You are one of a kind. I was blown away with the collaborations of sounds and then completely amazed be the video which at the time i remember a rumour about some graphics being created by the art school i was going to.
It was a big year for me, going to uni and I came out, and of course i embraced my fully committed Madonna Fan status. All the memories have the Ray of Light Album as their backing track in my mind. Thanks for the memories. Alan x. July 17, posted by sinobyte Frozen is my favorite track from the Ray of light record. At this point in timeMadonna had started studying the Kabbalah and had also just given birth to Lola.
I think she felt a kind of healing had happened. Helping her to free herself from a lot of past trauma. Frozen is the recipe on how to do just that. How heal yourself and get a sense of happiness from life. Madonna is simply sharing what worked for her thru her medium as an artist. Thanks for your consideration PS she looked amazing in the video as the mystical goddess of the desert!!
June 26, posted by KiKiGinger. Frozen is my favorite because it encompassed everything I needed to say to a man who crushed my heart and soul in a relationship I thought we shared together. It devastated me that he destroyed a beautiful thing we had within a blink of an eye. Without a tear in his eye. In a heartbeat it was done and he left me alone to deal with it all. It was a death to me and he felt nothing. How could I have read it so wrong.
Thank you Madonna. That song said it all from me to him. June 22, posted by ditadays. For ,me its this bloody fantastic gem Orbits' electro tones are stunning De Vries June 19, posted by gonzaloserreth June 11, posted by Sylvain Sublime chanson d'amour June 10, posted by Maverikman.
Ray of Light is not just my favourite track on this album, it's my favourite track, period. Beginning by strumming on the soul and awakening the listener's inner chakras like a new dawn after a thousand year sleep, Ray of Light progresses to fuelling the body as it pumps energy through every vein with the speed-of-light beat which pummels through the melody like a runaway train. The gentle crisp vocals begin with "Zephyr in the sky I wonder.
After the music prepares you for the experience, Madonna's perfect vocals take you to a higher plane and the song consumes your body. By the time the song almost hits the one minute mark, it elevates everything to a new level of ecstasy as the tempo changes and Madonna reminds of what we're here for - to FEEL! Her voice launches into "And I feel" and as if it were a command, our bodies obey, hearts beating at break-neck speed, bodies pulsating, head taken to a different universe as the electronic magic releases the same endorphins that escape when in a club, when in love, when giving birth and when faced with renewed life.
Madonna takes us deeper into the cosmos and when she says "Got herself a universe" we soar to new galaxies, quicker than a ray of light and as the crescendo builds and every enlightened note of "And I feeeeeel" just takes you higher, consumes you and brings you into the light so no matter how bad a day you've had, how low you're feeling or even if you feel like there's no hope left, she restores your faith in hope, in the belief of a new dawn, of something better and takes us on a trip to a brighter, electric place simply through her voice and the music.
I have devoured this song at times of depression and it has lifted me to a higher plane. Ray of Light is a perfect song, timeless because it is beyond any restrictions, just like emotions. And in that, Madonna does what she always does and does best: reminds us to be free and celebrates that freedom to be ourselves.
I love this song and I am grateful for the impact it has on me every time I listen to it. June 05, posted by jonty Skin is my favourite Ray Of Light track, I adore it when I'm driving the car on the open road and I can just open her up and this song helps me go faster.
June 02, posted by Angelioss. I was 23 when this came out and bought it on sight at the then virgin Mega Store in Vancouver. To this day when I see the cover I start humming Substitute for Love I cant put together what it is but it always comes to mind May 31, posted by Nuvem.
I was 18 when I first heard this song and I was paralyzed because one thing I still had to learn it is to say goodbye to people and stuff that were stopping me from being who I am. This song reached my soul in such a speed and with such a light, that at first it made me cry. May 28, posted by britthartmannsrensen. I think i shows a new beginning for Madonna as a performer and the private person who just become a mom.
Just love that song and 20 years later it's still one of my all time favortsongs by M. May 19, posted by filiuslunae. Why do I like Frozen the most? Easy, because this song makes you travel to a magical, mystic and full of fantasy world, to me it is a powerful ballad with relaxing and yet modern rhythms, when I listen to it I feel like I am in a completely abandoned place, but without feeling any sadness or regret at all but pleasure and satisfaction instead in an endless search of my own beingwho I feel the song is describing.
Love Madonna! May 18, posted by behzadhadjibashi. That was Frozen just came out and it changed everything I was at a friend's party We simply pushed "Repeat" button to listen to "frozen" over and over while I was dancing with a girl May 10, posted by osua. May 10, posted by paulcoker. May 07, posted by MTank. I remember as a High School student who was already creating and releasing independent music, I was enjoying the Frozen maxi-single in a Calistoga springs bath. While my body was warm I'd like to thank Madonna for creating thoughtful works of musical art.
May 07, posted by jovanking. I would have to say Power Of Goodbye for so many reasons. Firstly, I was 20 when the Drowned World Tour was announced and at this point in my life I was riddled with homeless-ness and abandonment due to coming out as gay, I took grasp of my life at 18 and got my first apartment as an adult and was able to maintain a job. Ray of Light in it's entirety really helped me get through this rough patch in my life.
