Top 10 CDs of 2010

Well, sometimes I like to laugh at myself and to be honest, there is a lot to laugh about.  So I’m having a little chuckle here, because I just wrote a post about how I haven’t written a post in a while and how I was probably going to do a Top CDs of 2010 blog and here I am.  Clockwork.  It’s good to know that I know myself fairly well.  It’s comforting.

I wish I had felt like listening to more music in 2010, but I just didn’t.  I found myself going through a lot of my old stuff and just listening to it over and over (there will probably be a post about that at some point down the road…maybe even a Top 10 list on it).

That being said, there sure were some really solid releases in 2010.  I don’t know if I can remember a year in recent history when there were so many quality hip hop releases.  There have been some good hip hop CDs in the past few years, but there haven’t been many times when I can remember being able to put a few of them back to back without wondering if there were better things out there.  That’s not to say that this Top 10 is going to be all hip hop, but you’ll see what I mean.

So as I said in a previous post, I don’t think I listened to enough stuff in 2010 to make a complete Top 10 list.  I have gone back and forth, running all of these different albums through my head and in the end I figure, yeah, I think I have listened to enough stuff to make a list…and if I haven’t, well then I guess I will just have a skewed list.

Okay, I have been blabbering on enough.  Let’s get on with things.

10.  Jamiroquai – Rock, Dust, Light, Star

Yes, I’m a longtime Jamiroquai fan, so there is some bias here.  Is this Jamiroquai’s strongest album? Not even close.  The days of The Return of the Space Cowboy are long gone and this is no longer a band that really jams, it’s a well oiled dancing machine.  It’s not the same band, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t put together some tunes that make you want to move…and since there really isn’t an environmental spin to his music anymore (other than the album title), isn’t that all we’re looking for from Jay Kay and his bandmates?  Just keep our butts moving and we’re good.

9. Robyn – Body Talk

You’re sitting in a cafeteria.  There are people everywhere and it’s noisy as hell.  There’s a girl sitting at a table by herself drawing something that only she can explain.  That’s Robyn.  There is just something cool about her and it permeates into her music.  The thing is, whenever Robyn comes out with an album, it tends to make all other pop music you may be listening to sound…well…boring and archaic.  Robyn always seems to be a step ahead of her competition, creating music that is made for tomorrow, but enjoyed today.  Never get tired of her.  I remember when Bjork used to make me feel this way…

8. The Black Keys – Brothers

Again, this is another favourite band of mine and there could be some bias in this ranking, but it’s nice to see that these guys haven’t really changed their style very much over the years and their music continues to be relevant and interesting. Just like Jamiroquai, this album isn’t even close to what I consider their best (Thickfreakness…oh God, that is a great album…if you’ve never heard it and you like rock, get it now), but it’s still a great album.  I’m not a big fan of hearing their music on commercials, but I guess that is part of their growing appeal.  Or maybe it’s the fact that their sound is raw and that is what people are trying to get back to in this overproduced world we live in.  Maybe not, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t change the fact that this was a great album.

7. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot

Andre 3000 tends to get most of the credit and press as one half of Outkast and to be honest, his solo stuff and collabs have been outstanding.  What tends to get lost in the mix is that Big Boi is one hell of an artist.  I’m starting to think that maybe he takes it personally at puts just that much more effort into his releases.  If that’s the case, then I hope the media continue to fawn over Andre 3K so we can continue to reap the benefits of Big Boi and his understanding of what makes good hip hop.

6. Kid Rock – Born Free

Okay, so this is the point where you say, “What the…”.  Yes, Kid Rock made my Top 10 of 2010.  Am I a secret Kid Rock fan and have granted him a spot on this list based on a personal bias?  No…but this album does kind of remind me of an artist who I really do appreciate: Bob Seger.  Maybe that’s because Bob Seger appears on the album (playing piano) and who knows how much influence he had into the creation of this album.  Anyway, I don’t really have a lot to say about this one, I just like it and it makes me want to eat beef jerky and drink Old Milwaukee…and that’s a good thing.

