1. Tom Waits, Mule Variations
Every song just hits the nail directly on the head. The songs are instrumentally sparse yet always feel full of complexity. The overall sense of timing it must have taken to make such an album amazes me. Not a note or phrase or anything seems to be even the slightest bit out of place.
2. Lucious Jackson, Electric Honey
Kinda hard to describe why. Just a great, great listen. It’s pop song after pop song of way cool hooks and good lyrics and a phenomenal female vocalist. When I say down and thought about it, I really wanted to throw it on again. That’s a great album to me.
3. Wilco, Summer Teeth
The guitars here blow the lid off conventions. Nothing sounds contrived, save a few Pink Floyd licks here and there. The lyrics are interesting and singable. I listened to it on a car ride once. If you love this album and haven’t listened to it on a long car ride, maybe you should plan a road trip.
4. Asie Payton, Worried
Too bad he’s dead. It would have been great to hear more from this Fat Possom find. It’s around 45 minutes or so, and it’s fucking great delta blues music with a popped up edge.
5. Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, In Session
This session took place 16 years ago. Why would anyone wait 16 years to release something this great? Who would wait 16 years to release the great Albert King in a laid back, non-competitive but high-intensity jam session with Stevie Ray Vaughan? I don’t understand the logic, but let me just say this: it was well worth the wait.
6. Beck, Midnite Vultures (Geffen)
This album just has so much potential to please. If you’re in a high-energy mood, where you want to move and dance and bob your head, it works. If you’re feeling mellow, you can just sit back and let your mind and Beck take you away.
7. Fiona Apple, When the Pawn Hits…
Can she seriously be this good? It seems like it. The album has so much fire and intensity throughout, as well as a pile of really good songs. Apple’s voice takes total control about one minute into the album, with the first chorus of the first track. After that, you just can’t turn it off.
8. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Echo
Yeah, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It’s just more Petty, no surprises, but it’s an album that really works the whole time, even though I personally think Tom’s lead guitarist Mike Campbell’s playing is consistently pretentious and makes good songs sound like Steve Vai trying to hard.
9. The Robert Cray Band, Take Your Shoes Off
Robert Cray isn’t keeping any fans in blues circles with this album, but sometimes those people need to relax their obsession with genre restrictions. I should know, as I am a proud member of the Lehigh Valley Blues Network. Back to Robert Cray. This is a soul album, without any suggestion otherwise. It’s got Motown all over the place, with only a hint of the Texas Blues that made Cray so popular.
10. Matthew Sweet, In Reverse I like this album a lot, even though I never really got into Matthew Sweet before. It’s a good listen with a lot of great guitar work and a lot of awesome rock tunes.
Here’s some that didn’t crack my list, but are worthwhile for one reason or another.
The Simpsons, Go Simpsonic with the Simpsons
This album features music from the show, mainly from the last three years, plus some stuff that never made it onto the show. If you’re hooked on The Simpsons the way I am, and you’ve ever been in a musical, you’ll probably love this.
Guided By Voices, Do the Collapse
I saw GBV last spring. I hated them so much. Someone explained them to me. How Robert Pollard never seems to finish a song beyond a minute and a half, and how this album was different. I gave it a listen. It’s got a whole lot of great stuff on it, but it still doesn’t finish. So…no top ten.
Townes Van Zandt, A Far Cry From Dead
Townes Van Zandt is considered by many to have been the greatest songwriter ever. Think about that. Better than John Lennon, better than Bob Dylan, better than Jewel…err…uhh. Anyway, he’s right up there, and this particular posthumous release puts Biggie and Tupac to shame. Not a top ten album, but a collection of songwriting everyone should hear.
That’s it. 2 dead guys, a collection of cartoon characters, and a bunch of great albums.