My flight was to depart on the 11th of Sept on The entire trip would have every emotion imagined. Love, Sadness, Confusion, Disgust a bit of hate and an entire lifetime if memories. Power of Goodbye has really been my favorite off of the album as I was saying goodbye to my very horrible past and saying Hello to a very bright future.
Ray of Light forever. Power of Goodbye to all the sadness to all. May 06, posted by reneenm. Happy 20th Anniversary to the Ray of Light Album! A beautiful song that brought truth and clarity to my broken heart was Little Star. Once the tranquil-forgiving vibe is tuned with the beat of your heart you begin to hear Madonna singing in your ear, a gift has been given to us all. Her gift to me was opening my heart to accept myself as I am and the Little Star is my neice and all her inner beauty that she will soon grow into.
I was born not to be fruitful and multiply and this song always brings tears to my eyes. The power of goodbye - It's the kind of song you can listen to times in a row and never get tired. It's about acceptance, admitting failure, turning pages and going on. All beautifully expressed in an unbelievable and delicate melody that gently creeps into one's mind and never leaves.
May 01, posted by FutureLover April 28, posted by NVD. April 24, posted by diegonicolatoffanello. When the album came out, was a magic moment! While I was in line, a cute boy approaches me and we begin to talk about what was our expectations, the sounds, instrumentation, of how it would be. We decided to buy the cd, and with the smile upon the face he said: come with me, we listen up on my house!
That day, was the day I fell in love with him. April 20, posted by louishb. The crowds would dance through the roof for this one! I play it on my training runs to this day! It's a classic song on a legendary CD. April 19, posted by pipster. We were both all 'wowsers' at this song and thought the style of it was so revolutionary from the ordinary sound of that time.
I quickly snapped it up, put it in my shopping trolly and was racing home to play it on my CD player. This is still the song that reminds me of that time and place, the excitement of the moment and the newness of the sound! April 19, posted by steveclemo. Its my jam. No matter where or when, I often sing it in my head to myself, which everyone seems to appreciate is not out loud.
April 04, posted by bg. There are no more perfect songs in the universe and out! The album was released on my birthday date Madonna, thank you for your guidance! April 03, posted by mickeksson. It was a favourite of mine since I heared it the first time, but what really made it one of my favourites of all time is when I was on the Drowned world tour premiere in Barcelona.
When Madonna jumped out from the tree and when you stood a couple of meters from the stage it felt basically like she was about to jump right at me. Man, there are alot of ways that are worse to die on than having Ninja-Madge killing you of! April 03, posted by bg. I realized 'Ray of Light' hit the shelves on the I was born on the Isn't it amazing and symbolic? I rediscovered the album recently and fell deeply in love, especially with the songs 'Skin' and ' Mer Girl'.
Before this discovery, I listened the Power of Good-Bye and the title song but didn't paid attention much to the other songs. It was a mistake. I can listen 'Skin' 20 times in a row without getting tired or so. This album gave me so much light in my life. In I was 10, unaware of much of the music, a promised painter with an art exhibition on the way in my native village.
I participated in many art contests and won many. I love art to this day. And music. Now, 20 years later I am still the same dreamer. I write, I draw, I listen Madonna awesome catalogue of music. She is the woman who inspires me the most and who was giving me hope and courage through my ups and downs, good and bad. RayofLight-a message from another dimension Plamen, Bulgaria.
April 01, posted by tintine. My father died at 39 when I was 6. From my experience I can understand the feelings behind this song a little bit more. At least, I feel like I do. March 31, posted by nodrog It is the unconditional love that means so much, and how many of us are blessed with it but don't see it?
March 30, posted by pedrofelipen. When i'm sad or thinking about life i listen to swim. Then i'll go to somewhere where there's no pain, no judgment, just the water Thank you, Madonna. Ray of life changed my life March 29, posted by pvcmga. It's difficult to pick just one song from this album as my favorite since it's such a solid piece of work with many good options. I think this message of loving others and using positive energy to create change rather than strictly trying to meet our own selfish desires is an important life lesson, I know personally that growing from my early 20's when the album was released to now being in my 40's that my priorities have certainly expanded!
There's too much ego, destruction and craziness in the world right now and we all need to focus more on treating one another with respect, love, compassion and understanding "nothing makes the darkness go like the light". My favorite song is little star because my dogs name is Star and he is my baby. March 23, posted by craigpb. I love Ray of Light, it is my favorite single from the iconic album. This song creates not just beautiful memories but also evokes passion and inspiration.
When I feel down, I play this song to lift my spirits. I even have considered the song to be my legacy song when I die, quicker than a ray of light then gone for some one else shall be there through the endless years. I remember back in the day when I got my first Vw golf gti and took my dad out for a spin.
March 21, posted by Denae. Ray of light helped me through the heartache of breakups then and now the deeper appreciation of life and motherhood now. You make my spirit whole. March 21, posted by saraelizabeth. Freedom comes from learning to let go. Love the lyrics, the beat, and her voice. March 20, posted by jb Somehow sometimes Madonna ends her albums with very reflective songs.
