Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2023

Yes, I’ve been absent again. 2 years since my last post. Sorry about that.

I did actually put together a “Burgo’s Top Albums of 2022” with all the intent of posting here last year, but life got in the way. If you’re interested in what made the cut, you can still find the playlist on Spotify here. It was actually a pretty good year, and Anaïs Mitchell’s self-titled album was a thing of friggin’ beauty. Listen to it, if you haven’t already.

But… time, she waits for no man, and the next thing you know, it’s 2024. Your kids are growing up, both at school now. You find yourself smoking meat overnight in a weber kettle. You’re really getting into perfecting your neapolitan pizza bases. The arthritis in your hands is starting to play up, but you’re trying to ignore the fact that it might spell the end of your guitar playing. You’re having to come to terms with the fact that your best friend, your sidekick, your shadow… your little puppy dog… is slowing down and entering her last few years. You’re coming to terms with your own mortality, and thinking about your own legacies. You’re…

Oh. That’s just me?

Anyway, here’s my top albums of 2023… even if a couple of months late.

16. Bill Orcutt – Jump On It

I find Bill Orcutt endlessly fascinating. One-time member of the ever-noisy Harry Pussy, his path to becoming one of the leaders of traditional American guitar is just bizarre, but wonderful. 

This is an album of contradictions. It’s quiet; but loud. It’s soothing; but dissonant. It’s airy; but urgent. It’s all of these things, but none. Make of that what you will. 

And I don’t think I’ve ever heard a better album closer than the snap of the guitar string on “Before I Go”.

Standout track: What Do You Do With Memory (but honestly, this is an album that needs to be listened to in its entirety)

15. Lori McKenna – 1988

Just a beautiful, beautiful album. Lori McKenna is a songwriter’s songwriter, and whether you like country or not, I defy you to not feel something, identify with someone when listening to this album.

Jangly guitars abound throughout, and I am here for it.

Standout track: Letting People Down

14. Fenne Lily – Big Picture

An album you can just sink into. The vocals here are comforting, soft, soothing. But there’s a bite to the lyrics that you won’t catch, if you aren’t paying attention. My favourite track off the album, “Lights Light Up”, is just this mass of the conflicts that come in relationships, and it’s heartbreaking but oh-so pretty.

Standout track: Lights Light Up

13. The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein

I’ve had a long love-affair with The National, going all the way back to 2005’s “Alligator”, but I’ll admit that 2019’s “I Am Easy to Find” left me wondering where our relationship would go next.

“First Two Pages of Frankestein” brought me right back. Sparse, hushed, weathered and full of that “National glow“, I just love this.

Standout track: New Order T-shirt

12. Wilder Woods – FEVER/SKY

Bear Rineheart has one of my favourite voices in music today (and that’s been the case for over 15 years now!) and FEVER/SKY showcases his absolute roar of a voice throughout. Standout track contender, Patience, in particular. Man, I love hearing Bear just let loose like this.

Just an album of rollicking tunes.

Standout track: Be Yourself

11. Jess Williamson – Time Ain’t Accidental

Alt-country? Indie-country? I suck at labels. I’ll just say this is a very, very good album.

And honestly, anyone who writes lyrics like “My love is pure as the universe/ Honest as an ashtray” has me captured.

Standout track: Hunter


Cheating, because here’s our man Bear again in his main outfit, NEEDTOBREATHE.

To my ears, this is probably their most radio-friendly album that I’ve heard from the band; it’s certainly one of the catchiest. While some listeners might be put off by that comment, I’d still urge you to give this album a listen. It’s chock-full of stadium-sized barn burners.

Standout track: When You Forgive Someone

9. Darlingside – Everything is Alive

Just a beautiful, pretty album. Almost every song on here is gorgeous. Lush arrangement and (as always) beautiful harmonies… although the band are stepping out on their own on individual tracks, more and more.

I just wish it made me feel something more. But for execution alone, “Everything is Alive” makes it pretty darn high on this list.

Standout track: How Long Again

8. Gregory Alan Isakov – Appaloosa Bones

Despite the fact that Gregory Alan Isakov was born in South Africa, it’s hard to deny that his music has become synonymous with his home, Colorado. This album was made to listen while under big skies, gazing up at the stars at the foot of the Rockies.

