Eggs’ Top Albums Of The Decade: 25-1
Here it is folks. I’m finally posting the rest of my decade list for all eyes to enjoy. I’m not sure if you’ll agree with my choices overall, and you might think that they mimick some of the other decade lists you’ve seen over the past couple months. I really don’t care though, because they are my choices – my favorites. I have changed my overall scope on music over the past ten years, and I believe my choices do a good job in representing that. The decade began with a love for hip-hop, moved on to jambands, into the realm of indie rock, and finally ended with a solid mix of all three dominating my airwaves. These three genres have defined my past ten years, and have provided me with a stellar soundtrack through my first adult decade.
25. Dr. Dog, Fate
My favorite album of 2008. It was one that stuck with me throughout last year, and still winds its way onto my speakers on a semi-regular basis. Dr. Dog take everything they’ve ever produced, and polish it to a fine form on Fate, including some of the most well-written songs of their ten year career. It seamlessly flows from opening track “The Breeze” all the way until album closer “My Friend.” Both frontmen, Toby Leaman and Scott McMickin, trade off an even share of the vocal duties, pretty much switching it up for each song. Their difference in vocal styles bring about an ever changing track list of both folk and rock songs, each one with a personality of its own. Leaning heavily on piano-guided guitar tracks, this album is a perfect pop gem, and will be floating around the top of my record pile for quite some time.
24. Built To Spill, Ancient Melodies Of The Future
I’m not sure why it took me so long to get into Built To Spill, but after my first live experience with them, I completely ate up their entire discography. While some of my favorite BtS songs are featured on several of their other efforts, Ancient Melodies Of The Future is definitely their best work in the 2000’s. “Strange” opens the album up with multi-layered guitars and a peppy beat, all the while keeping up the heavy Neil Young influence that the indie rock godfathers from Boise have become attached to since their inception in the early 90’s. “In Your Mind,” “Trimmed And Burning,” and “Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss” are all songs that have stuck with me since first hearing them live, but the song “Happiness” has easily been one of my most played songs of the past three years. The song starts out with some twangy guitar action before busting into an almost Wilco-like rocker – all while Doug Martsch explains in the best way possible that “happiness will only, happen when it can.”
23. Coldplay, Parachutes
I don’t care if you think I’m gay for liking Coldplay, because they’ve put out not only one, but two of the best albums of the past ten years. I had a hard time choosing between Parachutes and A Rush Of Blood To The Head, but in the end, their debut album was my obvious choice. I didn’t get into Coldplay until I spent a year abroad – especially when I was bartending at a local pub. During the times when only the locals were belly-up to the bar, I had plenty of time to surf the music stations on the satellite telly. Every day, one specific station dedicated one whole hour to Coldplay and Oasis music videos, and It always happened to be on right when I started to get busy. Since I really didn’t have the opportunity to change the channel, I started to take in each song and eventually fall in love. I picked up both of their first albums, but it was Parachutes that stuck with me the most. “Don’t Panic” is a great album opener, leading us into the raw, but brilliant work that started Coldplay on the fast track to being one of the World’s biggest bands. “Shiver” was my first favorite, playing it so much that it got to the point of annoying everyone around me. “Spies” and “Sparks” are nice, simple love songs, but the album’s climax comes with their most popular song pre-Viva La Vida days, “Yellow.” Chris Martin’s crystal clear image matched by his smooth vocals was the perfect formula to push themselves into the same league as some of the UK’s other arena-rock imports. “Trouble,” “High Speed” and “We Never Change” show off the rest of the bands excellent musicianship on top of Martin’s knack for writing, but the closing track “Everything’s Not Lost” and hidden track “Life Is For Living” bring it all together and wrap up one of the best debut albums by any band, ever.