Choosing Mer Girl as my favorite from the Ray of Light album is a difficult one because there are many good songs in that album.
And I agree with what most people have written about their favorite songs here. On their third—and best—album, Arcade Fire make it sound like a titanic struggle for the soul. The album packs epic themes into a decidedly ordinary package: a package built of cookie-cutter houses and labyrinthine subdivision streets, of colorless cul-de-sacs and expansive vistas with no skyscrapers or tall buildings to break the line on the horizon.
The beauty is often in the innocence: of kids and teenagers wasting hours wandering their neighborhoods, or getting up to hijinks with friends, or falling in love with girls from school. The Suburbs is expansive and fully-realized in exploring these concepts, both with the wide-eyed charm of youth and the hardened reflection of adulthood.
Mandolin Orange - Such Jubilee. The album cover for Such Jubilee is my favorite artwork from any record this decade. The image depicts a small house on an otherwise deserted stretch of land, set against a backdrop of dark, starry sky. The nighttime dwarfs the house just as the cosmos dwarf the rest of us, challenged only by a plume of smoke issuing from the chimney. There is a glow of light along the horizon, from a sun recently set but not ready to relax its grip on the world.
The album sets a challenge for itself by having such a beautiful, evocative image as its face—an image that calls to mind the comforts of home, the warmth of a fire in the grate, the power of feeling minuscule under a sky full of stars, and the majestic quiet of the night. But if there was ever an album that sounded like its cover, Such Jubilee is it. Other days it's cold and empty and too quiet. Either way, it's always waiting for you at the end of the road.
A lot of artists—especially in the country sphere—wrote songs about home or hometowns this decade. Travis Meadows - First Cigarette. Some albums feel like background music. Especially in modern country music, there are so many artists that specialize in making little more than window dressing. Their songs are intended to be something you listen to while doing something else: drinking at a bar, hanging out with friends, hosting a barbeque.
It feels more like a manifesto than an album: a collection of important thoughts, stories, and lessons passed down to you by someone who paid dearly to learn them.
Meadows has lived a very hard life, full of heartbreaks and obstacles that would shatter a weaker person. His family abandoned him; he lost his leg to cancer; he lost years of his life in a haze of alcoholism and addiction.
The album is full of moments like that, moments that take you both to the depths of failure and the resounding heights of hope. It is a genuine masterpiece about the triumph of the human spirit. Taylor Swift - Speak Now. I never gave female artists enough attention in the s, especially pop singers. I was predisposed to hate the radio, and my focus on artists and bands was narrow enough that I just never broadened my horizons away from artists that looked like me, sounded like me, and probably had perspectives similar to mine.
Taylor Swift was the first artist to break that cycle for me, in part because it was hard not to get caught up in the release cycle for Speak Now. Swift was too big, too notable, too inescapable. More than that, though, as I started delving into this record, it felt like the songs were written for me specifically.
In the very early days of my relationship with my girlfriend now wifethat song—and much of the rest of Speak Now —resonated with me. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars. Springsteen spent the latter half of the s in reflective mode. He played The River in full over and over again on an E Street tour that was supposed to last a month or two and ended up lasting a year.
He published an autobiography. He reckoned with his legacy and his mortality in an acclaimed Broadway show. In the midst of this process, Western Stars was delayed repeatedly. For years, it was pitched only as a solo album that would be a bit of a departure from his past work.
I was convinced, for several of those years, that the album would never actually see the light of day. When it did, it was with little fanfare: no tour, not much press, and a positive but relatively quiet reception. We tend to value artists like Springsteen mostly for their legacies and past work—hence the way The Boss has spent most of this decade looking back rather than looking forward. A lot about Sings His Sad Heart is a joke. The title, for instance, is Matt Nathanson actively making fun of himself and his tendency to write songs about heartbreak and regret.
On a recent tour, Nathanson brought along a spinning wheel as a way of picking random songs or song categories for his setlist. While Nathanson is by all accounts a happy person, with a strong marriage and a good relationship with his daughter, his nostalgic sensibilities and love for sad pop songs make him a conduit for art about breakups, unrequited love, and missed opportunities.
Through a mix of unguarded honesty and wry humor, Nathanson takes us back to the way things used to be, giving us space to reckon with the question of why nostalgia and the past have so much of a pull for so many of us. Kanye West saw his stock plummet drastically in the s, due to a mixture of bad political takes and bad albums. At the start of the decade, though, he was firmly at his career zenith. Even for me, someone who had never found much appeal in hip-hop, this album was mind-blowing.
I loved how melodic it was: how Kanye wove in guitar solos and samples and guest features from the likes of Rihanna and Elton John and John Legend and Bon Iver to create something as explosively hooky as it was beat-driven.
I still have very little knowledge or understanding of the genre this album comes from, but something about Fantasy just feels universal. I kept listening because I was confused and fascinated, but also because I was remarkably entertained. Because regardless of politics and bad tweets and questionable opinions, there is no album from the past decade that is grander, more daring, more audacious, or altogether greater.
