Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Top 50 Albums of the 2010's: Numbers 30-21

Way back in 2009 we were lucky enough to help contribute to Glide Magazine's list of Best Albums of the 2000's. Hard to believe it has been ten years since we worked that list, but it is that time again to look back at the previous decade and put together some arbitrary rankings. Since this site has been going strong the full decade we have a lot to pull from.

Here comes RtBE's picks for the top albums from the last decade, 2010-2019.

If we reviewed the album we will provide a link to that review in the title, a brief reflection on the record and a tune from it. A lot can change in ten years and a lot stays the same. Some albums were just right for their time and place and haven't aged particularly well and others were perhaps misunderstood or even prophetic as to where the world was headed.

Just our two cents, but this decade will not be looked back at fondly when it comes to remembering music in general. Things (for the most part) are being programmed and mushed together into mellow, white bread, digestible tunes with a hip hop foundation around pop hooks, synth vibes, a few strings and nothing the least bit exciting or offensive for the majority of music out there. In an era that should be considerably be ripe for protest, outrage, and individual expressionism, very little of actual substance has escaped to the masses.

Also from a practical standpoint, never before has the concept of "album" been so meaningless in our streaming/playlist curated society. While RtBE isn't completely old fashion, we still haven't bought into those ways of consuming music and the album is still our only way of listening to things, whether on vinyl or downloaded; no shuffling of singles here. This list focuses on full lengths that are played from beginning to end and deliver the goods.  

We will break this down over five parts, doing ten albums a day. There were a ton of good records released over the last ten years, much more than fifty, but these are our choices. We kept our personal musical releases off the list, but feel free to listen and critique those.

As a note, Glide Magazine, the main site we contribute to, changed its rating system in the middle of the decade from 5 Stars to 10 stars, then removed it all together so if you see say #49 on our list with only 4 stars, consider it doubled to 8. For Reference, here is 50-41 40-31 and all of those are also listed at the bottom of this post.

Like all of the lists RtBE have done, this is meant to start conversations, not end them. So let's kick it off...

#30 The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding 2018

The War On Drugs are focused around Adam Granduciel's quest for that perfect sound and he delves directly into mid-80's AOR pop with loving homage. While other releases played to mixed results in these ears, A Deeper Understanding was a winner through and through as Granduciel dug into his emotions more with his lyrical work, crafting personal and affecting tunes.

"Up All Night" calls to mind Bruce Hornsby, Dire Straits and other successful pop bands from the radio day of the mid 80’s, but the whole record sounds glorious and hits hard. Standout "Strangest Thing" recalls the strongest efforts from Bob Dylan around his Infidels/Shot of Love era and moves along gloriously.

#29 Jason Isbell Something More Than Free 2015

One of the best singer/songwriters/all-around artists to emerge into his own this decade, Jason Isbell did so after being thrown out of his favorite band to end the last decade getting sober and finding his true voice. Quite a journey as his song writing style continues to stretch and grow.

Something More Than Free continues Isbell path of moving away from writing solely about his struggles towards story songs and larger landscapes. Reminiscent of a southern Bruce Springsteen with tunes like "24 Frames", "If It Takes A Lifetime" and "Speed Trap Town" which are all scenic, emotional and real, but it is the dynamic title track which really puts this collection over the top. Writing about the every man with conviction, amazing vocals, robust songs, ripping guitar, Isbell has it all and continues to be one of the best around.

#28 Leyla McCalla - The Capitalist Blues 2019

Leyla McCalla's excellent The Capitalist Blues shines brightly juxtaposing the gloomy modern day forecast with hope. Music from the Caribbean, classical influences and of course New Orleans flows through it with modern defiance. McCalla manages to capture the 2019 zeitgeist but also stretch back through generations and musical influences delivering a timely and timeless record. 

The title track and "Money Is King" set the tone of rebelling against greed and money driven society while McCalla just as easily sings about (more valuable) emotional connection on "Me and My Baby" and "Oh My Love". Credit must also be given to producer Jimmy Horn and his full King James and The Special Men players who support on the record but this is McCalla's announcement of her solo career in a confident direction.

#27 Gateway District - Perfects Gonna Fail 2011
There is something about this poppy punk record that kept finding its way into our ear buds over the last nine is probably the fact that it rules. Twelve songs, none crossing the three minute mark, each having the ability to worm its way into your brain for days. Minnesota based Gateway District really knocked it out of the park on this album.

While not the most well-known punk band on this list, they certainly are one of the catchiest, as tracks like "Run Away", "Macy" and especially "Leaving Me Behind" all kick major ass, are melodic and have a rock solid spine of bass and drums. Perfects Gonna Fail is a master class in pop punk and an album RtBE will always go back to, very reminiscent of Guitar Romantic by The Exploding Hearts.

