Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums and Songs of 2010: Associate Editor Will Harris’s picks

I don’t even know why I’m here, frankly. I think it’s pretty well documented that all I do these days is write about television and interview people ’til the cows come home. Once upon a time, though, I used to be a music critic, dammit…and once you’ve had opinions about music, you’ll always have opinions about music. As such, here are my thoughts on the albums and songs that grabbed me this year. This may be the first time I’ve actually written about most of them, but you can damn well be sure that I’ve spent plenty of time listening to them.

Favorite Albums

1. Tom Jones: Praise & Blame
It’s a pretty consistent tradition that my #1 slot on my Best Albums list of any given year belongs to an artist whose career I’ve followed for quite some time, but Sir Tom earned his spot fair and square. Kicking things off with a stark cover of Bob Dylan’s “What Good Am I?” which will leave listeners spellbound, the Welsh wonder goes gospel with this record, and while it’s admittedly not the sort of career move that generally results in the shifting of mass units, it’s a creative success, one which befits a man entering his seventies far more than, say, another retread of “Sexbomb.” Having already secured legendary status (not to mention a knighthood), our man Tom can afford to step outside of people’s perceptions, and for those who’ve been paying attention, that’s what he’s been doing for the past several albums, including 2008’s 24 Hours and his 2004 collaboration with Jools Holland. But while Praise & Blame is a continuation of an existing trend, it’s also arguably the first time Jones has made absolutely no commercial concessions. There’s no wink-and-a-nudge cover of “200 Lbs. of Heavenly joy.” There’s no song by Bono and the Edge nor uber-hip production from Future Cut. There’s just Tom Jones, age 70…and, by God, he’s still got it.

2. Glen Matlock & The Philistines: Born Running
It isn’t as though it’s surprising that John Lydon’s the member of the Sex Pistols who’s gone on to have the most successful solo career – he was, after all, the frontman for the group – but it continues to be equally eyebrow-raising that so few of the band’s fans have kept their ears open for the consistently solid material emerging from Glen Matlock‘s camp. It’s not quite as punk as the Pistols – which makes perfect sense if you believe the story about Matlock supposedly getting the boot from the band for liking the Beatles a bit too much – but the songs on Born Running still pack a fierce wallop.

3. Brian Wilson: Reimagines Gershwin
The older I get, the less I allow myself to feel guilty about enjoying an album that I could easily peddle to people my grandparents’ age. All things considered, I’d much rather have a full collection of new originals from Mr. Wilson, but the way he takes these Gershwin classics and arranges them to match his traditional sound is still music to my ears. Then, of course, there’s the added bonus that he’s taken on the task of completing a couple of previously-unfinished Gershwin songs. Unsurprisingly, they sound just like Brian Wilson compositions…not that there’s anything wrong with that. At all.

4. Farrah: Farrah
There’s Britpop, and then there’s power pop, but you don’t tend to find bands who can manage to comfortably keep a foot in both camp; I’d argue that Farrah succeeds at this task, but given that they don’t have a particularly high profile in either, I suppose it really all depends on how you define success. For my part, though, if an artist releases an album which contains a significant number of catchy-as-hell hooks, it’s top of the pops in my book, which means that this self-titled entry into their discography is yet another winner for Farrah.

Read the rest of this entry »


Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

Having children has had a profound impact on my musical tastes. Will it make them cry? Will it teach them naughty words? Will it bore them? Then it doesn’t get played around the house, which has resulted in my sharp turn towards the poppier side of modern. And really, once you’ve seen your three-year-old completely lose his shit when hearing a song with a chorus of “Na, na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na,” it’s hard to push anything on him that doesn’t come armed to the teeth with the pop hooks. Mind you, I think the Ramones are a pop band too, so I’m painting with a pretty broad brush here. But make no mistake – these bands are pop bands, of varying stripes and shapes. If you fancy yourself a hipster, you’d be best to move on and check out one of the other writers’ lists. I gave up being hip a couple years ago, and let me tell you: it’s extremely liberating.

