Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top Ten CD's

So, its that time of the decade. Everyone is making their best of the decade lists--best college football team, best films, etc. And while I'm tired of it, there is something wonderfully democratic about this exercise. It is an expression of judgement. No one gets to tell me what the best music is. I can have my own top ten list. They may not be the best--they're my favorites. And it was very hard to narrow down to ten--I have a lot of great new music from this decade. And so, because I have my own blog and because I can, here are my top cd's of the decade.

10. Elivs Costello--North. A criteria for this list is wanting to listen to the whole cd all the way through. And this one fits that bill. These are torch songs. Think Sinatra, not the Attractions. Elvis whispers sweet nothing in our ear in smooth arrangements, his voice just misshapen enough to give them some character. "Still" is one of my all-time favorite songs.

9. Bruce Springsteen--The Rising. A time like the aftermath of 9/11 is the perfect setting for someone like Springsteen. The cd has a weight to it, a consistency, born of the subject matter. Bruce's ties to both the rock and folk traditions provides the perfect sensibility here. Just enough anger and grief and introspection here without any Toby Keith idiocy. I like every song on this cd.

8. Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation--Mighty Rearranger. Again, I listen to this one straight through every time. Great music often combines genres in new ways. Here we have Delta Blues and middle eastern music brought together in a very satisfying way, and sung by one of the best rock vocalists ever. "Shine it All Around," "Dancing in Heaven," "Mighty Rearranger" all great songs.

7. Spoon--Gimme Fiction. Spoon is one of the real finds for me recently. I feel cooler than I should listening to Spoon. And its hard for me to pick between Ga ga ga ga ga, or Gimme Fiction. Gimme Fiction gets the nod for one of my favorite songs, "The Delicate Place." Everyday should have a little Spoon.

6. Ben Harper--Both Sides of the Gun. I saw Harper perform "Better Way" on Letterman and knew I had to have this cd. Harper has great range, and its all on display here. You've got protest music like "Better Way," and beautiful love songs like "Happy Everafter in Your Eyes." All of it makes you want to dance (if a person were inclined that way), and most of it makes you chuckle a little.

5. Wilco-Sky, Blue Sky. Don't skip any songs on this cd. Jeff Tweedy is genius. I'm never embarrassed by a Tweedy lyric, and the "middle eight" in a Wilco song is nearly always a revelation--not the way you expected the song to go, e.g. "Hate it Here." Lyrics, vocals, guitars. Great.

4. Johnny Cash--American IV. What an amazing, amazing thing the American series is. Rick Rubin, who produced these Cash sessions, provided the perfect setting for Cash's wise and weary voice. You don't want to hear Cash sing everything he does on these albums (Bridge Over Troubled Water), but there are classics here, especially among the covers. American IV features the original, "The Man Comes Around," and the great cover "Hurt."

3. Bob Dylan--Modern Times. I hear all of Dylan through Time Out of Mind, Modern Times,and Love and Theft. TOoM came out in the 90's so is eliminated that way. Modern Times gets the nod because its a little darker, the songs featuring Dylan's "fearsome wheeze" a little better. "Spirit on the Water," "When the Deal Goes Down," "Workingman's Blues #2," "The Levee's Gonna Break." Great songs. Plus, Time Out of Mind came with four videos, "Things Have Changed" being my favorite.

2. Brandi Carlile--The Story. I was listening to Brandi the other day and my son asked, "who is this? She's good." Another find of the decade. Great, great voice, and great songs. It's tough to choose between her last two albums (Give Up the Ghost came out a few months ago), but The Story gets the nod because of when it came along in my life. I found the chords to Turpentine the other night and like many Brandi songs, simple structure, easy to play, beautiful melody.

1. U2--All That You Can't Leave Behind. The first cd I bought this decade was my favorite. I knew with the first listen that this was a great cd (it usually takes me a few times through). I still listen all the way through. It holds up great and my favorite song changes from time to time. At first it was "Stuck in a Moment," then "Kite," then "Beautiful Day," then "In a Little While." I had fallen away from listening to music for awhile. This cd brought me back. Seeing them a few months ago in Chicago kind of frames the decade in music perfectly.

There are a lot of honorable mentions: The Raconteurs, Tom Petty, Black Rebel Motorcyle Club, My Morning Jacket, Lucinda Williams, Tyrone Wells, Pearl Jam, The Black Keys, Radiohead, Jet, Green Day, Kings of Leon. And ten years from now, I might still be listening to these and have let some of the above drift down a notch or two. But I like this list a lot. I hope the new decade brings as interesting a mix as this.

1 comment:

happytheman said...

I've been struggling with a top 10 this year not sure their were 10 albums I liked. I'll have to spend some time on it this week and see what come up.