(Some of) The Best of 2010 (Yet another best of list!)

As I have mentioned before, I am not too good at compiling lists, well, that and I am not a big fan of it (at least not creating them). Perhaps if I could be a music critic or someone who is able to listen to music as part of their job on a regular basis, I would have the time to listen to all the notable albums of 2010, both major releases, and those that are much less known. I have not heard the new Gaslight Anthem, I believe I heard the new Of Montreal once, as with the new Goldfrapp. I also have not heard the new Sheryl Crow, and many more. However I do try to listen to what I know I will like, and also what I am looking forward to.

So I’ll list a few highlights of 2010 for me. In no specific order, and all would fit in a top 10 list, be it an overall one, or genre specific.

Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid

Janelle’s debut definitely lived up to all the anticipation leading up to its release. It is quite the release, with influences ranging from indie to R&B, soul and funk. Add in the orchestral elements, and it is quite a release, clocking in just shy of 70 minutes.

Robyn – Body Talk

This applies to Body Talk Pt. 1 and Body Talk Pt. 2, as it includes both, with a modified tracklisting, and the five new songs for what is Body Talk Pt. 3.

With the success of Robyn, and “Konichiwa Bitches”, she continues where she left off, that being releasing some excellent electropop/synthpop/dance. And it is some excellent synth/electropop at that!

Nellie McKay – Home Sweet Mobile Home

Nellie McKay rules! No doubt about it. And she does it again on Home Sweet Mobile Home. Her first album of original material since 2007s Obligatory Villagers. “Caribbean Time” sees her foraying into ska/reggae (as with “Unknown Reggae”), Caribbean and Latin on “¡Bodega!”, and “Beneath the Underdog” is a poppy jazz number, however not nearly like her jazz LP, Obligatory Villagers. The album was recorded in New York, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, the Poconos and Jamaica. That alone gives an idea on the varied inspiration that can be found on the LP!

Tracy Bonham – Masts of Mahatta

Tracy Bonham who released the song “Mother Mother” all of 14 years ago, is continuing strong, albeit not with the commercial backing. This is her first album since 2005s terrific Blink the Brightest. Similar to Blink the Brightest, Masts of Mahatta has been released via an independent record label, this time Engine Room Recordings. I find this release has a slight folk influence. And of course Tracy’s violin playing can be found, playing a nice role. Leadoff track, “Devil’s got Your Boyfriend”, even has a slight hip hop influence! I plan on elaborating further in a proper review in the new year!

Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

Clocking in at a few minutes over 2 hours, on three discs, Joanna Newsom’s third album is a mammoth one! The album art (literally) itself is something to check out (click the cover to see a larger version). I have yet to fully digest this one. Her release deserves The Beatles treatment, listening over and over, and hearing every aspect, including her unique songwriting. Highly recommended.

Sarah Harmer – Oh Little Fire

I have heard people say they do not care for artists or bands that make the same album twice. I can see where they are coming from, even though there are a lot of artists that stick with their genre and style, and continue to release great albums. Anyway, making the same album twice cannot be said about Sarah Harmer. Her 2005 album I’m a Mountain took her style to folk and bluegrass, and did an excellent job. On Oh Little Fire, she returns more to where she has been in the past, pop/rock of sorts from a singer-songwriter perspective. However influence from I’m a Mountain can still be felt, especially in the country tinged “Silverado”. Another solid effort from Sarah. Do not be surprised if at the very least this is longlisted for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize (Canada’s Mercury Prize).

Fefe Dobson – Joy

What was going to be Fefe Dobson second album at the time (2005/6), Sunday Love, never ended up actually being released. While it was being delayed it had its cover art changed, as Fefe felt the new album art more reflected her at the time. Recently at some point I have read that she was happy in the end, as everything happens for a reason, so we finally get a second album in Joy.

Sleigh Bells – Treats

I cannot say I know enough about noise pop to comment fully, however Sleigh Bells are innovating similar to M.I.A. (easy comparison since they are on her label, N.E.E.T. Recordings). And M.I.A. sampled “Treats” on her track “Meds and Feds” from /\/\/\Y/\.

M.I.A. – /\/\/\Y/\

M.I.A.’s latest had mixed reviews, generally either positive or negative. I was on the positive side. Although it is not as upbeat and positive as Arular, or even Kala, it is probably a logical step for her. Knowing M.I.A. she is not going to make the same album, she will continue to experiment.