Note: Some of the notes at the end of the write-ups will offer suggestions of which songs to check out. Others actually offer the songs. If you see “Click here for a free download…”, those songs are on our server, meaning you won’t be dragged off to some site that asks you to give up your email address for a song. These puppies all come with no strings attached, so please download away.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

1. Mark Ronson: Record Collection
Ahhhhhh. If I get to heaven, this is what the radio station will sound like. Tasteful drum beats paired with even tastier synth tracks, highlighted by brilliantly chosen guest contributors from Q-Tip and D’Angelo to Simon Le Bon and a devastating performance by Boy George. Definitely gonna ride this bike until we get home.
Download these: “The Bike Song,” “Somebody to Love Me,” “Record Collection”

2. Hey Champ: Star
I’m a sucker for any band that justifies my love for New Order and the Buggles, and this Chicago trio threw down synth pop/rock that, in an ideal world, would have Passion Pit opening for them, not the other way around.
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Neverest”
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Cold Dust Girl”

3. Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change the World with Music
Man, what a sweet surprise this was. Originally scheduled to be the follow-up album to 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback, the album was scrapped despite Prefab leader Paddy McAloon already finishing studio-quality demo versions of every song. Eighteen years later, the songs finally see the light of day, and the result is instant nostalgia. He supposedly has dozens more albums on his shelves from the same period. Please don’t make us wait 18 years for the next one, Paddy.
Download these: “Let There Be Music,” “Ride,” “God Watch Over You”

4. The Hours: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish
This one is knocked down a few rungs on a technicality, in that it’s a Franken-album consisting of the best songs from the band’s two UK-only releases. But hot damn, are those songs good. Shimmering, sky-high, piano-driven pop that addresses the darkness in people’s lives but strives for hope and change. No wonder Nike used one of these songs for their unforgettable “Human Chain” ad earlier this year. Favorite lyric: “I can understand how someone can go over to the dark side, ’cause the Devil, he’s got all the tunes.”
Download these: “See the Light,” “Big Black Hole,” “Come On”

The Hours – “See The Light” 2010 Edit from Adeline Records on Vimeo.

5. The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
I’m still pissed about this one. I got a sneak peek of the record months before its release because our publicist is tight with the band. We played the daylights out of it, and couldn’t wait to sing its praises when it came out in April…only April never happened. Then it was July, and when it came out, the damn thing was buried. Why, why, why? Not enough irony or cynicism? I see no reason why the Shins can sell millions while the Silver Seas still toil in obscurity. The phrase ‘criminally underrated’ was written about bands like this.
Click here for a free download of the Silver Seas’ “The Best Things in Life”

Read the rest after the jump...

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer James Eldred’s picks

I would like to preface this list by saying that I have not yet listened to Cee-Lo Green’s new album nor Kanye West’s latest – which everyone and their mother is telling me is a freaking masterpiece. So a more apt title of this list might be “The Top 10 albums of the year that I got around to.”

1. Foxy Shazam: Foxy Shazam
If I had my way this list would have one album. That’s right, this album is so good that it is actually the 10 best albums of the year. Hell, it’s the 20 best albums of the year, and the five albums of 2009. Foxy Shazam aren’t just a band, they are a force of nature that will kick your ass, steal your lunch money and make sweet love to you all at the same time. “Count Me Out,” “Bye Bye Symphony,” “Bombs Away,” the list just goes on and on, every song on this album could be a Top 10 single. Yet somehow none of them have been. America, you’re letting me down even more than usual. There is no greater band on the planet than Foxy Shazam. They are here to take over the world and be the biggest rock stars since the Beatles. So if you all could just accept that already and buy this album now, that would be great.

2. Goldfrapp: Head First
Most artists who try to recreate that classic ’80s dance sound usually crash and burn, sounding more like a parody of the music they’re trying to replicate (Owl City springs to mind) than the real deal. But Goldfrapp pulled it off with this release, channeling the soundtrack to “Flashdance” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” (in a good way!) on instantly danceable tracks like “Rocket” and “Alive.”

3. The Sword: Warp Riders
There are not enough metal bands making concept albums about intergalactic space battles. Thankfully the Sword realized this, and updated their mythology-based themes for the 21st century, changing their focus on medieval wizards and warriors to space-faring heroes and transcendental beings who traverse space and time. The fist-pounding metal that accompanies the far out narrative is pretty damn good as well.

4. Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow
Okay, maybe there are other bands creating concept albums about intergalactic space battles. But while the Sword is like “Aliens,” direct and to the point, Coheed & Cambria’s conclusion to their epic Armory Wars saga is like “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and Rush’s 2112 all rolled into one incredibly overblown and bombastic delight.

