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...

Sarah Sample: Someday, Someday

RIYL: Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Ray LaMontagne

Sarah Sample rises above the typical “Grey’s Anatomy” genre of female singer/songwriting-heart-on-my-sleeve-because-the-whole-world-hurts music with her distinct voice and country-tinged songwriting. It’s the kind of voice that gets under your skin and can lift you up. Her voice can also lift up the material she’s singing, as it does on her album, Someday, Someday.

This album of adult alternative music is full of intimate songs about love and relationships. The lyrics are straightforward and effective, coupled with Sample’s gift for beautiful melodies. Upon first listen, you’ll be immediately taken by Sample’s upbeat delivery, even on the gentle ballads she’s written. Someday, Someday grows on you after repeated listens and soon you’ll find yourself with songs like “I’m Ready,” “One Mistake,” and the soulful rocker “Staying Behind” stuck in your head for days on end. You’ll also feel your heartstrings being tugged.

Sample’s voice can really stir up the emotions, making her much better than so many of her contemporaries. Since radio is dead and TV and film soundtracks are where new artists get most of their exposure, let’s hope some music supervisor comes across this fine album and helps Sample get the exposure she deserves. Until then, it’s up to word of mouth to spread the word about an artist like her. We’ve done our part; now it’s up to you. (Groundloop Records 2010)

Sarah Sample’s website

Purchase Someday, Someday through Amazon


Lissie: Catching a Tiger

RIYL: Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile, Kings of Leon

51kNc0uvmaL._SCLZZZZZZZ_[1]The sign of a great song is that you can’t just listen to it once. The melody gets stuck inside your head and you keep going back for repeated  listens — five, 10, sometimes 20 times in a row. The sign of a great album is that it’s full of great songs you can’t stop listening to it no matter how much you tell yourself you should pause and catch your breath. Of course, great albums with great songs take a long time to get through, because you’re continually repeating the first song until you’re finally ready to move on to track two. The process begins all over again until a whole week has passed before you’ve finally gotten through an album that should have only taken an hour. Such is the case with Catching a Tiger, the full-length debut from freckle-faced Midwesterner Lissie, aka Elisabeth Maurus. Words can’t express how wonderful and exciting this album is.

Lissie has a voice that is soulful, aching, and raw; it can do just about anything she commands it to. The opening track is a huge, Tarantino-sized soul song with Italian western overtones called “Record Collector”; here, Lissie brings Duffy to mind, as well as on the splendid ’60s girl group pop-style song “Stranger.” However, as you listen to the album, it becomes obvious very quickly that Lissie is capable of any genre, be it adult alternative (as on the intricately worded, immediately catchy “When I’m Alone”) or blues rock (the heartbreaking “In Sleep,” which features a killer two-minute guitar solo that warps the song up to its bitter end). “Bully” is a slice of ’60s-ish big old pop bombast; “Little Lovin’” a folksy ballad with a strong backbeat that crescendos to a triumphant finish; and “Cuckoo” is just about one of the most perfect reflections of adolescence I’ve heard in ages. When I listen to that particular track I can’t help but think of my young daughter and the formative years ahead of her. I only hope that she can find a song that resonates with her as I’m sure “Cuckoo” will connect with a crop of young girls just becoming young women. By the time the album wraps up with quiet hymn “Oh Mississippi” (co-written with Ed Harcourt), you won’t be thinking of Duffy anymore, but of Patty Griffin, one our generation’s most remarkable and inspiring singers.

Produced by Jacquire King (Kings of Leon, Norah Jones, Modest Mouse) and Bill Reynolds of Band of Horses, the songs on Catching a Tiger are arranged like a perfect concert set list. Three powerful uptempo numbers to pull you in, then a slow ballad, followed by a moderately fast song that leads into a couple more high-energy songs before another ballad. You get the picture. Catching a Tiger flows like the classic albums we have etched in our minds, the ones we return to time and time again as the years go by. Perhaps this is the one record your children will claim as their own and recall some 10 to 15 years from now? While each and every song is produced to superlative effect, with beautifully layered harmonies over subtle guitar parts and driving rhythm sections, tying everything together is Lissie’s amazing voice and her heartfelt, truthful lyrics. While there are a slew of female singer-songwriters releasing new albums this year, most of them seem to get stuck in one mode, primarily the type of atmospheric ballads you hear playing in the background on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Lissie, like the aforementioned Griffin and the exceptional Brandi Carlile, challenges herself on each song, using her gifted vocals for greatness. She knows when the song requires her to hold back, and when it requires her to belt it out. And when she does belt it out, my God, it can be chilling. If I don’t hear another record this year, I’ll be fine because Catching a Tiger has so much power, beauty and heart that it’s going to take me a while to fall in love with something else. It is most definitely one of the best albums of this year — and possibly years to come. (2010, Fat Possum)

Visit the Lissie MySpace page

Purchase the album through Amazon (seriously, this is a must buy)


Dierks Bentley: Feel That Fire

It’s no secret that most of the music coming out of Nashville’s Music Row is based on formula – a lot of the same songwriters and producers are making the records and making it difficult to distinguish one artist from another. You might see Brad Paisley or Kenny Chesney or Billy Currington on TV or walking down the street in Nashville and immediately know who they are, but that doesn’t mean the casual fan can pick their voice out on the radio. That’s because Nashville has auto-tuned everyone into sounding the same – the same vocal tone, same twang, and in most cases, the same freaking songs. Dierks Bentley falls into that category, and on his latest, and fourth album, Feel That Fire, Bentley has co-written a bland bunch of songs that he seems to almost be going through the motions with. Tracks like “Sideways” and “Little Heartwrecker” will make you tap your feet but you’re not going to remember them five minutes afterward. A pretty duet with Patty Griffin, “Beautiful World,” almost saves the album, but while the likes of “I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes” and “I Can’t Forget Her” are pleasant enough, there are literally thousands of better songs in this formulaic genre alone. Country music surely isn’t going to make any new fans this way. (LABEL: Capitol Nashville)

Dierks Bentley MySpace Page


Dana Falconberry: Oh Skies of Grey

Sometimes new artists come out of nowhere to brighten our day and sometimes they help by painting beautiful images in our heads with their music – be they bright, or be they cloudy and drizzly as Dana Falconberry does on the aptly titled Oh Skies of Grey. Falconberry is an Austin Texas singer/songwriter who moved from her hometown of Dearborn, Michigan a few years back and has been hanging around the camps of Patty Griffin, Peter Buck and Alejandro Escovedo. What you’ll hear in Falconberry is equal parts sultry folkster (Griffin), rainy day alt-popster (Suzanne Vega), and bombastic arrangements that give her songs incredible character (think Laura Veirs). All of this is wrapped up in a neat package and delivered with authority on Oh Skies of Grey, and it’s the kind of moody fare that you stick in your CD player and forget about for a while, or at least until the sun starts peaking through. The best tracks among 12 varied and well-crafted ones are the shuffling, hauntingly sexy “Love Will Never Leave You Alone” and “Flourescent” as well as the unofficial title track, “Blue Umbrella.” (2:59)

Dana Falconberry MySpace Page


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