Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top 30 of the Decade: 10-1

10. THE NATIONAL – Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
This is the album where the National really established their sound. It begins with the brooding Cardinal Song, then moves into more upbeat tracks like Slipping Husband, before letting rip on highpoint Available where the guitars are turned up and singer Matt Berninger is reduced to screaming at the end of the song.

9. INTERPOL – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
Yes, it’s heavily influenced by Joy Division and late 70s/early 80s bands. But the band just get it so right. A lot of it is quite atmospheric (Untitled, Hands Away, Leif Erikson) but it also contains its fair share of anthems like Obstacle #1 and PDA. They tried for the rest of the decade to live up to this but didn’t quite manage it.

8. THE NATIONAL – Alligator (2005)
A great progression from Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, the album is full of great songs like Karen, Lit Up and emotional songs like The Geese of Beverley Road. Most of the songs are downtempo, dominated by Matt Berninger’s baritone but also featuring great guitar work. You either buy into this or you don’t. It’s essentially a drinking album for those of us with a past…

7. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – Songs for the Deaf (2002)
A chaotic collection of metal, hard rock and heavy blues. It’s driven by Josh Homme but there’s a great mix of his songs and others sung by Mark Lanegan and screamed by Nick Olivieri. The songs are punctuated by snatches of radio which can be a little annoying, but at it’s best it’s driving rock that demands to be listened to.

6. EDDIE VEDDER – Into the Wild OST (2007)
On a personal level, this is the album I’ve been waiting for some time. I’ve always felt that Eddie Vedder had a way with a slow song and in my opinion he delivers them with pathos, along the lines of Bruce Springsteen. I’d love to hear Vedder’s version of Springsteen’s Nebraska album. While this is not the most varied collection it perfectly invokes Jon Krakauer’s novel.

5. SONIC YOUTH – Rather Ripped (2006)
This is the album where Sonic Youth left noise behind and turned in an album full of really good songs. Even Kim Gordon was somewhat tamed on this album which turns the noise down but the guitars up. The album is just great song after great song, many of which I feel justified in calling anthems.

4. RYAN ADAMS – Love Is Hell (2003)
On this album Ryan Adams largely left alt-country behind and recorded album of rainy day mid-tempo downbeat anthems, drawing on The Smiths, Radiohead, Lloyd Cole and even Prince. Lost Highway did their best to sabotage it – they didn’t feel it had commercial appeal so they asked him to try again (he came back with Rock N Roll, possibly his weakest effort) and released Love Is Hell is 2 separate EPs. However a few months later the released it ‘as the artist originally’ intended, as one album. It hangs together well as an album, apart from his stripped down version of Oasis’ Wonderwall, a series of slightly mopey songs for those days when your nerve endings are a little frayed.

3. SUN KIL MOON – April (2008)
A great return to form for Mark Kozelek, who had got bogged down earlier in the decade with cover albums. This one is a great mix of acoustic guitar led ballads ie Lucky Man, Unlit Hallway, which features a nice touch of banjo and the beautiful Blue Orchids; and electric guitar workouts, the best of which being the 10 minute long Tonight the Sky which is very self-indulgent but also very good. It won’t convert a new generation of fans, but it definitely pleased this loyal fan.

2. THE NATIONAL – Boxer (2007)
The first thing that struck me with this album is they appear to have made the musical arrangements more complex. Everything from the guitar, bass, piano, drums and the brass featured on the album avoids the obvious route which works to the benefit of the songs. It’s not a huge departure from Alligator but the songs are exceptionally strong. Of the faster ones, Mistaken for Strangers, Brainy and Slow Show are very strong but the heart of the album for me is the last 4 tracks, which are mostly slow.

1. MARK LANEGAN BAND – Bubblegum (2004)
Lanegan probably had the most diverse career of the decade, with a plethora of collaborations, but this album showed his talents to the full. His great strength is that wonderful deep, gravelly voice, which dominates any of his songs. What was great about Bubblegum is it signalled a departure from previous solo albums, which are all kind of blues-folk in nature. This album also had some ‘blues-folk’ but mixed it up with some heavier tracks and also featured samples and electronics. It was as if the collaborative work he had been doing rubbed off. Some of the highlights are: Hit the City, a driving duet with PJ Harvey, the slinky Wedding Dress and emotional highlight One Hundred Days.