Putting together a list of best albums is difficult enough to do for just one year, but I have always wanted to do a whole decade because it makes me reflect on albums that I still listen to today, have forgotten because they didn’t stick with me long-term or have known all along that they are my all time favorite. I spent more time determining the order of albums then I did picking which to include among the 30, agonizing which album was better than the other. It was a fun exercise and might even lead to further “best of the decade” lists so I hope you enjoy!
See the previous lists here – Link
Songs:Ohia – Didn’t It Rain
A man, his guitar, stories of darkness and minimal dreary, dreams. The tremolo fills all the space that Molina’s voice leaves, which isn’t much at all. Bare bones for much of the record, it is how so little is made into something so large. A slow burn of lamp oil, the reflection of light on the wall flickering in repetition, telling a story. These songs aren’t about complex beats or arrangements, they instead use their strength which is lead man Jason Molina’s voice and his ability with words. Album closer Blue Chicago Moon plods along the same three chords but it never feels like it is over six and a half minutes long. The strongest track Blue Factory Flame grabs your heart when he sings “Paralyzed By The Emptiness” and you begin to wonder when Molina has scraped all this crust of sadness from.
Anathallo – Floating World
In the early 2000’s I was lucky enough to have lived in Michigan while Anathallo were still growing and crafting their sound. A young group of 8 musicians who functioned more like a tight nit machine than a band, Anathallo put all of the horns, percussion, guitars and vocals into an incredibly layered, sonic wet dream. Every shake of a chain or hand clap is carefully placed in the instrument heavy mix but is never lost in the density. Floating World is based on a Japanese fairy tale and even features Japanese lyrics in the albums Kodo Drum esque closer Kasa No Hone. But the theme isn’t a hindrance or distraction to the amazing arrangements that are in each song. Even as lead singer Matt Joynt sings of Slugs and Bugs on Hanasakajijii One, you smile instead of roll your eyes. With every horn blast your and every layered vocal you feel like you are on a magical journey that you do not want to end.
Karate – Some Boots
A reflection of better times, a look back to what life used to be and what it is now. Missing friends and being far apart. Those themes are woven into every song on Some Boots which to me is Karate’s most personal and hands down best record. Geoff, Jeff and Gavin are at their peak and working lock step with one another. You find yourself focusing on a bass line, then hopping over to a drum fill and then singing along with wordsmith front man Geoff Farina. I have gone a whole paragraph without mentioning that this is a jazz-rock record, but you won’t find this kinda jazz in any stuffy old apartment, or your parents basement. This is rock, with jazz chords, a little bit of jamming mixed in but with pop sensibilities. Still doubtful? Turn on Airport, imagine first a dimly lit coffee shop with Karate playing in the corner. Now flip over to First Release, they don’t fit in that same coffee shop, yet they still have that jazz feel. I wish I could hold on to a simple idea……….
Viktor Vaughn – Vaudeville Villain
Sadly, this is the only hip hop to make my top records. The mysterious story arc of Daniel Dumile (MF Doom, Viktor Vaughn, DOOM, King Gheedorah, Zev Love X) has zig zaged so many times it makes you wonder how he still has a following, but one thing remained consistent: Releasing some of the best hip hop of the last 20 years. Nostalgic pop culture rhymes over spacey, even video game like sounds and bass all tied together with Viktor references from the old Spiderman cartoon. Dumile flows like no other and it is rarely with anger or malice. He keeps things fun and upbeat and even has your laughing from time to time as he drops Back To The Future references. Lickupon showcases his throwback sound that is neither copycat nor straight out homage. This whole album is never serious, it is just flat out rhyming over slick beats. Yup, he just said Pig Snot in Mr. Clean……..
Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary
The debut album from the once mighty Wolf Parade is packed with so much ruckas that it could make a dive bar blush. Song writing was equally divided between the two front men Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner and the results are an amazingly complete album from start to finish. The Boeckner rockers such as Shine A Light have tight verses and open right up to a loud chorus complete with monster cymbal crashing. When Boeckner belts out “You know our hearts beat time out very slowly”, your foot taps and your hand reaches for a glass bottle to chuck against the wall. The Krug songs saunter along like a drunk, whom has just been kicked out of one bar and is on his way to another. I’ll Believe In Anything starts with a sequence of notes that sound like a computer trying to send you a message and meshes nicely with Krug’s fuzzy eyed delivery. This is one of the great rock records of the 2000’s and an album that you get together with your friends at 1 in morning, get drunk and turn the volume all the way up.