No doubt similar to Kanye West this year, life events helped shape the album. It definitely has its angrier moments. “Born Free” is an epic track! “It Takes a Muscle” is another great song, a cover of the song originally done by Spectral Display.

Jazmine Sullivan – Love Me Back

Although I have not listened to all the new R&B released this year, I would probably put this on top for 2010. Solid sophomore effort from Jazmine. And although it is probably a cliché, it sounds like it left off where Fearless left off, although with a bit more maturity and confidence in her voice. Missy Elliot returns with production as does Salaam Remi. He produces the second single, “10 Seconds” and “Love You Long Time”. Choice cut that likely will not be a single, “Redemption”.

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Like him, loathe him, or feel indifferent, Kanye, with the help of numerous guests (especially on “All of the Lights”) has released quite a big album. It pretty much feels big in every way, from the aforementioned guests, to the beats, rapping, and delivery. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy delivers. Perhaps this album being a result of all of what was going on in his life after releasing 808s & Heartbreak. I would like to see him release an album that is similar to Rah Digga’s new effort, where he would be the only performer on the album, and producing it all on his own as well. Rah Digga’s Classic featured only her, however was produced entirely by Nottz.

Rag Digga – Classic

Speaking of Rah Digga, her first new album in 10 years was worth the wait. Her second album (Everything Is A Story) was scheduled for 2004, but in the end was shelved. It ended up working out though, as she rapped like there was no tomorrow, as if she had not aged a day, throwing back to her hip hop of earlier years, while keeping it relevant for today.

Lissie – Catching a Tiger

A solid debut from Rock Island, Illinois’ own Lissie (real name Elisabeth Maurus). It is a fairly mellow album, ranging from rock and pop, and country elements. Americana is often used in the same sentence as Lissie, and I would not disagree. My favourite track from her to date, “Little Lovin'”, definitely feels like a piece of Americana, lyrically and musically. Similarly “Stranger” feels Americana to me. And with “Oh Mississippi”, there is no question! Oddly enough she received the most attention in the United Kingdom! Hopefully her home land has come around!

Charlotte Church – Back to Scratch

Five years after her excellent pop debut album, Tissues and Issues, Charlotte returns with Back to Scratch. In those five years her life undoubtedly changed considerably, including becoming a mother. Back to Scratch sees a more mature Charlotte on the pop side of things. Less leanings toward girl pop (Britney Spears, Sugababes, Girls Aloud, etc.), and more adult pop. Of course her pop material from 2005 was excellent, as it combined great pop with her excellent voice, as is evident from her previous classical crossover material. I had been eagerly anticipating a new album from her for a while, and I am happy it has finally arrived. Maybe not quite what I was expecting (I think I wanted a Tissues and Issues duplicate), but that is more than okay. Although it has yet to fully grow on me, I can tell it is a solid effort.

Kelis – Flesh Tone

Definitely did not expect an electro record, but it sure delivers! Read my full review.

Nina Sky – Starting Today EP

Only an EP, as their full length is currently delayed due to a record label fiasco. Luckily this was released, even it was self released. I am hoping the long-delayed The Other Side sees a release at some point, including the excellent “On Some Bullshit”.

I know I am missing some, if not many that I have heard, and many that I have not heard. Any glaring omissions? Drop a comment below.

Maybe in 2011, I’ll try to keep track of all the new music better!

Happy end of December and 2K11! Stay tuned for my 2011 preview post!

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R&B/Urban updates (Solange, Amerie, Jennifer Lopez, etc.)

Third R&B post in a little under a month and a half! And as you may, or may not have noticed, the vast majority is female R&B, as I quite enjoy the ladies of R&B/Urban/Soul, etc! Read the other two: New R&B (November/December) from November 10, and (More) new R&B! Keri Hilson album cover and Keyshia Cole from November 15.

The release I am probably most looking forward to now that the new Jazmine Sullivan is out, would be the new Solange album.

She is working on her third album, presumably as we speak (or as I type!). She cancelled her Pop Montreal appearance this past October in order to work on the album. I was looking forward to seeing her, however hopefully she will come around in support of the new (awesome!) record. It looks like a release sometime in 2011.

