While I consider my Best Concerts list to be a pretty definitive guide to what concerts totally rocked socks in the DC area in the past year, I think that top album lists are a bit more vague and really only serve as guides to albums the reader may have missed. I am much more a theme-based best-of list maker. I usually don’t compile a best albums of the year list, but I have received several requests for me to do one this year.
I acquire music rapidly and without much regard to year. So really albums are not so much attached to years for me as they are tied to whatever genre or sub-genre kick I am on at a given time.* It was actually pretty difficult for me to put together my starting list. A lot of what I thought were 2010 albums were actually from ’09! That said I did put together a list of about 50 or so albums from this year that are worthy of mention. From that list I battled them down to a top 10. These are not the best albums of 2010, they are simply my favorite. Maybe you’ll find something new here to check out. Maybe you won’t. Readers you asked for it, you got it. My picks in reverse order (along with a taste of each) after the jump…
This is my favorite post to write each year. There are many reasons why but the main one is that I love how it tasks me with reliving my year in music. I have re-read every review that I have written in the past year. I have thought about every show and every individual set that I have seen in 2010.* I have made numerous lists of the sets I have seen, and I have broken them down into categories to determine the best of the best in each. I always enjoy the concert-to-concert combat that rages in my memory as I try to boil down a year’s worth of experiences into a shortlist that best represents the year. I am equally surprised and proud to discover that this is the sixth year that I have completed this process of list making.
2010 may be the single best year of live music that I have experienced in my eighteen years of concert-going. Collectively the shows I have seen across the U.S. and in and around DC this year have provided me with more moments of music nirvana, pure aural bliss, then I ever imagined was possible. I often say I am on a life-long quest to attain music nirvana and 2010 is as close as I have come to discovering it in a sustained form. With a year this good, my usual challenging task of narrowing the field down to the 10 best concerts was more difficult than ever.**
This week the 9:30 Club was completely transformed by the will, voice, and performance of Jonsi for two nights in a row. This tall, elf-like, painfully shy vocalist stood center-stage surrounded by a four-piece band of multi-instrumentalists whose unusual instruments filled the stage. Behind them and flanking the stage, beautifully produced video elements were projected onto screens in concert with an expertly staged light show to re-invent the club’s space in a way I have rarely seen before. The combination of the show’s next-level theatrical production values and the truly beautiful yet bizarre music made for two of the most audience enveloping, emotional performances I have seen at the 9:30 Club in 15 years.
If you are at all familiar with Jonsi’s original band Sigur Ros, you probably have an idea of how BIG he thinks when it comes to his music and extravagant live performances. Jonsi debuted his solo album earlier this year and has been performing various manifestations of this show with his incredible backing band at outdoor festivals, proper theaters, and large nightclubs. His show adapts well to whatever environment it finds itself in. I saw Jonsi perform at the Coachella Music Festival this past Spring and his performance there was so powerfully unique that I described it as “so other-worldly that I don’t even know if it took place in the same time-space continuum as the rest of the festival.” Allow me to expand on that idea when I describe the two shows at the 9:30 Club earlier this week. Jonsi’s musical alchemy somehow managed to transport the entire club and everyone in it into some sort of shamanistic pocket universe for an hour and a half each night. Both the performance and the performance space became enchanted by Jonsi and his band until they returned the club safely to its perch at 815 V St. promptly at 10:30 each night.*
courtesy of Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
Everyone knows that sometimes the best way to appreciate where you live is to get away for a little while. It is also true that sometimes the best way for a music critic to reboot his love of music is to attend an awesome music festival without an impending review deadline hanging over his head. This past weekend I did both when I attended the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California.
This was my third Coachella (2004, 2007*, 2010) and I think it is without a doubt the best music festival in the United States. After a three-legged, 12-hour journey by plane, I made my way into the California desert to enjoy some of the best music on the planet for three days. The weather was beautiful, the music was excellent, and I got the re-charge I was looking for. I decided to write mini-reviews of the bands I caught and to post them here for those who follow my music writing. Keep in mind, I was focused on enjoying the music this weekend without my reviewer’s hat on. So these little reviews are more personal and less detailed write-ups of the bands I saw over this great weekend.