Halfway there! Welcome to the middle of The Rawking Refuses To Stop!’s countdown of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade. To start from the beginning, click below:
100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1
#s 60-41 after the jump!
60. Joanna Newsom – Ys
10-minute songs. An original folktale about a doomed romance between a monkey and bear. Played on a harp. A mission impossible? To the uninitiated, perhaps. But Joanna Newsom, her sore thumb of a voice ever a target for those who’d rather listen to fucking Death Cab for Cutie or whatever, authored perhaps the decade’s most ambitious release with Ys, assisted by the able hands of Van Dyke “Smile” Parks, Jim “Wilco, Sonic Youth, and Insignificance” O’Rourke and Steve “Every good rock album” Albini. And beyond all that, it’s just so goddamn pretty.
59. Andrew Bird – & The Mysterious Production of Eggs
Easily one of the decade’s most intriguing artists, Bird’s Eggs is a world unto itself. From the opening violin crescendoes and high, lonesome whistle — his trademarks — it emerges with wry confidence and purpose, a post-modernist’s answer to Sgt. Pepper’s. Bird is at times too clever for his own good (“Mx Missles”), but for the part, his wordplay hits its targets as forcefully as his elegant musicianship.
>> “Sovay”: mp3
58. Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic
Without a doubt, the saddest album of the decade, and not for its exuberant sound. Three of the quartet’s four members were killed in a tragic car accident within months of their debut’s release, punctuating Guitar Romantic with an awful exclamation mark. Nevertheless, they birthed an album that still sounds heartbreakingly vital. The back-to-lo-fi garage movement of the last few years wouldn’t exist without this record, and as is, even the best of the shitgaze scene (Times New Viking, No Age) pale in comparison to this album’s effortless power-pop. Recorded at speaker-breaking volume levels, the fuzz fires up a set of ballsy Buddy Holly riffers built on rock-solid hooks. Play it loud and pour one out.
>> “Rumours In Town”: mp3
57. David Gray – White Ladder
The ’90s and ’00s are littered with failures of Van Morrison followers, from the Counting Crows to that asshole who sang “Bad Day.” David Gray is not an asshole. While “Babylon” was the surprise hit, the whole record is a post-Van, pre-Once ode to the redeeming power of love, booze and acoustic guitars. And with its electronic accents, also the male answer to Beth Orton’s wondrous Central Reservation. (Aside: Somebody, not me, really needs to write something about Merriweather Post Pavillion-as-folktronica-vindication.)
56. The Decemberists – Her Majesty, The Decemberists
Song for song, sophomore album Her Majesty is on par with debut Castaways and Cutouts, but the royal follow-up gets the edge here thanks to better production, a tighter tracklist and a total lack of shame from folk-pop’s most bookish band. Colin Meloy sings about soldiers, chimbley sweeps and gymnasts, disses Los Angeles and proclaims his touched-by-God stardom with nary a wink or a nod. Just an unspoken invite to sing along.
>> “Los Angeles, I’m Yours”: mp3
55. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
This was the record that introduced me to the rock ‘n’ roll glory that is the Hold Steady, so it’s the one that makes this list. In short: Springsteen anthems built for stadiums sung self-awarely for kids in clubs. If they were a lesser band, they’d be on KROQ, but they’re far too smart (and too joyful) for that. “Lord, I’m Discouraged” is indie rock’s “November Rain.” Feel that shit on your skin, Natasha Bedingfield.
54. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours
Ah, the rare ’00s album-that-sounds-like-an-album. Easily the best record of 2008, Cut Copy’s sophomore record is a feast of beats — but its searing guitar tones and impassioned vocals are more indie rock than the bloghouse set (LOL so hard at bloghouse btw) would like to admit. Even at its most grooving, the songs are suffused with bliss-out synths and distortion, shifting from track to track with the sureness of a master DJ — or, y’know, Radiohead. Anthems for a dance floor utopia that never arrived.
>> “Unforgettable Season”: mp3
53. Rogue Wave – Out of the Shadow
Kitchen sink lo-fi, delicate folk, barnstorming guitar jams. Rogue Wave’s debut knocks it out of the park; if the Shins got there first, well, nothing wrong with some company.
>> “Every Moment”: mp3
52. Constantines – Shine a Light
Say it with me: This fucking record. At their best, nobody was as awe-inspiring and charismatic as the Constantines in their prime, a band who put on the single best performance I saw at All Tomorrow’s Parties 2004 — at 1 in the afternoon. It’s all there in songs such as “Young Lions,” a Bruce-meets-Sonic Youth epic that taps into rock ‘n’ roll’s primordial ooze with the rippling strength of men on fire.
>> “Young Lions”: mp3
51. The One AM Radio – A Name Writ In Water
Going through this list, one can trace the trail of my taste — and my appreciation/tolerance for electronica. Drum machines and acoustic guitars kiss gently on The One AM Radio’s best album, a haunting piece of work that hints at the fuzzier stuff I’d go on to embrace so wholeheartedly later in the decade (see No. 43), but is no less moving for its softer approach. The music is airy, but the lyrics sink with heavy mystery — like the lost “secret” of “Buried Below.” Dig deep.
