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Posts Tagged ‘arcade fire’

It is that time of the decade where one stares at their music collection and promptly regrets buying 95% of the music they now own.  Everyone does it. Okay, maybe I do it.  I buy a lot of music, so much so my children are convinced that I actually buy milk at the local vinyl store and bread from iTunes. This small habit has created a massive music collection that can be somewhat unwieldy.  It doesn’t stop me from gathering up hundreds of albums from the past decade and asking myself a very simple question:

If I could only save fifty of these albums from the past ten years, what fifty would it be?

It would be easy for me to write-up a list in which only Green Day, and White Stripes albums are on it, simply because they produced amazing albums this decade. I could have simply gone with my kids suggestion and made the list all about Hannah Montana and the Wiggles. That was tempting, they could have written it for me.

My criteria was simple. First- I must have actually listened to it. I still have a couple of albums in the plastic. Most of these albums were gifts from well-meaning people who thought that I really needed Daniel Bedingfield’s album.

Second-  How often did I listen to this album? Having the most listens didn’t mean that it would be number one.  Music is very much my day between the hours of six a.m. and six p.m. There are albums on this list I only listened to once and found so compelling that I felt it needed to be on the list. Most I have listened to so often my CD player refuses to open to play them again and my iTunes has decided that they are the only artists I listen to.

Lastly- I must have had fun listening to it at some point. Dreary music is of no interest to me. That doesn’t mean sad music is ignored for the oeuvre of Britney Spears. On the contrary, I find Britney Spears to be enormously depressing. But her greatest hits album makes for a delightful coaster.

The list, in full, after the break.

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Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ album and Radiohead’s album are both actually 2007 releases. I’ve decided to post my top ten list from 2007 as a reminder- as it’s written on Bitten By A Cougar ( Growlin’ To The Groove, y’all, since May 2008), so no yelling at me when they do not appear on the 2008 list. I never said which year end list they would appear on.

10. Patti Smith Twelve– a cover album from the queen of poetic punk, with tracks that are personal to her in one way or another, Patti Smith cemented her position as one of the great non- traditional singers ( which is a nice way of saying, crappy voice, but compelling). My version actually has thirteen song- as I have a bonus track of her singing ” Everybody Hurts” ( and WOW!), but included are covers from Hendrix through to Tears For Fears and Nirvana.

9. Radiohead In Rainbows– it’s not about the revolutionary album release that allowed fans to pay whatever they could or would. It’s not about the band’s reluctance to share Internet sales or the fact everyone also went out and bought it on CD as soon as it was available. It’s about ” Nude”, the longtime live favorite finally put on an album, or ” Jigsaw Falling Into Place”, or ” Bodysnatchers”, or ” House Of Cards”… the album is one of their best.

8. Tegan and Sara The Con– twin sisters from Calgary make pretty pop songs, with help from Matt Sharp, Jason McGerr, and Hunter Burgan. With jangly piano matched with dark lyrics about crumbling relationships, this album sounds like the most happy nervous breakdown in music since Brian Wilson.

7. Mika Life In Cartoon Motion– I think it may be clear I have a soft spot for dance pop i refuse to acknowledge. But from the moment I first heard the bass and piano lines that open ” Grace Kelly”, I was hooked on the classically inspired Mika’s new brand of clubland fun. This album is what I listen to when I’m doing housework or I just need to feel alive.

6. Amy Winehouse Back To Black– oh, the voice- perfect for neo jazz soul. But as we watch the train wreck that is Amy Winehouse on CNN, we might forget that underneath Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi’s exquisite production is a girl with an incredible voice. The sly ” You Know I’m No Good”, the mournful title track, and the horns and demons ” Rehab” all stick out, but then there is ” Tears Dry On Their Own”, with musical references to Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, that remains my favorite song.

5. Alicia Keys As I Am– a child prodigy who skipped Columbia University for a record deal at J, she made a huge splash with her debut, only to keep the momentum up with her follow up. Nobody has strung three quality albums off a debut like that since… well, the Beatles. So as her third studio album hit the store, a lot of critics sharpened knives only to discover she just gets better ( at least, most of them. Some people just do not like her). First single ” No One” is still astonishing in it’s musical maturity, and ” Teenage Love Affair” is expert storytelling.

4. Foo Fighters Echos, Silence, Patience, and Grace– from the fierce guitars on opener ” The Pretender” and the more sunshine pop with death knell lyrics of ” Long Road To Ruin” ( which was teamed with one of the bands trademark hilarious videos), to the emo slamming ” Cheer Up Boys ( You’re Make Up Is Running)”, and the acoustic, mournful instrumental ” Ballad Of The Beaconsfield Miners”, the band is at top form. I love ” Home”, the album closer.

3. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand– seriously, this was not supposed to work. The Ultimate Cock Rock God mashed with the ultimate Bluegrass Queen? The gentle voice of a sweet girl mixing with the wild expense of the king of hard rock? But from the moment they start on ” Rich Woman” and nail songs from Sam Phillips, Gene Clark, The Everly Brothers ( huge hit ” Gone, Gone, Gone”), Townes Van Zandt, and Tom Waits, you realize that they are actually made for each other, and you enjoy the subtle mix of two music worlds.

2. The White Stripes Icky Thump– I am in awe of Jack White’s talent, and this album, stepped in British influence ( due to Jack’s marriage to model Karen Elson, who is from Northern England, where the album title hails from as a colloquialism), is amazing. It’s not the type I’ll listen to once a week ( I believe I’m in agreement with Robert Christgau on his assessment that it’s a grand monument, but I wouldn’t wan to settle there), but when I do pull it out and listen, I’m always amazed.

1. Arcade Fire Neon Bible– they wrote a song about Joe Simpson, named it ” ( Antichrist Television Blues)”. They threw into their hodge podge orchestra a hurdygurdy. They sing of cars, Americana, french fables, Haitian troubles, and escaping. They aim for grandiosity and achieve it. A magnificent album, one that has yet to leave my CD changer in eighteen months.

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