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Friday, December 24, 2010

Lou's Top 20 of 2010, Part 2

Here's the second in a four-part series revealing my choices for the Top 20 records of 2010. Feel free to submit your own list to purgegeeks@gmail.com and I'll strongly consider posting it.

11.) Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring (Kill Rock Stars)

Singer-songwriter Justin Ringle and cohorts break through the confines of somber indie-folk like a spring thaw through the snow. The melding of bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies with classical strings on "Belly of June" sounds wholly intuitive, while "This Bed" begins as a charming traditional-sounding mountain tune before exploding into an inventive but organic soundscape. This approach continues to beautiful effect on track after track.

12.) Sam Quinn & Japan Ten - The Fake That Sunk a Thousand Ships (Ramseur)

The former co-singer/songwriter of the magnificent Everybodyfields makes his solo debut here. Quinn seemed to be actively stretching that band's boundaries toward the end of its tenure, making me expect that more adventurous material may be in the offing. But for the most part he continues in stride with what his former band did better than anyone: deliver heartbreaking tunes with his affecting Appalachian whine engaging in a tug-of-war with the searing fiddle and pedal steel. Even while mining the same vein, the continuing development of a clear talent and vision is in evidence here.

13.) Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde)

Mark Kozelek's new solo acoustic album is no less dramatic, emotional, or powerful than his most grand guitarscapes and shares the unassuming beauty he has consistently conjured over the years.

14.) Damien Jurado - Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian)

Calling this album "lush" may be a bit of an overstatement, but stacked up next to Jurado's catalog of mostly stark releases producer/labelmate Richard Swift's production makes it seem just that. A sort of subdued Spector-ness is evident from the fore, complementing the typically unsettling opener "Cloudy Shoes" and then the disarmingly poppy "Arkansas" equally well. On "Throwing Your Voice," Jurado's well-honed mournful coo echoes across a hypnotic rhythm track and into an affecting chorus to create one of the most beautiful and memorable songs of his career. Much of what follows--whether a distorted dirge or a spare, acoustic number--is what we are more accustomed to from Jurado, but well-executed augmentations continue to lend a unique flavor to this album that will help to define it within a career's worth of records with singular personalities.

Jurado and Swift also recorded Other People's Songs, Volume 1, a greatly varied covers collection available for free download.

15.) Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love (Matador)

There's nothing here much removed from the delightful material that has marked what I consider this band's second golden era--beginning with 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress and peaking on 2006's landmark The Life Pursuit. Unfortunately, what seems to stand out on this album for me are the synthetic keyboards that seem to make their way into most tracks at one point or another. Other than that, I don't have any real criticisms of this record, but it just doesn't quite stack up with their best for me.


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