Muddy Water's Top Ten Albums of the Decade
An admittedly completely subjective list of the albums we liked best.
No music biz insiders or rock stars or famous critics were consulted.
#1 The Naked Dutch Painter Stew
The hippest songwriter in the world, Stew created a classic with this disc, wherein he explores love in all its fractured glory, walks a lyseric soaked terrain, views the world in his various roles - philosopher, word drunk melodicist, barbed wit, social commentary critic/humorist. Stew is an American treasure, no one writes with this degree of sophistication, raw edge and impeccible cool. This is his greatest album - so far.
#7 Ole Tarantula
Robyn Hitchcock has always been a quirky case of personal taste, if you like him you love him, if not,you scratch your head. Here he joins up with Seatlle buddies Peter Buck of REM and Scott McCaughey of The Minus Five along with other musicians, and comes up with his best electtic record since "Element of Light." Melodically infectious throughout, the highlight of Ole Tarantual is the loving, heartbreaking song for Arthur Kane, late bassist of the New York Dolls, subject of the film New York Doll.
#2 Modern Times
In which Bob continues his brilliant creative resurgence. Following the great Love and Theft, this has some of the most poignant songs of his career, "When the Deal Goes Down," "Workingman's Blues #2," "Nettie Moore." The final song, the mordant, spooky "Ain't Talkin' " is a masterful, surreal journey through the vast wasteland of the present.
#3 The Crane Wife
The Decemberists take the Japanese folk tale of the title and weave a poignant three song vignette of love and loss. Colin Meloy takes the band into progressive rock areas with the experimental, 12 minute "The Island." "Oh Valencia" and "Summersong," sport characteristic irresistable melodies, the forays into the past, "Yankee Bayonet," and the sadistic lullaby,"Shankhill Butchers," along with the final, ringing anti-war anthem, "Sons and Daughters," all combine to make The Crane Wife a groundbreaking addition to their formidable output.
#4 & 5 Apple Venus & Wasp Star XTC
OK, we're cheating a little bit here. Apple Venus Volume 1 came out in 1999, a lighter record with orchestral arrangements, followed by its companion piece, Wasp Star, Apple Venus Volume 2 a guitar driven affair. Both are packed full of great songs, some of XTC's best - Apple Venus' ecological statement, "River of Orchids," the English pagan influenced "Greenman," the gorgeous ode to the demise of civilization, "The Last Baloon." Wasp Star's "Stupidly Happy" and "We're All Light" continue to prove that XTC are the true disciples of the post-White Album work of the Beatles.
The Dead Weather
Super groups usually fall short of expectations, unless the members decide not to try to be so super. Which is exactly what The Dead Weather did - Jack White (White Stripes) ditches his guitar for drums and occasional vocals, Alison Mosshart (The Kills) yelpy voice is let loose to run roughshod, in an excellent way, in the midst of the grind and grunge. Jack Lawrence (Raconteurs -bass) and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age- guitar) provide the rock solid power-saw soundtrack to some pretty weird lyrics. The sound is thick and rough around the edges and better for it. They do a killer cover of Dylan'neglected "New Pony," and "Hang You From the Heavens" is one of the freakiest conflicted-in-love songs ever written.
#8 The Night
Released after Mark Sandman's death, this last of Boston band Morphine's studio albums charted new territory alongside the old. It incorporates organ, cello and violin, an oud and background singers. The dark low sound is still purely Morphine, but the palette has more colors, they were moving beyond the minimalist bass, drums, sax format, without abandoning it. The loss of Sandman marked the loss of a major force in music - you've heard Morphine even if you think you haven't - on TV and movie soundtracks. That bassy unmistakable sound of a smoky jazz club that's their signature is a completely original creation. The Night sits beside their first three records as a worthy companion and a bridge to future music that, sadly, will never be made.
#9 Memory Almost Full
Sir Paul looks back on a lifetime of achievments that few human beings could ever claim, and does it with characteristic humility and good nature, and of course, with his neverending melodies.
He sounds like he's in his twenties, the music has spring in its step and the vibrancy of youth, even as it examines the span of a lifetime with the impending, inevitable ending. This gives the record a resonance that's been missing from many of his solo releases. You can't help but smile at the skiffle mini-biography, "That Was Me," or be moved by elegiac memorial wishes in "The End of the End." And he rocks out like "Helter Skelter" on "Nod Your Head." He made this record when he was 64, and it's full of music that belies that fact, while at the same time accepting and celebrating it. No small feat, and Paul accomplishes it beautifully.
# 10 The Iron Age
Not yet widely known to a popular audience, Laufer is a hidden treasure. "The Iron Age's" marvelous "In the Frame" was featured
in Hewlett Packard's "Frame" picture software ads and the song "Open" was featured in "Scrubs." Laufer has played with Frank Black, Fiona Apple, Johnny Cash, Shawn Colvin and others. His song "Broken Sky" can be heard in the "Georgia Rule" soundtrack. A new album, Excruciating Bliss, is due out April '10. Laufer crafts meticulous melodic rock, full of jangly guitars and gorgeous melodies. The Iron Age and his 1995 debut, Wonderwood, both are classics of inspired, inventive, heartfelt songwriting and his brilliant production. They're full of tunes you can't get out of your head after you've heard them a couple of times - infectious, insightful, spiritual, rocking, beautiful, heartfelt, catchy - perfect pop-rock, though I hate to call it that, which sounds like weak praise. Call it a seamless marriage of auditory beauty and emotional depth. Rob Laufer should be in your collection. And on the radio.