After the turkey comas subside and Black Friday opens the holiday retail floodgates, this year in music will be all but over. Yes, there's another month until the calendar flips over, but from here until early January, the only "new" music coming out will be the tide of reissues, box sets and "expanded" or "deluxe" editions of albums most people already own. Oftentimes the most expanded thing about them is the price.
Oh, and Christmas albums. Yuck.
So, earlier this week, Rocks Off Sr. polled our hit squad, as it were, and asked them to tell us their three to five favorite musical things that came out this year - whether an album, a song, a video or something else we didn't even think of. We guess you can call them memes if you want, but we hate that word. We'd rather think of it as sneak preview of all the year-end foofaraw you're about about be inundated with, as well as a shopping-season musical tip sheet.
Either way, enjoy. - Chris Gray
Arcade Fire, The Suburbs: I'm thankful for this album because it plays like a time capsule. Twenty years from now, when my little boy asks me to tell him stories from our time, I'll hand him a copy of The Suburbs.
Rick Ross feat. Styles P, "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)": This is the song other rappers wish they had penned. "B.M.F." isn't just a song, it's a smash - the type that comes along once in a career. Its runaway success inspired a remix craze from the Magic City to the Big Apple. Whenever I'm down and out, I chug a dose of "B.M.F.," close my eyes, and ask myself, "What would Big Meech do?"
Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs": The title track to the band's third album is a deliberately unhurried tune, its wistful lyrics and jangly piano accompaniment hint at the band's maturation toward songs of familial conscientiousness, and thankfully, away from any previous reliance on The Boss.
The National, "Bloodbuzz Ohio": Easily the most rockin' backbeat and beguiling chorus of the year, the High Violet single is a clear representation of the album's poignant aura, its atmospheric guitar tones and droll lyrics painting imagery now characteristic to the National.
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The Black Keys, "Tighten Up": Marrying a commanding drumbeat and whistle-laden melody, the gritty first single from the Black Keys' Brothers piques listeners' curiosity while staying true to the the duo's signature stripped sound.
The Gold Sounds, Seismic Love: This album came out back in February, and I had some kind things to say about it then, when I reviewed it for Houstonist. It's a fantastic collection of songs, and anyone that picks it up will hear the big classic-rock nods that these Deer Park boys are making. The songs are sharp and smart and downright fun - but it's not just the music that has me thankful. Seismic Love was almost lost into the ether, spending much of 2009 in limbo. Fortunately, though, Houston was graced with a proper release from this band, something I've waited for since I first caught them at the Fall 2007 Westheimer Block Party.
Free Shows: Goodness gracious, does anyone realize how much free music there's been in this city during the past year? From in-stores at Cactus, the new wave of free shows with the reopening of Fitzgerald's, and a set of them at Mango's earlier in the year, free live music in Houston has become ubiquitous. Discovery Green has live music multiple times a week, including some fantastic bluesmen putting on a heckuva show every seven days, and the revival of Market Square Park brought its own concert series with it.
I'm sure I'm missing more options that popped up as well. It's not that I'm a cheapskate - don't get me wrong, I love free stuff just like the rest of the world. Rather, I'm thankful because there are so many opportunities for the people of Houston to discover new music. The only thing stopping them from connecting with our vibrant local scene is merely getting off their ass and getting to a show.
Lightnin' Hopkins' Historical Marker: What a long time in the making for something that should have been a no-brainer. It's good to see Sam's Corner get a token of recognition from the State of Texas. If you haven't checked out one of Houston's greatest contributions to music, go get some Lightnin' Hopkins albums and let him teach you the blues. Allow me to suggest Lightnin' Strikes as your gateway.
Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street (reissue): What's better than the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main St.? How about a slew of books, a documentary, and a deluxe reissue to further my love for the album? 2010 was the year that I went back and renewed my vows to the Exile, after spending the past two years of bounding around the Stones' catalog aimlessly.
The reissue came with an extra disc of tracks from the album, including the ace single "Plundered My Soul," alternate takes of "Soul Survivor" and "Loving Cup," "Good Time Women", which was an early stab at "Tumbling Dice," plus "So Divine (Aladdin Story)" which had long been a favorite on the few Exile bootlegs I already owned. All I want for 2011 is a deluxe love fest for my second favorite Stones album, Some Girls. And you know, maybe a two-night stand at Toyota Center.
