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>So 2010 is shaping up to be a boring year Music wise. There haven’t been many big releases thus far, and reading Rolling Stones “Spring Music Preview” it doesn’t look like there’s much to look forward to either. I’ve checked out a few new releases, and just now getting into some stuff from last year. So here is just a quick run down of what’s standing out to me right now.

Grizzly BearVeckatimest
When I first played this album, only two tracks grabbed me. Those two tracks still remain the standouts on this album, but I grew to love the laid back vibe and beautiful harmonies and melodies this group has put together on their third album which was released last summer. The albums first single (and now featured in a Volkswagen commercial) “Two Weeks” is a light, upbeat and a great showcase for all 4 band members talents. “Ready, Able” is a slower, moodier song that blends perfectly with the vibe of the album — which is very moody, but also very relaxing and also very Earthy (I suppose this is what you might call Contemporary Folk music). Those two benefit from very strong hooks and melodies, but the entire album with their very textured harmonies is a great listen, a great example of a band that blend together perfectly.

The Temper TrapConditions
This groups break out single “Sweet Disposition” grabbed me when I heard it on the radio, but like Grizzly Bear I wasn’t bowled over the first time I listened to the album. And that amazing single is still the only real standout to be honest. The powerful and unique vocals and vocal delivery of Dougie Mandagi, matched with the upbeat instrumentation and strong hook make this one of the better songs I’ve heard in a while. Unfortunately it seems like the group couldn’t match the greatness of this song with anything else on the album. However, if you like that song (and I love it) the rest of the album isn’t a big disappointment. It’s very much in the same vein of that song, power hooks over very polished electronic/rock beats. “Soldier On” shows a lot more restraint than most of the tracks, with a soft guitar backing and very great delivery by the lead vocalist it also stands out a little more than the rest. However, this is their first studio album. So I think this group has amazing potential to be pretty big in the years to come, if they keep in the same direction as “Sweet Disposition”

Lil WayneRebirth
Sticking in this, “sort of Rock” tradition, let’s talk about Lil Wayne’s much talked about Hip Hop/Rock album. I listened to it twice to be sure, and I’m pretty much certain now that this album is Awful to the point of being one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard. And the thing about it is, it could have been saved. Wayne seems to have gotten too confident that he could pull this off, and he really didn’t. At all. “Ground Zero” is no doubt the best song on the album. Weezy and Producers DJ Infamous and Streetrunners do a great job at keeping the dirty vibe of a rock track and mixing it with the dirty vibe of a Hip Hop track. And there are occasions, on a pure instrumental level, that some of the tracks really do work in that way. The problem is the Auto-Tune. Wayne uses it way too much on this album, and at all the wrong moments. Sometimes, most of the times, listening to the album is unbearable because of it. And really if he wanted to embody a Rock Star, they aren’t scared to have their voice sound off-pitch, gritty or out of tune because it’s Rock and Roll!! I think Wayne thought it was a cool effect and that’s really what ruined this album. And the other problem, is that some of the songs don’t sound like Rock at all. “On Fire”, one of the singles released, is another highlight but it’s hectic drum programming and his delivery are pure Hip Hop and nothing else. And there are times when the producers just seemed to throw a bit of a guitar sound on the track and pass it off as Rock. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, but I was expecting a lot better. (And don’t even get me started on the “Knockout” song, which is just so infuriating in theme)

Gucci ManeThe State Vs. Radric Davis
The most surprising album so far this year has been Gucci Mane, which I expected NOTHING from. I was a big fan of his single “Wasted”, which led me to download this album. And I think everything I like about “Wasted” is the reason why I actually really like this album and why it actually works. Gucci is very simple in delivery, but he does a great job of matching whatever the track dictates. The album begins with a very underground Hip Hop sound with standouts like “Heavy” and “Stupid Wild”, but they come off as just very fun songs (almost the feeling of Project PAT). The album than flows into the more commercial ready Rap/R&B stuff (collaborations with Keyshia Cole, Bobby Valentino and Usher on the hit “Spotlight”), and than lands back to a grittier sound to end out the album. Still Fun though, and the bottom half of the album is definitely focused on the party with one of the best tracks “Kush is my Cologne” and two versions of “Wasted”. The album is sequenced well, and the guest appearances from the likes of Lil Wayne, Mike Epps, E-40 and Soulja Boy among others are well spaced apart to let the star actually shine. Who knows where Gucci will be next year, there aren’t an extraordinary amount of skills coming from this album, but he does bring back the fun that Hip Hop sometimes lacks.

Robin ThickeSex Therapy
Another huge surprise, Thicke’s fourth album which was released late 2009. I’ve never been a big fan of his and I was so ready to put him in the “One Hit Wonder” group after 2006’s “Lost Without You” made him the “White boy singing R&B Star of the Moment”. Than I heard this albums title track, a very Prince influenced “baby-making” song that is growing into one of my favorite slow burners. I’m not surprised it’s sitting at #1 on the R&B Single charts, because it is a real winner. On his 4th studio album there are a good number of other great songs. The summer-y “Meiple” featuring Jay-Z, the electro-disco sound of “Rollercoasta” featuring Estelle, the slow ballads “Brand New Luv” and “2 Luv Birds”. There are also a good number of songs that sound really dated (like “Make U Love Me” or the god-awful “Shakin it 4 Daddy” with the ever present Nicki Minaj), but my biggest problem with the album on the whole is that Thicke still isn’t really a distinctive singer. He’s a bit recognizable because of his falsetto, but he doesn’t have enough attitude or personality with his vocals so sometimes it sounds like he’s channeling Justin Timberlake sometimes Maxwell sometimes Prince, and never making his own style. I do appreciate an R&B album where the man actually respects women, and that’s a running theme on the album. Even on the sex drenched title track, it’s about pleasing Her. And “Diamonds” with The Game is another standout where he celebrates black women who have worked hard to get where they are.

Hot ChipOne Life Stand
I discovered this Electronic group last Fall, and once I listened to some of their music I became a fan. I love that their this electronic group, but somehow they don’t over-do it with the effects and keyboards but still make really dance floor ready songs. I became addicted to their second album “The Warning”, and really excited when I saw they released a new album earlier this year. And though it’s not nearly as good as that aforementioned album, it’s a pretty solid and a little more cohesive effort. “I Feel Better” and the title track are clearly the best songs here, and “Brothers” is a sweet love song to brotherly love which has hit potential because it’s speaking so obviously to the younger generation (with references to playing X-Box and “drinking my fill with my brothers”). The rest of the album is alright, but it suffers from an insanely irritating lead vocalist Alexis Taylor. And I’m sure his voice would sound fine over some other tracks, but it just didn’t mesh all that well with me. However, it’s something I could get used to.