Of all the artists on this list, GAI is the one I’d most like to hole up for an evening with and share drinks over an old wooden table as we talk about life. His albums are always so richly textured, so full, but at the same time so unhurried, understated and patient. I think we could all learn a lot from that.

Standout track: Before The Sun

7. The Gaslight Anthem – History Books

The Gaslight Anthem made one of my favourite albums of the 00’s decade, and certainly one of my top 2 albums from 2008, with absolute classic “The ’59 Sound”. I can hand on heart say that, nearly 20 years later, I’m still not sick of that album.

Which is why I was nervous about this, the band’s first album in the nearly decade since 2014’s pre-break up “Get Hurt“. And I won’t lie, the album took a few spins for me. But the more time I spend with it, the more I find myself singing along with some old friends.

Standout track: Positive Charge

6. Gracie Abrams – Good Riddance

I’ve pretty much only seen snarky reviews of this album, with adjectives like “derivative”, “cliched” and (in one particularly mean case), “Not Reinventing the ‘Indie Sad Girl’ Wheel” being thrown around.

Which boggles my mind. This is such a good album, particularly when you consider it’s Gracie Abrams’ debut full-length release (?!). Honestly, I feel like Gracie fell victim to the almost impossible “hype to live up to” that comes from personal endorsements from Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo.

Anyway. I really enjoyed this.

Standout track: I should hate you

5. Noname – Sundial

Just effortless flow. Wry. Angry. Frustrated.

No one is safe from Noname. Not even Noname herself.

Takedowns have never been so eloquent.

Standout track: namesake

4. Zach Bryan – Zach Bryan

Although I never published the post, Zach Bryan’s 2022 release, “American Heartbreak”, was one of my favourite releases of that year, and made my Spotify “Albums of 2022” playlist. The dude is so serious, but also so sincere. And when his voice breaks, as it so often does in its plaintive tones? I break, each time.

Is this album without faults? Nope. Does that matter? Nope. Because then Zach Bryan lets loose with one of his heart-breaking lines, and everything else fades away. Bryan writes the songs you feel in your heart, the stories you wish you could tell.

Standout track: Such a tight call on this one, and it ended up a coin-flip between spoken word opener “Fear and Friday’s”, “I Remember Everything” and “Tourniquet”… with “Tourniquet” winning by a hair.

3. Ilsey – From the Valley

For the last decade of so, Ilsey Juber has been a pretty major force in the music world, although most would have no idea. That’s because, until the release of “From the Valley”, Ilsey was mostly known as the writer behind major hits like Beyonce’s “All Night”, Miley Cyrus’s “Midnight Sky”, Panic! at the Disco’s “High Hopes” and more.

All that has changed with “From the Valley”. Ilsey steps into the spotlight, and man, does she do it in style. An album full of longing for something more, somebody else, this is breezy road trip music… and I mean that in the best way.

Standout track: No California

2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Weathervanes

Regular readers may not be surprised by this choice… after all, Jason Isbell has had a few appearances on my “Best of the Year” roundups.

Over the years, I’ve named two artists as my favourite lyricists of our generation: Josh Ritter and John Darnielle. Jason Isbell has skirted around that line before, but with Weathervanes I think he’s firmly expanded my previous views into a solid triumvirate.

Such great, great writing on this album. Isbell wrestles with the world around him, and his own place in it… and while there’s not necessarily a resolution, there’s a distinct sense of raging against the light here.

And the 400 unit are just so tight, it’s ridiculous.

Standout track: Save the World

1. Tommy Prine – This Far South

It was always going to be Tommy Prine’s “This Far South” for me. Ever since I came across Tommy Prine back in 2022, the dude has been soundtracking much of my life. While I viewed “Ships in the Harbor” (about the passing of his father, John) as a definitive declaration of a legacy continued, wow was I unprepared for the songwriting that would follow it.

Blending genres from folk, country, americana, punk, southern rock and grunge and more… Tommy Prine’s songwriting capabilities are just sublime. It is absolutely wild to think this kid is 28.

In that short life though, Tommy’s been through a lot. The album seems a reflection of this, with a lot of introspective writing and, yes, anger.