Jimmy Eat World - Invented. Charlie Worsham - Rubberband. Pitched somewhere between Dierks Bentley and Vince Gill, Worsham showed himself here to be a sharp talent as a writer, a guitar player, and a vocalist. Instead, Worsham imbues them with humor, tenderness, and a clear-eyed understanding of who he is and the tales he wants to tell. Even despite the rousing successes of these first four tracks, though, Rubberband is most successful in its back half, where Worsham delivers a series of back-porch-at-dusk country songs so gorgeous that they should all become songbook classics.
What makes Rubberband so wonderful is how completely devoid of cynicism it is. Worsham is willing to write songs that are poignant, earnest, and heart-on-the-sleeve honest. Based on how Charlie Worsham has been ignored by country radio, he may not have been made for these times—a fact that makes us even luckier to have him here.
Steve Moakler - Steel Town. Small towns; beaches; sunsets; Coppertone sunscreen; Patron vodka; lifeguard stands; hard work; hard play; degree temperatures; sunburns; stolen kisses; beautiful girls; beautiful eyes; flip-flops; sand everywhere; summer flings; another drink; pints of golden-hued beer; hair bleached blonde by the sun; falling in love; getting your heart broken; June; July; August; fighting off September; losing the fight against September; boat rides; fast cars; road trips; vacation days; postcards from resort towns; countdowns to Friday at 5; crashing waves; swimming; surfing; rides on the backstreets; makeout sessions in the backseat; days flying by like lightning; memories burned in your mind; a time of your life that simultaneously seemed to last forever and disappear in the blink of an eye.
These are the ingredients of Steel Townan album that does as good of a job at encapsulating the wonderment of summertime as any album from the past 10 years. Steel Town was sneakily one of my most played albums of the decade, and its ability to capture that very specific summer vibe explains why.
Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect. Easily the wildest and most audacious album that Flowers ever made, Effect is the kind of pop album where the rulebook clearly got tossed out the window during one of the very first recording sessions.
Credit producer Ariel Rechtshaid—known for working with pop chameleons like Vampire Weekend and Haim—for pushing Flowers out of his comfort zone. Most of the time, though, The Desired Effect sounds like a bold, confident debut album from an artist who was born to be a solo act.
Every song is its own distinct work of art, but they somehow coalesce into something greater: a widescreen, big-hearted pop album that feels even more notable in an era when most pop music was cynical and insular. The biggest flaw is that Flowers left the best song—the laser-blast would-be jock jam that is the title track—on the cutting room floor. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto. Not enough rock bands reached for the rafters this decade. So, when Coldplay did it on Mylo Xylotoin the corniest, least apologetic way ever, it was genuinely epic.
Coldplay had gone big before this. There are still art-rock elements to this record: interludes are everywhere, and the entire album is supposedly a rock opera about a soldier and an activist falling in love in the midst of an Orwellian dictatorship.
I have never heard any traces of this story. But Mylo Xyloto works because all its big ideas are packed into punchy pop songs. The entire thing is as colorful and kaleidoscopic as a box of Crayola crayons, taken to the next level by gargantuan production from Markus Dravs. The National - High Violet.
But the mood of the song—warm, enveloping, wine-buzzed, and lit like a noir photograph—says something else. Home lives in your blood, and when you leave it, it comes back to you at unexpected moments, accompanied by unanticipated pangs of longing. Those complex emotions form the backbone of High Violeta dark and often gloomy album about the dissatisfaction of early adulthood. The tracks are littered with anxiety over meeting and interacting with new people, apprehension over new fatherhood, feverish insomnia that only alcohol can fix, and grasps at holding onto a romantic relationship that is slowly but steadily falling apart.
The dichotomy between those two extremes—the rose-colored view of the past and the complex, fractured world of the present—renders High Violet a gripping and complicated album that I have only truly come to understand with time. Adele - There will never be another album like 21ever again. But 21 arrived just before the streaming revolution and muscled its way toward radio and sales dominance for one primary reason: it was fucking good. It combines irresistible pop hooks with the doldrums of heartbreak and then strands everything on the edge of a dark and stormy night.
I actually got into 21 and Rumours at the same time, in the spring following my sophomore year of college. But to me, its biggest accomplishment is the mood it conjures over the course of 11 tracks and 48 minutes.
Find me a mainstream album since with half as much heart and soul. Dawes - We're All Gonna Die. The album as a whole is zany and subversive, a contradictory collection that flits between finding meaning in everything and finding meaning in nothing. On the title track, Taylor Goldsmith sings about losing connection with his own art—to the point where he envies the passion of the kid in the front row at one of his shows, singing his songs back to him with twice the commitment he can muster.
It is a decidedly studio album from a band that usually trades in live, organic execution. These songs only made the trip more perfect. Thoroughly gone were his emo and pop-punk roots. The - The Over the years, The have been praised and derided, in equal measure for a lot of things. This album leaked on the web the Friday of Labor Day weekend Some 24 hours later, on a sun-drenched beach in Northern Michigan, I got down on one knee and asked the girl I loved to marry me. It might have been happenstance or accident or serendipity, but the album I was playing throughout that day was The The big, grandiose swell—abetted by the absolutely do-or-die commitment of frontman Matty Healy—called to mind that scene at the end of every romantic comedy, where the guy chases the girl through the airport, confesses his love, and sweeps her up into a crowd-pleasing kiss.