#26 Bop English - Constant Bop  2015
James Petralli released a lot of good music this decade with his main band White Denim, but to RtBE ears nothing topped his solo record under the moniker Bop English. It was immediately catchy and delightful topping our list of favorites for 2015.

Each song is joyful pop rock with flashes of 70's glam, 60's folk, '10's modern beats and production, the record is an upbeat winner with songs like "Struck Matches" and "Sentimental Wilderness" bumping forward, propelled by a great bass line. An album that was long in the making for Petralli it was worth the hours put in, as the music flowing out is fantastic.

#25 Dan Auerbach - Waiting on a Song 2017
Another immensely catchy solo album from part of a better known group, Dan Auerbach's Waiting on a Song feels like his first truly Nashville based record, even though he had recorded a few before this at his Easy Eye Sound studios.

Every song has roots and there are links to be heard in each here, but each also stands up to the lasting test of time. The title is a gem, as is "King Of A One Horse Town". "Never In My Wildest Dreams" incorporates the brass lines and while the homage line gets blurred at times there is no doubting Auerbach was on a tear with his second solo album Waiting On A Song.

#24 Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer 2018
Josh Tillman found a new alter ego with Father John Misty at the beginning of the decade and crafted some of the most grandiose sing-songwriter tunes in the vein of Harry Nilsson. Bordering on self-parody at times and either a way to be brutally honest or smilingly smug, there is no doubting Tillman's Misty is a must hear going forward.

God's Favorite Customer is his best sounding record, lots of simple acoustic guitar based songs, enhanced with lush arraignments and excellent production. It was much more relatable and a better listen than Pure Comedy (which was a drag) with tracks like the heart wrenching "Please Don't Die", the direct title offering and "Date Night". Misty is at his sharpest when self-examining and he does that from pillar to post on God's Favorite Customer, even when he is in the "poem zone".

#23 Benjamin Booker Benjamin Booker 2014

The raw first release from Benjamin Booker was a jolting dose of retro garage rock with New Orleans grime around the edges. Breathy vocals from Booker, dealing with the city and its odd inhabitants is the back bone of this self-titled release, but the manic playing is the overall lasting draw.

It could have been titled "Violent Shiver" as that is what it delivers. “Wicked Waters”, “Old Hearts” and especially “Have You Seen My Son?” are rambunctious offerings that could ramble off the tracks at any moment, but pull it all back home at the correct time. Driven by pounding drums and heavy guitar strumming all the tunes are ripping examples of his talent.

#22 Ex Hex - Rips 2014

A cool as hell dose of 60's fuzz garage rock, 80's glam attitude, and power pop that grabs you and won't let go. Rips is a hell of debut record from Mary Timony – guitar, vocals Betsy Wright – bass guitar and Laura Harris – drums the trio deliver the goods on every song.

This is the perfect summer soundtrack as tunes like "Don't Want To Lose", "New Kid" and especially "Radio On" yearn to be shouted out loud from a speeding convertible. A fun rock and roll record from a decade that simply put didn't have enough of them.

#21 Screaming Females - All At Once 2018
The best power trio going, Screaming Females took major song writing and studio recording steps as this decade progressed. All At Once is one of their best as the band flush out spacey rock, heavy beats and ripping arena ready solos around enhanced production and more nuance than they've ever displayed before.

Marissa Paternoster is a superstar on guitar and vocals while Mike Abbate's bass and Jared Dougherty's drums lay the foundation. There are lots of great tunes on this record such as "Agnes Martin" "Soft Domination", "I'll Make You Sorry", "Glass House", "Chamber For Sleep I" and "Chamber For Sleep II" all proving that this band has grown by leaps and bounds, but still retain that DIY ethic which made them so engaging the first time we caught them over ten years ago.

Numbers 20-11 coming tomorrow, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

#50 Kanye West - Yeezus 2013
#49  Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards 2010
#48  Dr Dog - Shame Shame 2011
#47 Archie Powell & The Exports - Great Ideas In Action 2012
#46 Screaming Females - Ugly 2012
#45 Galactic - Ya-Ka-May 2010
#44 Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky 2012
#43 Shannon & the Clams - Onion 2018
#42 Tom Waits - Bad As Me 2011
#41 Jenny Lewis - The Voyager 2014
#40 Bombino - Azel 2016
#39 Graveyard Lovers - Dreamers 2013
#38 Drive-By Truckers - American Band 2016
#37 Margo Price - All American Made 2017
#36 Burna Boy - African Giant 2019
#35 Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty 2010
#34 Becky Warren - Undesirable 2018
#33 Brittany Howard - Jaime 2019
#32 The Black Keys - El Camino 2011
#31 Noun - Holy Hell 2010

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