In album opener, “Elohim“, Prine pretty stridently declares that there is no God… and while that’s something most who know me will know is not something I subscribe to, it’s also easy to see the plaintive cry of frustration from an angry young man who’s lost not only his father, but best friends in a relatively short amount of time.

Throughout the album, Prine talks about personal experiences on a songwriting level that is just truly gut-wrenching. I can’t wait to see where he goes next.

Standout track(s): Honestly, I couldn’t pick. Elohim, the aforementioned rage against the loss he’s endured; or By the Way, another heartbreaking song dealing with his father.

And there you have it, folks. See you in a few years, maybe?

Full album playlist below…

2013 releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2013

2014 was probably the “smoothest” year I can remember in music for quite some time. By that, I mean it was the year where polished pop music finally became cool again, and was totally embraced by the indie kids. That’s definitely reflected in my choices below; it’s by far the most “pop-driven” list of any of my end of year recaps, in all the years I’ve been blogging. And I think that’s actually a really, really cool thing.

Below are in no particular order, because I’m a rebel like that.

Bastille – Bad Blood


Just a great, great album. There’s something here for everyone, and – although that sometimes can water down an album in other cases – in this case, Bad Blood is only stronger for it. From start to finish, Dan Smith speaks both for and to you, in completely predictable ways – but damned if that doesn’t just make me enjoy this more. Sometimes predictability isn’t a bad thing… it’s predictable because it feels right, natural. As a result, there’s a comfort and familiarity listening to these tunes, like it’s your favourite band from years ago; all this despite the fact that it’s Bastille’s debut album (EPs and previous singles aside).

Synth-laden and electronic pop that will appeal to fans of Mumford and the likes. Give it a spin.

Standout track: In an album of stand-out singles? Tough, but I’d have to go with album opener, “Pompeii”.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City


So, I’ve had a thing about VW in the past. I caught myself humming along to their tunes, but in a lot of ways, I just couldn’t get into them as much as others did. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were great at crafting catchy hooks, but whenever I tried to listen to a full album of theirs, something just seemed… off. There was a lot of hype and glossy style there, but they just couldn’t sustain me all the way through.

With “Modern Vampires of the City”, however, that all changed. In an interview with the New York Times, Ezra Koenig said, “In the past, I think a lot of our songs have had detours… I feel like every song on this album has a purpose”, and when I read that, I finally knew what was different. Ezra was spot on in his own awareness of their music; it’s the most complete album of theirs yet, and one that I can totally get in to. I don’t think it’s their most mature album – people have been using that label like they’ve been immature before – but I do think it’s their most focussed album.

Standout track: Unbelievers

Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe


Wow. Wow wow wow. Ok, seriously, find me a stronger album opening in 2013 than the trio of tunes that open, “The Bones of What You Believe”. Honestly, I’m hard pressed to think of a stronger opening act at all, come to think about it. “The Mother We Share”, already hyped in my own mind as one of the year’s best songs prior to the album’s release, was then followed by the even catchier “We Sink”, with “Gun” rounding out the hat-trick.

Overall, just a super-strong album, with only “You Caught the Light” seeming the odd tune out in terms of enjoyment. But, that aside, probably my favourite album of the year – and, again, it’s synth-driven electro-pop. I’m a singer-songwriter/folk/americana stalwart… what the heck happened in 2013??!

Standout track: We Sink

The National – Trouble Will Find Me


So, we should probably get this out of the way: if you weren’t a The National fan before this album, I’m not sure this will be the one to turn you around. Like most albums from the band, it’s not an immediate winner. At first listen, you’ll probably be hard pressed to remember a “single”. But after multiple spins, you’ll find you just keep coming back to it, again and again… likely with a wistful sense of nostalgic desperation. Let’s be clear, it’s no Alligator, nor Boxer — but if you’ve grown with these guys from the beginning, it’s exactly where the album needed to be.

Self-aware to the extreme, it’s a slow burner that will bury itself deep inside your mind. The frantic sounds of Alligator aren’t here, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed. But there’s something a whole lot more menacing, if weary, here.

Standout track: Graceless

Haim – Days Are Gone


You know, it was kind of inevitable that there would be the backlash against Haim. Danielle and Este Haim were a tween-pop outfit. “Valli Girls”, put together by Richard Marx (yes, that Richard Marx), prior to striking out on their own with younger sister, Alana. So, already, they’re tarnished with the “manufactured” label. And the production values on “Days Are Gone” don’t help their case; it’s so slick, so damn polished, that you’d immediately think that means it eliminates any personality, any soul from the release.

