Quick takes on my ten favorite albums from the first three months of 2010.
Anais Mitchell - Hadestown
A musical for way, way off Broadway, Anais Mitchell’s stunning folk opera succeeds on many levels. It’s a brilliant recasting of the Orpheus and Euridice myth. It’s a pointed political commentary on what may be the downtrodden, cash-strapped America of 1933, or the downtrodden, cash-strapped America of 2010. And it features some wondrous ensemble singing, from Mitchell as Euridice, from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon as a seductive Orpheus, from Ani DiFranco as Persephone, and, most notably, from gruff-voiced folkie Greg Brown, who imbues the lord of the underworld with both maniacal glee and Dick Cheney’s calculus of pragmatic deathdealing.
Brad Mehldau - Highway Rider
Jazz pianist Mehldau collaborates again with pop producer Jon Brion, and this time the results far exceed 2002’s tentative Largo. Brion brings the hip beats, and Joshua Redman lays down some silky sax lines, but it’s the interaction between Mehldau’s jazz trio and a full classical orchestra that really stuns. Most Third Wave albums are snoozefests. Not this one. It’s a seamless merger of jazz, pop, and classical music, and it threatens to give the Jazz-Classical hybrid a good name.
Anders Osborne - American Patchwork
Citay - Dream Get Together
Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do
Eryka Badu - New Amerikah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh
Fionn Regan - The Shadow of an Empire
Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks
The Holmes Brothers - Feed My Soul
Son Lux - The Weapons EP
Spoon - Transference
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
Tindersticks - Falling Down a Mountain