Everyone knows that I'm all about the golden oldies... yes they will forever be at the top of my playlist. That being said, I am a fan of music... GOOD music, whether it's from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's or I heard it on Pandora yesterday. So I decided I would compile a list of my top five favorite modern records of the last ten years. I couldn't do it, I realized I had at least ten... but then there were two more, so I capped it at twelve. Even after making this list, I realize there are a handful of others not listed... I had to stop somewhere. Here we go:
1. JOHN MAYER - CONTINUUM
I have all of John Mayer's records, and I sincerely love 'em all. However this one is a real stand out for me... I remember the day of it's release, I was driving home from Hollywood when I instantly thought "must have now" I took the nearest exit off the 170 and found myself at a random Kmart to pick up a copy. I couldn't get the plastic wrapping off fast enough (the pesky plastic is always so cumbersome... I've got a trick figured out). The second I popped it into the CD player... I .fell. in. love. Previous to Continuum, though the content was still witty and clever, it had much more of a pop polish. This collection of songs are grown up, understated, not overly produced and balanced... they stand on their own two feet. What really impressed me though was his use of the guitar almost as another voice... so melodic, the tone so emotional, distinctive and easy on the ears... comforting even. (Example: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room). This was his moment to show up not just as a singer-songwriter, but as a guitar man... and in my opinion he certainly arrived. Yeah, I know... he was channeling the greats... but who doesn't. This is what I would define as a classic record, one that lasts forever... an artist can only hope that they get to make even just one. And yes, The guy has made some significantly less than chivalrist moves... I still like his music.
FAVORITE TRACKS: I don't trust myself, Vultures, The heart of life, Slow Dancing in a Burning Room
2. COLDPLAY - PARACHUTES
We were driving home from school in the family van, I was a junior in high school... "look at the stars, look how they shine for you..." instantly catching my attention "mom turn it up!"... "please" I exclaimed. What is this? who is this? I need this! Where can I get this? It wasn't long before I was at Borders books with my babysitting money buying one of the few copies available of Parachutes, Coldplays debut album.... still maintaining it's status as my favorite Coldplay record to date. Yes they have come a long way since, growing into what many would consider this decades biggest band. Indeed the other records are amazing, don't get me wrong, but this one is just... pure. The magic of coldplay is found in those three or four chords rooted in deep emotion, paired so poigniently with the simple and yet soulful delivery of Chris Martins voice. Soul not induced by vocal acrobats but by raw honesty and fragile falsetto. He doesn't sing words, he sings feelings. Those feelings I have felt, like a dagger, it was the soundtrack to my hardest of heartbreaks. I had to stop listening. Years later I made peace, I had to reclaim the music and give it a new meaning and recreate new memories... I did... mostly. Not to mention, I would go on to record my own "Yellow" and sing it on arena stages across the country.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Don't Panic, Sparks, Shiver, parachutes
3. KILLERS - HOT FUSS
"Somebody told me that you had a boyfriend, that looked like a girlfriend, that I had in February of last year..." Huh? I don't get it. You don't have to get it. Don't over think it...It is what it is. I didn't want to give in to this song, it's never been my favorite. Eventually, I too was snagged by the synthy-rock of the Killers. It was the sound of my second year in L.A., Just a young twenty something driving down the 101 listening to "Jenny was a friend of mine" in my first beloved green Jeep Cherokee with the white roxy sticker on the back window, my first car that I bought from one of my best guy friends in high school just before he left on a church mission, I always wanted it, it was my dream ride. I cried when I traded it in for a new one. I loved that car, I loved driving and listening to the Killers in that car... stuck in traffic? Fine by me, I've got Hot Fuss in my speakers. "it's just the shimmy and the shake... oh oh I can't take... we're on top".
