Tag Archives: Mumford & Sons

Grammy Wrap-Up

Call me crazy, but I actually really enjoyed the Grammys on Sunday night. I know that it’s cool to hate on the Grammys (I’m guilty of it), and to say that they’re irrelevant, but I liked way more of the performances than I expected to. Maybe I was just more open-minded, or maybe mainstream music has just gotten better. And the actual awards themselves weren’t the disaster that I’d expected, either. Here are a few quick thoughts on some of the key performances:

  • The Aretha Franklin tribute was nice, but it felt a bit forced. Jennifer Hudson gave the most impressive performance, vocally, but Florence Welch also brought something refreshingly different to her rendition of “Think”. Everyone was trying to one-up each other to sometimes comical effect.
  • Lady Gaga’s performance of her new song, “Born This Way” showed her typical showmanship. I like the song, and her performances are always interesting.
  • The Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars and B.O.B. performance was very lively. Mars’ vocals were wonky on “Grenade”, but the dude wore half a dozen hats (figuratively speaking) in that extended number, so I have to give him credit for that. And it was another great example of Monae’s showmanship.
  • I may have officially lost it, but I actually liked Justin Bieber’s performance. I certainly could have done without Jayden Smith popping out from beneath the stage (with copious shots of Will and Jada smiling smugly in the audience like they were at the world’s most prestigious school Christmas pageant), and the weird spoken-word intro with Usher. But when it was just Bieber, I thought he sounded really good. I think I like his voice more now that it has deepened.
  • I was definitely the most excited for the Avett Brothers/Mumford & Sons/Bob Dylan performance. The transitions between songs were a bit awkward, but individually, they were really strong. Once Mumford & Sons got into the last half of “The Cave”, it was really powerful. The Avett Brothers were a bit more low-key, but great, as usual. And the finale sing-a-long of “Maggie’s Farm” was great.
  • Was it really necessary to have Gwyneth Paltrow and The Muppets join Cee-Lo for “The Song Otherwise Known as ‘Forget You'”? Not really. Cee-Lo sounded fantastic on his own. But Paltrow offered some really impressive vocal moments, so I really didn’t mind it.
  • I LOVED Norah Jones, John Mayer, and Keith Urban’s stripped down version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. It had an intimate, impromptu vibe to it that was totally different from the rest of the show’s “bigger is better” ideology. I respect all three artists individually (though I don’t really actively seek out their music), and together it was kind of magical. Mayer and Urban are really fantastic guitarists, and Jones and Urban both sang really well (didn’t think Mayer’s vocals were as strong).
  • My biggest knowledge gap in current music is probably with rap music. It’s not that I don’t like it, I’m just not…drawn to it, I guess? But by my judgement, Eminem KILLED it in his performance with Rihanna, Dr. Dre, and Skylar Grey. Everyone sounded good, but Eminem sang with the kind of conviction that reaches through the television, grabs you, and makes you listen. It was beyond performing. While other artists prance around the stage or dodge ninjas (I said I liked Biebs’ performance, but that was a bit much), Eminem is just living in his music.
  • The Katy Perry/Russell Brand wedding album? No, thanks. Her performance was fine, but forgettable.
  • Mick Jagger is amazing. The dude is ancient, and he didn’t even look winded after his high-energy take on Soloman Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”.
  • Arcade Fire are also amazing. “Month of May” was great, but their post-win performance of “Ready to Start” was something really special.

Award Talk:

  • ARCADE FIRE. YES. YES YES YES.
  • It’s sappy and all, but I do like Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”. Them winning Song of the Year was acceptable (given the nominees), but I didn’t really need to see them up there three times, to be honest.
  • I’m glad Eminem won Rap Album of the Year. He’s had an impressive comeback, considering that a lot of people thought that he was out of the game. I went through a phase when I was twelve when I sort of got into his music, thinking that I was a badass, so it’s cool to follow his career since then. And even though he may be incapable of smiling, I liked his speech. I thought it was gracious of him to thank Rihanna, because (as he acknowledged) her chorus on “Love the Way You Lie” definitely helped boost his recent popularity.
  • Muse winning Rock Album of the Year? Bleh.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

10. All Delighted People EP – Sufjan Stevens

The Age of Adz garnered the bulk of the attention for Stevens this year, but for me, it was this “EP” that provided far more interesting moments. All Delighted People is chocked full of the gorgeous, wispy melodies that Stevens is known for, and songs such as “Heirloom”  and “Arnika” are just as stirring as anything on 2005’s Illinois. I would take this bare-bones acoustic guitar over computer blips any day.

