The Weekend Review New Music Report: 2010 Edition

Originally posted 2011-01-17 10:00:06. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

In the past, before the Weekend Review was officially a segment on the Laptop Sessions blog and my articles had the oh-so-clever title of “Music Review” — and I know, I know, “the Weekend Review” isn’t all that much more clever — I have been accused of writing reviews that were positive to a fault.

This may well be true, as I have found it challenging these past couple years to define and refine my voice as a music critic who is also a singer/songwriter.  After all, it has been difficult to find a comfortable middle ground between praising music simply because someone labored over it and pointing out flaws to bring others down a notch.

Being an “amateur” has allowed me the opportunity and relative privacy to hone my craft.

I’ve come a long way from the every-so-often, knee-jerk nature of my early “CD Reviews,” articles that I typed and saved on my computer long before the Fusco-Moore Productions blog — now known as the Laptop Sessions blog — was launched.  I’ve also come a significant way since the aforementioned “Music Reviews.”  And, I’d like to think that I’ve progressed as a writer over the past year of “Weekend Reviews.”

So, this being my fifty-second and final Weekend Review of 2010, I decided to dedicate it to laying out a table of contents of sorts for the fifty-four reviews I’ve written this year (including “Yes, No, Maybe So?” one-sentence reviews).  They’re arranged below in descending order from my one five-star rating down to my handful of one-star reviews.

What it all amounts to is a lot of music from a diverse range of artists that run the genre gamut.  The one common denominator here, the one solid link between all subjects of the Weekend Review, is the presence of the singer/songwriter.  With the exception of a couple of cover song albums, these are albums of original music released in 2010.

The best I can offer as an overall statement for the year’s music is that this was, overall, an excellent year for new music.  The range tended to follow the bell curve (1 five star, 14 four stars, 23 three stars, 13 two stars, and 3 one stars), but this should not undercut the fact that there were fourteen very strong, interesting, entertaining albums released this year.

In all fairness, what the year was lacking was any albums that really blew everything else out of the water.  Although several have argued this point with me, I do not hesitate a moment to give All in Good Time (BnL) the full five-star nod.  That being said, I do not consider it their best album, not by a long shot.

So, where does that leave us?

In my opinion, it leaves 2010 as a very strong year with at least fifteen strong reasons to buy new albums, but it also leaves a gap for those attuned to and awaiting the next, best classic albums for the ages.

I hope you’ll check back for my final post (at least for a while) on the blog tomorrow and that you’ll consider checking some of these albums out while they’re still available on the ever-increasingly trend- and contempo-centric CD shelves.

54 New Albums, 2010: Arranged in descending order of star ranking (out of 5).

All in Good Time (Barenaked Ladies) – 5 stars
Bad Books (Bad Books) – 4.5 stars
Be in Love (Locksley) – 4 stars
Broken Bells (Broken Bells) – 4 stars
Heaven is Whenever (The Hold Steady) – 4 stars
Kaleidoscope Heart (Sara Bareilles) – 4 stars
Lonely Avenue (Ben Folds & Nick Hornby) – 4 stars
Mines (Menomena) – 4 stars
Mojo (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) – 4 stars (4.5 w/o “Candy” & “Takin’ My Time”)
Night Work – (Scissor Sisters) – 4 stars
Sea of Cowards (The Dead Weather) – 4 stars
Suburba – House of Heroes – 4 stars
The Grand Theatre Volume One (Old 97’s) – 4 stars
The Suburbs (Arcade Fire) – 4 stars
Volume Two (She & Him) – 4 stars
A Postcard from California (Al Jardine) – 3.5 stars
A Singer Must Die (Steven Page with the Art of Time Ensemble) – 3.5 stars
American Slang (The Gaslight Anthem) – 3 stars
American VI: Ain’t No Grave (Johnny Cash) – 3 stars
As I Call You Down (Fistful of Mercy) – 3.5 stars
Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (Brian Wilson) – 3.5 stars
Brothers (The Black Keys) – 3.5 stars
Dark Night of the Soul (Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse) – 3.5 stars
Death to False Metal (Weezer) – 3 stars
Destroyer of the Void – (Blitzen Trapper) – 3.5 stars
Easy Wonderful (Guster) – 3 stars
Everything Under the Sun (Jukebox the Ghost) – 3.5 stars
High Violet (The National) – 3.5 stars
How to Destroy Angels (How to Destroy Angels) – 3 stars
Hurley (Weezer) – 3.5 stars
Light You Up (Shawn Mullins) – 3 stars
Lo-Fi for the Dividing Nights (Broken Social Scene) – 3 stars
Page One (Steven Page) – 3.5 stars
Sigh No More (Mumford & Sons) – 3.5 stars
Something for the Rest of Us (Goo Goo Dolls) – 3.5 stars
Stone Temple Pilots (Stone Temple Pilots) – 3.5 stars
To The Sea (Jack Johnson) – 3 stars
Transference (Spoon) – 3.5 stars
Court Yard Hounds (Court Yard Hounds) – 2.5 stars
Crazy for You (Best Coast) – 2.5 stars
Eureka (Rooney) – 2 stars
Everything Comes and Goes (Michelle Branch) – 2 stars
Familial (Philip Selway) – 2.5 stars
Forgiveness Rock Record (Broken Social Scene) – 2 stars
Heligoland (Massive Attack) – 2 stars
Infinite Arms (Band of Horses) – 2 stars
National Ransom (Elvis Costello) – 2 stars
Realism (Magnetic Fields) – 2.5 stars
Women & Country (Jakob Dylan) – 2.5 stars
Write About Love (Belle & Sebastian) – 2.5 stars
Y Not (Ringo Starr) – 2.5 stars
100 Miles from Memphis (Sheryl Crow) – 1.5 stars
Clapton (Eric Clapton) – 1 star
Interpol (Interpol) – 1 star


