The Top 40 Albums of May 2010!!!

Distant Relatives

May 2010 has been a fruitful month for music. Reggae, country, jazz, and rock music have been well represented. The Junior Gong aka Damian Marleydropped his long anticipated album Distant Relatives with rap legend Nas. The album features reggae, sick African beats, hip-hop, and spot on guest appearances by k’naan and Lil Wayne.

On the country side, Texan outlaw Willie Nelson strikes again with Country Music and Merle Haggard makes one of his best records in recent memory with the album I Am What I Am (Amazon Exclusive Version). And the Preservation Hall Jazz Band made an amazing album An Album To Benefit Preservation Hall & The Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program (Deluxe Version) with guests like Louis Armstrong, Andrew BirdSteve Earleand Jim James aka Yim Yames from My Morning Jacket. And on the rock scene, new albums from Cornershop, LCD Soundsystem, and Broken Social Scene add balance to a nice month in music.

From Latin rappers Cypress Hill to African drummer Tony Allen (part of Fela Kuti‘s legendary band) to Texan musicians Court Yard Hounds(part of the Dixie Chicks) this months selection is diverse and full of wonderful sounds. Here are the Top 40 albums of May…

The Best of May 2010

  1. Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley & NasDistant Relatives [Universal 2010]
  2. Merle Haggard I Am What I Am [Vanguard Records 2010]
  3. Willie Nelson Country Music [Rounder 2010]
  4. Various ArtistsAn Album To Benefit Preservation Hall & The Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program [Preservation Hall Recording 2010]
  5. Toots & the MaytalsFlip and Twist [D and F Music 2010]
  6. Jakob Dylan Women And Country [Columbia 2010]
  7. Tony Allen Secret Agent [Nonesuch Records 2010]
  8. Cornershop Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast [Ample Play Recordings 2010]
  9. Peter Wolf Midnight Souvenirs [Verve 2010]
  10. The PhysicsFuture Talk [The Physics 2007]
  11. Pretty LightsMaking Up A Changing Mind [Pretty Lights Music 2010]
  12. V.V. BrownTravelling Like The Light [Capitol 2010]
  13. Winston JarrettBushwhackers Gangbangers [Bigmore Productions 2010]
  14. Various Artists Something Old, Something New, Volume 5 [Penthouse Records 2010]
  15. Various Artists Big Stage Riddim [Penthouse Records 2010]
  16. Very Be Careful Escape Room [Barbes Records 2010]
  17. Various ArtistsSpecial Request, Volume 3 [Penthouse Records 2010]
  18. Mulatu Astatke Mulatu Steps Ahead [Strut Records 2010]
  19. Dr. DogShame Shame [Anti 2010]
  20. Radar Bros. The Illustrated Garden [Merge Records 2010]
  21. The Apples in Stereo Travellers In Space And Time [Yep Roc Records 2010]
  22. MGMTCongratulations [Sony 2010]
  23. Court Yard Hounds Court Yard Hounds [Columbia 2010]
  24. Caribou Swim [Merge Records 2010]
  25. LCD Soundsystem This Is Happening [Virgin Records 2010]
  26. Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record [Arts & Crafts Records 2010]
  27. The Kissaway Trail Sleep Mountain [Bella Union 2010]
  28. Passion Pit Manners [Columbia Records 2010]
  29. The Hold Steady Heaven Is Whenever [Vagrant Records 2010]
  30. Various ArtistsJoe Gibbs 12” Disco Showcase Volume 4 [VP Records 2010]
  31. The Dead Weather Sea Of Cowards [Third Man 2010]
  32. Gogol BordelloTrans-Continental Hustle [American Recordings 2010]
  33. Cypress HillRise Up [Priority Records]
  34. Solomon BurkeNothing’s Impossible [E1 Music 2010]
  35. GinjahNever Lost My Way [Digital Release 2010]
  36. Alan Jackson – Freight Train [Arista 2010]
  37. Judgement Day Peacocks / Pink Monsters [Judgement Day 2010]
  38. The RaftersAnimal Feelings [Asthmatic Kitty Records 2010]
  39. Jeff Beck Emotion & Commotion [Atco/Rhino 2010]
  40. SlashSlash [Dik Hayd 2010]
The Top 40 Albums of May 2010!!!

