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Another “Best Albums of the Decade” (2000 – 2009) List…

God. It’s already December the 15th as I write this (not sure when I will get to publish the post) [Ed’s note: only half a month later. Not bad. I’ll just use the excuse that I was waiting until 2009 was over, to give every possible chance to every album in the decade. Yeah, that’s it] and I haven’t even started on my “Best of the Decade” list.

I think part of the reason behind the procrastination is that, in a lot of ways, it’s simply too big. How do you boil a decade down to a single post? Which is why this isn’t the usual “Best Releases of the Noughties” post. Instead, this is just a post about some of my personal favourite albums of the decade, and which ones affected me as a person the most.

Anyway, no more qualifications or justifications, I just wanted to make that clear. Now that that’s out the way, let’s dive in, shall we?

(Side note: you might notice that the below list has 56 albums, instead of the traditional 50. “Why is that?”, you might ask? Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how that happened. Somewhere in drafting this post, I obviously skipped some numbers, and it was only when I got down to the last few I noticed I was heading to negative figures. As I say… no idea how it happened, but there you have it).

cat power free56. Cat Power – You Are Free (2003)
I both love and hate this album. I love it because it honestly is a thing of beauty. But I hate it because nothing Chan Marshall has put out since has ever come close to touching this release.
Must hear: Good Woman
+ Buy From Amazon

basia55. Basia Bulat – Oh, My Darling (2007)
Seriously, as soon as those handclaps started on single “I Was A Daughter”, I fell totally and completely in love with Basia Bulat. Arguably one of the most complete debut albums I had ever heard.
Must hear: I Was A Daughter
+ Buy from Amazon

continuum54. John Mayer – Continuum (2008)
And with this entry, I can hear the closing of windows in disgust from 98% of the other music bloggers who read this blog. But seriously, I’ve never understood the disdain most music bloggers seem to have for Mayer and his releases. And, as a guitarist myself, hearing “Continuum” for the first time was a staggering event, where John Mayer matured right in front of our very eyes. Or ears, as the case may be. The phrasing throughout the album is absolutely impeccable.
Must hear: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
+ Buy from Amazon

damien53. Damien Rice – O (2003)
Another case where I was torn: which album which make it, Damien’s 2003 debut, “O”, or the 2006 follow up, “9”? “9” nearly won it purely on the strength of opening track “9 Crimes” (which will easily go down as one of my songs of the decade), but in the end, I had to go with “O”. As an album, its raw passion from start to end is impossible to ignore.
Must hear: Cannonball
+ Buy from Amazon

nizlopi52. Nizlopi – Half These Songs Are About You (2004)
It’s only now that I sit down to make this list that I’ve noticed a trend, in that many of these albums of debut efforts. Hmmm, does that say more about me, or more about the artists? That question aside, this release by Nizlopi came at exactly a point in my life where I needed this kind of music; life-affirming, yet introspective, it’s a beautiful album.
Must hear: Wash Away
+ Buy from Amazon

eits51. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is not a Cold Dead Place (2003)
The second album from Explosions in the Sky, this 5 track masterpiece simply knocked me out when I first heard it. This is the very epitome of music you can lose yourself in. And when you find yourself again, you’re a new person.
Must hear: Your hand in mine
+ Buy from Amazon

phoenix50. Phoenix – Alphabetical (2004)
Most music bloggers seem to be hailing their 2009 release, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” as their best thing ever. Not me. For me, nothing comes close to “Alphabetical”. The thing is pure pop glory. And while “Amadeus…” may have the fantastic tune, “Lisztomania”… well, this is better.
Must hear: Victim of the Crime
+ Buy from Amazon

bastards49. The Damnwells – Bastards of the Beat (2003)
Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows my love for The Damnwells. Easily one of the world’s most underrated bands, The Damnwells deserve to be huge. Epically huge. And their 2003 release, Bastards of the Beat, illustrates why perfectly. An album of singalong tune after singalong tune, Bastards of the Beat is one of the Noughties classics.
Must hear: Kiss Catastrophe
+ Buy from Amazon

yeasayer48. Yeasayer – All Hour Cymbals (2007)
Strangely enough, this album took a while to grow on me. But man, once it did, it did. With lead single “2080” being my introduction to the album, I’m not sure how I didn’t lose my shit immediately.
Must hear: 2080
+ Buy from Amazon

athlete47. Athlete – Vehicles and Animals (2003)
Man, it was a tough call for whether “Vehicles and Animals” or “Tourist” would make the cut when it came to this list, but ultimately Athlete’s debut release came out on top. With tracks like “El Salvador”, “Beautiful” and the stunning “You Got the Style”, this album of pop mastery was on rotation for the better part of a year for me. Full of wry observations, humour and genuine tenderness, Vehicle and Animals did it for me.
Must hear: Vehicles and Animals
+ Buy from Amazon

imogen46. Imogen Heap – Speak for yourself (2005)
Textured. Layered. Cinematic. Visionary. No matter how you describe Imogen Heap’s music, one thing we can all agree on is that it is simply wonderful. Just like this album.
Must hear: Hide and Seek
+ Buy from Amazon

joseph45. Joseph Arthur – Come to where I’m from (2000)
It’s no secret that my relationship with Joseph Arthur seems to have its highs and lows. But “Come to where I’m from”, released in 2000, was definitely a high point, and I still view it as one of Arthur’s finest moments. Unapologetically honest, it’s everything that a life-changing album should be.
Must hear: In the sun
+ Buy from Amazon

