Lists

List: Best Albums of the Decade 20-11

The penultimate part of my countdown of the top 110 albums of the decade. You can find 110-101 here, 100-91 here, 90-81 here, 80-71 here, 70-61 here, 60-51 here, 50-41 here, 40-31 here, and 30-21 here. Now, here’s 20-11…

20. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cold Roses (2005)

The first of Ryan Adams’ albums in 2005, and also his first with backing band the Cardinals. Sadly today, Chris Feinstein, bassist with the Cardinals died. Chris wasn’t involved with this album, but became a Cardinal later after Catherine Popper left the band. This is a double album with a fantastic first side. The first two songs are over five minutes each but never drag on. It’s Adams’ lengthiest album, but it’s also the best of the 2005 trilogy.

19. Damien Rice – O (2002)

The best Irish debut this decade, Damien Rice will never make another like it. Rice’s Juniper work was much more raw and aggressive, but here he paired up with Lisa Hannigan to make gorgeous slow moving songs. It’s a long swoonsome listen, but every song is a classic. It’s not just about the singles, but other songs such as ‘Amie’ and ‘Cold Water’ are beautiful too. Vyvienne Long’s cello throughout is amazing.

18. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (2009)

His second solo album since leaving the Drive-By Truckers, Isbell also gave his backing band lead billing. The 400 Unit are a stellar band and add a lot to his fantastic Americana. Isbell is fantastic solo, but the rest of these guys add an extra, louder dimension to his fantastic lyrics. One of the finest songwriters of our generation.

17. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins (2008)

I wrote this blurb for a forum I frequent as part of their best albums of 2008 list. It was my favourite album of the year due to its brilliant melodies and fantastic lyrics. But rather than talk about that, just enjoy this: http://swearimnotpaul.blogspot.com/2009/12/blurb-okkervil-river-stand-ins.html

16. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog (2007)

Sam Beam’s best work so far, it was the album Bon Iver fans should’ve been listening to instead. (I’ve said that a few times now.) It has some beautiful love songs, and some outrageously gorgeous ballads.

15. Bell x1 – Music in Mouth (2003)

Bell x1′s second album outdid their debut in every way. The lyrics became much more outrageous. I mean who could forget a line like “No you’re not Maud Gonne” or the brilliant wordplay of ‘Snakes and Snakes’ and ‘Alphabet Soup’. It’s so much more than ‘Eve, the Apple of My Eye’ (originally a Juniper song ‘Never’ anyhow, like ‘Tongue’).

14. Drive-By Truckers – Decoration Day (2003)

Named after Memorial Day in the US, the Drive-By Truckers’ fourth album is another tribute to southern America. It was the first album with Jason Isbell on board, which brought a fantastic new dimension to the band. His songwriting here is flawless: check out the fatherly advice of ‘Outfit’, but his involvement allowed Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley to reach new levels also.

13. Whiskeytown – Pneumonia (2001)

The swansong of Whiskeytown, this was released after the band had broken up. Like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours without the marital strife, it’s an essential band breakup album. Some people may argue that their earlier work was better (although none of it is from this decade), but for me, this is the essential Whiskeytown album. It starts off brilliantly with ‘The Ballad of Carol Lynn’ and ‘Don’t Wanna Know Why’, but it reaches its highpoint midway through with the phenomenal one-two punch of ‘Under Your Breath’ and ‘Mirror Mirror’.

12. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005)

Conor Oberst’s Bright Eyes released two albums simultaenously in 2005. One was an out-there electronic album, and the other was a stripped-back acoustic led record. The softer, more mellow one was the better. By a comfortable margin. Skip the random monologue at the start, that’s just Oberst being pretentious. The rest of the record never exceeds itself. It’s Oberst at his most reflective, where he just makes music without ego.

11. Ryan Adams – Gold (2001)

It’s impossible to forget that video for ‘New York, New York’, filmed in front of the World Trade Center on 7th September 2001. The song became an obituary to the city as well as a gorgeous tribute (up there with Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising). Aside from that, there was so much to savour. Even the shortest track, ‘Gonna Make You Love Me’ is a winner. But it’s ‘When the Stars Go Blue’ that’ll keep Adams’ pockets lined. has he ever written a better song?

The Countdown continues tomorrow…

Related posts:

  1. List: Best Albums of the Decade 90-81
  2. List: Best Albums of the Decade 100-91
  3. List: Best Albums of the Decade 110-101
  4. List: Best Albums of the Decade 30-21
  5. List: Best Albums of the Decade 40-31

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