Having that song, on that day, for that moment, it felt like fate, and it will never stop coloring how I feel about this catchy, emotional, wildly inventive pop album. Carly Pearce - Every Little Thing. From start to finish, Every Little Thing is one of the best country debuts to come along in the past 10 years. Pearce has one of those voices that can sell anything, from tender ballads to big hooks, from breakup songs to songs that capture that excitement and vibrancy of new love, from lonely pleas to sexy come-ons.
When Pearce lends her voice to a knockout bit of writing, though, the results are magic. Turnpike Troubadours - The Turnpike Troubadours. Turnpike Troubadours had one of the most heartbreaking narrative arcs of the decade. They entered it as a promising country band with major chops in both the songwriting and musical departments.
The Turnpike Troubadours opens with one of the most visceral bursts of music this decade: a sweeping fiddle melody that sounds downright triumphant.
The way the song folds flashback and memory into its Album) is as deft as the work of any master short-story writer, but somehow fits into the mold of a catchy, singalong song. Lori McKenna has always been an incredible poet of the human experience. On The Bird and the Rifleshe largely turns those skills toward small towns and the people who live there. The result is a magnetic and emotionally wrenching album—a record that will resonate for anyone who ever grew up away from a city with a name everyone knows.
Some of the characters long to escape their surroundings, like the woman in the title track who metaphorically flies the coop to escape a controlling and abusive husband. How can we stand up against the onslaught of time, even as it takes the things we cherish most? The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow. Such was the case with The Civil Wars. Right from the very beginning of the very first song, it was clear that Joy Williams and John Paul White were tapping into something special.
As individuals, they were both obviously talented. Their voices were unique and beautiful enough to carry strong solo material, as they have gone on to do since. But together, they were more than the sum of their parts. It was like they crossed over into another plane of being when their timbres entwined.
The couple fights constantly, to the point where they end up, by the chorus, questioning whether they even still love each other. But they also are deeply in love, in a way that makes the way they treat one another that much less forgivable. It lit a match on a fractious flame that could only burn for a finite amount of time, but that burned like all hell and heaven while it could. Barton Hollow is the first of two masterpieces wrought from that tumultuous flame.
John Fullbright - Songs. The focus here is on writing, and in terms of pure songwriting craft, there were very few records from this decade that measured up to Songs.
Fullbright, an ex-member of the Texas country outfit Turnpike Troubadours, has largely kept a low profile for the past 10 years. But Songs is the kind of record that is so good that it could reasonably take five-plus years to deliver a worthy follow-up. After sharing this album with my wife, she came back to me talking about the song that made her weep uncontrollably at her desk at work. Had he been a little more active, Fullbright might have taken his place in the Americana resurgence alongside beloved songwriterly names like Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton.
We might have to wait until the s to see that narrative play out, but at least Fullbright gave us this perfect gift of an album in the meantime. Josh Ritter - Fever Breaks. For most of his Hello - Keaden - Under Your Skin (CD, though, Ritter has been something of an impressionist, writing poetic songs dense with religious imagery, literary allusions, and boatloads of figurative language.
That changes on Fever Breaksan urgent and turbulent record deeply informed by the Trump years. A Thousand Horses - Southernality. In a lot of ways, Southernality was the album that made me a die-hard country music fan. But in another era—perhaps the 90s, when this kind of country-rock skyrocketed bands like The Wallflowers up the charts— Southernality would have been a multi-platinum juggernaut.
This record came into my life at the outset of one of my favorite summers in recent memory, and it calls back so much of that season: sweltering runs on hot summer mornings; beers out on the porch of the first house I ever owned; writing sessions for my first album. I fell deeply in love with country music that summer, completely reconfiguring my music tastes in a matter of three short months. Taylor Swift - Lover. These songs feel more rooted in singer-songwriter territory, and Taylor lets the instrumentation be more varied than the bevy of synths that have dominated her pop era so far.
Kelsea Ballerini - Unapologetically. She knew her way around a hook, her storytelling was strong, and her voice had enough spirit and sass to give her the X-factor.
The First Timeas enjoyable as it is, is a grab bag of songs loosely structured around the trials, tribulations, and joys of coming-of-age. Unapologeticallyin contrast, is a deliberate song cycle, an album that charts the steps from a breakup to a new love over the course of 12 tracks.
Ballerini writes about the journey—an autobiographical one that spans a year of her own life—with wit, sensitivity, and a writerly craft that has clearly developed since her last album. She compares a boy leaving a trail of broken hearts to an undertaker filling in plots in a graveyard savage!
The result is an insightful exploration of womanhood, of feminism, of independence, of dysfunctional relationships, and of partners who are good for us and bad for us. Tyler Hilton - Indian Summer. Some people love sports movies. Some people love medical procedural TV shows. I love summer albums. In these songs, Tyler Hilton distills so much of what it is to be young and in love and clinging to July and August like they might never come again.
