Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Greg Schwartz’s picks

It’s been another bad year for the recording industry, but another great year for music fans. Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well, as is the opportunity to see it performed live. Musicians can still make a living, but they have to hit the road and seize modern marketing opportunities. One thing that will never change is the public’s desire to hear great music. Bands that can deliver still have a chance to write their own ticket.

Top 10 lists are of course inherently subjective, and this observer’s faves will always lean toward the guitar-driven rock side of the music spectrum. I was certain that the debut album from the long-awaited Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band would be topping my list this year, especially after the slew of terrific new tunes they delivered in two stellar shows at the New Orleans Jazzfest back in April. But the album isn’t coming out until 2011. Here’s my take on the best albums and songs that were released in 2010.

10. The Henry Clay People: Somewhere on the Golden Coast
This is just an old-fashioned, ’90s-style indie-alternative rock ‘n’ roll album that stands out with its energetic yet down-to-earth sound. No Pro Tools trickery going on here, just a band plugging into their amps and turning up the volume. It’s got loud guitars with melodic hooks, rocking piano and zeitgeist lyrics from singer/guitarist Joey Siara that tap into this modern era of Depression and discontent. “Working Part Time” is one of the great anthems of the year, while “End of an Empire” sounds like an alt-rock prophecy.

9. The Sword: Warp Riders
The Austin, Texas hard rockers deliver a blast from the past that is easily the best metal album to come along in some time. It’s like a cross between Metallica, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, which equals metal heaven. It’s chock full of great riffs, furious rhythms and tight metal mayhem with a twist of classic rock flavor.

Read the rest after the jump...

The Dead Weather: Sea of Cowards

RIYL: The Raconteurs, The Kills, Queens of the Stone Age

The Dead Weather’s second album picks up where 2009’s debut left off and keeps going, which means another tasty platter of dirty, hard-hitting grungy blues rock. You can’t really call it low-fi, because it sounds too good to be low-fi. Drummer/guitarist/producer Jack White does this better than anyone, taking that sludgy blues sound and tweaking everything just right to make it sound vibrant. The man is a true master in this regard. The sound is somewhat similar to his work with the Raconteurs, but not quite as melodic and hooky. But there are some monster grooves here and vocalist Alison Mosshart is akin to a dark angel, laying down a vengeful wrath from seemingly beyond.

“Hustle and Cuss” features Mosshart in prime form. Like most of the album, her vocals almost sound like they were recorded in the bottom of a well, but it lends an otherworldly vibe. White rides the cymbal and there’s great sonic spacing here, which makes every note hit deep. “The Difference Between Us” is another winner, with Mosshart dazzling over the dark and foreboding groove. The blend of psychedelic organ and trippy guitar effects throughout the album is truly unique, with White as a mad scientist of the blues.

“I’m Mad” starts off kind of static, but explodes midway through with some fat riffage and great vocal accents from Mosshart. Lead single “Die by the Drop” mines a similar formula but features a duet between Mosshart and White. It’s probably not going to be a hit, but it’s got a compellingly heavy sound. This kind of sonic mayhem continues throughout the album, to the point that it’s sometimes hard to tell where one song stops and another begins. In this sense, the songwriting could be a little sharper. But that dark, grungy blues sound is so tantalizing.

“I Can Hear You” slows things down a little, with Mosshart as a bluesy mistress intent on collecting the object of her desire. She captivates on “Gasoline,” which features a wicked guitar solo, some huge synth work and cool drum rolls. “No Horse” is more of the dirgy blues, but with White riding the cymbal for a great beat over another fat groove and more dynamic vocals from Mosshart. “Looking at the Invisible Man” is another highlight, with a huge groove, dynamic riffs and another duet between White and Mosshart.

The overall rating on the songs might be only worth three stars, but the album has five-star sound and energy, so that’s four stars overall. (Third Man Records/Warner Brothers2010)

The Dead Weather MySpace page


Lettin’ it ride in the Big Easy: Jazzfest 2010 recap, Part V: it’s time to chill

The last in our five-part series, where the festival puts the ‘jazz’ in Jazzfest.

