So this is kind of a ridiculous thing to even try to do, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I feel like it’s exceptionally difficult right now, because the last ten years have been the most influential in my adult life. I don’t even really know who I was ten years ago.
I was 19, in my second semester of my sophomore year in college, and I was listening to an odd mixture of celtic music, punk rock, and utterly disgraceful pop music. I was overworking the hell out of myself to try to finish two completely unlike degrees in 4 years (something my advisor had said would not be possible). That’s when I first learned how to turn my brain to turbo, something that would allow me to finish college at an unbelievable clip, but has since been a skill I wish I didn’t have, as now I don’t know how to slow my brain down and just relax.
10 years ago I had no debt. What a remarkable thing to think about. 10 years ago I had written a small handful of songs, and had no intentions of continuing in music. 10 years ago I was doubtful of my abilities, bitter about love, knew I had a lot to offer the world, and was hopeful for the future. I guess some things never change.
So I wanted to list some sort of “best of the decade” list, and really the only one I can try to do is albums. Asking me what my favorite movies of the decade were is basically like asking what are my favorite movies of all time. So I’m going to attempt to list my top 21 albums of the decade. These are not the albums that I think were the best made, they were just the ones that meant the most to me. So judge accordingly.
1) Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight
I can’t think of another album that had the same emotional impact on me this whole decade than this one. And I just listened through it again a few days ago, and it still destroys me every time (in the best possible way).
2) Anberlin – Cities
When I first purchased this album, I popped it in my CD player while I was cooking dinner, and I couldn’t stop until it was over. It was like a spiritual experience, and I still remember the feeling of the chorus on Dismantle, Repair coming in, and the way that I felt like my chest had physically opened up. Also, it’ll be hard for a song to beat out Godspeed as my “Power Song.”
3) Postal Service – Give Up
This CD has some of the most elegant yet heartfelt songwriting of the entire decade, and was another example of Ben Gibbard’s brilliance. Unfortunately, I think it was probably a one time thing, but I still dream of seeing a new Postal Service album come out.
4) Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism
And I’ll just follow it up with another Ben Gibbard album. I still remember blasting Transatlanticism (the song) followed by Passenger Seat in my car with the windows down, and feeling like my soul was transported somewhere else.
5) Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise
Predatory Wasps … is probably one of my favorite songs of all time, and the rest of this album has such a timelessness to it, and yet really feels like Illinois too. Top to bottom it’s an incredible record, and I don’t disagree with anyone who rates it the #1 of the decade. I and many others beg Sufjan to keep the states project going. Please!
6) Rise Against – The Sufferer & the Witness
Many of you may know that I’m a huge fan of Bad Religion, and of punk music in general. So I was absolutely ecstatic when my good friend Zach told me about Rise Against, as I had basically found a young Bad Religion. Their songwriting is powerful, their musicality is heart pounding, and overall it just kicks ass. “With hope in our hearts and bricks in our hands, we sing for change” Amazing stuff.
7) Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
And in a COMPLETELY different direction, this album will forever mean “January” to me. The beauty, rawness, and bleakness of this album are just amazing. I love that at the very end of the album, you can actually hear him get up and turn off the recording. It’s about as personal sounding of an album as you can get.
8) Motion City Soundtrack – Commit this to Memory
I discovered MCS randomly with their first album, I Am the Movie, and I was excited for this album to come out. I then purchased it at Best Buy, and started driving home, I stopped driving home about an hour later when the CD finished playing. My drive home is actually about 5 minutes, but I just couldn’t stop listening to this album. It’s a little on the emo side, but it absolutely spoke to exactly where I was in my life at that exact moment.
9) David Crowder Band – A Collision or (3+4 = 7)
DCB continues to be my favorite “Praise and Worship” type band (in that they are distinctly Christian), but with this album, they stepped over the line in my head between being a really good Christian band and being a really good band. The album is intricate, interesting, catchy, and uplifting all at once. I think a lot of Christian bands get forced into a lot of cookie-cutter type albums, and DCB totally broke away from that with this album.