killers44. The Killers – Sam’s Town (2006)
What? Did I really pick sophomore release “Sam’s Town”, instead of debut “Hot Fuss”?
Well, yes, I did actually.
Sod off if you don’t like it.
Must hear: Read my mind
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oasis43. Oasis – Heathen Chemistry (2002)
I don’t think I ever saw this on any “Best of ’02” lists, so I doubt I’ll see it on many “Best of the Decades” lists. In fact, chances are, I might be the only music blogger to credit this release with that honour. And sure, maybe by this decade, the best times of Oasis might have been behind them. But c’mon… “Hindu Times”? Noel on “Force of Nature”? “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” and friggin’ “Little by Little”?? For me, this was a great, great album. And, again, Noel picked up the singing for a few tunes. Rock on.
Must hear: Stop Crying Your Heart Out
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benfolds42. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001)
Strangely enough, not many people seemed to like this album. Perhaps it was because “Rockin’ the Suburbs” (apart from its title track) was a more sombre release than Ben Folds had released previously, with Ben Folds Five. Quite frankly though, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. “Rockin’ the Suburbs” was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. “Still Fighting It”, in particular, was a declaration made with such honesty that it still haunts me to this day.
Must hear: Still Fighting It
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molly41. Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies (2002)
The second album from Flogging Molly, “Drunken Lullabies” combined acoustic guitars with punk guitars; violins with whistles, and the kind of lyrics that simply make your body feel more alive than it ever has. And – quite possibly – ever will again. God, this was a cracker of an album.
Must hear: If I ever leave this world alive
+ Buy from Amazon

plans40. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans (2005)
I’m certain to catch some flack for choosing “Plans” as Death Cab’s release of the decade; after all, people rightfully claim that this, their first release on a major label (Atlantic) is too predictably slick, too polished. And that’s true; it is, and certainly doesn’t display the rawness of earlier releases. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a sodding great record. After all, this is the album with “I will follow you into the dark”, for pete’s sake.
Must hear: Marching Bands of Manhattan
+ Buy from Amazon

joe39. Joe Pug – Nation of Heat EP (2008)
The most impressive debut I think I have ever heard. Complete in every sense, “Nation of Heat” remains one of the most exciting releases of the past 10 years. I still hold out high hopes for Joe.
Must hear: Hymn #101
+ Buy from Amazon

boh38. Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2007)

Hauntingly beautiful, Band of Horses “Cease to Begin” release was the first real exposure I had had with the band. Sure, I had heard their 2006 debut “Everything All the Time”, but it took this release, and particularly the cracking tune, “No One’s Gonna Love You”, to really pull me in. And man, I’m glad it did.
Must Hear: No One’s Gonna Love You
+ Buy from Amazon

thecon37. Tegan & Sara – The Con (2007)
The only fault I could find in 2007’s “The Con”, was that the damn thing ended too soon. And that’s a fantastic, fantastic fault to have. Tegan and Sara probably haven’t reached these heights again, but I’m ok with that. This was more than enough.
Must hear: Call It Off
+ Buy from Amazon

flobots36. Flobots – Fight with tools (2008)
“Positive change music”. Sounds poncy, doesn’t it? But somehow, the Flobots pull it off with aplomb. I challenge you to listen to this album and not feel that you can change the world. And you know what? With enough of us, maybe we can…
Must hear: Mayday!!!
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myslovitz35. Myslovitz – Korova Milky Bar (2003)

To this day, I have no idea how Myslovitz didn’t end up being huge. And by huge, I mean huge. When I first heard Korova Milky Bar, it was like it was the album that woke me up from slumber and breathed life into me. How could everyone else not feel the same way? But, alas, it appears they didn’t. Musical taste’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?
Must hear: Sound of Solitude
+ Buy from Amazon

postal34. The Postal Service – Give Up (2003)

You know, I’m still trying to figure out whether it’s a tragedy, or a blessing, that this is the only album the Postal Service have ever released. It’s a tragedy, because Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, as Postal Service, create such bloody beautiful tunes. But, it’s more likely a blessing, as I don’t think they would ever be able to live up to this, their first (and likely only) album. Give Up was a revelation when I heard it. Back in 2003, I was going through somewhat of a backlash to electronic music. I thought I had heard all it had to offer, and quite frankly, I was bored with the lack of soul. Then Give Up came along, and changed all of that. And man, I’m glad it did.
Must Hear: This place is a prison
+ Buy from Amazon

perez33. Perez – Picture Perfect (2002)
Perez is one of a handful of South African bands to make it onto this list, and for good reason. (Incidentally, before moving on, Just Jinger’s “Here’s To You”, a joyous celebration of a new time in South Africa when hope was on the horizon just missed out on this list as it was released in 1999. But I had to make a reference to it here anyway. Go get it. It’s stunning and captures the feeling in South Africa at the time like no other album ever would). Ahem, as I was saying, “Picture Perfect” makes it on here for good reason. I remember the first time I heard “Wasted Out”, lead single from the album. It was a goddamn awakening. Recorded by guys that we had grown up with (only a few years older than us) who frequented the same places we did for a quick drink? Man, you couldn’t get more rock star than that. The entire reason I got into a band. Point blank.
Must hear: Wasted Out

city32. City and Colour – Bring Me Your Love (2008)
One of those albums that you simply never seem to get tired of, Dallas Green’s (get it? City and Colour!) “Bring Me Your Love” was one of the highlights of 2008 for me. While I always loved his stuff in Alexisonfire, this folksy album from Dallas is by far the best thing he’s ever produced. So far, that is.
Must hear: Confessions
+ Buy from Amazon

razorlight31. Razorlight – Up all Night (2004)
Do you remember the first time you heard Johnny Borrell from Razorlight? God, he was an arrogant little prick, wasn’t he? You could practically hear the swagger in every word he spoke, couldn’t you?
I loved him. Johnny Borrell and Razorlight were going to save friggin’ rock ‘n roll singlehanded. They were the saviours we had all been waiting for. Here were some rockers you could respect.

