The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “Burden of Tomorrow” (mp3)
Download “King of Spain” (mp3)
The Tallest Man on Earth is the sardonic musical name of five-foot-seven-inch Kristian Matsson. He has a raspy voice, sings songs with beguiling melodies and refined lyrics, and picks and strums with verve. Both The Wind Hunt and Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird are each the most consistently relishable albums of the year.
Quasi – American Gong | CD Vinyl MP3
Download ”Repulsion” (mp3)
Download “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler” (mp3)
Quasi is Sam Coomey on guitars and vocals supported by Joanna Bolme and Janet Weiss, the current rhythm section for Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, the latter also having been the drummer for Sleater-Kinney. In keeping with that company, American Gong is the best package of guitar driven indie rock of the year.
Defiance Ohio – Midwestern Minutes | CD Vinyl MP3 | Download from the band and pay what you want
Download “Hairpool” (mp3)
Defiance Ohio is a chamber pop band with a dedication to do-it-yourself aesthetics. There is a catchy layer of instruments supported by a punk attitude and energy. Melodic string lines – from violin, cello, and upright bass – are added to a foundation of guitars, keyboards, and drums. The album can be downloaded for free (or with a donation) from the band’s website.
Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can | CD MP3
Download “Rambling Man” (mp3)
For her second album, Laura Marling created a mature document. The subject matter focuses on topics of responsibility, specifically the responsibility of womanhood. The voice of the folk musician is also more developed. All of this blanketed by Ethan Johns perfect production.
Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame | CD Vinyl MP3 Deluxe MP3
Download “Stranger” (mp3)
Dr. Dog creates soulful modern pop steeped in ‘60s psychedelic influences. With each of their five albums, including Shame, Shame, the production qualities have increased. This album sounds like a George Martin produced an album by The Band. It boasts mellifluous layers of guitars, keyboards, accordions, chimes, and handclaps, while the most indelible aspect of their sound, their tight and frequent harmonies, remains a principal part of every track.
The Roots – How I Got Over | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “Doin’ It Again” (mp3)
The Roots focused on creating a positive album. The result was a mellow, jazzier slant to their organic hip hop sound. They added a unique list of guest spots from rap, R&B, indie rock, and folk musicians. There aren’t too many standout tracks, but this is, overall, one of the best flowing albums of the year.
Otis Gibbs – Joe Hill’s Ashes | CD MP3
Download “The Ballad of Johnny Crooked Tree” (mp3)
Otis Gibbs is a folk musician who follows the troubadour paces of Woody Guthrie and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He sings with a weathered voice about and for the worker, the everyman. New lines stand out as favorites every time I listen to this album. Stream the entire album at Otis’s Bandcamp.com site.
Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “Harlem River Blues” (mp3)
Justin Townes Earle, Steve Earle’s son, makes better records with each release. Harlem River Blues not only showcases his songwriting skills, it also has a mystical quality that makes the album sound timeless. He lives up to his namesake, both for his middle and last names.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy | CD CD/DVD MP3 Deluxe MP3
Download “Monster” (mp3) [from RCRD LBL]
Download “So Appalled” (mp3) [from RCRD LBL]
Download “Devil in a New Dress” (mp3) [from RCRD LBL]
Kanye West has taken the best elements of his past albums and layered them into a new, huge album. With a wealth of guest spots – from the expected (Jay-Z, Alicia Keys) to the unexpected (Elton John, Bon Iver, and, apparently, everyone in between (Chris Rock) – the spotlight is still clearly on Kanye. The album is by and about him.
Glossary – Feral Fire | CD MP3
Download “Bend with the Breeze” (mp3)
This is a searing set of countrified rock and roll. Joey and Kelly Kneiser’s vocals lead the soulful Americana music that crests with palpable electric and lap steel guitars. The music, like the lyrics, is straightforward and poignant.
Freelance Whales – Weathervanes | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “Generator ^ First Floor” (mp3)
Download “Generator ^ Second Floor” (mp3)
On their debut album, this New York City quintet layers electronic and acoustic instruments into illusory and effervescent indie pop. The diverse range of instruments includes banjo, harmonium, glockenspiel, mandolin, guitars, and synthesizers. The vocals gently wisp over the mellow, moving textures.
Gil Scott-Heron – The New Here | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “New York is Killing Me” (mp3)
For his first album in sixteen years, Scott-Heron, who is mostly known for his spoken word and jazz fusion, including the masterpiece “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” releases an album of minimal and ambient blues. His commanding voice and spoken work style are still strong. And it is a voice that has been missing from music. He not only returns, but he is reborn with this release.
Spoon – Transference | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “You In Reverse” (mp3)
Spoon has been one of the best bands of the past decade, crafting near perfect track after track. On Transference, they experiment a small amount with their sound. There are abrupt cut offs and edits, reversed sound files, and additional noise, but the band does it all perfectly.
2 Hungry Bros & 8thW1 – No Room for Desert | CD
Download “Be On You” (mp3)
Deep and Ben Boogz, aka 2 Hungry Bros, lay down the beats that are full of scratches and samples, straight off vinyl. 8thW1 rhymes in a smooth, affable manner, similar to De La Soul. The whole album rolls like the best of early ‘90s hip hop.
The Heligoats – Goodness Gracious | CD MP3
Download “Fish Sticks” (mp3)
Chris Otepka, the former frontman of Trouble Hubble, has been recording under the name The Heligoats for about ten years. The catchy goodness for which Trouble Hubble was known is still present, but The Heligoats’ songs are acoustic guitar based.
These United States – What Lasts | CD MP3
Download “The Great Rivers” (mp3)
Download “Water and Wheat” (mp3)
There’s something engrossing about These United States. Jesse Elliott’s continually flowing vocals and the buoyant bounce of guitars, keyboards, and pedal steel combine to create one of my favorite sounds of 2008, 2009, and now 2010.
The Acorn – No Ghost | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “No Ghost” (mp3)
The Acorn is a folk rock band from Ontario. They add more electric guitars on No Ghost than their previous releases. The sound on the album swells and grows on each track with blistering precision for astute folk rock cadences.
Franz Nicolay – Luck and Courage | CD MP3
Download “This is Not a Pipe” (mp3)
On Franz Nicolay’s last album, the music sounded like unused songs from his previous bands, The Hold Steady and World/Inferno Friendship Society. On Luck and Courage, however, he sounds like he has taken the elements of those bands to create his own, unique and intriguing sound.
Vampire Weekend – Contra | CD Vinyl MP3
Download “Horchata” (mp3)
Overall, Contra is not as explosive as the band’s self-titled debut. The Afro-beat influenced indie pop is still present, but the band the band adds some synth pop and ‘80s pop references to the music. They continue to create catchy, eclectic pop.
Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Volume 9: The Witmark Demos | CD Deluxe CD Vinyl MP3
The Witmark Demos were the original publishing demos Dylan recorded. He is heard accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and occasionally piano. These songs, which were all recorded before Dylan was 24 years old, show the maturation of the Guthrie wannabe into the iconic musician.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Harlan T Bobo – Sucker
Delta Spirit – History from Below
The Extra Lens – Undercard
Jeff Finlin – The Tao of Motor Oil
Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
Dan Mangan – Nice, Nice, Very Nice
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Qwel & Maker – Owl
The Corin Tucker Band – 1,000 Years