Everyone has a list. Rather than try to be cool and earn scene points by name dropping Radiohead and The Strokes, I’ve put together my personal favorite albums of the past ten years.
10. Thrice – The Artist in the Ambulance (2003)
Hands down, my all-time favorite sounding drums on a record. Riley Breckenridge recorded his parts at Bearsville Studio in upstate New York and the team of Matt Squire (Engineer), Andy Wallace (Mixer) and Brian McTernan (Producer) made the drums full, heavy and the crushing backbone to support Thrice’s major label debut. The rest of the band is pretty good too.
9. Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (2007)
It’s hard not to think of this album and the current state of Amy Winehouse. Back to Black, with it’s songs of heartbreak and internal struggle, brought Winehouse to the top, and ultimately sent her to rock bottom. Forgetting all of the personal issues, the album was a true breakthrough, reviving the Motown sound and updating it with hip-hop beats and vocal swagger. Much credit should go to producer Mark Ronson and backing band The Dap Kings, but without Winehouse’s pain, the album would have no integrity or soul.
8. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America (2006)
They call The Hold Steady the best bar band in America. The tunes are catchy but it’s the stories that draw in listeners. Tales of parties and drinking and girls that don’t even sound like songs–just conversations you and a friend have over drinks at your favorite bar while trying to meet girls.
7. Rustic Overtones – Viva Nueva (2001)
My man Adam Carolla says you can’t go wrong with horn driven bands. Viva Nueva is a funky blend of rock, hip-hop and soul. The grooves are tight and production value is top notch. Not to mention David Bowie makes a guest appearance. While this album and the major label turmoil surrounding it ultimately led to the Overtones taking a seven-year hiatus (label forced the band to re-record two older songs–“Check” and “Hardest Way Possible”), it’s the one of the most original albums of the decade.
6. Waltham – Permission to Build (2003)
I was introduced to Waltham in college. Permission to Build is a blue-collar, throwback, classic rock album that is a perfect soundtrack to cruising on a Friday night with your boys. The best part is that this album and Waltham as a band are 100% irony free. This is who they are and they’re not trying to be anything else besides hard-working guys who embrace the 80’s and pine after unattainable girls.
5. Green Day – American Idiot (2004)
Four years after the band released the disappointing Warning, it was hard to imagine the band regaining the popularity they once had. Turns out all they needed was an enemy in George Bush and the new phrase “punk rock opera.” American Idiot was different but familiar. The band took chances with nine-minute songs and addressed the current political state of the country, but the message was still wrapped in poppy three minute, four chord attacks. It was so good that five years later, there’s a Broadway show based on the album and Green Day is getting it’s own Rock Band franchise.
4. New Found Glory – New Found Glory (2000)
Probably the single most influential album of the decade for me. Listening back, the songs aren’t ground breaking and the lyrics are pretty basic but all the songs spoke to me. It changed what music I listened to, what shows I went to, how I dressed and how I spent my time during the last two years of high school. And all the songs were about girls. What else does a seventeen year old kid in high school think about besides girls? I learned to play all of the songs and guitar and Lunatic Dreyfus probably covered every track. Energetic, fun, pop-punk at it’s best. Look around now, how many bands are still going strong and making music like New Found Glory? I already have my tickets for the 10th anniversary tour coming early next year.
3. Brand New – Deja Entendu (2003)
One small step for pop-punk, one giant step for Brand New. The Long Island quartet’s slow transformation into scene icons began with Deja Entendu. Sure, Your Favorite Weapon was a sharp little pop-punk album, but Deja Entendu was bigger, more ambitious and successful at conveying Jesse Lacey’s vulnerable lyrics in his quiet/loud voice. Seeing where the band has gone, this album can easily be considered there best–actual songs that rock and make sense with solid lyrics and delivery.
2. Kanye West – Graduation (2007)
Remember that whole Kanye-50 Cent feud where they released their albums on the same day and 50 said that if he sold less he would quit rapping? Entertainment Weekly named The College Dropout as their favorite album of the decade, but Graduation is on another level. Polished, painstakingly perfected in the studio and just hot. The singles alone smash all competition in the rap game. He’s cocky but it’s just confidence when you can back it up.
1. Unwritten Law – ELVA (2002)
Simply my favorite record of the last ten years. Musically, it’s got everything I love–punk, hardcore, acoustic ballads, rock, great melodies–seventeen eclectic tracks of pure dieselness. More than anything, it has balls and attitude. Scott Russo just kills the vocals on every track. I mean he just goes for it. He knows he’s the shit. Elva is Unwritten Law at their best, a five piece with Russo out front. After a few line-up changes, the band has yet to regain ELVA’s magic.