Best of 2010: The National, The Black Keys, Nick Moss, Ronnie Earl, Guster & More...

The National, The Black Keys top list of 2010's best albums...
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2010 is now in the rearview mirror and the time is now for me to unveil my Top Albums of 2010.  I find this a fun and difficult task most years unlike some writers and critics and this year was no exception.  There are a lot of great albums from last year that aren't on this list (hell, I did a list of great blues records from the past year and I had to leave titles off it, too!).  This doesn't represent all that I am as a music fan, writer, and listener but it's a damn good look at what 2010 brought to me.  It was a very good year.

This list is a pretty good snapshot into my mind and listening habits in addition to crowning the best of the past year.  It's by no means complete but you get an idea of where I live from a genre perspective.  We have roots rock, alternative and indie rock, classic rock, blues, pop, and even a little jazz.  There are instrumental records present as well as those with vocal.  There are subsets missing and once again, there are albums not mentioned below that I love dearly and spent a hell of a lot of time listening to.  I'm going to stop apologizing for what didn't make the cut and celebrate this fine group of records that improved my world:

The National – High Violet: I saw them three times and heard every song from this record performed at least once.  If you look at my iTunes listening stats, half this album is in the Top 25 of my most listened to songs out of a field of more than 27,000.  It is a beautiful, devastating record with layers, nuance, and beauty.

The Black Keys – Brothers:  brother turned me on to these guys years ago and I hate to admit he was right then and the masses who are catching up now are, too.  I miss the lo-fi sound that characterized their early work but what they've developed into is remarkable.

Nick Moss – Privileged:  I had the honor of writing liner notes for this record.  Nick has been growing as both a singer and songwriter, having always been a fantastic guitarist, and that growth is fully realized on Privileged.  This is a powerhouse of a record filled with hard sounds, hot licks, and defiant words.  Moss' blues fomented righteous rock and roll anger.

Ronnie Earl – Spread The Love: What can you say about an instrumental record that speaks to the hurts and beauties of life and the human spirit?  Shakespeare has nothing on the poetry of Ronnie Earl.

Guster – Easy Wonderful:  My BFFs Guster made the quintessential Guster pop record and I love every glorious moment of it.  Ryan Miller can make you laugh, dance, and sing in one moment and break your heart the next.  Incredible melodies, fabulous harmonies- this album has it all.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Mojo:  The Heartbreakers became the blues band they've always wanted to be on Mojo.  No one should be surprised one of the most American of Americana bands can play the natural blues and sound so natural.  Mike Campbell is unleashed on this record and my ears are better for it.

Peter Karp & Sue Foley – He Said She Said:  The songwriting of Peter Karp is one of the best discoveries I've made this decade.  He teams with Sue Foley, another fine songwriter, and these two tell the story of love from angles beyond what the title eludes to; they explore love near and far, being born and drifting away, its power to save and the fear it can bring. 

Eden Brent – Ain't Got No Troubles:  Smart, sassy, fierce, and vulnerable, Eden Brent's Ain't Got No Troubles wrapped itself around my head and nearly suffocated me like you see in Aliens.  That's a gross analogy for a beautiful record, isn't it?  She's been hyped and heralded within the blues community.  I was beginning to suspect maybe a little too much… right up until Ain't Got No Troubles arrived in September.  Sometimes the masses are right.  

Pat Metheny – Orchestrion:  I don't have anything quite like this one in my collection.  Pat Metheny's one-man band is fascinating because of how he recorded and assembled it.  It's one of the year's best because of the melodies and musical ideas he explored with his creation of a modern, ancient orchestra (or is that ancient, modern?).

Robert Randolph – We Walk This Road:  T Bone Burnett produced like 30 records this year and they were all good but the one that really stopped me in my tracks was this one from Robert Randolph.  Randolph has long been known as a great live musician but his previous  studio efforts failed to capture all he and his band could be.  There is still more ground for this emerging artist and band to cover but Burnett nudged them and the result is their most accomplished record to date.