Wowzino, this was really tough. This list is constantly changing, and I’ll probably end up being mightily embarrassed about it in a few years/months/days time.
I’ve decided to choose not only the records that I’ve listened to the most, but also the records which had the ‘Wow’ factor from the very first listen; things that blew me away when I first heard them, but that I didn’t necessarily go back to constantly.
It’s not a particularly groundbreaking list looking at it now. But can or should lists ever be groundbreaking? It’s a personal list, definitely, and I take comfort in the fact that only four or five people will ever read this anyway.
10 Friend Opportunity Deerhoof (2007)
I found myself giving every song on this album 5 stars on iTunes (apart from ‘Kidz Are So Small’ which is admittedly pretty irritating).
9 Blacklisted Neko Case (2002)
So, despite what I said in my last post, this is the Neko album of the decade for me, if we’re going by the criteria I outlined above. I can still remember how awe-inspiring it was to hear her voice for the first time.
8 Bitte Orca Dirty Projectors (2009)
Controversial choice! This only came out this year, obviously. But the first time I heard it I was completely blown away: the album sounded so familiar and yet so unprecedented. I can really only remember having that completely transformative kind of listening experience a few times before (hearing ‘Strangers’ by Portishead would be one of those moments actually, but that was the 90s!). Whatever, awesome band.
7 Ease Down The Road Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (2001)
Will Oldham’s best album of the decade (although I have a lot of time for The Letting Go too).
6 How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (2001)
My all time favourite band! Love this record, listened to it constantly while I was doing my Finals. Euros and John on Adam and Joe!
5 Medúlla Björk (2004)
When this album came out, I had never heard anything quite like it before. While I don’t listen to it a lot now, I will never forget how staggered/terrified I was by it on first listen!
Vespertine is also a beautiful record, and ‘Earth Intruders’ from Volta might just be my song of the decade.
4 Ys Joanna Newsom (2006)
Perhaps this is the choice that’s most likely to date, and it was interesting to note how this album was absent from a lot of end of decade lists. I can imagine Newsom is probably suffering a critical backlash in whatever corner of the internet these things are decided upon. And maybe we will look back on this album with the same kind of shudder that we look back at the more flowery offerings from 70s prog rock. Perhaps it’s this decade’s Six Wives of Henry VIII! But for me, right now, this album is just an incredible achievement which surprises me with every listen. Jim O’Rourke, who mixed the record, had no less than this to say about it:
At one moment during the mixing of this record, I said to Joanna, ‘I’ve got an idea for the ad for this record, just a picture of you, and above it says “Music” and below it says “is back”.’ And I really meant it, this record not only recalls, but is part of, why I loved music in the first place. Someone’s vision seen all the way through, sweat lost, brain racked, soul searched, and fingers calloused. I doubt we’ll hear anything as brilliant in a long, long time.
3 Time (The Revelator) Gillian Welch (2001)
Awesome. I can always spare 15 minutes to listen to ‘I Dream A Highway’.
2 April Sun Kil Moon (2008)
1 Ghosts of the Great Highway Sun Kil Moon (2003)
Kozelek steals the top two spots! I kind of have nothing to say about these albums except that they’ve enriched my life considerably. An amazing songwriter writing amazing songs.
Just as a kind of footnote I noticed that when Pitchfork listed their top 500 songs of the decade Sun Kil Moon’s ‘Carry Me Ohio’ came in at 462. That’s below ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay at 263. In what universe if ‘Yellow’ a better song than ‘Carry Me Ohio’? If anything highlights the complete preposterousness of lists that would be it.
I guess the reasoning behind it is that ‘Yellow’ has more ‘cultural significance’ in some way, and you can see that this kind of thinking is behind a lot of these end of decade write-ups. For example, the Guardian chose the Streets debut as their album of the decade because, ‘The two most important criteria for any self-respecting album-of-the-decade contender to meet are that it could not conceivably have been made in any other 10-year period, and that it should be impossible to imagine how that decade might have sounded without it.’ Which is all well and good, but why not choose an album because, I don’t know, it contains what you feel to be the best music of the decade on it? But then, I guess, if you go too far the other way you end up becoming Q magazine or something.
Anyway, what was my point? Ah yes, lists are stupid.
And I hope you enjoyed my list! See you in the 10s!