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* Favorite Vocal Albums of 2010 *

29th Dec 10 (Wed) 7 comments

Disclaimer: No, I haven’t heard all 8,000+albums released this year. I’ve heard about 120 of them, which makes me at least 98.5% likely to be wrong. I make no claims to objectivity. These albums are my favorites from 2010. You might think that the one you’ve heard that I haven’t heard is the best album of 2010. And you might be right. And, I while I generally agree with John Roderick about Year-End Lists, I still find it quite fun to compile my own.

I’ve been buying less music… or, at least a lot less mainstream (major label) music. This is also my third year now that I bought more instrumental CDs than vocal CDs. I think as I get older, I am drawn more towards jazz and other instrumental forms of expression. For that reason, the favorite vocal albums list goes first this go ’round. Hopefully my spilling out of music that I like finds interest with someone else. But if not, thanks for stopping by… check out the artists’ webpages, SpaceBook & MyFace pages, yadda yadda yadda. A lot of these also made it on to my 2010 Mix CD.

OK, now on to the best of what’s hit my ears this year…

Honorable Mentions: Finger Eleven‘s Life Turns Electric, Gnashing of Teeth‘s Walking the Appian Way, Kaki King‘s Junior, Kim Taylor‘s Little Miracle (out late Dec ’09 digitally), and That1Guy & the Magic Pipe‘s Packs A Wallop!

