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The CHIRP Blog

Mike Bennett writesMike Bennett’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Mike Bennett.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)

Since CHIRP went live this past January, I’ve been exposed to more great new music than ever. As a result, there are roughly 50 or so albums that I considered for this list, and many of them I never would have been exposed to had I not been doing a show on CHIRP. So much good stuff this year. These are my favorites:

  1. Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid (Atlantic)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This stunning debut album is a showcase for the multi-faceted talents of Ms. Monae. Not only is she an amazingly rangy and emotive singer, she effortlessly blends together many types of pop and R & B music on this album. Monae touches upon everything from Stevie Wonder to James Brown to Prince to torch singers to George Clinton and beyond, reaching back to move forward. This concept album is arty as hell, but it also had some of the catchiest and well-composed songs of the year.
  2. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Superchunk has never made a bad record, but in expanding their sound over the years, they brought the rock a lot less. Coming off a long hiatus, the band gets back to its reason for being -- tight melodic burst of power pop laced punk, with intelligent lyrics and passion to spare. This sounds like a bunch of songs designed either to open or close shows, playing almost like a greatest hits album.
  3. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Because he’s not as flashy as Andre 3000, folks may have overlooked the talents of Big Boi. His first true solo album (some may count Speakerboxxx) proves how he may have actually defined Outkast’s sound, embracing a wide array of funk and R & B sounds. His flow is as good as ever, and the variety of the music and plentiful hooks make this a joy.
  4. Jason & The Scorchers – Halcyon Times (Courageous Chicken)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The first Scorchers album in over a decade is perhaps a tad slicker than in band’s mid-’80s cowpunk glory days, but Jason Ringenberg is still a great hillbilly singer and Warner Hodges is a masterful guitarist, and the energy and spirit is there. Even better, they cooked up their best batch of songs since their debut album, with great lines like “tonight he’ll kill a six pack/just to watch it die.”
  5. The National – High Violet (4AD)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The essential National style did not change on this album. But they found a way to make their subtly anthemic rock sound even fuller without overwhelming their center, singer Matt Berninger. Combined with wise lyrics tackling adult themes, the band proves that you can be a grown up without making Dad Rock.
  6. Rose Elinor Dougall – Without Why (Scarlett)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    After making fizzy retro-’60s pop with The Pipettes, Dougall struck out on her own to make moodier music with a ‘60s flavor. The result is reminiscent of Nicole Atkins and Richard Hawley, but on a slightly smaller scale with equal emotional intensity.
  7. Judson Claiborne – Time and Temperature (La Société Expéditionnaire)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    This is one of those albums that sounds like it could have been made 40 years ago, yet it has a 2010 feel. Christopher Salveter’s folky constructions bridge the gap between The Band and Midlake, with his strong compositions benefiting from great arrangements and terrific production.
  8. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (4AD)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti -- Before Today (4AD): There are a lot of low and mid-fi artists, but most seem that way out of laziness. Not Ariel Pink. By marrying hazy production to R & B tinged pop hooks, he has created an alternative AM gold universe, where everything sounds like a quirky hit blasting through a transistor radio.
  9. Roky Erickson with Okkervil River – True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Roky still has that haunted, weathered voice and his concerns are primarily spiritual on this extremely resonant effort. Okkervil’s Will Sheff not only weeded through hundreds of Roky’s demos to come up with these dozen recordings, he and his band then found the right musical settings for every song.
  10. Jason Moran – Ten (Blue Note)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Moran follows in the tradition of great pianists like Thelonious Monk, but he’s never been afraid to experiment, incorporating hip-hop, blues, classical and other genres into his music. Never has he so expertly balanced his traditional and experimental sides, creating an album that is formally precise yet still romantic, playful and even a bit funky at times.


Honorable Mentions:
Rumer – Seasons Of My Soul
Adam Franklin & Bolts of Melody – I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years
Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago
Mose Allison – The Way Of The World
John Mellencamp – No Better Than This
Christian Scott – Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
The Bees – Every Step’s A Yes
Archie Bronson Outfit – Coconut
Kelley Stoltz – To Dreamers
The Streets On Fire – This Is Fancy

Best Live Show:
The Joy Formidable, Schubas

Five Novels You Should Read:
David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Chang-Rae Lee, The Surrendered
Jonathan Franzen, Freedom
Boris Akunin, He Lover Of Death
Adam Levin, The Instructions

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

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