Okay, Friends. I’m definitely one who is prone to year-decade-etc in review. My journals are full of them. There are Lists Aplenty this year, being the end of a decade (and please don’t tell me the new decade actually starts in 2011, for real.) So far, the only List I’ve been feeling is a Musical one. So, here are the Albums of My Decade! It’s pretty different from Rolling Stone Mag’s list–no Coldplay found here, yo.
There are a few “rules” to keep me sane. First, these are albums I acquired myself (purchased CD’s and those received as gift, iTunes and other downloads, etc.) Maybe a couple that Ernie picked up that I “borrowed.” Other albums were in my sphere, but I need to focus, people! There have also been individual songs that made my decade (including those found on mix CD’s from Ernie), but I’m sticking to albums. Though I may break this rule. We’ll see…. I’m listing the albums by year of release, which for the most part is when I acquired them/they entrenched into my soul, but there are a few instances when I got into them later. I don’t include Greatest Hits and other compilations (though The Jesus & Mary Chain’s 21 Singles, Pat Benatar’s Greatest Hits and The Cure’s Join the Dots box set would apply), or albums from decades past that I acquired in the last (say, that Chet Baker With Stings album I love or when I finally got around to picking up R.E.M’s Up album.)
This list isn’t exactly always hip. I’ve gotten less hip as the decade’s progressed, but oh well. I’m not a ravenous music consumer. There’s stuff out there I love but don’t have. I like what I like and buy what I buy, so there you go.
A couple albums that crossed the Decade Threshold for me….
Dido ~ No Angel. She tied me over between Sarah McLachlan albums, but also proved amazing on her own. Beautifully angelic turn-of-the-century dream chill pop. This album got me through many sleepy Amtrak trips home.
Lucy Kaplansky ~ Ten Year Night. Discovered via Dar Williams, this was my first Lucy album purchased before seeing her with Dar and John Gorka in the summer of 1999. Beautiful folk music (or “chick with guitar” music as Ernie calls it) riding the line between singer-songwriter and country (and hanging out on the side I prefer.) This album = futzing around the kitchen of my Barry Street apartment, either on my own or with my roomie, Sarah.
Barenaked Ladies ~ Maroon. This is actually the only BNL studio album I own. “Pinch Me” and “Falling for the First Time” would be on my list of Favorite Songs Ever. I just made you say ‘underwear.’
Bon Jovi ~ Crush. The best Bon Jovi of the decade by far! Rocking comeback after 5 years off. This album for me was high school meets 20-something. Well written and still has some grit. The next two albums didn’t quite measure up, and I haven’t gotten around to picking up the last two. I’ll always have “It’s My Life.”
The Cure ~ Bloodflowers. Much anticipated post-Wild Mood Swings album! We were promised a return to the darkness of Disintegration (which is sacred ground itself and hard to compare the new album to after a decade plus of listening). Not an album for the casual Cure fan or faint-at-heart, but still beautiful and agonizing and one I’ll listen to in full every once in a while. That summer’s Dream Tour saw me at two AMAZING shows, especially 2nd row in Detroit, where my buddy Chris were totally 17 again.
David Gray ~ White Ladder. I mean, “Babylon” come on! And “This Year’s Love” and “Please Forgive Me,” Bliss. It’s folk, it’s electric, he’s Welsh, what is this?! I sometimes wonder if it has held up over the years. Sarah and I had this on constant rotation. Joined Dido on the train.
Madonna ~ Music. It makes the people come together. Yeah. Not as brilliant as Ray of Light, but a hell of a ride. The cowgirl thing worked for me. The “Don’t Tell Me” video is still playing in the Roscoe’s front bar TV screen in my mind. Saw the Drowned World Tour the following year in her home town (or home state at least). I managed to avoid knowing the set list ahead of time, so it was all new to me.
Carrie Newcomer ~ Age of Possibility. Another folk find of mine along the way. Soulful, earthy, storytelling. Saw her opening for Lucy and on her own at Shuba’s. This and her next album were living alone in my studio on Aldine with a boyfriend around the corner. “This Too Will Pass” was later put on a tribute CD for my mom.
