A decade that began just a couple of weeks after my first ever solo gig.
That gig, unknown to me at the time, marked a pretty huge turning point in my music career.
The ‘session’ work I’d be pursuing and doing up til that point was to dry up pretty damn quick when word got out that I was doing gigs on my own, but equally fast, word spread about what I was up to to the people who might like to listen to it, and I started to play more and more shows, and in August 2000 put out my first solo album. A decade later, and here we are… Where? I’m not sure.
It’s customary at the end of any period of time like this for people to put together their lists of greatest/best/most significant/blah-blah-blah music of the decade. Most such lists end up being fairly cynical ploys to bait readers into agreeing/disagreeing, and the hagiographic consensus that gets built up around so much banal, tedious music always leaves me baffled.
So I shan’t attempt to speak for anyone else, or to put a stamp of importance or significance on the following list. Instead, I’ll just list the albums that meant most to me that were released during the last ten years. For a whole mess of reasons. Some trivial, some far deeper.
Here they are, in alphabetical order, by artist’s first name. Enjoy. (links are to last.fm)
- Alan Pasqua – Russian Peasant : an exquisitely beautiful solo piano record. Seemingly unfettered by any notion of what other people might want to hear, shot through with elements of jazz, classical, hymnody and singer/songwriter sensibility.
- Alex Machacek – Improvision : along with Matthew Garrison and Jeff Sipe, Alex has made a record that takes the technical possibilities of fusion, combined it with a beautifully crafted sound-world some amazing tunes, some great improvising and produced an outstanding record.
- Bill Frisell – Ghost Town : Bill’s solo album, looped, layered, overdubbed. A MASSIVE influence on me.
- Billy Bragg – Mr Love And Justice : my favourite Billy Bragg album for almost 20 years.
- Blotted Science – Machinations of Dementia : instrumental death metal, done to absolute perfection.
- The Blue Nile – High : the record that defines the last 3 years for me. Everything about it is perfect.
- Cavalera Conspiracy – Inflikted : more awesome extreme metal. In the last few years, my listening has got heavier again, and this is one of the best metal albums I’ve ever heard.
- The Cure – 4:13 Dream : if I can be making music half this good 30 years into my career, I’ll be a very happy man.
- David Torn – Lars And The Real Girl Soundtrack : If beauty were whittled into pure sound, it would sound like this.
- Eric Roche – With These Hands : a record that now feels so sad I can hardly listen. Eric passed away shortly after this came out. He and I were planning to record together. It never happened. Lo and I walked down the aisle as our wedding to one of the tracks from this – Deep Deep Down.
- Erin McKeown – Grand : heard he play live on Late Junction, couldn’t believe the awesomeness of what I was hearing. The most original, imaginative singer/songwriter record of the decade, IMO.
- Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself : Any of Imogen’s three albums could be in a ‘favourite albums’ list. She’s amazing. Simple as.
- Jonatha Brooke – The Works : Same with Jonatha – my most listened-to artist of the decade, according to Last.fm – she started out the decade as one of my musical heroes, and ends it as a friend. One of the most incredible live performers I’ve ever had the good fortune to hear play.
- Julie Lee – Stillhouse Road : Everything Julie does is fabulous. Another spectacular live performer.
- Kris Delmhorst – Songs For A Hurricane : I saw Kris play opening for Julie Lee in Nashville in 2004. Have been hooked on her music ever since. I listened to this album non-stop for a fair chunk of 2005.
- Michael Manring – Soliloquy : hands down my favourite ever solo bass record. Exceptional in every imaginable way.
- Paul Simon – Surprise : Paul Simon’s never mad a bad record, but Surprise is shockingly good even by his high standards
- Rosie Thomas – When We Were Small : When I grown up I want to be Rosie Thomas. She writes and performs with a gentleness and grace that few singers ever have got close to. Oh, and she’s funny as shit.
- Spearhead – Stay Human : a life-changing record. A party album about the insanity of the death penalty. Also the greatest live band I’ve ever seen. At least, they were when this came out.
- Tanya Donelly – Whiskey Tango Ghosts : bought after a long evening of Lo and I trawling eMusic for our alt.rock childhood heroes. I ended up downloading this, thanks to the Belly/Throwing Muses connection. Alt.Rock for quiet people. So beautiful.
- Travis/Fripp – Thread : Robert Fripp said of working with Theo Travis something to the effect of how inspiring it was to work with musicians better than himself. This proves both points – that Theo is amazing, and that he inspired Robert to some of his best ever ambient playing.
If you want to hear them, and live in a country where Spotify works, here’s a link to a playlist with as many of them in as are on there.by