Sounds like it should shaping up to be a quality release, as she suffered from a mental breakdown while recording, obviously not good, however it seems she is passionately working on it (the new album is her ‘baby’). She is producing some, and actually played some drums, synth, etc. on it. Read a A Long Convo With…Solange over at Vibe. In said link she states it is a dance record, however with some dark lyrics. Definitely looking forward after the terrific Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams.

Keri Hilson‘s No Boys Allowed will be released this Tuesday the 21st! The very same day as the new Keyshia Cole, Calling All Hearts!

    

The new Amerie is in the works presently. It will be titled Cymatika Vol. 1. No release date is set, however since the first single “Outside Your Body” has been released, here is hoping for the first half of 2011!

Jully Black is working on her follow up to The Black Book. Details are fairly scarce at this point, as I mentioned in a recent post dedicated to Jully Black. However it will be titled 8ight.

Nina Sky, although perhaps more dance-pop and hip hop than R&B, self released The Other Side EP on August 3 of this year. It can be purchased via digital download for a mere $5 at Bandcamp, and that is in the format of your choice, including FLAC! It was a free download upon release, similar to Radiohead’s In Rainbows. Not sure if it was free free, or name your own price.

The EP was released no thanks to their record label fiasco over the much delayed Starting Today. Whether it gets released period is still unknown. I am not sure where it stands now, but said record label fiasco was due to Nina Sky wanting off of their label, Polo Grounds Records. I really want to see the album released, as they made a video for “On Some Bullshit”, a really great track, and it does not seem to be out in any form, not even a CD single. In the meantime, get The Other Side EP, and bug their record label to release the album, and or let them leave their record label with the ability to release Starting Today elsewhere!

Wynter Gordon, again, perhaps less R&B and more hiphop/dance, however time will tell. Regardless, I just recently heard of her, and her excellent single “Dirty Talk”. Her debut is scheduled for release in March it is titled With the Music I Die. She has actually written tracks for Jennifer Lopez (“What Is Love”, “Starting Over”, and “Everybody’s Girl”. All from the upcoming Love?), Mary J. Blige (“Gonna Breakthrough”), and Danity Kane (“2 of You”) and collaborated with David Guetta, Freemasons and Flo Rida!

So, speaking of Jennifer Lopez, her new release titled Love?, will be released in early 2011. Once released it will have been delayed for over a year! The album cover only has J. Lo written, incorporated into the ‘Love?’. I wonder if she will go strictly by J.Lo, or stick with her proper name. I am guessing it is just for the cover. Apparently it was revealed during the Barbara Walters fascinating people episode! Of which I did not make the list, for some weird reason. In said idiot box television special, it said she and her twins are part of an ad campaign donating one million dollars to Unicef.

Oh, and Monica has a new album in the works, slated for release in 2011. She is working with her cousin Polow Da Don (never knew they were cousins!)

Here are a few notable releases already out:

Sunshine Anderson released her third album (The Sun Shines Again) quietly on November 2. I have not listened to her since her debut, the 2001 Your Woman. I will definitely check it out at some point soon. If I recall correctly, her style of R&B is nice and upbeat and mellow.

Kandi – Kandi Koated

Chrisette Michele – Let Freedom Reign

Jazmine Sullivan – Love Me Back

Some music videos from the aforementioned artists and their new releases:

Keri Hilson – Breaking Point
Keri Hilson – Pretty Girl Rock

Keyshia Cole – I Ain’t Thru ft. Nicki Minaj
Keyshia Cole – Long Way Down

Nina Sky – On Some Bullshit

Wynter Gordon – Dirty Talk

Kandi – Leave U

Chrisette Michele – I’m A Star
Chrisette Michele – Goodbye Game

Jazmine Sullivan – Holding You Down (Goin’ In Circles)
Jazmine Sullivan – 10 Seconds

Sources used:
A Long Convo With…Solange
A warm start for Wynter
Jennifer Lopez Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of 2010

Music podcasts I’m listening to

So here is a list of some podcasts I am presently listening to. The music ones anyway. Perhaps a future post could be individual podcasts I have listened to and enjoyed.

Before each, a few words about the respective podcast. Links are in bold, and a link to the RSS feed follows.

