Last month I posted a list of my 50 favorite albums of the past decade. You can catch up with that here, here, here, here, and here, if you’d like. While drafting the list I found that I rediscovered plenty of albums that were and are still worthy of more attention, even though they ultimately weren’t included on that finished product. It was extremely difficult to cut many of them, especially those made by lesser-known artists. So for the past few Mondays I’ve been spotlighting some of the additional albums that I consider every bit as essential as the Top 50, but, for whatever reason, fell short. Twenty in all, but not necessarily #‘s 51-70. Here are five more, in no particular order:
Rook - Shearwater (2008)
You’d think that leaving a band like Okkervil River on the heels of the album that propelled them into the spotlight (The Stage Names) would’ve been a poor choice, but on their Matador debut Jonathon Meiburg justifies his decision. Rook is a fluid, concise, and downright stunning artistic statement, as well as a giant leap forward for a band that had previously shown promise without being “great”. Save Black Sheep Boy, Rook is my favorite album made by anyone who has ever been involved with Okkervil River.
MP3 :: Leviathan, Bound
MP3 :: Rooks
If my list of favorite albums of the past decade was compiled 2 or 3 years ago The Ghost Of Fashion would have found itself with a lofty perch high up on it. That it has recently fallen slightly out of favor as a whole doesn’t change my desire to recommend you do yourself a favor and check it out - the best songs here are some of my favorites of the decade. The Ghost of Fashion’s rousing folk songs are often augmented with a horn section, giving the album (especially highlights like “Let’s Explode” and “Moment In The Sun”) a grand, ambitious feel, while the drop-dead gorgeous “Joan Jett of Arc” succeeds brilliantly with a quietly intricate arrangement. Loosely tied together with themes of artificial beauty and superficiality, Eef Barzelay peaked as a songwriter here - never again did his lyrics so flawlessly balance the fine line between earnest declarations, humor, and biting sarcasm.
Featuring members of British Sea Power, Tenderfoot, and Electric Soft Parade, Brakes’ debut mixes thrashing punk rock, country and folk influences (including covers of Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” and The Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Sometimes Always”) and the band’s self-deprecating sense of humor. Give Blood is 16 songs in about 30 breathtaking minutes.
MP3 :: Heard About Your Band
Where Shall You Take Me? - Damien Jurado (2003)
In 2002, after a series of noteworthy lo-fi folk records for Sub Pop in the late 90’s- early 00’s, Damien Jurado took a left turn and recorded a blazing rock album called I Break Chairs. It was a startling departure, both for how unexpected it was as well as for how natural he sounded fronting a full-on rock outfit. Never one to let success dictate his career path however, Jurado decided to go to the other extreme on its follow up. Where Shall You Take Me? is a record steeped in the Americana tradition, with songs like “Abilene”, “Window”, and “I Can’t Get Over You” recalling traditional folk music as done by a forward-thinking modern artist. These gorgeous songs are mixed with dark, haunting ballads like “Amateur Night” and “Intoxicated Hands”, and even the muscular, open-highway rock of “Texas To Ohio” and the shuffling, tongue-in-cheek "Matinee", to create an album that runs between emotional extremes without ever sounding anything but cohesive.
MP3 :: Texas To Ohio
Slowcore artists Low have been making records since the early 90s, but they peaked in 2001 with Things We Lost In The Fire - their most beautiful and inviting collection of songs to date.
MP3 :: Sunflower