Originally posted 2010-12-31 19:31:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter


At long last, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: the unveiling of the best albums of the year, in order, as selected by the Weekend Review.

Okay, so the Weekend Review is really just me, but it sounds so much more official when I write it like that…

If you read my Best Songs list yesterday, then you also read my reaction to the “anti-top ten list” post made by musician/writer John Roderick earlier this week.  If not, suffice it to say that I think the end of year music lists aren’t meant to be accurate gauges of the previous twelve months’ new music releases.  If you believe that is even possible, then you must be deluded.  A top ten (or twenty, forty, whatever) list is a celebration of individuals listening to and loving and hating and interpreting and discussing and arguing over the meanings of and value of that aforementioned new music.

That being said, my list is pretty much perfect.  So, bask in its glory, experience the feeling of being in the shadow of greatness as you peruse, that shadow looming more or less large depending on how high or low you go on the list.

And, for crying out loud, leave comments and links to any music I may have missed this year.

1)  All in Good Time – Barenaked Ladies

More than a breakup album, and no, it’s not “a serious BnL album;”  it’s BnL as per usual: excellent.

2)  Sea of Cowards – The Dead Weather

All the potential expressed in the details of their debut is capitalized on here with this outstanding follow-up, and only a year after Horehound!

3)  Bad Books – Bad Books

Two indie artists combine to form an even more obscure band and produce poetry set to folky alternative rock.

4)  Heaven is Whenever – The Hold Steady

My first go-round with the Hold Steady left me wondering how I missed this band and their gritty, smart rock and roll before now.

5)  Kaleidoscope Heart – Sara Bareilles

Her second album is tantamount to hitting a home run, from a capella opener to piano rock/pop to stripped down acoustic and harmonica work.

6)  Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Danger Mouse and James Mercer form one of the most fruitful collaborations of the year, their unique sound accented with echoes ranging from contemporary dance to seventies Beach Boys.

7)  Mines – Menomena

I’ve never heard an album quite like this before, a patchwork of sharp lyrics and killer instrumentation that, combined, sound like an alternative rock orchestra.

8)  Transference – Spoon

Masters of the understated performance, Spoon both strips down their arrangements and manages to weave complicated, interesting threads throughout the album.

9)  Lonely Avenue – Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

A partnership made in alternative rock heaven.  (Was I supposed to say more?)

10)  Be in Love – Locksley

Sounding like the Beatles circa-Please Please Me if they had hailed from the golden age of garage rock, Locksley is a band to keep your eye on.

11)  The Grand Theatre, Volume One – Old 97’s

Only one half of the recordings that were yielded from the Grand Theatre sessions, Volume One is dynamic stuff.  (Does make you wonder how much better it could have been if the best of the best had been included in one release.  Or how mediocre Volume Two is going to be.)

12)  Night Work – Scissor Sisters

If you can get past the buttocks in tights being grabbed on the front cover, you’ll find a smart hybrid of dance music and guitar-driven rock.

13)  Volume Two – She & Him

Not quite retro, not quite contemporary, Zooey Deschanel’s voice casts a spell over each track.

14)  The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

A great album with an impressive sense of concept, implementation, and packaging, though it lacked the dynamism necessary to draw me back for multiple listens.

15)  Page One – Steven Page

A very strong solo debut that ran the genre gamut.

16)  Suburba – House of Heroes

A strong album from a band that clearly works song by song, each track working in movements with multiple elements at play.

17)  Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots

The Stone Temple Pilots do power pop.  (Good stuff!)

18)  Something For the Rest of Us – Goo Goo Dolls

Excellent sound and outstanding lyrics, though as a whole it lags a bit, falling into patterns four plus minute song after four plus minute song.

19)  Hurley – Weezer

The cover image of Lost actor Jorge Garcia notwithstanding, Hurley finds Weezer sounding relevant and rocking out more than they have in some time.

20)  Brothers – The Black Keys

If the album as a whole had been as dynamic as the first five tracks, Brothers would not have been floating on the periphery of this list.

Honorable Mention:

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

I don’t really have a frame of reference for this one (thus the honorable mention), but West’s multi-layered approach has earned my respect, even if I will probably never feel comfortable singing the lyrics out loud with other people around…