The Grammy Awards Get It Right February 14, 2011Posted by Matt in Best of 2010, music.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Bob Dylan, Grammy Awards, Mumford & Sons, Neil Young, Neil Young and Pearl Jam got screwed, Pearl Jam, thanks for reading my blog Grammy Award voters, The Avett Brothers, The Black Keys
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I haven’t watched the Grammy Awards in years, mostly due to my dismissive attitude towards mainstream pop, and, though last night was no exception to that rule, I was pleasantly surprised this morning to see that my favorite album of 2010, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, won the prize. To top things off, I also found out that two of my favorite newer bands, The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, played with none other than the great Bob Dylan.
So, what does this mean? Well, the narcissist in me believes that the Grammy Award voters obviously read my blog. There is no other explanation for some of their choices this year. Just check out 3 of my top 4 albums of 2010, as posted in December:
4. The Black Keys – Brothers
Winner – Best Alternative Music Album
2. Neil Young – Le Noise
Nominated for Best Rock Music Album (lost inexplicably to Muse)
1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Winner – Album of the Year
Pearl Jam’s Backspacer, my choice for best album of 2009, was also nominated in the Rock Album category.
The other album in my top 4, Kanye West’s My Dark Twisted Fantasy, missed the September 30 cutoff date for the year’s award show, but I fully expect him to be nominated for everything next year.
And, if you missed it like I did, check out this link to the video of Dylan, Mumford, and the Avetts before they take it down. You won’t be disappointed.
Thanks for reading, Grammy voters. Feel free to laud praise on my music choices any time.
Best of 2010 – Music Edition (Top Ten) December 21, 2010Posted by Matt in Best of 2010.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Big Boi, drive-by truckers, Kanye West, Neil Young, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, The National, Top 10 albums of 2010
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Over the past two weeks we’ve been looking at my choices for the best music of 2010, beginning with ten honorable mentions, followed by those that I ranked 11-20. Today we continue our list with my top ten albums of 2010. Before we get started, though, here is a quick recap of the albums mentioned in the past entries.
Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues
The Whigs – In the Dark
Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig
Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul
Magic Kids – Memphis
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
Robert Plant – Band of Joy
Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart
20. MGMT – Congratulations
19. Weezer – Hurley
18. Broken Bells – Broken Bells
17. Cee Lo Green – The Ladykiller
16. Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song
15. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
14. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
13. Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
12. The Roots – How I Got Over
11. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
The Top Ten Albums of 2010
10. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
Listening to Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings is like stepping into a time machine and emerging in the R&B world of the 1960’s-70’s. The band has been around for nearly 15 years, but I was just introduced to them in 2010 – and let me tell you, it was a wonderful introduction. Combining funky horn-led arrangements with Jones’s outstanding soulful vocals, this is a welcome retro blast for those who enjoy sounds you might hear from Stax or Motown. From broken hearts to hard times on the poor side of town, Jones and her band tear through song after song with a mix of emotion and joy that is impossible not to like. Download: The Game Gets Old, Better Things, Money
9. The National – High Violet
Downbeat and moody, The National make dreary, rainy day music for those who choose to accept or even revel in the dark crevices of life, carrying on the gloomy tradition of late 70’s/80’s post-punk bands like Joy Division and The Cure. Matt Berninger’s rich baritone is the glue that holds these stories together and when he sings, “I live in the city sorrow built,” you believe him and your heart aches for him. The band is in great form on this work, which may be their best yet in a critically lauded career. Though it was released back in May, amid the sunshine and flowers, this is time of year for which it was meant, when the sun goes down early, the temperature drops, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness are magnified. Download: Sorrow, Anyone’s Ghost, Bloodbuzz Ohio
8. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
I first got into The Hold Steady with their 2008 album Stay Positive, my top pick for that year, so my hopes were high for their latest release and they did not disappoint. While I wasn’t that impressed the first time I listened to it, Heaven is Whenever grew on me quickly and by the time I saw them live over the summer it was among my favorites for the year. The album starts with the uncharacteristically slow, almost country music-like The Sweet Part of the City, before kicking into their normal, high-energy, bar band sound, tearing through track after track about the scene, a place characterized by street fights, parties, bars, and townies, but also where the beautiful happens. It’s a place where two music lovers can discover that, “Heaven is whenever we can get together, / Sit down on your floor / And listen to your records.” Download: Barely Breathing, We Can Get Together, Hurricane J
7. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot
Despite being one of the most talented and influential hip-hop collaborations in history, Outkast has been relatively quiet since their 2006 film project Idlewild, and have not released a proper album since 2004’s Grammy-winning Album of the Year, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, so the first solo release from Big Boi, one half of Outkast, was greatly anticipated by purveyors of intelligent hip-hop. Luscious kicks of with a short, funky intro before kicking into high gear and it quickly becomes apparent that Big Boi is in excellent form. He turns in a performance that reeks of dirty, George Clinton funk, with heaps of soul and old-school, Southern fried hip-hop added in for good measure. The songs are adventurous, inventive, and totally captivating. Now we just need a new Outkast album… Download: Daddy Fat Sax, Shutterbugg, Tangerine
6. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do
I’ve been following just about every move of the Drive-By Truckers for nearly a decade, and though there have been some ups and downs, they are still, without a doubt, my favorite band of that time period. This latest release continues in the tradition of telling dark tales of life in Dixie through a three guitar, Southern rock avenue. Where their last release, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, displayed more of a country influence, To-Do is more of a straight-ahead rock album, blasting through tales of death, drugs, and depression with razor sharp lyrics and amps turned to ten. Co-leaders Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley sound great, as usual, with Hood’s storytelling abilities at full strength and Cooley’s guitar and one-liners ringing out strong and true. The band touches on real events like the Church of Christ minister murder in Selmer (“That Wig He Made Her Wear”), classic tales of women done wrong (“Drag the Lake Charlie”), and even one that took place in Memphis (“Birthday Boy”). I’ve had the opportunity to see them twice on this tour and I can assure you that the band sounds as great as ever. Download: Drag the Lake Charlie, Birthday Boy, Santa Fe
5. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
I was first introduced to The Gaslight Anthem with their 2008 work, That ’59 Sound, and I quickly became a fan of their style, one that I described as being “like Springsteen fronting The Clash.” Their latest release continues in the same vein, with the band’s Jersey-influenced songs and hard charging guitars taking center stage, yet it may even best that album that I loved so much from two years ago. The Gaslight Anthem should be a huge, household name, but still they toil away in relative obscurity, playing anthems that could fill stadiums in smaller venues to a growing base of fans. If there is any justice in the world, these guys will be huge someday. When vocalist Brian Fallon sings, “While you told me fortunes in American slang,” you hope that those fortunes turn out well for the band. Download: American Slang, Boxer, Bring It On
4. The Black Keys – Brothers
I’ve been a big fan of blues-rock duo The Black Keys for several years and it has been fascinating to watch the evolution of the band beyond their initial blues focus to something that borrows from a number of genres, combining them into a fun, rocking whole. This latest release borrows some style from their last album, the Danger Mouse-produced Attack and Release, and their older, bluesier recordings, while adding in a few new wrinkles, swinging from vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach doing his best Prince impression on “Everlasting Light” to their trademark riffage on “She’s Long Gone,” to the keyboard-dominated “Too Afraid to Love You,” and they have never sounded better. I saw the band in concert a few years ago and the show was incredible, so it is my hope that they will make another stop in Memphis sometime in the near future. If you like good music, you need this album. Download: Next Girl, Tighten Up, She’s Long Gone
3. Kanye West – My Dark Twisted Fantasy
Over the past ten years there is perhaps no artist in rap music, or for that matter music in general, who is more important and timely than Kanye West. Sure, he has a tendency to go off the deep end publically, but all can be forgiven and forgotten by those who allow themselves be lost in his ingenious vision. My Dark Twisted Fantasy is more than just your average hip-hop album, it’s a landmark on par with nearly anything ever produced in the genre. After the underrated minimalism of his last work 808s and Heartbreak, the dense orchestrations present on Fantasy represent a completely new and welcome direction, one that displays rap music as the art form that it can be. The songs are long and powerful, pulling in the listener and not letting go. In the anthemic “Power,” with its tribal chants and King Crimson sampling, ‘Ye makes the prophetic statement “I guess every superhero needs his theme music,” and this is the sound of him finding his. The real gem on this work, though, is the uncomfortably confessional 10 minute opus “Runaway,” where he reveals this really tortured soul, telling the listeners how he’s “so gifted at findin’ what I don’t like the most,” before delving into some of the roughest verbal self-flagellation in recent memory. This is a must-own. Download: Runaway, Power, Monster
2. Neil Young – Le Noise
