Friday, December 10, 2010

Casual Friday: 2010 Album of the Year

I hinted a few days ago that I had decided to write about my nominations (and winner) for 2010 Album of the Year. The albums that made the final cut were not necessarily released in 2010, but I discovered them this year and are thus 2010 releases to me. I've never reviewed music, nor have I ever even read a review of an album, so I'm winging it here. Of course, that is kind of my point with the Casual Friday posts: to write about things I know little or nothing about. I know what music sounds good to me, though, so that's what I'm going by. (And seriously, isn't that what the pros are doing with reviews anyway?)

First, the nominations for the Holy Land Peace 2010 Album of the Year:

The Black Keys: Brothers (2010)
I love the Black Keys for a number of reason: 1.) they play rough jam-band rock like it's their God-given mission; 2.) they're from Akron, Ohio - not too far from where I grew up; and 3.) They release a new CD featuring great rock and roll just about every year. This year they treated listeners to the slightly more quirky, slightly more pop-inspired album Brothers. It's predominantly full of the great sounding guitar-driven rock tracks that have defined the Black Keys but has a few interesting "pop-ier" songs thrown in for variety, like the single "Tighten Up." The vocals are catchy and the guitars thick and crunchy, like rock and roll should be. Though a couple songs are easily forgettable and you could easily be excused for believing the entire album only had a few 15 minute songs rather than the 13 tracks the album boasts, it's still greater than the sum of its parts. It's a another solid CD by the Black Keys

Best Songs: "She's Long Gone", "Tighten Up", "10 Cent Pistol", "Howlin' For You"

Marcy Playground: Leaving Wonderland in a Fit of Rage (2009)
Yes, you remember right; these are the "Sex and Candy" guys from a decade ago. Their newest album, released last year, was one of my top listened to of this year. That's a testament to not only the variety available on Leaving Wonderland but the strength of just about every one of the dozen songs on the CD. This is a great album for listening to just about anywhere, while doing just about anything, and being in just about any mood. The vocals are strong and the hooks catchy, but there's absolutely no backup vocals at any point. Most of the songs are upbeat acoustic guitar-driven tracks that blend perfectly with the quirky lyrics. Although I very rarely drive, Leaving Wonderland has a semi-permanent presence in my car. It's the perfect driving album.

Best Songs: "I Must Have Been Dreaming", "Good Times", "Gin and Money"

Goo Goo Dolls: Something For the Rest of Us (2010)
The Goo Goo Dolls have been making music together for just about as long as I've been alive, and their sound has changed immensely, from hardcore punk-metal in the late 80s, to grunge rock through the early 90s, mainstream alt rock in the later half of the 90s, and then firmly planted itself in the adult alternative genre. The album itself is enjoyable, though nothing special. Most of the songs are sadly, thoroughly forgettable and despite criticism of their last CD "Let Love In" for being over produced, Something For the Rest of Us doesn't address that short coming. Lead singer Johnny Rzeznik seems to have swung and missed on the catchy hooks he's known for. The music is pretty bland, aside from a few gems like "Say You're Free" and "One Night". It's a far cry from the great music of A Boy Named Goo and the catchy vocals of Dizzy Up the Girl. The band has always been terrific live, but their last couple studio albums seem to be lacking of a little musical passion. If you love the gravel-gargling vocals of bassist Robby Takac (and I certainly do) then "Say You're Free" is the song to check out.

Best Songs: "Home", "Say You're Free", "Soldier"

Kristin Diable: Shelter (2005)
Kristin Diable is an almost unknown singer/songwriter based in New Orleans and her lack of commercial success and widespread musical popularity should be a damn crime. Her (as far as I can tell) first album was Shelter followed in 2009 by Extended Play which is a spectacular CD. I just found out about Shelter this year so that's why I've included it with my 2010 Best Album nominees. Kristin Diable plays great jazz/blues-inspired music with great variety between tracks, thoughtful lyrics, strong soulful vocals, twangy guitars, and a overwhelming upbeat sound. Kristin Diable's voice is top-notch. She avoids the "breathy" quality of far too many female vocalists and belts out the words with passion and force. The album has everything from a slow (and rather forgettable) piano ballad in "Circumstance" to a fast, guitar-heavy rock jam in "Black Plague & Dynamite." Along the way there's the acoustic-driven and mellow "Redemption's Son" and the full of soul "Sister Sadie." Being a fan of Norah Jones, I find Kristin Diable to be an upgrade of Norah, with grit, soul, and a hankering for great guitar riffs.

Best Songs: "Black Plague and Dynamite", "Where Do You Sleep", "Sister Sadie"

So with the nominees in, the award for 2010 Album of the Year, as presented by Holy Land Peace, goes to:

Kristin Diable's Shelter! Yeah, it's kind of a stolen victory considering I'm awarding 2010 Album of the Year to an album that came out in 2005, but that's the liberty you get to take when you write a blog. I'm sure she'll be happy to be featured on a blog that has a picture of the leader of Hamas not far under her.

Got an album you think I should hear? Leave your recommendations in the comments!

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