Ok, so maybe looking back on it, Johnny and Co. might never have lived up to that promise, and ok, maybe that broke my heart. That doesn’t change the fact that every time I listen to “Up All Night”, I feel that optimism all over again. And I live in constant, constant hope, that Razorlight will deliver on this debut.
Must hear: Up all Night
+ Buy from Amazon

once30. Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard – Once OST (2007)
The first time I heard the soundtrack to Once, I fell in love. Fitting, given its context. I don’t think there has ever been a better soundtrack, and I’d be hard pressed to believe there will be, at least in my lifetime. Listening to Glen and Marketa experience love, and the hardships that go with it, through their songs, was something beautiful. And I will remember the first time I heard “All the way down” for the rest of my life.
Must hear: All the way down
+ Buy from Amazon

brighteyes29. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005)
“I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” is, in my opinion, the best thing Bright Eyes has ever produced (although Cassadega comes close). Although Conor Oberst had threatened brilliance for years before this album, it was with “I’m Awake…” that it all really seemed to come together. A singer-songwriter country/rock album, it’s the album that Bright Eyes were meant to make.
Must hear: We are nowhere and it’s now
+ Buy from Amazon

mraz28. Jason Mraz – Mr A – Z (2005)
I feel like I constantly have to defend this album to Jason haters. Ok, so it doesn’t have the sheer abandonment of “Waiting for my Rocket To Come”. Yeah, it’s not as polished as subsequent releases. But “Mr A – Z”, Jason’s second album, has always been one of my favourites. There’s something in this album where you can almost hear Jason trying to find his way in his new life. And that honesty draws me in every time. As a side note, I’ve said previously that I think that Jason has one of the purest, most effortless voices I have ever heard, bar none. And this was the album where he showed that off with an opera solo during “Mr Curiosity”. It still gives me a kick whenever someone hears that song, and the opera section takes them completely by surprise. It’s the small things, you know.
Must hear: Song for a Friend
+ Buy from Amazon

animalyears27. Josh Ritter – Animal Years (2006)
How do you pick one album for the decade from an artist such as Josh Ritter? Answer? You don’t. Try as I might, I simply could not just enter one album for Ritter. His music was too special, too important to that decade for me. A lot of fans thought that in this album, “Animal Years”, Josh Ritter began to take himself too seriously. I beg to differ. I think it was an album where he found himself.
Must hear: Thin Blue Flame
+ Buy from Amazon

historical26. Josh Ritter – The historical conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
And here’s the other Josh Ritter album, released the very next year. I’d go out on a limb here and call this the album of 2007, but we’ve seen how that’s worked out for me in the past. Aah, what the hell… this was the release of 2007.
Must hear: To the Dogs or Whoever
+ Buy from Amazon

nada25. Nada Surf – Let Go (2002)
For me, “Let Go” was the best thing Nada Surf had ever created, and I think it still is. The album was simply brim-full with masterful song writing, with lyrics that felt like they were written specifically for you.
Must hear: Blonde on Blonde
+ Buy from Amazon

streets24. The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free (2004)
“Original Pirate Material”? Sure, that was a great album. But “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” was where it was at for me. Skinner opened up, and let us in. And damned if it wasn’t a damn nice place. I defy any male who has ever had a relationship end on them not to identify with “Dry Your Eyes”. Go on. I dare ya.
Must Hear: Dry Your Eyes
+ Buy from Amazon

rainbows23. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)

You know, it’s interesting looking back at my first reactions to this album, and my feelings towards it now. Tellingly, I ended off that post with the lines: “All in all, despite my misgivings, I have the feeling that “In Rainbows” is an album that will grow on the listener after time. And, so often, that has been the case with Radiohead in the past. Pioneers have to deal with strange looks from infidels sometimes.” Despite the clumsy wording of that sentence, the sentiment was right… the more time I spent with this album, the more it grew on me. I still don’t think this was exactly the biggest stretch for the band themselves… but that doesn’t change the fact it’s a great album.
Must hear: House of Cards
+ Buy from Amazon

demo22. Ryan Adams – Demolition (2002)
Fair warning, I couldn’t pick a single Ryan Adams album to include from the decade. So I cut it down as much as I could, but still ended up with four albums. Sue me. “Demolition”, to many, came off as a mixed bag… which makes sense, seeing as the album was ostensibly a “Best Of” compilation of unreleased demos, from the always prolific Ryan Adams. But for me, there was something special about Demolition. And with tracks such as “Chin Up, Cheer Up”, “Dear Chicago”, “Desire” and “Starting to hurt”, Demolition was always going to make it onto this list.
Must hear: Desire
+ Buy from Amazon

silent steeples21. Dispatch – Silent Steeples (2000)
Another band that honestly changed my life, Dispatch’s 2000 release, Silent Steeples was the album of my teenage years (ok, ok, so I just scraped into the teens in 2000 when it came out. Sue me). There is literally not a single song on this album that does not kick ass. Not one. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Must hear: Bridges
+ Buy from Amazon

goats20. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)
The Sunset Tree is a difficult album to listen to, once you realise how autobiographical the work is. For those who haven’t listed to John Darnielle’s work much, let’s just say that the guy did not have the best of childhoods. Lines like “Held under these smothering waves by your strong and thick veined hand, but one of these days I’m going to wriggle up on dry land” give you some kind of indication of what Darnielle experienced growing up. But, despite that, “The Sunset Tree” is an album filled with hope, in the direst of circumstances. And it takes a songwriter as talented as Darnielle to pull off that contrast.
Must hear: This Year
+ Buy from Amazon

andrewbird19. Andrew Bird – The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)