But somehow, Haim pull it off. Perhaps it’s because they’re just so insanely, insanely talented. “Days Are Gone” is an amazing debut for the sisters, and one that really isn’t worthy of the current hipster backlash on the LA trio. Because when you get down to it and throw all those preconceptions away, this is just a band making ridiculously tight music. So do your part and enjoy it.

Standout track: The Wire

Vance Joy – God Loves You When You’re Dancing


Vance Joy, aka James Keogh, put out one of the Australian releases of the year, with his “God Loves You When You’re Dancing” EP. At 5 songs and around 24 minutes long, it all-too-fleeting, but for that short period of time you absolutely lose yourself in blissful, layered texturing, and heartbreaking tunes.

You would have been hard-pressed to get away from lead single, “Riptide” this year, but trust me – Vance Joy is no one-hit-wonder. All 5 songs on this EP are captivating, particularly album closer, “From Afar”

Standout track: From Afar

Phosphorescent – Muchacho


Matthew Houck’s latest is one of my favourites from him – as always, the voice is faltering, and seemingly fragile; but Houck just lays it all out there with such raw honesty, those cracks and breaks make it seem all the more real.

There are some serious echoes of “Cold Roses”-era Cardinals in some of the tunes here, which is probably why I like it so much.

Standout track: The Quotidian Beasts

Griffin House – Balls


Griffin House had an incredible 2007, when the popular “Flying Upside Down” came out. Critics raved about his warm, comfortable tunes, and great things were expected. Then “Learner” followed that in 2010, and reviews were… disappointing, to say the least. So I was absolutely stoked to hear Griffin House’s return with the simply-titled “Balls” this year.

Balls sounds like House at his most comfortable in years. And I love having him back.

Standout track: Go Through It

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories


Maybe not the album that EDM were hoping would come from Daft Punk, but definitely the album that EDM needed. It’s no surprise that DP went so purposefully away from the EDM riffs that they so strongly influenced on this record, and leaned heavily into the disco and funk from the 70s and 80s. You can’t help but think Daft Punk look at what has been wrought over the last few years with a bit of sadness. Which is why they came out with something so much damn fun.

Like their album opener says, “Give Life Back to Music”. Random Access Memories certainly does.

Standout track: Lose Yourself to Dance

Josh Ritter – The Beast in its Tracks


Ok, so I’m going to be brutally honest here – this is no “The Animal Years”. It’s possible that this won’t make many people’s “Best of 2013” lists, unless they’re massive fans of Josh Ritter and have this weird music-crush on the dude.

I’m one of those people.

This album, his “breakup album”, following his divorce in 2011, is at times wistful, sometimes spiteful, and fleetingly hopeful. I still believe that Ritter is one of the best lyricists of our time, and that’s on painful display in this album. His confronting honesty, combined with his masterful turn of phrase, turns some of these songs into cutting rapiers.

Standout track: A Certain Light

Volcano Choir – Repave


Unexpectedly great release from Justin Vernon’s “second-tier” project. I say unexpected, not because I doubt Justin Vernon, nor Collection of Colony of Bees chops; just because 2009’s Unmap was, well… underwhelming. But with this follow up album, Volcano Choir looks set to become the Tier 1 piece in Justin Vernon’s quill. In fact, there’s a joy here that seems to have been lost in the confines of Bon Iver’s mythical status.

Freedom and lack of expectations sounds good on Volcano Choir.

Standout track: Byegone


Note - Part of this post was contributed to the always awesome "Masey's Top Albums of the Year" roundup - I'd encourage you to head on over there to check out some picks from other contributors!


digital downloads live songs

New The National – Rylan & I Need My Girl

This weekend The National debuted two songs on Canadian Public Radio and… sigh. They are predictably gorgeous.

After much teasing about their new album, this is our first look at what the boys have been working on while wrapping up their final High Violet shows. And it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

The first track, Rylan, is a classic-National tune, with those precision drums and understated piano chords leading. The other, “I Need My Girl” sounds a little less polished, but all the more intriguing for its surprising folk-guitar led melody.