Though the initial news that Neil Young was collaborating with mega-producer Daniel Lanois was intriguing, it had been years since I heard anything from Young that interested me and I wasn’t putting much stock into this latest work. Then I heard it on NPR and immediately was hooked by both the music and the story behind it. According to reports, Lanois approached the 65 year old legend with a custom built guitar and an idea, a simple project consisting solely of Young, the guitar, and some great production, and this incredible work is the fruit of that partnership. Young sounds great, his voice still in excellent condition and his grungy guitar work reminding us of his widespread influence across the gamut of rock music. The old man still has his finger on the pulse of society, particularly in songs like “Angry World” where he sings, “Some see life as hope eternal / Some see life as a business plan / Some wish some would go to hell’s inferno / For screwing with their life in freedom land,” and in the fantastic, perhaps even career-defining track, “Love and War,” where his acoustic guitar and soft, almost whispery vocals become an ethereal vessel through which a great prophet can speak his message, saying, “When I sing about love and war / I don’t really know what I’m saying. / I’ve been in love and I’ve seen a lot of war / Seen a lot of people praying. / They pray to Allah and they pray to the Lord / But mostly the pray about love and war.” This beautiful and timely piece of societal commentary is indispensable. Download: Love and War, Angry World, Sign of Love
1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The Arcade Fire dealt with some big issues on their first two albums, so on their third, the band turns to another slice of America, the lifeless and endless suburban sprawl. As one of the millions and millions of people living in this area of concrete, strip malls, and cookie cutter houses stretching past the horizon (“Oh this city’s changed so much / Since I was a little child / Pray to God I won’t live to see / The death of everything that’s wild”), this work strikes a chord with me. It’s the land of quiet desperation, of fear and of endless attempts to escape, moving farther and farther away from supposed danger, never settling and always vigilant (“The town’s so strange they built it to change”). In the album opener, “The Suburbs,” vocalist Win Butler laments, “So can you understand / Why I want a daughter while I’m still young? / I want to hold her hand / And show her some beauty / Before all this damage is done.” The band’s targets range from that hopelessly run rat race to the suburban megachurch-dominated religious scene with lyrics like, “You never trust a millionaire / Quoting the sermon on the mount / I used to think I was not like them / But I’m beginning to have my doubts / My doubts about it.” And, of course, there’s always the neverending sprawl (“Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small / Then we can never get away from the sprawl / Living in the sprawl / The dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains / And there’s no end in sight / I need the darkness. Someone please cut the lights!”). This is, without a doubt, my album of the year. It touches deep down in my psyche, for I’ve struggled some time with our decision to live in the suburbs instead of the city, feeling like I don’t belong here, that there is no place here for me. The endless traffic and big box stores and chain restaurants, the fear and hatred and exclusionary tactics go beyond merely bothering me, they hurt me, they scar me, they leave me wanting to escape the clutches of the sprawl.
Yet all is not so terrible, no, everyone does not buy into the stories, not everyone finds themselves destroyed by the “businessmen that drink my blood.” As is true anywhere in any city or suburb or country town that you may find yourself in, there is a reason to go on and it is one that does not involve mcmansions or illusions of safety or churches that look like football stadiums. Friends. Love. Relationships. That is what matters. In the end, you may say as Arcade Fire does, “If I could have it back / All the time we wasted / I’d only waste it again / If I could have it back / You know I would love to waste it again.” Time with the ones you love, even time in which you do nothing at all, is never wasted. The new chapter of my story is a happy one so far, one in which relationships are being built and even if it happens in the endless sprawl, that is okay. The time will not be wasted.
Like I said before, this album really struck a chord with me. It has stuck with me and haunted me ever since I first listened to it. If there is one album you buy this year, make it this one.
Matt’s Meandering Mind on Monday August 9, 2010Posted by Matt in Matt's Meandering Mind on Monday.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Barbara Kingsolver, community garden, David Plotz, family, fantasy football, school, The Roots
I haven’t had the time to put together very many cogent thoughts lately, but here are a few things that have been on my mind.
– Our girls are in school and so far things have gone smoothly. Our 3rd grader started riding the but on the first day it was available, but the kindergartener held out until today. It seems as though the transition is going well so far and I’m looking forward to hearing more of their daily stories.
- After a summer of hard labor in the hot sun, my energy level dropped off dramatically about two weeks ago and I decided to let the garden go for a while. Now it looks like an overgrown wilderness with the occasional errant squash and plenty of okra (that stuff won’t quit!), but it has been nice to have my Saturdays back. We are plotting to clean the site up soon and get started for the fall, but thankfully that season is not nearly so involved.
