I love lists. Live for them. They make life sensible. So here are my lists of the best and worst in music, film and tv of this past decade. Hope to open some eyes.
BEST ALBUMS of the DECADE
Stereo/Mono (Paul Westerberg/Grandpaboy) – This was the album that should have followed PLEASED TO MEET ME. The Greatest songwriter of the past 30 years at the top of his game, over twenty tracks of perfection, with production so lose it falls apart. If he hadn’t already done it in 1981, PW would have reinvented rock again. Instead, he just re-staked his claim as its reigning God.
Crooked Fingers (Crooked Fingers) –With his new band, Eric Bachmann, lead singer of the single greatest band of the 90s, the Archers of Loaf, reinvented himself as the damaged troubadour, and created a collection of songs that would rival anything ever released by Dylan, Springsteen, or Townes Van Zandt. NEW DRINK FOR THE OLD DRUNK became my sing-along-at-the-top-of-your-lungs song for this decade, while everything else is stark and brilliant. He’ll break your heart while holding your hand. (And really, there is no horror film on the accompanying list, because the greatest horror film of the decade was the imagery invoked by the song JULIETTE.)
Cold Roses (Ryan Adams) – Sometimes Ryan Adams is brilliant, sometimes overindulgent, occasionally boring, but wearing his influences on his sleeves, from the Replacements to the Grateful Dead, Adams weaves his rose-laden imagery on this two cd set to alt-country perfection.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Wilco) – As great as everyone claims? Probably not. But still damn amazing. And the first track, I AM TRYING TO BREAK YOUR HEART is as good as anything Wilco has ever recorded, and that’s saying an awful lot.
Essence (Lucinda Williams) – Lucinda William hit her mark on this boozy collection of lust and longing and pain. The title track is certainly the great lust song of the decade. Her voice has never sounded better.
The Thief & The Heartbreaker (Alberta Cross) – If Lynyrd Skynyrd has sounded like this back in 1977, I might have actually given Southern Rock a chance. But it’s not Southern, they’re from Brooklyn (the only good band at the moment from Brooklyn), and this brilliant 7-song EP sounds like the cd Ryan Adam should have made after COLD ROSES. The singer’s voice will break your fucking heart!
Fortress ‘Round My Heart (Ida Maria) – I had almost forgotten that women could actually still rock, with a vengeance no less. And then came IDA MARIA from Norway who put out the best CD of 2009. Live, she brings to mind Courtney Love minus the baggage and nasty attitude, but make no mistake, she could out rock and out roll any of the boys, and beat their asses to a pulp.
Ode to Sunshine (Delta Spirit) – An album that actually made you believe that there were, after all, new bands ready to carry the torch forward. Just a great band with a great singer playing great songs.
Taking the Long Way (Dixie Chicks) – Who would have thought that the most liberal protest song of the Bush era would come from the Dixie Chicks? And while NOT READY TO MAKE NICE can easily stand on its own as one of the greatest songs ever written, that it pulled no punches with one of the worst Presidents in history only adds to its thrills.
Fevers & Mirrors (Bright Eyes) – His masterpiece, back before he and others starting believing he was a god. Lo-Fi and brilliant, Dylan himself would have been proud of some of these damaged lyrical twists.
RUNNERS UP (in no particular order): Hometowns (Rural Alberta Advantage), War Elephant (Deer Tick), Neon Bible (Arcade Fire), Washington Square Serenade (Steve Earle), Magic, The Rising, Devils & Dust (all by Bruce Springsteen), Failer (Kathleen Edwards), Wilco, the album (Wilco), ONCE soundtrack.
WORST ALBUM of the DECADE
Vampire Weekend (Vampire Weekend) – everything that’s bad about the current state of rock music (and Brooklyn) can be summarized in two words: Vampire Weekend. As insipid as it is gutless, this embarrassing collection of ditties sounds more like children tinkering on adult-sized instruments, they haven’t the scope, the range, the insight, the maturity to even hope to make it work. And to add insult to injury, some idiots compared it to Paul Simon’s Graceland. Now that’s a slander lawsuit in my eyes!