FAVORITE TRACKS: On Top, Believe me Natalie, Jenny was a Friend of Mine
4. FEIST - THE REMINDER
I was first introduced to Feist by my cousin Hunter. We were sitting in his car outside of grandmas house when I heard "Inside and Out"... that was when I realized it was a BeeGee's cover, and a darn good one at that. I am a huge BeeGee's fan, so she won me over instantly with her hip interpretation. "Inside and Out" was a cut from her previous record "Let it Die" also an excellent and noteworthy record that I would highly recommend. However I chose "The Reminder" because I think as a whole it really resonated with me. To date she is probably my favorite modern female artist. Her music is free-spirited, perfectly quirky, both really happy and a little sad, modern yet vintage... sophisticated without being pretentious. Her voice delicate but passionate. In addition to Yellow, I was lucky enough to get to "snap it out" to "1,2,3,4" every night of the Idol Tour.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Brandy Alexander, I feel it All, Limit to your love
5. SHE & HIM - VOLUME ONE
In the last few years, I have been charmed by this pair, She and Him... a duo consisting of the always adorable Zooey Deschennel and talented musician M. Ward. Remember when Zooey was on Elf (my most favorite Christmas movie ever) and sang "baby it's cold outside" with Buddy? I remember thinking, is that really her? She can sing! Yes she can... and her voice is one of my favorites. In a sea of "unique female voices" where everyone is starting to sound the same, hers seems genuinely different, again, she is no vocal acrobat, but her tone is sweet. It certainly lends itself to the Analogue-ish vibe they've got going, it is very throw back, which is probably why I like it so much. The production is pretty, sunshiny and a little fuzzy around the edges. As well they have some amazing harmonization going on, particularly on their sparsely produced cover of "you really got a hold on me". The guitar tones are quite tasty as well. Volume 2 is just as good, maybe even better...
FAVORITE TRACKS: Change is Hard, this is not a test
6. BEN FOLDS - ROCKING THE SUBURBS
Remember "Brick" from the late 90's? I figured it out on the piano, I loved that song... sad though. This record however is Ben Folds with out the "five", and I am a fan. Ben isn't by many standards, a good singer. But I would have to disagree... at least when it comes to singing his own songs, I couldn't imagine anyone else singing "Zac and Sara" half as awesome as he can. But music isn't just about singing well, it's about the songs essence and how it makes me feel. Not to mention that the guy flat out rules on the piano, he's got chops and definitely gets fancy on the keys, and yet it still feels loose. Oh and he also plays the drums on this record... the guys got talent. Overall it just has a spirit of fun, it's candid and sentimental. The songs sing like a story. Now, just a warning, there is some occasional and random swearing... I could do with out it
FAVORITE TRACKS: still fighting it, annie waits, The luckiest
7. RYAN ADAMS - EASY TIGER
This might not be the best Ryan Adams record in its entirety, but there are a few songs that I truly adore. I often feel a little tortured about going country... I am pretty much half way there without trying... however, when I listen to Ryan Adams, and I realize that he has staked his claim at the halfway mark himself. Though you won't hear him on the radio, he has a true artistic integrity that I find refreshing. I especially love the little cracks in his voice that he has chosen to leave unaltered, I actually find myself anticipating them while listening... the small imperfections really lend character and emotion. Sonically this record is like a warm blanket... lush acoustic guitars and resonate bass tones really fill it out. Sounds incredible in my car. Like I said, the other records are also a worthwhile listen... (check out his song "Amy" and his cover of "Wonderwall"... wow.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Everybody Knows, Two
8. DAVID GRAY - WHITE LADDER
What a collection of songs. His voice is distinct, course, abrasive even... almost Bob Dylan-ish. In the beginning I didn't know how I felt about it... but over time I developed an acquired taste, now I love it. Babylon was of course the first song that I heard from David Gray, as it was climbing the radio charts. But "Babylon" was just scratching the surface, there is a body of work that is equally if not more impressive then the radio single. Again, this is a record chalked full of intense emotion... I take it in doses. Some of his new stuff is quite excellent, but for me "White Ladder" hit the nail right on the head.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Sail Away, This Years Love, Please Forgive me
