Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Adventures In 2010: Top 30 Albums [#30-21]
Well, here we are again. Another year down, and another moment of reflection. Glitter in the air. Yay. 2010 was hit n' miss for me, personally and musically. Yet, when it hit, there really were some great and original moments, a lot that truly got me through his hellish year. As I start rushing 2011's arrival, let's look back at my favorites from 2010, because---you know you want to. Starting with albums and songs #30-21 today, for the rest of the week, I'll be counting down the remainder of my picks for 2010. So hold on to your fedoras, Adventurers, you're in for a bumpy ride!
Nothing - N*E*R*D
Nothing is really for people who hate the Black Eyed Peas. It's for people who want to put on some music to dance a fool too and not feel they swimming in a joke of commercializing gimmicks. What? You didn't notice? Nothing wants to be a pop dance floor filler album, with cryptic repetitive lyrics and body shaking to the ground grooves, then it doesn't. It's a more refined in it's approach that makes it differentiate from the pack, and still all the fun is intact in an effort to not make your insides churn. "Party People" could easily be mishandled in other hands, but with Pharrell & Co. driving it, it's a smattering of trumpets and house party jump starters of old. The Daft Punk produced, "Hypnotize U" is the focal point with it's dry ice drift of a come-on. It's not as perfect as the mis-understood Seeing Sounds, but it grooves along greatly that you don't really notice that.
Notable Tracks: Party People (ft. T.I.), Perfect Defect, Sacred Temple, Hot N' Fun (ft. Nelly Furtado), Hypnotize U, Nothing On You
Strip Me - Natasha Bedingfield (Review)
It's the confidence that Natasha Bedingfield exudes that makes listens like Strip Me, enjoyable. It's infectious and you can't knock infectious especially when tunes like "Touch" and the title track robustly come in. Whilst it's not Natasha's best album by a long shot, there are moments that make her technically third album still a favorite for those who have been keeping tabs on Natasha since she sang "These Words". Like I mentioned in my review, Strip Me, plainly shows that Bedingfield hasn't become cripple to the times, and remains true to herself throughout the whole project. Refreshing it is.
Notable Tracks: Break Thru, Weightless, All I Need (ft. Kevin Rudolf), Touch, Neon Lights
Doo-Wops & Hooligans - Bruno Mars (Review)
2010 prompted the arrival of Mars. While his jets were sort of cooled after an arrest (the initiation of any 'serious' star in training, I guess), he still didn't let that stop him from releasing his debut effort and making a big splash into the pool of crooning R&B cats. Sort of picking up what Justin Timberlake abandoned, and blending the best of two music worlds (soul and pop) with better conviction than his peers, Doo-Wops & Hooligans is just the first chapter for Mars' career. His debut single, "Just The Way You Are" embodies pure old fashioned chivalry and "Grenade" was just too good for anyone to be sour about. Even though Doo-Wops plays likes a letter you hopelessly wrote to a high school crush, at least Mars is the one man out there not afraid or childish to admit his feelings and that is refreshing to hear in the mainstream market.
Notable Tracks: Grenade, Just The Way You Are, Talking To The Moon, The Other Side
Kings Ballad - Georgia Anne Muldrow
Ms. Muldrow is probably the hardest working woman in underground soul right now that you just don't know about. She has a bevy of albums, as she even dropped three long players just this year, and she's been around giving boost to the likes of Erykah Badu and Mos Def for years. So when will she get her dues paid to her? Who knows? All I know is that Kings Ballad, her first release of this year, is another eyebrow raiser in Muldrow's cannon of work. Oh, and it's all self-produced, so you know that this is a labor of love. It follows in the same vein of Afro-centric neo spirited incense spiral soul that has Muldrow being lauded as the grittier older sister of Badu. Still, once you hear her haunting homage to the late Michael Jackson in the title track and other exercises like the squishy "Thatch" and "Doobie Down", you'll wonder why you were in such a deep sleep over her.
Notable Tracks: Doobie Down, Kings Ballad, Can't Stand Yo Love, Thatch, Summer Love, Thrones
We Are Born - Sia
So what if Sia won the Pepsi Challenge and got out her boogie shoes? Change in style is what keeps an artist from becoming stale bread in a box. Opinions are still split down in the middle about this album, considering that Sia is dishing out some disco heat ("You've Changed") and taking on spunky indie pop ("The Co-Dependent"), but the snark and bite of Sia's attitude are still intact. I will admit that some of the edges of Sia are sandpapered down, which takes a bit away from what made previous albums like Colour In The Small One so stellar. But hearing pep talks like "Clap Your Hands" and having her sound more Christina Aguliera than Xtina herself did on her Bionic project ("Be Good To Me") shows that change is a good thing in Sia's case.