Friday at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009!!!

Wavin' Flag

The rain fell as the music filled the park. Mud seethed underfoot and gushed between toes. Among the strong aromas and beautiful sounds, the 2009 Austin City Limits Music Festival came alive and offered another memorable year of music. Although environmental factors change from year to year, from stifling heat and dust to drenching rain and mud, the show never stopped. The music continued. And Austin proved itself again as the live music capitol of the world.

I caught Dr. Dog at the Dell Stage for my first show. I found these boys from Philadelphia to be quite harmonic, reminiscent of the psychadelia rock of the Beatles and The Byrds. Songs like “The Breeze” and “The Old Days” displayed that smooth 1960s sound. But my favorite song on the set list was “The Rabbit, The Bat & The Reindeer.”

I had heard of Phoenix, but I had never listened to their music. A friend convinced me to see this alternative rock band from Versaille, France. The comparisons to their French peers Daft Punk and Air interested me. Ultimately I understood the comparisons, finding the sound close to a New Order-like electronica pop. Phoenix pleasantly surprised me with tunes like “Lisztomania,” “Lasso,” “If I Ever Feel Better,” “Fences,” “Girlfriend,” “Run Run Run,” “Too Young,” “Rome,” and “1901.” Many of the songs appear on the new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

The best show of the day came from the Somalian born/Canadian based rapper k’naan. Under the Wildflower Tent the slender Somalian rocked the crowd with political prose, heart-felt lyrics, and blistering beats. Appropriate adjectives include humble, inspirational, and talented.  k’naan had a broad appeal, drawing young children and old people, and all those between the young and old. An intimate performance captivated the crowd.

The track “T.I.A. [Explicit]” thundered bass as K’naan introduced the crowd to his unique brand of hip-hop. “T.I.A.” samples Bob Marley’s classic ska tune “Simmer Down,” layers it over heavy beats, and atop raps the brilliant young wordsmith. In Africa, Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, 2pac, and The Notorious B.I.G. reign supreme. k’naan studied these great performers and his sound reflects those influences. Yet the sound is original. The music is gangsta but peaceful, hard but soft, and always chalk full of the contradictions and realities of life.

From Africa the Somalian took us on a trip to “America.” On the album, Mos Def and Chali 2Na join the track with their rhymes on the studio version of “America,”  but solo and live K’naan brought this song to its full potential without the help of these great lyricists. The song “Take A Minute” brought emotion to the tent. The following love ballad “Fatima” lightened the mood. And then the hardcore rap song “ABC’s” (with a Chubb Rock sample) rocked the and rolled with pure energy.

K’naan then sang a song about “Somalia,” which brought tears to the crowd’s eyes. The lyricist played two different versions beginning with an acapella and moving into a full band version. As K’naan says “his real will makes your real look like a rental.” This track talks about the perils of childhood in Somalia and the suffering of the people. K’naan harnesses the pain and realities of the world and turns them into amazing poetry. The rapper followed the tear jerker with “Bang Bang,” a nice jamming pop tune. And he ended his set with the a sing-a-long to “Wavin’ Flag.”

K’naan was the highlight of the evening. But the jams continued with Thievery Corporation. The dub electronica duo and band played on the main stage this year kicking out funky electronica with “.” The crew from Washington, D.C. also played the sitar heavy “Mandala,” displaying their unique acumen at world music.

In a testimony to the diversity of the music at ACL I caught parts of sets from the Texas country group Reckless Kelly and the hard-rocking new super trio Them Crooked Vultures. Them Crooked Vultures features bassist John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, drummer David Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and Josh Homme the guitarist and lead singer from Queens Of The Stone AgeKings Of Leon headlined Friday night playing their hits “Sex On Fire,”
”On Call,” and
”Use Somebody.”

The  music continued after the festival at the ACL after shows. I went to a Township Records showcase at the Ghost Room downtown on 4th Street in the Warehouse District. I caught the end of Danny Malone‘s set. This kid has a beautifully haunting voice. My wife described him as a creepy James Taylor. His new album Cuddlebug features the eerie track “Basement.” Graham Wilkinson & the Underground Township played some of my favorite tracks from the new album Yearbook, including “Ragamuffin” and “Let It Go.”

Let It Go

Friday at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009!!!