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Best of 2010: Music December 22, 2010

Posted by David Card in Media.
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It’s the time of year for Top Ten lists. I won’t bother apologizing.

I bought a little less music this year than last: about 50 albums and EPs, no singles, almost exclusively digital downloads this year. The Virgin Megastore closed. And I buy from Amazon, not Apple. Amazon’s cheaper and ships a higher bitrate MP3. That’s not to say I don’t do all my playing back on a Mac or iPod or iPhone, and manage my collection in that horrid spreadsheet of a music software app, iTunes.

My purchase mix was about 60/40 new versus back catalog, and I bought a little more jazz and a lot more Americana/roots than last year. I ripped a handful of other people’s CDs, but some of those I bought as gifts. I’m still way above the average American in music spending, even though the stuff I bought ranged in price between free, $3.99 and $5 (thank you, Amazon promotions) and $12-$13. Accent on the cheap stuff.

My favorite new albums of the year, in rough order were:

Best Albums of 2010

  • Titus Andronicus “The Monitor” – as if Springsteen were punk, channeled the Pogues, and did a concept album on the Civil War
  • Surfer Blood “Astro Coast” – lo-fi Beach Boys
  • Paul Weller “Wake up the Nation” – way more eclectic and lively than his recent post-Jam stuff
  • Various artists “Crazy Heart Soundtrack” – the actors actually sing borderline – but not quite – parody country songs very well
  • The Walkmen “Lisbon” – melancholy suits a sad year
  • John Mellencamp “No Better than This” – convincingly rootsy
  • Swans “My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky” – outright dirge
  • Neil Young “Le Noise” – old hippie sounds very modern
  • David Byrne & Fatboy Slim “Here Lies Love” – yeah, it’s a disco musical about Imelda Marcos, deal with it
  • Grinderman “Grinderman 2” – does Nick Cave get hornier the older he gets?

I liked another aging punk, former Sleater Kinney singer Corin Tucker’s “1,000 Years,” another soundtrack, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross doing “The Social Network,” New Orleans funk from Galactic (“Yo-Ka-May”), the collaborative headed by Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse (“Dark Night of the Soul”), another collaboration featuring The Chieftans and Ry Cooder and others (“San Patricio” Latino-Irish!). I was disappointed by the latest from Elvis Costello, the National, M.I.A., the Thermals, the Dead Weather, and Killing Joke.

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Best of 2009: Music January 13, 2010

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech, Media.
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It may not be in time for Christmas, but here’s my “best of” list. You’ve been warned.

I didn’t make as many new discoveries this year as last, but for some reason, I bought a lot more. Probably had something to do with getting a new Mac with more disk space, and even more to do with Amazon’s $5 album sales.

I bought about 65 albums (and only a few singles), for prices ranging between $1.99 and $11 or $12. My mix was about 40% new versus back catalog – same as last year –¬†and only 15% physical versus digital. My total spending and digital changeover rates are way above that of the normal American. Count me among the 15% or so of US adults that Jupiter calls “aficionados” – heavy spenders ($300) and active in digital music activities. And now, in no particular order:

Best Albums of 2009

  • Girls “Album” – Eclectic alternative hit-machine
  • The Decemberists “Hazards of Love” – Prog-rock concept album
  • Wilco “Wilco” – A little mellow but very catchy
  • Phoenix “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” – French hipster pop
  • Tegan and Sara “Sainthood” – Canadian post-feminist pop
  • Ben Harper “White Lies for Dark Times” – (Mostly) rockin’ blues
  • U2 “No Line on the Horizon” – Not a bad comeback for the nth time
  • Dead Weather “Horehound” – Indie super-group
  • Muse “The Resistance” – Picking up the mantle of…Queen?
  • Japandroids “Post-Nothing” – Fierce

I almost squeezed in We Were Promised Jetpacks’ “These Four Walls” – how could you not love that name? – but they’re a little too much like Frightened Rabbit wannabes OD-ing on U2. Chuck Prophet’s “Let Freedom Ring” is also a great rootsy effort. And dear god, I am turning indie, aren’t I?