- Over the past few days I’ve downloaded two great new albums: Arcade Fire’s – The Suburbs and The Roots – How I Got Over. You should check them out – particularly the Arcade Fire – when you have a chance.
- I’ve been reading two good books over the past week or so – David Plotz’s Good Book and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. Plotz’s work is about himself, a secular jew, as he reads through the Jewish Bible for the first time as an adult. It’s divided by book and chapter and he writes out his thoughts about passages he finds to be interesting. It’s a funny, irreverent, and sometimes eye-opening account that reminds me a good deal of AJ Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically. The Poisonwood Bible is, of course, one of those books that makes every list of the best of the recent past. So far, I’ve found it to be an excellent and sometimes disturbing read. If you’ve never read it before, the novel follows a Southern Christian family that relocates to the Congo for mission work and it chronicles their struggles against the backdrop of American exploitation and imperialism. I’m only about a third of the way through it, but it has been quite excellent so far.
- And finally – I’m thinking of putting together another Fantasy Football league for the upcoming NFL season. I’ll let you know the details later.
Free Music Friday: Arcade Fire August 6, 2010Posted by Matt in free music friday.
Tags: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Both beautiful and heartbreaking, Arcade Fire’s latest release The Suburbs has officially emerged as a candidate for album of the year. You can still stream the entire thing for free through NPR’s First Listen series, so you should definitely take advantage of that while you can. You won’t be disappointed. Below is the song “Suburban War.” Enjoy.
Upcoming Summer Music Releases May 13, 2010Posted by Matt in music, top ten.
Tags: Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, Big Boi, Danger Mouse, How to Destroy Angels, Kanye West, Sparklehorse, Stone Temple Pilots, Summer 2010, The Black Keys, The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, top ten, upcoming album releases
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This month we’ve been inundated by excellent new music, including new albums from Josh Ritter, The Dead Weather, Broken Social Scene, The New Pornographers, The National, The Hold Steady, and many more, and though this has been great, it is only the beginning of the summer music season. So, today I want to look at ten of my most highly anticipated albums set to come out over the next few months. Let me know if I left something off.
10. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul (July 13)
Danger Mouse has emerged as one of the most creative and best known DJs around, whether in his famous mash-ups (The Grey Album), his work with Gnarls Barkley, or his other 2010 project, Broken Bells. This album finds him teaming with Alt-rockers, Sparklehorse, a group that I am somewhat familiar with, but I have never owned any of their music. Given the greatness of much of Danger Mouse’s past work, this is one I’ll have to check out.
9. How to Destroy Angels – How to Destroy Angels (TBD)
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame returns this summer with a new project, this one featuring his wife Mariqueen Maandig on vocals. According to what I’ve read, this retains Reznor’s electronic beat-based style, but sounds more like Depeche Mode than the industrial insanity of NIN. Sounds interesting…
8. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Leftfoot (July 6)
As half of the great hip hop duo Outkast, Big Boi has been a veritable force over the years, but this album finds him stepping away from his musical partner, Andre 3000, to release something wholly his own. If this is anywhere near the genius of Stankonia or Big Boi’s Speakerboxxx work, it is a must have.
7. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Mojo (June 15)
Over the course of the past 3+ decades, Petty and his band have become one of the de facto voices of Americana music. I’ve long been a fan of their work, so this will definitely be one that I’ll have to check out.
6. Stone Temple Pilots – Stone Temple Pilots (May 25)
Alice in Chains and the Smashing Pumpkins reformed and released albums, Pearl Jam is still chugging away, and Soundgarden is back together, so why not expand the umbrella of grunge nostalgia again? I’ve heard one of the new tunes from the album on radio and it is very cool, Purple-era STP. This will be a must-have.
5. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms (May 18)
BoH showed themselves to be one of the better breakthrough indie rock acts on their last album, and my introduction to them, Cease to Begin. If this one promises to continue their past excellence, count me in.
4. Arcade Fire TBD (TBD)
They don’t have an album title or a release date yet, but according to reports, Arcade Fire is set to release their third album this summer. I, for one, am really looking forward to more of the huge, orchestral indie rock style that made their last two releases so incredible.
3. Kanye West – Good Ass Job (June)
Look, I don’t care who Kanye wants to interrupt on an awards show, the guy makes some truly unforgettable music. This album is supposedly the one to conclude his “college series” – The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation – and if it’s on par with those, it will definitely be great.
2. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang (June 15)
My introduction to The Gaslight Anthem came through their last release, That ’59 Sound, and it’s incredible blue collar-punk rock-Springsteen combo. I once described it as a young Springsteen fronting the Clash. Needless to say, it was awesome and I expect nothing less from this one.
1. The Black Keys – Brothers (May 18)
I might be cheating a bit to have this album as my top choice, especially since I have already listened to it from beginning to end more than one time through NPR, but it completely blew me away. While the Keys retain some of the blues-rock ethos from their earlier albums, this one takes another step forward in the progression through their last album, Attack & Release, Dan Auerbach’s solo debut, and their work as Blakroc. I’ll tell you now: this is the current frontrunner for 2010 album of the year. Get it as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.
Best of the Decade – Music Artists February 9, 2010Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Arcade Fire, Beck, Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, drive-by truckers, Green Day, Interpol, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, josh ritter, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, neko case, Outkast, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Ryan Adams, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, The Avett Brothers, The Black Keys, The Decemberists, The Flaming Lips, The Hold Steady, The White Stripes, top artists of the decade, Wilco
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Over the past few months we’ve taken a look at the music from the past decade in my ranking of the top 100 albums released during that time period. To arrive at this list, I considered more than 400 releases from those ten years, the majority of which I actually own. But, this undertaking led me to yet another question – if these are the top albums, who are the top artists? So, using these 400 albums and my rankings as a guide, I have compiled a listing of my 30 top artists of the time period stretching from 2000-2009. Let me know what you think.
30. Bright Eyes – Between his solo work and that with Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst is one of the most prolific artists on my list. Though he can be a bit over-earnest at times, I’m still a big fan of his unsure, wavering voice.
Notable Albums: Lifted or The Story is in the Soul, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002), Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005), Cassadega (2007)
29. The Avett Brothers – I became an instant fan of The Avett Brothers after hearing 2007’s alt-grass classic Emotionalism, a feeling which has only grown stronger through 2009’s piano ballad-driven I and Love and You.
Notable Albums: Mignonette (2004), Emotionalism (2007), I and Love and You (2009)
28. Modest Mouse – Modest Mouse had been around in indie rock circles for several years, but it was 2004’s unavoidable catchy “Float On” that propelled them to stardom.
Notable Albums: The Moon & Antarctica (2000), Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004), We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007)
27. Interpol – Downbeat and depressing, Interpol brought back everything that was good about the early 80’s post-punk movement.
Notable Albums: Turn on the Bright Lights (2002), Antics (2004), Our Love to Admire (2007)
26. Ryan Adams – Another prolific artist, Adams released the equivalent of 10 studio albums over the past decade. Though most of his work is hit and miss, when he is on, he’s among the best working today.
Notable Albums: Heartbreaker (2000), Gold (2001), Love is Hell (2004), Easy Tiger (2007)
25. Johnny Cash – The Man in Black may have passed away in 2002, but that didn’t stop him from being among the highest rated artists of the decade. His final series of works with Rick Rubin are some of the most poignant to be found anywhere.
Notable Albums: American III: Solitary Man (2000), American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002), American V: A Hundred Highways (2006)
24. Jay-Z – There are few hip-hop artists who reach stardom that continue produce top-notch albums. Though Jay-Z has had his fair share of misses, he continues to be one of the best in the game.
Notable Albums: The Blueprint (2001), The Black Album (2003)
23. Neko Case – I fell in love with Neko Case’s soaring voice following her stellar ’06 release, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and she has yet to disappoint me.
Notable Albums: Blacklisted (2002), Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006), Middle Cyclone (2009)
22. Arcade Fire – With a huge sound and a big Springsteen influence, Canada’s Arcade Fire burst onto the scene in a big way with their 2004 debut Funeral. They have a great deal of energy and passion that translates well in their stadium-ready songs.
Notable Albums: Funeral (2004), Neon Bible (2007)
21. Wilco – Though 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may be the creative pinnacle of their career thus far, in my opinion, the 1990’s were a far better decade overall for Jeff Tweedy’s band. Nevertheless, they did produce some enjoyable and inventive fare over the past ten years.
Notable Albums: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), Sky Blue Sky (2007), Wilco (The Album) (2009)
20. The Decemberists – As I have mentioned in the past, there is probably no success story that is more unlikely than that of The Decemberists, with their obscure lyrical references and use of uncommon instruments (accordions, Wurlitzer organs, etc.).