9. The Monitor – Titus Andronicus

It often seems like the attention-deficit internet culture has shortened our tolerance to no more than one three minute song per artist. But The Monitor (loosely linked together by Civil War themes and Abraham Lincoln soundbites) makes a convincing case for the album as an art form. These New Jersey punks pull influences from a wide range of decades and genres to create an audacious sophomore effort. The guitars chime and lead singer Liam Betson snarls with the proper disdain, and The Monitor flows together like one long, lovely clarion call.

8. Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter

Deerhunter is a band that I’d never listened to much prior to the release of this album, but one listen through of Halcyon Digest was enough for me to know that this was a band/album that I could really get into. “Helicopter”  is, of course, a highlight, but the each song is as enjoyable as they are varied.

7. I Speak Because I Can – Laura Marling

Listening to I Speak Because I Can, the thought it was written by an eighteen year old seems almost incomprehensible. Marling sings with a startling world-weariness, and she tackles emotional depth and wordplay that some songwriters twice her age would shy away from. Her songwriting has inevitably matured since her debut effort, 2008’s New Romantic, and producer Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon, Rufus Wainwright) adds appropriately subtle flourishes to give the album a more polished sound. Marling is certainly one to watch. 

6. Brothers – The Black Keys

For some reason, 2010 was the year that The Black Keys broke out, despite the fact that they have been making albums for years now. Perhaps it was the strength of the songwriting on Brothers that did it, because this is garage-y blues rock at its best. Dan Auerbach’s voice always drips with passion, and the production here is tighter than ever.

5. Been Listening – Johnny Flynn

Johnny Flynn has no right to be this pretty AND talented. It’s just not fair. But with a voice beyond his years, Flynn beefs up the bare-bones guitar folk of his debut album and goes big(ger) on his sophomore disc, Been Listening. “Howl”  explores blues to great effect, while “The Water”, a  lovely duet with Laura Marling, sticks closer to his roots. Flynn’s greatest vocal asset is the wail that he can unleash, but he wisely uses that sparingly, making those heated moments all the more striking. He’s a songwriter with a knack for understated melody, and Flynn shows growth, and heaps of potential, here.

4. King of the Beach – Wavves

On King of the Beach, the newst album from Wavves’ Nathan Williams, he ups the production values, but doesn’t compromise his cheerfully defiant slackerdom. The album’s title track, “Post-Acid”, and “Green Eyes”  embrace catchy surf-pop melodies, while other tracks such as “Baseball Cards” embark on a more drawn-out, experimental route. Either way, Williams’ creativity and exuberence is infectious, and King of the Beach is a front-to-back snarkily fun time.

3. The Wild Hunt – The Tallest Man on Earth

Kristian Matsson’s voice takes some getting used to. But even though the tone of his voice can initially seem harsh, this Swedish singer-songwriter sings with a tenderness that highlights its lovely, ragged peaks. And the contrast Matsson’s empassioned singing style and his delicate melodies intertwines perfectly. And boy, does Matsson know how to write a melody. The songwriting here is impeccible, with “Burden of Tomorrow”  and “King of Spain” serving as rousing highlights.

2. Gorilla Manor – Local Natives

In a similar vein to Fleet Foxes, this is an album full of layered vocals and organically percusive rhythms. And this L.A. quintet plays that card very well. The songs are uniformly fantastic, with highlights including “World News”, and the Band of Horses-esque “Wide Eyes”. Considering that this vivacious collection of songs is only their first album, Local Natives is a band that I will definitely be following closely in the future.

1. Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons was one of the year’s biggest success stories, and with their debut album, they proved that the attention was well-deserved. With propulsive banjos and beautiful melodies, this rousing group of folk-rock stompers begs for repeat listenings. Something about the timbre of Marcus Mumford’s  voice is infinitely pleasing.