Since trying to seem oh so knowledgeable and musically apt by creating a best of the decade list seems to be what all the cool kids are doing, I obviously had to throw my hat into the ring as well. First though, a few warnings about whats to come (and a bit of advice to those looking to make their own lists.)
First: I’m not even going to pretend to be objective with this one. This list is based just as much on my own personal experiences with the listed bands/records as it is the musical/theoretical attributes put forth by said bands/records. My best advice to anyone looking to tackle this somewhat daunting organizational task is to do the same: there was a LOT of good music this decade and to try and rank them based on some kind of objective rubric is inane and almost defeats the purpose of writing about an art form. Don’t be afraid to make claims only because you want to (just don’t be TOO much of a dick about it.)
Second: I’ve elected to only select one album from any given band for this one, as to level the playing field a bit. This, believe it not, was the hardest part of this whole ordeal as in many cases a given band put out more than a few quality releases over the last ten years (case in point: Mastodon.) Chances are my selection of some given album is based entirely on when I heard it in relation to it’s brethren…nothing more, nothing less. Ideally my commentary will illuminate my choices a bit though.
Got it? Good. There will be a test later.
50. Bison BC – Quiet Earth (Metal Blade, 2008)
After I turned 17 it was rare for a new metal release to be as immediately addictive as this one and even rarer for that release to come from a relative newcomer. However, from the moment I saw these guys take the stage opening for Baroness last year I knew we had a winner on our hands…I still hold to that. Raw, crushing and, as once amazingly described to me (by this musically apt feminista), “boner-iffic”, if you’re a “beardrock” fan, a connoisseur of all things brutal or just an occasional metal fan, this is the record for you.
Choice Track: These Are My Dress Clothes
49. Protest the Hero – Kezia (Smallman, 2005/Vagrant, 2006)
Speed metal has never been as poppy or as solid. In the future, I’m fairly sure that this will be the release that informs the memory of Protest the Hero. Far and away more put together and musically informed than anything they did before or (so far) since. The fact that these guys were all teenagers when this came out is also pretty keen.
Choice Track: No Stars Over Bethlehem
48. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound (SideOneDummy, 2008)
Impeccably crafted, this record managed to encapsulate a feeling mainstream music hadn’t managed to quite convey for almost 40 years and did it deep within the annals of the independent punk scene. That didn’t last though, as this all too brief window into the minds of this tattooed New Jersey Quartet rocketed them to fame and almost universal praise faster than anyone could have really expected. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, but they certainly do have a lot bigger of an audience to wow this time around.
Choice Track: The ’59 Sound
47. Fear Before the March of Flames – Art Damage (Equal Vision, 2004)
If you weren’t paying attention when this came out, it would have just fallen in with the literally hundreds of screamo releases that year…however, those who did pay attention were delivered one of the most progressive grindcore releases of the decade, possibly made even more unique by the fact that the band moved on from this sound almost immediately. An all too brief snapshot, but a worthwhile one nonetheless.
Choice Track: Should Have Stayed in the Shallows
46. Old Man Gloom – Christmas (Hydra Head, 2004)
The inspired but all too fleeting side-project of *insert monumentally influential doom/sludge/metal band* (but in reality Isis, Converge/Doomriders & Cave-In), this release manages to stand up just as powerfully as any other project by its assembled creators. Hard when it needs to be and soft when we weren’t aware softness was possible, brought together with soundscapes that are as haunting as they are thought provoking. The fact that these guys never play live is a genuine shame.
Choice Track: Something for the Mrs.
45. Trash Talk – Trash Talk (Independent, 2008)
Clocking in at just over 14 minutes, this California quartet manages to encapsulate so perfectly what it must have been like to hear bands like Sick of It All and the Cro-Mags for the first time, combined with a healthy dose of thrash thrown in as seasoning. Over almost as soon as it began but still feeling oddly complete, it’s rare that hardcore is this well crafted.
Choice Track: Birth Plague Die
44. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive (Vagrant, 2008)
Perhaps not as ground breaking as its predecessors, but arguably the tightest release these classically influenced New York pseudo-punks have under their belt. It’s rare that a record so perfectly encapsulates the season of its release, but everything about this record screams summer: sunshine, cold beer, good friends and a sense of hope and wonder that’s almost palpable…truly inspirational stuff here.
Choice Track: Constructive Summer
43. Gallows – Orchestra of Wolves (In The Deep End, 2006/Epitaph, 2007)
Just when it seemed like semi-mainstream punk was through taking its cues from the 80s hardcore giants, Gallows burst onto the British hardcore scene and beat in the faces of every single doubter and then proceeded to set their targets on the oh so many half-hearted lip servers that have popped up since Hot Topic started selling Black Flag shirts. A Day to Remember? Watch your back.
Choice Track: Abandon Ship
42. Strike Anywhere – Change is a Sound (Jade Tree, 2001)
Admittedly, I could have chosen any of Strike Anywhere’s albums for this, as they are all very much cut from the same cloth. However, that being said I figured going with the one that started it all wasn’t that bad of a move. From the politically charged ashes of beloved Richmond speed-punks Inquisition, Thomas Barnett and crew roared onto the scene and reminded people just how alive and well the political punk tradition was…and they haven’t let up since. (Sidenote: I bought my first copy of this record at Celebrated Summer in Towson, MD…a shop, as it happened, owned and operated by the dude on the cover of this very album. Coincidences like this make me giddy.)
Choice Track: Refusal
41. Comeback Kid – Wake the Dead (Smallman/Victory, 2005)
Canada has a long and storied hardcore history and this monster out of Winnipeg is just one gem to come out of it. However, it has the distinct note of being one of the first records to really get me to listen to hardcore and like it (and before you purist kids judge me…the Minor Threat discography was another, so suck it.) It also wins the award for some of the most subversively inspirational HxC anthems of the decade.
Choice Track: Wake the Dead
Ten more coming tomorrow…or maybe tonight, we’ll see.