PHw's Albums of the Decade - #40-31

Here is "Part 2" of my 50 favorite dad-rock albums list of the past ten years. I’m not trying to be dramatic or self-important or whatever by breaking it into 5 equal segments, it’s more a result of the difficulty I always have in formatting large posts like these. Blogger can be a pain in the ass with large posts featuring multiple images, and breaking it down like this makes that somewhat easier for me.

Anyway, I’ve listened to a lot of albums over the past decade, some that I’ve actually paid for. The following are 50 that, upon reflection, I feel best represent the music fan I have become over that time. These are my favorites right now, over the past month or so that I’ve spent drafting what you are about to read. They are also the ones I anticipate going back to consistently over however long the rest of my life may be. Many of these albums you’ll recognize from various other End-of-the-Decade lists, but I promise lots of upsets, surprises, and underdogs in here as well. I hope you enjoy reading, and feel free to comment about what you agree with and where you think I fucked up. Peace.

40. Hearts of Oak - Ted Leo (2003)

The Tyranny of Distance announced Leo’s arrival on the scene in a big way, but Hearts Of Oak is the best example of his eclectic, punk-inspired indie-rock over an entire LP. The obvious highs of “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?” and “The High Party” are matched by album tracks such as “2nd Avenue, 11 A.M.” and “Bridges, Squares”, making for an album that satisfies from start to finish. His great gift though, besides an elastic voice that leap frogs into a falsetto at any given moment, is the way he manages to be so much rock n’ roll fun without ever sacrificing the social conscience.

39. The Milk-Eyed Mender - Joanna Newsom (2004)

I don’t really have words to describe The Milk-Eyed Mender, at least not ones that haven’t been turned into cliché over the past 5 years. Yeah, the first time my friend played this album for me that day in the car I was really turned off by “that voice”. After my initial disinterest he forced me to listen to “Sadie” about 3 or 4 times in a row, and the disinterest turned to intrigue. I borrowed the CD and that night lied down on the floor in my apartment and hit repeat on the unbelievably beautiful album closer “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie” about a half-dozen times. And here it is, one of my favorites of the decade. Even though Newsom generally gets labeled folk or freak-folk or whatever, there’s just nothing else out there that’s quite like her, or this perfect little record.

38. Amnesiac - Radiohead (2001)

The companion album to Kid A practically stands next to its big brother, once again finding the band exploring the endless possibilities of electronic music over 11 adventurous, continuously surprising songs.

37. Decoration Day - Drive-By Truckers (2003)

The Truckers have made quite a living writing songs about the Dirty South, and Decoration Day is the most consistently satisfying record in the Truckers’ very deep catalog. It’s also about as dark and gritty as albums get - populated with shotguns, shotgun weddings, blue collar desperation, incest, whiskey, suicide, murder, and various other forms of recklessness and debauchery. Oh yeah, and one of the most self-aware lines of the decade during “Marry Me”: “Rock n’ roll means well but it can’t help tellin’ young boys lies”. Ever so true.

MP3 :: Loaded Gun In The Closet

36. Pride / Phosphorescent (2007)

Pride is a hypnotic, meditative song cycle recorded almost entirely alone by Matthew Houck. It sounds like a true field recording, mainly because you can envision him alone out in the middle of one, guitar in hand and accompanied by an army of harmony-singing night insects. That solitude is best expressed on the arresting ballad “Wolves”, in which Houck sounds resigned to the violence that surrounds him.

MP3 :: A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise

35. Ágætis Byrjun - Sigur Rós (2000)

The alien fetus album art unquestionably played into the notion that this band’s lush, orchestral music and the ungodly vocals of Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson were coming from somewhere much further away than the Icelandic countryside. While disappointingly not from another universe, the intense beauty of Ágætis Byrjun certainly is universal.

34. The Woods - Sleater-Kinney (2005)

That Sleater-Kinney broke up soon after the release of The Woods, one of their most critically lauded albums and the first to feature the larger-than-life production of David Fridmann, was one of the indie rock’s great losses. But they sure knew how to go out in style - The Woods is a sonically potent slab of punk-inspired classic rock that found the female trio at the height of their seemingly infinite powers.

MP3 :: Jumpers
MP3 :: Entertain

33. Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors (2009)

Bitte Orca is a fractured avant-pop thrill ride, exactly the type of album that rewards repeat listens as its subtleties are revealed. Though masterminded by David Longstreth, this assured set of songs is a truly collaborative effort, which is never more evident than on Amber Coffman’s star-turn lead vocal performance on “Stillness Is The Move” - one of 2009’s best songs.

32. Since I Left You - The Avalanches (2000)

The Aussie’s cut-and-paste masterpiece is built from the ground up on a virtual treasure trove of samples. That firm foundation supports scratchy, blissed-out, endlessly listenable party music that feeds your brain as well as it moves your butt.

31. Quicksand/Cradlesnakes / Califone (2003)

Having never heard of the band before, I saw Califone open for Wilco soon after the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I was immediately taken by the band’s mix of rickety folk and deft electronic flourishes and sought out this, their latest release at the time. 2006’s Roots & Crowns is arguably its equal, but Quicksand/Cradlesnakes remains my sentimental favorite because of the way I first stumbled across it. Plus - “One”/“Horoscopic. Amputation. Honey.”, one of the finest album openers of the decade.

MP3 :: One
MP3 :: Horoscopic. Amputation. Honey

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