22. Animal Collective, Strawberry Jam
I could probably place this album in my top five, but then again at times I could altogether leave it off this list. I wouldn’t leave it off the list because the music’s bad, which it definitely isn’t – the reason it wouldn’t make my top fifty is because of their popularity among the world of hipsters. If they weren’t constantly described as “epic” by hipsters alike, the group might actually be able to carry that tag. Strawberry Jam is a solid piece of work from the psychedelic Baltimore quartet, and is their most cohesive album to date. Many people have been listing their newer work, Merriweather Post Pavilion, as a better album, but if it weren’t for Strawberry Jam, MPP would’ve never existed. Think of how good MPP would sound if it came directly after their earlier, less accessible albums Feels and Sung Tongs. SJ is the logical step in between these albums, and Animal Collective wouldn’t be nearly as highly toted as they are if it weren’t for it. “Fireworks,” “Peacebone” and “For Reverend Green” are some of the most sonically pleasing songs to date, and anchor Animal Collective’s step into the indie-rock big time.
21. White Stripes, Elephant
I knew I was going to pick a White Stripes album for my top albums of the decade, but when I sat down and listened to them, it turned out to be a tough decision on which one to include. I debated on including 2001’s White Blood Cells as well as 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan, but when the final decision came, I chose their fourth studio album Elephant without a second thought. It’s The White Stripes grittiest and darkest album yet released, and is filled with tasty little nuggets of goodness. One of the most recognizable songs of the past twenty years, “Seven Nation Army,” starts the album off right, and from there it’s a display of ripping guitar work and heavy rock drums. The anthemic “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” starts off as a slow strummer, but soon finds Mr. and Ms. White in full rock mode. Not only is “The Hardest Button To Button” a stellar pulsing blues-rock tune similar to many a song by The Black Keys, but it was also immortalized in quite the trippy scene during an episode of television’s greatest show, The Simpsons. The Simpsons generally take the mickey out of bands they include in their episodes, but with The White Stripes drum-off with Bart, they decided to not only to not make fun of them, but make them look like even bigger bad-asses than they already are. That says a whole lot.
20. Outkast, Stankonia
Any group that, from their inception, releases their first three albums to critical acclaim, will always have tons of weight on their shoulders entering the studio for work on their fourth. Look at Dave Matthews Band. Their first three albums were great, but after that (and the scrapped Lillywhite Sessions as mentioned in the first part of my decade list) their studio work went to shit. Coldplay is in the same situation – Parachutes, A Rush Of Blood To The Head and X&Y were all great, but Viva La Vida… sucked some serious ass. Don’t worry kids, I’m not comparing Outkast to DMB nor Coldplay, I’m just making a point. Outkast put out three of hip-hop’s greatest albums in Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, ATLiens and Aquemini (the latter being my favorite hip-hop album of all time), so when they announced the release date of their fourth album, Stankonia, I was excited yet apprehensive. As soon as I heard the leaked first single, “Bombs Over Baghdad,” I had nothing more to worry about. Even if the song “Ms. Jackson” was burned into your eardrums by pop radio, its clever hook and smart lyrics centered around Andre 3000’s relationship with Erykah Badu make it one of the best songs of the decade. The best on the album for me is the incredibly funky “Humble Mumble,” which features Ms. Badu on backing vocals. It starts out very spacey also adding a bit of a Caribbean feel while Big Boi spits the first verse, but half-way through it jumps into a funk breakdown where Andre 3000 takes over. The reason I think I like the song so much is because, without even knowing it at the time, it serves as the perfect precursor to their next double LP, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Big Boi and Andre 3000 take their completely different views on how to make a song and cram it into “Humble Mumble,” much like they do on SB/TLB, only instead of just one song, they each get their own album. Stankonia is already a classic record, but unfortunately is the only full effort from Outkast that has been released this decade. Hopefully we’ll get another one soon – it’s well past due.
19. LCD Soundsystem, Sound Of Silver
It took me a while to finally get into LCD Soundsystem’s Sound Of Silver, but when I finally did, it truly hit me. I picked the album up based on rave reviews from many different websites and blogs, but after first listen, it ended up on my car floor with the rest of its doughnut-shaped brethren. A few months later, after I exhausted the rest of my choices on a long road trip, it finally made it back into my car stereo. What I heard this time was a completely different animal. Think of heavily synthesized beats on top of flourishing guitars, drum beats pulled from the cheesiest 80’s songs you can think of, all topped off by great dance-punk vocals – add a fuck-ton of cowbell and you have Sound Of Silver. Well, that is true for the entire album besides the piano driven brilliance of the album’s climactic “All My Friends” and the Velvet Underground-ish closing track “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” LCD Soundsystem trade in all the knobs and buttons for actual instruments, and produce two of the finest songs of the past decade, specifically “All My Friends.” This album hasn’t left regular rotation in my car ever since re-discovering it, and I can’t fathom its departure date will happen anytime soon.
