(Happy Decemberween, noderkin: I tossed together a Whitman's Sampler of 20 songs plucked from the albums mentioned below, and you can download it right here. Share & enjoy.)
One of the things my dad sent me for my birthday last week was a double-CD of two Dave Mason LPs: It's Like You Never Left from '74 and his self-titled follow-up album, Dave Mason. These were a couple of my father's top-ten albums from that era, back when his life mirrored mine in a lot of ways. (Like me, my mom & dad left Michigan in their mid-twenties and moved to a laidback Cascadian college town-- Corvallis OR, in their case-- to go back to basics and enjoy a hippie lifestyle. Yes, this is basically where I got the idea.)
It got me thinking about what I'd choose as my top albums of this decade, the 2000s.
Furthermore, if you still haven't heard: I broke up with my girlfriend Jet last Saturday and-- although I'm still content with the decision and hope that Jet & I can still salvage a friendship-- it's thrown a ratchet into my brainpan that's been rattling around all week. For any serious topic, it has made it hard to introspect farther back in time than the last few weeks and months, what I should have said and done differently, etc. So-- in true Rob Fleming fashion-- talking about music seems like a nice diversion.
And thirdly, I enjoy making lists. A lot. To an embarrassing extent.
10 years, 20 albums. Make it so.
preamble 1: My first thought was to rank these as a proper top-twenty and count them down, until I realized that ordering them chronologically amounted to nearly the same result. In other words: Albums that are still in heavy rotation in my headphones after 8 or 9 years are-- not surprisingly-- the ones that I tended to rank the highest. So I'll just arrange the list by year.
preamble 2: I decided to only include albums that were released this decade (i.e. after January 1, 2000), since a list of my 20 most-played albums of the 2000s would top out with the first four Belle & Sebastian albums, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and the entire Beatles catalog. I also went through a period in 2006-2007 where my snowboarding soundtrack was nothing but The Fugees and Lee Scratch Perry on permanent loop. etc. Choosing 20 albums is hard enough without having to sum up the entire history of music here.
* Far, by Regina Spektor
I'd been predicting since mid-June that this would be my top album of 2009, and sure enough.
* 3-WAY TIE: albums by local Bellingham bands that you've never heard of, but yet are better than most anything released on a major label that year =
All of My Friends Are Good People, by Go Slowpoke
Take This and Go, by Jenni Potts
New Ocean Waves, by Your Heart Breaks
These three, plus I Love You Avalanche-- aka Anna Arvan, another B'hamster who plays in a half-dozen groups (including Go Slowpoke) yet shockingly has never released an album-- really grabbed my attention in the summer of 2008 and made me realize that Bellingham has a local music scene worth listening to... and more generally, made me realize that most of the truly good music in the world is made in bars and basements, not music studios.
* 3-WAY TIE: some particularly awesome mix CDs =
Horace Phair 6 by flamingweasel, icicle & ouroboros
Audiovisceral Club 1&2 by dann and indigoe
Indieboy Heartbreaker by chaotic_poet
I debated whether to include mix CDs on this list, but truth is I love love love mixes and I tend to reach for them a lot. So if you mailed or handed me a mix at some point this decade, it's a safe bet that I've listened to it at least as many times as each of the other albums on here.
Special mention needed to go out to three, though, for containing a dangerously pressurized quantity of awesome-sauce and being my first intro to several excellent acts.
(technically Robbie gave me Indieboy Heartbreaker in 2007 but whatev, it fits here better.)
* Faces in the Rocks, by Mariee Sioux
* Romance Conflict Adventure, by Best Friends Forever
2007 was the year I moved from my ski lodge in the Cascades back to Metamora for the summer, then I moved (to stay) in Bellingham that fall. Mariee Sioux is beautiful, mysterious, sublime Native-American-inflected folk music from the Pacific Northwest. Best Friends Forever is happy, happy, happy two-girls-and-some-drums pop music from Minnesota. I'd be hard-pressed to locate a better soundtrack for summer in the Midwest and winter in Cascadia.
The rest of these records are (slightly) less obscure, so I'll slim down the commentary.
* The Body, The Blood, The Machine by The Thermals
* Gulag Orkestar, by Beirut
* The Woman King EP, by Iron & Wine
The only EP on the list, but I'd pick these 6 songs over anything else in the Sam Beam songbook.
* Illinois, by Sufjan Stevens
* Picaresque, by The Decemberists
* Sanctuary, by Charlie Musselwhite
Given to me by an old co-worker of mine, "Barnacle" Bob Baker, an Alaskan deep-sea fisherman turned I.T. guy that I used to work with at the college. He knew I liked Jack White and Kurt Cobain, so one day he dropped some real blues on me. 2004 was the year I moved into my first apartment, and songs like "Homeless Child" and "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield" packed (and still pack) a lot of wallop.
* Her Majesty, The Decemberists
* (), by Sigur Rós
* White Blood Cells, by The White Stripes
* Space Lullabies and Other Fantasmagore, by Ekova
Ekova is Afro-Parisienne electronic/worldbeat something something something fusion... Probably the first truly strange album I'd ever sought out and purchased (at age 19) and it's left a big impression. This album and another, similar disc (Bothy Culture by Irish musician Martyn Bennett, which I'd discovered via dad) opened up a massive new sonic landscape for me.
* De Stijl, The White Stripes
This album came out literally a week after I graduated high school, although I wasn't cool enough to know it at the time. (Like most everyone else, I'd only found out about the Stripes after White Blood Cells hit Top 40 and Jack & Meg became kind of a big deal.) Of all the albums on this list, De Stijl is the one that I can see myself still raving about 30 years hence. It deserves a spot in the rock-gods' canon, somewhere between Led Zeppelin IV and Electric Ladyland.
Hell, De Stijl would also make my desert island top-five, next to The White Album and Tigermilk, but that list would be another long excursion all together.