Pittsburgh Union of Record Geeks electronic

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lou's Top 40 of the Decade, Part 1

Here's the first in a two-part series listing my top albums of the 2000's. If you don't have these yet, it's about time you get them.

21.) Ladyhawk (Jagjaguwar, 2006)

Catchy pop songs and dread-filled dirges alike are infused with raw emotion, captivating hooks, and engaging lyrical turns of phrase on this Vancouver band’s debut. "The Dugout" manages to recall both KISS and Pavement in the space of one monstrous hook.

22.) Iron & Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle (Sub Pop, 2002)

Sam Beam’s early releases (this centerpiece, along with a preceding single and subsequent ep) exuded authentic, homespun bliss that was truly refreshing at the time. Sadly, his work since is suited only to precocious high schoolers.

23.) Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Ease Down the Road (Palace, 2001)

Will Oldham made his first truly great record in a while here, with a more intimate and polished sound that he would continue to cultivate to great effect as the decade went on. The strength of this album is somewhat confirmed by several tracks—like “A King at Night,” “Just To See My Holly Home,” and the title track—remaining live favorites.

24.) The Anomoanon – Asleep Many Years In the Wood (Temporary Residence, 2002)

Will Oldham’s older brother, Ned, has quietly built a catalogue of brilliant, though too infrequent, releases under this moniker that nearly ensures he remains anonymous. With a sweeter voice and more straightforward songwriting approach than his aberrant brother, his heartfelt and often fun indie-folk has been at times just as essential.

25.) Ben Kweller (ATO, 2006)

Kweller probably chose to make his third lp eponymous since he performed the entire thing all on his lonesome, but it could also be because it represents the culmination of his highly encouraging first two records. This is chock full of perfect pop of both the jubilant and heartrending varieties that stands up to the best of any era. Country-centric 2009 follow-up Changing Horses only reinforced that this should be a talent to be reckoned with in the next decade, as well.

26. & 27.) Langhorne Slim & The War Eagles (Kemado, 2008) and Be Set Free (Kemado, 2009)

With three strong releases in quick succession to kick off his recording career, this engaging, energetic troubadour established himself especially on these two—his second and third—as a top quality and highly distinctive songwriter and vocalist who brings an almost indescribable uplifting quality to all but his most despairing tunes—and these he turns on their head to make them among the saddest you’ve ever heard. Another young talent to whom we hopefully will be giving plaudits for a long time to come.

28. & 29.) The Thermals – More Parts Per Million (Sub Pop, 2003) and Fuckin A (Sub Pop, 2004)

It sometimes seems to me that nothing is more lacking in rock music nowadays than the ROCK, but The Thermals brought it in spades on their first two releases. More Parts was nothing short of revelatory in its rawness and abandon. And while its follow-up didn’t get the indie chic plaudits, maybe due to its slightly cleaner production, it infuses more melody while maintaining the same intensity and contains the crushingly great “A Stare Like Yours.” Sadly, the two albums they have made since bear little resemblance to these energy-packed platters.

30.) Patrick Park – Loneliness Knows My Name (Hollywood, 2003)

This singer-songwriter crafted a beautiful and seamless hybrid of roots and baroque pop on his full length debut that lacks nothing in melody or emotion. While the 2007 follow-up Everyone’s In Everyone didn’t quite stack up, let’s hope for a return to form on an anticipated Spring 2010 release.

31.) Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers – Songs In the Night (Ramseur, 2009)

A genius breakout that shows true promise for even greater things.

32. & 33.) Great Lake Swimmers – Ongiara (Nettwerk, 2007) and Lost Channels (Nettwerk, 2009)

Tony Dekker’s third and fourth releases show him progressively breaking away from his extremely subdued early records to become a deeply expressive singer-songwriter and head of a charming backing group brilliantly and tastefully melding traditional and rock instrumentation.

34. – 36.) Fruit Bats – Echolocation (Perishable, 2001), Mouthfuls (Sub Pop, 2003) and The Ruminant Band (Sub Pop, 2009)

Eric D. Johnson is one of the most engaging pop songwriters and singers of really any era and put together a remarkable string of records across the decade (with 2005’s Spelled in Bones not quite rising to the level of these three), all rife with simplistic but clever tunes.

37.) Matt Suggs – Amigo Row (Merge, 2003)

The former Butterglory and future White Whale member made his second solo outing a tour de force, strongly invoking Ray Davies both vocally and in the depth he brings to a pop song, while “The Unbelievers Waltz” is worthy of Gram Parsons’ most powerful and heartbreaking work.

38.) Canyon – Empty Rooms (Gern Blandsten, 2002)

From what I recall, this record picked up some indie buzz at the time, but it would be this D.C. band’s last other than a posthumous live set. Which is a real tragedy, as they cultivated a truly unique mélange of frontman Brandon Butler’s rootsy tunes and Appalachian whine with whirling psych guitars and keys. “Other Shore,” in particular, is a powerful testament.

39. & 40.) Neil Young – Living With War (Reprise, 2006) and Fork In the Road (Reprise, 2009)

This decade ended up being Neil’s strongest since his nearly incomparable ‘70s output, notwithstanding some flat-out embarrassments when he seemed to try a bit too hard to rekindle the old magic (think Prairie Wind). When he goes the “just rock the fuck out/stream of consciousness” route is when Young is still a force, and he blazed this trail beginning with 2003’s Greendale before continuing on to these progressively stronger releases in the same socially conscious, musically reckless vein. Long live Neil!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to be a bum, but, do you have a link to download that matt suggs record.

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


hey bum...

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey - I am impressed with this list and am gonna check a bunch of these out. But, this line about Sam Beam got me "Sadly, his work since is suited only to precocious high schoolers." I just wondered if you could expand a little bit on that thought so that I can see where you are coming from. Thanks

11:08 AM  

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