Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Top 50 Albums of the 2010's: Numbers 40-31

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 on 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 and 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...

#40 Bombino - Azel 2016

RtBE first caught Bombino back in 2011 and were hooked. He was the first artist we were exposed to with the Turareg sound and we eagerly reviewed all his albums this decade. Azel was our favorite of the bunch as producer Dave Longstreth seemed to be the perfect match for the guitarist and band, bringing out a brightness that had not been present before.

Mixing acoustic/electric and showcasing his Dire Straits love as well as his cultural desert based blues, the record flows wonderfully. Tracks like "Naqqim Dagh Timshar (We Are Left In This Abandoned Place)" and "Igmayagh Dum (My Lover)" show off the crazy strumming style. "Iyat Ninhay/Jaguar (A Great Desert I Saw)" is the best of the bunch, and whether you gravitate towards other Bombino releases or different Turareg players altogether it certainly was a good decade for that group of musicians.

#39 Graveyard Lovers - Dreamers 2013
A local band that we found randomly online, then met randomly in a bar, Graveyard Lovers, Dreamers is a positive blast of blues rock with New Orleans tendencies and New York grit; a perfect combo for RtBE.

“Love and Hunger” displays Tricia Purvis’s powerful drumming while tracks like the title effort and "Dreamers" allow singer/guitar player Zach Reynolds to deliver heartfelt screeds with jangling appeal, just listen to the soaring "You and Me". Each tune is rock solid as the band bangs and strums with aggression, looseness and emotion, a record that still sounds really damn good starting off with the directly stated "Manifesto".

#38 Drive-By Truckers - American Band 2016

This is most certainly a time and place record. A timely and (unfortunately timeless) album from a band that saw the darkness on the horizon while dealing with the shattering effects of gun violence and depression. A perfectly fitting album for fall 2016, leading up to a historic election, DBT summed up feelings fairly well while raging against the proverbial machine.

Not the most joyous album to go back to listen to as tracks like "Ramon Casiano" and "Guns of Umpqua" are frustrating and heartbreaking, but an album that was needed. The most locked in American band during the last twenty years; this album was their most political, their most prophetic and one of their best.

#37 Margo Price - All American Made 2017

While Midwest Farmers Daughter was Margo Price's excellent breakthrough, her follow-up was even better and broadened her sound. Price still had the country and sawdust dripping off her boots, but her and the band had flashes of more Americana/rock/soul than strictly country and it worked for her.

What worked best though was the strength of her songwriting which improved as well. "Weakness" is an all-time Nashville classic waiting to age, "A Little Pain" ramps up the soul feelings while "Heart of America" is a direct country weeper. Her struggles as a female artist and female in general come to the forefront in the fantastic "Pay Gap" which details blatant inadequacies in a lighthearted Mexcali way, nailing the point. This is all before her stunning duet with Willie Nelson, hell of a record.

#36 Burna Boy - African Giant 2019
Exploring modern sounds with style and nuance, Burna Boy's African Giant is an excellent collection of modern R&B, Reggae, Afro-Beat, Hip Hop and more as Damini Ogulu blends genres throughout this dynamite full length.

He has some guests helping out (ZlatanSkillrexDamian Marley and Angelique Kidjo) but the show is all his as he uses yacht rock sax, flamenco guitars and more to build sonic bridges before his lyrics move from historical tales of injustice to get down sex joints and huge bragging with equal ease. "Dangote", "Destiny" and "Anybody" and the rest are all great as Ogulu manages to sound super cool among the heat of African Giant.

#35 Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty 2010

When this was released way back in 2010 it felt like a natural extension of Big Boi's talents, but also that he was playing it a bit safe, staying close to his Outkast style. In retrospect it is one of the strongest hip hop releases this decade as the genre morphed more than any other over the last ten years and this album sounds better than ever.

On Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty things are good right from the first beats of "Daddy Fat Sax". "Shutterbug" gets down for the Instagram crowd while "General Patton" contains RtBE favorite samples and beats of the decade. Turns out more Outkast flavored hip hop was exactly what was needed...and still is.

#34 Becky Warren - Undesirable 2018
Becky Warren released two rock solid Americana records this decade with both War Surplus and Undesirable, proving she is a songwriter to reckon with and more importantly, listened too.

Personally RtBE loved her more recent release more as she focused on Nashville's homeless and wrote a record inspired by them, but not tied solely to them, as her songs are affecting to anyone who hears a few notes and her powerful voice. From opener "We're All We Got", a fantastic country rocked up ride to the sweet sashaying "Carmen" to the heartbreaking closing duo "Valentine" and "The Drake Motel" Warren delivers on every front. An artist who will hopefully continue and become better known in future decades.

#33 Brittany Howard - Jaime 2019

The Alabama Shakes arrived at the beginning of the decade and seemed like a throwback roots rock band fronted by a powerful singer. The group morphed with some flashes of outer space funk on their second release and then that powerful singer broke out on her own when Brittany Howard released Jaime this year.

While not a perfect record, Jaime is the exhilarating sound of an artist shaking off any expectations, recording and living free in the moment. Prince, P-Funk, the blues, Racism, God, all wrapped up in 2019's modern times. Tracks like "Georgia", "History Repeats" and "Stay High" show off her funky style while "Short and Sweet" brings acoustic intimacy, all backed by her stunning vocal prowess. If your tastes lean towards her first band, we won't quibble, but to RtBE's ears Jaime was Howard's most exciting release this decade.

#32 The Black Keys - El Camino 2011
Dan Auerbach's Easy Eye Studios in Nashville saw a lot of good music written record and produced there. El Camino was the first album Auerbach recorded and produced there and it only went on to sell 1.4 million copies. This record was everywhere in 2011, and lead to bar conversations like, are The Black Keys the biggest band in the world?

At the time it sure felt like it as songs like "Lonely Boy", "Gold On the Ceiling" and the biggest Led Zeppelin rip "Little Black Submarines" were featured in every commercial, pre-game show and radio lead in. Truth is the album went platinum because the songs were relate-able, catchy and pretty god damn solid and the band worked their asses off to get there.

#31 Noun - Holy Hell 2010
While Jack White was all over our 2000's top 50 albums of the decade, Marissa Paternoster is all over this decade as her main act, Screaming Females landed quite a few records on the list, and here is her first solo effort as NounRtBE was lucky enough to interview her when Holy Hell was released in 2010 and it remains one of those records we just kept going back to over and over again as the decade progressed.

Tracks like "Outerspace" "Pearly Gates" and the fantastic "Call Earth" soar, while her lyrics seem less cryptic than those written for Screaming Females, she is more direct such as on the fantastic title track. Support comes from Angie Boylan and Miranda Taylor on drums as well as her SF band mates, but it is the freedom of a solo album which allows Paternoster to add pianos, multi track her guitar work, harmonize with herself and generally break down the punk walls her main band built. Screaming Females would incorporate this sound more as the decade progressed as well but on Holy Hell Paternosters imagery, piano playing, guitar ripping and singing are all top notch.

Numbers 30-21 arrive tomorrow. Until then feel free to comment on what we got right and wrong and as always thanks for reading.

#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

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