Top Ten 2010

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10) Crash Karma, Crash Karma: When it was first announced that vocalist Edwin (Ex-I Mother Earth), guitarist Mike Turner (Ex-Our Lady Peace) and drummer Jeff Burrows (Ex-Tea Party) were all deceived by bassist Amir Epstein (Ex-Zygote) to join the Can-Rock manifestation Crash Karma; I swear, there was an audible snicker from critics, radio programmers and rock fans alike. Well, don’t we look foolish? After several successful tours and two top-ten singles, Crash Karma (against all odds) have easily put out the best Alternative Rock album of 2010.  Best part is, these guys are just warming up. Choice Cuts: “Like A Wave”, “Man I Used To Be” & “Lost” (E1 Entertainment)

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9) Sheli Stevens, Come Home: Sheli Steven’s debut album still comes as quite a surprise. Even after repeated listens this little pop gem continues to reveal new sounds buried deep beneath delicate layers of organic melodies; while Steven’s tongue-in-cheek storytelling and soothing vocals tantalize the soul. As I said in my initial review: “Come Home is a reminder of a time when pop music was created by hopeful strums on an acoustic guitar”. Who wouldn’t want to come home to that? Choice Cuts: “Since I Let You Go”, “Into The Black” & “Where Does It Go” (Mighty Music)

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8) Badly Drawn Boy, It’s What I’m Thinking (Part One: Photographing Snowflakes): Damon Gough’s (Badly Drawn Boy) seventh is a subdued affair drenched in melancholy reverb throughout, but, at the heart of the record are his words. As the title suggests, BDB is pondering intimate life changing events – both big and small – and these conversational pieces will remind you of 2004’s One Plus One Is One. Musically, Photographing Snowflakes is a beautiful display of 70’s folk disguised with movie scored orchestration and BDB’s deft studio trickery. Choice Cuts: “Too Many Miracles”, “The Order Of Things” & “This Electric” (The End Records)

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7) John Mellencamp, No Better Than This: There is a lot to love about this record. First off, it was recorded at three different historical sites: The First African Baptist Church in Savannah Georgia, the legendary Sun Studios and room 414 at The Gunter Hotel (where Robert Johnson first recorded). Another thing to love; No Better Than This was recorded in mono (one mic) to an Ampex 601, 1/4 inch tape without any overdubs or mixing. This all leads to Mellancamp capturing the Americana catalog from Rockabilly, Country Soul, and Gospel with simple songs that tug at the heart. Producer, T Bone Burnett said it best, “This is a haunted record”. Choice Cuts: “Thinking About You”, “Each Day Of Sorrow” & “Right Behind Me” (Rounder Records)


6) Kid Cudi, Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr.Rager:
2010’s most challenging listen belongs to Kid Cudi’s intense and dark follow-up. Man On The Moon II, finds Cudi dealing with fame in not the best of ways – a downward spiral into drugs. It’s a fascinating listen that has no genre barriers taking on old-school hip-hop jives, skeletal electronic beats, 70’s psychedelic rhythms and wavering melodies soundtrack-ed for a graphic novel. Yeah, Cudi is having some problems right now and I admire his courage of airing his dirty laundry in the public eye. This is the kind of artist you should root for: troubled, cleaver and bold. Choice Cuts: “Marijuana”, “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young” & “Maniac” (Universal/Motown)

5) Scott Dunbar: Philosophies Of A Moth Vol.3: Two Years To Live: No Canadian artist pushed the boundaries lyrically has hard as Scott Dunbar did in 2010. Sure, he didn’t become a breakout success, but I assure you he has changed the views (or made them think differently) of many people who watched him play on street corners during their lunch break or maybe late at night they caught something about 9/11 being an inside job as they drank a pint of beer at the local pub. Regardless of your views about the various subjects Dunbar tackles, what this heavy-hitting folkster did capture was the chronicles of a traveling vagabond across the beautiful Canadian landscape. There isn’t anything purer than that, beautiful stuff Dunbar. Choice Cuts: “Tuning Fork”, “Matching Mohawks”& “Ain’t Mama” (Independent)

