It’s come to this. Since I’m usually on about something completely ancient, I’ve decided to compile a rough list of my favourite albums over the last ten years. I’ll warn you, there are thirty of them altogether and they span a few different genres. The list is presented in absolutely no particular order. While I’m sure I could rank these albums from greatest to least, I have decided not to so as to give each its due respect. Here is the first of three batches.
Riot! – Paramore
Paramore’s second record is a balls-out hookfest with brilliantly constructed pop rock songs. Standing out in front of everything, however, is lead vocalist Hayley Williams. Williams is quite frankly one of the greatest female pop vocalists of all time. Her powerful delivery also carries a great deal of her charming personality, and is at once moving, fun, and incredibly sexy.
Ghost Reveries – Opeth
On their eighth album, I believe Opeth finally achieved the perfect balance between the brutality of their metal and the elegance of their prog. Ghost Reveries contains all of the savagery of Deliverance, and then some, whilst also capturing the brooding atmosphere of Damnation, but ultimately trumps the two previous albums with punchy arrangements and glossy production values. Their best to date.
Coyote – Matt Mays
This dude never ceases to amaze me. Following the break-up of his former band El Torpedo, Matt Mays took the time to craft a catchy, wildly experimental, genre-jumping masterpiece with a raw retro edge and actual brain power behind it, putting other would-be revivalists like the Sheepdogs and Monster Truck to shame many times over. The album consists of 100% single-worthy material and is laced with short, punchy little interludes that demand repeated listening. Dude’s got one of the best voices (at once haunting, energetic, and immediate) out there and a very distinct style born of a pure love of music.
Foiled – Blue October
Blue October’s beautiful breakthrough album caught me with its lead single “Hate Me” and didn’t let go. While they’ve put out other records since, they’ve all failed to capture the frustrated passion and the defeated angst that Foiled did so perfectly. Like listening to the fragile humanities of Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York after the reckless nihilism of Nevermind, Foiled is about the all-too-human struggle of dealing with life’s wreckage. “You Make Me Smile” is my favourite.
Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces – Seether
While their first two records were fantastic neo-grunge monsters, Finding Beauty was a bit more pop-oriented. While many might have been against this shift, I think the pop elements were blended in wonderfully with the edgier sound to create something oddly triumphant. I’ve heard “Rise Above This” was written not as a Seether song, but as something personal for vocalist/guitarist Shaun Morgan’s deceased brother — before his very unfortunate suicide. If this is true, it is certainly one of the most beautifully touching bits of humanity I’ve heard on record.
Out of Exile – Audioslave
While their time as a band is now just a flash in the pan, Audioslave sure was something while they were here. Consisting of three remaining members of Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell, Audioslave seemed to lumber as an odd hybrid of the two bands’ different sounds on their first record. Out of Exile went miles further and saw the band finally playing as a completely new band. Essentially, the second album was the first true example of what the band had to offer separate from their roots in Rage and Soundgarden and it was bloody fantastic. The third record was decent, but the news that the band had split up made it a bittersweet offering.
Rise of the Tyrant – Arch Enemy
Swedish death metal band Arch Enemy blew my ass away with Rise of the Tyrant. While they’ve put together many quality records in their long history, Tyrant was to me the most epic, the most savage, and at the same time the most natural effort the band had ever made. The songs are powerful and catchy (you just have to sing along to the guitar leads!) and the vocals are blessedly less- produced than on previous records. Amazingly, Angela Gossow manages to sound almost more menacing than a lot of male vocalists of similar style.
Love Cannot Bear – Robert Fripp
Fripp is definitely an idol of mine so he had to be on the list, but I didn’t want to include an artist twice in this list, so I had to choose just one effort from him. It was tough, but the album of live soundscapes known as Love Cannot Bear won out. This mostly ambient record sums up pretty much everything I love about the King Crimson guitarist.
Rose Covered Garden – Mark Collie
After a great run in the nineties, Mark Collie, perhaps my favourite modern country artist, fell back behind the scenes and we didn’t hear him on his own record again until after his glorious appearance as Harry Heck the “pro from Memphis” in the Tom Jane Punisher flick. For his 2006 album (and latest studio effort to date), Collie elected to use a more stripped-down, under-produced sound similar to very early country, but with a somewhat darker tone. The first track “80 Miles from Memphis” is pure gold but there are many other standout tracks from the fun “Shackles & Chains” to the sombre and pleasingly atmospheric “Some Things You Can’t Take Back.” I was happy to hear that Mark has signed with a new label and is finally working on something new.
[NOTE: couldn’t find any samples online from this record, so how about this classic scene? Please also note that the song “In Time” is not featured on Rose Covered Garden and said album isn’t quite as grim.]