11 December 2010

Best of 2010 (That I Bought)

It's the time of year when so many musically-minded people are reading and making end-of-year best-of lists. as such, I thought I'd throw out my top five list. However, these are albums I actually bought this year. I know every other list in the world will have stuff like Kanye West's new album and Taylor Swift and whatnot. But I didn't buy those and didn't listen to them. These are my honest opinions and I'm not going to bow down to any one genre, popular or critical taste. This is my blog with my opinions. :-)

With no further ado, here are my top five of 2010.

1.) Red Letter: "Red Letter"
My top pick was a free download (initially a free download for me, I liked it so much I bought it on vinyl a few weeks ago) from a Mars Hill Church (Seattle) band Red Letter. This is worship music for those that like to sing songs to, for and about Jesus with a touch of Pink Floyd meets Radiohead meets Metallica. In other words, this isn't Chris Tomlin or MercyMe worship music (if that's your cup o' tea, I've got no problem with that, but this is my list). Truth be told, I rarely like the music Mars Hill gives away (they are very generous with music and sermons and other downloads). Generally, the music is way to depressing and indie rock. Red Letter has a bit of that but it's not that at all, in many respects. I downloaded this not expecting to like it that much (but, hey, it was free) but it ended up being my favorite of the year. I think they are officially on hiatus now, but this album is 8 songs of awesome and one that is tacked on at the end that I hardly listen to. My top track is "You Have Opened My Mouth." It's a slow-burner with a bluesy, Gilmour-esque Telecaster-sounding solo opening the song (almost two and a half minutes before singing starts). Just about perfect.

2.) Marty Stuart: "Ghost Train (The Studio B Sessions)"
I've long been an admirer of Marty Stuart (I was even in his fan club when I was in high school). I think this is a guy who really understands the heart and soul of country music. This album is probably his heart and soul at its best. It's pure country (not in the George Strait sense, but in the Hank Williams/Johnny Cash sense). His duet with his wife, Connie Smith, "I Run To You" is quite possibly the best country song I've heard in years. There are a few skippable tracks ("Porter Wagoner's Grave") but there are a bunch of gems ("Little Heartbreaker"). If you appreciate honest music, you should get this.

3.) Alter Bridge: "III"
There is no better voice in hard rock music today than Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge (he also sings with Slash on his solo tours). AB's third album take a darker turn than their first two, mostly upbeat, optimistic albums. I've read that this album is heavily influenced by Kennedy's struggles with belief or unbelief in God. You can hear that struggle all throughout the album. It has a few too many mid-tempo tracks and probably could've been cut by 2-4 songs but it is also the best hard rock album I heard this year. While it's not a huge departure sonically from their first two albums, I really dig those first two so I'm not complaining. Top tracks: "Ghost Of Days Gone By," "Wonderful Life."

4.) Third Day: "Move"
I was honestly not expecting the best with Third Day's latest release. Their last few albums had been sort of bland, mid-tempo affairs with a few gems sprinkled in. This album is the band getting back to their Southern roots and that is a great thing, in my opinion. It's less polished and a little more raw (by Third Day standards of raw). It says something when their first release is my least favorite song on the album. It's got a good groove that I'm glad they found again. Top track (without a doubt): "I'll Be Your Miracle."

5.) Jamey Johnson: "The Guitar Song"
I didn't much about Jamey Johnson until I hear a New York Times Popcast and heard their review of the double album. I heard the clips, went to my local library and checked out two Jamey Johnson CDs (this one and "That Lonesome Sound"). I liked this one so much that I went to my local Wal-Mart that night and bought this one. It hits nearly all aspects of life from God to kids to hard times to you name it. I get the sense that Johnson knows all about sin and salvation and, like so many I know, teeters in between most of the time. You also feel that he knows what it's like to be lower middle class in this country and that the American Dream isn't easy to get. Top tracks: "Macon," "California Riots."

Honorable Mentions:
Johnny Cash: "American VI: Ain't No Grave"
Supposed to be Cash's final "American" album (which are all great, great albums), this one has a few clunkers that keep it out of my top five but enough good stuff to make it my number six, easily.

Lecrae: "Rehab"
The best hip-hop out there, in my opinion. This album isn't as good as "Rebel" in my book but it's got some solid tracks amid a too-long album.

Anberlin: "Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place"
Solid modern rock songs. Good stuff.

Bryan Adams: Bare Bones (Live)
I'm not a Bryan Adams fan (my wife is) but this live recording of his acoustic tour (which my wife and I saw in Louisville) is great.

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