#1 without a doubt and no, it wasn't even close ... my favorite album of 2010:
Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me
Once again, this band blows me away by constantly and consistently upgrading the quality of their music. 2010 was a HUGE year for this band from Columbus, Ohio ... from bassist Shane Sweeney discovering the joys of fatherhood to Micah Schnabel releasing a solo album (see "When The Stage Lights Go Out" below for more on that) to blowing up SXSW and leading an impromptu parade through Comfest and two tours that crossed the country, these boys were never home. Now that the line-up is complete and they've been playing together for two complete albums now, Cody Smith (drums) and Andy Schell (keyboards) round out the amazing sound of the fifth full-length release from the best band you've probably never heard of.
Highlights: Jackson, Don't You Worry; Sweet Saint Me; What Dying Is For; Brothers In Arms
The rest of the Top 10 ... in no particular order:
The Madison Square Gardeners - Taste The Thunder & Tune It Up, Dime It Out
Released as two separate EP's in 2010, the six-track "Taste The Thunder" and the five-song "Tune It Up, Dime It Out" make a terrific 43-minute trek through the greatness of this band. Aaron Tasjan's lryics continue to grow and I'd listen to Rich Hinnan play me anything on that slide lap steel guitar he has. They're spending December recording new tunes and playing a residency at Rockwood 2 in New York City; and I can't wait to hear what goodness comes out of these sessions.
Highlights: Blessing; Shoe Gaze Band; Everybody's Girl; Cross The Line; Love's The Only Way
David Ford - Let The Hard Times Roll
My favorite troubador is back again with thirteen more tunes that have been in heavy rotation in my iTunes/iPod since earlier this summer. He's had some problems with his record companies seemingly closing up shop overnight, but continues to putting on shows, working his way across America and his native UK. The lyrics keep getting better, starting with the CD's first song, "Making Up For Last Time" and "Nothing At All" ... introspective, outlandish and socially commentary all at the same time. It's nice to see him continue to evolve and keep his fires burning.
Highlights: To Hell With The World; Making Up For Lost Time; Nothing At All; Hurricane
Semi-Precious Weapons - You Love You
I was hesitant to put this on here because it contains four previously releasedsongs from their two independent releases, but they're still opening for Lady Gaga, they're still delivering the glam and the glitz and showbiz to people who either love them or hate them. The new material is good, I really love "Leave Your Pretty To Me" ... in the words of frontman Justin Tranter, "The Midwest loves a fucking power ballad." Same with "Look At Me" ... but "Sticky With CHampagne" and "Statues of Ourselves" are just kick-ass fun tunes about living a rock-n-roll lifestyle on the glamours side of the tracks. Subtlety is not his strenth, so listener beware!
Highlights: Look At Me; Statues of Ourselves, Put A Diamond In It; Her Hair Is On Fire (2010)
Mary Chapin Carpenter - The Age of Miracles
I've been an MCC fan going on 20 years now (thanks, neighbor who turned me on to her) and am glad she continues to make great American music that's no longer classified as 'country' ... it's more folk, alt-countrish ... what we now call Americana. This 13-song collection features a lot of stripped down acoustic tracks that let her voice, and her lyrics, shine.
Highlights: I Have A Need For Solitude; We Traveled So Far; The Way I Feel; Zephyr.
Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
It's not as great as their first release, "The '59 Sound" ... but it still has been rocking my world. They're so throwback to when all you needed was three verses, a bridge, a catchy chorus and and a great hook and riff. This album brings all that. From the title track to "The Queen of Lower CHelsea" to "Old Haunts" .... there are tracks here that will stay with me my whole life. "I called for my father but my my father had died. And you told me fortunes in American slang." ... fucking genius.
Highlights: American Slang; We Did it When We Were Young; Queen of Lower Chelsea; Boxer
Chumbawamba - ABCDEFG
Say what you will about how tired you got of "Tubthumping" ... you still sing it. That was really NOTHING like the band is about (as the disappointing album sales to folks who love/loved that song show). I've played songs of this CD for people and they all say the same thing ... "I like this, who is it?" followed by "Really? I never would have guessed that." They're really rather mellow and fun to listen to. This album includes such fun songs as "Torturing James Hetfield" by forcing him to listen to their greatest hits album (to which Hetfield sings along); "Dance, Idiot Dance" and "The Same So-So Tune" ... none of which have any resemblance to "Tubthumping" ...
Highlights: Torturing James Hetfield; Dance, Idiot, Dance; Singing Out The Days; Missed
Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer
I had no real desire to listen to this CD ... a friend asked me if it was on my pirate sites ... so I broke all sorts of international copyright laws and downloaded it for her. After I delivered said pirate CD she asked if I had listened to it .. I said "No, I'm not a fan of Gnarls Barkley." She gave me the STFU look and said, "You really need to listen to this." So I did. And then I decided that Cee Lo Green was the love child from an orgy of The Temptations, Gladys Night, Aretha Frankin, all the original members of Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, and several members of the Pips. It's all sorts of 70's soul and the Motown sound mashed up with all that's good about today's rap/R&B that doesn't involve autotune. Yeah, I was floored.
Highlights: Fuck You; Satisfied; I want You; Fool For You; Wildflower
Victoria Vox - Exact Change
Step by step, left right left, this CD just hooked me with the multitude of hooks in songs, choruses, brigdes and verses in a way that no other album did in 2010. Victoria's approach to songs, songwriting, singing and performance blew me away when I saw her in Columbus. She's a blast to watch live for both the ukalele and mouth trumput. And she sings songs in French. Without surrendering to invading German armies.
Highlights: Oh I Wonder; Techinocolor Way; Make A Mess; Shake It Up; Shake It Up
Patrick Park - Come What Will
I don't know how or where this CD came into my collection ... all I know is it really blasted me out of some unhappy mindframes to some hapy mindframes. That's what I love about music .. that ability to transform my mood from shitty to perfect with just a guitar and some words. "You Were Always The One" is my song of the year for 2010 ... because ... well ... yeah ... it so fits my life and makes me smile. Because I found my one. And lost her. And found her again. So yeah ... when he sings this, I get it:
"Now mistakes it's true I've made more than a few
and I'm goin to make many others
And it's hard to see why we go through this sometimes
All the things that we do to each other
And I don't understand while I play these games and I trade the truth for lies
Cuz you're always the one I was looking for babe, it just took time to realize"
Highlights: You Were Always The One; You'll Get Over; Silence and Storm; Starry Night
Bonus CD: Emma Pollock - The Law of Large Numbers.
She's Scottish. She writes killer lyrics. She sings like she's chasing Satan back to hell to take over. She doesn't give a shit what you think. I wanna have her babies. That's why she gets the Bonus CD
Highlights: I Could Be A Saint; Letters To Strangers; House On The Hill; Hug The Piano
The Next Ten:
Doug Keith - The Lucky Ones
Dar Williams - Many Great Companions
Bookmobile - The New Patriot
British India - Avalanche
Ed Kowalczyk - Alive
Steven Page - Page One
Spoon - Transferrence
The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever
Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown
Lady Antebellum - Need You Now
Your mileage may vary. Tell me who I missed. Who I got wrong. And if your comment contains Eminem, Kanye West, Kid Rock or any other shit fuck suck-ass alleged musician I reserve the right to call in coordinated strategic nuclear strikes to kill you.