1. A More Perfect Union
Titus Andronicus, The Monitor (2010)
Titus Andronicus is a New Jersey-based punk-influenced indie rock band, often compared to Bruce Springsteen and The Hold Steady. We’re starting off this year’s CD with the lead track from The Monitor, a Civil War concept album. Yep, a Civil War concept album, complete with Abraham Lincoln quotes. Yes, really. I like it for the driving guitar riff that dominates the track.
2. Take Off Your Shirt
Bibio, Mind Bokeh (2011)
Bokeh is a photographic term for how unfocused points of light appear through a camera lens. This was an iTunes discovery.
3. Ain’t Good Enough For You
Bruce Springsteen, The Promise (2010)
After writing Born to Run in 1975, Bruce was hampered by a record label contract dispute. By the time he emerged three years later, he had a pile of songs, many of which didn’t fit the theme of the collection that became Darkness at the Edge of Town. These were stored in a vault, and not unearthed until last year. The most famous is Because the Night, a song made famous by Patti Smith. I like the lively tempo of “Ain’t Good Enough For You”. Also recommended: “Because the Night,” “Fire.”
4. It’s Only
The Cars, Move Like This (2011)
Apparently these guys were cryogenically frozen for the past twenty-seven years, as this album sounds like it was written weeks after Heartbreak City. If you liked them in the eighties, you’ll like them now. Also recommended: “Blue Tip,” “Keep on Knocking.”
5. Blue Suede Shoes (Viva Elvis)
Elvis Presley, Viva Elvis (2010)
Every few years they dig up an old Elvis tune and remix it to a dance beat. I’m apparently a sucker for the tactic.
6. This Is What Rock n Roll Looks Like
Porcelain Black, (single) (2011)
As far as I can tell, this woman has made one song, and only one song. Apparently she opened for Lil’ Wayne on his tour (he also contributed some vocals to this track.) I’m not sure how she toured with one song- perhaps she played the song four times straight through? It rocks, though.
7. Salty Dog
Flogging Molly, Swagger (2007)
Hard-rockin’ Irish band. I accidentally confused this band while looking for more by The Dropkick Murphy’s, who appeared in my 2008 CD. Also recommended: “The Likes of You Again,” “Black Friday Rule.”
8. Johnny Got A Boom Boom
Imelda May, Love Tattoo (2009)
Starting off with a wonderful standup Double Bass, this album is retro and rockabilly through and through. I learned about this band from a member of Nate’s Oklahoma family. Also recommended: “Big Bad Handsome Man”, “Love Tattoo.”
9. Love Vigilantes
Iron & Wine, Around the Well (2009)
This is a cover of an old remake from New Order, although I went most of the year before Dorinna told me why the song sounded familiar.
10. Jimmie Rodgers’ Dream
Elton John & Leon Russell, The Union (2010)
Leon Russell had slipped into obscurity before Elton John put together this project. The press frames this as John rescuing Russell’s career, but I’m not sure who saved whom- this CD is the only listenable thing to come out of Elton John in decades.
11. Awake My Soul
Mumford & Songs, Sigh No More (2009)
At this point, everyone has heard of this folk-rock-country-bluegrass band from England. Also recommended: “The Cave”, “Little Lion Man”.
12. Sing Singin’
Johnny A., Get Inside (2004)
Johnny A. is a Massachusetts-based blues-rock guitarist. This instrumental has a nice relaxing groove.
Lucinda Williams, Blessed (2011)
I have a love/hate relationship with Lucinda Williams. I find most of her music pretty dull and nondescript. But every album seems to have at least one sparkling gem that I really like. Also recommended: 1/2 of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
Matt Nathanson, Modern Love (2011)
15. The Big Bang
Rock Mafia, (single) (2010)
Another band with only singles to their name, I discovered this as a free iTunes download.
16. Let My Baby Ride
R.L. Burnside, Come On In (1998)
This came up on Pandora, and inspired a bit of Nate-dancing.
17. Bound for Glory
Tedeschi Trucks Band, Revelator (2011)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Derek Trucks Band has been a favorite of mine for many years. This year they joined forces with the band of Derek’s wife and blues singer Susan Tedeschi. Blues, soul, funk, roots music? Jam band? Call it what you like, I like it, and Susan’s vocals are far better than Derek’s previous singers. In concert, the size of the band is a bit overwhelming (too many solos by players not named Derek), but still worth seeing.
18. Chop and Change
The Black Keys, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010)
No, I didn’t see the movie. Nor will I. The soundtrack, loaded with big names, was the disappointment of the year.
19. Big River
The Secret Sisters, (single) (2010)
SONG OF THE YEAR
Once they open their mouths to sing, there’s absolutely no question that the Secret Sisters are a traditional country folk duo. I mean… this is country. So how did this end up as my favorite song for the year? Well, a certain Mr. J. White from Memphis sits in on guitar– this ain’t no country. Also recommended: the B-side, “Wabash Cannonball”
20. Hang You From the Heavens
The Dead Weather, Live at Third Man Records (2009)
The same Mr. Jack White, now playing drums, is the creative force behind The Dead Weather. This band didn’t come out with a new studio album this year, but I found this live EP on the iTunes store. I love the rawness of The Dead Weather, which is only accentuated when they play live. Also recommended: the rest of the EP.
21. Dream a Little Dream
Eddie Vedder, Ukulele Songs (2011)
Here’s a calm epilogue to wrap up this year’s CD. Although an entire album of these ukulele songs gets a bit tedious, they are pretty and fun when they come up on shuffle. If you really want to hear a ukulele smoke, Check out Jake Shimabukuro. Also recommended: “Can’t Keep,” a Pearl Jam song previously written for the ukulele.