2010: The Year in Music According to a Hootie Fan
2009 was a banner year for me. My two favorite bands, Pearl Jam and Lucero, both put out brilliant albums that I assumed would dominate my 2010 as well. Plus, since I’ve started paying attention to such things, that’s how things have kind of seemed to work. A great year is never followed with another great year, but 2010 was the exception. I’ll be 30 next year. I got married. I bought a house. I’m moving toward being that guy that would rather just listen to Washington Square Serenade over and over than spend time finding new bands and albums. That’s why I assumed that this would be a down year. Now… why I don’t think it was…
1. Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
I remember the first place I heard three bands. Pearl Jam: Sean Bennett’s bedroom. Lucero: Gerard Matthews’s dormroom. The Gaslight Anthem: Andrew Vess’s Cherokee. I realized this week that Gaslight has had my top album two of the past three years, so I guess that makes ’em pretty special to me. I still stick by my initial thoughts, “It’s a pop punk Bruce Springsteen” which, strangely enough, is a high compliment from someone who will still take ’93-’97 over any five year period in music. In a time when indie rock rules everything and every band is trying to be something, it’s refreshing to hear a rock band just be a rock band. Their music does something… it took some thought. The palm mutes and lead lines play together. The background vocals lay the perfect backdrop for Fallon’s lead vocals. And most importantly the songs are there. But still, they’ve managed to give it more of a ‘kids banging out songs in their garage’ feel… A few of our friends don’t like it as much as The ’59 Sound because it’s not as pretty, but I think that’s why I like it more. Their punk influences come through more and that grit is what gives this one more weight. It’s a Saturday night show at your favorite local dive bar. It starts with a fist in the air, buys you a beer, slows without boring you, and ends with your arms in your brothers’ arms singing choruses together.
Suggested Track: Boxer
2. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals – S/T
Blues rock with a glossy finish. This album is all riffage and soul. I love Grace Potter’s voice. She sounds like a white girl singing the blues without all of the ridiculousness that usually comes along with that.
Suggested Track: Medicine
3. Reckless Kelly – Somewhere in Time
Reckless goes honky-tonk (well, as much as you can expect Reckless to go honky-tonk) with an album of Pinto Bennett covers. There’s some discussion in RK community as to Somewhere’s value, but I love it. We get the rock side all the time. Nice to hear the country side.
Suggested Track: Bird on a Wire
4. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks
Another case of a great straight ahead rock record… plus his bass player’s from Little Rock. (I’ve been corrected on this. I guess his drummer is from Little Rock. Whatever.) Mid-tempo head bobbers. Beer in the air choruses. Bouncy punk anthems. I don’t really know anything about Ted Leo to be able to compare to his older stuff, but this is really good.
Suggested Track: Even Heroes Have to Die
5. Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
Remember when ‘indie’ had more to do with that status a band’s record label than crappy acoustic guitars and some sissy whispering into a microphone? So does Superchunk. Poppy. Punky. Sing-a-longy. But definitely not blink 182… not that I would have a problem with that, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Suggested Track: Learned to Surf
6. Mark Erelli & Jeffrey Foucault – Seven Curses
I have no idea how I found this album or why I decided to buy it, but it was money well spent. Honestly, it would be much higher on the list if it wasn’t all covers. I feel like I gotta dock ’em for not having to write any songs. Two dudes sitting on stools playing murder ballads on acoustic instruments… but literally two dudes. No drums. No bass. No keys. Not for everyone, but man… it’s good.
Suggested Track: Sonora’s Death Row
7. Spoon – Transference
‘All the groove without all the dumbness.’ My initial comment on this album still stands. Take some of the silly sounds and self-indulgent nonsense out of old Spoon records, and you’ve got Transference. I’ve read ‘boring’ on reviews of this album, but these are the some folks that think Wilco is better with six minutes of feedback at the end of every song.
Suggested Track: Written in Reverse
8. Pernice Brothers – Goodbye, Killer
I haven’t listened to the Pernice Brothers since I was in college, and I think that’s been a mistake. I have no idea how to describe this. I guess it’s country-ish indie rock? But I’ve heard Lucero described that way, and this ain’t no Lucero. But man, their guitar player shreds…
Suggested Track: Newport News
9. Drive By Truckers – The Big To Do
I’ll start here. I don’t like Shonna. They’d be much better if Jason was still in the band. That said, this is hands down the best thing they’ve put out since The Dirty South. Maybe it’s because they knew that Go-Go Boots was on deck (which I’ve heard and it is a return to mediocrity), but they finally turned up their guitars and banged out some more bootstompers… as if we ever wanted anything else from ’em.
Suggested Track: Birthday Boy
10. Widespread Panic – Dirty Side Down
Speaking of bands that decided to make good music again this year… there’s Panic. I know the hippies liked Earth to America, but I ain’t no hippy. My best description of Dirty Side Down? Skynyrd fans who grew up on Sabbath trying to be the Allman Brothers. I don’t know what that means to you, but I like it.
Suggested Track: Cotton Was King
11. Glossary – Feral Fire
To paraphrase Noel Murray, Glossary might be your favorite band, and you don’t even know who they are. Warm roots rock that owes as much to good country music as 1976 rock radio. Think a rockier Blue Mountain if that helps.
Suggested Track: Save Your Money for the Weekend
12. Jill Andrews – EP
You know, that girl from the Everybodyfields? She did a solo EP. Sounds like what Nashville could have been. (Also been corrected on this. Evidently it came out in 2009. I suck at this. If you want a 2010 album, let’s go with State Champion – Stale Champagne.)
Suggested Track: Worth Keeping