The Decade’s Best, Part #5

30. Sam Roberts – Love at the End of the World. Okay, so this is one of I think, three lonely Canadian albums on the list.  Maybe that makes me a bad Canadian, but I will say, Love is one HELL of a record.  Sam Roberts started off simply enough, with some indie pop about good people and Canadian highways.  But on this record, he created something challenging and interesting and actually a great time; the rock songs here are bouncy, foppy indie fun, yet carry with them important messages about youth and the state of the world and Roberts’ own views on upheaval and this decade.  It’s the kind of record you could listen to a hundred years from now and know what living in this time was like.  Them Kids was a massive hit and understandably so; it had all the makings for a big successful #1.  And yet, so many other songs on this record could have topped charts all over the world.  Stripmall Religion is a politically-driven driving pop/rock song.  The title track is a keds-stomping drinking song if there ever was one.  Up Sister makes relevant proclamations like “got sidetracked and rearranged/And like a leper, I’ve been estranged/And drawn to fame like a moth to a flame/Living hand to mouth, but I’m hoping for change” and includes some great mouth harp amidst Robert’s trademark underrated psychadelic sound.  I’m hopeful that Sam Roberts will top this record in 2010, not for him necessarily, but for me – because everyone needs to feel this kind of pride in their country through the pop music that originates from it.

29. Brandi Carlile – Give Up the Ghost. Brandi Carlile is really giving her contemporaries a run for their money; one time, Paste quite accurately named her one of the best voices in indie rock.  But not only does she have a fantastic voice, she also writes amazing songs that carry with them, conviction and wisdom and certain truths about life as a woman or a downtrodden soul, or a reflective poet… there’s a lot of weight there but despite that it’s carried with a lot of effort, it is an effortless listen because it’s so Goddamn beautiful.  I owe Paste magazine a lot for introducing me to Brandi Carlile’s music.  Her latest album is the best material of hers thus far.  It’s full of songs about love and loss in true country spirit, but there is a Sarah Mclachlan-esque peacefulness to her demeanor that is softer than harder-edged women like Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and Julie Miller.  It’s just great to listen to all the time.  Chills and tears and clear-eyed pathos can be heard and felt on Ghost, making it a great record this year, in the decade, and for all time.

28. Regina Spektor – Begin to Hope.  Regina is a unique and incomparable talent.  Her voice has the symphonic operatic quality of the best Broadway songstress you’ve ever heard, and her melodies are scant and challenging, difficult to pinpoint but once you do, there is nothing but joy there.  A good friend of mine is an obsessed fan of hers and he once said to me, “she’s the only singer who can make instrumental sounds with just her voice”.  It’s true; and what better accompaniment for a gorgeous piano than instrumental vocal sounds?  Begin to Hope is a very accessible album of Spektor’s; her earlier work is actually so incredibly quirky it almost creates a consciousness that I find difficult to appreciate or delve into.  But Begin to Hope is likeable and funny and still has that underlining thread of kookiness that Spektor is now known for.  And yet… Samson.  GOD, what a song.  It takes tiny veins from Cohen’s Hallelujiah and meshes them with her own world view about stars falling on hats and kissing someone ’til the morning light.  And Hotel Song is a classic indie pop swoon-fest of simple but baroque instrumentation and this oddball line about dreaming of orca whales and owls.  On the Radio is this phenomenal song about music and life and death that few people BUT Spektor could compose.  In short, this is, in my opinion, Spektor’s best work to date.

27. Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger.  Most of Ryan Adams’ records are among the best records I’ve ever heard.  Adams, in his wayward ‘youth’, definitely made some amazing drug-addled records, the best of his career.  But then he got sober and made this, his final “solo” effort (though, only billed as such and actually featuring his trusty and brilliant Cardinals).  The thing about this record isn’t so much the music, but the memories for me.  Damns.  Adams created a perfect summer album full of those ‘swan song’ feelings and vibes you can only get while walking around in a sunset.  It reminds me of working towards perfection in a job I loved, and it reminds me of rushing home in the sunshine with my best friend and putting the album on for the very first time in what was our first C.D listening party.  Easy Tiger was 2007 for me, and 2007 was certainly my best year of the decade by far.  I Taught Myself How to Grow Old, the album’s reflective closer, is a great song to listen to in the most reflective moments of one’s life… such as the end of a great decade perhaps.

26. Kate Nash – Made of Bricks.  Cheap ripoff of Lily Allen?  Well… Kate Nash has that same chipper, bitter British-ness, admittedly.  But — there’s something much sweeter and somehow more delightful and appealing about her demeanor than Lily Allen could ever achieve.  Apparently, the two songbirds are good friends and Allen championed Nash non-stop on her myspace page, causing enough ruckus for Nash’s debut release.  And what a release.  The songs are brash and bratty, and sometimes so incredibly funny you laugh out loud, then feel a little bit sad about it because of the pathetic nature of her off-the-wall lyrics (“my friends were like, ‘whatever — you’ll find someone better — his eyes were way too close together and we never even liked him from the start, and now he’s with that tart, and I heard she’d done some really nasty stuff down at the park with Michael'”).  The star song on this album is Birds, a song about two young… hooligans, I guess, who steal a ride on a public bus while drinking some beers, but really, she likes him and guess what? He adores her right back.  While kind of ridiculous and simple, a chorus line like “Birds can fly so high and they can shit on your head/yeah they can almost fly into your eye and make you feel so scared/but when you look at them and you see that they’re beautiful/that’s how I feel about you” sums up young love completely perfectly.  The screaming brat-factor of Mariella is also appealing in its whacked out uniqueness, and certainly, I’ll never forget all the life lessons that Merry Happy taught me since this record’s release.  Sheer brilliance, really.

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