in Top Ten

I don’t like doing “End of the Decade” lists. There’s such a finality to it. How can I claim to have found the ten best albums for me when there’s still so much to discover? The fact that I struggled to find ten albums I could call my favorites just goes to show the journey isn’t over.

That being said I do love these ten albums… for the time being. We’ll see how these selections settle in the next ten years. I like to take my time with albums. Spend several years with them and let ‘em stew. This is why I have no albums from 2019. Not enough time has passed. Which means these tens albums I have picked are special. They have stood the test of time. Now let’s open up the capsule.

P.S. I decided to include YouTube videos instead of pics so you can listen to some of my favorite jams. Enjoy!

10. MGMT – Congratulations

This was the hardest spot to fill. Not because there were a bunch of other albums in contention, rather I couldn’t come up with a tenth album that meant as much to me as the rest of my albums. Before yesterday, I hadn’t listened to Congratulations in ten years. The reason I revisited this sophomore effort was to rediscover why it was so important to me back then, and you know what? I do still like this album, in all it’s misunderstood glory.

This wasn’t a popular release in its time, I’m not sure it is now or ever will be. Yet I believe it’s the best work MGMT has ever done. This includes their hit single driven debut that landed them a spot on the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums. Congratulations doesn’t have any obvious singles and may seem disorienting and shapeless to most but to me it’s fearless.

Congratulations ditches the pop sensibilities of its predecessor and goes batshit crazy for the whole duration. “Flash Delirium” could be a lost Brian Wilson experiment. “Someone’s Missing” is a melancholy crawl before it finally climaxes into a Jackson 5 dance party. This is a psychedelic music fan’s wet dream and or nightmare. Not everyone will tune in but those who do will have trouble tuning out. Even ten years later it occupies a corner of my brain.

9. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

Two albums deep and Whitney feels like they’re going be longtime faves of mine. This is the perfect summer band—you’re gonna hear the word “Summer” a lot on this list—rain or shine. Julien Ehrlich’s warm falsetto guides these soulful songs reminiscent of that classic ’70s California sound. The production feels old school but polished and the songwriting is catchy and meaningful. Whitney has a lot of great years ahead of them and I look forward to following them.

8. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

This is Happening was my introduction to the world of buying digital music. I had just spent my 21st birthday at the Sasquatch Music Festival, went to iTunes and loaded up my new laptop with a slew of artists from the festival. I bought a Patton Oswalt comedy album, The National’s High Violet, and my first foray into the electronic mind of James Murphy with This is Happening.

To this day it’s hard for me to think of a song that gets me as pumped as “Dance Yrself Clean”. It’s such a slow burn that leads to a raucous finale. Like a little ditty that grows into an anthem. This is a fun album. “Drunk Girls” and “I Can Change” are hipster dance floor classics and I gotta dance until I’m spic ’n span.

7. The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

This is a weird choice even for a Decemberists fan. I doubt most… Decemberheads? Would even have this album in their top five Decemberists albums (they have eight albums). The reason it’s on my list is I was working at Barnes & Noble when this album came out and it was one of our store CDs. So I’ve heard this album fifty times. Yet it never wore on me. Quite the contrary.

I see What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World as the band’s most conventional rock/pop album. It’s less folky or esoteric than past releases and contains their most radio-friendly numbers. “Make You Better” feels like the band doing its best Death Cab impression and “The Wrong Year” is my all-time favorite Decemberists song with its bittersweet melody and twangy guitar.

I used to listen to this album at work, then drive to Ellensburg and continue to listen to it in my car. I have fond memories of peering out at the snowy mountains listening to Colin Meloy belt out lyrics about press gangs and infanticide. Good times.

6. Shy Boys – Bell House

Bell House hardly made a splash with any of the online indie publications I read. It’s not a flashy album. It’s short and sweet and unassuming. Which is why I love it. There’s no pretension here. Just a bunch of friends from Kansas City slinging guitar riffs and Beatles harmonies in their mom’s basement (probably). There are songs about summer and doggies and love. It’s nothing but good vibrations and it’s sending me excitations.

5. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

This is a total funk odyssey. Not only did Daft Punk throw in the whole kitchen sink they threw in the whole kitchen. You got old school grooves and licks, legends like Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams, and Giorgio Moroder. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect album from Daft Punk. Nuff said. Or as they say in French, “dit Nuff”.

4. The Avalanches – Wildflower

These guys are the sample kings. I don’t even know how you begin to assemble the tracks necessary to build an album like this. There’s a reason they’ve only ever released two albums in their twentysomething year existence. Wildflower is like listening to Saturday morning cartoons while blasting R&B records in another room and then rapping over that. It’s everything.

3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

This was such a happy time in my life. I was in love and in college and then came a shiny new batch of songs from Ivy League indie rockers Vampire Weekend. It’s experimental, catchy, even kinda low fi (sometimes) in a humble way. Vampire Weekend has always struck me as the kind of band who’s willing to try anything. This is the one where it all came together, baby.

2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

This album makes me cry. Not just because it sounds sad or has sad lyrics but because it’s honest. This is a personal album from Sufjan and you feel like you’re right there with him. The stripped-down production only enhances the intimacy and leaves for an unforgettable experience.

This album was another store CD when I was working at Barnes & Noble and I would always play it first thing in the morning. There’s a therapeutic quality to this album and it always helped me get through the day. Thanks, Sufi!

1. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

The first time I heard the song “I Love You, Honeybear” I almost cried. I still get dusty in the eyes every time I hear that song. I don’t know why. I can’t tell if it makes me happy or sad. I’m not exactly sure what the song is even about, but it stirs up something. It’s my favorite song of the decade. This means Father John Misty’s album of the same name is my favorite album of the decade.

It was hard to decide between Sufjan and Father John for the number one spot but I had to go with the album I still listen to on a monthly basis. There are so many stories and pieces for all moods that make up I Love You, Honeybear. There are romantic tracks like “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins” and “True Affection. There are funny tracks like “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.” or the satirical “Bored in the USA”, there are soulful and folksy flourishes to and fro and everywhere you go.

This is an album I will listen to until I’m a decaying skeleton man. All of these albums are (I hope) but times are always a-changin’. All I can do is live in the moment. Goodnight all you honeybears.