After listing my favorite new albums of 2010, I figured I’d also have some fun with a list of records I really dug that I bought this year, but didn’t come out in 2010. I’ve mentioned this before, but I buy a LOT of CDs on the cheap at garage sales, yard sales, flea markets and at stores. I rarely spend more than $7 on something new and get all kinds of deals at those other places, so I’ve been able to acquire lots and lots of music I missed out on in previous years. This list has a whopping 12 records and/or bands on it, but I’ve written about a few of them previously, so I won’t get into too much detail on those. Hit the jump for all the goodness you can handle!Alright, let’s get the ones I’ve already talked about out of the way right off the bat. The Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, the Tinted Windows self titled record and every Jack White record I could get my hands on have been rocking my world on a regular basis. We’re talking nearly constant play in my car and on the ol’ iPod. Talking Heads really introduced me to good New Wave, Tinted Windows is pure pop gold by a wonderful supergroup and the earthy goodness of Jack White in the White Stripes and The Raconteurs (still haven’t gotten into the Dead Weather yet) might not seem related, but they all do what they do very very well.I’ll move on to another lump write-up by saying I had a resurgence of Beatles love this year that kicked off last Christmas. My parents got me a couple of their CDs, but my mom also got my dad a box set of every single one of their records, so Dad sent me the extras he had that I didn’t. So, I started the year off with Abbey Road, Beatles For Sale, Help, Let It Be and Please Please Me, though I’m not sure how I lived so long without having a copy of Abbey Road. I’m kind of ashamed of that. These discs covered a pretty wide breadth of the Beatles’ career which is educational because I wasn’t very familiar with their earlier, poppier records. I won’t pretend that I’ve got something more unique or earth-shattering to say about the greatest, most versatile band of all time than the bevy of other, more qualified writers out there, so let’s just leave it at the Beatles are awesome and I’ve gotten a little misty eyed seeing Paul McCartney on TV recently. I feel weird and sad that my daughter might not grow up in a world with a living Beatle of his quality. Okay, enough sadness. Time for some punk rawk! I first heard about the Buzzcocks back when I worked at Barry’s Bagel Place in Toledo, Ohio. The bakers there got to choose the music they played in the back. One day I walked back there and was blown away by Singles Going Steady. I feel bad because I can’t remember exactly which baker it was, but he let me borrow the record and I listened to it nonstop for a few weeks. Then I gave it back to him, kept an eye out for it but didn’t actually buy it until this year. It’s an awesome 16 track masterpiece of a singles collection with brain melting tracks like “What Do I Get?” “Orgasm Addict” and “Noise Annoys.” I don’t know a thing about the Buzzcocks except that I love this record and listen to it a lot while working, especially when I need a big energy boost. Friggin’ great title too, by the way!
In my glacial acquisition of classic hip-hop records, I seem to be going in reverse chronological order with some dudes. For instance, I picked up Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style before his debut on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic which I snagged at a flea market for a couple bucks this year. This was a record I unfortunately forgot that I bought and just happened to see in my car in the last few months which earned it a quick place in my regular rotation. There’s something so specific and enjoyable about Dre’s beats that no one else seemed to replicate, though a LOT of dudes tried. It’s almost like a digital symphony with sometimes sophomoric lyrics on top, but those don’t take away from the overall enjoyment for me. Plus, “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” is one of the greatest songs of all time. Freshman year of college, I made my roommate Hatem play that thing as much as I could, much to his annoyance I’m sure. I still don’t get the hip-hop love of those skits between songs, but I’m okay with that.
Out of nowhere came Fastball’s All the Pain Money Can Buy as a favorite of the year. I bought this disc for a buck at a flea market which might make it the best monetary investment of my life. Like everyone else in the world, I remember their huge 90s hit “The Way.” I dug that song and still do, so I figured that was a pretty small investment to check out the rest of that album (I’d pay that same amount just to buy that one song on iTunes, so it’s a great deal). I found myself listening to this record for the better part of the summer, bobbing my head to the pop rock tunes. I really appreciated rediscovering their third single off this disc called “Out Of My Head” which happened to hit me in an interesting emotional place this year. I belted that one out like crazy, while, of course, alone, because my voice is terrible. All the Pain Money Can Buy was without a doubt the surprise hit of the year for me.
