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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Adam’s World’s Top Ten Albums of 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010

This was a weird year for music. There was a ton of fun pop music on the radio, but unlike in previous years, no great pop albums. This disposability of singles was at an all-time high, so even though there was a lot of enjoyable music, truly great music was hard to find.

Before I put together this list I thought I was becoming disillusioned with hip-hop. After putting the list together, however, I can see that I’m into hip-hop more than ever, it’s just become a much more specialized version of hip-hop. Now more than ever I care about my music actually speaking to me, personally, while at the same time being universally relatable. That’s a tall order, but when putting together this year’s year end top ten that was one of the key aspects I considered along with the quality of the music, songwriting, and the replay value of the albums. As usual, I am only considering albums that were released in the physical format, and they had to have been full length, official (i.e. no mixtapes), releases. With all that in mind, here are my top ten albums of 2010.

10) Eyes Set To Kill - Broken Frames

I know what a lot of readers must be thinking; "how the heck did a screamo album make Adam B's list?" I’ll be the first to admit that I never thought much of the genre that revolves around guttural screams. In fact, I thought it was crap. Then I saw Eyes Set To Kill at Warped Tour and was blown away by the sheer emotion of their performance. I also loved the way Cisko’s screams were bounced off of Alexia’s vocals. Hearing a female’s voice in the midst of all the aggression, even though it, at times, could be an aggressive female voice, creates an overall sound that’s surprisingly enjoyable. When I popped in Broken Frames it was a wrap. It’s screamo with pop sensibilities, which is a win for me.

9) Foul Mouth Jerk - The Oldest Trick In The Book

Hip-hop for hip-hop heads. How many times have we heard an album, or an artist, described in that way? In Foul Mouth Jerk’s case, it’s absolutely true. A while back I asked what happened to rap music; it turns out it’s residing in Asheville, NC. Personally, as a 32 year old who loves the advancement of hip-hop music, but also still spins the classic albums I grew up on and rocked out to in high school and college (92-00), I love how Foul Mouth Jerk combines the best of both of those words with The Oldest Trick In The Book. The album has a classic rap feel to it, yet doesn’t sound dated. He can switch up from rapping about cyphers, to rapping about the stories of the people sitting next to him, all the while making you feel what he’s saying. When I’m in the mood for what I call traditional rap music, The Oldest Trick In The Book fits the bill.

8) Billy Drease Williams - Good Morning Amy

When artists attempt to make a positive, inspirational, album they usually fail miserably by either coming off preachy, or corny. With Good Morning Amy Billy Drease Williams side-stepped those musical land mines to create an album that, at it’s core, is simply great to listen to. I don’t know how anybody else feels, but personally I think it’s nice to have a hip-hop album that you can play in front of anyone that you also respect the lyrical and musical content of. We can’t say that about too many records, but Good Morning Amy is true feel good music that hits the mark every time.

5 - tie) Coole High - Futuristically Speaking

When I say “future hip-hop” some really horrible thoughts may come to mind. Put all those fear away. Coole High’s future hip-hop utilizes his top notch production skills to create a vibe that’s true to Coole’s laid back musical style, but also futuristic without resorting to corny sound effects. I can imagine this is the music that’s playing in the lounges and clubs Judy Jetson sneaks out of her parents house to chill at (you’re welcome for that visual). In addition to his skills behind the boards, Coole is also one heck of a lyricist who can hit you with lines so dope, and so multilayered in meaning, it’s well worth it to take the time to give his work multiple listens to get the full impact of everything he’s saying.

5 - tie) Tah Phrum Duh Bush - Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works

Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works is less an album and more of a complete immersion into the mind of Tah Phrum Duh Bush. With 15 songs on the CD, 14 original and one remix, and an accompanying 100+ page book which features a chapter dedicated to each song that further explains the inspirations behind them, Tah’s 2010 effort sets the bar for artist revelations. The music of Luminous Dark Alleys: The Insomniac Works is fantastic. Tah has always been lyrically gifted, and with this album he finds a way to have the listener memorize his sometimes complicated choruses after just one listen. “Randomatic Idiosyncratic” is a perfect example of this. The book provides the kind of added insight most artists are either too afraid to reveal, or aren’t adept enough to.

5 - tie) Homeboy Sandman - The Good Sun

It seems every year Homeboy Sandman comes out with a new album and every year you find him on my list. The only difference this year, with national distribution and a stint as a coach on MTV’s Made, is that he’s finally on a lot of other people’s lists, as well. Am I taking a second to pat myself on the back in a “you heard it here first” sort of way? Yes, but at least I’m honest about it. Sandman’s latest, like his previous efforts, shows a nice amount of growth while still being in true Sandman style. At times fully utilizing his quick flow and his quick wit, with songs that require repeat listens to even hope to catch half of what’s going on, to more metered rhymes when he wants to make sure his point gets across, Sandman still does it all. Plus, he’s the only rapper in 2010 that name dropped Marquis Grissom in a song, and for that alone he deserves to make every list (I wonder if MLB Network loves hip-hop?).

4) Lee - Naked

There’s something about Lee’s music that has always spoken to me. I dug The Square Egg, the band he fronted, but his solo work has always had an added personal nature to it that I, the vast majority of the time, completely relate to. Whether he’s discussing the starving artist lifestyle, or his thoughts on love and God, I always find myself saying “amen” to everything he’s talking about. Naked is a double album, and in true Lee form it’s equal parts singing and rapping with a huge band backing him. There’s a lot of heart and soul in Naked, and although I’m going on and on about how much I relate to it personally, I think there’s something on it for everybody. In fact, it may even tap into places you didn’t know you had. I know his music has done that for me.

3) Sade - Soldier of Love

What can I say about Sade that hasn’t been said already? Heck, what I can I say about Sade that I haven’t said already? I can’t think of another artist that could take ten years off and upon their return be just as on point as they were when they left. At the age of 51 Sade continues to define sexy musically. From her lyrics to her delivery, it’s almost as if time stopped for her. This has nothing to do with listeners, myself included, longing for the past, but rather an artist staying true to themselves and knowing their audience. While everyone else has been running around trying to emulate what’s hot at the moment Sade knows she’s been hot since day one and her continuing to just be her gives the R&B world exactly what it needs.

2) Pigeon John - Dragon Slayer

Pigeon John’s Dragon Slayer is an album that snuck up on me and totally took me by surprise. I expected a good hip-hop album from the LA Symphony veteran, but Dragon Slayer turned out to be a lot more than that. Pigeon John sings for the vast majority of the album, and the vibe has a classic pop/soul feel to it. I know that sounds like a strange combination, but think of a more pop version of Raphael Saadiq’s solo work and you’ll start to get the idea of the feel of Dragon Slayer. It’s the closest thing to a pop album on this list, and as it jumps from deep lyrics to the occasionally humorous joint, Dragon Slayer slayed me from the first spin.

1) Dessa - A Badly Broken Code

I love every album on this list, but when it comes to #1 nothing was really close to Dessa’s A Badly Broken Code. A Badly Broken Code is one of those albums that has a huge impact the first time you play it, and the impact only becomes greater with each spin. Dessa can sing with the best of them, and spit with the best of them, as well. Melodic when she wants to be, and aggressive when she needs to be, I feel like A Badly Broken Code is the album everyone wanted Lauryn Hill to make, but she never did (perhaps that’s an unfair comparison since their styles differ, with Dessa being much more poetic, but you catch my drift). Everything about this album will stand the test of time as even right now at the end of 2010 I have it penciled in as one of the best of the decade. If you get the physical version of the album it comes with the lyrics, which is great since Dessa is also a poet.

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