The WeepiesBe My Thrill (Nettwerk) :: Lush singer-songwriter husband/wife duo from Northern California. Syrup-y sweet & poppy, but regardless of my penchant normally against those types of things – The Weepies do it up right. A superb piece of well-crafted pop.
Chali 2NaFish Market Part 2 (Decon) :: Another great solo outing from my favorite rapper from Jurassic 5. This is Chali’s 3rd solo album, and while the sound and vibe hasn’t changed much – his consistency is most what I like about him. Hard hitting, booming voice, witting lyricism, and generally moving into more positive territory (he’s not a “bitches and hoes”-type of rapper).
Caedmon’s CallRaising the Dead (INO) :: I’ve been a fan of Caedmon’s Call for going on fifteen years. I’ve stuck with them through some (personal opinion) lackluster lyricism after the departure of my favorite Caedmon’s songwriter – Derek Webb. He came back to produce and be in the band for this one; and quite frankly, I think this is their best record since 40 Acres. Lyrically, it still has a religious bent; but being in a minority of “non-Christian Caedmon’s Call fans,” I still didn’t find it cringe-worthy like most “contemporary Christian music.”
RedbirdLive at Café Carpe (Signature Sounds) :: Peter Mulvey, Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst and David “Goody” Goodrich put out a great studio album of covers and originals in 2003. At the recent Mulvey/Foucault live shows this fall, they announced this new release. This new release is the live equivalent of the debut seven years ago (but different material) – a great mix of covers of people that influenced them, as well as a few of their own originals. Vocal duties split between Mulvey, Foucault & Delmhorst. I hope they are able to tour behind this in 2011.
Ty TaborSomething’s Coming (Molken) :: I’m a big fan of King’s X. As a trio, they put out a wall of sound, and a big component of their brilliance is Ty Tabor’s stellar guitar-work. His solo work also features his Beatles-esque vocals on top of his southern-grungy-rock sound. 2010 also saw the release of Ty’s Trip Magnet side solo project, Jelly Jam’s Additives bonus material, and the studio time with Jelly Jam (with John Myung & Rod Morgenstein) for their upcoming 3rd record. Whew, he’s been busy.
Ben Folds & Nick HornbyLonely Avenue (Nonesuch) :: I’m ambivalent about Ben Folds. I never know if I’ll like it; so I put off getting it. Then I get it and love it. This record was a collaboration between Ben and author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, etc). The lyrics are a little jumpier to me (Nick’s style versus Ben’s style), but it still feels very much like a Ben Folds record. They also feature a bonus song (iTunes version) with “video song” heroes Pomplamoose.
Jeanne CherhalCharade (Barclay FR) :: I first heard Jeanne Cherhal when we picked up her second album (Douze fois par an) when in Toulouse, France, for my MBA program in 2004. Only available in France, I’ve managed to get her albums via Amazon.fr (good thing the buttons are in roughly the same spot). I still don’t know what she’s saying, but I dig her style.
S (Jenn Ghetto)I’m Not As Good At It As You (Own Records) :: Carissa’s Wierd [sic] front woman promised this 3rd ‘S’ record back in… oh, 2007?? It was worth the wait. Haunting lyrics and vocals, simple yet complex acoustic guitar (that hearkens back to Elliott Smith). Bright emo and depressing pop music. Carissa’s Wierd also put out a retrospective (with a couple new tunes) and a small handful of West coast dates. Who knows – maybe they’ll get active again in the near future? I could dig it…
Greydon SquareThe Kardashev Scale (self) :: A little more mature in lyricism compared to The CPT Theorem. Perhaps it’s due to putting some of the ‘Rational Response Squad’ fighting behind him. Greydon, the foremost atheist rapper, made his 3rd record into what I think to be his most consistent. It’s solid, smart and superlative-worthy.
Damien JuradoSaint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian) :: I got into Damien Jurado via the Seattle-based melancholy, indie singer-songwriter scene (i.e.- Pedro the Lion / David Bazan). While similar in general geography and friendship, Damien strikes me as more of a pure “songwriter” when compared to David’s social critique set to music. Saint Bartlett fits well into Damien’s oeuvre. At a show this past February (6 months before the album came out), I hardly knew any of the songs but felt as though I did. That’s a testament to his craft.
ClogsThe Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland) :: I first saw Clogs at MusicNow 2007 (in Cincinnati). Padma Newsome and Bryce Dessner (of The National) know how to make some interesting chamber pop. The album (as with the live premiere in 2007) features Sufjan Stevens and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond). It’s quite a lush record – as the title suggests.
Sufjan StevensAll Delighted People (Asthmatic Kitty) :: Two albums in 2010, Sufjan’s 50+ minute “EP” hit us first. Beautiful and haunting in “The Owl and the Tanager” and primarily experimental and adventurous throughout, especially compared to his older material. Originally only released online via bandcamp, the EP saw physical form (CD & vinyl) earlier this month. I’m bummed Sufjan nixed future “State” albums, but I’m still glad with his 2010 output.
George HrabTrebuchet (self) :: George Hrab creates one of my favorite podcasts ever… the Geologic Podcast. It’s not about geology. It’s about science, skepticism, and his general life as a musician from Bethlehem, PA. He is both humorous and intelligent, and he puts out great albums as well. Trebuchet is his 6th studio album, and it features some great instrumental songs as well as some witty numbers fitting his skeptical, atheistic viewpoint. One of my favorite songs on it is “A Small Comfort,” which is about the death of his dog Oscar. I also give George some kudos for kicking off his album with the Christopher Hitchens’ inspired “God Is Not Great” (an atheist pop song). Bravo!
Damien & Drake JuradoHoquiam (St. Ives) :: Short and sweet and beautiful. My only gripe with this record… well, it wasn’t made available on CD, and the vinyl didn’t include a free download code for the mp3’s. Industry standard practice aside, the Jurado brothers put out some fantastic music. I borrowed a vinyl-to-mp3 device from my friend; so I could enjoy it on my iPod as well. So, my gripes have been abated.
ElleryThis Isn’t Over Yet (Set Adrift) :: Ellery is one of my favorite things in Cincinnati… I miss being able to see them multiple times a year (sad face). Husband/wife duo of Justin & Tasha Golden craft singer-songwriter pop songs… usually layered nicely on their albums with the help of producer, knob-twiddler Ric Hordinski (of Over the Rhine fame). This album, they switched it up with Malcolm Burn at the helm (Daniel Lanois / Bob Dylan / Iggy Pop / Kaki King / Emmylou Harris / etc).
Nellie McKayHome Sweet Mobile Home (Verve) :: Nellie McKay’s move to Verve (instead of Sony) has been good for her. They seem to give her free reign to put out Doris Day cover albums one year and an album of originals the next. HSMH is a return to the quirky, diverse collection of songs that drove me to fall in love with her. The album is full of Nellie’s modern piano jazz-pop, ukulele ditties, and even a pro-animal reggae tune. The album has grown on me nicely, and I’m looking forward to more Nellie in the near future. She seems to be in a period of prolificity as of late. This is greatly welcomed.
JónsiGo (XL) :: Sigur Rós-frontman’s debut solo album was going to be an acoustic affair, and then it turned into a lushly produced, Rós-ian opus with a multimedia firestorm of a tour (two U.S. legs with stunning stage design by 59 Productions). Jónsi is superbly brilliant and and ambivalently hyper-sensitively shy individual (ex. his abrupt cancellation of in-store performance tour) and boisterous-acting performer (ex. his magnificent stageshow). This album makes me excited for more solo work in the future, but I hope his day job with Sigur Rós is not on hold for too much longer.
Sarah Kirkland Snider & Shara WordenPenelope (New Amsterdam) :: Chamber pop featuring Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) is a theme this year (see #10). Quite frankly, I think Shara Worden has one of the best voices in indie rock. Period. Sarah Kirkland Snider is a new musical force for me… she originally wrote Penelope as music for a theater piece and then debuted it as a song cycle with Signal in May 2009. When Shara came aboard, Sarah revised and expanded the songs yet again, tailoring them to Shara’s talents and arranging them for a 25-person orchestra of strings, harp, percussion, drums, electric guitar and bass, and electronics (with sound design by Michael Hammond). It is gorgeous.
Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty) :: His second album of the year, The Age of Adz is a odd musical assembly. At first I didn’t know what to think of it, then I started to like it, and then after seeing him live – I truly loved the album. For those previously familiar with Sufjan, this album may not fit easily in with his prior albums – but I think if you have an open mind and a desire to explore, you may very well fall in love with this record as well.
Mike PattonMondo Cane (Ipecac) :: Mike Patton of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, Fantômas, et cetera is known for more boisterous, left of center fare. With Mondo Cane, he classes up the joint that is Ipecac Records. Mondo Cane, named after the film, is Mike’s homage to 50s Italian pop songs. He croons some classic Italian songs with the backing of the Orchestra Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini conducted by Aldo Sisillo. The artwork, in both CD digipack and vinyl, is stupendous. This is a magnificent record – both aurally and visually.

