Top Ten for 2010 (List #4 of 7): by Beth Yeckley
by Beth Yeckley
While most of the world wants to talk about Foals and Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade and Vampire Weekend (all with good reason, I might add), I really wanted to plug Young Alumni. This South Carolina band is led by Steven Fiore who is one of the most talented guys under the radar in the southeast. Young Alumni produces a playful five-track album that floats through speakers without a heavy hand. While it’s not a “think piece,” it’s got catchy lyrics and endearing qualities, and it’s great for a roadtrip (albeit a short one). I’m eager to hear what the band produces next.
9. What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood – The Mynabirds
I’ve raved about this band before, in both an album review and a show review, so if you haven’t taken my advice yet and listened to this band, go do it now (I won’t ask again). Laura Burhenn is an exceptional talent, offering listeners a throwback gospel sound that carries a modern pop vibe. Vocally, Burhenn is able to slip into different characters and really take listeners through a journey over the course of ten songs. Her music is fun, soulful, and authentic, and not afraid to pound on the keys every now and then.
Sam Amidon is working with folk in a way that is almost heartbreaking. His style specializes in capturing both the mournful cry and sweet tenderness that carry us right up the mountains of Appalachia. More often than not, his vocals sound unpolished, raw even, but that extends a generosity to his very approachable tales—as if you are welcome to sit down beside him and listen to him sing.
7. Weathervanes – Freelance Whales
Another one of my absolute favorites this year, Freelance Whales have had nothing short of an amazing year (and rightfully so). Their pop folk ensemble has created smart music that thrives off of their flexibility to play an array of instruments and switch up their arrangements. When you listen to songs like “Hannah,” it’s not hard to understand why the Whales draw crowds eager to sing along and do that cute little indie shimmy/shuffle on the floor (you know what I’m talking about).
6. Steeple – Wolf People
This is my throw back album of the year. Wolf People conjured up a sound that undoubtedly conjures up the sounds of the 60s and 70s, channeling bands like Cream. The band plays off brooding guitar riffs and aggressive percussion. And the vocals are pretty amusing, quirky even. Someone who reviewed the album said that it was for people who “want vinyl to be the standard again,” and I think they were right. Must hear songs are “Tiny Circle” and “Morning Born.”
I don’t know if I’ve said it enough, publicly, but Amy Godwin is one of the most talented voices in the South. I’d bet money on it. Her vocals combined with the adroit lyricism by Austin Crane make the collection of Genesis inspired songs a perfect fit for driving, sleeping, or rethinking the stories that many of us know—maybe even inspire you to read some yourself. It is the sheer creativity with which Crane breaks down these songs and rebuilds them in his modern tongue (and understanding) that keeps me coming back to try and understand how he did it and at the same time, simply enjoy that it was possible.
4. Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons
I’m not sure if there’s a website out there that hasn’t talked about these guys this year. While probably best known for “Little Lion Man,” Mumford & Sons capitalizes on beautiful harmonizing and engaging vocals that rarely sit still. The album is heavy on the strings, offering upbeat jams and serenading sorrowful-sounding songs, ones that hint a little more at their English roots.
I’ve followed Jose Gonzalez’s music for quite some time and at first was pretty skeptical about his venture into what’s described as a “rock band.” For so long I have depended on Gonzalez to dole out musical rations that were most notably his voice and his guitar, so the idea of a full band sounded a little clouded and stuffy, not as piercing as his solo stuff. I was totally wrong. I had the pleasure of seeing Junip live and there is not one mastermind, but three behind its explosive and riveting sound. Junip’s music entrances listeners and offers one of the broadest audible feasts of the year with booming and highly detailed percussion, whirling and overpowering keys and organ play, deep bass and still the acoustic guitar at lead. Definitely check out “Without You” and “To The Grain.”
2. Brothers – Black Keys
I may catch some flack for saying this, but sometimes I just can’t bring myself to believe that the sounds of the Black Keys are the product of two white guys. Brothers is a masterful rebound from Attack and Release (which I felt fell a little short of Magic Potion), offering their signature funk and soul with a very sultry edge. What’s more, they channel an old school vibe that flaunts itself as timeless and unmatched in this year’s line up of new albums.
Local Natives have produced an album that is incredibly thoughtful without gagging listeners with an overly complicated sound. They are absolutely catchy and brilliant in their details—the percussive elements are prime. The reason why I dig them, and why most people probably dig them, is the unabashed energy that spills out of the songs. They hit a few charming notes too, with songs like “Cubism Dreams” and “Airplanes.” It’s hard to not get sucked into the vibe of the songs, whether it’s the pensiveness of “Wide Eyes” or the journey of “Camera Talk.”