Notable Albums: Picaresque (2005), The Crane Wife (2006), The Hazards of Love (2009)
19. Outkast – Given the fact that they have released two of the all-time quintessential hip hop albums over the past ten years, I wanted to place Big Boi and Andre 3000 higher then this. But, their lack of quality output since 2003’s double album extravaganza hurt them in the long run.
Notable Albums: Stankonia (2000), Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
18. The Flaming Lips – Trippy and weird, these Oklahomans have been cranking out alt-rock oddities for more than two decades. The past decade from the Lips brought us pink robots, politics, and a penchant for sonic insanity. Really, what else do you need?
Notable Albums: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2000), At War with the Mystics (2006), Embryonic (2009)
17. The Black Keys – This is down and dirty blues-rock done right – by a couple of hippy-ish white guys from Akron, Ohio. The Keys have put together work after work of irresistible riff-rock that needs to be heard.
Notable albums: Thickfreakness (2003), Rubber Factory 92004), Attack & Release (2008)
16. Coldplay – Sure, their sound may be a bit contrived and safe, but this band, which is certainly among the most popular groups of the decade, know how to make stadium-ready rock.
Notable albums: Parachutes (2000), A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)
15. Kanye West – With the kind of talent Kanye has who cares if he’s not a nice guy. If there is a single hip hop artist to be identified with this decade, it must be him. He is creative, fun, and a definite risk-taker across all four of his excellent releases.
Notable Albums: The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
14. The Hold Steady – The band once proclaimed to be the “best bar band in America” has become one of the best bands period in America. Openly wielding a love for Springsteen, the band tears through song after song about the dead end people and towns.
Notable Albums: Separation Sunday (2005), Boys and Girls in America (2005), Stay Positive (2008)
13. Bob Dylan – Dylan’s career resurgence following 1997’s Time Out of Mind carried through the first decade of the millennium, a time in which his releases went from incredible to strange (whoever guessed we’d have Dylan Christmas album?), but never boring.
Notable Albums: Love & Theft (2001), Modern Times (2006), Together Through Life (2009)
12. Kings of Leon – KoL began the decade as little-known Southern rockers, the sons of a Tennessee preacher, and ended it as one of the biggest bands in America.
Notable Albums: Youth and Young Manhood (2003), Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004), Only By Night (2008)
11. Beck – Eschewing his “two turntables and a microphone” persona, alternative rock’s Dylan began the decade with a sad and darn near perfect collection of acoustic laments before carrying on with a return to the fun-loving and danceable tunes that propelled him to stardom in the 90’s.
Notable Albums: Sea Change (2002), The Information (2006), Modern Guilty (2008)
10. Sufjan Stevens – Earnest and uncertain, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens chose to do things his way over the past decade, releasing entire albums devoted to the states of Michigan and Illinois, producing a collection of Christmas EPs and wearing his spiritual side on his sleeve.
Notable Albums: Greetings from Michigan (2003), Seven Swans (2004), Illinois (2005)
9. Pearl Jam – The majority of Pearl Jam’s releases this decade were good, but lacking a bit when compared to their work from the 1990’s – or course, that was prior to 2009’s Backspacer, which ranked as one of my very favorite albums of the entire decade.
Notable Albums: Binaural (2000), Riot Act (2002), Backspacer (2009)
8. Green Day – This decade marked the evolution of Green Day from juvenile pop-punkers to worldwide fame and renown. Their newfound maturity and political themes turned Billy Joe’s band into one of the most important ones in America today.
Notable Albums: American Idiot (2004), 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
7. Spoon – Though Spoon had been around in the 90’s, it was not until the early 2000’s that I came in contact with their infectious, danceable tunes and I loved it. There are few bands that have been as consistently good as Spoon over the past 10 years.
Notable Albums: Kill the Moonlight (2002), Girls Can Tell (2001), Gimme Fiction (2005)
6. My Morning Jacket – Jim James’ band burst through their reverb-soaked haze early in the decade to claim a piece of the 2000’s Southern rock crown. Though their sound can veer from Neil Young to Prince, the overall product is a distinctly Southern one and not to be missed.
Notable Albums: It Still Moves (2003), Z (2005), Evil Urges (2008)
5. Josh Ritter – Ritter is quite possibly the best songwriter of my generation, and that’s really saying something. He could be the next Springsteen or the next Dylan, or maybe sometime in the future we’ll be calling another young singer-songwriter the next Ritter.
Notable Albums: Hello Starling (2003), The Animal Years (2006), The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
4. Drive-By Truckers – There are few artists that I have followed as intently over the past ten years as DBT. There is just something about their stories of the dark side of the South that I find appealing and they have a killer live show.