This was a hard one. Andrew Bird has released a slew of awesome albums in the past decade (“Armchair Apocrypha” and this year’s “Noble Beast” both narrowly missing out on a place in this list), but ultimately I decided to go with 2005’s “The Mysterious Production of Eggs” (although I’m still in two minds about the decision, almost purely based on the strength of “Noble Beast”’s Anonimal). Can you tell I’m torn? I think “…Eggs” won out in the end because you can lose yourself so completely in the thing. Bird is, without doubt, one of the most interesting artists of the decade, and nowhere is this more evident than in this album.
Must hear: Sovay
+ Buy from Amazon

rabbit18. Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight (2008)
The release of 2008. ‘Nuff said, really. Seriously, I’m not going to waste your time here anymore. Just step away from the computer, go to your local music store, and get this album. You’ll thank me.
Must hear: Good arms vs. Bad arms
+ Buy from Amazon

gaslight17. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (2008)
God, I hate the fact that I just used the line “The release of 2008” in the previous entry. Because if any other album in 2008 stood up to “The Midnight Organ Fight”, it was The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ’59 Sound”. An album that, it appears, I’ll simply never get tired of, this is one that will stand the test of time. Watch my words.
Must hear: Great Expectations
+ Buy from Amazon

howie16. Howie Day – Australia (2000)
Howie Day is a year older than me, and – in many ways – I’ve grown up with the guy’s music. If any artist on this list has been able to speak for me when I couldn’t find the words, it’s Howie Day. In 2000, when I first heard this album (yes, it was released independently two years before the Epic release) I was 18. And man, did it speak to me. While I’m not sure that Howie has ever quite fulfilled the potential that I still feel he has in him, I’ll forever be grateful to him for this album.
Must hear: Ghost
+ Buy from Amazon

jack15. Jack Johnson – Brushfire Fairytales (2001)
Even though Jack had his music out there previous to this album (via soundtracks and the like) it’s still hard to believe that this album, “Brushfire Fairytales”, was his “proper” debut release. The album is a study in perfection, and I don’t make that statement lightly. A release that simply inspires joy, I’ll never forget the first time I heard it.
Must hear: F-stop Blues
+ Buy from Amazon

lovehell14. Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell (2004)
“Love is Hell” (issued as two EPs) saw a return to Ryan’s top form, and I think excited not only us fans, but Ryan himself too. I say that because when I’ve watched Ryan and The Cardinals perform live, there always seems to be a little extra… sparkle in the set, when they perform “Love Is Hell” tunes. And rightly so. The album was at once tender, and at the same time defiantly aggressive. Getting that mix right, some would say, takes genius.
Must hear: I see Monsters
+ Buy from Amazon

plush13. Plush – All That is Should Be (2004)
Another South African release, I’ve written about Plush before in my South African bands post (band #29), so I’ll let you read that for some more background. Suffice to say, I felt that Plush were going to save South African music. They had everything needed to completely revolutionise how the industry perceived itself, which was always our biggest problem. So when one half of Plush, Chas Smit, was tragically killed in a hit and run car accident in 2005 following a gig, a little piece of all of us died that day. A few years on, and Rory Eliot (the other half of Plush) has picked up the mantle again. I’m holding thumbs for him.
Must hear: Jet Life

mattryan12. Matthew Ryan – Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State (2008)
You know, I’ve been listening to Matthew Ryan’s stuff for quite some time, so it might seem strange that it’s one of his latest albums, “Matthew Ryan Vs. Silver State” to make it onto this list. But, for all of Ryan’s habits of delving into the darker, more depressing conditions of the human spirit, it was this, his somewhat more optimistic album that stands above the rest for me. I’ve always felt that Matthew Ryan deserves far more recognition, because the dude really does produce music that means something. And that’s saying something.
Must hear: Dulce Et Decorum Est
+ Buy from Amazon

outkast11. Outkast – Stankonia (2000)
The crowning glory of Outkast, without a doubt. Sure, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” might have been a more ambitious undertaking for the duo, but “Stankonia” was their masterpiece. The album had a massive 24 tracks, and yet somehow managed to keep it together for its entirety; no mean undertaking, especially given the fickleness of some of their hip-hop contemporaries at the turn of the new millenium. But that’s just it, really… Outkast had no contemporaries at the time. They were flying on a completely different cloud. And man, was it bad ass.
Must hear: Ms Jackson
+ Buy from Amazon

pete10. Pete Francis – Untold (2003)
There’s something about this album from Pete Francis (one third of the aforementioned “Dispatch”, who had by this stage broken up and moved on to respective new projects). I can’t describe what it is, but I felt that, when I heard this album, I grew up. I don’t know how else to describe it, but before listening to it, I was… different. After listening to it, I was another way. That probably makes no sense to anyone, but there you have it.
Must hear: Untold
+ Buy from Amazon