18. Eminem, Marshal Mathers LP
My favorite hip-hop album of the decade, hands down. Eminem came on the scene towards the turn of the decade, and quickly turned into my most listened to artist. His debut album, The Slim Shady LP and a few high profile guest spots on Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 put him among hip-hop’s elite, but it was his The Marshall Mathers LP that made Eminem a household name. His story of an obsessive psychotic fan, “Stan,” is instantly recognizable by the Dido hook, and might be one of the most hard hitting songs ever written. Eminem is one of the most talented MC’s ever, which is proven on this album with songs like “The Way I Am,” “Marshall Mathers,” “Drug Ballad” and “Under The Influence.” While drugs, murder and rape find its way into his subject matter quite regularly, it was the first time they was truly brought to the forefront of popular music &ndash something that definitely made people stand up and take notice. The controversy that surrounded this album only made it better and more popular than I or anyone really could’ve guessed, and it made Eminem the go-to collaboration artist for any group or artist looking to sell some records. Unfortunately, he hasn’t released an album that has touched this one since.
17. TV On The Radio, Dear Science
TV On The Radio could definitely contend for artist of the decade. They started strong with Ok Calculator, tweaked their sound to a much more accessible one for Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes and entered popular culture and hit the airwaves with the breakout album Return To Cookie Mountain. All three of these allowed TV On The Radio to build an excellent reputation for exhibiting a unique form of art rock, but it was with their fourth and latest studio album Dear Science that they truly perfected their sound. It’s an album that implores many different genres per each song, but can’t really be pinned by one specific genre in itself. It goes from horn-fueled dance-punk songs like “Dancing Choose,” “Golden Age” and “Red Dress” to heavily layered slowly moving tracks like “Family Tree” and “Love Dog.” “DLZ” is one of my favorites of the decade, “Golden Age” as well. If this is where TVotR are now, I can’t wait to see what we’ll be hearing from the Brooklyn quintet in the 2010’s.
16. Radiohead, In Rainbows
I love everything about this album. Radiohead did all that they could to shake up the music industry, and it was as simple as releasing their album for free (or technically, pay what you want). Before the internet world could get their grubby mitts on their new album, without the help from a big time record company, they posted it to their own website where you had the choice of paying whatever you wanted for the album. It was a genius idea to spread their music to the masses, and also didn’t hurt them fiscally as they pulled in more on In Rainbows than they did with their prior album, Hail To The Thief. On top of their shaking up of the music industry, the album kills all the way through. Opener “15 Step” highlights Thom Yorke’s manically mumbled lyrics, while “Bodysnatchers” brings them back to the days of The Bends-era Radiohead, my personal favorite. “Nude” and “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” smoothly transition into “All I Need,” a song that oddly reminds me of that Primitive Radio Gods song from the extremely overlooked Jim Carrey movie, The Cable Guy. The closing four songs of the album – “Reckoner,” “House Of Cards,” “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” and “Videotape” – could challenge any other four consecutive Radiohead songs on any of their albums as best run of songs by the band. The only bad part of this album is that it finishes too damn soon.
15. Gorillaz, Gorillaz
I was always a pretty big fan of Blur back in the 90’s, and, around the turn of the century, I had started listening to Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, specifically his collaboration with Dan The Automator on the album Deltron 3030. When I found out that Blur’s frontman Damon Albarn was starting a cartoon band illustrated by none other than Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett that also featuring both members of Deltron 3030, I was immediately interested. As most of us know, Gorillaz have blown up to be a worldwide success, mostly thanks to the breakout single, “Clint Eastwood,” but after picking up the rest of the album, their was so much more to it than the lead track. Don’t get me wrong, that song contends as one of the biggest and most original songs of the decade, but the album is rich with quality material. Right away, “Re-Hash” opens the album with quite the cheerful disposition, and continues through with the very Blur-ish “5/4.” While Dan The Automator never really made it to the album, Del tha Funkee Homosapien shines throughout on different tracks including the aforementioned “Clint Eastwood” and my favorite from the album “Rock The House.” Throughout the rest of the album, Albarn tackles many different genres, types of instrumentation and vocal approaches from salsa to screaming, reggae to ruckus. I always go back to this album after a long day when I want to remember younger, cheaper, easier times.
