Most of these have been fairly well documented on here. But just in case you missed it (lucky you!), here are nine or so particularly fertile areas of the musical landscape that I’ve explored this year:
9. Mary Star of the Sea – Zwan. 2010 was the year my anti-Billy Corgan snobbery finally bit the dust. While Mellon Collie was the initial vehicle of reappraisal (it’s good!), it was this 2003 outing that’s stuck with me most. That the lyrics have more than a passing (and sympathetic) mention of spiritual matters doesn’t hurt. Favorite tracks: “Declarations of Faith” and “Lyric”.
8. Butterfly – The Hollies. Don’t let the psychedelic pretense fool you, this is ridiculously tuneful and straightforward stuff, start to finish. Commercial and fun, and totally consistent release from some increasingly unsung pop gurus. Favorite Tracks: “Away Away Away” and “Step Inside” (but not “King Midas in Reverse”).
7. Slaid Cleaves. Brokenhearted country-rock of the highest order. With such a keen eye for tragedy (and ear for melody), one would expect it to be a bit more of a downer, but Slaid’s conflicted relationship with grace keeps a note of uplift resounding in the background. Favorite Tracks: “One Good Year” and “Temporary” and for its Mbird-relevance “Sinner’s Prayer”.
6. Montage. The “follow-up” project from Michael Brown of The Left Banke, a billing which this little-known album surprisingly lives up to. Favorite Tracks: “I Shall Call Her Mary” and “Grand Pianist”.
5. Overnight Angels – Ian Hunter. I’d always heard this referred to as “Overblown Angels” and had therefore stayed away from Mr. Mott’s third solo record. By no means his best, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still pretty phenomenal! Bombastic sure, yet full of Hunter’s trademark sneering vulnerability. The Roy Thomas Baker production has dated remarkably well. Favorite Tracks: “Silver Dime” and “Shallow Crystals”.
5a. The Artful Dodger – Ian Hunter. Released only in Norway, the first impressive gasp of Hunter’s “third wave,” when he emerged as the pioneer of aging gracefully. Favorite Tracks: “Michael Picasso” and “Resurrection Mary”.
4. Chris Knight. Oy vey, this dude is heavy. Fortunately the talent matches the subject matter. When David Browder posted the insanely good “Love and a .45” (one’ll kill you/one’ll keep you alive) last year, my ears perked up. But nothing could prepare me for the deep, dark, Christ-haunted world of Chris Knight, the real McCoy if ever there was one. Favorite Tracks: “Send a Boat”, “Love and a .45” and:
3. Heathen and Reality – David Bowie. As of this writing, these two constitute his final albums of original material, released back to back in 2002 and 2003, and more worthy of his legacy than pretty much anything he put out in the 90s. Favorite Tracks: “New Killer Star”, “Slip Away”, “Afraid” and “Never Get Old”.
2. I’m 10,000 Years Old – Elvis Presley. The so-called “country” record that he recorded in 1971, as if his voice wasn’t a genre unto itself by that point. But track for track it’s strongest non-Elvis In Memphis material he released in the 70s and somehow I missed it. For shame! Favorite Tracks: “I Washed My Hands in the Muddy Water” and “It’s Your Baby, You Rock It”.
1. Honeybus. I’ve been chasing so-called lost masterpieces since my first taste of Smile in fourth grade, and I can honestly say that in Honeybus‘ Story (with accompanying singles) I think I’ve found the holy grail, both in terms of lost-ness and masterpiece-ness. Criminally overlooked, but that just adds to its utter delightfulness. Favorite Tracks: “Do I Figure In Your Life?” and “Story” and pretty much every other song.