Ten for Tuesday: 2006 May 31, 2011Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 2006, Amy Winehouse, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, Matisyahu, neko case, The Decemberists, The Hold Steady, Thom Yorke, top 10
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Last year I began delving back in time to look at the sources of entertainment, particularly music and movies, from years in the past. Today we will continue that by traveling a mere five years back in time using our top ten time machine, to the year 2006.
It was a good year for music, with some releases that ranked among the better ones of the decade and as a then-29 year old with a voracious appetite for good albums, I collected quite a bit of them. Looking back, these are probably my 10 favorites.
10. Matisyahu – Youth
I first picked this release up because of its novelty – I mean, how often to do you find a reggae album by a Hasidic Jew? – I came back to it because of its quality, both in musicianship and in lyrics dealing with issues of social justice. Matisyahu does an excellent job of crossing genres while never giving up his reggae core and that is one reason why this stands as one of the few post-Marley albums of the genre that I actually own.
Download: Youth, Jerusalem
9. Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
Belle and Sebastian have long been the lead purveyors of sunshiny, twee pop, a genre that evokes visions of sunbeams and rainbows and all of that stuff that I usually can’t stand, but in this context it works remarkably well. A listen to this will undoubtedly lift the spirits of even the most dour person. Download: Another Sunny Day, The Blues are Still Blue
8. Thom Yorke – The Eraser
The genius of Yorke and his band (who are perhaps the most important band of the past two decades) Radiohead has been scoped and probed from every possible angle, and yet they continue to astound. Though this solo release may not be on the level of modern masterpieces like OK Computer or Kid A, it is still quite good and certainly deserves its spot in the holy canon.
Download: The Eraser, Atoms for Peace
7. Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning
The idea of teaming former Dire Straits guitarist Knopfler with folk siren Harris may seem strange upon first hearing of it, but a listen will soon dispel all misgivings. On this set the two artists meld perfectly, their voices intertwining in such a way that they seem as though they were always meant to be this way.
Download: Beachocombing, This is Us
6. Beck – The Information
I’m a longtime Beck fan who eagerly awaits each release from our generation’s lead troubadour and this work does not disappoint in the least. If songs like Elevator Music don’t have you dancing around the room, then I regretfully have to inform you that there is no hope for you.
Download: Elevator Music, Cellphone’s Dead
5. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
I first started listening to The Decemberists with their release prior to this one, Picaresque, but this album was the one that truly made me a fan of their weird, hyper-literate tales that seemed to be beamed in from some time past. This strange retelling of a Japanese folk tale is probably their best work to date and definitely a must-own.
Download: O Valencia, The Crane Wife 1 and 2
4. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
If the powerful voice of Neko Case does not give you chills, then let me suggest that you may need some professional help. I fell in love with her vocals on this album and it has remained one of my favorites ever since then. After seeing her twice live, once solo and once with The New Pornographers, my devotion has never yet waned.
Download: Hold On, Hold On, That Teenage Feeling, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
3. Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Dylan was a spry 65 year old when this late career gem was released and it quickly became one of my favorites of that year. He sounds incredible, from the rollicking Thunder on the Mountain to the crooning Spirit on the Water, and this deserves several listens.
Download: Thunder on the Mountain, The Levee’s Gonna Break
2. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Her personal life may be a wreck, but this strong-voiced testament to hard-living is one of my favorite recordings of the past ten years. She comes across as the bad girl that guys want to date, but who you’d never want to take home to your parents, and it suits her sultry, soulful vocals perfectly. This is the rare albums that has no weak tracks, the kind that begs to be listened to from beginning to end and leave you wishing for more.
Download: You Know I’m No Good, Back to Black, Some Unholy War
1. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
Back in 2006 I had not yet come around to the Springsteen-fronting-a bar band sound of The Hold Steady, so I came back to this album later after becoming a huge fan of their next release, Stay Positive. These tales of massive nights with girls and drugs and music are masterful in the art of storytelling while the music just plain rocks. I had the chance to see them live last year and let me tell you, the energy of their live show is almost beyond compare.
Download: Stuck Between Stations, Hot Soft Light, Massive Nights, Citrus
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (81-90) November 23, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Belle and Sebastian, decade, Gizzly Bear, Gnarls Barkley, Matisyahu, Modest Mouse, Okkervil River, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, the new pornographers, top 100, U2
Last week we began an ambitious expedition through the best music of the past decade and I posted the albums ranked 91-100. Today we will tackle the next ten, numbers 81-90. Let me know what you think.
