Top Ten List Revisited: 2010

NOTE: I posted the revised 2009 list earlier today as well. I have some stuff I want to post leading into Christmas, so I’m posting two today and two tomorrow. If you don’t like it, get your own damn blog. Like you probably already did in 2006.

As we’re getting closer to the present, my main “top tens” are changing less and less. That’s partly because it’s so recent, but also I’ve become a more dedicated listener. I literally start my top ten lists in January every year now. I make a list at the start of the year of stuff I KNOW is coming out and leave room for growth through the year. I’m on top of it, so I’m missing less…though a few still slip by me, and I end up rethinking my order, if nothing else. And that’s pretty much what happened in 2010. Read the original post here, if you want…

 What I listed at the time:

  1. Shooter Jennings & Hierophant – Black Ribbons
  2. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
  3. Rufus Wainwright – All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu
  4. The Black Keys – Brothers
  5. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
  6. John Mellencamp – No Better Than This
  7. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat the Devil’s Tattoo
  8. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  9. Punch Brothers – Punch
  10. The Henry Clay People – Somewhere on the Golden Coast / Old 97s – The Grand Theatre Volume One

 REVISED Top Ten Records of 2009:

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1. Shooter Jennings & Hierophant – Black Ribbons

No change here. Recently listened to it and still think it’s just as good. Still unbelievably smart with a good story and great music. Shooter presents a world not too far in the future that could probably easily happen. It’s fun and frightening all at once. And Stephen King does a recurring voiceover on it. If you haven’t heard it, you should’ve listened to me when I told you to pick it up in 2010…so pick it up now!

Favorite Tracks: “Wake Up!,” “Everything Else is Illusion,” and “All of this Could Have Been Yours”

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2. Rufus Wainwright – All Days are Nights (Songs for Lulu)

This will probably stand as Rufus’ bravest project, if nothing else. It’s just him and his piano. No other instruments. He lays his songs bare to the world and puts his soul out there in every note. And I get lost in it. I forget that there aren’t other instruments there and the songs completely consume me. It’s a brilliant piece of work and if you’ve got a free hour and a Spotify account, it’s worth your time. (Then worth your money to buy a copy.)  Moved up to #2 in the revision.

Favorite Tracks: “Sad with What I Have,” “Give Me What I Want and Give it to Me Now!,” and “What Would I Ever Do with a Rose?”

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3. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever

This should stand as one of the better true rock records of its time. Soulful and slightly Southern fried, but still straight-up rock and roll. A truly great record from start to finish.

Favorite Tracks: “The Weekenders,” “We Can Get Together,” and “Barely Breathing”

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4. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do

I was unfair in my initial review of this record. I was still unfair by writing about it in the way I did when it hit my top ten list in 2010. Consistently referring to it as “not the best they’ve done” implies that it’s not worth buying even if it’s still good, since there’s better DBT records out there. In truth, this record is a perfectly good jumping-on point for the uninitiated, and has plenty to keep the long-time fans happy. It makes ME happy. And it’s moved up the list, over time.

Favorite Tracks: “The Fourth Night of My Drinking,” “Drag the Lake Charlie,” “Get Downtown,” and “After the Scene Dies”

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5. The Black Keys – Brothers

I’m starting to sour on The Black Keys here in the year 2013…just because, yeah I liked this one and the one after it…but what else have you got for me besides the one note? But… That one note is a HELL of a good note. “Brothers” took the world by storm, and rightly so. It’s a great rock record that has plenty of throw-back while still moving forward. It’s a great listen and deserves every bit of acclaim it receives.

Favorite Tracks: “Next Girl,” “The Only One,” “Sinister Kid,” and “Unknown Brother”

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6. Elvis Costello – National Ransom

There’s Elvis again. National Ransom is the rock and roll answer to its acousticy predecessor. More in the vein of “The Delivery Man,” which is the first Costello record I fell in love with on its own. (I’d had greatest hits compilations leading up to that…but “The Delivery Man” made me a real fan.) This is one of the stronger albums Costello has made in the current decade, and it’s a welcome add to any fan of the bespectacled, dark genius.

Favorite Tracks: “National Ransom,” “A Slow Drag with Josephine,” “That’s Not the Part of Him You’re Leaving”

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7. John Mellencamp – No Better Than This

Recorded in classic locations with classic equipment, this record sounds like it fell out of another time. And I welcome that… It sounds like it came from when rock and roll was simpler and grounded in the dirt. Mellencamp delivered something special on this one.

Favorite Tracks: “Save Some Time to Dream,” “No One Cares About Me,” and “Don’t Forget About Me”

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8. Old 97s – The Grand Theatre Volume One

Move up to being an entry all its own. I don’t think I’d listened to it enough when I originally made the list, because I found myself thinking, “How is that TIED for #10??” Definitely always belonged higher up the list. So now it is.

