So here we are then, the official Odessa & Tucson top 5 albums of the decade. Ready? I certainly am. Excited? I’m not, I wrote the list so the tension is therefore fairly minimal. Still a good list though.
For the people who were here from launch day on O&T, there should be relatively little surprise that Dallas Green’s solo project features in this countdown. City and Colour began as an acoustic outlet for the hugely talented songwriter when he wasn’t in Alexisonfire. First album Sometimes… is a very accomplished début, but it’s with this second album that C&C really hits stride. Green’s manifest guitar-playing ability shines on tracks like ‘As Much As I Ever Could’, but the record is far more about melody than ostentation, a raw vocal cutting across the melodic background, full of lyrics both macabre – ‘Body In A Box’ – and romantic – ‘The Girl’. It is rare that anyone produces an album without a weak link, but in this case (and indeed of all the top 5) there is really no song I would choose to remove, even if I had the option. In fact, the deluxe edition of this cracking record features two songs I would add in ‘Faithless’ and ‘I Don’t Need To Know’, which Green deemed unworthy of proper inclusion. Bring Me Your Love is not concerned with complexity, plumping instead for quality, which it delivers in abundance.
Sickest tracks: ‘The Death Of Me’, ‘As Much As I Ever Could’, ‘What Makes A Man?’, ‘Confessions’.
Again a record which has already been mentioned here on O&T, Madvillainy might be the best rap record ever laid down, and it’s almost certainly the most inventive. The versatile and volatile combination of producer Madlib and rapper MF DOOM made for one of the most original albums you’re likely to hear, eschewing the norms of the rap album – soul samples, lyrics about cars and girls – and bravely striking out on their own tangent. With short tracks hook-heavy and extremely cleverly constructed, Madvillainy is far from the average, and seems to live in a musical world of its own definition. DOOM’s inventive rhymes are rooted in pop culture references and the internet zeitgeist, and his extremely contemporary flows glide effortlessly over Madlib’s exceptionally creative beats. Sampling from a slew of radio shows of the wireless era, usually poorly-acted fantasy tales of derring-do, he stamps his unique mark on the album. His combination of old programming and new thinking, as well as MF DOOM’s inimitable mic skills, make Madvillainy a rap album which rewards the listener for their intelligence, something very few records as a whole manage.
Sickest tracks: ‘Figaro’, ‘Accordion’, ‘Great Day’, ‘ALL CAPS’, ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’.
Another rap album from the last decade which has challenged, and in many ways changed, the game. Kanye West, who was mentored by Jay-Z and produced some beats for his classic album The Blueprint, which featured at #14 on this list, has never been better than he was at the very start. The début record of probably the most influential rapper of the last ten years is certainly his best, showcasing some of the talent that he would go on to display on follow-up album Late Registration. Unfortunately his latest two albums have, for me, fallen way down in quality, but TCD is truly phenomenal. Opening track ‘We Don’t Care’ is about dismissing preconceptions, and these same ideas about how rappers are is then satirised in ‘Get ‘Em High’. However, it’s when West is at his most personal that he’s at his best. ‘Through The Wire’ and ‘Family Business’ are the most intimate tracks on the album, confronting the horrible accident that raised his profile but threatened his life and the family he pays respect to with one of the best rap hooks I’ve ever heard, referring to a photo of a dead relative: As kids, we used to laugh/Who knew that life would move this fast/Who knew I’d have to look at you through a glass. Kanye West is a gifted rapper, as The College Dropout shows, and I hope he’s back to this form again soon.
Sickest tracks: ‘All Falls Down’, ‘Jesus Walks’, ‘Through The Wire’, ‘Family Business’.
As Tall As Lions, an unknown but awesome Long Island four-piece, are first and foremost a brilliant band. Their rock stylings achieve the epic without the pantomime of Muse, the tender without the self-pity of Coldplay. In 2006 they released their sophomore album, the eponymous As Tall As Lions, and completely raised the bar for the genre. From the first beats of opener ‘Stab City’, you know you’re onto something special, and the boys from New York deliver a record of incomparable power and delight. Lead singer and songwriter Dan Nigro has got perhaps the best voice of any singer working today, soaring high through lead single ‘Love Love Love (Love Love)’ and ‘Ghosts of York’, whilst showcasing his talent for the gentle in the heartbreaking ‘Kicking Myself’. The back three also work hard, drummer Cliff Sarcona always driving the band on with a mix of powerful beats and un-showy fills, while bassist Julio Tavarez and guitarist Saen Fitzgerald never fail to provide melody and passion on every track. The raw force of some songs will leave you staggered, while the craft of others will leave you amazed. I would say that I ‘Love Love Love (Love Love)’ this album, but I think I love it more than that. Absolutely essential to anyone who likes anything.
Sickest tracks: ‘Ghosts of York’, Song For Luna’, ‘Milk and Honey’, ‘Love Love Love (Love Love)’.
The best album from the greatest recording artist since Bob Dylan is truly deserving of mention among the classics of all time, and absolutely merits its lofty placing atop this countdown. Demolition contains some of Adams’ best songs, and it’s astonishing that had it not been for a tragedy many of them would never have seen a proper release. For this 2002 record is composed of unreleased Adams songs, chosen by his then-girlfriend who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and released as a kind of tribute to her, with Adams writing the chillingly poignant ‘Jesus (Don’t Touch My Baby)’ and closing the album with it. Not only do I propose that this is the best album of the 2000s, I also think it might be the most emotional record ever made. The tearjerking, tragic resonance of a song like ‘Tomorrow’ is offset with the laughs of ‘Tennessee Sucks’ and the thrill of ‘Nuclear’. Ryan Adams is a prolific songwriter, and on Demolition the depth and quality of his back catalogue is there for all to see, and I would place Adams in the extremely elite ‘musical genius’ category, this album doing nothing to hurt that high praise. I could think of few albums I’d rather listen to for the rest of time than Demolition, for its clever conceits, exquisite composition and emotional oomph. A perfect record? This is as close as the last decade got to one.
Sickest tracks: ‘Nuclear’, ‘Starting to Hurt’, ‘Desire’, ‘Tomorrow’, ‘Chin Up, Cheer Up’, ‘Cry On Demand’.