>> “Buried Below”: mp3
50. Jens Lekman – Night Falls on Kortedala
This record may have saved my life. Or at least, I can say with confidence, my heart. I discovered Jens on a New York subway in the summer of 2007, hidden away on my iPod; weeks later, I dumped my college girlfriend, drank too much Spanish wine and hugged Jen’s freshly arrived tropical post-Bacharach masterpiece close to my chest. I’ve since seen him live three times in the last three years and completely revised my approach to songwriting — and girlfriends.
>> “The Opposite of Hallelujah”: mp3
49. Akron/Family – Akron/Family
Too many bands on this list lost the plot after their first record, as was the case with A-Fam, who descended into a hippie haze and never came out. But their debut remains a total wonder of an album, a fractured folk collection splintered by found sounds and bouts of hazy dissonance. A perfect match between experimentation and well-honed writing and one of the decade’s most masterful, satisfying entries into the genre.
>> “Running, Returning”: mp3
48. Chad VanGaalen – Infiniheart
Like Akron/Family, Calgarian musician/hermit/mind-boggler Chad VanGaalen combines offbeat sounds — he makes his own instruments — with familiar, charming craftsmanship. If his singer/songwriter sound wasn’t singular enough, his lyrics turn toward a subject seldom explored in rock vocals — science fiction (suck on that, sea shanties!). Songs like “Blood Machine” and “Clinically Dead” pulse with the dystopian dreamscapes of The Matrix or Philip K. Dick; worthy company, as is Neil Young, who shares Chad’s trembling falsetto.
47. Dave Matthews Band – The Lillywhite Sessions
A cautionary tale on working for a major label, no matter how much pull you think you have, the scrapped (Steve) Lillywhite Sessions became a ubiquitous burned CD in college kids’ Case Logic binders in 2000 thanks to the emergence of high-powered Internet, Napster, and the best songs of Dave Matthews’ career. (Accounts vacillate on whether the band dumped the material or the suits did. A mistake either way.) Say what you will about the guy (my defense of him is here), he wrestles with big issues here — God, mortality, alcoholism. Hardly the stuff of frat-boy anthems, even when it was brightened, and neutered, for release on the band’s Busted Stuff. The rest of the group is at its best here as well, especially on the 10-minute “Bartender” — an epic jam (with, yes, actual jamming) that lifts into something heavenly.
>> “JTR”: mp3
46. St. Vincent – Marry Me
This is a list made largely of debuts — few of them more fully formed than St. Vincent’s Marry Me. Alternately blistering noisy and sublimely pretty, it’s a hell of an introduction to one of the most compelling musical personalities of the last few years — and an artist who’s a sure thing for my 2019 best-of-decade list, too.
>> “Now. Now.”: mp3
45. Spoon – Girls Can Tell
Indeed they can. Cutting their sound down to its bare essentials on this record, Spoon borrowed from “Come Together” and Elvis Costello and turned bitter and cool for an album-length tell-off to true love. But it’s on “Anything You Want” that their true colors come out: “If there’s anything you want / come on back, ’cause it’s all still here.” Indeed it is.
44. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
A near-flawless look at indie rock’s softer side, the Shin’s murky, wordy pop stood head and shoulders above a bargain bin’s worth of winsome predecessors — high enough, for better or worse, to appear in an awful, zeitgeist-capturing Zach Braff movie and become a Life-Changing Band. On Oh, though, they’re still an awesome one.
>> “New Slang”: mp3
43. The Radio Dept. – Pet Grief
Deep, bleak, immersive — the Radio Dept.’s music plays like a borderline-suicidal Cut Copy, pasting electro programming and shoegaze guitars over could-be twee pop lyrics in tracks such as the uber-nerdy “The Worst Taste in Music.” When the music’s this good, though, you’d have to have the worst taste to ignore them — and as we’ve discussed, they’re easy enough to Learn to Love.
>> “The Worst Taste in Music”: mp3
42. Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway
Folk juggernaut Mark Kozelek, like Oldham, Callahan and others, has a catalog almost too daunting to dig into. Thank God for this record, then, a late-career assertion of all his strengths. His vocals have never sounded more pure and his airy guitar figures are as inspired (and gloriously Zeppelin-like) as ever. Dude will probably need an editor forever, but even with a 14-minute mid-album epic, Ghosts is as close to filler-free as he’s probably ever going to get.
>> “Glenn Tipton”: mp3
41. Maritime – We, The Vehicles
Out of the ashes of the Dismemberment Plan (R.I.P.) and the Promise Ring came this record, the second effort in a collaboration between D-Plan bassist Eric Axelson and PR frontman Davy Von Bohlen and drummer Dan Didier . Eric left the group soon after, but the brief marriage birthed a cherubic child. Crisp, bright and immaculately produced, Vehicles purrs like a new Audi. A whine-free love letter to the best parts of second-wave emo.
>> “Twins”: mp3
The Rawking Refuses To Stop!’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade:
100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1