Friday, December 10, 2010

If it isn't obvious, I'm big into music.

This year there were a few albums that had me, start to finish.  In an increasingly single-focused industry, it's rare to find full-length records that are consistently good.  There was a day when artists released on vinyl, which limited the length to 8 or 10 tracks, meaning they were all pretty solid.  Then CDs came around, which could hold more, so a bad trend started: 20 tracks, half of them bad (SEE: Janet Jackson's 90s catalogue).  Editing and objectivity went out the window and quantity took over quality.  Then people stopped buying music altogether, instead pirating the hottest new singles and forgoing the album-experience.  So then you'd get a CD with one or two good "singles" and a bunch of filler.  Awful.

TOP HONOURS Well, Robyn might be changing the game again.  This year she wrote, recorded and released three mini-albums, all while touring and collaborating with all sorts of people.  Her three-part Body Talk has kept the world's interest for more than half the year, all infectious hooks and plentiful heart, and rolled-out to international acclaim.  She manages to write electronic dance music that sits with you, some unexpected folksy warmth, against all odds.  She often transforms her pop tracks into quiet acoustic versions (SEE: "Hang with Me", Body Talk Pt. 1) which puts them in a different genre altogether.  While her profile increases slowly, I predict she's about to become the Björk of this generation.  Big words, sure, but mark 'em.

Kelis produced one of the most organic hardcore dance albums of the decade.  Most known for her ridiculous song "Milkshake" in 2003, she should not be judged by one track alone.  Flesh Tone is thoughtful and, at an economical 9 tracks, it's restrained and perfect, front to back.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ray LaMontagne's collaboration with his Pariah Dogs on God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise is pure magic.  He produced the entire album, and it shows.  It feels deeply personal and well-tended.  Mark these words: We'll be listening to LaMontagne until we're old, rocking in chairs, remembering our youth.  He's the Johnny Cash of our generation.

A favourite of mine, as you're well aware, is Antony and the Johnsons.  Increasingly prolific, he released his most-recent only 18 months after his wholly magnificent The Crying Light (2009).  I wrote extensively about this year's Swanlights, and suffice it to say, the album hasn't left regular rotation.

Sia's follow-up to 2008's Some People Have Real Problems took it up a notch.  We are Born has the same quirkiness, but with more polish.  Lyrically, she's come leaps and bounds (SEE: The cringe-worthy "Little Black Sandals" from Problems) and apexes on "I'm in Here", a terribly sad song, which gets sadder on the piano-vocal version released later.  Her cover of Madonna's "Oh Father" is, alone, worth the price of the download.

Sade came out of the shadows to release her first album in a decade.  Soldier of Love is straight out of one of my favourite genres, one she herself originated.  80s Drama Rock, as I call it, includes the likes of Sinead O'Connor and Annie Lennox and gets me going in all the right ways.  It's unabashedly emotional and direct.  It pulls no punches and utilizes a lot of synthesizers.  That's not to say Soldier sounds dated: it doesn't.

Laura Marling turned a great corner with the release of I Speak Because I Can.  It's easily the most-mature offering from someone born in the 1990s, ever.  I thoroughly covered it here.

Owen Pallett shifted away from his Final Fantasy moniker this year with a full-length release (Heartland) and an EP, Swedish Love Story.  Both show growth and quirk and everything you might expect from him.  Rich, beautiful strings.  He makes me proud to be Canadian.  "Don't Stop" has been a constant this fall and was featured on a mix I offered in October.  Love.

Sufjan Stevens continues to reign the kooky-indie music world with his various releases this year.  It's hard to find the words to explain his place in music, you just sort of need to dive into it and see for yourself.  His 2010 EP All Delighted People is a great place to start.

Rufus Wainwright's introspective All the Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu is as obtuse as its title, in a good way.  Then: Covered it here.  Now: love it more than ever.

Sarah Harmer is a Canadian treasure.  Not only does she fight to maintain its majesty through environmental protection, but she oozes local charm with every word and pluck.  This year's Oh Little Fire is more of the same from her, but it's welcomed and cherished.  I wrote about it here.

And then there are the albums Jeff and I can enjoy together, on long Friday night drives to the cottage, or around the fire when we get there.  Vampire Weekend, Hot Chip, Caribou, Tegan & Sara, Spoon and the Black Keys each released albums he's happy to hear as much as I am. While he's a huge consumer of music and loves what he loves, we certainly have differing tastes.  He makes many references to my "lesbian music" and really can't stand most of it.  I've learned to ignore his judgment and sit proudly in the comfort of my own good taste.


  1. have you ever thought about posting mixes that jeff puts together?

  2. although officially released in 2009 in the UK {not until 2010 in the US and canada), you cannot overlook 'sigh no more'. and extraordinary album. mum and his boys are headed for greatness.

    kelis...i could shake it all night!

  3. Such a great review. I was going to ask what type of music Jeff is into, but Anonymous beat me to it.

  4. Hi, Just stumbled upon your blog looking for when Tommy met Anna photos and I am obsessed with it! The food, the pictures, your love of great music. I am definitely gonna be a regular reader!

    xx Yael

  5. I remember loving you for loving Sufjan and Ray and Sia and Sade...

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