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Moving To Tumblr

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Top 5 Albums of 2010

These are the albums I listened to the most this past year.

1. Nathaniel Rateliff - In Memory Of Loss

The first things you notice are the voice and the space. That voice belongs to Nathaniel Rateliff, a man who's earned the twang and hard-knock weariness that shines through on his Rounder debut. The space comes courtesy of producer Brian Deck (Califone, Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse), who helped transform 8-track bedroom demos into miniature epics of contrast, beauty, and yearning. In Memory of Loss is a stunning, heartbreaking sonic document from a singer-songwriter who's made his way from a childhood in Bay, Missouri (pop. 60) to the national stage. Rateliff's debut album is rooted in a bygone era. It's both fresh and classic, imbued with a melancholy nostalgia, the rough candor of rock `n roll's past and the warmth and earnestness of folk storytellers. These thirteen tracks, with their soulful minimalism, hint of the music he grew up on - Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, The Beatles ­- yet Rateliff is also at home in what may be called, for lack of a better term, the neo-folk revival. His voice is so confident that you can occasionally imagine the music dropping out entirely, a song propelled solely by Rateliff's a capella strengths ­- equal parts church spiritual and TV On The Radio riffing on The Pixies. This persistent troubadour has struggled and persevered to this point. Now, the wider world is ready for Nathaniel Rateliff.

2. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt

Kristian Matsson plays to his strengths on The Wild Hunt, his second album. It’s a smart move. He keeps it simple, finger-picking strings to propel his gristly vocal melodies, which feel simultaneously cavalier and carefully wrought. Though his acoustic guitar often thwacks like a snare, his songs are uncluttered by percussion, harmonized vocals or the kinds of orchestral ornaments that are so prevalent in current alt-folk. The clean, galloping banjos and guitars spotlight his pristine snarl, which slips down into powerful bass notes and then reaches up and yelps on key, accentuating his ambitious, second-language lyrics: “I wasn’t born, I just walked in one frosty morn / Into the vision of some vacant mind,” he sings on “Burden of Tomorrow.” If Sondre Lerche were a bluegrass-loving goblin, he might sound a little like this. Among the dead weights of the modern new-Dylans, Matsson is a real live wire.

3. Mavis Staples - You Are Not Alone

Though now on the far side of 70, Mavis Staples remains one of American music’s national treasures, with a smoldering voice that’s as compelling today as it was 40 years ago on Staple Singers’ hits like “Respect Yourself.” This time around, Jeff Tweedy is the lucky guy at the helm, and he’s done Staples justice, giving the album throwback flourishes and a modern aesthetic. Throughout You Are Not Alone, shimmering, bluesy electric guitar echoes the brilliant playing of the late “Pops” Staples, and Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor (of Neko Case’s band) contribute fervent backing vocals, but Tweedy has made no attempt to mimic traditional gospel. The production is bright and clear, and the arrangements showcase the star. Mixing sacred material with a few secular songs, Staples emphasizes the kinder, more humanistic version of her faith on toe-tapping cuts like “You Don’t Knock” and “In Christ There Is No East or West,” but stokes the fire-and-brimstone of her father’s beliefs on the stomping “Downward Road.” Two Tweedy originals, including the hushed title track, are beautiful and uplifting. Whatever your beliefs, it’ll lift your soul.

4. The National - High Violet

If MGMT colors its musical canvas with fluorescent candy-scented magic markers, and Coldplay favors the niceness of pastel watercolors, The National’s output resembles a painstaking charcoal sketch with dramatic interplay between light and shadow. The five-piece’s cerebral rock ’n’ roll makes no apologies for its bleak emotional tenor, and I still can’t listen to their 2007 masterpiece Boxer without imagining myself slouching down the midwinter streets of Manhattan alone at 3 a.m., watching my icy breath spill into the dark like cigarette smoke. The band’s new album, High Violet—which took roughly a year of intense recording at both their newly built studio space and producer Peter Katis’ Tarquin Studios in Bridgeport, Conn.—revels in the same dark hues. The National’s unique brand of torture-chamber pop and fascination with 21st-century paranoia and psychological unrest provide an evocative thematic template.

5. Josh Ritter - So Runs The World Away

Idaho native and Brooklyn transplant Josh Ritter hits a beautiful stride on his sixth album, a soulful combination of conversational folk ballads and powerful gut punches. Ritter’s the kind of artist that will always draw comparisons to legends like Bob Dylan and contemporaries like Ryan Adams—and while So Runs the World Away contains a handful of songs that make those comparisons easy, he also never sways from his unmistakable cadence. He whispers on “The Curse,” stomps on “The Remnant” and, yes, matter-of-factly evokes Dylan on “Folk Bloodbath” when he explains with scratchy sincerity, “That’s the sad thing with life / There’s people always leavin’ just as other folks arrive.” He’s not the only one channeling the greats, but he does it better than almost anyone else today.

Honorable Mentions That Were Released in 2009 But Were Heavily Listened To In 2010

1. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

2. Dawes - North Hills

3. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below

Monday, November 22, 2010

Auto Shop

From now own I'm only frequenting mechanics who have already set dressed their lobby to look like 1985.