Favorite Tracks: “Every Night is Friday Night (Without You),” “The Magician,” “Champaign, Illinois,” and “Please Hold on While the Train is Moving”

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9. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat the Devil’s Tattoo

I have no idea what the album title or song from whence it sprang is about…but this is a good, gritty, greasy rock record. Plenty to grab on to, and all from a three-piece. Great guitar work mixes with bass fluidity you might miss if you’re not a bass player. I bought in on the first listen and I still play it pretty regularly.

Favorite Tracks: “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” and “Shadow’s Keeper”

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10. The Henry Clay People – Somewhere on the Golden Coast

I love the slightly-punky jangle these guys make. A fun record that seems to zoom right by every time. Combines energy, angst, and fun in a way that you don’t hear out of a lot of bands these days. Always a great listen.

Favorite Tracks: “Nobody Taught Us To Quit,” “Working Part Time,” and “This Ain’t a Scene”

 Honorable Mentions:

  • Johnny Cash – American VI
  • Coheed & Cambria – Year of the Black Rainbow
  • Circa Survive – Blue Sky Noise
  • Antony and the Johnsons – Swanlights (came SO close to making the list!)
  • Punch Brothers – Antifogmatic
  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Which I was torn about removing. Still a really, really great record, and if I go this again in a few years, I may move it back up.)
  • Iron Maiden – The Final Frontier
  • …and the stuff that was in the original post, if any of it’s missing…

Look for 2011 and 2012 tomorrow! We’re so close to the present, you can almost HEAR the Tardis powering down!

Top Ten List Revisited: 2009

NOTE: I’m doing TWO posts today and two tomorrow, because I want to post my top ten of 2013 by Christmas, and I’ve got a post I always post on Christmas Eve that I don’t want to skip just to keep these things together. So make sure you read them both! Or don’t. I don’t know how it works with you.

I like my 2009 list. LIKE it. But what with that magnificent bastard hindsight, I don’t LOVE it. There’s some good stuff there, but clearly by the end, I just went, “…annnnnnd, I don’t know…Cheap Trick.” On further listens, my initial feelings on Mastodon’s “Crack the Skye” aren’t as strong anymore. It’s still a good record, and still on the revised list–but it’s not #1. They were a breath of fresh air in a metal-scene that largely sucked, and I stand by it being a good record, but I’m nowhere near it being my record of the year for that year anymore. 2009 was a great year for music, and I made some good choices…but it was SUCH a good year that I just plain missed a few things and badly ordered some others. I think the big problem is that a lot of the records I bought in 2009 were “growers” and they just hadn’t grown on me yet. (That and I was just unaware of a few things.) You can read my original post here, but here’s the breakdown of what I listed then and what I’m listing now.

 What I listed at the time:

  1. Mastodon – “Crack the Skye”
  2. Wilco – “Wilco (the album)”
  3. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – “The Century of Self”
  4. The Reverend Horton Heat – “Laughin’ & Cryin’”
  5. Patterson Hood – “Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)”
  6. Bruce Springsteen – “Working on a Dream”
  7. Elvis Costello – “Secret, Profane & Sugarcane”
  8. Them Crooked Vultures – “Them Crooked Vultures”
  9. Pearl Jam – “Backspacer”
  10. Cheap Trick – “The Latest”

REVISED Top Ten Records of 2009:

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1. U2 – No Line on the Horizon

I can’t believe I didn’t even MENTION this record in my post. I can’t believe I didn’t buy it at the time, that I thought, “…really? …U2? …still?” and I didn’t even give it a chance. Mea culpa. A thousand times, mea culpa. This is quite probably U2’s finest work. It is at one somber and joyous. “Moment of Surrender” alone makes one feel completely isolated and afraid, while also making one realize none of us is ever alone in this thing. It deserved to be my record of the year that year, and I didn’t even LISTEN to it. We all make mistakes, and that was one of mine. My brother listed it as his #1 at the time, and I thought he was crazy. Time makes fools of us all.

Favorite Tracks: “Magnificent,” “Moment of Surrender,” and “Breathe”

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2. Pearl Jam – Backspacer

At the time I stated that I was hoping for more out of this record… What more could I POSSIBLY have been looking for? This is one of the all-time GREAT Pearl Jam records. Might be the best one since Vitaolgy. I don’t know how I missed it at the time. I don’t think there’s a single miss on the record. I guess I just wasn’t in the right mood when I made the list or something. What an oversight! (It was on the list, but it was down WAY too low.)

Favorite Tracks: “Johnny Guitar,” “Just Breathe,” and “Amongst the Waves”

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3. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

What can I say? I was late to the party on Mumford & Sons. I have no excuse except that I knew a bunch of people who loved it and based on what I knew of their musical tastes, I assumed I’d hate it. (That happens a lot.) Then I saw them on an episode of Austin City Limits and realized I’d been an idiot. You know all of the reasons this is a great album, so I won’t bother re-stating them.

