The “Also-Rans”

Hope everyone enjoyed my top 10 records of 2010 yesterday.  Today, I’ll present the “Also Rans”—the stuff that was also released and purchased this year, but that didn’t make the list for one reason or another.  Some were ineligible for various reasons…some just weren’t top 10 material.

I should note that there are two 2010 releases out there that I have not yet purchased, and they may figure in as well.  I doubt that either would make the top 10, but they would probably get write-ups here, if I’d have bought them.  Sooner or later I’ll buy them, but for the moment, I’m still missing Bruce Springsteen’s “The Promise” and James Blunt’s “Some Kind of Trouble.”

Other than those…here’s the other stuff!  They are listed in no particular order, this is just how they came to mind as I was writing.  Enjoy!

1. Alice Cooper – “Theatre of Death”

Also pictured: My reflection.
  • This was ineligible due to being a live record, containing no new material.
  • This is a CD/DVD combo featuring a recording of Alice’s concert in (I think) London in 2009.  Lots of classics.  A couple of not-so-classics, and four “deaths” for Alice.  They keep killing him.  He keeps coming back.  Awesomly fun, especially the DVD, where you get to see all the chaos.  (My favorite part is that when they grab him for one of the executions, and his only defense is yelling, “Hey!”  Who yells “Hey!” when they’re about to be killed?)  Really good, fun release.  But not eligible for the top ten.

2. Hank (Williams) III – “Rebel Within”

 

  • This one didn’t BELONG on my top ten list.  (Sorry III fans, but this is going to get a little harsh.)
  • Let’s forego the fact that I felt awkward buying this album cover from the black girl who was at the register at Best Buy and just criticize the music…
  • I used to think Hank III was the savior of Outlaw Country.  I thought he would carry on his grandpa’s legacy in a way Hank Jr didn’t have the guts to attempt.  Then he released the past two records, and frankly, he’s beginning to scream “one note” to me.  This was a major disappointment—but that’s not to say it’s entirely bad.  He released a record reflecting where he IS right now, and there is some decent material here.  This is also his last release with Curb records, and that probably made him less interested in putting his all into it.  I think he was shooting for combining the vibe of “Lovesick, Broke and Driftin'” with the edge of “Straight to Hell” but it just failed on both levels…  And more than anything else…  We get it.  You love Satan and doing drugs.  Please write about something else now.  It’s old.  (Also, it’d be great if you wrote at least one or two songs that didn’t have the word “fuck” in them, so maybe you can get some airplay and/or I could play one of your records in my car when my more conservative friends are around.  There’s a time and place for that, and it’s not on every track.)  Maybe III has another good record in him now that he’s “free” from Curb…but frankly, I’m beginning to think he should’ve listened closer to what Curb was telling him all along, because he hasn’t been as restrained on his recent releases…and they’ve been boring, derivitive, and just plain pointless.  Sorry III…I really tried, but this one just didn’t work for me.  (But, hey, as long as the drug addicts and racist rednecks keep coming to your shows, who cares, right?)

3. Band of Horses – “Infinite Arms”

  • This one just didn’t quite make the cut…
  • I like the record a lot—I do…  But it just wasn’t the cream of the crop.  In a year where there was less to choose from, it probably would’ve found its way onto the list, but in this year, it just didn’t.  Still good though, and I enjoy it when I put it on.  My only real criticism is that I wish they’d explored more of the alt-country vibe and less of the Brian Wilson vibe…but even still, it’s a good listen.  No regrets about buying it, and I’d recommend it to others…but the stuff on my top ten was just better, in my eyes.

4. Queens of the Stone Age – “Rated R”

There's my reflection again!
  • Ineligible because it is a re-release/deluxe edition of a previously released record.
  • For the 10th anniversary of QOTSA’s “Rated R” they put out this nice little two-disc containing some B-sides and live tracks.  It’s pretty cool.  Mostly, it’s just good to hear that record again.  It’s the best thing they’ve ever done, and probably the best thing they ever WILL do, and it’s nice to see that I’m not alone on that.
  • 

5. Leonard Cohen – “Songs from the Road”

  • Ineligible because it’s a live record.
  • Contains a CD and a DVD.
  • This is more or less a companion piece to Cohen’s “Live in London” release from 2009.  It contains performances from other shows on that tour.  Some of the same songs show up (I mean…how does Leonard Cohen release something that doesn’t have “Hallelujah” on it at this point?  Of COURSE it’s there!).  There are also some songs not heard on “Live in London” that are welcomed additions to the Cohen live catalogue.  It lacks the focus and flow of the previous release, but that does not invalidate the quality of the music.  It’s still excellent and still Cohen in top form.  Now…if only I’d remember to watch the freaking DVD!  🙂