Henry Rollins is the man! Musically of S.O.A, Black Flag, and his solo work. And he has done spoken word, stand-up, a television show, writing, and political activism to name most!

Henry Rollins’ radio show on KCRW (Listen online)

Pretty much as it sounds, A guest DJ plays a few tracks, and talks. A few recent guests include Ed Helms, Paul Reubens (of Pee-Wee Herman fame), and Kristen Bell. As with the Henry Rollins show, since KCRW is an actually radio station, public at that, people can listen live as well.

KCRW Guest DJ Project
RSS Feed

The New York Times podcast, a.k.a popcast. This is generally a music review in spoken form, with the author usually talking about the release in question. Each show runs about a half an hour and has two plus topics.

NYT Music Popcast (latest episode, RSS feed has archived shows)
RSS Feed

Fairly obvious, track of the day from CBC Radio 3. CBC Radio 3 being dedicated to music and arts, and available exclusively online and on satellite radio. Online they have the Radio 3 stream as well as streams for pop, rock, hip hop and electronic. Great for discovering up and coming Canadian music, and the ones that should be big. They have numerous podcasts, so that link follows the Eh List. This podcast is good, as the DJ that chooses the track also adds a brief comment about it.

CBC Radio 3 New Music Track of the Day
RSS Feed

I have yet to listen to the Eh List (I will real soon!), so to steal from their website: the eh List podcast is “a 12-week series hosted by Lana Gay, where listeners are asked to create a playlist according to the weekly theme.”

Eh List (CBC Radio 3)
RSS Feed

More from CBC Radio 3

I have to listen to more All Songs Considered podcasts, but what I have listened to, it is usually about a specific artist which includes an interview and talk about their new project.

NPR All Songs Considered
RSS Feed

From Minnesota Public Radio, an NPR affiliate, their song of the day podcast.

MPR The Current – Song of the Day
RSS Feed

Plenty more of NPR and affiliate station music podcasts organised by list.

To steal from Wikipedia, “Legacy Recordings is Sony Music Entertainment’s catalog division.” I just found this one, and have been listening to the Jimi Hendrix podcasts, with the recent release of West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology. They also have Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Heart, Carole King and James Taylor, and Judas Priest podcasts to name a few! Since these are from Legacy, they contain nice audio snippets, interviews, and information about the artist(s).

Legacy Recordings Podcasts
RSS Feed

Archived podcasts:

Wikipedia again, “Axis of Justice is a non-profit organization co-founded by Serj Tankian and Tom Morello.” They have not produced a new radio show/podcast in about a year, but the archives are online on a couple of pages. Regardless, I still check ou the archives. Their show is basically what one would expect on radio. They play ‘rebel jams’ (as Tom says!), and often have good guests.

Axis of Justice
Latest shows and RSS Feed
Older archived shows

Another political music show/podcast. G7 Welcoming Committee is a record label out of Winnipeg formed by the awesome Propagandhi. I have yet to listen to their shows (now that I am linking it I will, and said future blog post might include some specific shows), but no doubt it will be humourous if you are familiar with Chris of Propagandhi!

G7 Welcoming Committee
RSS Feed (also includes plenty of free single mp3s from their releases)

Cassius – Au Rêve (LP of the week)

Much overdue LP of the week!

So, electronic music is not my forté, however I know what I like, and I know a good album when I hear it. Au Rêve is Cassius’ second album, it was released September 17, 2002.

“Telephone Love” is my least favourite track, in that the telephone ringing tone used in the track gets annoying fairly quickly. Otherwise, it’s a slower tempo electronic track. It would have definitely been better having omitted said effect. Especially since it is almost seven minutes long. By contrast, “Hi Water” is an excellent track making use of a sound effect that is almost sounding like lasers in television and film.

Very grooving upbeat album for the most part. This includes Ghostface Killah laying rhymes on “Thrilla”. And it sounds quite good. Maybe not as good as KRS-One rapping on Goldie’s “Digital” from Saturnz Return, but close! Nonetheless, it live up to the song title.

It states on Wikipedia how this album is a different direction that their debut, 1999, as it features more live vocalists, and less sampling. Many of the tracks with live vocalists do not necessarily need vocals, in that they are well put together on their own, however the vocalists do add that extra something making them all the more better.

