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!