Listen to both below, and the catch the videos of the performances that the mp3s are taken from below that. There’s also a bonus video of our buddy Justin Vernon joining the boys for “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”.

Listen: The National – Rylan
Listen: The National – I Need My Girl

2010 releases

12 Top Albums of 2010

This year, I was really hoping to just skip the pontificating and disclaimer-filled opening paragraph that always seems to accompany “Best Of” year-end lists, and dive right into it. Alas, it was not to be.

Because, to be honest, I found 2010 strange; about 90% of my favourite music bloggers called it the best year for music of the 2000s… but I just didn’t see it. There are plenty of bands that seemed to kill it in the music blogosphere that just didn’t tickle my fancy at all. Surfer Blood (seriously guys, can someone explain their appeal to me?), Broken Bells (yes, I get it, it’s the dude from The Shins and Danger Mouse… doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to dig it though), Warpaint (meh) and Sleigh Bells that appear on pretty much every other “Best Of” list that you’ll read this year, that don’t get a look in here.

Here’s the thing: 2010 had its shining moments in terms of singles and EPs (please, please check out Matthew and the Atlas if you haven’t yet), but the really good albums were few and far between.

That said, here’s a few of them.

Tokyo Police Club Champ12. Tokyo Police Club – Champ
It’s been near on three years since I first wrote about Tokyo Police Club on this blog, so it’s nice to see the boys come of age with their album, “Champ”. While it doesn’t quite have the same frenetic high points of Elephant Shell, “Champ” is a more mature, comfortable release then their previous two. This song was a perfect example of that; a tune that creeps insidiously into your head and makes itself at home, rather than jumping up and down demanding your attention.
Listen: Tokyo Police Club – Not Sick
+ Buy from Amazon

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor11. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
You either love “The Monitor”, or you hate it… I don’t think there’s any middle ground on this one. Because either you hear these songs as raw and cathartic, or you hear them as vulgar noise. But, as hard as it is to sometimes stick with this one, I’m glad that I did. Sounding like some sort of bastard love-child of the Hold Steady and Conor Oberst, this album pulls absolutely no punches… and could be one of the great punk albums of the last few years.
Here’s something for you to consider: if you’re a Hellblazer fan, this is exactly the type of album I’ve always imagined John listening to.
Listen: Titus Andronics – Richard II
+ Buy from Amazon

the tallest man on earth - the wild hunt10. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
Back when I first wrote about Kristian Mattson in 2008, I said of his first album that “the production on “Shallow Graves” is exactly that sound that I love… scratchy and warm. It honestly feels as if Matsson is performing these songs live in your kitchen…”. This album loses that intimacy slightly, but is still an absolute cracker. As always, the combination of voice and guitar (interchangeably taking lead) is all Mattson needs to pull you in. I’d urge you to sit down somewhere outside and watch the leaves blow in the wind while listening to this album through top-notch headphones. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something here that reconnects you with the simple things in life.
Listen: The Tallest Man on Earth – The King of Spain
+ Buy from Amazon

yeasayer - odd blood9. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
My first reaction, back when I first reviewed Yeasayer, was that it was simply “too much”. I’m not sure whether I’ve changed or they’ve changed, or whether we both have, but this year’s release, “Odd Blood”, was – as Goldilocks said – “just right”. “Odd Blood” suffered a fair amount of backlash from music bloggers who – I think – were simply hoping for another “All Hours Cymbals”. Which is a shame, as I think it’s a cracker. Give it a go… I promise, synths will have never sounded as good.
Listen: Yeasayer – O.N.E
+ Buy from Amazon

joe pug - messenger8. Joe Pug – Messenger
You know, there’s nothing that I can say about Joe Pug that I haven’t said before, so I won’t bore you too much with this review (I’ll just let you click through those links and read them at your own leisure). Suffice to say, Joe is still one of my favourite artists of this decade, and seeing him live earlier this year only cemented that standing. This album, “Messenger” finds Joe backed by a full band, which is a radical departure from his debut EP… but it works.
Listen: Joe Pug – Messenger
+ Buy from Amazon

