Best Albums of 2011: 31-40 December 19, 2011Posted by Matt in Best of 2011.
Tags: Amy LaVere, Best of 2011, Bright Eyes, Das Racist, J Mascis, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Lucinda Williams, music, Radiohead, Smith Westerns, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, Wye Oak
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And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, it is time for the list.
As an avid music lover and collector, I have published lists online for the past few years detailing my favorite releases from those times, and this year is no different. It has been an incredible year for music, with great releases by hugely popular artists as well as many by lesser known, below-the-radar ones, and thanks to both the regular MP3 deals on Amazon and the presence of Spotify, I have procured and listened to more new music than ever before in 2011. Please feel free to give your comments and critiques each day this week as we work our way through my 40 favorite albums of 2011.
40. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me
I saw Jessica Lea Mayfield open for the Black Keys a few years ago and quickly fell in love with her voice, so I made sure to listen to her latest album when it was released this year. At just 21 years old Mayfield seems to have already grasped the art of restraint in her music, not going over the top with her vocals and instead letting the songs speak for themselves. She comes across as genuine and unpretentious in songs like “Our Hearts are Wrong,” when she sings “My self esteem / Is heating up the room / You’re intimidating as all hell / but I ain’t scared of you,” and perhaps that realness is what attracts me the most to her music.
39. Wye Oak – Civilian
Employing an incredibly rich sound that belies their status as a two person band, Wye Oak have crafted one of the more beautiful and dark albums of the year. “Holy Holy” takes a driving guitar and a foreboding undercurrent, mixes it with vocals in ___’s almost childish style, with lyrics like “Holy, holy, holy / There is no other story / It is madness seeking mastery / We will be who we want to be,” to create an album that, regardless of its early release date and the number of great works from this year, was unforgettable. There’s a line from the title track that has stuck with me all these months, “I wanted to give you everything / But I still stand in awe of superficial things.” Exactly.
38. Various Artists – The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
The legendary Hank Williams was one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters to ever grace the genre of country music. By the day of his untimely death at age 29, he had written and recorded hundreds of songs, much of which remains the standard by which all country music is measured to this day, more than six decades later. So, when a notebook of unfinished and unrecorded songs by Williams was discovered, who better to complete the work than fellow legend Bob Dylan. For the task, Dylan recruited a wide variety of artists, both young and old, from Merle Haggard and Levon Helm, to Jack White and Norah Jones, and all together they did Hank proud. Personal favorites from the album include Dylan’s take on “The Love that Faded” and White’s version of “You Know That I Know.” This is a must-hear, both for Williams fans and those of younger generations who may not have discovered his genius yet.
37. Bright Eyes = The People’s Key
Album releases by Bright Eyes have long been a hit-or-miss proposition with me. I’ve been a fan of Conor Oberst’s songwriting and wavering vocal style for years, so I’m always quick to listen to each new release. The People’s Key stands as one of their better ones, showcasing the indie folk style that put them on the map. It kicks off with a strange sci-fi soliloquy about lizard people from another dimension that came to earth long ago, and from there the band takes over with a flourish. The superbly catchy “Jejune Stars” is the kind of song that reminds you of Oberst’s incredible talent as a pop songwriter. It’s definitely a good album and certainly worth a listen.
36. Das Racist – Relax
Experimental rap outfit Das Racist doesn’t easily fit into any predetermined categories in the music world. Combining lyrics loaded with satire over danceable beats, they are truly a one-of-a-kind outfit. In a genre that often takes itself too seriously, you can’t help but like nonsensical lines like “I’m DJ Khaled / I’m a Daikon radish,” and any listener has to chuckle at the song “Rainbow in the Dark” with lyrics like “I’m at the White Castle / (I don’t see you here, dog) / Tiny ass hamburgers / Tiny ass cheeseburgers / Tiny ass chicken sandwiches / It’s outlandish, kid.”
