"Help Me Remember"

Well, the year is winding down. So, since I’ve become addicted to iTunes and have increased my music collection exponentially throughout the year, I thought I’d make my own list of favourite music from the year. Here goes – in no particular order…

1. “Raising Sand,” Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
When I first got wind of this collaboration, my first thought was “What the…? The former Led Zeppelin lead singer and the reigning bluegrass queen – together?” I didn’t get it. But when I listened to the first single, “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),” I got it. One of the most unexpected pairings in recent memory is a brilliant one. My favourite cut on the record is the aforementioned single, but Krauss’ rendition of “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson” comes a close second.

2. “The Reminder,” Feist
I’ll admit that I wasn’t a Feist fan before this album. I’m not one of her hardcore fans. But this album is infectious, from the first single, “My Moon My Man,” to the current iPod commercial favourite, “1234.” “I Feel It All” is another favourite. But she also does well on the understated cuts, such as “So Sorry” and “The Water.” Her voice is one of the most unique in all of music right now. It’s able to show such a range of colour – remarkable for a more mainstream artist. Thank God for Feist.

3. “The Russian Album,” Anna Netrebko
All right – all of you non-classical fans can skip this entry. I’ll admit that it took a couple of listens for me to discover how truly beautiful this album is. It is Russian opera, which is much darker and intense than its Italian and French counterparts; German is the only language that comes close to emulating the types of sounds Russian opera provides. But this album is a gem, not only for the fact that is shines a light on some of the most underperformed music in the opera repertory; I didn’t know Prokofiev even wrote an opera. But it’s just gorgeous from start to finish. Hearing an actual Russian singer and a Russian conductor in Russian repertoire allows an authentic listening experience. The colours are absolutely breathtaking.

4. “Drastic Fantastic,” KT Tunstall
I love this gal. And I loved her even more after listening to her interview with George Stroumboulopoulos on “The Hour.” Her Scottish brogue combined with her hilarious nature make her one of my new favourite musical personalities. You can tell she’s one of those people that doesn’t care what other people think – she’s true to herself and does what she wants. “Drastic Fantastic” continues the success of “Eye to the Telescope.” Wonderfully catchy.

5. “Unglamorous,” Lori McKenna
One of my favourite singer-songwriters. After Faith Hill recorded some of her songs, McKenna hit the big time, finally landing a deal with a major record label. For all those (including me) who worried that McKenna’s move to a major label would detract from the simplicity and straightforwardness of her music and lyrics – have no fear. “Unglamorous” features more orchestration and textures than her previous albums, but in a good way. I can’t pick a favourite stand-out track. It’s just that good.

Honourable Mentions:
“A Place to Land,” Little Big Town – Was indifferent on the first listen, but the more and more I listen, the more and more I like it.
“Leave the Pieces,” The Wreckers – A great debut and a great fresh sound from two guitar-playing gals with gusto.
“Welcome to the Night Sky,” Wintersleep – “Weighty Ghost” had me after the first few beats. I’ll be listening to this band for years to come.

Best Singles
1. “Gunpowder and Lead,” Miranda Lambert
2. “Take Me There,” Rascal Flatts
3. “Lost in this Moment,” Big & Rich
4. “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),” Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
5. “How I Feel,” Martina McBride
6. “1234,” Feist
7. “Talk of the Town,” Kate Walsh
8. “Little Favours” KT Tunstall
9. “Weighty Ghost,” Wintersleep
10. “Leave the Pieces,” The Wreckers

Albums I’m ashamed to say I downloaded and like for the simple fact that they’re easy listening, catchy, and well – cheesy:
“Carnival Ride,” Carrie Underwood
“Taking Chances,” Celine Dion
“Unbreakable,” Backstreet Boys

Most disappointing album:
“My December,” Kelly Clarkson – I really, really, really wanted Kelly to repeat the success of “Breakaway.” Hopefully all of her personal stuff with her management and whatnot will get sorted out and she’ll come back out on top. Looks like it was all too much and the result was a less than stellar album.

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