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Another Year of Music

Alexander P. Brown
Contributing Writer
subjektxero [at] gmail.com

Well, well, well, here we area again with another year end list, which usually serves as a final draft list for music nerds’ fantasy reviewer/journalist leagues in their head. But really it is one good wank for the industry before that clown march that is award’s season. Do we really care if Rolling Stone thought Glee’s extra-gay interpretation of Jesus Christ Superstar (trust me, it’s coming) was worthier of bottom calendar notice than that pop-punk-dance-clashcore-minimalist band that got NME’s knickers soggier than a London fall?

But someone out there (Anthony, Seb) thinks I’m smart or worthy enough (read: obsessive) to rate and disseminate my favorite pieces of music this year. Well, I can’t, at least not without being drunk enough to only rattle out one album title and adjective between heaves. Instead let’s all take a journey through what I remember from this year in music.

I can’t tell you what I cared about the beginning of the year except listening to things that came out the year before and being disappointed in hip-hop (it’s like a cousin getting lobotomized by an extra-crispy chicken wing he was eating). Sometime early in the year I did start loving Massive Attacks Heligoland. I haven’t stopped listening to them in fact. Personally, English electronic artists are about as reliable as 80’s model Ford trucks (those things are ubiquitous in America). Speaking of which I later copped LCD Soundsystem’s This is Happening. I may have even danced a little. There was definitely rigorous head-nodding and toe-tapping.

Around this time I’m thinking about in the year, I remembered my favorite quasi-R&B band Sade had released Soldier of Love. I found it a shame the music community didn’t give this group their due diligence this year, but I chalk it up to people forgetting how to romance with music and by extension, forgetting what a proper fuck mix is; there are no more lotharios, they are all pick-up artists. Speaking of English artists making better American urban genre music, Corrine Bailey Rae killed it on a few tracks of The Sea. You’d think that after the panty-dropping fervor Maxwell got last year, American artists would try to do better than by making R. Kelly sing for once, but no, it’s all dry-humping infrastructures in concert and giving back to society after a battery conviction.

And then some really old music by really young people was put on my listening devices. The first, the non-ironic titled Genuine Negro Jig by the Carolina Chocolate Drops who defy reason, are entertaining to listen to, and very enjoyable to watch on public television. NPR basically stayed on their nuts all year so I haven’t had the need to buy the album, I’ll probably donate to my local affiliate though. And genuinely freaky artist Joanna Newsom released her most accessible album yet, Have One On Me. It’s a semi-departure from her early “music for Roald Dahl novels and lithium” sound but it still gives you the overwhelming urge to find something to drink about. Luckily CNN camped out in Haiti all year to aid me in that.

I know I’m starting to run out of room and your attention span, but bear with me or take another hit. Covers were nice this year. The Bird and The Bee made me care a little for Hall and Oates with Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates. Bettye Lavette made me remember how much I love English classic rock with Interpreting the British Rock Songbook. And I was introduced to the throwback awesomeness of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals with their eponymous album. 2010 was a good year to go back.

I should comment on my year in hip-hop, the music I’ve got the strongest background in (yeah, if it pisses you off, eat me). The greater rap and R&B scene got better this year while still managing to disappoint thoroughly. While there were really really enjoyable, musically dynamic, and lyrically exciting offerings from The Roots (How I Got Over), and Big Boi (Sir Luscious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty), this year was still ruled by the kids in class who rock dunce caps. There’s nothing so boring as a bunch of grown men in expensive produced haul videos and the accompanying 12 tracks of the same. Please stop keeping it real and try making something up to keep my attention; Jayson Blair. At least we’re all left marvelling at My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, that once again shows that a critically great album is always preceded by a mystifyingly crappy one and enduring egotism.

I was flung into the the great shifting mists of jazz that didn’t suck this year due to the constant sibling-like pestering of this site’s EiC. So it was mostly all new to me but let me single out the new albums. Christian Scott’s Yesterday You Said Tomorrow is always in rotation with my writing mixes, Esperanza Spaulding’s Chamber Music Society went right next to my oft played Godspeed You! Black Emperor albums and I’ve spent days vainly trying to figure out how to play Trombone Shorty’s Backatown everyday I wake up (yeah, still doing it manually). However I should mention that this year I was also introduced to the catalogues of Roy Hargrove, The Bad Plus, Vijay Iyer, Robert Glasper, Yaron Herman, and other jazz artists whose names I can’t quite remember in my drunkenness. Yeah, those guys.

I know I’ve missed more than a few albums traipsing through this year. I barely listened to New Amerykah Part Two (though like any healthy man, I’ve memorized Ms. Badu’s buttocks), I’ve completely ignored one of my favorite rock bands, The Deftones, latest full album, and I never knew until about a day ago Autechre released something new. And there’s all those songs at the closing credits of True Blood. Even still, music didn’t totally suck in this year of presentation over taste, and I’d like to thank you all for putting up with what I think about it while I painfully switched from bourbon to Irish. Let’s try this again next year when I’m less of a novice with this site’s subject matter.

Alexander Brown is a freelance writer. More of his work is available at his blog, Relax and Aspire.