>(***For those of you reading this on the Chris Milam site, apologies for the intro. This is my first post at the Vinyl District, a fantastic music blog out of D.C. that’s launching a sister site Memphis. I’ll fill in all the details very soon, I promise. Meantime, enjoy!)
For those of you I haven’t met, let me introduce myself: I’m Chris Milam (“MY-lum”). I’m a singer/songwriter from Memphis, then Nashville, then NYC, now back in Memphis, splitting my time between home and an overactive touring schedule. I like BBQ, football, dogs, and democracy (in that order). My passion for trampolines is “well above average.” I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Saved By the Bell, but can’t do long division. I enjoy everything Paul Newman ever made, including pasta sauce. And (obviously) I love music.
I keep a Blog at my site, ChrisMilam.com, where I talk a lot about music: writing it, performing it, and listening to it. Recently, Memphis music community dynamo Rachel Hurley asked if I’d like to contribute to Vinyl District’s soon-to-launch Memphis site. Naturally, I said yes!
Every month I’ll have a running feature that will be posted right here. Occasionally I’ll post something extra, such as today’s Top 10 Albums of 2010. And, of course, you can get all my posts on TVD and elsewhere by simply bookmarking the Chris Milam Blog and/or subscribing.
Being an artist and writing about other artists gets tricky; drafting a Top 10 Albums list when you’ve released an album in 2010 yourself is like voting on superlatives at a super-small high school. With every omission or oversight, you nonsensically expect someone to feel slighted. As I type this, I imagine a scenario in which Eminem (whom I’ve never met) gets his feelings hurt and shows up at my door with baseball bats and half the Detroit Tigers.
Naturally, I’m giving a superlative flair to my list. Here, now, are my Top 10 Albums for 2010!
(Side note: Please feel free to join the conversation in the comments! But be forewarned: this isn’t a “Best Of” list, it’s a “Favorites” list. Sometimes “best” and “favorite” aren’t the same thing. For example, “Day In the Life” is the best song on Sgt. Pepper, but “Good Morning, Good Morning” is my favorite. You get the idea. So, I’m totally open to the fact that some albums that might’ve been better than these. They’re simply my ten favorites of 2010. With high school superlatives assigned to them. Enjoy!)
10) “Life of the Party”: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I Learned the Hard Way.
I Love It Because: They’ve always been a great band, but this is a another leap forward in their songwriting.
Perfect For: Going to a party your ex is attending and having an awesome time despite them.
Listen To: “I Learned the Hard Way“
9) “Most Huggable”: Magic Kids, Memphis.
I Love It Because: The Beach Boys’ sonic influence drew me in; the Beach Boys’ intellectual influence that kept me listening: simple songs conveying complex emotions. Earnest, charming, and beautifully-executed.
Perfect For: Hanging by a pool in July with a girl you secretly like.
Listen To: “Phone“
8) “Most Dependable”: Delta Spirit, History From Below.
I Love It Because: I think this about sums it up. After Ode To Sunshine, this sophomore album gave me the right balance of expected pleasures and pleasant surprises.
Perfect For: Coming home after a long time away and feeling a little uneasy. Bonus points if fireflies are somehow involved.
Listen To: “Golden State“
7) “Most Likely To Succeed”: Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More.
I Love It Because: British group with Avett-esque roots, anger issues and otherworldly harmonies? Sign me up. Bonus points for a folk-band being this pop-friendly and ambitious–I’m excited by this album, but I’m more excited to see where they go next.
Perfect For: Drinking by yourself in January and wondering if you should call her (for the record, the answer is “no.”).
Listen To: “Sigh No More“
6) “Class Beauty”: Band of Horses, Infinite Arms.
I Love It Because: Sheer sonic beauty. Nearly every song on this album has at least one moment that makes me want to hear it again. And again, and again…
Perfect For: Driving through a snow flurry a week before Christmas. Bonus points if you’re exhausted/a little sick/ambivalent about your destination.
Listen To: “Older“
5) “Most Popular”: Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown.
I Love It Because: I loved their first album for its sound and attitude. I loved the second album for its songs. I loved the third for its scope and weirdness. I loved the fourth for its naked ambition–they’re clearly gunning for the title “Biggest Band On Earth.” And I love the fifth album because they’re embracing that success–they sound at ease. I love bands that explicitly want to be the Biggest. Come Around Sundown shows KOL as the rare band comfortable in that role.
Perfect For: Attending a birthday party for someone you don’t know.
Listen To: “Mary“
4) “Class Clown”: Dr. Dog, Shame, Shame.
I Love It Because: It sounds like a 40-minute, understated, lovely goodbye letter from an old friend. There’s great levity–and underlying sadness–in all of my favorite Dr. Dog songs, and this album walks that tightrope beautifully.
Perfect For: Whatever you do the most without thinking about it, then thinking about it.
Listen To: “Shadow People“
3) “Most Well-Rounded”: Dawes, North Hills.
I Love It Because: I love anything/everything that successfully derives from the Band. Their lyrics–weaving between narratives, self-examination, and philosophical musings–kept me listening. The music industry is increasingly niche-driven, which puts pressure on artists to focus each album around doing “one thing well.” Kudos to Dawes for putting so many different types of songs together, and letting their strengths and their collective story speak for themselves.
Perfect For: Playing in the background as you’re raking leaves, trying not to think about a girl (and failing).
Listen To: “When My Time Comes“
2) “Prom/Homecoming King”: Tom Petty, Mojo.
I Love It Because: It’s Tom Petty’s Love and Theft. Because Petty’s been making great pop songs for decades, we tend to take him for granted. We shouldn’t: his gift of making something this hard look this easy, song after song, album after album, is maybe the rarest of all. These songs sound like a breath of fresh air–inspired, exuberant, and deftly-performed–which is remarkable from one of rock’s elder statesman.
Perfect For: Motel-hopping in the great American west, flirting with diner waitresses, and daydreaming about pirates.
Listen To: “I Should’ve Known It“
1) “Most Likable”: New Pornographers, Together.
I Love It Because: I can’t imagine anyone not loving something on this album. It’s catchy, generous of spirit, familiar yet surprising, lyrically challenging, and imminently listenable.
Perfect For: A spring day alone in the park, and enjoying yourself even more than if you had a date.
Listen To: “Moves“
Also receiving votes (in semi-alphabetical order):
Valedictorian: Belle & Sebastian (Write About Love), Josh Ritter (So Runs the World Away)
Lives of (Another) Party: Black Keys (Brothers), Hold Steady (Heaven Is Whenever), Kanye West (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy), MGMT (Congratulations)
Class Rebel: Dead Weather (Sea of Cowards), Jamey Johnson (The Guitar Song)
Best Dressed: Vampire Weekend (Contra)
What were your favorites of 2010? What did I leave out? Hit up the comments and join the fray!