cee-lo-green-the-lady-killer7. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer
What can I say? I just love this dude’s eccentricity. Apart from the lead single, “Fuck You”, and an absolutely gorgeous cover of the Band of Horses’ “No one’s Gonna Love You”, I’m not sure that this album will would rate as highly with too many casual listeners. But for someone who has, since the Goodie Mob days, watched with absolute fascination as Cee Lo constantly reinvents himself, it’s an intriguing release; and one that confirms, yet again, that Cee Lo is in a class of his own.
Listen: Cee Lo Green – No One’s Gonna Love You
+ Buy from Amazon

the black keys - brothers6. The Black Keys – Brothers
Probably my favourite Black Keys album. Stripped down to the bare minimum, the fuzzy riffs and Dan Auerbach’s oh-so-melting falsetto combine to an absolutely bliss-filled record. Dudes had fun making this, you can just tell… and that always leads to the best tunes.
The perfect album to spin on a seedy morning after, when the sun’s still a little bright to look at, but you’re glad to know it’s there, nonetheless.
Listen: The Black Keys – Everlasting Light
+ Buy from Amazon

mavis staples - you are not alone5. Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
Mavis Staples may be in her 70s, but I defy you to listen to that voice without falling in love with her… even just a little. This record, lovingly produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, is one I listened to a lot these last few months, when I needed a bit of cheering up. If nothing else, Mavis Staples demonstrates how the best of us endure. And damned if I’m not going to do the same thing.
Standouts include the Tweedy-penned title track, Randy Newman’s “Losing You”, and the below cover of Rev. Gary Davis’s “I Belong to the Band”.
Listen: Mavis Staples – I Belong to the Band
+ Buy from Amazon

frightened rabbit The Winter of Mixed Drinks4. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
Ok, let’s be upfront here… this is no “Midnight Organ Fight”. I’ll freely agree that Frightened Rabbit’s 2010 release is not quite there. First off, the band moved ever so slightly further away from their folkier tunes that made me fall in love with them, to a more full-bodied, grandiose sound. Part of that probably has to do with the fact that Midnight… was spurred on by a breakup, while “The Winter of Mixed Drinks” seems to be an album of acceptance. But all of the aforementioned points still couldn’t stop this album getting a spot in this list. Because it’s a cracker.
Listen: Frightened Rabbit – Not Miserable
+ Buy from Amazon

arcade fire the suburbs3. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
A really bleak, unsettling album… filled with bloody singalongs. Trust Arcade Fire to pull that one off. The more spins I gave this album, the more I liked it. Initial listens gave me a “eh, this is not bad” reaction, whereas I was hoping for a Furneralesque “Holy shit” reaction. But with each listen, I realised that this album was perhaps the album that speaks most to 2010… the desperation ever-present in the most mundane setting really resonated, and I have a feeling this album will continue to grow on me as my sense of nostalgia does.
Listen: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
+ Buy from Amazon

the national high violet2. The National – High Violet
With two albums in my Best albums of the decade post, it shouldn’t be any surprise that The National cracked into this list.
Let’s be clear though, “High Violet” is a completely different beast to both Boxer and Alligator, but so it should be. Most of the guys are in their late thirties now, and that world weary optimism seems all the more authentic and accepting these days… and I feel like I’m growing up with them.
Listen: The National – Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks
+ Buy from Amazon

the roots - how i got over1. The Roots – How I Got Over
Hells yeah. Such a great, great record. Jimmy Fallon’s house band prove that, if anything, the constant collaborations have revved their recording life back into high gear. This album just sounds… warm. It recalls the old-school hip hop feeling I got when Mos Def laid down some awesomeness in Brown Sugar, or De La Soul circa late-90s. And I’ve missed that for so, so long in the hip hop world.
With enough collaborations to keep the indie kids happy (Monsters of Folk, Joanna Newsom to name a few), I really think this album will stand the test of time.
And Black Thought still absolutely kills.
Listen: The Roots – How I Got Over
+ Buy from Amazon

2010 releases music videos

The National – Terrible Love (Alternate Version)

Proving yet again that the Berninger brothers are far more talented than any human beings should realistically be, The National have just released the video for “Terrible Love (Alternate Version)”, both filmed and directed by Tom Berninger, brother to the enigmatic frontman Matt. (thanks Shelagh P for the correction in the original post)

Shot both onstage and backstage at various live shows over the last year, the video offers an intimate look at the band… and does a pretty good job capturing not only the band’s intensity, but also the pure emotion they inspire.