14. Arcade Fire, Funeral
Arcade Fire are a band that truly lived up to the mass hype surrounding them when they released their debut, Funeral. I had the chance to see them live in late 2005, and left with a hunger for more. It was around this time that I finally picked up a copy of Funeral, and started to eat it up, every minute of it. My first favorite was the easy-going “Haiti,” where member Régine Chassagne sings her way through an elegy to her roots in the (at the time) corrupt island nation. Soon I fell in love with “Rebellion (Lies),” and its pulsing piano-driven beat. Finally, I landed on the anthemic “Wake Up,” and it fast became one of my favorite songs ever. The beginning of the album starts out almost as a story, with each of the “Neighborhood” tracks seamlessly fitting together with “Une Année Sans Lumiere” serving as its cream filling. This is one of indie rock’s defining albums – so many bands have already tried to imitate its sound, and so many more will tread that path in the future. That says a whole lot…
13. Phish, Farmhouse
Phish are known more known for their live shows rather than their studio efforts, but a few of their releases are actually quite solid. It’s been a while since they put out a really good studio album, almost a decade to be exact. Farmhouse is full of road-tested material that not only transformed wonderfully on disc, but also brought Phish the most national attention they had ever seen. For a time, many people also thought that this might be the last Phish album, as well, since soon after its release, the band decided to take a hiatus from playing music altogether. While they eventually returned, and put out three more albums to date, Farmhouse is by far their best of the decade. “Piper,” “Sand,” “Twist,” “Back On The Train,” “Heavy Things” and “First Tube are six of my all time favorite Phish songs, and the rest of the album is very good as well. They include some of the better softer songs they’ve ever written, like “Dirt,” “Farmhouse,” “Bug” and “Sleep,” but intersperse them perfectly in between some of the more energized, jammier tunes. This is quite possibly Phish’s most accessible album out of the 14 that have been released, and probably the most recognizable to most people as well. It’s definitely an album I’d considered being stranded on a deserted island with.
12. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
Bearded acoustic folk quintet Fleet Foxes’ debut eponymous LP was released in early 2008 to critical acclaim from just about everyone. Before Fleet Foxes initial release, the band had already begun their ascent to the top of the indie-verse by relentless touring and a leak of their Sun Giant EP earlier in the year. I unfortunately missed the opportunity to catch Fleet Foxes in one of Houston’s smaller venues early in 2008, which was one of my biggest musical regrets, especially when I finally got my hands on a copy of Fleet Foxes. Upon first listen, it was an album full of rich textures and harmonious sing-songs about nature, love and all the points in between. Lead singer Robin Pecknold’s voice is as heavenly as it gets, and whenever the group adds three and four part harmonies to the mix, it gets that much closer to god (or whomever else occupies that space in our soul and mind). “White Winter Hymnal” might be one of the most beautiful songs ever written, with “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” and “Oliver James” coming in a close second and third. This album, complimented by the five songs that make up the Sun Giant EP, is the perfect album to fall asleep to. It will send you into a much more serene slumberland.
11. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
Along with my number 12 choice, this album rates among the most beautiful recordings of all time. So much meaning is packed into every song written by Justin Vernon, that, during certain emotional states, his music is sometimes not the easiest to listen to. Simple, sad songs about love and loss, matched by stirring acoustic instrumentation are what find me taking in this album, or parts of it, almost daily. I saw Bon Iver on a few occasions in 2009, and each time I was mesmerized by the song “Flume.” The first time I saw Bon Iver live, the song featured a vocal guest spot from My Brightest Diamond and backing instrumental support from The National at the famed Radio City Music Hall during the Dark Was The Night concert. It truly blew me away, and was one of only three times in 2009 that I literally got the chills during a performance. I finally caught a full show from the band at Bonnaroo, and once again they were on top of their game, this time pulling out a Yo La Tengo cover with Elvis Perkins in Dearland on horns. On top of the YLT cover, I also had my first chance to digest “Skinny Love” live. I’d loved the tune since first hearing it in 2008, but experiencing it live in concert was something else. “The Wolves (Act I and II)” continues the gorgeous songwriting featured, only employing a bit of autotune to the mix as well. For Emma, Forever Ago‘s closing duo of “For Emma” and “Re: Stacks” is the best one-two finishing punch of any album listed above or below. This album is truly the beginning of my favorites list, and could easily interchange with any of the next ten albums that come ahead of it.