Notable Tracks: You've Changed, Clap Your Hands, Be Good To Me, I'm In Here, The Fight, The Co-Dependent
Walking With The Night - Adriana Evans
The only thing that is missing from this album is a complimentary glass of wine as a chaser. Everything else is in place. All the sophistication. All the cerebral feelings of nighttime in the city. The comfort of being around good company and the neon lights. All of that is stored into a relaxing combo plate of Jazz tones and meticulous old school Soul readings. Walking With The Night is Adriana at her most ladylike and if you so choose to, close your eyes and you can probably picture the Bay Area vocalist seduce a microphone with her alto drawl on stage. Adriana's fourth quarter really does have a personality all of its own and it is her finest hour.
Notable Tracks: Midnight, Love Me On The One, Sooner Or Later, Weatherman, Walking With The Night
Good Things - Aloe Blacc
Like Adriana Evans' Walking With The Night, Good Things and Aloe Blacc came late into my world, but it still managed to make a stellar impression enough to zip it's way onto my favorites this year. As far as soul men go, I have to be seriously impressed, like first date impressed. You don't have to do hand-stands or juggle under water, but you have to really execute a song vocally and be a damn man about it. That's all I ask. Aloe delivered this attitude with his sophomore and breakthrough set and it's one of the few testosterone shots I received all year. "I Need A Dollar" brought us in, while his cover of Velvet Revolver's "Femme Fatale" took us in for the kill. There are more 'good things' though, as the album takes us into simple wailin' Southern soul territory this side of Al Green ("Loving You Is Killing Me") and Bill Withers ("Green Lights"), where it doesn't feel like Aloe's reading verbatim, but delivering a nice homage.
Notable Tracks: Femme Fatale, Miss Fortune, Loving You Is Killing Me, You Make Me Smile, I Need A Dollar
Compass - Jamie Lidell
Compass reminds me of my closet. There's just a lot of stuff in there, clothes, a bookcase, some boxes, suitcases...you name it, just random things, but cohesively they are in their place in one shell of a room. As weird as that sounds, this album, in the best way, is like my cluttered closet. Varying agendas in that somehow combine together in a seamless ramshackle entity. Compass is the rawest product that Mr. Lidell has derived, it's dirty and scruffy, and it really brings out some much needed gut bucket soul and low-fi funk that is produced to sound like a completely different album each listen. It's Prince in parts ("I Wanna Be Your Telephone"), and then there's something Sly Stone there as well ("It's A Kiss"), but that's alright, because Jamie pulls it all off, without even batting an eye.
Notable Tracks: It's A Kiss, She Needs Me, I Wanna Be Your Telephone, Your Sweet Boom, This Ring, Completely Exposed
Night Work - Scissor Sisters
There is nothing "ass end" about Night Work, Scissor Sisters' third project, no matter what the album cover projects. Taking some sequins and sweat from late-1970's Donna Summer, Blondie, and Boney M, Scissor Sisters concocted a sleek, stylish, and insanely fun party album, one that lets you sort of live vicariously through all of their New York club scene-ness. Producer Stuart Price, who was kept busy this year with Kylie Minogue, Brandon Flowers and Duffy's prospective projects, pumped up the sheen and the Sisters are too hot to trot. You'll stay for the workout known as "Any Which Way" and the torchy Elton John inspired, "Fire With Fire", but really invest the album as a whole when "Invisible Light" kicks in. It's the pièce de résistance that pulls this album all together in it's final moments--and what a finale it is.
Notable Tracks: Invisible Light, Any Which Way, Night Work, Whole New Way, Fire With Fire, Skin This Cat
The Sea - Corinne Bailey Rae (Review)
The heart on sleeve is intricately sewn into the fabric of The Sea, Corinne's second album, making it one of this year's most confessional of releases. After overcoming the sudden death of her husband, Rae took to craft an album that allows her to wander through her feelings, and she does so through webs of lyrics and varying levels of musical arrangements. As the album title aptly states she goes into dark corners ("Diving Hearts", "Are You Here") then emerges to light ("Closer", "Paris Nights/New York Mornings"), and then ebbs back. It's not the easiest of albums to consume, considering it's tender to the touch and it can seem a bit plodding due to it's quiet tread. Still, it's beauty rests in how Corinne presents her emotions in a raw package, something that takes a lot of guts for a musician to reveal and is tough to realize as a listener.
Notable Tracks: Closer, The Blackest Lily, Paris Nights/New York Mornings, Diving For Hearts