Keith Richards, Life (book): We haven't finished reading this memoir from Stones guitarist Keith Richards, his first, but we have already learned so many things. How to win in a knife fight, how to mix pure heroin with glucose, the joys of pharmaceutical grade cocaine, what it's like to raise a son on the road, and how to record a landmark album while in a French basement.
Richards' book is like nothing else we have read before on the band. It puts all the other biographies to shame, with Richards own voice and swagger shining throughout. We get sad each time we pick it up, because we know one day we will have finished reading it. But we could always just start again.
Rdio: It's not an album, or a book, or a song, but this Web site has helped me meander through the last year of music with ease. For a small fee, I can listen to most everything ever recorded on this music site, with more added every day. When I am doing research on upcoming shows or writing countdown lists, Rdio is like my second brain. Since I joined in the spring, I have logged almost 17,000 songs under my belt.
Adam P. Newton:
Harlem, Hippies: It's a fantastic collection of dirty, lo-fi garage-pop zingers that are destined to smash you in the ears.
Pantha Du Prince, Black Noise: What we have here is a German take on sleek, sultry, minimalist house music that tips its hat to dub, grime and glitch.
The Roots, How I Got Over: I this it's the best record from this esteemed, socially conscious hip-hop band since "Phrenology." As much as I love the new records from Kanye, Rick Ross, Big Boi and Bun B, this is my favorite hip-hop record this year.
Weekend, Sports: This is one of the more pointed, pure takes on post-punk we've heard in years, and it doesn't hurt that there's plenty of no wave and shoegaze as well.
The Wonder Years, The Upside: Premium pop-punk, complete with heartfelt, snarky lyrics about love, scene politics and growing up.
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Well, Kanye's album is simply stupendous. I don't think there's another artist out now who could've pulled off everything he did there; it was opulent and self-referential and a little pouty and completely relevant to our time and generation. Nobody thinks the way he does. He's always seemed especially sincere, but he seems even more so here.
Yelawolf, Trunk Muzik: Yela's tape is just a great adaptation of Southern hip-hop. You have to appreciate the way he embraced his small town whiteness and rolled it into something so provocative. There's a line on the very first song that says something like the "crack smoke peels through the streets like an early morning fog"; that's the type of dynamic lyricism that you don't get a lot of anymore.
Big Boi, Sir Luscious Left Foot: Big Boi's album, too, is an adaptation of the Southern hip-hop sound, though he reinvents it almost entirely. I've never liked Big Boi, but that shit goes so hard. There's very little wasted space on it. Even Jamie Foxx looks and sounds like he belongs there, and Jamie Foxx has never looked or sounded like he belonged anywhere that wasn't the set of Ray.
William Michael Smith:
Shelby Lynne, Tears, Lies and Alibis: Lynne's first album of original material in almost five years, this one has been the soundtrack of my 2010 life. Many nights I've put this one on as I've gone to bed. An emotional textbook, it never disappoints. Favorite track: "Old #7," although "Airstream" is also a mega-fave.
Kim Richey, Wreck Your Wheels: Kim Richey should be a synonym for lyrical subtlety. Another all-adult offering, Richey's album just keeps revealing new levels of emotional depth that ring true as real life. Another one I've closed my eyes to many nights this year. Favorite track: "Leaving 49."
Ray Wylie Hubbard, A. Enlightment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C): When I'm feeling feisty, I almost always find myself going to Ray's latest. Primal and dark, it literally throbs with uber-Texas content. Favorite track: "Tornado Ripe."
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Pete Vonder Haar:
Kesha: For months now, we've had this opossum living under our porch. And not always under, because sometimes I'd come home and the furry fucker would be sitting right there under the swing, insolent as you please, as if daring me to get rid of him. Well wouldn't you know it, the first time I played Animal with the windows open, it drove the little bastard off. Unfortunately, it also killed my lawn and sterilized the dog.
Good Charlotte: Because until Cardiology was released, I was actually allowing myself to believe 2010 might not be a horrible year, entertainment-wise.
Black Eyed Peas to Play Super Bowl Halftime: Finally, a reason to turn the TV off altogether on Super Bowl Sunday.