>Albums of 2010

>Well I’m watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation so it must be almost Christmas. As is the spirit it seems only right I give you my ten albums of the year two thousand and ten. You can enjoy a selection of tracks from these albums on the following Spotify playlist Albums of 2010 (listenwithdanger.blogspot.com). You can also download a selection of tracks from this list, and other standouts from 2010, using the following link http://rapidshare.com/files/438527450/Listen_with_Danger_2010_Best.zip. Here goes…

10. The Lady Killer by Cee Lo Green

Check out if you enjoy: Prince, Michael Jackson, Outkast

Good because: A welcome slice of funk in a year heavy on melancholy.

Even better if: If this was limited to the best ten tracks it could’ve been a real contender for #1 spot.

Stand out track: Bright Lights Bigger City

9. Interpretting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates by The Bird and The Bee

Check out if you enjoy: Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, Rilo Kiley
Good because: Impossible to keep still to, rightly places pop melody at the core of dance music.
Even better if: Some tracks seem to end a little weakly with a rushed fade out so greater attention to closing the deal would be well received.
Stand out track: Heard It On The Radio

8. If Shacking Up Is All You Want To Do by The Roadside Graves 

Check out if you enjoy: Ray Lamontagne, Gomez, Bruce Springsteen
Good because: Simple, rootsy whisky soaked tales of America. The Dude would like this.
Even better if: It was five tracks shorter, quantity over quality leaves the album a little bloated.
Stand out track: The History of Lilies

7. Nice, Nice, Very Nice by Dan Mangan

Check out if you enjoy: Willy Mason, Ray Lamontagne,
Good because: shows a tremendous flair for infectious choruses.
Even better if: Showed a little more variation, follows a similar template throughout
Stand out track: Sold

6. God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise by Ray Lamontagne and The Pariah Dogs

Check out if you enjoy: Otis Redding, Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival

Good because: Strikes a nice balance between the majesty of Ray’s voice on slower numbers and rootsy, uptempo stomps.

Even better if: It may well be that some tracks are slow burners but there does feel like a trio of fillers lurk on this record.
Stand out track: Are we really through?

5. Tiger Suit by KT Tunstall

Check out if you enjoy: Kings of Leon, Beck, Willy Mason

Good because: Shows a progression on previous albums with a willingness to experiment whilst still delivering classic songwriting.

Even better if: A predictable result of an experimental approach is that the album doesn’t hold together.
Stand out track: Golden Frames

4. High Violet by The National

Check out if you enjoy: Wilco, Interpol, Editors

Good because: A vocal seemingly born to haunt the foreboding, paranoid tone of this album gives Berninger the chance to provide his finest performance to date.

Even better if: The first half of the album (opener apart) is lacking in pace and results in an already slow burning album taking far too long to ignite.

Stand out track: Bloodbuzz Ohio

3. Broken Bells by Broken Bells



Check out if you enjoy: The Shins, Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz

Good because: An unlikely collaboration between two of the most innovative interesting characters around could easily fall a little flat under weight of expectation – this doesn’t.

Even better if: In a way it is so consistently good it can wash over you, it lacks a stand out track which hooks in your consciousness. A very harsh criticism admittedly.
Stand out track: The Mall and The Misery (hard to choose – see above)

2. I Speak Because I Can by Laura Marling



Check out if you enjoy: Johnny Flynn, Mumford and Sons, Joni Mitchell
Good because: Proves immune to trends and contextual influence, could have been written in any era.
Even better if: Hard to criticise anything but would hope for some variation on future releases.
Stand out track: Darkness Descends

1. The Head and The Heart by The Head and The Heart

Check out if you enjoy: Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes, Laura Marling

Good because: Beautiful heartfelt collection of classic song writing. Incredibly simple but utterly magical.

Even better if: It was longer! It goes against everything I believe in but leaves me demanding more!

Stand out track: Down in the Valley

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>Come worship at the Church of Dylan.

