A look at some of 2010's overlooked albums

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 7 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

In this CD cover image released by Chop Shop Records, a release by Mackintosh Braun, “Where We Are,” is shown.

Chop Shop Records, Associated Press

Mumford & Sons, "Sigh No More" (Glass Note)

Mumford & Sons released "Sigh No More" last February to little fanfare. By the end of the year, it was hard to escape the London quartet and it's angry little hit, "Little Lion Man."

Who could blame anyone for overlooking "Sigh No More"? The album was released on a small independent label, and the guys dressed in faux 18th-century garb.

Ten months later Mumford & Sons has a Grammy nomination and sold-out American tour behind it and a promising future ahead with its unique blend of folk, rock 'n' roll and country.

It was a case of great music trumping the odds. "Little Lion Man" got all the attention, but the truth is "Sigh No More" is packed with great songs. There's very little percussion here and plenty of high harmony, yet there's nothing soft about "Sigh No More."

Songs like "White Blank Page," ''Thistle & Weeds" and "Dust Bowl Dance" rock with malevolent energy and transfixing story lines — and show there's no overlooking Mumford & Sons next time around.

— Chris Talbott, AP Entertainment Writer

Sahara Smith, "Myth of the Heart" (Playing in Traffic)

Sahara Smith's crystalline soprano is so commanding that when she sings of driving all night to reach Laredo, Texas, it sounds like a good idea.

"Myth of the Heart" is the debut album by Smith, and it benefits from the backing of T Bone Burnett and the crack studio band that performs on many of his records, including drummer Jay Bellerose and guitarist Marc Ribot.

Still, this is Smith's album — and a fine showcase for the kind of voice that fogs up windows. The 22-year-old Texan is Norah Jones with more swing, or Alison Krauss with more thump. When she overdubs a harmony part, that just makes the song twice as good.

Smith's a precocious composer, too, and she wrote all 12 tunes. The lyrics are vivid: Days whistle past, alleyways move in their sleep and crazy ideas howl like a circus, and even a lesser voice could coax beauty from the ballads Smith has written. Highlights include the shimmering love song "Angel," the fatalistic "World's on Fire" and the dreamy "Mermaid," which offers an image of Smith singing her daughter to sleep. What a lucky child.

— Steven Wine, Associated Press

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, "Grace Potter & the Nocturnals" (Hollywood Records)

If only for superficial reasons, Grace Potter — a leggy Heidi Klum look-a-like — should be a bigger star.

But the singer-songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist is so much more than a rock-girl pinup, and there are a multitude of substantial reasons why Potter and her band, the Nocturnals, deserve to be on playlists everywhere with their excellent third album, simply titled, "Grace Potter & the Nocturnals."

The smoldering disc features a near-perfect blend of rock, pop and a bit of country twang as a fiery Potter wails her way through electrifying grooves and emotionally stirring slow-burners.

Potter, who released a solo album before hooking up with her band, wrote or co-wrote all of the album's 13 songs, which range from the sassy, gritty "Paris (Ooh La La)" to the sexy "One Short Night" to the wistful "Goodbye Kiss." On the lyrically and musically rich ballad "Colors," Potter sings of taking a romantic leap of faith and being rewarded by leaving a drab, black-and-white existence with a kaleidoscope of colors. "Grace Potter & the Nocturnals" represents that ray of sunshine in an often dreary music world.

— Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Music Writer

Gucci Mane, "The Appeal: Georgia's Most Wanted" (Asylum/Warner Bros.)

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