Anthony Rapp ~ Look Around. My favorite RENT cast member solo album. “Just Some Guy” would make it onto the earliest of mix tapes for Ernie (yeah, I was still doing tapes at this point…) Saw him perform many of these songs live with his band at Halsted Market Days. Got to meet him. Then he performed solo at Un-Common Ground. Awesome.
Dar Williams ~ The Green World. Dar did kind of become my post-Sarah M. female singer-songwriter obsession. And holds that title today. “After All” is an all time Dar fave. I’ll always associate the opening drums and notes of “Playing to the Firmament” with my week-after-9/11 breakdown with my dear MK. I saw her live this tour for my 3rd time–and first time with a full band. I went with a friend from the bars, Dan, I think. I grabbed the journal I thought this concert entry might be in, but then got sucked into reading lots of other things, and finally set it aside. Not sure how much of 2000 I want to relive. Anyway, still love this album!
Band of Brothers ~ Score/Soundtrack. This music didn’t take over my soul until 2006 when I finally got around to seeing the film when I borrowed my brother’s DVD’s. Now, it’s my most played single album I own according to iTunes and Last.fm. Beautiful! The late Michael Kamen’s score with a dash of Beethoven plus all the film images they conjure, yeah, that’s it.
Lucy Kaplansky ~ Every Single Day. Another solid offering from Lucy! My favorite of hers this decade (released on 9-11!). I did pick up her next one, The Red Thread, and there’s another one I don’t have. But this and Ten Year mean the most to me. “Written on the Back of His Hand” and “Broken Things” are highlights. I also took a trip home and took my brother, Steve, to her concert at The Ark in Ann Arbor. That was a pretty awesome night. We met her afterward (though I’d met her a couple times), but Steve hadn’t. We now both have signed copies.
John Mayer ~ Room For Squares. Probably my fave of the year! He’s kind of a folky guy, but more rock. I was needing that. And so young, so innocent, SO not dating Jessica Simpson. “No Such Thing” “3×5” and “Love Song for No One” = Joy. Favorite Songs Ever for sure.
R.E.M. ~ Reveal. Big time R.E.M. fan here. Not their best of the decade, but still a good one. My fave track: “She Just Wants to Be.”
Norah Jones ~ Come Away with Me. It’s jazz, it’s pop, it’s amazing! I was seduced along with everyone else to “Don’t Know Why.” The title track makes me wish I could actually sing. I’ve liked her stuff since, but this is one that matters most to me.
Ben Kweller ~ Sha Sha. Picked up this debut after his 2nd album came out. This may even surpass that one. “In Other Words” is a Fave Song Ever.
Last Five Years ~ Cast Recording. Jason Robert Brown’s delicious off Broadway musical/song cycle about a couple’s five years together–she sings backwards in time and he sings forward and they meet in the middle. An actor and a writer trying to make it work. Before acquiring the whole CD myself, Ernie put “If I Didn’t Believe In You” on a mix CD for me, and it still drives me (and probably him too) to near sobs. “Summer In Ohio” rules.
Kylie Minogue ~ Fever. Hey, it’s that chick who had that “Locomotion” song when I was in 9th grade! Wait, I’m gay now and she’s a dance-pop diva. It’s infectious pop perfection in an time when I thought I was somewhat less prone to the latest hot dance track (read: I’m not single any more and not at Roscoe’s as much). I just can’t get you out of my head! This one never made it into my iTunes for some reason. Importing now! (Sidebar: I love how she’s my friend CMT’s guilty pleasure!)
Carrie Newcomer ~ Gathering of Spirits. Along with her previous album, this is early decade folk at its best for me. “Holy is the Day is Spent” blends the spiritual, worldly, and every day life. The title track makes me think of all my friends. “I’ll Go Too” has gone on lullaby CD’s for friends and family.
Sarah McLachlan ~ Afterglow. Oh, Sarah. How I worshiped you in the ’90’s. How “Good Enough” saved my life. This, her only “real” album of the decade is still beautiful and spoke to me in a about-t0-be married-almost 30-something angsty kind of way, as opposed to a 20-something-college-kid angsty kind of way. “Push” and “Answer” say it all. Awaiting a new full length non-remix-live-greatest hits-Christmas album in the new decade….
