Bullz-Eye’s Best of 2010: Staff Writer Scott Malchus’ picks

Each year, when I sort through my favorite songs, I have trouble ranking them because each one has a different meaning to me. I always wind up creating a mixtape (or a playlist, for you younger readers) of those songs and arrange them so that the music flows like a great album or concert set. Without further ado, here’s my mix of the twenty songs I returned to for repeated listens throughout 2010.

“Fade Like a Shadow,” KT Tunstall
Tunstall continues to produce pop gems that are spirited, bright and full of life. This single from her latest, Tiger Suit, has everything you want in a single: a passionate delivery, a great melodic hook, and a unique rhythm that helps it stand out from other songs. A great way to kick off a mix tape.

“I Should Have Known It,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
The lead single from Mojo has that vintage Petty snarl and bite. The rest of the album may be a mixed bag, but this great rocker builds to kick-ass guitar jam and stands up with some of their best.


Read the rest after the jump...

Elizabeth & the Catapult: The Other Side of Zero


RIYL: Aimee Mann, KT Tunstall, Diane Birch

Elizabeth Ziman spent a few years demo-ing and ultimately recording and releasing her debut under Elizabeth & the Catapult, Taller Children. But the follow-up took practically no time at all, and apparently flowed out of Ziman the way great writers often have waves of new material emanating from themselves. So here was Ziman, influenced all at once by Leonard Cohen’s Book of Longing, and letting the music that would become her new album, The Other Side of Zero flow from her. Ziman’s a dead ringer for Aimee Mann vocally, but musically her stuff is darker and deeper. And oh yeah, it’s really, really good.

The Other Side of Zero begins with the piano romp, “We All Fall Down” and has other quirky yet instantly catchy tracks like “You & Me” and “The Horse & the Missing Cart.” There are songs that will remind you of Taller Children – witness the alternative love song “Julian, Darling” or the electronica-driven “Dreamcatcher.” But while Ziman and drummer Danny Molad make awesome music together, the one track on here that uses drums sparsely but may not need to is “Open Book.” This is one of those songs that is rife with simple beauty, one you hear and want to keep hitting “repeat,” and that has movie soundtrack written all over it. Best of all, as with all of Ziman’s work, there are elements of alternative, jazz, and pop – all with a rainy day feel running throughout, just the way she likes it. (Verve Forecast 2010)

Elizabeth & the Catapult website

KT Tunstall: Tiger Suit


RIYL: Sheryl Crow, The Sundays, Stevie Nicks

KT Tunstall catapulted herself to overnight success in 2006 with her debut album, Eye to the Telescope, which spawned the hit single “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” Her 2007 follow-up, Drastic Fantastic, was just as good, if not better, than the debut, and now Tunstall is back with Tiger Suit. As usual, Tunstall’s songs are mostly upbeat hook-fests, albeit with slightly less magic than before. With Tiger Suit, she’s regressed a bit, because these are good tracks that are structured well and have solid melodies and arrangements – but something is lacking compared to Tunstall’s previous work, be it soul or depth or that slight bit of alternative grit that was present on both Telescope and Drastic.

Tiger Suit opens with “Uummannaq Song,” an odd title but the familiar mid-tempo singsong style that is most closely reminiscent of her earlier work. That rolls right into “Glamour Puss,” a song that is catchy beyond belief but somehow not exactly memorable. The best tracks on here are “Difficulty,” a song that lends itself to some quirky but effective production, and “Lost,” which is slower yet but arranged nicely. “Come on, Get In” is her label’s attempt at having Tunstall re-create “Cherry Tree,” and it’s kind of a lame one at that. Still, let’s face it – Tunstall’s mediocre is far better than most female singer/songwriters’ work these days. It’s just that her die hard fans may come away slightly disappointed this time, especially after a three-year wait. (Virgin 2010)

KT Tunstall website

April Smith and the Great Picture Show: Songs for a Sinking Ship


RIYL: KT Tunstall, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Liza Minnelli

Sometimes great singers try a bit too hard to prove that they’re great. April Smith is not one of those singers. The arrangements on her latest and most impressive album Songs for a Sinking Ship fit her sultry voice like a glove and her songwriting is both playful and intellectual. April Smith is clearly capable of controlling the whole circus when it comes to vocal acrobatics but possesses the restraint to allow each song to shine as bright as her ability.

After numerous listens, I’ve yet to find a track that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. A standout track on Songs for a Sinking Ship is “Wow and Flutter” which combines semi-dark theatrics with a refrain that could have found a home on a Ratt record. Odd, I know, but it totally works. Additionally, the closer “Stop Wondering” is easily the most delightful “fuck you” to a former lover ever recorded.

April_Smith_02

Aside from her glowing talent behind the mic and the pen, she’s clearly figured out the business side of things as well. She used kickstarter.com and her ever-growing fan base (acquired from near constant touring over the past few years) to fund this release. We always hear stories of bands collecting cash online to fund their latest projects but many of those bands were once privileged enough to receive that initial “major label” push. April did it her way from the start and we can only hope that in the years to come she will be recognized as the fearless trailblazer that she is.

There are no gimmicks on Songs for a Sinking Ship. Only great writing and performing which is a very welcome change of pace from your typical release. You’re going to want to sing along with April Smith but you had better stretch out before attempting it or you will most certainly hurt yourself. (Little Roscoe 2010)

April Smith and The Great Picture Show | Official Website
Click to buy Songs for a Sinking Ship from Amazon

Various Artists: The Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs

Like a VH-1 dream lineup, The Hotel Café in Los Angeles is presenting Winter Songs, a collection of both original and classic holiday tunes by today’s hottest female artists. The Epic Records release is a benefit for the Susan G. Komen For the Cure, and it also benefits anyone who has the chance to hear it. Among some of the best original holiday songs in years are the unofficial title track, “Winter Song,” by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson, and Colbie Caillat’s stunning “Mistletoe.” Some of the classics are predictable and a bit pedestrian, such as KT Tunstall’s take on “Sleigh Ride” or Priscialla Ahn’s wispy take on “Silent Night.” But Fiona Apple’s “Frosty The Snowman” and Katy Perry’s “White Christmas” are throwback versions to a bygone era, and show something you may not have known – that they both can sing very well. Taken as a whole, this is one of the more unique and semi-awesome holiday albums to be released in quite some time, and the cause should give you that much more of a reason to pick it up. (Epic)

Hotel Cafe website

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