Second in the series and probably the most accurate… discuss!
So, another list that requires soul searching and many hours of trawling through the collection. What’s not to like? Especially as the caveat that is always added is that this list could be completely different tomorrow.
The top ten albums of this century, a purely arbitrary set of date boundaries surely? When was the last time you said to yourself “Hmmm I fancy something from the last decade.” Or “Hmmm shall we listen to albums from 2001 -2005?” I thought not. Still it tickles a certain bone and I’m always up for being tickled. I couldn’t work out a specific 1-10 order so have arranged the albums chronologically just in case you one day decide to say “Hmmm I fancy something from etc etc ” This list is deliberately mainstream in outlook but tomorrow it might not be .. and whither the Bruntnells, Jayhawks, Vincents, Sons of Bill, Fays, Prophets, Simpsons, Isbells? Not enough room this time.
Number 10: Ryan Adams “Gold” (2001)
One of the key releases in the genre which pulled in fans that had not previously dipped their toes into the welcoming waters of AUK. Adam’s stock has recently been rightly downgraded following revelations concerning his treatment of women but his talent as a song writer and performer cannot be ignored or indeed cancelled.
Number 9: Wilco “A Ghost is Born” (2004)
Another genre busting release as Jeff and the boys build on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (tomorrow this might be the pick such is the depth of quality here) with this Grammy winning release. A perfect mix of shronk and melody AGIB rocketed Wilco from cult status to proper contenders for band of the year. Musos with soul, working at the very top of their game.
Number 8: Josh Rouse “Nashville” (2005)
Following on from his paean to Bread Josh Rouse delivered his most polished album yet. Gorgeous melodies and warm instrumentation drip from every track as Rouse tells his tales of small town life and modern romance. The perfect summer’s evening listening whilst drinking red and watching the sun set.
Number 7: Midlake “The Trials of Van Occupanther” (2006)
The harmony heavy opus appeared seemingly out of nowhere but rapidly became a firm favourite. Influences were obviously CSNY and west coast USA but also the English folk rock movement of the late sixties. Key tracks such as ‘Young Bride’ and ‘Roscoe’ wore their influences lightly as Midlake forged their completely individual sound.
Number 6: The Felice Brothers “Tonight at the Arizona” (2007)
As described on the sleeve notes “Dirtbags capturing lightning and spinning it into harvest gold” this album evoked a past and present filtered through the lens of the literate outlaws who lived on the edge of both reason and excess. Lyrically dense and honest, musically uplifting and melancholy. Wonderful.
Number 5: Jonathan Wilson “Fanfare” (2013)
The Californian musician’s musician delivered this epic meditation on all things West Coast with influences from Jackson Browne to Pink Floyd all stirred together with some beautiful song writing and arrangements. A stunning amalgamation of ingredients from a new guitar god.
Number 4: Ryley Walker “Primrose Green” (2015)
Combining his love of the tunings and stylings of the English folk movement with an American indie sensibility Walker’s album straddles several genres yet remains defiantly independent of being pigeonholed, although for these purposes it’s americana. Musically muscular, lyrically oblique and bizarrely moving this is proper music for grown-ups.
Number 3: Richmond Fontaine “You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To” (2016)
Willy Vlautin’s last hurrah with the boys of the band saw him deliver his strongest lyrics yet and musically the band put everything on the line. ‘A Night in the City’ is one of the most powerful songs in their extensive canon with it’s heartbreaking lyricism and ragged instrumental glory.
Number 2: Conor Oberst “Salutations” (2017)
Oberst’s fully realised version of the previously released ‘Ruminations’ gave wings to the tunes featuring various Felice Brothers and Jonathan Wilson amongst others making a glorious noise to Oberst’s cracked vocals. Each song is a carefully polished pearl with gorgeous instrumentation that highlights the cracked beauty of Oberst’s literate lyrics. Spellbinding.
Number 1: Drive-By Truckers “ The Unravelling” (2020)
Patterson and Mike C’s defiant howl from 2020. Mostly recorded in Memphis ‘The Unravelling’ sees the boys again examining dualities as they rage against the horror show of modern America whilst also celebrating the ordinary working man and woman who stand proud and honest in the face of the shit rained down on them from above. As they say “Don’t give up the fight and never stop chasing the dream. Vote and resist!”