This album, in 36 minutes of spartan acoustic-and-piano-driven songs, captures that X-factor of the season as well as any music released in the past 10 years.
Only Matt Nathanson could take a song inspired by a dream about Bill Murray and turn it into a quirky and sad love song about cherishing the things that really matter in life. It all works so well that the lack of cohesion hardly matters. Show Me Your Fangs is an album for the playlist generation, where moods change as fast as songs and where uniformity might be mistaken for uneventfulness.
Tyler Childers - Purgatory. How much of youth is governed by the id? By basic, instinctual drives? Purgatory seems to answer that question with the most obvious answer: just about all of it. Purgatory is an album about growing up, told almost in real-time. The first three-quarters of the album are dominated by characters for whom the id always wins out.
This album is youth in all its wildness and unpredictability. Sometimes, that wildness proves to be little more than fuel for fondly remember tales. Sometimes, it leads down deeper rabbit holes, where the innocent chaos of youth gives way to something more sinister. Childers, who grew up in Appalachia and who has seen some of the most vicious effects of the opioid crisis firsthand, knows how that second script can play out.
The fact that he calls his coming-of-age album Purgatory is no mistake, because for a lot of modern teens and twentysomethings, those years between youth and adulthood prove to be treacherous.
Matthew Mayfield - A Banquet for Ghosts. In melancholy. In regret. In sadness. Not for too long: maybe just an hour, or a day, or a weekend. But every once in awhile, it can be a relief just to get away from everyone and everything and be alone with your thoughts. Where you can hold a banquet with all your thoughts and fears and regrets and could-have-beens. Songs like the ones on this album, fragile acoustic things with big cathartic builds, are the most fitting soundtrack for these moments.
In the meantime, few things sound better than this record. One of the big debates among indie rock fans this decade is about which War on Drugs record was better. Lost in the Dream was anointed as a classic first. In terms of cohesion and flow, it might even be a masterpiece. We became like brothers in college and he moved to London shortly thereafter. Right around when A Deeper Understanding dropped, he came to visit my wife and I.
Saying goodbye, driving away, bidding another long unpredictable farewell to a friend I used to see everyday: those moments were painfully melancholy, and these songs seemed to do them justice.
After TravellerChris Stapleton could have released a collection of 18th century Irish folk songs and had it go number one on the country charts. His brand was so hot in and that he legitimately could do no wrong. On the one hand, the album was a flex: not many artists have the power to release what is effectively a double album—albeit, two albums released at two different times, a few months apart—as their second major move as an artist.
The fact that Stapleton did this roughly two years after Traveller launched to niche acclaim but minimal sales was nothing short of incredible. On the other hand, the actual songs on From A Room are about as bare banes as you can get. Almost three years later, From A Room feels weirder by the month. Legend has it that Stapleton wrote no new songs for either of these records, and just relied on the tunes he already had in the bank. Keane - Strangeland. The Killers - Wonderful Wonderful.
The Killers won everyone over by writing songs that chronicled and glorified the reckless hedonism of Las Vegas nights. What was really happening, though, was that The Killers were growing up. Fast-forward to and Wonderful Wonderful, and this band barely even resembles what they were in those early days.
The consequence-free fun of Hot Fuss is more than over. The result is an album that doubles as a wake-up call. Everyone has their issues; no one is invincible. Those revelations end up paving the way for the most honest, unguarded music The Killers have ever made. Flowers was always a somewhat self-conscious frontman—someone who tended to make reactionary left turns based on the critical responses to his albums.
On Wonderful Wonderfulhe takes big swings, not caring whether they come across as too earnest or too corny. Yellowcard - Yellowcard. Yellowcard spent most of their career writing songs that captured the bold freedom of youth. Their last two albums went beyond that, with Lift a Sail facing the trials and tribulations of adulthood and Yellowcard acknowledging that, eventually, some things just run their course.
But the result is an emotionally gripping and satisfying collection of songs, one that plays almost like a series-ending book or a big climactic movie finale.
Most double albums are exercises in excess, or hubris, or ill-advised experimentation. Lambert made her name on scorched-earth breakup anthems wrought from gunpowder, lead, kerosene, and broken hearts.
When her marriage crumbled, though, she succumbed to the same sadness and melancholy that the rest of us feel at the ends of the relationships we really thought were going to last.
But The Weight of These Wings ultimately succeeds because the ballads hit so hard and cut so deep. On this record, Lambert turned her broken heart into an epic-length blockbuster, and made one of the great country albums of the decade as a result. Twin Forks - Twin Forks. In my teenage years, I gravitated toward the music of Dashboard Confessional because of the angst. Chris Carrabba had a knack for making heartbreak and sadness sound noble and romantic. I figured that, eventually, those songs would get me through breakups.
That never really happened. So, fittingly, when we finally got married, four years into our relationship, it was Carrabba who was there to provide the soundtrack. For my wife and I, though, Twin Forks was like a photo album of the summer we got married. U2 - Songs of Innocence.
The legacy of Songs of Innocence will always be tarnished by the way in which it was released to the world. In partnership with Apple, U2 gave the album away to every single iTunes user. Apple meant it as generosity. Both of those intentions backfired. Twitter savaged both brands for their hubris, in thinking that everyone even wanted a U2 album.
