Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

It’s that time again! Following are my Top 25 Albums of 2010. Like ’em or not, these are the albums I’ve personally enjoyed and listened to most often in the past year. Click on the album titles to read the full reviews, purchase the albums, and, in some cases, download mp3s…

*Honorable mention to Florence + the Machine’s Lungs, which would have been #2 on this list had it been released this year.

Muruch’s Top 25 Albums of 2010

25. Sheila Nicholls: Songs from the Bardo

…I was so excited to see Sheila Nicholls name on a new press release!…genre-hopping…moody experience…Sheila’s lovely vocals drive every song

Sheila Nicholls – Bardo (mp3)*
Sheila Nicholls – Natural Law (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

24. The Concretes: WYWH

…sultry and atmospheric…blends mellow electro-pop melodies with ambient beats beneath new lead singer Lisa Milberg’s whisper soft vocals

The Concretes – All Day (mp3)*
The Concretes – Good Evening (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

23. Heart: Red Velvet Car

…a step back from the pop-rock endeavors of recent decades in favor of a multi-instrumental style…perfect display of Ann’s astounding vocal power and Nancy’s searing guitar riffs.

Buy @ Amazon

22. Warner Nuzova: Russian Music for Cello & Piano

…The deep resonance of Warner’s cello is juxtaposed and intertwined with the emotive peels of Nuzova’s piano, resulting in a sound full of somber beauty and classical romance.

Buy @ Amazon

21. Screaming Females: Castle Talk

…loud, exhilarating, wailing punk rockers…a spectacular cacophony of ferocious growls, frenzied shrieks, scorching guitar licks and tempestuous rhythm

Screaming Females – I Don’t Mind It (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

20. Brooke Fraser: Flags

…a collection of subtle folk-influenced melodies and pretty, infectious pop fleshed out with innovative arrangements and all wrapped up in Brooke’s warm voice

Buy @ Amazon

19. Agent Ribbons: Chateau Crone

…churns atmospheric retro pop-rock with modern rock riffs, handclap percussion, and girl group harmony. The result is somewhere between The Zombies and The Shangri-Las.

Buy @ Amazon

18. Creed Bratton: Bounce Back

…With the help of his backing band The 3DVB’s and his The Office co-star Ed Helms, Creed has made an unusual, funny, funky, and all around awesome album.

Creed Bratton – Rubber Tree (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

17. Robert Plant: Band of Joy

…an almost perfect marriage of Robert Plant’s psychedelic sway and Buddy Miller’s freight train of rocked up Americana

Buy @ Amazon

16. Danielle Ate the Sandwich: Two Bedroom Apartment

…The combination of that kind of sweetly self-deprecating humor and Danielle’s clear, warm voice along with some very pretty acoustic melodies make this album a charmer.

Buy @ Amazon

15. Robert Stallman: The Nightingale in Love

…Whether you’re a classical aficionado or simply enjoy pretty instrumental music, this lovely album is definitely one to try…Simply put, The Nightingale in Love is beautiful. So very beautiful.

Buy @ Amazon

14. Sade: Soldier of Love

…an album everyone should hear…strong artistic integrity combined with an exquisitely exotic voice and elegant melodies give Sade’s music a rare grace and beauty.

Buy @ Amazon

13. Katharine McPhee: Unbroken

…an excellent mix of infectious pop melodies and singer-songwriter acoustics…Her multi-faceted voice effortlessly flows from impressive Divaesque acrobatics to a warmer, relaxed charm reminiscent of classic Carole King.

Buy @ Amazon

12. Loreena McKennitt: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

…brimming with a heady mix of Celtic and folk instrumentation…Loreena’s supernatural soprano is on gorgeous display

Buy @ Amazon

11. The Bird & The Bee: A Tribute to Daryl Hall & John Oates

…tribute to 1980s pop icons Hall & Oates is no parody, instead this is a sincere and happy homage to one of my favorite guilty pleasure bands…the perfect soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

10. Sing Me To Sleep: Indie Lullabies

…a wide variety of charming, serene covers by various indie acts…The entire Sing Me To Sleep album flows together to create a lovely, gentle mood.