35. Amy LaVere – Stranger Me
Memphis’s own Amy LaVere is one of those many artists toiling away in today’s world that should be heard by everybody, and never is that more clear than on this, her latest release. LaVere’s sound is dark and dusky, dripping with Southern Gothic styling, creating a riveting, out-of-the-mainstream work. The opening track, “Damn Love Song,” stands as one of my favorite kiss-off songs in recent years, I can just imagine a guy asking her to write him a song and her answering him with opening lines of this song, “Right now / I’ll do it right now / Here’s your damn love song / And don’t it say it all.” “Red Banks” carries on the dark “murdering your man” motif of “Killing Him” from her first album and makes it clear that she’s definitely not a girl I’d want to be involved with. But, I still enjoy her music.
34. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Thom Yorke’s critically lauded, groundbreaking band is perhaps rightly considered by many to be the greatest of the past two decades. From The Bends to OK Computer to Kid A to In Rainbows, they have time and again shown themselves ready and willing to break the mold and start over just for the sake of doing so. I like The King of Limbs pretty well, but I must admit that it hasn’t hit me in the same way as their past works. After several listens over the past months, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, but Radiohead is the type of band whose albums seem made to grow on a listener. Is it brilliant? I’m not quite sure. I like songs like “Morning Mr. Magpie,” and I like the overall structure of the album, but I’m still wrestling with my overall feelings. Then again, maybe that’s a sign of its brilliance.
33. Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde
With bands like Magic Kids, Girls, and Smith Westerns starting to break through, it’s a good time for psychedelic, bubblegum pop in the indie music world. On Dye it Blond, Chicagoans Smith Westerns wear their T. Rex influence in bright letters on their sleeves while crafting some fun, bouncy tunes that will appeal to even the most hard hearted person. With lyrics like “Weekends are never fun / Unless you’re around too,” the band exudes the innocence of a past time and the jangly guitars will wrap their arms around you and not let you go.
32. Lucinda Williams – Blessed
Years ago Lucinda Williams famously sang, “You took my joy, I want it back.” Well, judging from her latest release, she finally found it. At the age of 58 she remains one of the preeminent songwriters in the music world, but now, having conquered inner trials and tribulations, she is taking a look outward and focusing on the plight of others. In the title song she sings, “We were blessed by the minister / Who practiced what he preached / We were blessed by the poor man / Who said heaven was within reach,” and with this latest release you can see that she believes it, that maybe heaven is closer than we ever imagined. The album reaches its crescendo with the wonderful “Awakening” in which she, in a moment of looking both back and forward, says “In the awakening, in the awakening / I will honor the mistaken / I will honor the truth / In the awakening, in the awakening / I will honor the forsaken / I will not mourn my youth.” It’s a beautiful thing to witness someone coming into their own.
31. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
As the vocalist and guitarist for the long-running Dinosaur Jr., the brand of fuzzed out noise created by J Mascis has been the stuff of legend. So, given that his name has been made with heavy distortion and high volume, it may seem out of character when you consider that this solo work is a sparsely orchestrated acoustic affair, but you can safely put any doubts aside. He sounds perfectly at home on this collection as the apparent brokenness in his voice takes center stage. The easy strumming of “Listen to Me” kicks things off with a flourish, and the plain-spoken nature of “Is it Done” will stick with you, but the song that captures me more than any other is the excellent “Not Enough,” one that sounds as though it would be perfectly comfortable in the loud, Dinosaur Jr. setting, but that captures new and different aspects of emotion and sound when done acoustically. J Mascis is a master at what he does.
Random Five: Upcoming Music Releases January 13, 2011Posted by Matt in Random Five.
Tags: 2011, Bright Eyes, drive-by truckers, J Mascis, Okkervil River, The Decemberists, upcoming album releases
You all know that I collect a good deal of music each year, including some 50 new albums in 2010 of a wide variety of genres, so I always look with interest at the upcoming album releases. According to Metacritic, here are five albums with release dates over the next few months that I am particularly looking forward to.