coldplay9. Coldplay – Parachutes (2000)
Just a great, great album. While Chris Martin seems to be the new Bono in the music bloggers world (ie. it seems remarkably popular to pick on the dude), I’d challenge anyone to disagree that this was a near-perfect album. Track after track, Martin and Co. knocked it out of the park. Reportedly, Chris refers to this album as “terrible music”; I’d disagree… for me, it’s possibly the best thing Coldplay have ever produced.
Must hear: Don’t Panic
+ Buy from Amazon

ben8. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Live from Mars (2001)
Ben Harper (with and without The Innocent Criminals) has been responsible for some of my favourite albums over the last two decades, but I’m not sure anything will ever quite live up to the 2001 live release, “Live from Mars”. “Live from Mars” is, quite possibly, the perfect “live” album; an album that captures – but does not tame – the live sound of a band at its highest point. Listening to this album is an exercise in sheer beauty… I cannot for the life of me listen to it, without wanting to pick up my guitar. And that’s a beautiful gift.
Must hear: Excuse Me, Mr
+ Buy from Amazon

3eb7. Third Eye Blind – Out of the Vein (2003)
Ok, seriously. Music bloggers, I’m putting you all on notice as of right now. Stop with the 3EB hating, k? One of my favourite bands of all time, it was natural that Third Eye Blind would have an album on this list. So thank goodness for “Out of the Vein”, because the only other album released in the decade, “Ursa Major” was quite frankly not up to par. But “Out of the Vein” is another story. Every song catchy, every song full of wry observations… every song full of Third Eye Blind awesomeness.
Must hear: Crystal Baller
+ Buy from Amazon

weaker6. The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site (2003)
You know, even though The Weakerthans are ostensibly a punk rock/folk rock band, I still find it hard to believe that that’s the same John Samson singing as was once in hardcore punk band Propagandhi. And, even though in my younger years I had brief flirtations with Propagandhi, I’ll say this outright… that outfit never came close to The Weakerthans for me. Reconstruction Site was the band’s third full-length album, and really, it should never have been able to live up to the brilliance that was “Fallow” and “Left and Leaving”. But somehow, it not only lived up to those releases, but completely eclipsed them. Such a great, great album that had a story to tell. Just bloody brilliant.
Must Hear: Reconstruction Site
+ Buy from Amazon

national5. The National – Alligator (2005)
I know most would pick 2007’s “Boxer” as their “National” release from the decade, but there’s something special about “Alligator” for me. Perhaps it’s a selfish impulse, that “Alligator” was where I first “discovered” the band. I’d largely missed out on the hype that was “Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers”, but this album was a revelation when I heard it. And, ultimately, when you get right down to it, Matt Berninger could read out a grocery shopping list and that voice would still captivate you.
Must Hear: All the Wine
+ Buy from Amazon

boniver4. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)
I’ve written about Bon Iver enough times on this blog, and watching them live last year was one of my concert-going highlights for all time, so it’s no surprise that Justin Vernon and Co. find themselves on this list. This album, “For Emma, Forever Ago” is an album of fragile beauty, weary acceptance, and subtle hope. Simply beautiful, and an album that wasn’t just heard, but experienced.
Must hear: re: Stacks
+ Buy from Amazon

tiger3. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Easy Tiger (2007)
Unquestionably, one of my favourite Ryan Adams releases. Once again backed by the Cardinals, “Easy Tiger” is full of those aching observations that Ryan Adams seems to toss off like dust off his shoes. Probably the most consistent of all Adams’ albums, “Easy Tiger” is an absolute must in your CD collection.
Must Hear: Two
+ Buy from Amazon

johnsons2. Antony and The Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now (2005)
You know, I distinctly remember this album came out right at the beginning of 2005, and yet, somehow, all of us knew without a doubt that it would be in our “Best of ’05” lists. “I am a Bird Now” is one of those albums that – if you’re lucky – comes along once in your lifetime. I’ve noticed that if I have videos playing of Antony Hegarty performing, a lot of people do a double-take; sometimes with notable discomfort on their face. It’s hard to blame them… if you’ve ever seen Antony and The Johnsons perform live, you’ll know the raw and painful emotion Antony puts into his performance. And that voice is just so damn fragile, and vulnerable, it sounds like it could break into a million shards at any time. It really is, at times, uncomfortable. Bloody worth it though.
Must hear: My Lady Story
+ Buy from Amazon

heartbreaker1. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (2000)
Could it really be that this was Ryan Adam’s debut solo album, post-Whiskeytown? Surely he sounds… older, and wiser here? But it was, and in a lot of ways many of Ryan’s subsequent releases seemed to be running away from Heartbreaker, in a sense. It was like “Heartbreaker” had Ryan at his rawest and most emotionally open, and for a long time everything after that was running and hiding; until, at least, Love Is Hell in 2004. Heartbreaker is perhaps Ryan Adam’s finest moment. And I’ll thank him for this album for the rest of my life.
Must hear: Come Pick Me Up
+ Buy from Amazon

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Jack Johnson and Friends… at the Brisbane Riverstage.

As mentioned yesterday, on Sunday I headed across to the Brisbane Riverstage, for an evening with Jack Johnson, Matt Costa, and Will Conner. And – despite my longtime love affair with Jack Johnson, and my (extremely) tenuous connection with him via my friend Farryl Purkiss (Farryl and Jack once composed a song together, a fact that all of us local musos took pride in repeating… every chance we got) – this was to be my first time actually seeing him perform live.