A couple of the vocalists, Leroy Burgess (“Till We Got You and Me”) and Steve Edwards (“The Sound of Violence”) have excellent voices for electronic/dance. “The Sound of Violence” in particular sounds great with vocals. This was the track I remember hearing years ago, likely right around when the album was released, as a friend of mine introduced me to it.

The album closes with a few instrumentals, “Nothing” is almost Portishead like, perhaps house Portishead. “On” sounds like it uses a slightly modified backing from “The Sound of Violence” during the same time it also employs some souped up eight bit style gaming sounds for a short while. Not counting the opener, “Hi Water”, it is my favourite instrumental. The closing tracks are not standouts by any means, however they do a good job of winding down the album with a bit more of a house/electronic feel.

Choice cuts: “Hi Water” and “The Sound of Violence” (linked via Tinysong, a.k.a. Grooveshark).

Jully Black – 8IGHT (future music)

Jully Black, Canadian R&B, Urban singer extraordinaire, has some new music on the horizon.

The album is titled 8IGHT. Details seem a little scarce, but my guess is sometime in early 2011 at this point. There is a buzz single out there, “Zodiac Drug”, and I have listened to it once, but I am awaiting the album as a whole (or a proper single), as I like the entire package of new releases (sounds pretty sweet though!). From her bio on her official website:

…Accompanying these global performances, Jully has recently completed her best recorded work to date. Her album “8ight” signifies infinite possibilities and, in the words of Jully herself, “was birthed from a place of love and the need to make a positive contribution to the current state of urban music”. “8ight” will move your feet, move your mind, and move your soul.

And with her latest, last year’s The Black Book, she seems like quite the innovator, so I am looking forward to 8IGHT! Stay tuned!

“Running” from The Black Book

“Until I Stay” (insanely good song!) from Revival

More Jully black:

Official site
Twitter
Facebook

Bad Religion, Against the Grain – 20 years strong

Bad Religion’s fifth album, and generally accepted as their best, and most people’s favourite, Against the Grain, is now 20 years old. It was released November 23, 1990. And, you have heard the cliché, like a fine wine, it only gets better. Thirty five minutes of punk rock bliss.

Music as a whole has Lennon/McCartney, punk rock has Graffin/Gurewitz.

I am not the list compiling type, however of modern era (mid nineties onwards) punk rock (Punk Revival if you will) that I grew up with, even if it feels like it is becoming almost old school of sorts (I’m really only into punk rock bands from that era that are still going, or that embody the true punk rock spirit), I would rate this up there with the most influential. Everything that is great about Bad Religion is on this album, lyrically, and musically. Lyrically, the problems with modern man in “Modern Man”, the uselessness of religion in “Faith Alone”, and “God Song”, society and its issues “21st Century (Digital Boy)”, and “Quality or Quantity”, the environment in “Unacceptable”, world issues in “Misery and Famine”, and of course the great vocabulary choices, making a dictionary obligatory (preferable the OED) (“lascivious, it’s all that I can think of as I drag my feet, searching like a diogenes” to start track three, “Get Off”), all while making the listener feel smarter (something I have felt anyway), and encouraging them to think for themselves. Musically, the melodic “Against the Grain”, the sonic (and lyrically confusing) “The Positive Aspect of Negative Thinking” and both combined in “Modern Man”. And the overly catchiness of “Anesthesia” and “Flat Earth Society”.

Although I did not grow up with punk rock right away (instead Fine Young Cannibals, Midnight Oil, etc.), and when I did start getting into punk rock, Stranger than Fiction was the first Bad Religion album I got to know, it did not take too long to eventually find my way to Against the Grain. Owning the vinyl did not hurt!

With the band at the time of course was Greg Graffin (vocals) and Brett Gurewitz (guitar). Second guitarist was Greg Hetson, Jay Bentley on bass, and on his final Bad Religion album, on drums, Pete Finestone. Against the Grain being the last of three albums with this lineup, I daresay, the classic Bad Religion lineup. Suffer (1988) and No Control (1989) being the first two.

From the opening of “Modern Man”, my personal all time favourite Bad Religion song, to the closing of “Walk Away”, what we have is a bona fide punk rock classic.

Read more about Against the Grain:

@ badreligion.com (included commentary from Brett on recording)
@ Wikipedia
@ The BR Page
@ All Music

Images courtesy of The BR Page.