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The 15 Best World Music Albums of 2010

Africa dominated the world music scene in 2010 -- or at least, it dominated Western perceptions of what "world music" might be. That said, the new vinyl archeology could be seen at work in all areas and all eras of recorded music.

Music

Matana Roberts: COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libres

Roberts gives eloquent voice to the fractured nature of identity, the way conflicting identifications jostle for prominence in our psyches, the multiple consciousness of modern hybridity.

Music

Gillian Welch: The Harrow & The Harvest

Ten more examples of what make Welch & Rawlings great: high lonesome harmonies, beautifully judged musicianship, exquisite songcraft, and a relationship with tradition that is both serious and playful.

Music

Ford & Lopatin: Channel Pressure

A work of heroic heritage -- reorganizing an era that is too often dismissed as sterile.

Music

Ana Moura: Coliseu

The familiar fado themes of love, loss, uncertainty, grief, pain, and disquiet are all hymned, while the city of Lisbon acts as a metaphor for other cities of the heart.

SAVE / IGNORE: Labels

Software / Mexican Summer

Music

Nicholas Urie: My Garden

Like Bukowski, the gloomy laureate whose work is re-sounded here, Nichloas Urie is not afraid to walk on the dark side. He's also able to find fragments of beauty in the gloom.

Music

Steve Earle: I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

This Hank-referencing album replays a variety of styles Earle mastered long ago, from Celtic-flecked folk to turbo-powered country rock to reflective thought pieces, but it's questionable whether he's assembled the best of his past styles here.

Books

'The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl' Conveys the Physical Beauty of Migratory Sound

The objects of popular culture have a strange hold over us, demanding that we not abandon them, or that we at least mourn their passing. Records gave voices an afterlife and people, in turn, give records an afterlife.

Music

Trembling Bells: The Constant Pageant

This is the strongest collection Trembling Bells have yet put out. The band sound assertive and in complete control of their strange aesthetic; they've also produced some mightily catchy and haunting songs.

Music

Rikki Ililonga & Musa-O-Tunya: Dark Sunrise

Afro-psyche guitar wizard provides the most convincing case yet for the vibrancy of the 1970s Zamrock scene.

Music

Josephine Foster & The Victor Herrero Band: Anda Jaleo

Flighty versions of Spanish folk songs in a style that no one does anymore, from a singer whose eclecticism marks her out as true original.

Richard Elliott
Music

Charlie Parr: When the Devil Goes Blind

Fine picking, vocals that make a mockery of microphone style, and lyrics about trains, tracks, and times past, all filtered through the immediacy of the present and performed under the influence of enthusiasm.

Richard Elliott
Music

WITCH: Introduction

Something about WITCH seems to have excited record collectors outside of Zambia, but in a world where rareness, exoticism, and commodity fetishism become peculiarly intertwined, one hopes that it is more than just the rarity of the commodity that is being valued.

Richard Elliott
SAVE / IGNORE: Labels

QDK

Reviews

'On Elegance While Sleeping' Is a Hidden Gem in the History of Surrealist Literature

Viscount Lascano Tegui seduces with his prose, drawing the reader into an ever more depraved fantasy world in a manner that mixes repulsion with wonder.

Books

'John Coltrane and Black America's Quest for Freedom': Insider Perspectives

The better contributions in this edited volume navigate a course between the particular and the universal, granting Coltrane's music the freedom it demands.

Music

White Lies: Ritual

Indie gloom mimics cash in on pop success with more portentous ready-mades, proving that ritual relies on repetition.

Music

Omar Souleyman: Jazeera Nights

Omar Souleyman is far from being a "typical" world music artist, even if he remains a fine example of what many musicians typically do around the world, namely experiment with, extemporize, and extend musical styles.

Music

Giant Sand: Blurry Blue Mountain

Twenty-five years after the first Giant Sand album, Howe Gelb's brand of ragged songplay and scorched intimacy continues to fray stylistic borders and suggest possibilities for the alt. country genre he helped spawn.

Reviews

'The Elephant's Journey' Carries the Reader Along on this Shared Endeavor

Saramago's trickery emphasizes an obvious, but often neglected, point about literature: words create reality rather than merely transcribe it.

Music

Wyatt, Atzmon & Stephen: ...for the Ghosts Within

On the one hand, a thrilling collaboration between three brilliant, distinctive musicians; on the other, glorious evidence of the singular way in which Robert Wyatt continues to find wonder in the world.

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