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...

Nada Surf: If I Had a Hi-Fi


RIYL: Josh Rouse, Rogue Wave, The Silver Seas

The cool thing about alt-pop band Nada Surf is that they appear to always do things their own way. For whatever reason, though, they stayed together all these years and broke through in 2005 with The Weight Is a Gift, which was produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla. The band continued some of that magic with 2008’s Lucky, and instead of lying low as they had planned, decided to release an album of cover tunes. Fast-forward to today, and If I Had a Hi-Fi. While it’s a set of songs that varies widely from the known (Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and The Moody Blues’ “Question”) to the currently hip (The Go Betweens’ “Love Goes On” and Spoon’s “Agony of Lafitte”) to the mostly obscure (Bill Fox’s “Electrocution” and Macromina’s “Evolucion”), the base of this is Nada Surf’s signature sound, which is akin to Josh Rouse or Ben Folds fronting a modern version of the Beatles. And it’s that sound that is so endearing. That said, there is something about this album that, while nice enough, may leave you wanting more. That could be because Nada Surf’s original material is that good, or it could be that they just chose these songs on a whim based on what they were listening to at the moment. Surely we can’t fault them for taking chances, because they even covered Kate Bush’s “Love and Anger.” But one or two covers on a new Nada Surf record would have worked just as well. (Mardev 2010)

Nada Surf MySpace page

  

Rogue Wave: Permalight


RIYL: Nada Surf, Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins

Fans of alternative pop/rock band Rogue Wave know that their music can be somewhat of an acquired taste, just like the Shins or Death Cab for Cutie. But therein lies a big reason for their success. The music won’t instantly grow on you nor make you instantly tired of it. Instead, Zach Rogue (who has a soft tenor a la Josh Rouse) and his band mates make the kind of music that should have staying power on your master play list. Rogue Wave’s latest, Permalight, is a departure from previous work, though it’s not exactly easy to pinpoint just why. Maybe it’s because Rogue suffered a couple of slipped discs in his neck in late 2008, which rendered him unable to move and scared him into believing he had a life-threatening illness. Eventually the swelling went down, and he regained enough feeling in his hand to be able to play the guitar. Many of the songs on Permalight are noticeably bouncier and happier than what one would expect from Rogue Wave, but the quality of songwriting is definitely still there.

Rogue_Wave_01

If you like upbeat alt-pop, you’ll find the jangly “Solitary Gun” or “Stars and Stripes” to your liking. But if you favor the darker side of what made you love Rogue Wave, “Sleepwalker” or the acoustic driven “Fear Itself” will suit you more. Then there is the total oddity of the title track or the robotic “We Will Make a Song Destroy,” which shows Rogue Wave becoming more experimental. One thing is for sure, though; many of us are glad that Rogue is okay and that Rogue Wave is still making music. (Brushfire/Universal 2010)

Rogue Wave MySpace page

  

Rocky Votolato: True Devotion


RIYL: Steve Earle, Rogue Wave, Damien Rice

When you’re at the bottom of a well, looking up, your surroundings are likely to be cold, damp, dreary and bleak. As Seattle-based singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato battled his own demons, namely depression and near suicide, that’s probably how things felt to him at the time. But in pulling himself from that proverbial well, he found writing songs to be therapeutic, and in the process he’s delivered to us some of his finest material yet. True Devotion is trademark Votolato vocally and melodically, but this effort is a more stripped-down record, almost solely acoustic. It’s a set of songs that have Votolato brimming with hope while at the same time dealing with his issues head on – and the best part is that he has a way of using his quirky melodies and chord structures to create a mood that reflects both his lyrics and his rainy day Seattle surroundings. He also has the vocal tone to stand up to an acoustic album. Rocky is good at belting it out and rocking a bit as he does on “Red River,” but he really shines on the simply arranged, darker material, the best of which are “Lucky Clover Coin” and “What Waited for Me.” (Barsuk 2010)

Rocky Votolato MySpace Page

  

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