Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Greg Schwartz’s picks

It’s been another bad year for the recording industry, but another great year for music fans. Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well, as is the opportunity to see it performed live. Musicians can still make a living, but they have to hit the road and seize modern marketing opportunities. One thing that will never change is the public’s desire to hear great music. Bands that can deliver still have a chance to write their own ticket.

Top 10 lists are of course inherently subjective, and this observer’s faves will always lean toward the guitar-driven rock side of the music spectrum. I was certain that the debut album from the long-awaited Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band would be topping my list this year, especially after the slew of terrific new tunes they delivered in two stellar shows at the New Orleans Jazzfest back in April. But the album isn’t coming out until 2011. Here’s my take on the best albums and songs that were released in 2010.

10. The Henry Clay People: Somewhere on the Golden Coast
This is just an old-fashioned, ’90s-style indie-alternative rock ‘n’ roll album that stands out with its energetic yet down-to-earth sound. No Pro Tools trickery going on here, just a band plugging into their amps and turning up the volume. It’s got loud guitars with melodic hooks, rocking piano and zeitgeist lyrics from singer/guitarist Joey Siara that tap into this modern era of Depression and discontent. “Working Part Time” is one of the great anthems of the year, while “End of an Empire” sounds like an alt-rock prophecy.

9. The Sword: Warp Riders
The Austin, Texas hard rockers deliver a blast from the past that is easily the best metal album to come along in some time. It’s like a cross between Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, which equals metal heaven. It’s chock full of great riffs, furious rhythms and tight metal mayhem with a twist of classic rock flavor.


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Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Mike Heyliger’s picks

I seriously can’t remember the last time I’ve had to struggle with a list of my favorite music in a particular year. Actually, I can, so I should clarify: I seriously can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much good music to choose from when paring down my list of favorites for the year. Upon looking at my CD collection (yes, I’m one of those guys), I still see another 10 or 20 albums that could make the list if I listen more carefully. But without the benefit of the free time it would take to check those CDs out, here’s a list of the 20 best albums I’ve heard in 2010.

1. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
As much as Kanye’s childish tirades infuriate me, I’ll be damned if his music doesn’t always win me over. Fantasy is amazing from just about every facet: musically, lyrically, thematically. I’ll forgive ‘Ye for a million idiotic public statements if he keeps making music like this.

2. Gil Scott-Heron: I’m New Here
One of two albums in my Top 20 recorded by artists re-emerging after a 14-year absence, I’m New Here is a haunting listen. The ravages of time have wreaked havoc on Scott-Heron’s voice, but much like Bob Dylan’s most recent work, age has given the artist’s voice additional resonance.

3. The Black Keys: Brothers
Sometimes the album that breaks a band through to a mainstream audience is indeed their best work. That’s definitely the case with the Black Keys’ Brothers. Bluesy garage-rock with enough hooks to keep guys like me interested, I feel like this is the album Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney were aiming for with their Danger Mouse-helmed Attack & Release album. As it turned out, they didn’t (really) need Danger Mouse, anyway, just their bad selves and the ghosts of Muscle Schoals, Alabama.

4. The Roots: How I Got Over
Can someone give these guys a medal for the most consistently awesome act not only in hip-hop, but in music period? I feel like the Roots are incapable of making a bad album even if they tried to. Although I suppose if they replaced Black Thought with Jimmy Fallon…

5. Cee Lo Green: The Lady Killer
“Fuck You” (or “Forget You,” if you’re easily offended) was a gimmick single, sure. However, even gimmick singles can be genius, and what’s more is that the Goodie Mob/Gnarls Barkley frontman was able to back the promise of that song up with an incredible album. I wish he rapped more, but when you can outsing just about every artist in contemporary pop and R&B, I guess you can be excused.


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Laura Cortese: Acoustic Project


RIYL: Uncle Earl, Pete Seeger

Laura Cortese is a well known side musician whose skill on the fiddle, vocals and bass have made her a favorite with artists as diverse as Uncle Earl and Band of Horses. She’s released two solo LPs and two EPs before the release of Acoustic Project, a seven-song set of music featuring just fiddles and cello, with Coreste handling vocal duties on five of the songs (the other two are instrumentals).

Acoustic Project is short and sweet. All of the songs have their own unique sound and feel as if they were drawn from some time long ago when folk songs were passed down from the mountains to Greenwich Village. However, most of these compositions were recent compositions, so their timeless quality is a tribute to the songwriting talent of Cortese and the few collaborators who helped her out.

“Perfect Tuesdays” is a rollicking, Cajun-influenced song, while “5 Tune” has the charm and spirit of an old pioneer jig.  The highlight of the Acoustic Project is “Women of the Ages,” a haunting, beautiful song that features plucking violins, a cello and Cortese’s gorgeous voice. It has the stature of an old Irish folk song and will stay with you for weeks. That song alone you should give you reason seek out Acoustic Project. However there is enough great music on this EP to make it well worth your while the next time you’re looking for something unique and adventurous. (Laura Cortese 2010)

Laura Cortese website
Purchase Acoustic Project through Amazon

  

Lettin’ it ride in the Big Easy: Jazzfest 2010 recap, Part IV: Up all night

Part three in our five-part series, where Greg Schwartz literally pulls a triple shift, finishing the night shortly before the sun came up. Don’t let the number of entires fool you. One of these sets was almost three hours long.

Rebirth Brass Band, Congo Square Stage
A local institution since 1983, the Rebirth Brass Band has become one of the bands that personifies what New Orleans music is all about. Mixing heavy funk with old school second line jazz, the band entertained a huge crowd on another overcast but thankfully dry afternoon. A funky take on “It’s All Over Now” saw the big horn section used to great effect. Later, the band jammed on TLC’s “Waterfalls” for another highlight that had much of the throng dancing. Others sampled the great food and many craft selections that lined the area, including some stunning artwork such as stained wood paintings that retailed for $3,000. The overall crowd was much larger than the previous two days, due to it being Saturday and with Pearl Jam headlining. But a laid back vibe still permeated the air.

Band of Horses, Gentilly Stage
These rising indie rockers from Seattle have an intriguing sound that mixes orchestral pop influences with rock ‘n’ roll flavors that recall groups such as My Morning Jacket, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Shins and Pearl Jam’s more melodic side. The band’s new LP Infinite Arms leans to the atmospheric side, but they can rock out too, and they did for much of the set with vocalist/guitarist Ben Bridwell delivering an energetic performance. The laid back sound of “Factory” sounded nice, but it’s songs like “Laredo” that show the band at its most accessible, with an infectious melodic rock that makes it easy to see why Pearl Jam tapped the band to open their current American tour. I would have liked to stay for the whole set, but I had to get over to the main stage for one of the festival’s main events.

Galactic, Acura Stage
If there’s one band that personifies the modern funk rock sound of New Orleans, it has to be Galactic. Heavily rooted in the classic funk of the Meters and the Neville Brothers, the band mixes in a forward-looking acid jazz sound as well as classic rock and hip-hop flavors that have made them one of the planet’s most dependable party bands for over a decade now. But while the band can always be counted on to get the good times rolling, they also throw in an occasional socially conscious vibe that has also become a New Orleans trademark. The band distributed a little pamphlet called “Galactic’s Guide to the Planet of New Orleans – a guide to New Orleans music, food & fun,” filled with great recommendations from each band member. “If you happen to catch any of our shows, you will be seeing the band in our element: the place of Galactic’s formation, in our hometown city during a special occasion,” read the pamphlet. So an extra air of anticipation accompanied the band wherever they went.


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