5. Jan 18: The Decemberists – The King is Dead
The Decemberists last two releases were huge, bombastic concept albums with a myriad of instruments and a storylines meant to hold the works together, and both of them were largely successful in my opinion. I’ve streamed their latest, The King is Dead, on NPR and really enjoyed it. This album is similar to their earlier releases, in that it is an excellent collection of individual songs rather than a longrunning tale, in which the individual parts make little sense apart from each other. This one is a definite winner from the hyper-literate band.
4. Feb 15: Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
I’ve been a big fan of Coner Oberst’s quavering voice since I first heard him several years ago and I have always been quick to pick up his works, whether they be solo or through Bright Eyes. I look forward to seeing the direction he takes the band in this time.
3. Feb 15: Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots
It goes without saying for semi-regular readers of this blog that I love the Drive-By Truckers. They are probably my favorite band of the past decade and every release is met with a huge sense of anticipation from me. This one is, of course, no different. I’ve heard a few of the new songs and they are great. Later on this month I’m planning on traveling over to Oxford with some friends to catch them and I’m sure I’ll have an even better idea of what to expect from the new release after that.
2. Mar 15: J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
Dinosaur Jr.’s guitarist/singer has been a force in indie/alternative music for more than two decades and I expect more of what he does best on this latest work – loud, fuzzy guitars and his trademark groaning vocals. It’ll be a must-hear.
1. May 10: Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
I’ve been a big fan of Austin’s Okkervil River ever since I first heard their 2007 release, The Stage Names, and 2008’s The Stand Ins continued their tradition of greatness. I expect this one to again shine in the intelligent, quirky manner that their past works have.
These releases have dates that will most likely hold firm, but there are several more upcoming albums that are expected in the next few months. Here are a few of those that I am particularly interested in:
Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee
Sure, they may be getting a little old for their shtick, but come on they’re still the Beastie Boys!
Blakroc – Blakroc 2
The collaboration of blues/rock duo The Black Keys with various hip-hop artists worked fairly well on their initial release, so I look forward to seeing what they have in store for us this time.
Jay-Z/Kanye West – Watch the Throne
I don’t know anything about this other than the fact that Jay-Z and Kanye will be working together. Awesome.
R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
I’ve been a fan of R.E.M. for a very long time and it was nice to see them return to form on 2008’s Accelerate. Hopefully they’ll keep the momentum going on this latest work.
Fleet Foxes – TBA
There were few things more soothing than the harmonies on their self-titled 2009 release.
My Morning Jacket – TBA
I’ve loved MMJ for years and their last work, 2008’s Evil Urges, totally blew me away, so I’m sure this will become a staple for me as well.
Outkast – TBA
Nobody knows if this will actually happen, but after Big Boi’s solo work in 2010, I’m more pumped than ever to hear what these guys from the ATL have in store for us.
Radiohead – TBA
Every Radiohead release is an event of which you must be a part.
Wilco – TBA
Over the last 15 years or so, Jeff Tweedy’s band has proven themselves to be among the greatest working today.
Amy Winehouse – TBA
Please? Please don’t kill yourself and please do treat us to your soulful voice again…
What are you looking forward to?
Ten for Tuesday: 2005 August 3, 2010Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 2005, Beck, Bright Eyes, Gorillaz, Kanye West, music, My Morning Jacket, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, the new pornographers, The White Stripes, top ten
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Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken trips in our top ten time machine to 1980, 1990, and 2000. Today we will be taking a short hop to five years ago, 2005. In ’05, I was 28 years old, we had been living in the Memphis area for a year, and our second child was born. Needless to say, it was a busy and exciting time. There was also a great deal of excellent music and movies being released and that is what we will look at today.
