Another year, another list. Take it for what it's worth- a hype free list with no pretension; it's the Digging For Days way.
10- J Roddy Walston & the Business- J Roddy Walston & the Business
Raw energy at it best. J Roddy takes care of (ahem) business on this blast of pure rock n' roll. Jerry Lee Lewis would be proud on barn burners such as "Don't Break the Needle" and "Full Growing Man." Walston at his best and one of the years best debuts.
9-The Rock and The Tide- Joshua Radin
Radin still has his sparse, guitar-strummed ballads on here, but he also exercises his rock side. "The Ones with the Light" and "Road to Ride On" provide an excellent taste of what Radin is really made of. Lyrically powerful, beautifully sung and arranged, Radin further cements his television show soundtrack-iness with this release. (which is a good thing)
8-Hands All Over- Maroon 5
Gonna get a lot of flack for putting such a divisive band on a list that most people will expect should be filled with obscure bands. But, damnit, Maroon 5 delivered a solid album with hooky soul rock. This album has been in rotation since its release and that speaks to the pure listenability (is that a word?) of the record. You won't win any cool points, but you will be humming along for days.
7- Dark is the Way, Light is a Place- Anberlin
Always heard of this band, but rode them off as another emo band. Then I heard "Impossible" and "Take Me as You Found Me" and was convinced that these guys were something more. Anberlin decided to focus of hooks and melody this time around and may have gotten knocked for by hardcore fans, but their shift (though not that extreme) still felt sincere and organic. The result is an album, though short, is just as powerful.
6- Women + Country- Jakob Dylan
Former Wallflowers frontman, Jakob Dylan went country on his Rick Rubin produced second solo album and the results are quite excellent. With bass lines that will shake your bones, Dylan perfectly crafted his version of Americana rock. Backed up by the excellent Kelly Hogan and Neko Case, Dylan has never sounded so comfortable. Here's hoping we get more of the same in the future. (and a new Wallflowers album? Maybe?)
5- Court Yard Hounds by Court Yard Hounds
Dixie Chick sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robson decided that they couldn't wait on lead Chick Natalie Maines to get ready to sing again. They formed their own group and they definitely stand on their own. With excellent harmonies and solid songwriting, Court Yard Hounds can more than tide us over for the Chicks' follow-up. Their duet with Jakob Dylan ("See You in the Spring") is the main reason they landed at #5. A great track, both musically and lyrically.
4- Young the Giant by Young the Giant
Young the Giant, though newly named, deliver quite an impressive debut. Filled with hook after hook, these Giants have an 80s vibe that actually feels modern and not synth heavy. (unlike The Killers) Sameer Gadhia carries quite the song and often the song lives and dies on his voice alone. "My Body" proves they can rock, but it's "I Got" that shows off both their versatility.
3- Of the Blue Colour of the Sky- OK GO
Video masterminds OK GO may be known for their music videos but it was this album that showed they can grow their music beyond pop/rock. Heavily influence by Prince, ...Of the Sky not only gives longtime fans the sound they want, but the sound they didn't know they wanted. Damian Kulash and the guys deliver such layered and experimental rock that it keeps you guessing from song to song. No one in rock music can touch these guys visually and this record proved that they might need to start upping their game musically as well.
2- Grace Potter & the Nocturnals- Grace Potter & the Nocturnals
Major label debuts are a blessing and a curse- great we've got the money from a big label, but our fans will yell "Sell out!" Fortunately, Grace Potter can sing loud enough and strong enough to drown out the few who think that. With Potter channeling Janis Joplin, she is the best singer working today. (as evidenced by her wail on "Tiny Light") Already working on a follow-up, Potter and her Nocturnals offer a perfect mix of blues, rock, and soul. This record takes you back to a time when music wasn't produced but sung from the heart (and soul).
1- Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons
A perfect blend of folk, rock, and blues- Mumford & Sons have arrived. Sigh No More made the music world stand up and take notice of a genre that was thought to be more niche than anything. Not quite country nor rock, Mumford & Sons are electric lead by the raw voice of Marcus Mumford. Whether it's simply understated as in "After the Storm" or a torrent of emotion in "White Blank Page," these guys know how to deliver a wallop of emotion one song at a time. The best album I heard all year long.