Saturday, January 01, 2011

Teenage Dogs In Trouble's Top Recommended Albums From 2010

I shy away from using the term, "best of the year" because quite frankly I haven't heard enough music in 2010 to really give a qualified opinion and everyone has his or her idea of what they think the best should be. What I will offer is my list of recommended CD's that I felt deserve a mention and your attention. My criteria for this list is simple:
  • It must be released during 2010 (not previously released and then reissued or remastered etc.).
  • A CD I either have in my possession (physical) or I have on my computer/pod. In other words something I have listened to in it's entirety.
  • Something I would recommend to others because I like the music. Some of these are popular and on other "best of" lists, but they are personal favourites that I will listen to again and often.
  • There will not be anything that became popular because it became viral on Youtube or any "artists" with the names, Justin, Taylor or Gaga.
This year's list features many names familiar to TDIT regulars as I seem to write about what I like. I would love to hear what you think, so please leave your lists of recommendations for the past year. I'm trying something new and including a streaming of a song from each album, let me know if you have any problems with the player. If it works, I'll stream more music. I've also linked each artist to their Myspace page so you can listen to even more of their music before you buy their album...right?

1. SUPERCHUNK- Majesty Shredding: A terrific return to form for their first studio record since 2001. This is the classic sound I remember when I saw Superchunk back in 1997 and I think it's their best album since, Here's Where The Strings Come In or even, No Pocky To Kitty (that got the remastered re-release treatment this year), but that might be pushing it. Without a doubt my favourite record of the year.

2. ARCADE FIRE- The Suburbs: While the band's first two albums were achievements in themselves, The Suburbs pushes it even further. As big sounding as the band is live, The Suburbs is filled with grandiose splendor and many epic moments. The album has 16 songs and it loses a bit of it's stream towards the end, but it's still the masterpiece it's hyped up to be.

3. TEENAGE FANCLUB- Shadows: When I'm feeling down and need some cheering up, I like to put on headphones and crank up some Teenage Fanclub. Their music shimmers with a pop sound that is undeniably catchy and on Shadows, Teenage Fanclub delivers this infectious sound consistently throughout the album. Let's hope it doesn't take another 5 years for their next record.

4. SHE & HIM- Volume 2: Speaking of bright and shiny, She & Him (aka: Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward) offer up such a likable and fun record, I can't help but love it...the perfect summer album. Zooey's deadpan, often flat vocal style is nicely set in front of the lush orchestration and the retro-pop sound She & Him create is an excellent tribute to the music it's influenced by. An improvement over Volume 1, but will they follow up Volume 2 with something different or more of the same? Please Zooey come to Winnipeg (to sing, not act)!

5. STARS- The Five Ghosts: A saw the band two times in 2010 on tour for The Five Ghosts and after repeated listening of the album, it really grew on me or at least haunted a good way! I thought nothing could top their previous 2 albums, Set Yourself On Fire and In Our Bedroom, and I don't think this one does, but it comes close. A solid record that has a several songs that will be permanent fixtures in their setlists, but not as consistent as the last two.

6. CANDY HEARTS- Ripped Jeans & Silly Dreams: When I first heard the stand-out track, Blocking The Sunshine, on the blog, Music Ruined My Life, I was pleasantly surprised and had to hear more from this band. I downloaded their debut album on the website (for free!) and I was glad I did. This band and their album, Ripped Jeans & Silly Dreams is my best discovery of the year, a band I previously had never heard of and thanks to the worldwide web (it's much easier to spread your music around the world) I've become a big fan of this band from Purchase, NY. This is an enjoyable record that brings a smile to my face every time I listen to it and it's songs have a genuine honesty that the listener can relate to, set against a catchy, sometimes poppy wall of fuzzy guitars. Very promising, they're working on a new album, so hopefully we'll hear more from them in 2011.

7. SARAH HARMER- Oh Little Fire: I didn't actually own any Sarah Harmer albums (I do have her earlier band, Weeping Tile's albums) until after I heard her on CBC's Q back in June when she released her first album in 4 years, Oh Little Fire. She performed songs from the new record and though I had heard some music from Sarah Harmer, I really hadn't "listened" to her previous albums. What I heard on Q intrigued me, so I sought out this record and her other solo albums and planned to see her perform at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, thus beginning my love affair with Sarah Harmer. There's a much more pop sound to Oh Little Fire and much more accessible than her last record, I'm A Mountain.

8. THE FIGGS- The Man Who Fights Himself: Though The Figgs might be best known as the sometimes backing band for Graham Parker (and Tommy Stinson), they are a prolific band in their own right. Formed in 1987, The Figgs are sometimes overlooked and are very underrated and have never received the recognition they deserve. This is music that is rock' n 'roll at it's best, melodic and smart. This is the Figgs 10th studio full-length and though their first record, Low-Fi At Society High remains my favourite, I think they're getting better with age.

9. THE POSIES- Blood/Candy: This veteran Seattle power-pop band has a classic sound that recalls Big Star (both Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer played in a revived version of Big Star) and their distinct vocal harmonies are what set The Posies apart. This is a consistently good Posies record that proves their last album wasn't just a reunion record, since their supposed break-up in 1999 and there are many sweet moments to enjoy on Blood/Candy. I bought this directly from the band's website and it's the only album I bought on vinyl this year.

10. BEN FOLDS & NICK HORNBY- Lonely Avenue: I've never been much of a fan of Ben Folds, though I like him, but Nick Hornby is the author of my favourite book (and movie!), High Fidelity. I know Hornby is a huge music fan and his taste in music as evidenced in his book, Songbook is on track with my own. So what do you get when you combine these two creative forces together? Actually, it's not a bad record, it might not be everyone's tastes, but it definitely has it's moments and it's concept makes for an interesting and mainly enjoyable listen.

11. SUGAR STEMS- Sweet Sounds Of The Sugar Stems: Their name says it all, the music is built on sweet harmonies and infectous power-pop that will have you bopping along in no time. There's something about girl vocals and crunchy guitars that grab my attention and pull me in. What's not to like about this album? Highly recommended!

12. NEW PORNOGRAPHERS- Together: The title of this album is suitable because for the first time (in a long time), the New Pornographers toured this record together with the complete band complete with Neko Case and Dan Bejar and the record, more than their last album is more of a group effort. A satisfying effort, but with less stand-out tracks than their best records, though I think Crash Years is one of their best songs.

13. THE LIKE- Release Me: I stumbled on this album by accident, but once I heard the near authentic retro-pop sound with it's mid-60's vibe I was hooked. This record is a fun listen and the album cover is awesome! I like The Like!

14. BROKEN BELLS- Broken Bells
15. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE- Forgiveness Rock Album
Honourable mentions, both these records are critically acclaimed in both Canada and the U.S. and much has been written about them in the press already, so I think I'm done...happy listening!

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