Top 10 Albums of 2005
10. The Decemberists – Picaresque
Picaresque was my introduction to The Decemberists, a Portland-based indie band known for its use of unusual instruments and hyper-literate lyrics. I was quickly taken by their lush arrangements and Collin Meloy’s storytelling, particularly on great songs like “We Both Go Down Together” and “16 Military Wives.”
9. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
This was around the time that I first became aware of one of The New Pornographers, one of indie rock’s great supergroups, and soon their brand of power-pop drew me in. The combination of Dan Bejar, AC Newman, Neko Case (one of my personal favorites) and others is a winning one on this fantastic collection.
8. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
I can understand how Conor Oberst’s earnest, quavering voice rubs some people the wrong way, but I’m certainly not one of them. To me he exudes confusion and doubt in way that seems so real and normal.
7. Beck – Guero
I’ve been a huge fan of Beck since his breakthrough back in the 90’s and over the years I’ve collected all of his albums. While this one is not his best (a distinction that goes to either Odelay or Sea Change), it is a nice swerve back to the “two turntables and a microphone” style of alternative dance-rock, complete with random Spanish phrases and great beats, that he popularized a decade earlier.
6. Gorillaz – Demon Days
It was an interesting concept to say the least when Damon Albarn from the band Blur teamed with cartoonist Jamie Hewlett to form a new sort of project, one involving an animated alternative rock/hip-hop act, but it was this incredible second release, with unavoidable hits like “Feel Good, Inc.” and “Dirty Harry,” that they truly became a force to be reckoned with.
5. Spoon – Gimme Fiction
For 15 years, the Austin-based band Spoon has lurked just below the level of stardom, slowly building up their name and garnering attention without ever truly breaking through to the big time. Gimme Fiction shows the band doing what they do best, creating great danceable alternative rock numbers like “I Turn my Camera On” and “My Mathematical Mind” for their growing legion of fans.
4. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan
The duo of Jack and Meg White were on top of the world at this time following the hugely successful lo-fi albums White Blood Cells and Elephant, but with Get Behind Me Satan, they decided to swerve from the blues-rock path they were blazing. Their more experimental style may have confounded some, but I loved it, particularly on great songs like “My Doorbell” and “I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet).”
3. My Morning Jacket – Z
I was first introduced to MMJ’s spacey, retro-70’s style on the incredible album preceding this one, It Still Moves, but I think I can safely say that I believe Z is even better. Jim James’ band is on fire this time around, employing their Southern sensibilities through a psychedelic haze to produce a truly great work. Check out songs like “Gideon” and “Off the Record” and you’ll agree.
2. Kanye West – Registration
Back before he was a headline-grabbing bad guy, interrupting the acceptance speeches of teenage award winners, Kanye West was one of the most important forces in hip-hop and this is probably his masterpiece. How can you not like “Gold Digger” and “Diamonds from Sierra Leone?”
1. Sufjan Stevens
Illinois marked the second in Sufjan Stevens’ now seemingly-stalled 50 state series of albums, but this work is so incredible, so varied and interesting, that it seems almost impossible to top. Stevens employs a childlike uncertainty to his vocals against a lush instrumental background to tell stories from the great state, including songs like “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.,” “Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Step-Mother!,” and “Chicago.” This is a must-have from 2005.
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 (71-80) December 2, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Bonnie Prince Billy, Bright Eyes, decade, M. Ward, Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, My Morning Jacket, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Decemberists, The Raconteurs, The Shins, The White Stripes, top 100
80. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Master and Everyone (2003)
Will Oldham, the artist also known as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, has been a fixture on the folk music scene for over 15 years, releasing slice after slice of dark Americana while never quite breaking through to the mainstream. This album was my introduction to his acoustic styling, which sounds simultaneously wistful and sad, several years ago and I have been a fan ever since. Songs like “The Way” and “Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise?” are great additions to the alt-country canon.