>I could blog about the great Robert Zimmerman all day but I don’t have all day so instead have a few choice versions of his songs. Enjoy.

Marianne Faithfull covers Visions of Johanna

>Ladies’ Night

>Friday night:

I’m sat here after a long week, enjoying the absolutely fantastic KT Tunstall album ‘Tiger Suit’.

This is my third listen to the new album and the highest praise I can give it is it just made ironing shirts actually bearable. In all seriousness this is a far better album than I was expecting – Tunstall is established as a talented song-writer but what truly surprises on this album is her confidence to use this as a base for experimentation. I have read the album described as taking a dance-oriented direction; ‘nature techno’ apparently. At times undoubtedly there is a hint of Pet Shop Boys (Lost) but it is misleading and frankly unfair to dismiss Tiger Suit as some kind of pet dance project. I found myself making links to Kings of Leon and even INXS on occasion yet the country, acoustic staple of Tunstall still has plenty of input. A huge amount of credit must go to Jim Abbiss the producer (of Arctic Monkeys and Editors debut album fame) who matches Tunstall’s ambition and delivers a glorious, fuller sound that raises the bar. It is honestly one of the best albums I have heard this year and urge you all to buy it.

Eight out of Ten.

Saturday morning

So given my eulogising over KT it seems only right that I look to sort of meet Turner’s request for a focus on the greatest female singer-songwriter. I say sort-of because quite frankly I don’t feel able or particularly inclined to make that decision. It would lead me down a well trodden path of mining history and most likely ending up in a face off between Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell. Instead I’m going to pick out a handful of female artists I rate highly, tell you why and let you see/hear a bit of them in action:

Bjork

Probably my favourite of the lot, an artist guaranteed to divide opinion. I liked Bjork right from the first time I saw her as a young whippersnapper finding her incredibly interesting and unconventionally highly attractive. I accept that physical appearance shouldn’t come into views on a musical artist but as a hormone driven teenager it was a major factor. I even bought Echobelly and Elastica albums in the futile hope that in some way this might push me closer to my britpop dream romance. Anyway I digress; the majesty of Bjork is that she has always sought to challenge the conventional without ever losing sight of the fundamentals of crafting a song. Her greatest asset of course is her voice and this never more evident than on her interpretations of classic Icelandic folk music like the gorgeous Gling-Glo. Her finest work for me has to be Hyperballad – the way the ominous music builds the tension and perfectly matches the imagery of the lyrics before unleasing a hit of pure emotion is simply glorious. Bjork also bears similarity with Ryan Adams and Gnarls Barkley in her flat refusal to simply reproduce the album mix in live performance, instead experimenting with new approaches often infusing different cultures.

Jenny Lewis

Unlike Bjork, Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley has yet really to become more well known as a solo artist as in her work with a band. However I genuinely think it is only a matter of time. I really like Rilo Kiley but since the fantastic More Adventurous the solo projects of Lewis have been far more interesting and memorable than anything produced as a band. The most notable, and in my view most enjoyable, off shoot has been her gospel tinged collaboration with The Watson Twins. The style of music really suited Lewis’ songwriting style as it laid bare her vocal and gave her lyrics a new clarity which highlighted her gift for story-telling. Although dramatically different in musical direction her writing style reminds me of Richmond Fontaine in the way she creates a scenario that feels too real to be fiction.  Her other solo work includes the lively Americana ‘Acid tongue’ of which Elvis Costello was a contributor. For me undoubtedly her finest moment is the majestic ‘Rise up with fists’ which is one of the finest songs of the last decade.

