Best of the Decade – Music Edition (61-70) December 8, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Andrew Bird, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Eddie Vedder, Jay-Z, josh ritter, Michael McDermott, music, Sinead O'Connor, The Avett Brothers, top 100, Vampire Weekend
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70. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha (2007)
Armed with a college degree in violin performance and proficiencies in a number of instruments, Andrew Bird created this gem of an album from 2007. Bird has great pop sensibilities and an even more impressive vocabulary, one that will keep you searching through the nearest dictionary. The song, “Imitosis” has one of my favorite lines – “What was mistaken for closeness / Is just a case of mitosis.” In addition to that, check out the excellent song “Plasticities.”
69. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You (2009)
The Avetts made a name for themselves on the indie circuit with their energetic live shows and a unique neo-bluegrass-alt rock fusion sound. For their latest release, however, the brothers reign in the banjo a bit, opting instead to focus on piano-driven ballads. In so doing, they created one of the most beautifully crafted albums of the decade. Check out tunes like “January Wedding” and “Tin Man” to get a feel for the band’s sound and then grab the whole album. It is truly great.
68. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)
The Ivy League-educated guys in VW must have been raised with a copy of Regatta De Blanc close at hand, for the influence of The Police permeates throughout this excellent debut album. Their sound is light and poppy, mixing Afro-beats and alternative rock in a altogether fun conglomeration. I greatly anticipate their sophomore release, scheduled to come out 2010. For now, though, check out “Mansard Roof” and “A-Punk” to get a feel for the band.
67. Sinead O’Connor – Theology (2007)
It is no secret that I heap tons of disdain upon the contemporary Christian music industry, but that does not equate to an outright abhorrence of all things both musical and Christian. This double album, one which you will probably never hear of on K-Love, is the perfect example of one that is definitely in that vein that I absolutely love. The release consists of two discs, both of which contain most of the same songs but with differing presentations. One of the discs employs a full band, but my personal favorite is the other one which, for the most part, consists of only her and an acoustic guitar. Songs like “Something Beautiful” and “Out of the Depths” are incredibly beautiful and heartfelt.
66. Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)
Bold, brash, and inventive, Jay-Z separated himself from most of the rap world over the course of the late 90’s-early 00’s as the best around. Utilizing samples from artists as diverse as Madonna, Mountain, and Run DMC, mixed with his own prodigious skills, this release is really a great work in a community not always known for producing good albums. “99 Problems” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” are killer, hard-hitting tunes.
65. Coldplay – Parachutes (2000)
Say what you want about Chris Martin’s ultra-popular band – that they are conventional or guilty of plagiarizing – but, regardless of that, they have had quite a run in the first decade of the new millennium. This, their debut album, vaulted them atop the music world back in 2000, largely on the back of “Yellow,” (which, in my opinion, is one of the least interesting cuts on the album) their lead single in America. Check out the songs “Don’t Panic” and “Spies” instead for better representations of the release.
64. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising (2002)
Written in response to the attacks of 9/11, the album is brimming with both sadness and hope in a way that only Springsteen, America’s everyman hero, could do. For this grand return The Boss reassembled the E Street Band for the first time in 18 years and was soon on top of the world again. This is probably my least favorite of his three E Street Band releases from the decade, but it is still very, very good and deserves a spot in the top 100. The release is full of great songs, but my favorites are probably “Lonesome Day,” “The Rising,” and the poignant “My City of Ruins.”
63. Michael McDermott – Noise From Words (2007)
My friend Scott introduced me to singer-songwriter Michael McDermott with the release of this album and I quickly became a fan. “Still Ain’t Over You Yet” is an excellent piece of sad, lovelorn Americana and “I Shall Be Healed” is a spiritual tour-de-force that should be heard by everybody.
62. Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
Over the course of the past decade, I’ve become more and more convinced that Josh Ritter is the best songwriter of my generation. In a truly just world he would be our Springsteen or Dylan, but, as things currently stand, he still resides just below the radar playing small venues like the one I caught him at last year in Little Rock. This release diverged a bit from his prior albums, which were mostly acoustic folk rock pieces, but it is no less interesting. I’ve listened to it over and over again and have yet to tire of the entire work, but my favorite songs are probably “The Temptation of Adam” and the Dylanesque “To the Dogs or Whoever.”
61. Eddie Vedder – Into the Wild (2007)
What do you get when you combine one my favorite writers (Jon Krakauer), a tragic story of self-discovery, and the vocalist for one of my favorite bands of all time? Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam fame lends his voice and a mountain of heartfelt understanding to this soundtrack to the tale of Chris McCandless. The music itself is stark and lonely, yet hopeful and idealistic, much like the protagonist of the book and film. I love the song “Guaranteed” and its message of avoiding a life of quiet desperation, something that I strive to do in my own existence. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to see Eddie Vedder solo and found it to be quite touching when he talked of writing the song “No Ceiling” for his kids. You need this album.
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?
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…