Top 20 instrumental albums coming up later this week…

My Other Favorites of 2010 Recaps:

~Dan – np: Kevin MooreShine

Greydon Square – The Kardashev Scale

15th Aug 10 (Sun) Leave a comment

About two years after The CPT Theorem, atheist rapper Greydon Square comes roaring back with his third opus… The Kardashev Scale.  I ordered the CD and got the digital immediately for free.  If you only want the digital, it’s priced right at only $8.99.  It’s excellent – gonna be in my best of 2010 list!

http://greydonsquare.bandcamp.com/

“Its title comes from the Russian Scientist, Nikolai Kardashev, who in 1963 Kardashev upon examining cosmos came up with the idea that some galactic civilizations would be perhaps millions or billions of years ahead of us, and created the Kardashev classification scheme to rank such civilizations. With the Kardashev Scale, Greydon employs creative samples from respected astrophysicists like Michio Kaku and Carl Sagan, a feature track with Canibus, and 19 new songs to add to his expanding catalogue of music.”

~Dan – np: Greydon SquareThe Kardashev Scale

Greydon Square, Ani DiFranco & Steven Wilson

7th Aug 08 (Thu) 2 comments

Atheist rapper Greydon Square comes back strong on his latest album, The CPT Theorem. This is his third album, though his debut (Absolute from 2004) is long out-of-print… so it’s only the 2nd album of his that I am lucky to own. His album The Compton Effect was one of my favorite albums in 2007. This album branches out more beyond the primarily atheist lyrics, more about his life and other topics (to some extent). I’m on my 2nd time through, and I’m diggin’ it. Fav track thus far… “Cubed.” The album is on some internet stores, specifically iTunes. Give it a listen… as well as his last one (The Compton Effect), too…

In non-atheist rap news, Ani DiFranco‘s got a new song posted to her MyScpae page*. The song is called “Smiling Underneath.” I dig its more “band-oriented” sound. Her new (20th studio) album, Red Letter Year, comes out on 9/30/08.

Yep, 20 albums in, what, 18-19 years?!  Crazy… but I dig just about all of ‘em.

Regarding Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson, of whom I posted a news bit 2 weeks or so ago, there’s a YouTube trailer for his upcoming solo album, Insurgentes:

Coming up this weekend for me… King’s X and Extreme playing on the same stage. Woot! How’s that for diverse music in one post: atheist rap, hipster folk, progressive rock, the founders of grunge, and a hair band. :)

~Dan – np: JudeCuba

*- MyScpae is a new networking site for people who can’t tuckin’ fype.

* Favorite VOCAL Albums of 2007 *

6th Feb 08 (Wed) Leave a comment

My Other Favorites of 2007 Recaps:
Fav Concerts of ’07 are recapped *HERE*
Fav Local / Vinyl / Internet-Only / Podcasts of ’07 are *HERE*
Fav EPs / Compilations / Music DVDs of ’07 are *HERE*
Fav Instrumental Albums of ’07 are *HERE*

Favorite Vocal Albums of 2007
1) Silverchair Young Modern – Daniel Johns, leader of Silverchair, is one of my rock heroes. On Young Modern, he and the boys didn’t disappoint. This album is a continuation of the feel from Diorama, but perhaps more cohesive. Diorama was fantastic (A++), but this one seems less disjointed. Best album of the year, by far.

