Wednesday, January 12, 2011

MUSIC: Top CDs of 2010

As the sales of CDs continue to decline, music and the music industry continue to shift inexorably away from the concept of albums (much less the concept album). The search for new music now runs from online forums to videos to ad placements (no mention of radio!), making it nearly impossible for new bands to get noticed. So my 2010 list is bereft of new bands, though a new band, the London Souls, rocked my world without a CD release. A few of the names below are newish, but all the music is terrific....presenting 15 keepers from 2010.

Best 5:
The Besnard LakesThe Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night – The third album and second to make my list by the Montreal band headed by a husband and wife tandem mixes psychedelic atmospherics with indie drive.
The Black AngelsPhosphene Dream – Another third release and second to make my list, out of Austin, named after a Velvet Underground song, they blend rock roots and indie flair with psychedelic highlights.
The BluetonesA New Athens – 14 years after its first release, a favorite at the time, this London band tops the list with this sublime Britpop-survivor collection.
Dead ConfederateSugar – Grunge meets alt-country in Athens, GA and a brilliant disc is the result.
MidlakeThe Courage of Others – A band from Denton, TX that defies description, building from jazz roots, melding gorgeous harmonies, keys, guitars, even 2 flutes to create a remarkable sound that shimmers and glistens.

Next 5:
Black MountainWilderness Heart – Vancouver guitar virtuoso Stephen McBean presents another great set of music.
Blitzen TrapperDestroyer of the Void – Ethereal, light, beautiful folk rock.
Roky EricksonTrue Love Cast Out Evil – Roky Erickson led the seminal psych-rock band 13th Floor Elevators, then spent years in mental hospitals and seclusion. This disc consists of songs written years ago and brought beautifully to life with Will Sheff and Okkervil River
Manic Street PreachersPostcards From a Young Man – A perennial favorite, the Welsh alt-punk band has survived and thrived thru 10 albums.
Neil YoungLe Noise – Neil just goes on and on. Daniel Lanois produced this solo effort that showcases the breadth of sound that one guitarist can produce.

Another 5:
Against Me!White Crosses – Their first and only major label release may have alienated some of their punk base, but is a solid set of music by a terrific band.
Arcade FireThe Suburbs – Much hyped third release by the Montreal collective that continues to explore dark and light in all its musical configurations.
Jesca HoopHunting My Dress – Once nanny to Tom Waits children, this singer-songwriter uses her expressive voice to wondrous effect.
Plants and AnimalsLa La Land – Post-classic rock from Montreal that takes indie rock back to its roots.
SpoonTransference – Another fine collection by the veteran indie band from Austin.

And a special mention to Bruce Springsteen for the reissue, The Promise: Darkness at the Edge of Town Story, which includes unreleased songs and live performances in a superb box set.