Delfayo Marsalis & the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, WWOZ Jazz Tent
I was the first one up after obtaining maybe five hours of sleep, and I quickly rushed back off to the fairgrounds. It would have been nice to get more sleep, but I didn’t want to miss Delfayo Marsalis. The skies were still overcast and threatening rain, and it misted throughout the day. But, in a great gift from the music gods, it didn’t actually rain until about 20 minutes after the end of the festival.


The tent was packed for this 1:35 pm set and rightfully so, as the trombone ace from New Orleans’ first family of jazz led a 15-piece horn section through a set of swinging jazz numbers with a classic and classy vibe. Younger brother Jason Marsalis played drums and the set featured one crowd-pleasing number after another, with round after round of applause. This was the best jazz set of the weekend in this reporter’s view.

Ellis Marsalis, WWOZ Jazz Tent
Pianist Ellis Marsalis followed his son’s group with his own quartet for another great set, again featuring Jason Marsalis on drums. The songs were a little more subdued than Delfayo’s set, but the playing continued to sparkle. Jason delivered a stellar drum solo during one tune that won a huge round of applause, while all the band members soloed with great skill on a superb reading of “My Favorite Things.” It’s too bad that Wynton and Branford couldn’t be summoned for an all-Marsalis family jam, but getting to see Delfayo and Ellis in succession with Jason was another great Jazzfest treat.

The Dead Weather, Gentilly Stage
Jack White led his new group on drums in a hot set before a big crowd in the mist at the Gentilly Stage. White is a snappy drummer and every project he’s involved in oozes the blues, but the Dead Weather mix that old school blues vibe with a heavy indie rock sound that is just plain tantalizing thanks to lead vocalist Allison Mosshart. The former singer of the Kills appeared as some sort of dark, avenging angel, and she captivated the crowd on every tune. The new “Hustle and Cuss” featured a groovy syncopation that went over well. The set peaked with “Treat Me Like Your Mother” from the band’s first album, a flat-out bad-ass rocker that saw the energy soar as Mosshart owned the stage. White also played guitar on one tune, treating fans to some of his bluesy shredding, before he and Mosshart sang a duet on a slow, dark simmering blues to end the set in haunting yet breathtaking fashion.

Read the rest after the jump...

Karen O and the Kids: Where The Wild Things Are

RIYL: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Deerhunter, The Kills

“Where The Wild Things Are”is a classic for multiple generations, and many (present company included) frequently site it as their favorite book from childhood. So most likely the upcoming film adaptation will mean a lot to kids of all ages, unless it sucks. However, if the soundtrack is any indication to the broad appeal of the film, we probably have nothing to worry about.

The soundtrack is credited to Karen O. and the Kids, but “the kids” are more than just the child singers on back up; they are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bradford Cox from Deerhunter, Dean Fertita from The Dead Weather, Raconteur Jack Lawrence and the Liars’ Aaron Hemphill. That’s a lot of indie rocking, but there’s nary an ounce of pretension to be found here. Instead, there’s something for everyone.

Kids will enjoy the tribal beats and easy-to-sing along choruses of tracks like “All Is Love” and “Capsize,” while hipster 20- and 30-somethings will enjoy the complex and layered instrumentation that is present throughout, and everyone will be in awe once again of Karen O’s remarkable voice, which shows more variety growth here than on any Yeah Yeah Yeahs record. Sure, she may have been quiet before on classics like “Maps,” but she’s never done it as effectively as she does here on haunting, dreamy tracks like “Worried Shoes” (a surprising Daniel Johnston cover) and “Hideaway.” And while Karen’s always wailed with the best of them, she really lets it out on “Animal,” a banging acoustic stomper that serves as one of the few loud points of the album. This is a soundtrack though, and some parts are very score-like, with a good chunk of the second half being mostly instrumental and incidental. Still, it’s very pretty instrumental and incidental music, but those expecting the pop music of the single “All Is Love” should be forewarned.

But that’s a small complaint. This album rocks for all ages. Hipsters and pre-schoolers unite! (DGC/Interscope 2009)

Click to buy Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack from Amazon


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