Dean & Britta – Making Me Smile (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

9. The Gaslight Anthem: American Slang

…one of the most excellent, enjoyable rock albums I’ve heard in years…infectious but substantial rock – settled delciously somewhere between arena and roots.

Buy @ Amazon

8. Allison Crowe: Spiral

…Her voice flawlessly flows between the most pristine soprano and gut-wrenching, full-bodied wails…I hear Allison Crowe sing, and I remember the effect music is supposed to have on you.

Buy @ Amazon

7. The Innocence Mission: My Room in Trees

…pristinely pretty…Sparse arrangements are coupled with poetic lyrics full of scenic imagery and bittersweet emotion – all carried by the lovely soprano of Karen Peris.

The Innocence Mission – God is Love (mp3)*
The Innocence Mission – Happy Mondays (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

6. Moreland & Arbuckle: Flood

…If Moreland & Arbuckle’s upcoming album Flood is any indication, 2010 is gonna be a great year for music…this mix of Delta blues, folk, country, soul, and rock is one wild ride.

Buy @ Amazon

5. She & Him: Volume Two

…another collection of airy, retro-styled pop songs fleshed out with folk instrumenation…a breezy pop soundtrack for summer.

Buy @ Amazon

4. Kate Miller-Heidke: Curiouser

…like a collaboration between Kate Bush and Lady Gaga. Mainstream pop fans will definitely enjoy this disc, as will those searching for catchy tunes with lyrical substance.

Buy @ Amazon

3. Janelle Monáe: The Archandroid

…Conceptually and musically, this multi-facted, genre-mashing masterpiece has everything you could want in an album and then some. And Janelle’s supernatural vocal range is as chameleonic as the songs she sings.

Buy @ Amazon

2. Xavier Rudd: Koonyum Sun

…Xavier Rudd is my favorite artist, full stop…yet another breathtaking masterpiece that’s sure to land Xavier Rudd at the top of my year end list again.

Buy @ Amazon

1. Anaïs Mitchell: Hadestown

…transforms the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice into a post-apocalyptic American fable with Depression era style and indie-folk sensibility. This gorgeous, exciting project reminds me why I love music so much and why I love writing about music so much.”

Anaïs Mitchell – Flowers (mp3)*
Anaïs Mitchell & Bon Iver – Wait for Me (mp3)*

Buy @ Amazon

*all mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of artists, labels and/or their PR reps

The Concretes: WYWH

The Concretes accurately describe their latest release, WYWH, as a “dreamy, ethereal disco-influenced” album. I shared an mp3 of “All Day” last month and have since discovered that the entire album is just as sultry and atmospheric. The Concretes’ music blends mellow electro-pop melodies with ambient beats beneath new lead singer Lisa Milberg’s whisper soft vocals.

The Concretes – All Day (mp3)*
The Concretes – Good Evening (mp3)*

*mp3s hosted by & posted w/ permission of band’s PR rep

Buy @ Amazon

The Concretes Official Site

The Concretes: All Day Mp3

The Concretes are celebrating today’s released of their new “dreamy, ethereal disco-influenced” album WYWH by sharing the following free, legal mp3. “All Day” is a sultry, atmospheric, electro-pop song.

The Concretes – All Day (mp3)*

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of band’s PR rep

Buy @ Amazon

The Concretes Official Site

Loving Takes This Course: A Tribute To Kath Bloom

Loving Takes This Course: A Tribute To The Songs Of Kath Bloom is a beautiful two-disc set featuring new covers of Kath Bloom songs by Devendra Banhart, Scout Niblett, Josephine Foster, Corrina Repp, and The Concretes among others. The second disc in the set contains the original recordings by Kath Bloom, an excellent bonus feature that I wish other tributes would include.

