Top 20-Something of 2010

Features — By on December 24, 2010 8:34 pm

Like so many music magazines, we too are offering up our Best of 2010 list. Ours, however, is based on more unique criteria. While we appreciate the popular choices, we found ourselves (with a few exceptions) leaning toward lesser-known bands, the ones that may have been overlooked. Basically, we were impressed if a band or artist caught our attention right away with an original sound while giving a firm nod to the past. And naturally, since we’re writers, literary references were a definite plus.

Honestly, there are so many talented musicians toiling away in near obscurity that, with this list, we tried to give due attention to exceptional up-and-comers alongside proven veterans.


With love,

The ATF Staff

Elvis CostelloNational Ransom
“…we’ve noticed a some subtle things about National Ransom that recall his earliest recordings, and as usual, Costello has assembled an impressive array of characters and situations amidst historical backdrops all bathed in the light of his stupendous arrangements. We never knew how fine a whistler he was, either!”

Sidewalk DaveGold Liquid Mischief

“Bands who write whiskey-drinking songs are a dime a dozen, but Sidewalk Dave have raised the bar considerably, crafting an album inspired by, written while, and recorded under the influence of alcohol. This sounds like frat-boy fun and a recipe for sloppy songwriting, and in the hands of lesser musicians it certainly would be, at best, a clever gimmick. Sidewalk Dave pull it off with aplomb. These guys are true artists. Consider this The Beatles — but on whiskey instead of acid or pot.” – Full Review

Led To SeaInto The Darkening Sky

“Led to Sea guides us to a very organic world full of icy skies, rocky shores, rust, forests, and mountain streams heeding the the ocean’s call. L. Alex Guy’s vocals are captivating — and she plays a mean glockenspiel.” – Full review

Bastard Love Child of Rock n’ RollBim Bom

“Bastard Lovechild of Rock n’ Roll (BLORR) are the humbuckin’ pickups on an old reliable Telecaster and the bottleneck sliding up and down the fretboard. But they’re also the melancholy chords that take you back to a certain summer in a certain secret garden with a certain someone you lost long ago.” – Full review

Miniature TigersFortress

“If the movie Garden State had been made today, Miniature Tigers would be the band playing on Natalie Portman’s headphones when she hands them to Zach Braff: “You gotta hear this one song [“Egyptian Robe”] — it’ll change your life; I swear.” – Full Review

Derek HokeGoodbye Rock n’ Roll
“Like any good realist, Derek Hoke knows you can’t be a rocker forever — it’s painful to watch (e.g., The Stones, The Who, Aerosmith). But good country and roots artists — like whiskey and leather boots — only seem to get better with age.” – Full Review

Meghan McCormickHonest Words

“At only 23, McCormick has created an impressive debut that surpasses the work of artists twice her age. From the blistering theatrics of “Pick Up The Phone,” the quiet contemplation of “Wasted” and the stripped-away and brutal honesty of the title track, this is an artist in complete control.” – Full Interview/Review

Imelda MayLove Tattoo

“May executes multiple styles with near perfection, likely attributable to her early work in burlesque shows and with the jazz/swing band Blue Harlem. Rock ‘n’ roll is her first love, having discovered Elvis, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent when she was nine. Now — leopard-print blouses with skin-tight skirts and inverted uber spitcurl (called a “quiff”) aside — this woman can sing with equal parts power, passion, and sensitivity.” – Full Review

John PrineIn Person & On Stage

“Prine’s wry, poetic genius spills over with the precise amount of irreverence needed to pull his fans through hard times. One line can be the funniest thing in the world, followed by a quietly heartbreaking image. His smiling voice, especially now, is a reassuring aural companion. If you’ve never seen Prine in concert, In Person & On Stage is the next best thing to being there.” – Full Review

Marty StuartGhost Train

“Recorded at the legendary RCA Studio B in Nashville where, at the tender age of 13, he played mandolin and recorded with Lester Flatt, Ghost Train is Stuart’s return to hard-hitting country music. Far from a sentimental look back or a retro-country album, this is a modern-day icon adding to an already impressive musical structure atop the foundation of past masters.” – Full Review

