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Best CDs of 2010

Posted by NumberSix , 26 February 2011 · 401 views

Most writers would give you their Top 10. They would also submit it to you in a timely fashion. In 2010 I bought four 2010 CDs (and one 2010 reissue), down from 11 in 2009 and barely above the nadir of 3 in 2009. It's hard to develop a sense of expressive urgency about such a short-list of candidates. As with last year, part of that is inarguably the fault of me getting old. The former favorite bands of my prime album-buying years broke up, got old and softer than me, diverged away from me as my worldview has changed, or moved away from physical recordings to the modern intangible media that don't suit my situation for a variety of reasons.

If only I had time and patience for song-by-song tryouts on YouTube or Comcast On Demand. If only commercial radio didn't suck. If only my 1996 factory-model car radio were replaced with non-free satellite radio. If only I were still young, frustrated, and easily enraptured by strong language. If only I had a use for mindless Top 40 dance-party filler. If only MTV still aired some version of 120 Minutes. If only more artists catered to just my finicky self personally at the expense of the rest of their paying audience. Under one or more of those circumstances, this would be a bona fide list rather than a parenthetical sidebar the size of a couple of index cards.

That doesn't mean I'm a total hermit. That definitely doesn't mean I'm happy to settle for an eternity of lite-pop and oldies like my peers. That absolutely positively doesn't mean that I don't think violent thoughts whenever I'm forced to hear "Hungry Like the Wolf" or "Unskinny Bop" or "The Going Gets Tough" or "Man in the Box" or "Under the Bridge" or "YMCA" for the three millionth time.

It does mean music is no longer a primary hobby for me. I lament the lack of new aural experiences, but it sure suits my budget fine. More money for Marvel, then.

With that in mind: on with the countdown!

4. Linkin Park, A Thousand Suns -- The so-so low-key experiments of Minutes to Midnight paved the way for an entire album of Chester and Mike trying to grow up, largely against the will of their radio fanbase. The complexity of the forlorn yet nearly danceable "Waiting for the End" was a standout to me even before I heard it on the radio exactly once, but the only station in Indy that plays them regularly is convinced this album doesn't exist, probably because its few angry screams are outnumbered by its attempts at instrumental diversity -- which, frankly, are duller than Minutes' -- and its earnest F-bomb lecturing from atop a worn-out, Earth-is-dying creaky soapbox. Some usable hooks and DJ efforts are buried underneath too much concept-album Importance, so it's hard to blame WRZX for pretending that the group broke up after "What I've Done".

3. Annie Lennox, A Christmas Cornucopia -- I love me some new Christmas music by artists I like or used to like, but they're rare as hen's teeth. My kind of artists rarely record holiday albums, the most recent exception being Barenaked Ladies' 2004 Barenaked for the Holidays. The onetime Eurythmic still doesn't sound quite as awesome without Dave Stewart's textured productions, but her robust voice and an intricate orchestral backup turn some pro-baby-Jesus standards and several ultra-obscure hymns into the sounds of a lush, Byzantine steampunk Christmas. The largest drawback is the pandering "Universal Child", the one original song on the album, which yearns to be a proprietary perennial even though it has absolutely nothing to do with any given holiday, unless taking the side of The Children Are Our Future is somehow a belief system in itself.

2. Weezer, Death to False Metal -- Released with zero promotional effort and zero airplay, I'm guessing this was the final obligation in their contract with Geffen Records before parting ways. I didn't even know this existed till I ran across it by accident at Best Buy. That's not to say it was a waste of my time. Just as I noted last year in my recommendation for Raditude: "I have to maintain a complete Weezer collection. It's like the House of my musical world -- so very few differences between albums...it's business as usual, another one to add to the pile." But, y'know, in a positive way, as much as outtakes can be. Highlights: the bouncy "Trampoline", the opener "Turning Up the Radio" (I'm a sucker for songs about radio, whether supportive or critical), and a possibly ironic cover of "Unbreak My Heart" (I'm a sucker for covers of bad songs that don't deserve to be covered).

1. Weezer, Hurley -- So yeah, their 2010 promotional muscle was instead expended on this, the band's first release for stalwart indie Epitaph Records. With whatshisname the Lost guy on the cover and some actual media coverage devoted to it, I'm sure it sold more copies, especially minus the Tupperware-leftovers feel of False Metal. Highlights: the anthemic "Hang On", the universally self-effacing "Trainwrecks", and the live cover of "Viva la Vida" (included on the deluxe edition) that doesn't just run into a brick wall at the end like Coldplay do on the original.

Incidentally, that one 2010 reissue I mentioned in paragraph one? Pinkerton. I promise I don't worship Weezer. If the Violent Femmes, the Jesus and Mary Chain, or the Pixies want to flood the market with new material, I'll be happy to brake just as hard for them. I can't help it if Rivers Cuomo hasn't alienated all his bandmates and doesn't take an entire decade to write three songs. Besides, my cassette copy was old and had a terrible mix. The remastered version gives their slightly reviled sophomore release a second chance with happy results, to say nothing of the tons of extras.

To my credit, I've bought one 2011 album already. With that in mind: see you next year!

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