79. My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves (2003)
It Still Moves was my introduction to the decidedly Southern, reverb-drenched sounds of MMJ and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Taking a cue from Crazy Horse, Jim James and company have put together a sound that is simultaneously mired in the stoned-out 70’s and distinctly modern. Take my word for it, songs like “Mahgeetah” and “One Big Holiday” will have you dancing and leave you wanting more.
78. Bright Eyes – Cassadega (2007)
You can count me among the people who like Conor Oberst’s trembling, perhaps overly-earnest vocal styling and, though they have been quite prolific over the past decade, this is probably the Bright Eyes album that I listened to the most. The cryptic lyrics are a bit Dylanesque and the heavily reverbed music oftentimes sounds like the aforementioned MMJ, but Bright Eyes have constructed an interesting sound all their own in today’s music landscape. Check out “Four Winds” and “If the Brakeman Turns My Way” for a taste of what these guys are all about.
77. Various Artists – O Brother Where Art Thou (2000)
Both among the best movies and soundtracks of the decade, O Brother reintroduced many Americans to the almost forgotten styles of folk music. This album of songs taken from the Coen brothers’ great film turns to artists like the legendary Ralph Stanley and a great trio of Americana songbirds – Gillian Welch, Allison Krauss, and Emmylou Harris. In addition, the soundtrack also employs the fictitious Soggy Bottom Boys (played in the film by George Clooney, Tim Blake Nelson, and John Turturro), who are credited with two of the more memorable songs from the film, “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” and “In the Jailhouse Now.”
76. The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely (2008)
This project of the 2000’s greatest guitar god, Jack White, may not be on the same level as his work with The White Stripes, but it still rocks like few others can. Consolers of the Lonely does a great job in showing that White’s blues-rock guitar works well in a full band context as well as in a duo. Turn on songs like “Salute Your Solution” or “Many Shades of Black,” crank up the volume and enjoy.
75. Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris – All the Roadrunning (2006)
Guitar maestro Knopfler, of Dire Straits fame, and Americana songstress Harris may seem like a strange pairing on the surface, but this work is one of the best in recent folk music. The combination of styles makes for a nice, easy-to-listen-to album, and their familiar voices blend together on songs like “I Dug up a Diamond” and “This is Us,” to form a near-perfect union.
74. The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)
This was the album that first turned me on to the White Stripes and the incredible Jack White, so it holds a special place in my music collection. The running bass line at the beginning of the “Seven Nation Army” is one of the most inescapable pieces of the past decade, which is actually a good thing, and songs like “Ball and Biscuit” display White’s proficiency in the blues. While its not my favorite work of the Stripes, it is an excellent album and definitely a must-have.
73. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World (2001)
The Shins may not have changed my life like Natalie Portman promised they would, but I do really like their brand of indie pop. Their subsequent albums have not grabbed me like this one from the early part of the decade, but Oh, Inverted World is a release that everyone interested in the music of the decade needs. The collection contains a number of excellent catchy songs, from the best-known ones like “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang,” to those that are perhaps less played like “Know Your Onion!” and all of them are very good.
72. The Decemberists – Picaresque (2005)
I first heard The Decemberists on Radio Paradise, following the release of this album in 2005 and quickly became a fan. Their style is unusual and original, sounding often like a relic from some past time. Though vocalist Colin Melloy can sometimes be a bit over-earnest, his tales of barrow boys and other strange characters are quite appealing to me. The song “16 Military Wives” was their breakthrough hit from this release and it is great, but I think my favorite is “We Both Go Down Together.” Overall, it’s definitely an interesting work that deserves to be heard.
71. M. Ward – The Transfiguration of Vincent (2003)
Nostalgia is a powerful driving force in the world of music, but there are few artists whose works would sound at home on a transistor radio like M. Ward. This album is soothing, comforting in a familiar way. Just put on songs like “Vincent O’Brien” and “Undertaker,” and be transported back to another time. Take it from me, it’s worth the ride.
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…