http://www.chairpage.com/
http://www.myspace.com/silverchair

2) Radiohead In Rainbows – This is a quintessential Radiohead album. Check out my track-by-track review HERE.

http://www.radiohead.com/
http://www.myspace.com/radiohead

3) Elliott Smith New Moon – I had many of the songs on this double-CD already from the demo stockpile on the internets, but this collection also had many new tunes from my favorite long lost songwriter. His death affected me more than any other “celebrity.” His words really cut through, and I’m glad that his unreleased music still made its way out.

http://www.sweetadeline.net
http://www.myspace.com/elliottsmithnewmoon

4) Ken Andrews Secrets of the Lost Satellite – Another rock hero of mine… I got into Ken Andrews via Chroma Key (Ken’s 1st On record was highly talked about by CK’s Kevin Moore, or Kevin was touring with Ken). Anyway, this newest solo album is a bit like On but also a bit like Failure & Year of the Rabbit. You can’t go wrong in my book, Ken. Some great hooky hardrock.

http://www.kenandrews.com/
http://www.myspace.com/kenandrews

5) Puscifer V is for Vagina – Another Maynard James Keenan side project. His main band (Tool) is still my favorite of his artistic outlets, but Puscifer has a really good vibe. Poor choice in album title (in my opinion), but I realize that it’s a stand against censorship (which I support.. meaning I support the stand against, not the actual censorship). Alas, the packaging for this album wins the Best Packaging Award for 2007. It’s built like an emergency airline pamphlet… and it’s quite hilarious. Kudos, Maynard!

http://www.puscifer.com/
http://www.myspace.com/censorshipisacancer

6) Iron & Wine The Shepherd’s Dog – Hush-toned singer-songwriter tour de force. Gritty and witty, subtle brutally honest lyrics. Nice story telling…

http://www.ironandwine.com/
http://www.myspace.com/ironandwine

7) Dug Pinnick (of king’s X) – Strum Sum Up – I love Dug/Doug. This is by far his best album. Great songs, and the extended jams are exciting, too (I kinda was disappointed when I first heard of the idea, but loved it once I heard the music). Wally Farkas (of the Galactic Cowboys) and Hal Sparks helped out on this record.

http://www.dugpinnick.com/
http://www.myspace.com/dugpinnickpoundhound

8 ) Michael Kelsey The Way It Rolls – Michael Kelsey gets added to the list of things I’m sad about moving away from Ohio. Michael Kelsey (not from Ohio, but neighboring Indiana) is a fucking Midwestern U.S. musical TREASURE. His records are always great, but his live show is one of legend. He blows your mind, the mind of the guy next to you, and the mind of the lady in the parking lot paying the meter… all with 6 strings and 37 fingers. I mean, the way he plays, he has to have 37 fingers. Doesn’t he?

http://www.michaelkelsey.com/
http://www.myspace.com/michaelkelseymusic

9) Wussy Left For Dead – Best local CD (Cincinnati, OH) for me in 2007. Lisa and Chuck are a great songwriting team. I dig both of their vocals, and the band knows how to kick it! Great rock and a well-produced sophomore record!

http://www.wussymusic.com/
http://www.myspace.com/therealwussy

10) Nellie McKay Obligatory Villagers – Quirky, cute, brilliant songstress and obfuscator of journalists. Short and sweet third record. We got to see her this year in Eugene (concert review) this year. Fantastic show!! She rarely disappoints. I hope to hear more of her music now that she’s out of the clutches of Columbia/Sony/Artist Screwers Int’l.

http://www.nelliemckay.com/
http://www.myspace.com/prettylittlehead

11) Tegan and Sara The Con – Great indie pop rock record from this twin sister songwriting duo. This is their 5th record (by my count), and they truly get better with age.

http://www.teganandsara.com/
http://www.myspace.com/teganandsara

12) Abigail’s Ghost Selling Insincerity – For fans of Porcupine Tree… get this album now. It did for me what Steven Wilson didn’t do for me this year… get to 12 on my list. ;) Don’t worry, Steven Wilson continually impresses, too. Regardless, Abigail’s Ghost is right up a PT fan’s alley — lush progressive rock without the spandex, frizzy hair and crotch-too-tight falsetto.

http://www.abigailsghost.com/
http://www.myspace.com/abigailsghost

13) Blackfield Blackfield II – Ok, Steven Wilson made it to 13. I got to see Blackfield in NYC this year (concert review). Aviv Geffen and Steven Wilson have a great chemistry. Blackfield II continues on the path laid out by BF I.

