Thursday, December 9, 2010

Best of 2010

What a year it's been at Audio-Didact. The blog went live in April. In June my good friend and emerging band mentor Fletcher kindly agreed to co-blog with me. We never dreamed that by the year's end we would have close to 700 visits from a dozen countries. It was Fletcher who came up with the terrific idea to make our final post of the year a "best of" posting by both of us. Enjoy! And please comment with your thoughts about the best music of 2010. Fletcher and I hope that this piece will truly be interactive with our readers, to whom we are grateful for making this blog possible. We wish all of you a wonderful holiday and look forward to enjoying new music with you in 2011.

Fletcher's Picks
It’s the end of the year as we know it (and I feel fine). It has been a great year for music and we are going to reveal some highlights for each of us.

First of all, it has been a wonderful year for this rookie blog. I thank Larry so much for inviting me to share some of my musical passions with all of you. I have been overwhelmed by the positive response and thank all of you for that support. I have really enjoyed writing it. I will say that many of my year's favorites are bands that I have written about. I always write about bands that I am passionate about, and it is good for me to see that at the end of the year, I am still in love with their music. Now, let’s get down to it.

Top Albums of the Year (alphabetical by band)
Delta Spirit, History from Below -- A great album from one of the best live bands on tour. Don’t miss this album, don’t miss this live show.
Goldspot, And the Elephant Is Dancing -- Every song on this album will get stuck in your head (in a positive way).
Jukebox the Ghost, Everything Under the Sun -- Piano pop at its best by this upcoming band.
Portugal the Man, American Ghetto -- A solid follow up to Satanic Satanist. Lots of intriguing sounds mixed with sonic sounds throughout.
Vampire Weekend, Contra -- A great album influenced by world music, it will pleasantly surprise you. Many hummable tunes. "Holiday" even used in a car commercial.

Top Songs of the Year (alphabetical by band)
Birds and Arrows, "Not Interested" -- Stunningly beautiful harmonies by this husband-wife team from North Carolina. Very soothing vocals in this song about life on the road.
Caleb Stine, "The Last Curtain Call" -- A man, with just his guitar, who will move you with his songs about the difficulties of living today. Truly a folksinger in the mode and spirit of Woody Guthrie. This one melts me every time I listen to it.
Delta Spirit, "Golden State" -- My favorite song on this album and a band that I can’t say enough good things about. Matt’s vocals are so passionate that you can hear his love for his home state.
Fools and Horses, "Follow" -- This radio friendly song comes from a band that has all the talent needed for a modern rock career. The soaring guitars and layered vocals of this song are the best on their new self-titled album, their finest yet. Lot of catchy hooks that deliver.
Goldspot, "One Year Anniversary" -- As I said before, every song on this album will get stuck in your head. I just love the way this song builds and the great chorus with the Beach Boy perfect harmonies.
Jukebox the Ghost, "Empire" -- From the opening to the end you get caught up in this song that wowed folks when they opened for Ben Folds and Guster this year. Another great chorus.
Port O’Brien, "My Will is Good" -- I had never heard of this band until I saw them open for Portugal the Man. This song blew me away. A fantastic opening and vocal. Wonderful backing instrumental track on this song. I really like the way this song is mixed.
Ra Ra Riot, "Boy"-- What can you say about a band that features chamber music with cellos and violins and combines it perfectly with indie rock? You get this band. This song has a killer bass line that drives it all the way through.
Victoria Vox, "Oh I Wonder" -- Uke need to make sure uke listen to this one. Victoria is an amazing singer-songwriter with a beautiful voice; she is also a ukulele player. My favorite song on this wonderful new album takes playing and listening to a ukulele to a new level.
Wye Oak, "My Neighbor" -- This duo creates beautiful sonic music that seems to have control and lose control at the same time. Jenn’s vocals and Andy’s drumming are both stunning as they take you on a musical journey with this song. I love this band's sound.

Best Musical Moments
Portugal the Man in Denver and Delta Spirit in Baltimore. Both of these were the best live shows for me during the year. I wrote about the Portugal show in an earlier blog. I just worked the Delta Spirit show when they came through here a few weeks ago -- it was the best show I have seen in three years. Both shows were magical nights and remind me why I love to see live music.
I have worked the merch table for many bands this year and appreciate all the good people I have met.

Looking Forward to in 2011
New Wye Oak and Cold War Kids albums. Can’t wait for either of them.

Larry's Picks
Top Albums of the Year (alphabetical by band)
Arcade Fire, The Suburbs -- A great album with overtones of a concept approach. Having grown up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., I found the album's autobiographical climax set in Houston's suburb of The Woodlands particularly moving.
Esperanza Spalding, Chamber Music Society -- How can one not love the excitement of this young prodigy not fitting into her jazz box? She is moving towards something new, something beautiful, something profound.
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, I Learned The Hard Way -- So retro they sound comparatively avant-garde. This band just plain improves with each album.
Spoon, Transference -- A welcome return to raw rhythmic energy. I found myself listening to this album daily for many weeks this year.
Vampire Weekend, Contra-- Like Fletcher, I fell in love with the music on this album. Incredibly complex world music flows from this quartet like cool flowing water.

Top Songs of the Year (alphabetical by band)
Bettye LaVette, "Love Reign" -- Ms. LaVette takes the Who's song from Quadrophenia and re-invents it as a R&B song. Although this live performance took place in 2008, the recording was released this year on Interpretations, The British Rock Songbook Album.
Buddy Guy, "74 Years Young" -- Buddy Guy, the living legend, starts off his autobiographical album Living Proof proudly proclaiming, "I'm 74 years young." Yes, he is, and he is still a master at singing and playing the blues.
The Damnwells, "She Goes Around" -- Catchy, rocking, and fun. This song is from their forthcoming album. You can receive a download of this song by supporting their new album or signing up for their mailing list here.
The Decemberists, "Down By The Water" -- Terrific Americana sounds and beautiful harmony. I can't wait for the album The King is Dead, scheduled to be released on January 18th, 2011.
Harper Blynn, "Lonliest Generation" -- Fletcher turned me on to this band and song, and I could not get enough of them for weeks. The delightfully comic video for this song is fun to watch as well.
Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings, "If You Call" -- Powerful longing, blues, emotion, tears, it's all there. Fasten your seat-belt and prepare to suffer with Sharon.
Vampire Weekend, "Cousins" -- Incredible energy, tight, lots of sounds, the driving snare drum -- I often find myself humming this song.

Best Musical Moments
Early in the year I saw John Scofield at Tipitinas in NOLA. He performed many of his amazing transformations of New Orleans-inspired gospel music with a quartet of gifted jazz and r&b musicians. Vampire Weekend put on a truly amazing and magical show in Houston. Alex Denzen from The Damnwells played an terrific hour set at the Houston's wonderful independent record store, Cactus Music. He played both new music and old favorites from the Damnwells.

Looking Forward to in 2011:
New Decemberists and Damnwells albums. I eagerly look forward to both.


  1. Hooray for the Port O'Brien "My Will is Good Video"! A good friend of mine was actually the cinematographer on that. Some other good picks on here as well ...

    ~april (yes Fletcher, I'm still alive! and almost done with law school!)

  2. I need to get busy listening to your recommendations! I love Esperanza Spalding (thanks to Shazam!) and can't wait to hear Buddy Guy. I used to wait tables at Canal Street Tavern in Dayton and heard Buddy Guy several times. Thanks for the list guys.