December 27, 2009
Making a top 10 albums of the year post is fucking tough. I’ve been thinking about it for months, and how mere months can change your opinions toward albums, bands, songs etc, so making an albums of the DECADE post is even more difficult. So I’ve got to kind of cover my own ass and say that these are my favorite albums of the decade. Albums that just the mention of them bring to mind images and times in my life that meant something to me or changed me in a way. I’m no authority (not on music and certainly not on anything else) so just enjoy my top 10 favorite albums of the decade.
10) Is This It? – The Strokes (2001)
What is there to say about this album? It’s already been said and glossed over and repeated for years and years. It ushered in a whole new era for music most especially for people who came of age in the 00′s. ‘Is this It’ is my favorite track off this album.
9) Songs The Postman Can Whistle – The White Sport (2004)
This album, sadly, was mostly only listened to by people who are really in the Libertines and Babyshambles. It features Andrew Aveling on guitar and vocals (now in Littl’ans), Pat Walden on guitar (and possibly bass?) who is now in nothing (is Big Dave still around?) but is ex-Babyshambles, and Adam Ficek on drums. It’s definitely a series of dark moments (Aveling’s voice has a natural sort of melancholy quality to it) interspersed with inexplicably white beautiful moments like my favorite ‘I Was Once A Girl’. Pat Walden really leads this album – his guitar work is nothing short of excellent, I could listen to him ramble on at the end of ‘Yur Wrong’ for ever and ever.
8) Paper Television – The Blow (2006)
This was the last album Khaela Maricich and Jona Bectolt did together. Their previous albums were excellent, YACHT certainly has a way with beats and sounds that I never fully appreciated until this album, and sparingly appreciate since; and Khaela’s voice is a bell. A shining, beautiful, angelic shining bell. This album is sparse and romantic and thoughful and just beautiful. ‘True Affection’ was the first ever Blow song I heard, and most certainly the best. It’s 3 minutes and 23 seconds of nautical blips and the heartache of being with someone and never being sure if you’re good enough or vice-versa sung beautifully and written in some of the most off-kilter poetic ways.
7) Back To Black – Amy Winehouse (2006)
This album is a fucking bonafide classic. Amy Winehouse is a crackhead but the bitch can write music – she was more heavily involved than just singing and writing lyrics, she had a lot of sway in the musicality of this album too. Her voice is magnificent. Nothing I’m saying about this is original, but this album will always remind me of my first semester at college and ACL 2007 where Amy pulled out and we were forced to see the Arctic Monkeys instead… big disappointment.
6) College Dropout – Kanye West (2004)
This is probably a choice that 0% of the people that I know saw coming, but I’ve always loved Kanye West. I remember when his first album came out and I just loved it. He was a rapper, yes, but he had something to say and went about saying it in the most hilarious ways. This album was a slice of life that I knew nothing about and still was able to connect with the songs and feel moved by them. ‘We Don’t Care’ amused the shit out of me; ‘School Spirit’ made me sing along (yes, me saying ‘ooh hecky naw that boy is raw’ is a hilarious image!); ‘Breathe In (Breathe Out)’ got me through so many roadtrips over the years. And Kanye, around this time, was an excellent live performer. He is today, I’m sure, but I’ve stopped because he’s not the same – not live and not on record – but this album made him, and it captured a lot of my youth, too. Unfortunately, this statement he made, way back when, is now true… “I’ve always said if I rapped, I’d say something significant, but now I’m rapping about money, hoes and rims again’.
To reflect on my top 5… Those are the ones that I can clearly identify certain moments in my life with. Like, when I play them I have such a smiling case of nostalgia and a good case of the thoughtfuls, but I don’t play them all the time anymore. I’ve moved on. 10 years is a long time, but none of those albums are actually 10 years old. Most are 6 or 5 or 4 years old which really isn’t even that old, but I have Adult On-set ADHD (self diagonosed of course) so it seems really long ago that these albums meant so much to me. However! My top 5 are albums that are just as old (there’s not a whole lot of new albums on this list, 2006 being the eldest) but are so good that they’ve permeated my life in a way that doesn’t stop with certain phases or episodes in my life – they’ve consistently been with me and that’s what, to me, marks an amazing album – not one that appeases the people who read fucking lists (Pitchfork, Kid A par example) or one who is so esoteric that I couldn’t even list it here. So I give to you, my top 5 albums from this decade (note: I hate the fucking word ‘Noughties’)…
5) The End of History (2006)
I was trying to explain to someone the way I feel that Fionn Regan is a good approximation of a semi-Bob Dylan figure and the person I was talking to disagreed heartily saying that it was insulting to say that someone made sub-par Bob Dylan albums – but that’s not what I was getting at. This album to me is a modern folk classic, the same way Freewheelin’ or Another Side Of are perfect records of folk music. It’s beautifully written, with weird, dense imagery; the timing, so off kilter, keeps you in the moment, hanging off of every hyper-literate, poetic word Fionn utters – the same way Bob has us eating out of his hand on the aforementioned albums. But really, ‘Put A Penny In The Slot’ is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. That sounds like such a grand claim, but there’s something about the simplicity of what he’s playing on guitar mixed with the complexitiy of the story he’s telling – complete with tangents, life advice, and literary references, that just makes me swoon. The emotive quality his slightly feminine whispery voice has serves him best on this song, it makes one believe the longing and nostagia, and keep pace with him even though he’s quite obviously further than we are. That said, his new album, will most certainly be a ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ moment. Whether it’s insulting to say someone makes sub-par Bob Dylan albums (even though EVERYBODY does, so how insulting can it be?) or to complement and raise Fionn up to below, but still near, Bob status somehow insulting Bob himself… well, remains to be seen.