Well, ok, that’s not strictly true. I had seen him perform live once before, with Ben Harper on his “Both Sides of the Gun” tour of 2007. In fact, it was at the very same stage, the Brisbane Riverstage. Jack was invited on stage to join Ben for a song, and, while for the life of me I can’t remember which tune it was now, I’m fairly certain it was for their rendition of “High Tide or Low Tide”. However, this was to be my first time watching him perform his own set, at his own concert. And I was certainly not disappointed.

There’s a lot to get through from the night, so I’ll just jump right in…

Will Conner and David Rastovich

Will Conner
Local boy Will Conner definitely impressed…

“We don’t need more stuff,
Just need each other and that’s enough”

– Will Conner, “Stuff”

As the sun started setting over the Riverstage, the first act came onto stage: Will Conner and David Rastovich. While I’d heard “Rasta” before, this was my first time hearing Will Conner, and I was really impressed. A local boy – well, Byron Bay local, anyway – I was surprised that I hadn’t heard much about Will before. I mean, he’s also apparently toured with one of my absolute musical crushes, Tristan Prettyman, so it really was surprising.
Will’s tunes are pretty much what you would expect for an opening act for Jack. Laid-back, coastal tunes, which are extremely easy to groove to. Underneath, there’s a strong eco-conservation focus – in fact, this was true throughout the entire night – that was perfectly complemented by Will’s plaintive voice and Rasta’s awesome percussion. On that note, David Rastovich plays some of the best “cheek percussion” I’ve ever heard. Seriously.

Crowd at the Brisbane Riverstage
Crowd at the Brisbane Riverstage, as the sun was setting

“Is it easy to change the world?
Where do we sign up, to help change the world?”

– Will Conner, “Herd”

Perhaps the highlight of the set, for me at least, was Will’s tune, “Home”, describing Byron Bay. It’s a song that simply gets in your head. With it’s refrain of “Home is where I started from/And home is where I wanna be when I get old”, and imagery that I could really relate to, I was sold on this talent. While the recorded version has a fairly tame harmonica solo, in the live version Will was blowing an absolutely mean harp. Here’s to hearing more of this from Will.

Jack Johnson, Dave Rastovich & Will Conner
Dave Rastovich, Will Conner & Jack Johnson

Another high point of the set was when Jack Johnson was called up on stage to join both Will and David Rastovich for a medley of “Plastic Jesus” and “ Fall Line”. I was disappointed that they didn’t go into “Spring Wind”, as I was expecting, but it was still a great moment. The three seemed to have a real synergy up on stage, which was absolutely awesome to witness.

Below, the song, “Home”, by Will Conner. Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Will Conner – Home

Matt Costa

Matt Costa
Matt Costa performed an incendiary set at the Riverstage

Next up on the bill was Matt Costa. Now, I’ve been a big fan of Matt Costa since the days I first heard his EP with “Astaire” on it, back in (I think) 2003, so I was pretty excited to see him perform live, as it was another first for me.
I think the one thing I was most surprised by was the absolute abandon with which Matt seems to play. From the first song, “Yellow Taxi”, with those opening lines of “Can you spare some conversation?” you could tell that the night with Matt was going to be interesting.
I don’t know what it was, but there seemed to be an underlying anger behind his performance on Sunday night. Sure, it was tempered in some songs – most notably in his performance of “Astaire”, which was as tender a rendition than I’ve ever heard – but the remainder seemed full with an energy that I didn’t expect from Matt.

“You gave me your word
Then you flew like a bird
Never looking back”

– Matt Costa, “Ballad of Miss Kate”

One song where this was most visible – and most welcome – was an absolutely incendiary version of “Ballad of Miss Kate”. Performed with more force than I’d heard before, the song was certainly a major highlight of the night for me, and I’ll remember it for a long time to come.

Following that was “Mr Pitiful”, which the crowd went absolutely crazy for. With Matt at the keyboard, jiving around as he pounded out the chords, he had thousands of people eating out of his hand, and clamouring for more. And rightly so. It’s a killer tune, and if the conversation around me was anything to go by, certainly gained Matt a lot of new supporters that night.
Next up? “Behind the Moon”. I can’t say much here. It was the one song (apart from “Astaire”) that I was really, truly praying he would play. He did. And it was everything I’d hoped for. Absolute bliss on my part. The problem was, it was so much bliss, I kind of blessed out after that, so the rest of the set passed in a blur for me.
I can say that, while I wasn’t previously a fan of “Cigarette Eyes”, I am now. “Lilacs” also was a cracking tune, and the closing song, “Emergency Call” went down extremely well, with more than a few people in the crowd yelling out “Doctor!” along with Matt… a perfect way to close a stellar set.

Matt Costa
Matt Costa on the Brisbane Riverstage

I was torn on which song to include for Matt, but ended up deciding upon “Ballad of Miss Kate”, from his “Elasmosaurus” EP. Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Listen: Matt Costa – Ballad of Miss Kate

Traditional Blessing

Traditional Blessing
Before Jack came on, there was a traditional blessing of the concert.

After Matt’s set, and before Jack came on, there was the traditional blessing of the concert by a representative of the original aboriginal owners. I’ve been to countless concerts at the Riverstage before, but it was the first time I had seen this take place, and I thought was a great sign of Jack’s respect towards the land’s traditional owners.
The speech went on for a while, and there were a few concert-goers that complained at first; but after a while and everyone settled down, it became a really great experience. People were celebrating the diversity of the land, but also paying tribute to the tradition; and it set a great atmosphere for Jack to enter…

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson performed to a sell-out crowd at the Brisbane Riverstage.