http://www.blackfield.org/
http://www.myspace.com/blackfield

14) Eisley Combinations – A harder-edged Sixpence None the Richer, perhaps. This five-piece band of siblings astonishes me. Mainly because if I could never be in a functioning band with my 3 other siblings. Add another… fahgetaboutit. Eisley brings great vocal harmonies and a rocky edge to what might have otherwise been sugary pop. Kudos on the sophomore album! I dig it.

http://www.eisley.com/
http://www.myspace.com/eisley

15) Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – You may have heard some of their songs on the radio. Dave Grohl and Co know how to rock and grab you with a hook. That’s all I can say.

http://www.foofighters.com/
http://www.myspace.com/foofighters

16) Megadeth United Abominations – Chunka chunka chunnk. I’m glad Dave Mustaine is back at it. Sometimes cheesy lyrically, usually brutal and fun listen, though. A+.

http://www.megadeth.com/
http://www.myspace.com/megadeth

17) Dream Theater Systematic Chaos – Complex and more rewarding after each listen.

http://www.dreamtheater.net/
http://www.myspace.com/dreamtheater

18 ) Crunchy Loserville – Monty Colvin (of the Galactic Cowboys) knows how to write a good pop-punk song about being an outcast. Some may say that’s his downfall. Oh, but what a sweet downfall… or… er… resulting record. His 3rd record under the Crunchy moniker… it’s a welcome addition to my collection of Colvin art (I also own one of his paintings… he’s a superb painter, yo!).

http://www.montycolvin.com/
http://www.myspace.com/montycolvin

19) Finger Eleven Them vs. You vs. Me – I had no idea that “Paralyzer” was big this year. Just shows you how much I know about radio (I haven’t purposefully listened in going on 20 years). Anyway, I’ve been a big fan of F11 since Tip (late 90s), and I’m glad that their last two records have been solid consistent hard rock… with vocals that I love.

http://www.fingereleven.com/
http://www.myspace.com/fingereleven

20) Over the Rhine The Trumpet Child – Well, I got “fired” by the band for being a “bad fan.” It was equal parts embarrassing, and equal parts rewarding. Alas, I still liked this record enough to crack the Top 20. “If a Song Could be President” (while quaint in lyric) is one of the worst songs ever for me (way too country for me), but “Don’t Wait For Tom” makes up for it. Totally fun track… and a solid record overall. Oh, and, Karin… sorry for being a bad fan. I still like ya.

http://www.overthewhine.com/
http://www.myspace.com/overthewhine

21) Greydon Square The Compton Effect – Great rap style with free-thinking atheist lyrics too boot. Infectious rhythms and vocals. I hope his follow-up this coming year tops it. :-) I also hopes he catches on more and can tour more beyond skeptical/atheist conferences to which I can’t afford to travel.

http://www.greydonsquare.com/
http://www.myspace.com/greydonsquare

22) Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam) – Into the Wild – Got this for xmas from my brother (and sis-in-law). Fantastic short set by Eddie. I really need to see this movie, too… it’s from a book that I actually read. :P

http://www.pearljam.com
http://www.myspace.com/intothewildmovie

23) Tori Amos American Doll Posse – Solid album by pop’s bad girl. I think her many personas are getting tiring (see, I’m a “bad fan” of more than just Over the Rhine), but she still brings her A game for 95% of this CD. I wish I’d have seen her on her latest tour, too… I heard it was killer.

http://www.toriamos.com/
http://www.myspace.com/toriamos

24) Porcupine Tree Fear of a Blank Planet – Their material on the Nil Recurring -EP- should have made its way onto this record. Great stuff nonetheless… it grows on me, slower than prior PT work, but solid songs nonetheless.

http://www.porcupinetree.com/
http://www.myspace.com/porcupinetree

25) Tomahawk Anonymous – Mike Patton and Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard) on Native American sourced rock songs. Not as all over the place like prior Tomahawk records… which is unfortunately missed. Alas, Mike and Duane still bring it, and over up a wonderful take on traditional tribal melodies.

http://www.ipecac.com/
http://www.myspace.com/tomahawkofficial

honorable mentions:
Coheed and CambriaGood Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV – Volume Two: No World For Tomorrow / That1Guy and the Magic PipeThe Moon is Disgusting / La Mar Enfortuna (aka Elysian Fields) – Conviviencia / OzomatliDon’t Mess With the Dragon / My Brightest DiamondTear It Down (remixes)

myspace/coheedandcambriamyspace/that1guymyspace/lamarenfortunamyspace/ozomatlimyspace/mybrightestdiamond

That’s it for my 2007 lists… whew… next year it’ll take less time to do (hopefully)…

~Dan – np: George HrabInterrobang

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