All these factors bogged down what is, on the whole, a very strong set of songs. When Songs of Innocence arrived in the fall ofU2 had been away for the better part of six years. Hearing them again, in any form, would have been a pleasure—at least to me. But even I was pleasantly surprised by Innocencewhich took the complacency you would expect from a band almost 40 years into their career and threw it out the window. Musically, the album is neutered somewhat by too-clean production from the likes of Ryan Tedder and Danger Mouse.
In trying to make the songs palatable for modern pop radio, U2 dulled the edge of what should have been their dirtiest, thrashiest, most urgent album since War. Sometimes, albums just feel important. They might not be your favorite albums, or the albums that seem to say the most about your life, but you can hear them once and know they are going to matter. There was a gravity to it, not unlike what I felt the first time I heard Clarity or Transatlanticism or Funeral.
The rest of the album keeps you there. It grapples with the death of friends and thoughts of suicide and abusive relationships and all the toxic things we try to escape in our lives that just seem to pull us deeper into their web. To be reminded of how music could save other people was heartening, and it underlined what I thought about this record from the start: that it was going to matter.
The Alternate Routes - Lately. On Latelythey went full U2, delivering a record packed with sparkly, anthemic, guitar-driven arena rock.
It just builds and builds, until it crests like a wave into a torrent of wordless vocal wails. The cover of The Wild Hunt is one of my favorite album covers of the decade. It looks like the kind of shot you might snap on your iPhone out the window of car as you were riding through the middle of the rural American nowhere. But I love it for what it captures: the unbridled freedom and boundless solitude of the road—especially on a cloudy day as dusk approaches.
The music on the album itself conveys a similar feeling: of leaving everything behind and driving straight off into a storm, never to be seen or heard from again.
On The Wild HuntKristian Matsson the singer-songwriter who performs under the moniker of The Tallest Man on Earth plays up those folkloric myths every chance he gets. By his estimation, when you leave home and embark upon some journey, you leave the shackles of reality behind and encounter stranger things. They live on in your head and become wayward myths of your own making.
But every once in awhile, you might just get the urge to get in the car again, and hit that horizon one more time. Jason Isbell lived out perhaps the greatest rise from the ashes narrative of any artist in the s. But in a lot of ways, the story begins here, two years earlier.
They say that you have to hit rock bottom to recognize that you have a problem, and to make the vow to seek help and get better. In retrospect, though, Here We Rest Hello - Keaden - Under Your Skin (CD like Isbell being honest with himself in his songs, before he could be honest with himself in real life.
Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger in the Alps. Stranger in the Alps is an impossibly sad album. Even when we should feel grateful to be where we are and to have what we have. Stranger in the Alps is a dark listen because it forces us to contend with little thoughts like those that might not necessarily be comfortable. The songs grapple with mental health struggles, suicidal thoughts, emotional and physical abuse, and even murder.
The Menzingers - After the Party. For the band and the characters in their songs, turning 30 scans not quite as a crisis moment, but certainly as a shock to the system. But they go by so fast: a dizzying whirlwind of romances and songs and half-forgotten nights that seems to be over in about half the time that your teenage years were.
It turns out that, with the right co-pilot in the front seat, driving away from the unpredictable wonder of youth can hold a lot of wonderment of its own. Rather than spend their whole label-allocated budget on recording the album, the guys in The Fray earmarked a lot of the money for this album for world travel.
The songs came naturally from the places the band visited and the people they met, and the result is a surprisingly searching and poignant album. Famously, U2 ascended to new heights in the late eighties when their travels outside of their native land—specifically to America—broadened their horizons, reshaped their identities, and pushed them to start asking new questions about politics, spirituality, and life itself.
And the band seemingly internalized those criticisms, losing trust in their own songwriting and teaming up with a bevy of faceless cowriters for the poppy, mostly-bad follow-up Helios. That album came out in and The Fray have been dormant ever since. Brian Fallon - Painkillers. Each of these albums is distinctly different and masterful in its own way—the work of an artist and the artists around him clearly bursting with inspiration and creativity.
Painkillers is the sound of Fallon trying to start over, both in terms of his music and his personal life. From the beginning, we knew Brian Fallon was a unique lyricist—willing to pilfer and borrow from his idols, but also more than ready to wear his heart on his sleeve and tell his own story. Dierks Bentley - Riser. But when Bentley sings these songs, it sounds like he wrote them, so thoroughly does he commit to the character and emotion of them.
For a band like Death Cab, though, the challenge is aging gracefully after being something that a whole lot of people came to associate with teen and young adult angst. Ben Gibbard and co. For Death Cab, though, the struggle might have been even more difficult, thanks to the fact that they existed somewhere between the heart-on-the-sleeve intensity of emo and the trendy-white-boy indie-rock of early Pitchfork.
What makes Thank You for Today so terrific is how it ages gracefully by acknowledging the fact that aging has indeed occurred. The result is a nostalgic album about nostalgia: a record that sounds a whole lot like Transatlanticism but that is meta enough to recognize its own backward-looking theme.