‘Terrible Love’ is released as a violet-coloured 7″ and download single on Monday 22nd November, along with the expanded edition of High Violet.

artists digital downloads guitar music

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
+ Buy from Amazon

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
+ Buy from Amazon

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
+ Buy from Amazon

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!!!
+ Buy from Amazon

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

2007 Releases digital downloads guitar Live Music Friday live songs music

Live Music Friday – The National White Sessions

Welcome back to another Live Music Friday here at Burgo’s Blog. For this week’s post, I decided to revisit a past Live Music Friday post, from April, where I featured The National live on the Radio Inter Black Sessions. In that post, I mentioned that they had followed up from that show with another show in 2007 for the same radio station… and here it is… The National White Sessions.

Live Music Friday - The National White Sessions

As mentioned when I wrote about their Black Sessions show in that previous post, the Black Sessions are “broadcast on the French radio station France Inter, and recorded in front of a live audience“. The White Sessions put out by the station are pretty much the same thing, but without the live audience included.
There are positives and negatives with this; a negative is that, without the murmur of an appreciative audience in the background, the show somewhat loses some of its intimacy. That said, however, the sound quality of this live performance far more than makes up for this.

This show took place on May 7, 2007, and was in support of The National‘s then upcoming release, “Boxer“, and the majority of songs (9 of the 11) are from that album.
It really is that when you listen to this band live, that you truly can appreciate their artistry. And Matt Berninger’s hypnotic voice comes across as if he was putting on a private show in your kitchen. Essential “must hear” stuff for any National fans. Highlights for me? Either “Slow Show”, “Racing Like A Pro”, or the simply beautiful “About Today”… but make your own minds up.

Listen. Love. Support.

The National White Sessions (live 7 May, 2007)

1.) Start A War
2.) Brainy
3.) Slow Show
4.) Squalor Victoria
5.) Apartment Story
6.) Racing Like A Pro
7.) Ada
8.) You’ve Done It Again Virginia
9.) Mistaken For Strangers
10.) Fake Empire
11.) About Today

2005 releases artists digital downloads guitar Live Music Friday live songs music

Live Music Friday – The National Black Sessions

Wow. That week went fast. I can’t believe it’s time for another Live Music Friday. Following on from our Alex & Angela Dezen/Damnwells post here, I thought that today we’d feature a show from The National.

The National Black Sessions

The National Live
The National (image credit: David Greenwald)

Aah, those Frenchmen. I swear, whether it’s my favourite La Blogotheque videos or something else, they seem to get some truly great live music out of international groups. The Black Sessions are a perfect example of thisbroadcast on the French radio station France Inter, and recorded in front of a live audience, the sessions sometimes lack the intimacy that you get when listening to a rough tapers version of a show; but they make up for that in the clarity of the audio. You can learn more about The Black Sessions here, but you better have a firm grasp of French if you want to get anything out of it.

One of my favourite Black Session shows was that of The National, who appeared on the show in 2005, to promote their then upcoming album, Alligator. The National, at that time, were truly blowing up while still remaining somewhat under the radar; and it shows in this set. A blistering set, it features perhaps my favourite rendition of “Cherry Tree” (which featured on their 2004 album of the same name) ever… when you hear Matt Berninger repeating the mantra of “Loose lips sink ships” over and over again, in that manic tone? Man… it sends shivers down my spine.

As a side note, in 2007, The National did another show for the same station, entitled “The National White Sessions”, promoting their album “The Boxer“. But that’s a post for another day…

The National Black Sessions (live 2005)

1.) All The Wine
2.) Secret Meeting
3.) Driver Surprise Me
4.) Lit Up
5.) Cherry Tree
6.) Baby, We’ll Be Fine
7.) Geese
8.) City Middle
9.) Looking For Astronauts
10.) Mr November
11.) Daughters Of The Soho Riots
12.) Abel
13.) Wasp Nest

The National Black Sessions 2005 .zip file

Next time on Live Music Friday? Well, you’ll just have to tune in to find out… but at the moment, the two front-runners are Bob Schneider and Ryan Adams. If there are any preferences, drop a line below and let me know.