Best of the Decade – Music Edition (31-40 January 11, 2010Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, best of decade, drive-by truckers, Garden State soundtrack, Interpol, Kanye West, Loretta Lynn, music, Outkast, Ryan Adams, Spoon, The Avett Brothers, The White Stripes
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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:
40. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (2004)
The teaming of this classic country artist with a new generation’s guitar god, Jack White, must have seemed quite strange on paper, but somehow it worked beautifully. Lynn turned 70 in the year this album was released and was long past her best known works, but in taking a lesson from fellow country star Johnny Cash, she reinvigorated her career while in her golden years. The Lynn/White duet on “Portland, Oregon,” ranks as one of the best songs of the decade and “Miss Being Mrs.” is as wonderfully old-school as you’re going to find.
39. Spoon – Kill the Moonlight (2002)
There are few artists who put together a string of albums at the quality level of Spoon over the past decade. They have a real knack for creating pop gems that make you want to dance and sing along, in a way that few other higher profile acts can. This is the epitome of good time music for the new millennium. Listen to tunes like “The Way We Get By” and “Stay Don’t Go” and let the music carry you away.
38. Kanye West – Late Registration (2005)
Kanye West holds the distinction (along with Jay-Z) of being one of the few consistently good rappers in the decade, releasing four interesting and adventurous albums over that span of time. West is smart, full of braggadocio, and his songs are catchy as heck, three needed elements to succeed in the rap game. Check out “Heard ‘Em Say” and “Gold Digger” and you may just agree that West is one of the best of all time.
37. Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
In a time replete with 80’s nostalgia, this piece of work from a band obviously influenced to a great extent by the downbeat post-punk bands from the early part of the decade like The Cure and Joy Division. Though the lyrics never reach the utterly depressing state of their influences, their music continues to carry the torch with a sound of desolation and loneliness. Listen to “NYC” and “PDA” for a taste of retro despair.
36. Drive-by Truckers – Decoration Day (2003)
As most of my friends already know, the Drive-By Truckers are one of my favorite bands of any genre from the past decade. Their tales of the dark side of Southern life are second to none and they rock in concert like few others. From the first bars of “The Deeper In,” (which may be the best song ever about brother-sister incest) sung a capella by vocalist Patterson Hood to the manic depravity of “Sinkhole” to the heartfelt goodbye of “Outfit,” this is one incredible collection of tunes. If you like your rock southern fried without the redneck stupidity, this is the band for you.
35. The White Stripes – Icky Thump (2007)
As I’ve mentioned before, Jack White is the greatest guitar god of an entire generation, and with good reason. This album just rocks, pure and simple. I had the chance to see the Stripes on this tour back in ’07 and let me tell you, it was an experience second to none and I will always be in awe of White. The title track, “Icky Thump,” and “I’m Slowly Turning into You,” with it’s strange organ line, are two great examples of what this little two person band with a big sound is capable of.
34. The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism (2007)
Country-rock, new-grass, whatever you want to call it, the Avett Brothers know how to rock a banjo. Intense, fun, and increasingly interesting, this album gets better and better each time you listen to it. “Shame” mixes sadness with a buoyant rhythm section and nice harmonies to create one of their better tracks and “Paranoia in B-Flat Major” just plain rocks. Make sure you check this band out.
33. Garden State Soundtrack (2004)
I’m generally not a big fan of movie soundtracks, mainly because they tend to be a repository for cast-off tracks with the occasional great song thrown in for good measure. But this soundtrack, for the wonderful little Zach Braff-helmed film Garden State, is a true stand-out. The songs contained here capture the essence of what is often called the quarter-life crisis, that depressing time in post-college life where you look around and say, “This is it?” It is an almost perfect mix of well known acts like Coldplay, classic folk from Nick Drake and Simon & Garfunkel, and a plethora of bands unknown to much of the general public. It was through this soundtrack that I first became familiar with great groups like The Shins and Iron & Wine, and that cannot be discounted. A few of my favorites from the collection in The Shins’ “New Slang,” Colin Hay’s “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You,” and Iron & Wine’s “Such Great Heights.”
32. Ryan Adams – Heartbreakers
Releasing 11 albums over the course of the decade, Adams is no doubt the most prolific artist of the 00’s, and thought they have their bright spots, it is this, his first solo album, that I come back to time and again. His teaming with folk siren Emmylou Harris is inspired for this collection of beautiful sadness, the kind that is akin to the best in country music. “To Be Young” is a rollicking number to kick things off while “Oh My Sweet Carolina” has the distinct ability of being sad without the country music cheese. When Adams is on, he’s among the best and this album is proof.
31. Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
How do you follow up one of the best rap albums ever released? By releasing a long, brilliantly pretentious, double album that really amounts to two solo albums by the duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Big Boi’s half, entitled “Speakerboxxx” is straight ahead hip hop that hits hard and makes you want to move from beginning to end, through songs like “The Way You Move” and “Ghetto Musick.” Andre 3000’s selection, entitled “The Love Below” stretches out into the genres of funk, jazz, and soul, creating an eclectic and unusual mix, a style that drives the huge hit “Hey Ya!” as well as the rest of the interesting album. This is a truly incredible work and one of the most important ever released in the hip hop/rap genre.
Ten for Tuesday – Women of Music October 20, 2009Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: Allison Krauss, Amy Winehouse, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams, music, neko case, Portishead, She & Him, Sinead O'Connor, top ten, women
I have a confession to make.
As a teen and young adult in the 1990’s, my large music collection was notoriously sexist. Now, I don’t think I ever had an overt disdain toward female artists, but for some reason I never really paid them any attention. This glaring omission may have been from the mistaken belief that women couldn’t rock like most of the testosterone-fueled artists I did enjoy or from lumping all female artists into the same pop diva music box, but for whatever reason, my CD case stayed almost exclusively male-dominated.
I’ve grown up a good bit over the past decade, though, and the contributions of female artists have become much more important to me. Today my music collection is quite expansive and women performers have become an integral part of my regular listening. So, for this installment of Ten for Tuesday, I wanted to give you ten of my favorite female-dominated albums from the past decade. Many of these additions have come since I joined emusic in 2006, so it is weighted to the last few years, but there are some that I picked up prior to that. Let me know of any others that you think should be added.
10. She & Him – Volume One
When this album was released in 2008, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the collaboration between actress Zooey Deschanel and retro folk artist M. Ward, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Deschanel’s voice fits very well in the simple, old-style mold that M. Ward helps to craft. Like many of his other recordings, this sounds like something you might listen to on an old transistor radio and that’s a good thing.
9. Portishead – Third
Though the comeback album of this seminal trip-hop outfit may not be to the level of 1994’s classic Dummy, it is still pretty good and it was especially nice to hear the familiar sound of Beth Gibbon’s voice after more than a decade. I am really looking forward to hearing what else the band has in store for the future.
8. Lucinda Williams – Little Honey
Little Honey was a wonderful return to form for one of the best known voices of the alt-country movement. The album is a rollicking tour-de-force that proves that women over 50 can still contribute great things to the world of music.
7. Emmylou Harris/Mark Knopfler – All the Roadrunning
Though folk legend Harris shares the spotlight with Knopfler, the guitar maestro behind Dire Straits and several excellent solo releases, she still shines brightly as one of the most distinctive voices of the past few decades. Their voices meld wonderfully throughout this gem of an album.
6. Allison Krauss/Robert Plant – Raising Sand
Though rock legend Robert Plant is given equal billing on this album, this work is more of a Krauss album with Plant singing backup. The songs are mostly downbeat and drowsy, but not in a way that tires the listener. Instead, Plant and bluegrass queen Krauss turns this into a seminar of how two very different halves can make one beautiful whole.
5. Sinead O’Connor – Theology
By the time this album came out, I had pretty much forgotten about O’Connor. Sure, I remembered her tirade on Saturday Night Live in the early 90’s when she tore up a picture of the pope, but I had lost track of any music that she had recorded over the years. I first heard of this album from my friend Scott and thought that he must be kidding – really, Sinead O’Connor? But then I listened to this collection of gospel numbers and was immediately drawn into it, especially the CD (this is a 2 disc set) of the more sparsely accompanied songs. In her voice was something beautiful and heartfelt and spiritual that puts the entire CCM industry to shame.
4. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
With this album (and the two preceding it), Welch proved herself to be one of the most important voices in the neo-traditional folk movement. Her style draws from bluegrass and folk genres, melding the old forms into something relevant in today’s fast-paced 21st century and it is a sound that deserves to be heard by everyone.
3. Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose
In 2004, an unlikely pairing emerged in the world of music – country music legend Loretta Lynn, age 69 at the time, and indie rock star Jack White of the White stripes, age 28. I imagine that the seeming strangeness of this collaboration must have raised some eyebrows, but somehow it worked perfectly. The duet of Lynn and White on the song “Portland, Oregon” is especially great and helped to make this one of the better albums of the entire decade.
2. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black
Look, I know she’s a crackhead and I know that my giving this much credence to her work doesn’t help her on the path to self-destruction, but I really love this album and have for quite sometime. I think of her raunchy jazz/soul sound as the anti-Norah Jones, the type of music you would never hear on an elevator. She has one of those retro smoky voices, which I’m sure was probably self-inflicted, that just blows me away.
1. Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
What brought the idea for this list on? The fact that I’m about to purchase a ticket to see Neko Case in just a matter of weeks here in Memphis. I fell in love with her powerful voice in 2007 when I purchased this album and I have been a devoted follower ever since. I could listen to this every day of my life and never get tired of it.
What else should have made the list?