5. The Roots – How I Got Over

I know at some point in 2010 I wrote about this album, but to be honest, it’s starting to get late and I haven’t eaten yet, so I’m not going to go back and check.  All I can say is that I listened to this over and over and then the Roots / John Legend release came out later and it seemed like such a great follow up.  The Roots just continue to put out great albums and it was nice to hear them with a more positive outlook on life…

4. Cee-Lo – The Lady Killer

The song of the Summer of 2010 was definitely “Fuck You”…also known as “Forget You”, which for me is an utter disappointment to hear on the radio.  There are a lot of highlights to this album and it just shows how diverse of an artist Cee-Lo is, but I want to focus on “Fuck You” for a bit.  I hate hearing this on the radio, because “Forget You” just doesn’t have the same meaning.  Sure, it’s just one different word, but that one word really sums up how you can feel about somebody.  Everybody has been in a relationship where at some point you have just wanted to shout “Fuck You” or even better “Fuck you and fuck her too”.  Saying “Forget You” has no meaning to it. There’s no punch behind it.  It takes away from the meaning of the song.  Anyway, the rest of the album is good too…but just wait to see the next stuff Cee-Lo is working on…

3. Bedouin Soundclash – Light The Horizon

In my opinion, there was only one way for the band to go after their last release, “Street Gospels”, which had to be the weakest of their three at that point.  It still did well in Canada, reaching #2 on the charts, but for me it just didn’t have the same appeal.  It sounded rushed.  So with their 4th release, “Light The Horizon” the scene was set for a return to splendour.  Surely enough, they nailed it.  Light The Horizon is a solid album and for me, their best.  It’s great from start to finish and has a great guest appearance from Coeur de Pirate on “Brutal Hearts”.  It’s surprising to think that the band could put out an album this strong while Jay Malinowski was working on his solo effort, also released in 2010…which also happened to be the first release on their new label.  When you think about it, that’s a lot going on in one year.  This could have been a situation where a lackluster effort could have come through and resulted in a boring album…which would have been bad news considering their last effort.  This may or may not be accurate, but the album sounds a bit darker than their previous efforts…strange for an album called Light the Horizon, but it works.

2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Say what you want about Kanye (and it’s really easy to say a lot), but when it comes to putting together a quality hip-hop album, Kanye’s a killer.  One of the great things about Kanye is that not only does he know how to sample effectively, he knows who to feature on certain songs and when they should kick in during the song.  That’s not the main thing that makes this album as strong as it is, but when you hear so many other artists just throwing random people on their albums, it stands out when somebody does it properly.

I love the fact that Kanye got a bit personal on this release, talking about his relationships.  Make no mistake, there is still a lot of bravado on this album (it is hip-hop after all), but hearing Kanye talk about failed relationships and mistakes he has made just works…especially coming from Kanye.

You also have to appreciate how much Kanye has started experimenting with his releases.  I wasn’t really a fan of 808 (other than a couple of songs), but you have to appreciate the method behind what can be seen as his madness.  He has dialed things back a bit on this release, but that doesn’t mean he stays away from anything different here.  For some reason, I tend to love the kind of crazy vocoder phase out on Runaway…and there are many more moments like that on this album…things I like that I can’t explain.  It’s a great album, but it’s not as good as…

1. Plan B – The Defamation of Strickland Banks

I’ve written a few times in different situations about how I love when artists take things in a new direction, as long as they don’t suddenly think they are something that they aren’t (Lil’Wayne, this is you…you are not a rock star).  Plan B went from a fairly decent British hip-hop artist to a very complete musical talent.

The Defamation of Strickland Banks is a themed album and not only is it a themed album, it’s one that works.  When the album first came out, I talked about how this album covers a guy being accused of a crime he didn’t commit.  It sets the scene perfectly, creating an atmosphere where a guy can go through the shock of an arrest, the drama around the court proceedings, the threat of losing his girl, it just covers all of the bases.

Outside of the theme, every track on this album is solid.  The falsetto he uses on most of the tracks even works and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if that was going to be the case all the way through the album.  But you don’t get tired of it and it doesn’t sound like he is really forcing it, so it just works.

I spent a lot of time going between this release and Kanye’s to figure out which one was going to be number one, but in the end, it came down to the fact that this was the album this year that I just haven’t stopped listening to.  For me, that’s always the case.  What was the album that I couldn’t stop listening to…and this year, it’s The Defamation of Strickland Banks.

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