6. Johnny Cash – “American VI: Ain’t No Grave”

  • Didn’t quite make the cut, and also possibly considered ineligible for being filled with cover songs.
  • It was kind of heartbreaking not to put this on the top 10.  I love Johnny Cash.  I’ve loved everything in the “American” series…but this one just kind of fell flat in comparison to the rest of the series.  Just seemed like Rick Rubin needed a few bucks and said, “Well…I’ve still got these Cash songs sitting around…”  (Not that I’m accusing him of that…)  This isn’t the best of the series…  But at the same time, it is an END to the series.  This is it.  The capstone.  No more Johnny Cash “American” records are forthcoming.  If you look at it that way—as the final chapter of a book—it’s really good.  But if you stack it up song-for-song against the rest of the series, it’s not as strong.  I mean…there’s a version of “Aloha Oe” on here.  But still…I like it, and I wish I could have justified putting it on the top ten…but it’s just not as strong a release as I was hoping, and also there’s the “no cover records” rule that I tend to maintain (although I’ve broken that rule for Cash before…but it makes me feel better to cite that rule in this situation!).

7. Iron Maiden – “The Final Frontier”

My reflection really gets around!
  • Didn’t quite make it…
  • It’s a good record.  It sounds more like classic Maiden than their previous release (or possibly previous TWO).  But for me, it gets a little too rambling toward the end, and there’s just not much that’s “catchy” on the record.  The catchiest songs are the first three (technically FOUR…I have no idea why they didn’t split the first track into two separate tracks…) and the rest is the kind of lengthy, proggy, exhaustingly long songs that are sometimes hits and sometimes misses for the band.  Frankly, I think there were just a couple more “misses” on this one.
  • Plus…I’m still pretty pissed off that I paid DOUBLE PRICE for a fucking t-shirt at the show, compared to what it cost on their website. And the webstore didn’t even reply to my e-mail—no surprise there…

8. Neil Young – “Le Noise”

  • Just barely fell short.
  • I like this one a lot.  I really do…but I thought long and hard (heh!) about it and I just don’t think it has the staying power (heh-heh!) that would make me stand by it in a couple of years.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still enjoy listening to this one down the road.  Some of the songs are immediately catchy and I really dig the concept (it’s just Neil playing guitars and singing and then throwing on a bunch of crazy-ass guitar and vocal effects, with no other instrumentation)…but I might like the uniqueness of it more than I like the actual record, and I’m not sure that when I look back on the top ten NEXT year, that I’d still want this on the list.  But it’s definitely worth a listen, and I highly recommend it to Neil fans and fans of weird recording methods alike.

9. Squeeze – “Spot the Difference”

  • Ineligible because there is no NEW material on it, despite every song being a new recording.
  • Squeeze went into the studio with their NEW lineup and recorded (most of) their OLD hits.  It’s great.  It sounds just like the old versions (with some minor variations) and you might not even be able to “spot the difference” in the band now from what they used to be—hence the title.  If nothing else, it’s good to have those songs FINALLY up to a listenable volume level, and it’s always good to hear these tunes.  But, since it was basically them going into a studio and saying, “Let’s play those songs we wrote 20 years ago…I bet we get them right!” it just can’t make the list.  That’d be unfair to all the people who put out NEW songs this year.

10. Legendary Shack Shakers – “Agri-dustrial”

  • Just BARELY didn’t make the list.
  • If I hadn’t bought The Punch Brothers “Antifogmatic” this would’ve squeezed into the co-holder of the #10 spot.  As such, I could justify 11, but I couldn’t justify 12…which is a shame, and I almost regret it.  This is a really good record.  It’s fun.  In places, it’s spooky.  It’s funny, when it needs to be, dark when it doesn’t.  And it rocks.  My only criticism of it is the same criticism I have of every Shack Shakers record…I wish it was less “produced” and sounded more like they sound live…but I guess I’ll have to wait for (another) live record for that to happen.  Still, a GREAT release that I wish there had been room for on the top 10.

11. Willie Nelson – “Country Music”

  • Ineligible because it’s a covers record…
  • I almost had to break my “no covers” rule for this one.  It’s SO well done and sounds GREAT.  The only thing that kept it off the list is that I had so much NEW material to choose from that the “no covers” rule almost HAD to come into effect just to trim down the nominees.  But, if you want to hear country music how it SHOULD be done, pick this up TODAY.

And those are the ones that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.

I look forward to 2011’s releases, and I’m sure I’ll have lots of fun sharing my thoughts with you as the year goes by.  Hope the new year contains much for your playlist as well!

Oh…and also, check later tonight for TWO new podcasts on the “Empty Checking” blog.  I did one as a Christmas wrap-up, and one detailing the top 10 and also-rans in spoken word (with different stuff than what I wrote on the blog).  I’ve just got to upload the tracks, and they’ll be good to go.  Check around “Prime Time” for that.  🙂

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