After much – and I mean, much clamouring from the crowd… these guys were rabid – Jack Johnson came on to a roar of screams that were picked up by the stage microphones and broadcast around the arena. I almost felt like I was at some kind of boy-band concert… it was that kind of squeal. Responding with a casual grin and shrug, Jack and Co. launched right into a tune from the new “Sleep through the Static” album, “Hope”. I thought that the tune would be an interesting indicator of the night ahead; the reception to the new album in Australia so far has been fairly mixed. The supposed “older” crowd of fans seem to hanker for the Jack of old, while there is a whole new crowd of fans who have been attracted to the music.

There shouldn’t have been a question in my mind.

The crowd absolutely erupted. And you knew it was going to be a great night. There was a girl in front of me with “Your shadow walks faster than you” plastered all over her arms in permanent marker, and I honestly thought she was going to start hyperventilating when those first chords rang out.
As if reading my earlier thoughts, instead of continuing with another track from the new album, the band then went straight into “The Horizon has been defeated”, from the “On and On” album. And on this track, I managed to see what I had been hoping we would be privy to…

Zach’s chicken dance. And man, was he on fine chicken dance form that night.

Jackie J
Jack, Adam, Merlo and Zach on the Brisbane Riverstage

After a great performance of “Staple it Together”, the song “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” had the crowd screaming out the lyrics along with Jack, and it was a great feeling. In all of the live performances I’ve seen of Jack captured on video, he always seems to have the same reaction: an incredulous shake of the head, a little joyous laugh, and then picking it back up again. And it was great to be a part of that.

After that, it was back onto the new material: the single, “Sleep through the Static”, and then the song “Go On”, which Jack mentioned he had actually written on a previous plane trip to Australia… which of course the crowd responded to. “Go On” is a tune that I really like. The bass line, the melody, and obviously the lyrics… they all combine to create this really powerful, uplifting track about letting go, and it’s one that I’m sure will stand the test of time when it comes to Jack’s track record in the future.

After that it was back to the older stuff; “Taylor” which – as always – had the crowd surging and grooving; “Bubble Toes”, and then “Wasting Time”, which was one of the highlights of the night for me. There was a real conversation going on between the band and the crowd, and it really felt as if everyone knew it.

After that Jack invited Matt Costa and his guitarist, Mitchell Townsend back onto stage for “Let It Be Sung”, which appears on the “Brokedown Melody” soundtrack. Really, this should have been obvious, considering that Zach, Jack and Matt were all together, but for some reason it hadn’t occurred to me. Needless to say, it was awesome. A lot of people have told me that they’ve struggled to find this song, so I’ve included it below.

After a Jane’s addiction cover (sorry, I’m not sure of the song’s title… if anyone else was there and knows, then drop a comment below), the band moved into “What You Thought You Need”, which Jack coupled with a very funny story about translation problems. Suffice to say, if a French speaking friend hadn’t stepped in, this song about Jack travelling in a van through Europe with his wife might have included a line claiming that a well-known “transvestite forest” held all the answers that Jack and his wife needed. Personally, I thought that would have been pretty cool, but each to their own. Heh.

Banana pancakes. Man, Zach excelled himself on this, his own song, not only in the absolutely killer accordian playing, but also in the dancing. The guy has this incredible energy about him that you simply cannot help but like; as if he’s the best friend you just haven’t met yet. So thanks, Zach, for giving that to us.

Jack Johnson & Co.
Jack Johnson & Co.

After “Banana Pancakes”, it was back to a new tune, with “Same Girl”, and then another trip back to the previous album with “Breakdown”. “Breakdown” was another song, much like “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing”, where the crowd almost drowned out the band with it’s singing.
Following that, there was a barrage of songs played, without much chatting between songs. The songs that followed were, “Good People”, “Monsoon”, “Mudfootball” (can I get a “hell yeah!”?), and “Flake” (again, another hell yeah. No matter how many times I’ve heard that song over the years, I needed to hear it live. And it was awesome). The final song, at least for the band as a whole, was the current single being played in Australia, “If I had eyes”… and the fact it was currently receiving a lot of airplay showed.
As Adam, Merlo, Zach and Jack raised their hands in goodbye, there was a real feeling of accomplishment in the air; and it was as if it had been accomplished together. And that’s always a sign of a great concert.

Jackie J & Co closing the set
Jackie J & Co closing the set

After the lights dimmed, and the obligatory “encore period” had elapsed, Jack came back on stage, solo, for an encore to close the show. With the backdrop changing to a “starry night”, Jack launched into a solo rendition of the first song off the new CD, “All at Once”. This song is easily my favourite off the new album. There’s just something that recalls the song, “It’s All Understood” to me. I mean, I have no idea why that is, and I can’t explain it at all, but it does. But I absolutely loved that song, so take it as a good thing.
After that was the bonus track off “Sleep Through The Static”, “Home”. I’m not a huge fan of this song, but my girlfriend is, and seeing as she was the one who managed to score us tickets, I was happy as a pig in mud with the choice.
Jack prefaced the next song by explaining that recently his son had asked him why everyone has a “mommy and daddy”. And Jack started to explain how a “mommy and daddy” have to create a child together. And when his kid, like all kids, pressed for more, Jack ended up spinning a long, nervous yarn about how we “multiply”.