9. KINGS OF LEON - ONLY BY THE NIGHT
I can't say that I was a huge fan of Kings of Leon previous to "Only By the Night". I like many others jumped on the bandwagon with the release of this hit record. And it is a hit for a reason. I went back and took a listen to their earlier stuff... it was straight up southern rock with out trying to be mainstream. I know there are discontent fans out there who disapprove of the KoL's wise choice to polish up and write a few radio friendly songs. The sound of this record is somewhere in between the south and the city... the raw grit of his rhaspy voice juxtaposed to the modern glossy guitars and roomy drums. This is modern rock production at it's finest if you ask me, it's like glass and yet earthy at the same time. And his voice... my favorite, end of story, especially when he sings "what a night for a dance, you know I'm a dancing machine"... kills me. I would argue that the artistic compromise they made was a good one, while there may be a few disgruntled fans that may have jumped ship, they gained millions more in exchange. Myself included. Obviously I was taken by "use somebody" on the first listen, before it was on the radio... I knew it would make the perfect cover. I couldn't imagine High Hopes & Heartbreak without it.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Revelry, Manhattan, Notion
10. PETE YORN- MUSIC FOR THE MORNING AFTER
Pete is another one of those acquired tastes... kinda like Salt and Vinegar chips. The first few are weird and almost too strong, and then pretty soon you can't stop eating them. His voice might detour you at the beginning... but listen on, it gets to you, it got to me. I quite enjoy it. If I were to take the modern approach to making records, it would be in the vein of the Pete Yorn production, which I think Butch Walker might be partially responsible for. However when you take a listen you realize it still has a vintage approach. Dusty like vinyl yet up close, almost as if he is singing right into your ear. And while drum loops can get cheesy real fast, the loops found here are nothing of the sort, they are super hip, again a modern take on a vintage tone. This is one of those records that sounds like California, another reason I love it, it sounds like the Pacific Coast Highway, sunglasses and sand. It grooves the whole way through. It just makes me happy...
FAVORITE TRACKS: Strange Condition, Just Another Girl, Sleep Better
11. MAYER HAWTHORNE - STRANGE ARRANGEMENT
I found Mayer Hawthorne on the front page of itunes last year and found instant gratification. Growing up we listened to a lot of the "Stylistics", songs like "you are everything" and "break up to make up" or Smokey's "tears of a clown". This record was a reinvention of that sound, a shameless throw back to old school R&B and soul and I couldn't have been happier to discover it. I was recommending it to everyone I knew. The lyrics aren't necessarily ground breaking, but it doesn't really matter cause the melodies, harmonies and vibe are spot on.
Love it, love it, love it... that's all.
FAVORITE TRACKS: Strange Arrangement, Shiny and New, Maybe so Maybe no
12. COLBIE CALLAIT - COCO
I'm embarrassed to admit, there was a time that I didn't want to like this record... I don't know why, maybe because I was slightly envious of her success that seemed to blossom overnight. But there is just no denying Coco, it's like a breath of fresh ocean air, it is hip happy feel good family friendly music and we could use a lot more of that in this world. While I appreciate music that carries an emotional weight, sometimes it's nice just to take a break from all the sad songs and just get... bubbly. Speaking of, one of my first "myspace friends" Jason Reeves, whose music I was introduced to first, is Colbie's right hand man and co-writer on nearly the whole record. She is sort of like the female version of him and vice versa, they have a brilliant musical and vocal chemistry and they really invented a sound together, along with their producer Mikal Blue. Side note, Jason in his own right has a collection of songs that is mind-blowing. I love his music so much that we chose him as our first interview for The Girls with Glasses Show... such a gentle and kind soul, and so unbelievably talented. Colbie too is a really nice gal, and I love nice people.
FAVORITE TRACKS: little things, magic, feelings show, realize
JASON REEVES: pretty eyes, you in a song, sky dive, wishing weed
PS- Just remembered these...
ahhh... there are so many....