5. Sleigh Bells: Treats
What is it about Brooklyn and male/female electronic duos? First Matt & Kim, and now these two. But while Matt & Kim delivered the audio equivalent of a big hug with Sidewalks, Sleigh Bells’ Treats is like a sonic punch in the face, a bizarre combination of industrial, punk and straight-up noise that is louder and more original than any other record this year.

Read the rest after the jump...

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

It was an interesting year for me music-wise. So much great stuff passed my desk or by e-mail from publicists, but something odd happened: my old PC started getting so slow that I literally could not listen to my iTunes and work at the same time. Makes writing CD reviews tough, but makes listening while I work to get a feel for new music even harder. I persevered, playing stuff in the car and also, finally, getting a super-fast new PC recently. My joy of listening to my iTunes catalog and discovering new music has returned. And so, I give to you, my Top 10 albums of 2010:

1. The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
There are two songs on this album that can bring anyone from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in no time flat: “The Best Things in Life” and “What’s the Drawback.” Daniel Tashian and company continue to make some of the best music that, unfortunately, most people have never heard. So hey, this holiday season, do something about that. Go buy the Silver Seas’ music, and tell them I sent you.

2. Rooney: Eureka
Editor David Medsker to me, “Hey, I think you’ll like these guys.” Me, after hearing band: “Um, understatement.” It’s just good, unadulterated pop/rock – no whiny kid voice and no Auto Tune.

Read the rest after the jump...

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Carlos Ramirez’s picks

2010 was sensational year for music. Not only was there a slew of exceptional rock, metal, and indie records, released from proven acts, there was also an exciting crop of new artists that sprouted up throughout the year. Debut albums from Tame Impala, Aeroplane, and Mumford and Sons all showcased stellar songwriting while veteran artists like Bryan Ferry and Manic Street Preachers proved they still had gas in their creative tanks. For this year’s Bullz-Eye list, I’ve broken down my favorite albums into a few categories.

Best Pop Album

Ellie Goulding: Lights
Initially, this English newcomer performed her self-written material in a more intimate, singer-songwriter setting – but upon entering her university studies, she discovered and fell in love with electronica. She then started working with producers like Frankmusik and Starsmith, who began to reshape her song presentations. The retooling of Goulding’s approach proved to be pop music gold. On Lights, the songstress’ debut album, Goulding’s confessional lyrics and ethereal vocal delivery effortlessly weave through waves of synthesizers, hyper-melodic guitars, and Italo-disco bass lines. While there isn’t anything on Lights that is as obviously radio-baiting as Katy Perry’s inescapable “California Gurls,” there are at least six or seven tracks that top it in quality. There’s a song late on the record called “I’ll Hold My Breath” that I must have played a hundred times this past year. Musically, the track’s intro and first verse are kept lean, with hushed synths and acoustic guitars supporting a honey-sweet vocal from Goulding, but just when you think you know the direction the arrangement heading in, an explosion of crystalline keyboards and thumping drums gushes from your speakers, revealing what in my estimation is the greatest chorus of the last 12 months. Whether it’s dance-floor bangers (“Under the Sheets”) or gorgeous ballads (“The Writer”), Lights never misses the mark.

Best Metal Album

Alcest: Écailles de Lune
Alcest is the brainchild of a French musician who goes under the nom de plume Neige. Écailles de Lune is the project’s second album and is easily the most exhilarating musical piece that I came across in the last 12 months. Although Neige’s roots are in black metal, his wildly inventive arrangements aren’t exclusively bound to that genre’s parameters. Everything from the atmospherics of shoegaze to the barren soundscapes frequently favored by groups like Sigur Rós and Mogwai are explored on Écailles de Lune. Each song on the album is its own sweeping epic, with skyscraping guitars and serpentine mood shifts. Neige’s vocal performance also mirrors the music’s expansive reach. On “Solar Song,” the singer croons like he’s fronting a 4AD band circa 1991, but on the two-part title track, his tortured screeching and growling owes an obvious debt to his black metal background. Time will tell if Alcest finds an audience with non-metal listeners, but there’s certainly enough diversity on Écailles de Lune to warrant it.

Read the rest after the jump...

Related Posts