10. Radiohead, Kid A
As I saw Kid A pop up several times in the number one spot throughout many of the decade lists posted during the past couple months, I kinda shied away from it. I initially put it much higher on my list when first piecing this thing together back in December, but soon I took another listen to it, and as you can see, it made my top ten. It isn’t Radiohead’s best album – The Bends is – but it’s most definitely up there in their top two or three depending on which day it is. Starting out a bit spastic, but in the best way possible, “Everything In Its Right Place” is an electric album opener. The title track serves as somewhat of the experimental mind-fuck of the album, before it gives way to the bass-heavy, horn-induced straight forward rocker, “The National Anthem.” It continues with the comely “How To Disappear Completely,” quiet instrumental “Treefingers” and another rocker in “Optimistic” as only Radiohead can do it. “Idioteque” is the best song on the album, as well as one of their best songs ever, and “Morning Bell” followed by “Motion Picture Soudtrack” is an incredible way to end the already spectacular album. This album continues to grow on me with every listen, and will always be one of my all time favorites.
9. Band Of Horses, Everything All The Time
Band Of Horses quickly became one of my favorite bands in the past couple years, and even though they only have twenty released tracks, they continue to blow me away with every listen. Their 2006 debut, Everything All The Time, starts off with the aptly named “The First Song,” a guitar-laden track that is the perfect introduction to what you are going to get from the rest of the album. Lead singer Ben Bridwell’s haunting, yet delicate vocal approach is perfectly matched by the rest of the bands folk-based indie rock. The album continues with another rocker in “Wicked Gil,” before Bridwell changes out to a bass for a dueling drum and bass romp during “Our Swords.” The first of several climaxes of the album comes next during the highly anthemic “The Funeral,” a song that could be contested as best of the decade. Later, “The Great Salt Lake” brings back the heavy drums and guitars of both “The First Song” and “The Funeral,” and like those both, also reaches anthemic territories. “I Go To The Barn Because I Like The” and “Monsters” bring the band back to their slower country roots, heavy on the twangy guitars. EATT closes with “St. Augustine,” a pleasant acoustic number stock full of three-part harmonies, which finishes the album on a great note. After seeing BoH live several times over the past couple years, these songs have transplanted themselves into my daily life. Fortunately, I don’t think I could ever get bored with them.
8. Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
My true love and addiction with The Flaming Lips began in June 2003, when I ascended on their now-legendary late-night set at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. I had previously only heard their 90’s hit “She Don’t Use Jelly,” but I still decided to check out the set based on friends and other festival goers recommendations. I strolled up for the later half of the set, and what I saw was awe-inspiring to say the least. I can’t say I fell in love with The Flaming Lips on that specific night, mainly because their music is not really the most accessible to a person enamored with jambands, but their stage show was unlike any I had ever seen before. That was enough to get me snooping into their catalog when I returned home, though, and my first step into their world was with the purchase of Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. I put on my earphones, slapped that sucker on, and immediately fell in love as soon as “Fight Test” came through the speakers. Yoshimi is full of gems, and that’s immediately evident with part one of the title track. To this day at live FLips shows, this song is by far the most requested and responded to of all their material. Part two of the title track is one of my personal favorite FLips songs, with its raw and funky instrumental awesomeness. Supported by a drum machine and other synthesized instrumentals, Wayne Coyne sings and strums through “It’s Summertime,” before the albums most lyrically meaningful tune “Do You Realize??” takes over. A song written by Coyne soon after his fathers passing and around the time guitarist Steven Drozd was battling and trying to kick his heroin addiction, it sends the message that even though we’ll all perish into the heavens someday, you should never let a moment of your life pass you by. This album brought The Flaming Lips back into the mainstream, and now they are bigger than they’ve ever been. Wayne Coyne is a mad scientist in his own crazy twisted world of music, and will continue to unload the numerous batches of odd ideas that escape his brain on a daily basis. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots is one of Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips’ many masterpieces – probably their best work to date.