Jason Mraz ~ Waiting for My Rocket to Come. So begins my love affair with Mr. A-Z. No, we didn’t follow his rise on the indie coffee house scene, and to those old fans, we’re all posers (and maybe some of the BRAND new fans are posers to me), but Ernie and I saw the video for “You and I Both” and were hooked. “On Love, In Sadness” is a Fave Song Ever. A deserted island album for sure.
Dar Williams ~ The Beauty of the Rain. Is how it falls, how it falls…. Another beautiful, if not as epic than The Green World, album from Dar. This album is winter into spring and the first sighting of boys-showing-skin, wearing- shorts-jogging along the lakefront.
Elefant ~ Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid. Okay, I love these guys. First heard them when a manager at work played this album while we finished our late night side work. Bass heavy, dancey, groovy, and melodic. The American singer sounds British–love his voice. With that, I think this is the band that wanted to be The Killers for me before Brandon Flowers and Company broke. Good walking around the City music. I’ll give an Honorable Mention to their 2nd and only other album, The Black Magic Show (2006), which is a little more–psychedelic, but still bouncy. “Uh Oh Hello” is a Fave Song Ever. I think I need to have an Elefant listening party.
The Cure ~ The Cure. This is what I wrote in ’04: I love the new album. It grows on me more and more. But I don’t listen to it with the heart of 17-year-old anymore. There are plenty of actual 17-year- olds to do that. This is their time, I guess. I listen as someone who loves their music, who gets goofy over a crafty Cure pop song and who dives head on into the sonic epics (I LOVE “The Promise”!!!) Someone who hears a familiar strain in a new song (that riff in “Fake” gets me every time) and can celebrate the past 15 years of life and listening to their music. Someone who listens to “Taking Off” and thinks about my annoying waiter job but knows that I now have a wonderful partner in life who makes all the bullshit not matter, who rubs my feet and cracks my back and pours the wine. Someone who’s about to turn 30 and maybe isn’t as “Lost” as he once was, but damned if I don’t know what Robert is whaling about.
Green Day ~ American Idiot. Some times things just really work out. Time, mood, needs, talent, energy, etc. all come together. And the creation of the album has an interesting story. This was another rock album that I think we all kinda needed. I know I was fed up with the country, especially goings on in the White House and that year’s election and all. The music is loud and aggressive (with softer moments of course) and the storytelling epic. I love Billy’s voice and the harmonies with the band. Thanks, guys!
Patty Griffin ~ Impossible Dream. This was the first album of hers I picked up since her debut, Living With Ghosts (1996), and I absolutely love it. Another train CD, it’s a genre blender that comes out pure Americana. The piano ballads, “Kite Song” and “Mother of God” transform me, as do “Rowing Song” and “Useless Desires”.
The Killers ~ Hot Fuss. Yay, a NEW band that made me feel young again! And a rock star crush to rival Billie Joe Armstrong (which started with Dookie and was revived with American Idiot.) This is where Rolling Stone and I actually agree! That opening bass riff was enough to get a lot of us going. This is warm weather walks along the lake and music to get me home from my lunch shifts. Love all their stuff, but this is the best.
Ben Kweller ~ On My Way. This was a total impulse buy at the Virgin Music Megastore (R.I.P.) one day before or after work. They had listening stations for new releases and this CD was a part of all that. Love his piano heavy Texas singed rock bordering on alt-country. And his voice. I’ve found I’m picky about male singer’s voices. “Living Life” and “Believer” immediately made it onto a mix CD (yes, I eventually graduated) for Ernie.
R.E.M. ~ Around the Sun. Funny thing is, I didn’t even know this was coming out until I saw it on the shelves at Virgin! I know Stipe and Company would rather forget about this one. All the press surrounding Accelerate referred to this one as just The Last Album, but that’s so not fair! I remember hearing that this was basically a glorified Michael Stipe singer-songwriter solo album. But okay, admission: That’s kinda what I love about this one. I love the stripped down reflective nature of it. It’s wandering around on a Fall day, and is still the one most entrenched in my soul since Automatic for the People. “Leaving New York” “Make it Okay” and “I Wanted to Be Wrong” are faves.
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That does it for Part 1. Stay tuned for the rest of the decade, plus more Honorable Mentions, and maybe an individual song or two….