Cathy Davey

You would be forgiven for thinking ‘who?’ Back in the days of being a carefree student going to gigs on my Leeds doorstep I went to see ‘Thirteen Senses’ and Davey was the support act. Talk about hitting the jackpot – she was absolutely mesmeric as she effortless switched between sultry and veangeful showing off a repertoire of songs which made a mockery of only having released one EP at that point. She has since produced three albums – the best of which in my view being her debut Something Ilk. The pounding drums which open the barnstorming Come Over are an unmistakeable declaration of intent and would be a worthy pick of the bunch were it not for the brilliant ‘Cold Man’s Nightmare’ which is the closest anyone has come to explaining the infuriating case of lovely girl being treated like shit yet staying around. Davey’s voice is remarkable without being overpowering and this is beautifully showcased in the clip I found of her covering Arthur Hamilton’s Cry Me a River. It is criminal she hasn’t received the levels of press that the equally brilliant Laura Marling has enjoyed.

I could happily go on with this all day but alas duties call. I could for example have waxed lyrical about the unexpected excellence of the debut album of Natalie Imbruglia (seriously!), the sensual brilliance of Melody Gardot, or the brash anarchic joy of MIA. However I will leave you with three performances from three magnificent, enduring female performers:

And this one is specifically for Mr Turner…

>A great week for music

>It’s a pretty damn exciting time for music at the moment – a lovely mix of finding brilliant albums I never knew existed and anticipating exciting new releases from artists I already love. This week see’s the release of the new album from the massively under-rated KT Tunstall. KT will always be dear to me for forming a part of the soundtrack to my road trip across South Africa a few years back. Like many people my first glimpse of KT came with her performance on Jools Holland which absolutely blew me away. 

Another new release I’m excited about is Jimmy Eat World returning with Invented. At the risk of repeating myself they are a hugely underrated band who are capable of both truly beautiful fragile and visceral, energetic music. Chase this Light was gloriously pop and I secretly hope for more of the same although it would be nice to get a Hear You Me or Drugs or Me on this album as there wasn’t anything comparable on the last record. To get in the mood here is a great video of them performing in the studio from the Bleed American sessions and just for sheer nostalgic joy Salt Sweat Sugar on Letterman:

This was also the week that I embarrassingly only just found out that the finest voice in music Ray LaMontagne had released a new album last month with a backing band called The Pariah Dogs. I actually only found out thanks to the single ‘Repo Man’ being played on the brilliant Minnesota radio station The Current that I have been listening too a lot online. ‘God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise’ will probably receive the full blog treatment before long so I won’t say much except that I am far from disappointed. I’ve added a live performance below of Repo Man and the sumptuous Can I Stay? which had the honour of being second dance at my wedding. I’m sure Ray views that as his greatest achievement!

I’ve also had the pleasure of discovering a couple of artists I wasn’t familiar with; Clem Snide and Matt Costa. All credit has to go for the peerless Heather Browne at fuel friends blog who continues to enrich my musical palette with every post. Costa has a new album out this year ‘Mobile Chateau’ which is a soulful, sixties tinged album which showcases his impressive knack of matching catchy hooks with inciteful lyrics. Mobile Chateau is his first venture into self-production and importantly features a drummer called Corey Gash which is to be applauded. Similarly Clem Snide had not previously entered into my consciousness despite a large back catalogue. It is one of life’s great pleasures to find an artist you enjoy only to discover they have hours of material to enjoy. The band’s seventh studio album ‘The Meat of Life’ is a great slice of alt-country which I heartily recommend. Enjoy the videos below (the Clem Snide track needs forwarding to 1m 35s).

All that leaves is for three quick observations and an excuse for a couple more videos. I drove back from the in-laws on Sunday and listened to Whatever, and ever, amen for the first time in a while and I think it deserves to be considered one of the finest albums of all time. Ben Folds is a genius. Secondly on my cycle in the Autumn sunshine yesterday I listened to Reservoir by Fanfarlo again and can’t believe they aren’t absolutely huge. Fans of Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Mumford & Sons and The National really should check them out if they haven’t already as they deserve a bigger following. Finally in a seamless link I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful friend who picked me up a ticket to go an see The National in Brixton on November 29th. I will make it my first live review blog and am really rather excited.

Enjoy your week everyone (well all five or six of you!)

ps – If you have enjoyed this or have some constructive advice it would be most kind of you to leave a comment. x