This review has unfortunately been gathering dust in my draft folder since April, forgotten until I began writing about the new Judee Sill tribute. Strange how changing trends bring such brilliant, but obscure artists to light. I’m sure I’m one of many who was introduced to the music of Kath Bloom through her work with Loren MazzaCane Connors and the use of “Come Here” in Richard Linklater’s film Before Sunrise. But when I posted about Bloom’s music years ago (relevant posts here and here), I don’t recall seeing any mention of her elsewhere. Yet this tribute album has been all over the place in recent months – I would be remiss if I did not direct readers to the wonderful reviews of this album to be found at Cover Lay Down and My Old Kentucky Blog.

The covers selected for Loving Takes This Course are much stronger than those on the Judee Sill tribute. Whether this is due to the quality of Blooms’ songs or the talent of the artists covering them varies from track to track.

“Come Here”, for example, is such a pretty and uplifting love song that it would be difficult to ruin. But I definitely prefer the version by Marble Sounds that opens the album to the one by The Concretes that closes it. Both bands make some interesting, though vastly different, changes to the arrangement that give the song a fresh perspective. But Marble Sounds manage to do this while staying true to the delicate sweetness of the original.

I’m so thrilled this tribute includes “When I See You” (originally titled “When I Feel You Coming”), which is my absolute favorite Kath Bloom song and one of her collaborations with Loren MazzaCane Connors. There’s really no way to improve on Kath’s haunting original, but Laura Jean’s cover is still very good.

Devendra Banhart livens up the music of “Forget About Him”, and the song also seems to give the freak-folk singer’s voice new life. I love Scout Niblett’s voice, but miss the mandolin in her sparse rendition of “I Wanna Love”.

There are three covers on this album that I might like even more than Kath’s originals. Bill Callahan transforms “The Breeze/My Baby Cries” into a forelorn country tearjerker, Mark Kozelek paints “Finally” with an eerie shade of Nick Drake, and Corinna Repp’s fragile wail carves new shivers into “Fall Again”.

Track list for Loving Takes This Course: A Tribute To The Songs Of Kath Bloom:

Disc One: The Covers:

1. Come Here – Marble Sounds
2. The Breeze/My Baby Cries – Bill Callahan
3. When I See You – Laura Jean
4. Finally – Mark Kozelek
5. Window – Mick Turner (Dirty Three) & Peggy Frew
6. Forget About Him – Devendra Banhart
7. I Wanna Love – Scout Niblett
8. Biggest Light Of All – The Dodos
9. Look At Me – Josephine Foster
10. Ready Or Not – Mia Doi Todd
11. Fall Again – Corrina Repp
12. It’s So Hard To Come Home – Marianne Dissard & Joey Burns (Calexico)
13. In Your School – Amy Rude
14. If This Journey – Tom Hanford
15. There Was A Boy – Meg Baird (Espers)
16. Come Here – The Concretes

Disc Two: The Kath Bloom originals:

1. Come Here
2. The Breeze/My Baby Cries
3. When I See You
4. Finally
5. Window
6. Forget About Him
7. I Wanna Love
8. Biggest Light Of All
9. Look At Me
10. Ready Or Not
11. Fall Again
12. It’s So Hard To Come Home
13. In Your School
14. If This Journey
15. There Was A Boy
16. Come Here

Bill Callahan – The Breeze/My Baby Cries (mp3) *
Kath Bloom – Come Here (mp3) *

*mp3s posted w/ permission of Forcefield PR

Buy @ Amazon

Taken By Trees: Lost and Found Mp3

Taken By Trees is Victoria Bergsman, formerly the singer for The Concretes. Open Field is her debut solo album, with some help from Bjorn and John of Peter, Bjorn & John. If you’re familiar with Victoria’s voice, you won’t be surprised by the prettiness of “Lost and Found”.

Taken By Trees – Lost And Found (mp3)

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