10) Frou Frou – Details
Like many people, I discovered Frou Frou and Imogen Heap thanks to Garden State, and this album has been far more lasting for me than that movie. It continues to be an album I never tire of listening to, and it was one of those where every time I listened through, I had a new favorite song. Must be Dreaming continues to be my overall favorite, but it was hard for me to rate any song on this less than 5 stars in iTunes.
11) The Jealous Sound – Kill them with Kindness
Another emo-ish band that completely spoke to me where I was at the time. A friend of mine I was working with introduced me to them, and I didn’t stop listening to this album for about a year. Recovery Room still kills me every time.
12) Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers
It makes perfect sense for this to be right after The Jealous Sound, as I was totally obsessed with these two CDs at the same time. This album is such a collection of wonderful pop rock songs, and I dare you to listen through it and not have something stuck in your head for the next week.
13) Bad Religion – The Process of Belief
This was the first album in which Mr. Bret returned into the mix, and the difference was unbelievably noticeable. After three or so albums in a row that were kind of duds, this album just pounded Bad Religion back into relevance (in my opinion). Bad Religion is the most edgy intelligent music you’ll ever hear, and that is all encapsulated in this album for me.
14) Sigur Ros – Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
This was the album that made me fall in love with Sigur Ros, and realize how late to that bandwagon I was. Not much else to say. I just love this album.
15) Paper Route – Absence
Well I just recently talked about why I love this album, so I’ll refrain from repeating myself. Myself.
16) Covenant – Northern Light
I had a “techno bands” phase this decade, and this was one of the reasons why. Top to bottom, this album is just excellently crafted, and tremendously catchy. Just like Paper Route, this is another great CD to blast in your car when you’re driving through a thunderstorm.
17) The Weepies – Say I Am You
There was a while there this decade where I only listened to pretty epic or hard sounding stuff, and this album was one of the key things that broke me out of that. There’s a certain wonderful poppiness to the Weepies, but the great lyrics, and gentle beauty of this album are timeless and wonderful. “World Spins Madly On” is one of the best songs ever written.
18) The Hold Steady – Stay Positive
Tons of people listed The Hold Steady’s first album Boys and Girls in America in their top decade lists, and though I do love that album, this was the one that truly hammered home their brilliance. Craig Finn of Hold Steady and Greg Graffin of Bad Religion are very similar, not just in being prolific songwriters, but also in their live performances, both sing as if they have something really important to tell you. Also, The Hold Steady is one of the most infectiously joyous bands to watch. It’s inspiring.
19) The Swell Season – The Swell Season
It’s hard to not recognize the impact Glen Hansard has had on me personally as a songwriter, and though there are a few different CDs I could attribute to that, the best songs are pretty much all summed up on this album. Take this sinking boat, and point it home, we’ve still got time. Might be the theme song of my decade.
20) Yasunori Mitsuda – Chrono Cross Original Soundtrack
I had a “video game soundtracks” phase very early in the decade, and this album pretty much sums it all up. The melodies and beauty of this whole soundtrack go far beyond a simple video game, and it’s still one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Considering I also covered a song off of it at a concert one time, including having a friend help me translate it from Japanese, it’s hard for me not to list this as one of my favorites of the decade.
21) Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
And to finish off the list, I feel like I need to list Ben Gibbard one more time. All the songs on Plans are so heartbreaking and so beautiful, I just had to list this album as well. What Sarah Said is so beautiful and so heartbreaking, it just destroys me every time, not to mention Marching Bands of Manhattan or Brothers on a Hotel Bed. And pretty much every other track.
David Crowder Band – Illuminate
Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety
Fall Out Boy – Infinity on High
Jimmy Eat World – Jimmy Eat World
Bad Religion – The Empire Strikes First
Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
So there’s my favorite albums of the decade. It doesn’t mean much, but I do love making lists, and this was probably the most challenging and fun one to make yet. Stick around for my decade mix that I’m also in the process of constructing.
Happy 2010-2020 everyone!