7. Ray Lamontagne, Trouble
As you can tell, it takes a great vocal approach for me to enjoy a band or an artist. Ray LaMontagne has that voice. Actually, he has the best voice out of anyone in my top albums list. He carries so much soul just in his vocals, that you don’t even have to listen to the lyrics to gather at least some meaning from his songs. I recommend listening to the lyrics, though, as Trouble also features some of the best songwriting I’ve heard in quite some time. The album starts with the hauntingly beautiful title track, and weaves its way through ballads of love and loss, heartbreak and heartache. “Shelter,” “Hold You In My Arms,” “Narrow Arms,” … – They’re all amazing songs, and while LaMontagne hasn’t released a work of comparison since, Trouble still resonates loudly with each listen.
6. Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
I was living in England when A Ghost Is Born was released, and my first listen of the album came as we were stuffed up in my friends tiny apartment in London, clouding out his closet of a room with it spinning on the record player. Truly it was my first real listen to Wilco in general. I’d seen them briefly at Bonnaroo in 2004, but the heat of the day made me venture back towards camp in search of water rather than staying for more than a few minutes. Later that year, I also passed on the opportunity to go see them at a tiny venue in DeKalb, Illinois, where they were secretly warming up for their run of headlining shows at The Chicago Theater in downtown Chicago. I decided to get drunk down the street, and never made it in. After listening to AGIB in that tiny Soho flat, I immediately regretted all opportunities I missed to see that band. I immediately purchased the album upon my return home to Birmingham, and it didn’t leave my record player the rest of my stay in the UK. I finally caught a full Wilco show in 2005, and from there I was stuck. They were cemented as one of my all time favorite bands, and AGIB was the catalyst for that. This album was the next logical step for Wilco as a band after finally releasing their critically acclaimed bust-out album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, just two years prior. It continues with the experimental sounds that differentiated YHF from their earlier work, but its softened up a bit overall. One solid exception to that is the near-eleven minute sonic drum, guitar and bass jam, “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” With its thumping bass and steady drum-beat, Jeff Tweedy sings and rips a few mean guitar solos throughout, before it climaxes into full on rock event. Their are several great pop sing-a-longs, like “Hummingbird,” “Theologians” “The Late Greats” and “Handshake Drugs,” rockers like “I’m A Wheel,” and softer ballads like “Hell Is Chrome,” “Wishful Thinking,” and “At Least That’s What You Said.” It’s a very cohesive album from start to finish, even if you make it through the eleven and a half minutes of noise after “Less Than You Think.” Also, with AGIB at number six on my list, you probably have a good idea what my number one will be…
5. The Slip, Eisenhower
For the first time, The Slip took a step away from their funk, jam and jazz roots, and decided to take a true stab at songwriting. It was their best move yet. I didn’t find out about Eisenhower until I was in Slovenia with Toast, and we were perusing Jambase’s yearly review and almost everyone included it in their top albums list. As I do, I picked it up on my return to the States, and it became almost an obsession. I finally had a chance to hear the songs live at Wakarusa in 2007, and they translated just as well live as on album. “If One Of Us Should Fall” is one of my absolute favorite songs ever, and closing track “Paper Birds” is just as good. From the opening “Children Of December” it was quite evident that even though the personnel was the same, the band was completely different. They were always good as an experimental jamband, and still involve elements of that into their live show, but their transition into the world of indie rock was an excellent idea, one that was extremely well received by many including, obviously, me.
