Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Top 10 albums of the decade

I know that the year isn't even half over, and something could easily surprise me and need to be on the list, but if that happens, I'll just write about that album. Otherwise, here's my list of the top 10 albums of the 2000's. I didn't spend a ton of time on this, so I could've easily forgotten a favorite, if so I'll add them in later:

1. Pearl Jam-Pearl Jam
It doesn't have the huge arena ready choruses that something like Ten had. But it's their hardest rocking album yet, due partially to it being Eddie Vedder's unofficial tribute to his deceased friend Johnny Ramone. Drummer Matt Cameron continues to invigorate the group, as he had done with their artier-rock albums Binaural and Riot Act. Mike McCready gets a couple of chances to show that his soloing abilities haven't diminished in the slightest, and Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard prove again that they're one of the most underappreciated bass/rhythm guitar combos around. Doesn't hurt that Eddie still has it vocally either. It's my favorite album from my favorite modern band.

2. All Hands on the Bad One-Sleater-Kinney
Not the popular pick out of Sleater-Kinney's catalog, people usually pick either Call the Doctor or Dig Me Out. But All Hands on the Bad One has their best balance of pop hooks and melodies, and punk/rock energy. Corin Tucker's voice is one of the great instruments in all of rock music.

3. Till the Sun Turns Black-Ray LaMontagne
Again, most people would recommend his first record Trouble before this one. But I feel like this is a more organic album, less simply a collection of songs. Ray's raspy voice is accompanied by wider arrangements here. The strings and horns are subtler than most used in pop music (thanks to producer Ethan Johns), feeling more a part of the whole, rather than just pounding home the tone of a song. It's sort of the way that Nick Drake used strings.

4. Extraordinary Machine-Fiona Apple
I actually prefer Fiona's second album, When the Pawn..., but that came out in '99 and doesn't qualify for the list. After the Jon Brion produced original songs were scrapped (actually all but two), I was worried that Fiona might scrap the whole album. But she went back into the studio to re-work the songs, and actually made them better. I just wish she didn't take so damn long between releases.

5. Ben Kweller-Ben Kweller
Simply the best pure pop/rock album of the decade. Actually, probably my favorite pop/rock album that doesn't have the name The Beatles on it.

6. Songlines-The Derek Trucks Band
Derek Trucks is, at worst, the third best guitarist alive. His skills have been otherworldly since he was just a teenager, but with Songlines, he finally molded his world music-via-Duane Allman sound into something more palatable to the rock world. Singer Mike Mattison makes a nice addition to the group, but make no mistake, this is Derek's show and he doesn't disappoint.

7. Attack and Release-The Black Keys
The Black Keys have been a favorite band of mine for a while, so I was slow to warm to the multitude of strange new sounds that were added to the mix by producer Danger Mouse on Attack and Release. As I listened to the album more and more, the songs grew, the arrangements seemed just as organic as they should be, and I was bowled over by its greatness. Dan Auerbach's voice is one of the best out there, and Patrick Carney can't be underestimated as a drummer. I was initially wary of Danger Mouse's presence, but he proved himself to be in the upper echelon of producers, able to bring a different side out of the duo without pushing his own vision over theirs.

8. Diamonds on the Inside-Ben Harper
Like all Ben Harper albums, Diamonds on the Inside has a few clunkers on it. Also like all of Ben's albums, he is all over the map in styles. Whether it's the reggae of "With My Own Two Hands" or the country rock (with some Prince-like vocals) of "When It's Good" or the Ladysmith Black Mambazo collaboration "Picture of Jesus", which may be the best thing Ben has ever done. He is always trying new things, and thankfully he succeeds more often than he doesn't.

9. Evil Urges-My Morning Jacket
A little different from their previous albums, but not as different as many die-hard fans wanted to believe. The opening two songs "Evil Urges" and "Highly Suspicious" simply bring to the forefront the Prince influence that was always there for those that wanted to look. After that opening, it's really just a good, fairly straight forward rock album, with a terrific sense of melody.

10. Burn the Maps-The Frames
Like Ben Harper, The Frames are inconsistent on their albums. For them though, it's not because they're trying so many different things whether they work or not (as is typically Ben's case), they simply don't have the songs to fill out a full album of great material. The first 3/4's or so of Burn the Maps is brilliant. It didn't hit me on first listen, but the songs quickly grew on me, especially "Underglass" "Fake" and "Dream Awake". I have a feeling they're never going to make an out and out masterpiece, but I think this is the closest they've come.

With honorable mentions for these great albums:

The Shepherd's Dog-Iron and Wine
Worrisome Heart-Melody Gardot
Continuum-John Mayer
Yer Favourites-The Tragically Hip
Live at the Wetlands-Robert Randolph and the Family Band
Downhome Sophisticate-Corey Harris
Life in Slow Motion-David Gray
Sea Sew-Lisa Hannigan


Jump_Raven said...

So what would be your top 10 films of the decade?

Kyle said...

I could give you a top 5 off the top of my head, but I'd have to work on a 10. This has been a great decade for movies, and hopefully there will be at least one from this year that would be on my list.

Kathy said...

I would like to add a new girl from London named "Duffy". Her song "Mercy" reminds me of really good late 50's, early 60's soul. Added bonus is that she writes a lot of her own songs :)