Notable Albums: Southern Rock Opera (2001), Decoration Day (2003), Brighter than Creation’s Dark (2008)
3. Radiohead – If my generation has an answer to The Beatles, it is Radiohead. Thom Yorke’s band has continually pushed boundaries for the past 15 years and, in so doing, have produced some of the most creative and incredible pieces of work to be found in the music business today.
Notable Albums: Kid A (2000), Hail to the Thief (2003), In Rainbows (2007)
2. The White Stripes – I’m an unabashed worshipper of the power of Jack White and his guitar. The guy can pull incredible solos out of nowhere and make them look easy. This duo’s five albums of blues-rock are among the best of anybody for the entire decade.
Notable Albums: White Blood Cells (2001), Elephant (2003), Icky Thump (2007)
1. Bruce Springsteen – Who cares if the Boss topped 60 last year? The guy can still bring it like no other. The 2000’s have proven to be his most fruitful time since the early-mid ‘80’s, with 5 great albums released over the course of ten years. All hail the Boss, he’s still the man!
Notable Albums: The Rising (2002), Magic (2007), Working on a Dream (2009)
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (21-30) January 20, 2010Posted by Matt in Uncategorized.
Tags: 2000s, Arcade Fire, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Green Day, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, Kings of Leon, music, Radiohead, The Black Keys, The Decemberists, top 100
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Today we return to our look back at the top 100 albums of the past decade. In case you missed the previous entries, you can get to them through the following links:
30. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (2006)
Leave it to The Decemberists, one of the most unique and unlikely success stories of the decade, to make a incredible concept album based on an old and relatively unknown Japanese folk tale. The songs flow from beginning to end in such a way that the listener becomes completely enraptured in the story and the music. This is a real and true work of art from the hyper-literate Colin Meloy and his bandmates. “O Valencia” was a big hit for a reason, it’s a great and catchy song. In addition to that, check out “Shankill Butchers.”
29. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)
Employing a multitude of soul samples and an almost unmatched charisma, the man also known as Shawn Carter created one of the best rap albums of the decade with The Blueprint. If you ever wonder why people make such a big deal out of Jay-Z, this is why.
Check out songs like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” and enjoy.
28. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
Coldplay makes the kind of music whose sole purpose is to fill arenas and earn massive amounts of money, a combination that can oftentimes backfire among the more jaded listeners. Regardless, this album is truly great from beginning to end, a trait seen in the fact that, despite being terribly overplayed, it is still quite enjoyable. Listen to “In My Place” and “The Scientist,” or even “Clocks” if you haven’t heard it 100 times too many over the past 8 years.
27. The Black Keys – Rubber Factory (2004)
The Black Keys rock, plain and simple. I first came into contact with this great blues/rock duo in the great film Black Snake Moan, which featured the incredible opening cut from this album, “When the Lights Go Out,” in one of its first scenes. After that I was hooked and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. You should also check out “!0 A.M. Automatic” and “Girl is on my Mind,” to truly get a fee for this excellent release. Also, if you ever have the chance to see them live, do it. They are awesome.
26. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
Green Day have come a long way since they first burst on the scene in the mid-90’s with songs of youthful angst and umm… self-induced euphoria. This follow up to 2004’s critically lauded and hugely successful concept album, American Idiot,” almost matches its predecessor in terms of excellence. This time the story deals with people struggling in post-Bush America and, though it is a bit hard to follow at times, the fact that the album rocks makes up for it. My favorite tunes are probably “Viva la Gloria!” with its piano balladry leading into classic Green Day punk, the hard-hitting “East Jesus Nowhere,” and the ode to the “Last of the American Girls.”
25. Johnny Cash – American III: Solitary Man (2000)
There are few artists who can pull off the kind of late-career surge that Cash, with the help of producer Rick Rubin, did from 1994 until his death in 2003. This album, like all of those from the period, was stark and dark, dealing with mortality in such a poignant way that it is sure to touch even the most hard-hearted among us. Cash weaves together covers and originals into an incredible commentary on life and death. Included on this album are Cash’s covers of tunes like U2’s “One” and Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat,” that you need to hear.
24. Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)
One of the few sophomore releases to outdo the original, Aha Shake Heartbreak is a rocking and soulful trip through the American south that is not to be missed. It is, without a doubt, my favorite Kings’ album. It’s young and hungry and loud, the things that make rock music great. Check out songs like “Taper Jean Girl,” and “Slow Night, So Long.”
