we knew what we were listening to. One great show later, I had the Danger Mouse bug. That led me into The Black Keys and convinced me to add Modern Guilt to my stack of Beck records.
- 6. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Jack White is the one artist who has a gold card in the Juice household. If he plays on it, we purchase it. The Dead Weather is my favourite of his three bands. The blues are a little more dirty and a lot more frenetic than The White Stripes. Sea of Cowards was a very good record, though not the absolutely fantastic record that Horehound was.
- 5. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot… The Son of Chico Dusty
I am certainly a pretender in the hip hop world of music, but I am passionate about Andre 3000, Big Boi and Outkast. Outkast writes great tunes with a healthy dose of humour and catchy hooks. While Andre 3000 may write the pop-tinged songs that get stuck in your head, Big Boi is the lyrical magician. Listen to Tangerine and try not to laugh, feel a little dirty and bounce around all at once.
Also check out The Brothers of Chico Dusty, a mashup that I came across yesterday which mixes this album with the album that comes next on our list.
- 4. The Black Keys – Brothers
Brothers is a great album that would be higher on our list in any other year. The album is a perfect blend of the blues and pop hooks, filled with absolute killer tunes. “I’m not the one”, “Howlin for you” and “Everlasting Light” are three of the many standout songs on the album.
- 3. Vampire Weekend – Contra
I have to admit I was shocked to see Contra at #1 on Consequence of Sound’s Top 100 list for 2010. Obviously in my opinion there were two better albums.
That said, Vampire Weekend is a band that everyone needs to get into. In a music landscape full of absolute garbage, they are a band that is fearlessly original and fresh. Their Paul Simon and Afrobeat influences are worn proudly on their sleeve. The music is light, it is fun and the lyrics range from obscure to bizarre. What is not to love?
- 2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Light and fun are probably two adjectives rarely used in describing Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”, our second best album of 2010. That’s ok, as gripping, expansive and rich also combine to make some good soup. An album that harkens back to Win Butler growing up in Houston and throws in a few good rocking tunes to keep things from getting too heavy.
Buy the album and make sure you see these guys live. They are way up on the top of the list of live acts to see. The addition of a second drum kit on the current tour makes for an ass-kicking if you can get yourself near the speakers. Awesome times.
- 1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
My runaway pick for top album of the year. Throw in all of the Good Fridays work and Kanye had quite the year. I read somewhere that Fantasy felt like a greatest hits album, taking all of the best elements of his first four albums to create his best work yet. I couldn’t agree more.
Be sure to hit up Kanye’s site and grab the Good Friday material while it is still there. I am partial to “So Appalled” (also on the Fantasy album) and “Chain Heavy”.
That ends my look at the music that made 2010 such a great year. Feel free to share your favourites in the comments.