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4) Gail Pettis, Here In The Moment: Best Jazz record of the year goes to Gail Pettis’ classy Here In The Moment. This was a record that found its way into my life: it was there during the good and hard times of 2010 and it will become a lifetime favourite. Straight from my review: “For someone who ran a successful orthodontics business for nearly two decades, Seattle-based jazz singer Gail Pettis sure can swing. Only on her second release, Pettis bebops her way though a wide range of emotions and skilled melodic paraphrasing that some jazz singers have taken decades to realize. Even though, Here In The Moment is a collection of jazz standards it is Pettis’ unique interpretations that make it such a wonder to hear.” Thank you Pettis for capturing 2010. Choice Cuts: “I Thought Of You”, “Night And Day” & “In The Still Of The Night” (OA2 Records)

3) Boats, Cannonballs, Cannonballs: Easily, my favourite indie-pop record of the year is from hometown heroes, Boats. The band is over-the-top fun and their animated experimentation’s are only intensified in a live setting. Besides Mat Klachefsky’s freaky high register, the bands mix of retro keyboard sounds, comic sing-along harmonies and midway audio freak-outs are helping in carving out their own niche on the national scene. The only way to describe how much I love Cannonballs, Cannonballs, is that it has been spinning on my headphones all year and it always leaves a smile permanently plastered on my face. Choice Cuts: “T.V. Scientist”, “Summercamp vs The Fake Moustache Tree” & “Our Athletic Friends” (Majestic Triumph Records)

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2) The Roots, How I Got Over: Along with working nights as Jimmy Fallon’s house band, The Roots found time for an extensive North American summer tour, release a solid collaboration in John Legend’s Wake Up! and put out their own masterpiece. I have always considered The Roots as The People’s Band, reflecting the times better than any other. Throughout the Bush years, The Roots got darker and edgier (Game Theory & Rising Down). However, in the wake of President Obama’s election, How I Got Over, (albeit still a moody affair) there now appears glints of hope beneath the shadows. Black Thought still rages about economies, world disasters and the streets but, this time around, it’s a meditative introspection with superb cameos from Monsters of Folk, Joanna Newsom, John Legend, STS, P.O.R.N. and Dice Raw. As a collective, the album ebbs and flows musically from electro-tinged gospels, neo-soul grooves, funk busters and drum machine clubbers; The Roots cover a lot of ground here and with the band finally in the spotlight there’s nowhere to go but up. Choice Cuts: “Dear God 2.0”, “Radio Daze”, “How I Got Over” & “Web 20/20” (Def Jam Recordings)

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1) Foxy Shazam, Foxy Shazam: The one band that captured my imagination this year was Foxy Shazam’s ferocious take on 70′s Rock ballads, Glam Rock, and Soul.  Mix those genres up with classical piano and horn arrangements and what you get is stadium rock for indie snobs. Don’t worry, these arrangements are not of the whimsical scale they add to band’s already extremely loud and raucous persona. Opening track “Bomb’s Away” is introduced by a harmonizing pack of wild dogs before Eric Nally’s enormous screech takes the band back the The L.A. strip. If Queen started today they would have written “Wanna Be Angel”, “Unstoppable” and “Second Floor” – all these tracks are pure rock anthems ready to take on the world. “Bye Bye Symphony” starts off like a Guns N’ Roses ballad and has the ridiculous chorus, “Life is a bitch, but she’s totally do able”. While “Connect” is a lost Micheal Jackson track with a full church choir, beat-boxing, and plenty “woos” and “ah-has” thrown in for good measure. I know there are a lot of comparisons going around here, but Foxy Shazam have the ambition and talent to take these old sounds to new heights. At the end of the day, Foxy Shazam was the one record that went everywhere with me. Laundry day? SHAZAM School? SHAZAM! Work? SHAZAM!! You get the idea. (Sire Records)


Posted on December 29, 2010, in Top Tens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. intriguing list. will definitely check some of these out. thanks for posting.

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