RUNNER UP: Anything produced by Jon Brion. He makes everything sound like German cabaret from the 1930s, and even managed to castrate the rock band Spoon. Perhaps he and Vampire Weekend can hook up and create the ultimate ode to lame. Grow a fucking pair!
BEST FILMS of the DECADE
Once (John Carney) – pitch perfect in every way, shape, and blessed musical note. I guess I look at it this way, if I could have had my name attached to one film this decade, ONCE would have been it. I’ve seen it over and over again, and it still breaks my heart every time. The greatest use of music in a film ever? Yes, I’d say so. Both this and Amelie are creeping onto my list of the ten greatest films of all time.
Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) – an adult fairy tale told in the imaginary city of Paris, where a big-eyed child grows up to be a beautiful big-eyed woman who seeks life’s smallest pleasures. Amelie was the first film I saw after 9/11, and in a time when all seemed lost, it gave me hope again. It made me believe in romance, in fairy tales, in happy endings, and in small pleasures.
Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola) – A tender story of love and longing wherein a look or what isn’t said can be the most powerful dialog of all. Subtle and brilliant.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry) – Certainly the greatest concept, if not the greatest script. And thankfully Jim Carry is so un-Jim Carry-like. A nightmare, a dream, a glimpse into the mind of a mad genius. Whatever it is, I’ll take it.
The Station Agent (Thomas McCarthy) – Just something about this film makes me happy, whether it be the terrific ensemble cast, the originality of the story, or the perfection of the pacing…every decade needs a quirky darling, and this is it.
Man On Wire (James Marsh) – The ultimate love song to the twin towers and the skyline of New York, as it used to be, as told by a crazy Frenchman who’s got more balls than certainly anyone in recent memory. It’s the story of an impossible dream…that somehow comes true. A marvel.
The Constant Gardner (Fernando Meirelles) – a heartbreaking romance between two perfect beautiful people, with a message no less. (The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking.)
The Girl in the Café (David Yates) – a heartbreaking romance between two damaged misfits, with a message no less. Kelly Macdonald and Bill Nighy are awkwardly amazing.
Somersault (Cate Shortland) – Abbie Cornish gives the bravest performance of the decade as a young teen girl exploring everything wrong. Stunning.
RUNNERS-UP (in no particular order): Born into Brothels , City of God, Grizzly Man, Personal Velocity, DIG!, Vicki Christina Barcelona, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Surveillance, Mulholland Drive, Murderball, Speak, Memento, Half Nelson, Angel-A
WORST FILM of the DECADE
The Kiss (Gorman Bechard) – The film could have never been great, but it could have been watchable had it not been railroaded by an ego-centric producer ,with no understanding of the script, who was more interested in make a three million dollar demo reel for his actress wife than in telling a good story. I directed and co-wrote THE KISS, and the final version, which was edited and scored completely without my approval or involvement, makes me fucking cringe.
RUNNER UP: Punch Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson) – Alternately like watching paint dry (the extra boring paint, not the at-times-exciting paint) and listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. If the word “pretentious” had not year been devised, the phrase “punch drunk love” would have been used in its place. Even the usually brilliant Emily Watson cannot save this mess about, well, I honestly have no idea what it’s about, but then neither does the filmmaker. Oh, and it has what is quite possible the most annoying score in the history of film, by none other than…you guessed it…Jon Brion.
BEST TELEVISION of the DECADE
(I include my top ten, more or less in order, but with little explanation. I don’t feel any is really needed. It’s TV. It’s all a guilty pleasure, in one way or another.)
Glee (any show that can make me like a Journey song must be pretty damn powerful)
Survivor (especially the two back-to-back Stephenie LaGrossa seasons)
Weeds (first 3 seasons)
24 (first 5 seasons)
Entourage (first 3 seasons)
Mad Men (so well written)
Family Guy (best animated show on TV, and every week I get to say “I can’t believe they just said that on TV.”)
30 Rock (Tina Fey)
Sopranos (see Glee)
So You Think You Can Dance (for the amazing collection of young dancers, and for being the only talent show that actually showcases talent)
I include no worst TV list because ultimately it would be endless…
Until next decade…