Favorite Tracks: “The Cave,” “White Blank Page,” “Little Lion Man,” and “Awake My Soul”

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4. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – The Century of Self

Trail of Dead is one of my favorite bands that’s working today. Every time they put out a new record, I get excited because I know it’s going to be something I’ve never heard before. It’s going to be strange, but still great rock music, and for about 45-60 minutes, I’m going to enjoy walking around in whatever specific world they’ve decided to create this time. The world of “The Century of Self” is almost overwhelming. Phil Spector coined the term “Wall of Sound” to describe his recording concept…well Trail of Dead created the Wall of NOISE. (They don’t call it that, but it’s apt.) It’s heavy (without becoming metal) and overpowering from the first note. Excellent listen. No idea why these guys aren’t more recognized by the type of fan who loves Coheed & Cambria and Circa Survive…that’s a good fit. In fact, any of those three bands is a great gateway into the other two–and maybe throw Billy Talent in there too…but I digress…as always…  (Side note: That entire album cover was drawn by the band’s frontman with a blue PEN.  Yeah.)

Favorite Tracks: “Isis Unveiled,” “Halcyon Days,” and “Fields of Coal”

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5. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)

This album is perfectly named. It’s the most Wilco record Wilco has ever made. It’s a solid rock record that doesn’t lose its folky roots. Catchy and yet off the beaten path. Worth a listen every time. Not a lot else to say about it.

Favorite Tracks: “Wilco (The Song),” “One Wing,” “Bull Black Nova,” and “I’ll Fight”

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6. Reverend Horton Heat – Laughin’ and Cryin’

This is the country/rockabilly record Heat fans had been looking for for a long while. Heat’s offerings in recent years had felt kind of half-assed or just throw-aways–I mean, when you’re not a household name, why the fuck would you do a CHRISTMAS record??? But “Laughin’ and Cryin'” hit just right. The band did the ballsiest thing I’ve seen this type of act do and played a mostly country set in support of this record while sandwiched between Nashville Pussy and Motorhead. That act alone gets this one listed. The fact that it’s also got some great songs on it is just gravy. 🙂

Favorite Tracks: “Drinkin’ and Smokin’ Cigarettes,” “Death Metal Guys,” “Please Don’t Take the Baby to the Liquor Store,” and “Crazy Ex-Boyfriend”

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7. Elvis Costello – Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane

A recurring theme in my Top Ten Lists in this part of the 2000s seems to be Elvis Costello. He writes so much music and so much of it is excellent that it’s almost a no-brainer. “Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane” is a wonderful record. Recorded on all acoustic instruments the songs are stripped down to their simple, lyrical genius. It’s four years later, and this record still sees my player fairly regularly.

Favorite Tracks: “Down Among The Wines And Spirits,” “I Dreamed Of My Old Lover,” and “Sulphur To Sugarcane”

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8. Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream

The Boss delivered again. Classic E Street sound that felt completely familiar, without just being a rehash. A natural outflow of the “Magic” record that preceded it, but with plenty of its own flavor to offer. And some of the last recordings that we’d ever get from The Big Man, Clarence Clemons. Great record.

Favorite Tracks: “My Lucky Day,” “This Life,” and “Surprise, Surprise”

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9. Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light

I don’t recall exactly when I first heard the beautiful, haunting voice of Antony Hegarty, but I know it was because of Lou Reed, who frequently worked with Antony as one of his background singers. I don’t know how to describe Antony’s music… All that comes to mind it “transcendent.” I connect with his art on a level I don’t even fully understand and I am baffled by the fact that more people don’t know who he is. “The Crying Light” doesn’t have my favorite of his songs on it, but it has some really amazing ones. It’s a sad and wonderful record, and I’m disappointed that it took me so long to find it. I wish I’d known about Antony and the Johnsons since the very start…but at least I have them now. So should you.

Favorite Tracks: “Epilepsy is Dancing,” “Kiss My Name,” and “The Crying Light”

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10. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

I already said all I needed to about this one in the intro to the post… It sunk to #10 because I’ve seriously gotten back into metal since its release and…well…Mastodon is a great band, but they have become kind of a “gateway” band for those who want to get into metal but don’t know where to look. And that’s okay. And we NEED that. And that doesn’t make this NOT a great record…but in hindsight (there’s that word again) it just should’ve been at #10 rather than #1. Hey…there’s still a 1 in it, right?

Favorite Tracks: “Oblivion,” “The Czar” and “Crack the Skye”

Honorable Mentions:

  • Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)
  • Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
  • Cheap Trick – The Latest
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  • Billy Talent – III
  • Lamb of God – Wrath
  • Frank Turner – Poetry of the Dead
  • …and the other stuff in the original post.

2010 coming up shortly…