30. RJD2, The Colossus (RJ’s Electrical Connections)
RJD2 comes from hip-hop, but each of his albums has expanded his sound a little bit. He can do Moby-style mellow, he can do indie rock, and with The Colossus, RJ makes his version of an indie-R&B album (at least that’s the only way I can describe it), complete with guest vocalists like the severely underrated Kenna. It’s a new wrinkle to his sound that results in yet another entry into an excellent catalog. If you’re not hip to RJ’s music, you should definitely correct that.
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29. Drake, Thank Me Later (Young Money)
For some folks, hype serves to build up anticipation for an upcoming release. In a lot of cases, for me it has the opposite effect. I got so tired of hearing about Drake being the next big thing that I almost didn’t give his full-length debut, Thank Me Later, a chance. I would’ve been sorry if he didn’t. No, Drake doesn’t justify the insane amount of hype that’s been stirred up around him. But he does have a way with a punchline, he’s a decent rapper, a decent singer, and a pretty good songwriter. Thank Me Later was obviously a carefully constructed album, and it was more than good enough to get me to change my opinion about the former “Degrassi” star and bump his album all summer long.
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28. Bleu, Four (The Major Label)
I’d stopped following Bleu after his major-label debut, Redhead became one of my favorites upon being recommended by a friend. A couple of albums and, um, one less major label later, I was again hipped to Bleu by a friend-or friends. In this case, it was the Popdose peeps who hipped me to Four, and after hearing it (there are a couple of instances of this happening in 2010), I immediately took my ass to Newbury Comics and bought some of his older stuff to catch up. Great hooks, great lyrics, great sense of humor and one anthem for his occasional hometown and my current hometown all adds up to one of the year’s best (if not the year’s best) power-pop album.
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27. Black Dub, Black Dub (RCA)
While I’m extremely familiar with Daniel Lanois as a producer, I can’t say I’ve heard a peep from him as an artist. So I had no idea what to expect from Black Dub, his collaboration with several renowned musicians and vocalist Trixie Whitley. What I got was a little soul, a little rock ‘n roll, and a lot of (appropriately) bass-heavy music, perfect for sitting back and partaking of…well, um, never mind. Even if you’re not a midnight toker, Black Dub is an excellent album. Occasionally Whitley’s vocals remind me a little too much of Joss Stone (giving me bad memories of Stone’s first two albums), but then again, imagine what a Joss Stone album would sound like with Daniel Lanois producing!
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26. Rhymefest, El Che (dNBe Entertainment)
Can we get an amen for hip-hop in 2010? Among this year’s rap highlights was the sophomore effort from the guy who co-wrote Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”. Making hip-hop that appeals to grown folks without coming across as a fuddy-duddy, El Che‘s only stumbling block is skit overload. Whether he’s quoting Rakim on “Agony” or collaborating with guests Glenn Lewis and Little Brother, the working man’s emcee stays on his job with album #2.
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