Marshall ChapmanBig Lonesome

“Dedicated to her late friend, guitarist Tim Krekel, Marshall Chapman‘s Big Lonesome is at times bittersweet and heartbreaking, yet ultimately a beautiful lament from one musician to another. Chapman is such a stellar songwriter and conveys such honest emotion that you can’t help but be swept up into her world and to be disappointed you never met Krekel. Big Lonesome is a big winner.” – Full Review

Kingsley FloodDust Windows

“A melting pot of collaborative musical effort, each of the six members seems to be just as responsible for the sonic bliss as the next.” – Full Review

Carolina Chocolate DropsGenuine Negro Jig

“…brought a nearly lost art form – African American string-band music – to audiences beyond the old-time music circuit … incorporating sophisticated musicianship, topical themes and a rich history too often ignored by textbooks.” – Riverfront Times (St. Louis)

The Secret SistersThe Secret Sisters

“Honest and meaningful music is what caught T. Bone Burnett’s ear. The Secret Sisters certainly caught our collective ear with their clean and close harmonies — they really are sisters, after all.” – Full Interview/Review

Josh RitterSo Runs The World Away

“Ritter’s lyrics are deeply intentional and cover a surprisingly wide variety of narrative styles. The changes from sincere, first person perspective to fanciful third person storytelling and back again are practically seamless.” – Full Review

Anthony D’AmatoDown Wires

“…full of youthful exuberance (evidenced by the infectious ‘Whoop!‘s on ‘Never Grow Old’ and the galloping ‘Ballad of the Undecided’) while keeping a keen eye on a mature worldview as it applies to intimate relationships (‘Holy War’).” – Full Interview/Review

Dylan LeBlancPaupers Field

“…melodies and multi-layered lyrics will indeed haunt you long after you’ve moved away from LeBlanc’s desolate landscapes.” – Full Review

Jim LauderdalePatchwork River

“…features the combined collaborative efforts of Lauderdale and longtime Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Lauderdale’s deft melodies and Hunter’s rough-yet-gentle lyrics are a perfect match.” – Full Review

Junior League Band (Lissy Rosemont)Jelly Roll

“…a raucous joyride with a tight and confident band covering blues, jazz, folk, rock, boogie-woogie, bluegrass, country — they’re even confident enough to cover The Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling” which they do in amazing fashion, right down to the trippy guitar solos.” – Full Interview/Review

Freedy JohnstonRain On The City

“…like an aural psychological ink blot, but instead of a candlestick or two faces, do you see a copper coin or a forlorn girl named Penny? Or is it a worn and well-traveled wheatback penny — the lowliest of coins — or the troubadour himself? Such are the tantalizingly puzzling metaphors cast about on this album.” – Full Review

Band of HorsesInfinite Arms

“After three albums, Band of Horses finally sound comfortable being what they are: A rock band. A really fucking good rock band.” – Paste Magazine – Concert Review

Sonny and the SunsetsTomorrow Is Alright

“If Lou Reed had lived in California, worked in a surf shop and smoked weed instead of bopping his crazy ass around NYC shooting heroin, he would have formed Sonny & The Sunsets instead of Velvet Underground.” – Full Review

Kermit RuffinsHappy Talk

“NOLA icon Kermit Ruffins has been performing second line music since he was a kid, and his Rebirth Brass Band took off after their first show at Jazz Fest and he’s never looked back. But he’s always secretly treasured the music of bandleaders like Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie — Happy Talk is the result. As the bandleader, lead vocalist and trumpeter on the new album, Kermit has taken the big band sound and given it his own ‘Kermit swing.’ ” – Awaiting the Flood

Best Single

Those Darlins – “Night Jogger” b/w “Funstix Party” by Funstix Party

“They’ve performed this song live, but the studio version kicks some serious ass. We think it’s a mixture of The Cramps and Dead Milkmen.”

Most Anticipated Release of 2011

Those DarlinsScrews Get Loose (Due out in March — get ready!)

1 Comment

  1. Bill Frater says:

    Pretty good list there… with the usual assortment of obscure releases… I like the Derek Hoke and the Marshall Chapman especially… Cheers!

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