At family gatherings, my dear old dad had the curious habit of reviving topics that we had finished discussing the hour before. At 4pm, let’s say, we would be discussing how the local football team sucked, but by five we’d have moved onto how the local baseball team sucked. Just as we’d be ripping into an overpaid leftfielder dad would bring up the overpaid quarterback again, and suddenly we’d all be back on football.
Well I’m getting more like my dad all the time. Young folks listen to music, decide what’s a hit, and move on to the next thing. With radio being the big waste of time it is, and me with my so-called adult life, I don’t even hear about that music until the next year when the annual-best-of polls come out. (But now, thanks to metacritic.com, I at least know what people think when it first comes out.)
It’s that time lag that kept me from getting a CD from this decade until late 2001. So there I am, pretending to be cool by advocating music that the target demographic has long since finished with, and that my demographic couldn’t care less about.
Now add to that the fact that I’m still catching up on other decades (not to mention centuries), and it means that a lot of my musical highlights came from other decades:
- The 90s: The Magnetic Fields’ “69 Love Songs”, Randy Newman’s “Faust”, Luna’s “Penthouse” and Belle and Sebastian’s “Tigermilk”
- The 80s: Nothing. Screw you, 80s.
- The 70s: Richard & Linda Thompson’s “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight”, Nick Drake’s “Five Leaves Left” and “Pink Moon”
- The 60s: Brian Wilson’s “Smile”, The Zombies’ “Odyssey and Oracle”
- The 50s: John Coltrane/Thelonious Monk Quartet - Live at Carnegie Hall
Then there is my lifetime self improvement project, resulting in my getting some great compilations of Hank Williams, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Johnny Cash, Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, and Igor Stravinsky. And let’s not forget “Nuggets”.
My reactions to music outside of my favorite genres – rock/pop – can sound more appreciative than enthusiastic. Sorry, it just takes me more time to learn the new territory. Here are ten records - jazz/hip-hop/world/classical - that I’ve probably underrated out of sheer density.
- Jazz: Benny Goodman’s “Famous Carnegie Hall Concert”
- Hip Hop: Kanye West’s “The College Dropout”, Burial’s “Untrue”, De la Soul’s “Three Feet High and Rising”
- World: “The Music In My Head”, “Rough Guide to Youssou N’Dour and Etoile Dakar”
- Classical: Mozart’s and Brahm’s Requiems, Mahler’s Second Symphony,
- Country: James Tally’s “Got No Money, No Bread, But We Sure Got a Lot of Love”
If you care to know all the dirty details of my musical decade, check out these posts: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.
Quick Jaybee, Before It’s 2019:
If I winnow it all down to just those records I got this decade that actually came out this decade, and that I love without reservation, they are, no particular order:
Good old alt-country-ish rock and roll from start to finish. The voice and lyrics are a bonus.
Perfect pop songs, about real life.
Tunes up the wazoo, with a couple of the decade’s greatest songs.
Ditto with the tunes, but more orchestration. And at least three of the best songs of the decade.
So full of passion, you don’t quite believe it. But they mean it, man.
What a voice! And how beautiful is that spare sound.
The Go Betweens – Oceans Apart
Getting older, looking back, just in time.
A White Album for our decade.
PJ Harvey - Stories of the City, Stories of the Sea
“I feel immortal when I’m with you.”
Wussy - Funeral Dress
“And if they offered I would take it, a free ride out of this place…”
Honorable Mentions/Bronze Medals/Ms. Congenialities:
These records are great! but maybe not GREAT. That’s okay. We’d all like to meet Abe Lincoln, but we probably don’t want to spend the whole party with him:
The Wrens “The Meadowlands”, The Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, Orlando Lopez’s “Cachaito”, The Red Hot Chili Peppers “By the Way”, Modest Mouse’s “Good News for People Who Like Bad News”, Orchestre Baobab’s “Specialists in all Styles”, The Streets “A Grand Don’t Come for Free”, Radiohead’s “Kid A” and “In Rainbows”.
And just to give this some context, here’s a sampling of what some major news outlets said:
There was a hell of a lot more to this decade than just music. Not all of it good, by any means. But music is my safe haven where magic happens - just a simulation of life’s real joys, which unfortunately can’t be burned onto a CD to be played at will. Music can, however, reminder me that those joys do exist. Sometimes I forget.
Sometimes music lets me down. It happens when I’ve asked more from it than it can possibly provide. I begin to think that I’m done with it, and that in the new decade I’ll be looking elsewhere (Books? Art? Other human beings, perhaps?) for magic. But then those decade-end polls just whet my appetite all over again.
It’s good to be alive, for any number of reasons. Music is definitely one of them.