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
Read the rest after the jump...
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.
Posted in: Adult Contemporary, Americana, Artists, CD Reviews, Country, Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Songs, Soul
Tags: 2010 Year End Music Scott Malchus, Alejandro Escovedo, Brandi Carlile, Buddy Miller, Bullz-Eye Year in Music 2010, Cee Lo Green, Common, Crazy Heart, Dave Gonzalez, Eminem, Jeff Bridges, John Legend, Justin Bieber, KT Tunstall, Laura Cortese, Lissie, Ludacris, Melanie Fiona, Michael Stanley, Mike Barfield, Patty Griffin, Peter Gabriel, Rihanna, Robert Plant, Ryan Bingham, Stone River Boys, T-Bone Burnett, The Avett Brothers, The Gaslight Anthem, The Like, The National, The New Pornographers, The Roots, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
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 Cohenâ€™s Book of Longing, and letting the music that would become her new album, The Other Side of Zero flow from her. Zimanâ€™s a dead ringer for Aimee Mann vocally, but musically her stuff is darker and deeper. And oh yeah, itâ€™s really, really good.
The Other Side of Zero begins with the piano romp, â€śWe All Fall Downâ€ť and has other quirky yet instantly catchy tracks like â€śYou & Meâ€ť and â€śThe Horse & the Missing Cart.â€ť There are songs that will remind you of Taller Children – witness the alternative love song â€śJulian, Darlingâ€ť or the electronica-driven â€śDreamcatcher.â€ť 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 â€śOpen Book.â€ť This is one of those songs that is rife with simple beauty, one you hear and want to keep hitting â€śrepeat,â€ť and that has movie soundtrack written all over it. Best of all, as with all of Zimanâ€™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
Posted in: Alternative, CD QuickTakes, CD Reviews, Pop
Tags: alternative pop, Diane Birch, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Elizabeth Ziman, Headlines, KT Tunstall, Leonard Cohen, Taller Children, The Other Side of Zero
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 â€śBlack Horse and the Cherry Tree.â€ť 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, Tunstallâ€™s songs are mostly upbeat hook-fests, albeit with slightly less magic than before. With Tiger Suit, sheâ€™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 Tunstallâ€™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 â€śUummannaq Song,â€ť an odd title but the familiar mid-tempo singsong style that is most closely reminiscent of her earlier work. That rolls right into â€śGlamour Puss,â€ť a song that is catchy beyond belief but somehow not exactly memorable. The best tracks on here are â€śDifficulty,â€ť a song that lends itself to some quirky but effective production, and â€śLost,â€ť which is slower yet but arranged nicely. â€śCome on, Get Inâ€ť is her labelâ€™s attempt at having Tunstall re-create â€śCherry Tree,â€ť and itâ€™s kind of a lame one at that. Still, letâ€™s face it – Tunstallâ€™s mediocre is far better than most female singer/songwritersâ€™ work these days. Itâ€™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
Posted in: Alternative, CD QuickTakes, CD Reviews, Pop, Rock
Tags: Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, Drastic Fantastic, EMI, Eye to the Telescope, Headlines, KT Tunstall, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, The Sundays, Tiger Suit, Virgin Records
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, Iâ€™ve yet to find a track that I didnâ€™t thoroughly enjoy. A standout track on Songs for a Sinking Ship is â€śWow and Flutterâ€ť 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 â€śStop Wonderingâ€ť is easily the most delightful â€śfuck youâ€ť to a former lover ever recorded.
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. Youâ€™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
Posted in: Adult Contemporary, Alternative, Big Band, CD QuickTakes, CD Reviews, Indie Labels, Pop, Vocal
Tags: April Smith, April Smith and the Great Picture Show, April Smith and the Great Picture Show CD review, April Smith CD review, Bullz-Eye, CD Quick Takes, CD review, Eat Sleep Drink Music, Headlines, Josh Preston, KT Tun, KT Tunstall, Little Roscoe, Liza Minnelli, Songs For A Sinking Ship, Squirrel Nut Zippers
Various Artists: The Hotel Cafe Presents Winter Songs
Like a VH-1 dream lineup, The Hotel CafĂ© in Los Angeles is presenting Winter Songs, a collection of both original and classic holiday tunes by todayâ€™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, â€śWinter Song,â€ť by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson, and Colbie Caillatâ€™s stunning â€śMistletoe.â€ť Some of the classics are predictable and a bit pedestrian, such as KT Tunstallâ€™s take on â€śSleigh Rideâ€ť or Priscialla Ahnâ€™s wispy take on â€śSilent Night.â€ť But Fiona Appleâ€™s â€śFrosty The Snowmanâ€ť and Katy Perryâ€™s â€śWhite Christmasâ€ť are throwback versions to a bygone era, and show something you may not have known â€“ 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
Posted in: CD QuickTakes, CD Reviews, Pop, Rock Babes
Tags: Colbie Caillat, Fiona Apple, holiday music, Hotel Cafe, Ingrid Michaelson, Katy Perry, KT Tunstall, Priscilla Ahn, Sara Bareilles, VH-1, Winter Songs