This post is number two in a series from Contrarian contributors, friends and associates.
Picking a small number of albums or artists from any decade of music is a difficult challenge. When the decade happens to correspond almost exactly to the period of your twenties, it is even more daunting. Much of the music of these past ten years has struck me as immediately interesting and forward-thinking, but has grown dull almost instantly. Here are a few that stuck with me:
Top Records of the Decade (in no order):
-Sigur Ros, Hvarf-Heim: This or ( ). Tough pick. This is the one I spent the most time with.
-Burial, Untrue: Without a doubt, and even with all the hype, the best electronic album of the decade. Dance music for the chronically depressed.
-Sam Baker, Pretty World: Sam Baker tells honest stories about realistic people, stories that bring every detail to tune in language so simple as not to risk misunderstanding. (Unfortunately, this record is not available for streaming. So you’ll just have to trust me.)
-Tim Hecker, Harmony in Ultraviolet: This is a record that reflects my view of the world: a tangled but lovely fuzz of unspecified origin.
-William Basinski, The Disintegration Loops I-IV: Volume I is the best, of course, but the whole series is worthy. A sort of conceptual sister to Alvin Lucier’s I am Sitting in a Room; this is far prettier.
-Radiohead, Kid A: I first heard this on Howard Stern’s show with my girlfriend in a tiny room in Brooklyn. Neither of us said a word for about half an hour after it was over. They’ve long lost their thrill, but there was a time when they were the best.
-Dirty Three, Whatever You Love, You Are: Pure bliss. (Also sadly not listenable online.)
-Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, No More Shall We Part: I know a lot of people my age who got into Leonard Cohen because of Nick Cave. I was the opposite. I got into Leonard Cohen through Pump Up the Volume, and people told me to check out Nick Cave. Maybe it’s ‘cause I was too young to be into him in the wild days, but I’ll take this record for the pinnacle of his career. It is a perfect portrait of a man in love, but he is a man who finds himself still haunted by the demons of the past. (Just about every other Nick Cave album is available to stream at Lala, but for some reason, not this one.)
-Josh Ritter, The Animal Years: Another great folk record. Ritter is the best young songwriter around. My choice could easily have been his most recent album, The Historical Conquests Of…
-Six Organs of Admittance, Compathia: Ben Chasny is certainly one of the more interesting musical personas of the decade. He ruled the underground in the middle of the decade, splitting his time between Six Organs, Comets on Fire, Badgerlore, Current 93, Basalt Fingers and August Born.
BEST REISSUE: John Phillips, John Phillips (aka John, Wolfking of LA): Among the greatest albums I have ever heard. A perfect portrait of late Sixties California.
BEST MUSICAL DISCOVERY OF THE DECADE: Townes Van Zandt: Where would I be without Townes? Having been introduced by my uncle in the early days of the decade, I have spent much of the last ten years listening over and over again to the incredible body of work produced by this unfortunate man. My favorite songwriter of all time.