23. Bob Dylan – Love & Theft (2001)
Beginning with 1997’s classic Time Out of Mind and going through the first decade of the millennium, Dylan enjoyed quite the late career resurgence as he seemed to recapture a creative energy that had been missing for some time. On 2001’s Love and Theft, the 60 year old poet proved that he had plenty to offer the world and re-established himself as the poet laureate of rock and roll. My favorite tracks include “Mississippi” and the crooning “Moonlight.”
22. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
So, you are a band that is 15 years into your career, you have worldwide popularity and are among the most critically lauded groups in recent times: what do you do next? If you’re Radiohead; you take another step into the future and place their entire album online, telling downloaders to pay whatever amount they would like. The gimmick was almost as ingenious as the album itself, which stands up well against anything else in their unparalleled catalogue. You need to hear the entire album, but, if you are hesitant to get the whole thing, check out songs like “Bodysnatchers,” and “House or Cards,” be amazed, and then buy the entire work.
21. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
Dramatic and sincere, with a huge, arena-filling sound behind it, this album blew everyone away upon its 2004 release. Frontman Win Butler has a real dangerous quality to his voice as the band blasts through tales of the broken and beaten down and sometimes triumphant. Listen to “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up,” then pick up the entire album. It is well worth it.
Ten For Tuesday: Top Albums of 2007 (the first ten) January 8, 2008Posted by Matt in music, top ten.
Tags: Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, Avett Brothers, Bright Eyes, Kings of Leon, music, Of Montreal, Okkervil River, Sinead O'Connor, The National, top ten, Wilco
As many of you know, I listen to a lot of music and ever since I received my Ipod a year ago, that has amount has increased more than ever before. Through my use of emusic (it’s a great deal! Let me know if you are interested) and the input of online friends, I’ve been able to expand my collection into realms I never even thought of before. That being said, I came up with a top 20 albums of 2007 and this is the first ten of those. Enjoy.
20. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
The second half of this Of Montreal opus tends to drag a bit, but, with the best song title of the year (and a great song) in “Heimsdalgate Like a Promethean Curse,” Kevin Barnes earned his way onto the list.
19. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
A good, not great, release from one of the best young bands around today. Though it may not be as strong an album as their last two, it is still certainly worth checking out.
Download: “Black Thumbnail”
18. Sinead O’Connor – Theology
I’ve never really been a fan of O’Connor, but this two CD collection of Christian songs is absolutely beautiful. Both CDs contain the same songs, the first one is a stark, acoustic collection and the second is with a band backing her up. The simple emotion of O’Connor and her acoustic guitar is truly something that should be heard.
Download: Psalm 33
17. Bright Eyes – Cassadega
Sure, Conor Oberst is a head case, but the 27 year old is a heck of a songwriter. This album shows the band really coming into its own as one of the best young groups working today.
Download: Four Winds
16. Okkervil River – The Stage Names
At first, I almost dismissed this album as overly-emotional garbage, but then I started listening, really listening and now this Austin-based band is turning into one of my favorites. It just keeps growing on me.
Download: Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe
15. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
With songs entitled Imitosis (“what’s mistaken for closeness / is just a case of mitosis”) and Scythian Empires (according to Wikipedia, the Scyths were a nation of horse-riding nomadic pastoralists), this singer-songwriter shows a brilliant penchant for the obscure.
14. The National – Boxer
Anchored by Matt Berninger’s deep, even baritone, The National’s latest album is one of the most intriguing ones of 2007. Their songs bring about lonely images of city streets, feeling detached and alone despite the multitude of people around you.
Download: Mistaken For Strangers
13. The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism
The Avett Brothers are one of those bands that defy categorization, but their incorporation of a banjo into songs that range across a wide variety of genres are a pure delight. My girls love the song “Die, Die, Die,” which I should probably find disturbing, but…at least they have good taste.
Download: Paranoia in B Flat Major (rocking out on a banjo!)
12. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
The Arcade Fire really set themselves apart from the pack with the debut album, Funeral – a trend that has continued with their latest release. They have become what amounts to indie rock royalty, and for good reason.
Download: (Antichrist Television Blues)
11. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
Jeff Tweedy’s post-Uncle Tupelo venture has been pushing the boundaries ever since their mid-90’s inception and, while this may not be a landmark album like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it is still a pure joy to listen to. It was one of my most anticipated albums of the year and it definitely fulfilled expectations.
Download: Impossible Germany
The top ten will come either later today or tomorrow…