Elsewhere, he looks back wistfully at his summer years and reflects on what his city looked like before gentrification changed its entire character. With time racing past, and with everything changing in the blink of an eye, maybe saying thank you for today is the best any of us can do. The rest of the album is the aftermath: chilly, moody, and surprisingly downbeat.
Breakups hurt not just because you lose the person, but also for so many other reasons. They hurt because the happy memories become tinged with sadness. They hurt because everything you gave to that person—the stories, the secrets, Hello - Keaden - Under Your Skin (CD whispered truths you could never admit to anyone else—stay in their hands. They hurt because you lose their family, and your family loses them. This record grapples intelligently with all of that collateral damage, in a way so many shallower breakup albums never even think to attempt.
Matt Nathanson - Last of the Great Pretenders. After this album, he would transition into full-on pop savant mode, throwing all his influences—from Prince to Kanye West to Bruce Springsteen—into a blender to create his own unique twist on modern pop. Instead, Last of the Great Pretenders plays kind of like the mixtapes you make in college, when your connections with new people of different social groups, backgrounds, and interests sends your music taste scattering in all different directions.
For Matt, all those musical ideas and influences end up as a patchwork quilt of sorts, painting his perception of the city of San Francisco over the course of a tumultuous year. John Mayer - The Search for Everything.
On The Search for Everythingthough, he let his own fame serve as the punching bag for the songs. Written and recorded in the wake of yet another breakup with yet another celebrity starlet—Katy Perry, this time— Search is the sound of a man grappling with his own romantic failures. We never got the part two, or the other 10 EPs, and Mayer has only released three songs since.
Strip away all that context, though, and this album has some of the sharpest, hardest-hitting material that Mayer ever wrote. In an era where pop music seemed to get less honest and open, Mayer continued his oversharing tendencies—to brilliant effect. Chad Perrone - Kaleidoscope. Young songwriters revel in the pain of failed relationships. They take those heartbreaks and breakups and relish them, channeling them into songs that teenagers and twentysomethings can listen to and cry to and sing along to in the midst of their own romantic disasters.
As you get older, though, the connotations of a breakup song change. When you get older, the stakes are higher. A breakup might mean a called-off engagement and Hello - Keaden - Under Your Skin (CD returned ring.
It might mean divorce. It might mean figuring out what happens to your kids, or your pets, or the house you shared together. It probably means that your respective families feel the fallout of losing someone they had started to see as family. There is nothing to relish in these breakups: no grand catharsis in the songs they bring. Kaleidoscope traces all these difficult feelings into one of the most gutting and honest breakup albums of the past 10 years. At 16, a broken heart hurts, but it also feels like a badge of honor.
At 36, it can only make you wonder if happiness might not be in the cards for you. The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream.
Was it Americana? Was it guitar hero pyrotechnics? Lost in the Dreamthe breakout album from The War on Drugs, offers all these parallels and more.
Maddie and Tae - Start Here. Maddie and Tae burst onto the scene with maybe the most prescient, subversive country hit of the decade. It was bold for a duo of two young, largely unknown female songwriters to take shots at established superstars, but it paid off. It also paved the way to Start Hereone of the most confident and assured mainstream country debuts of the last 10 years. Every single song is a hit.
Kelsea Ballerini - The First Time. When Taylor Swift officially ditched country music inthere was an opening for a new pop-country crossover starlet. The criticism, from purists, is that Ballerini is not and never has been a country artist. Who cares if Kelsea Ballerini sounds like a pop star? Josh Ritter - Sermon on the Rocks. Josh Ritter has always been an exemplary songwriter and a spectacular lyricist. For whatever reason, though, inhe tossed out the rulebook and got weird.
Vaughan Hoad. Peter Van Bogaert aka Liquid G. Paul Madderson. Alex B. Erik Johansson. Jan Wahnsinn. Ryan Cek. John Madsen.
Purchasable with gift card. One Way Street Bitter White Flag Chains Charlie Brown Ex Girlfriend Girl Next Door Fall Down I Stand Alone Redd Valentino Debray Filthy Little Liar Fade to Black Catch Release Kill In the Name of God Drown
21. Pleasantry. Allegro Moderato - Béla Bartók / György Sándor - Solo Piano Works (CD), Fearsome Bass - Luca Antolini DJ - Red Alert Collection Vol. 7 (CD), Youre Breaking In A New Heart (While Youre Breaking Mine), Damned - The Abyss (2) - Summon The Beast (CD, Album), Evacuate The Dancefloor (Wideboys Dub), Papa Legba - Talking Heads - True Stories (Vinyl, LP, Album), Hurtin Inside - Brook Benton - Golden Hits (Vinyl, LP), Everybody Lets Somebody Love (To The Michael Mix) - Various - Quadrant Park Classics (CDr), Im Glad - Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band - Safe As Milk (Vinyl, LP, Album), Listen To My Message - The Moonwalkers (3) - Remember Your Roots (CD, Album), The Best - Various - Ljuva 80-tal 1980 - 1989 - The Only Way Is Up (CD), Chairlift - Moth (Vinyl, LP, Album)