Published: December 29, 2010
1. Lloyd Cole, Broken Record (Tapete): Record of the year, man. Rock 'n' roll pop-folk that's full-band perfect; there's sadness, joy, pure wretched heartbreak, self-loathing, drinking and, of course, the glorious piss-takes; from "Writer's Retreat!": "When you head out to the shack in the woods, I won't be there."
2. Band of Horses, Infinite Arms (Columbia): This Southern combo rose the antiquated way: making some indie albums saddled with questionable songwriting and production choices, signing to a major label — only this time for all the right reasons. Horse hit the home-is-where-the-heart-is button and created an absolute stunner that's long on image-rich storytelling and song. Hints of Music from Big Pink, Flannery O'Connor and Levon Helm facial hair are actually welcome here.
3. The Sights, Most of What Follows is True (Alive):Well, we picked the Sights to hit huge back in '05 on their major label release. Ha! In hindsight, it's easy to see how they — well, singer Eddie Baranek — often skated by on charm. Even then, we'd never imagine the rock 'n' roll to have evolved to such lengths as it has here.
4. Bill Withers, +'Justments (Reel Music): Withers' melancholic mojo wasn't easy to sustain after such empathy-rich sides as "Grandma's Hands" and the Still Bill LP, but this 1974 album nearly matched his '71 debut masterstroke, the Booker T.-helmed Just as I Am. Dude's ability to fashion a melancholic narrative into a live-band hip-shake is still unmatched in 2010. Go to the source!
5. Nat King Cole, Love is the Thing (Analogue Productions), Hybrid SACD: It's the power and the grace of the song, of Gordon Jenkins arrangements, of Nat's pure and sometimes eerily florid tone — and to discover this 1957 knee-bender in 2010 is to show you can spend the rest of your life discovering musical beauty made long before you were born. If you have SACD capability, there'll be stardust in your room.
6. Janelle Monáe, The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy): Jesus. Saw her first on TV and lifted the jaw up off the knee. Hers is true showbiz élan, with all the ear-bending sonics, pop ironics and eyebrow-raising sexual tension to match. A huge contemporary pop album to be shamelessly adored.
7. Jamm, Jammë (Now Sounds): For every bad band that's hit pay dirt there are 100 who should've, and if you list the latter from all rock 'n' roll, Jammë and its self-titled, 10-song, John Phillips-produced debut would be perched at or near the top. No joke. It has late-'60s L.A. canyon splendor, airy and suspended on harmonies, youth beat and loud, happy-wristed guitars — there are no bad songs. The quartet, which looked beautifully Dickensian in a sort of tousled, free-love glam way, had shockingly split by the record's belated 1970 release.
8. Ray Charles, The Genius Sings the Blues (Mobile Fidelity): Kudos to the Mobile Fidelity label for killing it with this Hybrid SACD audiophile-ready mono release of the Charles' 1961 classic. Untouchable.
9. Iggy Pop and James Williamson, Kill City (Alive): This hit shelves in 1977, three years after the Stooges. James Williamson's poppy riff-a-rama and Iggy's inner-carnival barker win — Ig was still hawking his own personality, but he'd mastered the essential rock 'n' roll art of self-mockery.
10. Syl Johnson, Complete Mythology (Numero Uno): The last word on career retrospectives. Look, there's four CDs and six LPs to cover a too-often overlooked (but you've heard "Different Strokes" sampled everywhere) singer-crooner, songwriter and producer. This set features Johnson's lovely, blood-pumping soul from his work on Federal, Cha-Cha, Tmp-Ting, Special Agent, and other labels. There's also a 52-page book (coffee-table sized) with a detailed 35,000-word essay on the man. This is history.
Brett Callwood - Top live shows by local bands
1. Negative Approach, St. Andrew's Hall, July 30: They don't play together often nowadays, but when they do, you can be sure they'll crush skulls. This summer evening John Brannon proved himself to be as fierce and frightening as ever, even if the crowd has calmed down a little.
2. Marco Polio & the New Vaccines, Arts, Beats & Eats, Sept. 4: A Marco Polio show is more an experience than a concert, as any unknowing festivalgoers found out in Royal Oak this year. Steve Puwalski grabbed curious onlookers and practically forced them to dance, making AB&E feel like a real festival and not a suburban street fair.
3. Don Was' Detroit Super Session, Concert of Colors, July 17: Each year, Was ropes in a selection of new artists and veterans to play his big Detroit jam as part of the Concert of Colors and, as usual, this year's Super Session was superb. The likes of Marshall Crenshaw and Andre Williams would surely be the highlight of anyone's year.
4. The Sights, Blowout, New Dodge, March 5: The double-header of the Hard Lessons and Eddie Baranek's rejuvenated Sights promised to be one of the highlights of 2010's Blowout, and so it proved to be. The Sights were simply awesome, raising the bar almost impossibly high for the Lessons.
5. Rogue Satellites, New Way, March 20: Jaye Thomas' Rogue Satellites have seen their reputation soar in 2010, and deservedly so. Of the countless shows they played in 2010, this gig at the New Way saw attendees dancing long after the music stopped, which is always a good sign.
6. Hellmouth, St. Andrew's Hall, July 30: On the night of Negative Approach's big reunion show, Hellmouth were the youngest band on the bill. All eyes were on them to see if they were up to the task of playing with the old-school champs. Of course, they demolished.
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