4. Damien Rice, O
Damien Rice came on to the scene in the early part of the decade, but I really didn’t get into him until around the time his music, specifically the song “The Blower’s Daughter,” was used in the film Closer. I had procured a copy of O from none other than my sister, and quickly absorbed the simple brilliance of the entire album. “Delicate” describes the album from the beginning, while single “Volcano” introduces us to the gorgeous pipes of Lisa Hannigan. “The Blower’s Daughter” shows how easy it is to make a song so amazing without any overproduction needed. “Cannonball” is another masterfully penned track, followed by Rice’s acoustic run through “Older Chests.” The hard-hitting “Amie” is followed by Rice’s drunken ode to to a secret love, “Cheers Darlin'” that I truly fell in love with after witnessing him perform it live in Houston a while back while he was stumbling around the stage with a wine bottle in hand. The final three songs find the angelic Hannigan taking the spotlight away from Rice, including the closing verse on “Cold Water,” opening vocal duties on “I Remember” and supporting Rice throughout “Eskimo.” O is by far the simplest albums on the list, and despite the fact that the instrumentation and production was so limited, it’s still one of my all time favorites.
3. The Avett Brothers, Emotionalism
Indie rock performed by punk musicians on bluegrass instruments. An interesting genre, that finds The Avett Brothers as the only band in it. They always (at least until recently) have self-released their albums, so they have never had the chance to be swayed by some big time producer. The benefit of this is that the music you hear is truly theirs and no-one else’s. “Shame,” “Salina,” “Paranoia in B-Flat Major,” “Living Of Love” and “The Weight Of Lies” are some of the best folk and Americana tunes that have ever been written, and the rest of the album’s tracks tie those songs together quite nicely. Scott and Seth Avett are an incredibly talented duo that run a muck on the gauntlet of different instruments they both are so adapt at playing, and are supported by the back bone of the group, bassist Bob Crawford. If you were to check my iTunes stats, it would clearly show Emotionalism as one of my most listened to albums, and it is guaranteed to stay that way for many years to come.
2. My Morning Jacket, Z
I have a huge man crush on Jim James. Like, I’d probably make love to him if he asked me to. Z is the reason for the man crush. Like I said when I listed My Morning Jacket’s At Dawn in my number thirty spot, It took me a while to finally get into the band, even after seeing them live a few times. It wasn’t until I truly dove into Z that I became a superfan. The album is almost perfect, with every song being great for something different. “Wordless Chorus” introduces us to their newly produced sound, one that’s a whole lot less raw than all of their previous works. For the first time, James stepped away from production, and employed the work of someone else. While James did a good job at putting together MMJ’s previous albums, they needed an outsider to draw more of their potential from them. Many themes are present in Z, including life (“Gideon,” “Anytime” and “Into The Woods”), love (“It Beats For You,” “Off The Record” and “Lay low”) and especially death (“What A Wonderful Man” and “Dondante”). It seamlessly flows throughout with song placement fitting in perfect. It starts out slow yet upbeat, and ends dark and haunting, and everything in between draws the line between both. The songs are elevated to a new level in the live format, and if you are yet to catch a MMJ show, you are truly missing out.
And finally, my number one…
1. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was kind of my obvious choice as best album of the decade for many reasons. The first reason is that it truly is the best album to be created in the past ten years. Second, is that every time I listen to it, I find things about it that make me like it even more. Third, I’ve listened to it over a thousand times, and it will never get old. I’m not sure what took me so long to get into Wilco, but I’m pissed at myself for it. They are genius, and completely ahead of pretty much every other American band right now. Like Wayne Coyne, Jim James, Thom Yorke, Win Butler or Jack White below him, Jeff Tweedy is the driving force of this band, even though rumor has it that he might be a bit of an asshole. His lyrics are easy to connect to, and deal with everyday subjects we all put up with in life. YHF is Wilco’s departure from their more country-based Americana and folk albums of the past, and is their step into the world of synthesizers and electric guitars. It completely affected their sound for the better (or the worse, some might argue), and has also shot them into the mainstream. Their documentary, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, follows the band throughout the recording and release process of YHF, and gives you a fly on the wall perspective of what it took to get this album out to the people. It’s funny that, after all the bullshit they had to deal with for its release, it instantly became their most critically acclaimed and best selling piece of work. If this album doesn’t occupy a close place to your heart, I recommend giving it another chance, as it truly is a brilliant album that will hold its own throughout time with the rest of the great albums of the past seventy-five years.
Well, there you have it. My favorite albums of the past ten years. Anyone disagree with my choices?