4) Down in Albion – Babyshambles (2006)
Now that I’m in the top four, it’s getting harder and harder to make any objective and rational comments about the albums. This album marked such a tumultuous period in my life (fittingly, though, no?) and helped usher in a whole new self that I’d never explored before – and that’s fucking HIGH PRAISE of the affect an album can have without speaking so much as a word about the musicality of it all. Pat Walden’s guitar work on this album will surely go down as some of the most underrated of the decade surely and Pete’s lyrical work on this album, although not as masterful as on any Up The Bracket (thanks, Heroin), still trashes anyone else writing lyrics around this time. I don’t think I can say anymore on an album that I don’t listen to frequently anymore just due to the things it reminds me of…. Shame.
3) Panic Prevention – Jamie T (2006)
God, it pained me to have to put this album in at number three, when in reality, it’s one of the best albums of the decade. I know I professed my love for early Kanye West so it would be unfair for me to say that I strictly don’t like rap but, not so strictly, I don’t like rap. Starting off talking about Jamie T by immediately classifying him as rap is completely off target, because what he does, in my twisted mind, isn’t just rap. I don’t think it’s fair to pin Jamie T to a box because he does SO many things on this album: so many intertwining samples, beats, bass lines, guitar riffs that all meld together to create such layered, textured songs that have so much more to offer than one listen can pick up on. It took me forever to realize that Jamie T is also extremely gifted lyrically – due to his strong accent (FAKE OR NOT, haters) and his like side-cocked way of spitting words, oh and his dense, often confusing, and extremely British storylines it’s often hard to understand exactly what is going on or how anything connects. Like, ‘Alicia Quays’, which is a 6 and a half minute epic which, by god, is an absolute epic about youth and having fun and still having a strong sense of self-reflexivity (What am I, What am I, What am I in my own dear eyes?). So Jamie T writes a ton of songs about going out. He doesn’t do it in the way the early Awkward Monkeys used to – there’s no obvious fake poetic pretense, just the nitty gritty (whether real or fake AGAIN) and his turn of phrase that makes the poetic, epic moments all whilst retaining his youth and his sense of fun and his sense that his music is for himself. This is an absolute gem that probably will be recognized more as the shite from 2006 etc (Fratellis, Kooks, NYPC, other contemporaries) fades away, or maybe not, but it’s a fucking gem.
2) Let It Bloom – Black Lips (2005)
It seems fairly standard that anyone just getting into Black Lips would prefer ‘Good Bad Not Evil’ just due to the fact that it’s cleaner, the melodies more present, and the pop influences out for everyone to see. But ‘Let It Bloom’ is really the quintessential Black Lips album, and the best work they’ve ever done. And I know, by the way, that Black Lips are a fairly easy band to get into – but I think there’s a lot to digest with the album. It works on so many different levels (like peeling an onion, right?): there’s the fuzz on the outside, then it’s the irresistable riffs underneath with the pop hooks, then comes the rebellious, funny, youthful, even (gasp) witty lyrics and then once you’ve gotten to the bottom of that, you can appreciate them all together – or at least that’s how it worked for me. This is just such a modern burnout classic album. Four dudes who couldn’t hack it in school, couldn’t hack it in life, so they got in a band where they could practically not hack it and could hardly play their instruments who then made this brilliant album of flower-punk anthems (Not A Problem? Sea of Blasphemy? Everybodys Doin’ It? Fuck yeah). I’m fully aware that a band with three layers isn’t considered complex or hard to appreciate or get into… but the simplicity of it all, the youth factor (very big with me, if you can’t tell) makes it the classic it is…
1) Up The Bracket – The Libertines (2002)
Life changing, life affirming, poetic masterpiece of youth and mistakes, all wrapped up in sexually frustrated guitar riffs (courtesy: Carl Barat) and melodies (and lyrics and lines) that has been tread and retread by bands over the past decade with little to no success. None of the members have ever come close to making an album as perfect as this since the split of the Libertines, nor will a reunion be able to come near or top this – although the only thing keeping me from a reunion will be my own death.