“You’ve got to be careful when you’ve got good love,
‘Coz them angels will just keep on multiplying”

– Jack Johnson, “Angel”

And, as he said, really that’s what the song is about. Love and multiplication. The tenderness with which this song was performed had the crowd silent. And I mean silent. I’ve never heard that many thousands of breaths being held. But they were.

And then it was time to end. And what song did Jack end with? Another song for all the lovers out there, “Better Together”. It was a great song to cap off a great night, and a really positive feeling around the crowd.

Listen: Jack Johnson, Matt Costa and Zach Gill – Let it be Sung
Listen: Jack Johnson – All At Once

And that was it. So, for those keeping count out there, here’s the setlist:

  • Hope
  • Horizon has been defeated
  • Staple it together
  • Sitting, Waiting, Wishing
  • Sleep through the static
  • Go on
  • Taylor
  • Bubble Toes
  • Wasting Time
  • Let it be sung
  • Jane’s Addiction cover?
  • What you thought you need
  • Banana Pancakes
  • Same girl
  • Breakdown
  • Good people
  • Monsoon
  • Mudfootball
  • Flake
  • If I had eyes


  • All at once
  • Home
  • Angel
  • Better together

All in all, it was an amazing night.
Will Conner and David Rastovich definitely started it off on a great note (heh, no pun intended), and Matt Costa and band carried that through. And then Jack and Co themselves… well, I think that in terms of my reaction to the night, they were labouring under a huge amount of pressure. After all, the problem with being a fan of a musician for years, yet never managing to see them live, is that the expectations are raised higher and higher, for years on end. The one quibble that I suppose I might have with the night, is that it might have been too polished. When Jack and Co were up there, it was as if you were listening to the CD. Which is great, but at a live concert you’re also hoping to see a bit more adaptation… a bit more jamming, really. But again, that might be those damn lofty expectations again.

So, that said, did they meet those expectations? Hell no.

They passed them.


It’s been a crazy weekend…

… and, really, there won’t be many words today. But last night was an evening spent with Jack Johnson and Matt Costa, when they performed at the Brisbane Riverstage.

So tomorrow, there will be plenty, plenty more words. It’s going to take a while to marshall my thoughts about the night, so make sure you tune in tomorrow.

It was definitely awesome though.

artists christmas covers digital downloads guitar music

Jack Johnson’s New Album. And, another Christmas Cover.

Jack Johnson - Sleep Through The Static

So it appears that Jack Johnson’s new album, “Sleep Through The Static” should be ready for release by February, 2008. For this, his 5th album, Johnson worked with his usual rhythm section – bassist Merlo Podlewski and drummer Adam Topol – plus Zach Gill (frequent collaborater and frontman of ALO) on piano and accordion.

Jack has said of the album:

“Some of the songs on this album are about making babies. Some of the songs are about raising them. Some of the songs are about the world that these children will grow up in; a world of war and love, and hate, and time and space. Some of the songs are about saying goodbye to people I love and will miss.”

Jack’s had an amazing couple of years. From Brushfire Fairytales to the Curious George: Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies soundtrack, Jackie J seems to be on a winning streak. I have the feeling though, that this album will be his toughest yet.
The population is becoming harder to please, and the problem with gaining popularity is that – even for a surfer/singer/songwriter like Jack Johnson – a certain amount of innocence is lost. I’m hoping for a feeling like the one I had when I first heard “Flake”. That innocent joy that ran through you. Time will tell.

In the meantime, Jack has released two of the singles from the forthcoming album on his myspace page. Here is the title track, “Sleep through the Static“, below (again, for new visitors, just click on the “play” icon to listen).

Listen: Jack Johnson – Sleep Through the Static

And, continuing on from our Christmas Cover love, Jack Johnson has also released a cover of a Stevie Wonder song, “Someday at Christmas“, on his website. As Jack says:

Here is a home recording i did of a Stevie Wonder song. My parents used to play this song at our house when we were kids.

Pray for peace.

Please visit The Peace Alliance at

Sentiments after our own heart.
Listen. Love. Support.

Listen: Jack Johnson – Someday at Christmas (Stevie Wonder cover)

artists artists to watch for in 2008 music

Brett Dennen – Ain’t No Reason

Brett Dennen

So 2007 is nearly over, and there’s one artist who I feel should have made a bigger splash this year – Brett Dennen.

This kid brought the goods with his 2006 album, “So Much More”, but surprisingly his music is only now beginning to reach a larger audience, thanks to an opening slot for John Mayer.

2008 has to be the year for Dennen. There’s no ways that music such as this should remain only a big deal online. Part Jack Johnson, part Dave Matthews, part Tracy Chapman, part early John Mayer (and, dare we say it, part Dylan if he continues to grow and mature?)… Dennen’s use of jazzy chord structures and a voice that epitomises warmth signals big things that are far too long overdue.

Perhaps the song that best exemplifies Brett Dennen’s song-writing chops is the song, “Ain’t No Reason”. At once a song decrying the way we live:

“prison walls still standing tall
some things never change at all
keep on building prisons,
gonna fill them all.
keep on building bombs
gonna drop them all
working your fingers bare to the bone
breaking your back, make you sell your soul
like a lung is filled with coal, suffocating slow”

… it gives us back hope with the chorus:

“but love will come set me free
love will come set me free
i do believe
love will come set me free
i know it will”

Here’s the song below. Listen. Love. Support.

Brett Dennen – Ain’t No Reason


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