Hello and welcome to another very special edition of Things that are Totally Awesome. We’re going to take a break from the list (Don’t freak out! We will get back to it soon, I promise!) to look at some of my favorite albums of 2010. Whether you’re in the market for Chirstmas present ideas, trying to decide what to do with that iTunes gift certifcate you got for Hanukkah, or just a big ol’ music nerdface like me, the following is for you!
Oh, before you say anything, yeah this list is weighted heavily in favor of the x-chromosomes. I really didn’t do it intentionally, or as an expression of my raging man-hating feminism, I just think the lady musicians turned it out this year.
This selection of music proved too difficult to rank due to sheer total awesomeness, therefore I’ll present them in categories:
Noteworthy Newbies – The best of the year’s freshman LPs
1. Daphne Willis: What to Say (2/9/10)
Genre: blues-y folk, singer-songwriter vibe
Daphne Willis is a ridiculously talented and versatile musician. This first full-length album showcases Daphne’s musical prowess, smooth-as-honey vocals and masterful lyrical flow. With a variety of extremely catchy tunes it’s hard not to fall in love. Bonus: As of now she’s still more-or-less under the radar, but mark my words, girlfriend is going places, and if you get on the train now you get the satisfaction of knowing you liked her before she got big!
Obligatory YouTube video: Watch Daphne sing one of my favorite tracks off the album!
2. Megan McCormick: Honest Words (8/17/10)
Genre: a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll
This album is simply gorgeous. Megan McCormick’s style has definite roots in Nashville country but with a kind of Heart-like rock edge. Her lyrics demonstrate a raw vulnerability and poignant storytelling ability that are as beautiful as the music itself. I’ve been listening to this album over and over for months and it still gives me goosebumps.
Bonus: I just read that this album has been given the thumbs up by Oprah. So ya know…
Obligatory YouTube video: Here’s a taste of one of her slower country tracks.
Enticing EPs – Some promising tastes from my favorite up-and-comers
3. Bess Rogers: Bess Rogers presents Bess Rogers (9/21/10)
Genre: indie pop/rock with an attitude
I came across Bess a few years back through a hilarious podcast she’d been doing with Jenny Owen Youngs, and I’ve always been a big fan. Bess is quite a talented musician and also (as you might have gleaned from the EP title) a pretty cool chick with a great sense of humor. She also happens to be a regular member of Ingrid Michaelson’s band, and some of the tracks on this EP – especially What We Want – really show Ingrid’s influence, which is all the more totally awesome.
Obligatory YouTube video: Check out Bess singing one of the tracks off the album. And being supercute per usual.
4. Jes Hudak – National Holiday (1/17/10)
Genre: poppity pop pop pop
I don’t really know where to start except to say that OH MY GOD I love Jes Hudak. Within this 5 song EP Jes covers a lot of bases; from pop rock to indie spunk to balladry both sweet and haunting, and she does it all beautifully. She has a swoon-worthy voice and oh yeah did I mention she also plays the KEYTAR? Baller. Jes also happens to be one half of a musical-comedy duo so totally awesome they were actually part of the inspiration behind this site. But that’s a story for another day.
Obligatory YouTube video: Check out Jes’ YouTube site for tons of sweet vids. This one’s real cute: (singing starts at :36)
Terrific Twosomes – The best in this year’s duo projects
5. Court Yard Hounds: Court Yard Hounds (4/30/10)
Genre: Country with a folk-rock flavor and crazy beautiful harmonies
In this, their first album as a duo, sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire (aka 2/3 of the Dixie Chicks) prove that even though they usually stand behind Natalie Maines, they are incredibly talented musicians in their own rights. This album is very different from your typical Chicks album; it includes the trademark harmoniousness, masterclass instrumentals and emotional/political lyrics, but with a softer, more introspective tone.
Obligatory YouTube video: Watch the gals talk about the new project in their own words!
6. The Weepies: Be My Thrill (8/24/10)
Genre: folk-pop, soundtrack for sunny days, puppy wresting, and blowing bubbles
If you don’t know The Weepies, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are a couple of indie artists who met, fell in wuv and started making music together. As a result, their music has always been very sweet and wuv-y. Now married with babies, their latest outing is, if possible, even cheerier than the ones before. There are also some welcome departures from their usual style which keep it interesting. Music that’s as cute as this can sometimes become grating, but this is so genuine and so heartfelt that it’ll make you, well, believe in wuv!
Obligatory YouTube video: This music video for the title track puts the aww in awesome.
Cool Cover Albums – Artists who took other people’s music and made it more awesome
7. Cyndi Lauper – Memphis Blues (6/22/10)
Genre: BLUES! Like, fo reals blues!
When I heard that Cyndi Lauper was recording an album of traditional blues covers with the help of all-star blues musicians like Johnny Lang and B.B. King, I suppose you could say I was pretty excited about it. I love me some true bluesy blues, and if you haven’t heard, Cyndi Lauper is kiiiind of a killer BAMF. But when the album finally came out I was left looking for my socks, because they had been KNOCKED OFF. I don’t know what else to say except go and get this album now, and Cyndi Lauper is GOD.
Obligatory YouTube Video: Here’s a pretty rockin live performance she did on The Celebrity Apprentice.
8.The Bird and the Bee: Interpreting the Masters, Vol 1 (A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates) (3/23/10)
Genre: Synthpop for hipsters and indie kids
Like I’ve said before, synthpop is not for everyone, but if you’re into that sort of thing, The Bird and the Bee will have you at “Will you be by f***ing boyfriend?” Inara George is a compelling vocalist and Greg Kurstin is a fabulous musician and producer, and together they make music that is gorgeous, fun and smart. This album, comprised entirely of re-imagined Hall and Oates hits, is no exception. They completely tear down and rebuild each of these well-known songs in a manner which is both respectful and playful.
Obligatory YouTube video: This was hard, the live shows don’t really do them justice, but here you get a taste of a bunch of stuff. Also, oh herro Jes Hudak @ :33, :49 and 1:13!
Awesome Awesomemongers – Folks whom this blog has already established to be TOTALLY AWESOME
9. Rosie Burgess Trio: Leap (10/15/10)
Genre: somewhere between the Be Good Tanyas, the Barenaked Ladies and ani difranco
Remember these crazy Aussies?? They were #1 on the awesomeness list, so I won’t say too much about them, but ever since I found them last month this album has been playing nonstop on my iPod and it’s entirely wonderful. Rosie and co. truly are spectacular musicians. This album in particular offers up plenty of fun uptempo songs to get your blood pumping and also some really lovely lullaby-worthy slow songs. And if you’re wondering whether the Aussie accents get less awesome after a time: Nope, no they don’t.
Obligatory YouTube video: Here’s a cover, a version of which can also be found on the album. Hold on to your socks.
10.Lights: Lights Acoustic (7/20/10)
Genre: on the chill singer-songwriter end of acoustic pop
This is the most recent find of mine on this list! I just discovered Lights last week while researching contemporary keytarists, but apparently she’s a big deal in her native land of Canada. I’m actually a little bit obsessed with her synthpop stuff, it’s kind of delicious if you can stomach that sort of music, but I was also way impressed with this EP of stripped down versions of the songs from her last album. I think it’s pretty brave for a highly synthesized artist like that to go au naturel, and she can totally pull it off!
Obligatory YouTube video: Okay Lights is ALL about her YouTube site if you’re interested in more videos. Here’s Saviour: (with a u… ya know… because she’s Canadian…)
So there they are, the top ten. Agree? I mean, if not that’s cool too, make your own list!