>Last night it snowed in 49 out of 50 states (mine included). It was beautiful and quiet and…freezing. I loved it. I spent my evening putting together a mixed cd for a bi-monthly mix club that I’m in, and eating a big bowl of spicy Thai curry I made. The assignment for Dec – Jan was ‘weather.’ Which is so painfully appropriate for last night that I couldn’t resist working on it. I really love music (which I think I’ve mentioned before), and making a mix is really one of my favorite hobbies. It usually takes me a minimum of 4 hours and up to months to compose for me. I’m working on a few different projects right now, and this one in particular was really fun.
I haven’t created the cover art yet, which will be my project tonight. Then I’ll drop if off. The club is anonymous, so you never know whose mix you’re getting, and my friends who put it together are amazing and send out little bonus gifts with the mix you receive. Also, everything is covered in beautiful art. I love it.
Yesterday I was listening to this episode of the All Songs Considered podcast and actually got kind of full of myself for a minute when I realized that not only did I already own 20 out of the 25 best user picked albums of 2010, but that also, I had been jamming out to some albums on Bob Boilen and Carrie Brownstein’s top 10 lists as well. Its the little things, really.
More than anything, I am overwhelmed by how much music is out there, and frequently excited about how much of it is just so good (in my opinion). Sometimes I feel like because there are so many options its easy to get scatterbrained about it, but, I like anyone else still get obsessive about certain albums, and they go into repeat status for weeks/months. One such album of the last year for me was Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More. Seriously, what a brilliant piece of music. Orchestral, and meaningful and fun. I love that they rep Shakespearean inspired lyrics, romance, and are incredible instrumentalists. Check out, ‘The Cave’.
Anyway, I thought I’d make my own top ten of 2010. For me, this doesn’t mean that the album had to come out in 2010. Sometimes the same album repeats itself as being important to me many years in a row even.
In no particular order:
1. Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More (See above).
2. Brooke Brown Saracino – Stranger’s Story Though this album came out in 2008, I was given a copy by a dear friend and musician who’d seen her play recently and couldn’t stop talking about his giant music crush on her. Stranger’s Story is pretty damn beautiful. Brooke has an interesting and earthy voice that doesn’t feel like it has to try too hard to make you swoon, which is somehow all the more enticing. Her lyrics are simple and intense, for a great example of some of my favorite tracks see: ‘How To Speak’ and ,‘Lonely Song’ which will, you know, hit you right in the guts.
3. Edward Sharp & The Magnetic Zeroes – Up From Below Headed by Alex of Imarobot fame, this orchestra of jingle jangle joy is just what I was missing when I first heard it. Something about the way that everyone loops their sound together in the group makes me feel so good. The record is also just, well, a little weird and fun in all the right ways. Of course everyone loves the first single, “Home” (Take a gander at the most adorable cover ever, here. I find myself tapping my foot to songs like, “Janglin'” and “Come in please.” Plus, clearly the people in the band are high on LSD or some other mind altering substance like, all the time.
4. Florence and the Machine – Lungs Released in 2009, a friend played “Rabbit Heart (Raise it up)” on repeat one afternoon when we were hanging out and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I feel sort of angry at myself for not finding Florence sooner because this album is so damn good. Florence really has such an incredible voice and knack for putting together music that will rock you just enough to dance, but you can also keep on when things are quieter. “My Boy Builds Coffins” manages to seem haunting and sweet all at the same time. Plus, this video of Florence in the park being so awkward and then drumming on a park benches, how can you not love that?
5. The National – High Violet This is probably on a million top ten lists for the year. Heck, its probably number one with a bullet for most. But, here’s what I want to say, on first listen, I wasn’t really into it. I’d (shocking and appalling I know) never heard of The National before this year and didn’t really know what to expect when a DJ friend of mine sent me this disc. Her tastes run a little less folky and more new wave than mine, so I had no idea what I might be getting myself into. After listen one, I put it away for a month. When I confessed to my friend, she told me to start with tracks like, ‘Blood Buzz Ohio’ and ‘Lemonworld’ and work my way into the album from there. Her advice was fantastic, and now, so is my feeling about this record. The lyrics are brilliant without being inaccessible. Bob Boilen talked about how sometimes lyrics are too good and too complicated to successfully sing along, but that this record let’s you. I’d have to say, Bob, I agree wholeheartedly.
6. tUnE-yArDs – Bird Brains Tune-Yards is the project of Merrill Garbus, an Oakland based musician who slapped me upside the head this year with something new and godamn brilliant. Merrill is an over the top person with some sincerely beautiful and weird music. She’s played with the likes of Chris Pureka (which is a strange and wonderful combination), and is signed to a British record label. Each song on the record was recorded by Merrill using a digital voice recorder and mixing software. Between that and the adorable snippets of the little boy she took care of talking about blueberries and Tune-Yards’ unpredictable, delicious singing this record does it for me in every way. Plus, it sort of makes me want to put on a bird costume and dance around on ice skates. This studio session for the song ‘Real Live Flesh’ is incredible.
7. Gregory Alan Isakov – This Empty Northern Hemisphere Credit for this music amazing-ness goes to my rad friend Becky. Becky has impeccable taste, and also told me emphatically (at least 10 times in a kind of tipsy trip home one night that I simply HAD TO get my hands on this album. She was (of course) right. This album breaks my bruised up and battered heart in ways I wasn’t emotionally prepared for, and I love it. Gregory is a phenomenal guitar player, and I love the use of strings on some of the tracks. But really its his gorgeous voice and make you wanna cry lyrics that get me the most. Favorite tracks include, ‘Big Black Car’ and ‘That Moon Song’. This album came out in 2009, and I will definitely be listening to it for many years to come.
8. The XX – xx Hopefully I don’t have to say too much about this album. Just take a listen (if you’ve been in a deep dark hole and have managed to avoid hearing it thus far). Something about the simplicity, and almost disinterested tone of the entire thing, makes me want to wrap this album up in a blanket and cuddle it on the couch forever. Also, after you finish listening to it, go here and download this entire album again, mashed up against Biggie Smalls. Oh yeah, maybe that snuggle on the couch will now get a little dirty.
9. Joni Mitchell – Blue Okay. This album is perfect. Its been perfect for decades and its still perfect today. For some reason it came up and knocked on my door again this year, and I spent a lot of time feeling thoughtful and singing along with Joni. Slow dancing in my living room, crooning along in the car, tea drinking on the couch. Blue is just as meaningful and intimate as ever for me. If I could drink a case of you, honey. I’d Still be on my feet.
10. The Mountain Goats – Heretic Pride This album spent the entire winter being on repeat in my car. Seriously, John Darnielle, you do it to me every time. One of the best song writers I’ve ever heard, and the warbling washing strongs hold this album up to my ears in the most incredible way. Songs like, ‘Autoclave’, ‘San Bernadino’ and ‘Marduk T-Shirt Men’s Room Incident’ are absolutely incredible.
Honorable mentions: Bon Iver – Blood Bank, Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane over the Sea, The Arcade Fire – Suburbs, Olof Arnalds – Innundir Skinni, Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.