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Saturday, January 08, 2011

Lou's Top 20 of 2010, Part 4

Here's the last 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. 

1.) Patrick Park - Come What Will (Badman)

Patrick Park makes the type of singer-songwriter album rarely heard since the genre's heyday of the '70s. While more understated musically than Park's tremendous 2003 debut, Loneliness Knows My Name, his clearly matured singing and writing now capably deliver the immediacy that dynamic backing did on that record. The confidence and melancholy interwoven in his vocals bring to mind post-topical Phil Ochs, while the steel, strings and organ serve as well-suited complements. And whether he is conjuring melodies that seem almost jarringly poppy in a folk context on "You're Enough" and the title track or delivering a stark confessional like "You Were Always the One," he has more than proven himself as a songwriter that can stand up with those of the golden era his work most strongly recalls.

2.) Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame (Anti-)

A new label, but no change in the winning formula or uncompromising quality that has given this band its run as maybe the best of the past half-decade or so. The pace at which they have turned out catchy tunes in a singular style while still maintaining creativity and freshness is little short of remarkable.

3.) Doug Keith - The Lucky Ones (The Village Label)

NYC singer-songwriter Keith's sophomore effort begins with a handful of sensitive yet muscular pop tunes that recall mid-career Springsteen (granted with far more tasteful production) before tacking toward the highly '70s-folk-rock-inspired tilt of his great debut. This effort, too, is a beautifully crafted affair with its jangly guitars, comforting organ trills, incisive violin, and buoyant female harmonies all topped by Keith's engaging rasp. "Don't Let Your Darkness Overtake You," resembling a cracked Mamas and Papas (or maybe even Partridge Family) side, kicks off a second half of this album that stands up to the true classics. The hook-filled masterpiece "Skip James Radio" is just the first of a brilliant string of stirring beauties that would fit comfortably on Planet Waves or Blood On the Tracks. Keith's second release proves that he deserves to be recognized as among those keeping the spirit of true songcraft alive.

4). Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy (Dead Oceans)

Phosphorescent (aka Matthew Houck) emerges from the shadows on this release. After a run of sometimes sometimes striking indie-folk concoctions that nonetheless lacked a certain substance, then the surprising left turn to recording a Willie Nelson tribute album, the new Phos emerges delivering aching singer-songwriter confessionals with immaculately crafted backing. Granted, opener "It's Hard to Be Humble" isn't quite representative, sounding like a rollicking Band outtake, but Houck then settles in with tunes owing to Merle and Willie before unleashing the absolutely shattering "The Mermaid Parade," which recalls the finest of Van Morrison. He continues on with more beautiful creations in the indie-country-folk vein in which he has now proven himself to be as adept as anyone.

5.) Dave Gleason - Turn and Fade (326 Records)

Among a choice few artists who continue to play authentic country music bowing neither to commercialism nor indie aesthetic, the quality of Gleason's work is unrivaled. Both his mournful twang and ringing Telecaster approach perfection on dancin' numbers and cryin' numbers alike, and his songs are imbued with enough pop and rock influence to prevent them from sounding wholly derivative. A guy doing what he loves without pretense and still making great records is all too rare on today's music scene, but Gleason is doing it exceptionally well.


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