From 90s pop to 60s, I knew I would love Walk-Don’t Run The Best Of The Ventures because I did my fair share of research on this one. I got to know them thanks to a few of their records my dad had in his vinyl collection that I co-opted when I got my first turntable in high school. It took several years for me to actually figure out which one of their CDs I wanted to get and this one turned out to have the best selection of tracks. There’s 29 songs on this thing! I love this record in all it’s surf rock glory and really need to branch out in this musical genre which I’m incredibly drawn to, but completely ignorant of aside from The Ventures, “Wipe Out” and the Batman theme song, which my band covered in high school.
Another mostly-instrumental dude, Link Wray made his way into my consciousness thanks to It Might Get Loud, which also kickstarted my interest in Jack White and his various groups. In this case, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page talked about how much Wray and his style influenced him before picking up a guitar and playing “Rumble” for White and the Edge. It’s interesting to listen to this record to get an idea of what little Jimmy Page was listening to and how it influenced him, like listening to Leadbelly, the Meat Puppets or the Melvins to understand Nirvana better. There’s something amazingly visceral about Wray’s distorted style of playing the gee-tar. I felt a little on edge after listening to this disc, which is something I can’t say about most things I’ve listened to. The best thing I can relate it to is watching Heath Ledger as Joker in Dark Knight. That’s the only time I remember seeing someone on screen that made me feel personally uncomfortable and maybe even a little paranoid. I don’t want to say scared because that’s a very specific emotion, but I think unsettled describes the feeling well. I felt unsettled watching Dark Knight and listening to this record, but in a way that makes me want to keep coming back more.
The Rocker was a surprisingly good movie with a surprising number of original pop songs therein. That’s what makes it such a rad record to me: so much poppy goodness. The songs, like “Bitter,” “Tomorrow Never Comes” and “Coming Through In Stereo” are great pop tracks that run the gamut of the emotions you expect to and want to think about while listening to a pop record. As an added bonus, you also get songs by the 80s band from the movie Vesuvius “Promised Land” and “Pompei Nights” which are good mixes of Spinal Tap parody and legit 80s hair metal. I dig the Scott Pilgrim sountrack, but this is one that I’ve been listening to for quite a while and might be in the top five soundtracks I’ve ever bought.
Earlier this year, I decided to branch out a little bit more into the world of country after listening to the Highwaymen for a while. That lead surreptitiously into me picking up Willie Nelson’s Stardust, which is a record of covers from 1978. Nelson takes his sparse, melodic style and uses it to play songs from the great American songbook like “Stardust,” “Unchained Melody” and “Georgia On My Mind.” “Stardust” is actually one of my all time favorite songs because Kenny Baker (the singer, not Artoo) sang it on one of The Jack Benny Program radio episodes I used to listen to while drifting off to sleep when I was younger. When I heard Nelson’s version, I nearly cried because it’s so beautiful. I feel the same way about the rest of the record which became a huge, mellow return listen for me this year. I think this will be a good one to play for my daughter when she joins us next spring. This is my second favorite album I got this year.
Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers’ The Bear is my favorite album of the year. I would have included it in the Best of 2010, but it actually came out the previous year. Kellogg’s got this great voice that he uses to sing amazing songs that make you think about relationships and life and love and big, big questions more deeply than most records. I found myself listening to this CD in my car and getting sucked in by the words more and more with each listen. I think I’ve gotten exponentially more sentimental since we found out the missus is pregnant, so this has been the perfect album for me in the waning months of 2010 and I’m sure will take me well into the next year/decade/forever. Making matters even better, this disc was a gift from my good buddy Jesse Thompson who sent it to me out of the blue. That it was a gift and came out of nowhere to become my favorite record in a long time makes it even better in my mind. Thanks again to Jesse and I can’t wait to dig a little deeper into the Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers catalog and follow their upcoming releases.
There you have it folks. I got a huge stack of CDs for Christmas that I won’t get around to listening to until next year thanks to some house troubles and an upcoming trip out to Ohio for New Year’s/Second Christmas with my folks which might result in even more records! I got most of the White Stripes records I didn’t have, Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Band On The Run, a Stevie Ray Vaughan box set, Cash: The Legend, Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe, Hot Rats and Joe’s Garage Acts I, II, & III and Styx’s Pieces Of Eight and Grand Illusion. That’s a lot of listening to do, but I’m up for it!