90. U2 – No Line on the Horizon (2009)
I’ve long been a fan of U2, but have rarely found their complete albums to be great. Even their magnum opus, The Joshua Tree, is terribly front-loaded. No Line continues their tradition of good recordings, proving to be one of their better collections overall and definitely their best since 1991’s The Joshua Tree. Some of the songs, like “Magnificent” and “Moment of Surrender,” can stand up to anything in their legendary catalog.
89. Matisyahu – Youth (2006)
An orthodox Hasidic Jew doing reggae music? Why not, this is the 2000’s. Matisyahu mixes socially conscious lyrics with danceable rhythms to produce one of the more unusual and surprising releases of the decade. The title track, “Youth,” and “King Without a Crown” are two tunes that particularly show that he could be in for a long and fruitful career.
88. Pearl Jam – Riot Act (2002)
As I’ve mentioned on many occasions in the past, I’ve long been a rabid fan of Pearl Jam and this is probably my favorite of theirs from the intervening years between No Code and Backspacer. It has a varied sound that is more akin to Vitalogy than to any of their other works, while showing the maturity of a group of men closing in on 40. The album contains jabs at corporate America and President Bush, but I think my favorite tunes are probably “I am Mine,” “Thumbing my Way,” and “Love Boat Captain.” It’s definitely a must-have for PJ fans.
87. The New Pornographers – Challengers (2007)
TNG is an indie rock supergroup of sorts made up of AC Newman, Dan Bejar (aka Destoryer), and one of my personal favorites, Neko Case. The band makes interesting music together, but I personally wish they would utilize Case more often than they do. Regardless, this album has some great songs, including “Myriad Harbor” and the title track, “Challengers.”
86. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (2006)
Scottish band Belle & Sebastian have been carrying the indie pop banner for several years now and The Life Pursuit continues their streak of interesting and catchy music. Their sound is similar to the alternative bands of the 1980’s, such as The Smiths, just with a bit more sunshine from earlier mainstream pop. Check out songs like “The Blues Are Still Blue” and “Funny Little Frog” to get a better idea of what they are about.
85. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006)
The combination of producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo Green quickly proved itself to be a formidable one with their debut release, St. Elsewhere. Funky and soulful, with inescapably catchy songs like “Crazy,” the duo blew up in 2006 with this multi-platinum released and have continued to prove themselves with an innovative style that appeals to both critics and regular listeners.
84. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (2009)
Interesting and intelligent, the band Grizzly Bear is a critical darling of the decade for a reason. The have a real knack for bending genres, mixing electronic sounds with vocal harmonies a la Fleet Foxes and some very nice alterna-pop melodies. Catchy songs like “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others” will be stuck in your head for days. Though I had heard some of their last release, Yellow House, this was the first album of the band’s that I’ve listened to very often, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Grizzly Bear has in store for us in the future.
83. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003)
Would it be considered a heresy for me to call Radiohead the Beatles of generation X? There is probably no other group who have changed music, who have camped out at the cutting edge and set themselves up as the standard-bearers of a generation, to the same extent as Thom Yorke’s band. While this politically charged album may not be among their best, it is still quite good and proves that even when not on top of their game, Radiohead is on another level than everyone else. Songs like “2+2=5” and “There There” are nearly on par with anything in their career.
82. Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
I had listened to some Modest Mouse prior to the release of this album, but for whatever reason, they never truly grabbed hold of me. It was not until the catchy and anthemic song “Float On” hit the airwaves that I went back, listened, and became a fan. This breakout album for the longtime indie stalwarts is definitely a must-own for someone interested in the music of the early 2000’s.
81. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins (2008)
This hyper-literate Austin band hit paydirt with this 2008 release and its ultra-catchy “Lost Coastlines.” Though this set of recordings is supposed to be a companion piece to their 2007 release, The Stage Names, I think I actually enjoy it more. Frontman Will Sheff likes to make strange and sometimes obscure references to everything from French playwright Antonin Artaud to a 1920’s German silent film to the Gospel of Thomas, and that’s only in one song (“Singer Songwriter”). How cool is that? Seriously, check this album out if you haven’t already.