Saturday, July 30, 2011


This is my 2,000th post! It feels like a big deal to me.  I've really enjoyed doing this blog, reading your comments (both here and on the No Expiration Facebook page) and occasionally meeting people who read the blog in person.  Thanks for your support, I'm going to continue doing No Expiration, and maybe add a video element to it at some point. I am in my early 40s, and love music as much as I ever did.

It was difficult to decide what to write about for my 2000th post.  I decided to do a list of the best albums that have come out since I launched this blog in the fall of 2007.  Some of my friends have a laugh over the fact that so many of the artists I listen to are "old" (which is silly and ageist), but in fact there are some newer artists, some who are celebrated by the hipster elite.  In fact, one of these albums topped the Village Voice "Pazz & Jop" album list!

1. The Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do was my favorite album of 2010, and also my favorite album of the past few years.  The DBTs is a band I was hardly aware of until a few years ago.  It was basically listening to SiriusXM's Outlaw Country that turned me on to them, and for that, I'm grateful. Once I started hearing a couple of songs, I started buying albums, and then attending concerts.  I'm in: I'm a fan for life. The Big To-Do is one of their best albums.  If my peers ask me about "new" bands to get into, I'll mention the Truckers.  They're not new, but they're new to a lot of people.

2. Bob Dylan - Together Through Life was my favorite album of 2009. It's amazing to me that Dylan still is adding to his unbelievable body of work. He was 68 (I think) when this came out.  How many 68 year olds are still putting out classic LPs? Well, I guess you can't compare anyone to Dylan anyway. The songs on this album were incredible - instead of writing them all on his own (as he usually does), he collaborated with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter.  But the secret sauce here is in the musicians he assembled for this record: Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and Los Lobos multi-instrumentalist David Hildago.

3. Bruce Springsteen - Magic He's as relevant as he ever was, and he drove that point home with this album. By this point, he'd driven away lots of his politically conservative fans, and goes hard at the bu$h administration.  And he did it with some of his best songs ever.  I love "Long Walk Home." The line "The flag flying over the courthouse, certain things are set in stone: who we are, what we'll do and what we won't."  The song has one of Clarence Clemons' last great sax performances.  Actually, the live version is even better than the one on Magic, it has great vocal performances by Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren. On the same album is "Girls In The Summer Clothes" which is pretty self-explanatory. This was around the time that lots of younger acts, from Arcade Fire to Gaslight Anthem, were citing Bruce as a major audience.  For a long time you didn't have young artists referencing Bruce that much, around Magic that started to change.

4. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals - Lifeline My favorite album of 2007.  It was an album that they recorded in Paris over a (I think) two week period while touring for 2006's Both Sides Of The Gun, but it it totally a different album. The Innocent Criminals were really gelling as a band at this point... so it's weird that this is the last that we've heard of them (Ben has recorded either with Relentless7 or Fistful Of Mercy since then). I really hope we hear more from Ben and The Innocent Criminals in the future (I love R7 and Fistful though).  The album has a laid back but really soulful sound.  It's one of my favorites by Ben (who is one of my favorite artists ever).

5. Cocktail Slippers - Saint Valentine's Day Massacre There are two bands that I won't shut up about when people ask me about good relatively recent bands: The Drive-By Truckers and The Cocktail Slippers. Saint Valentine's Day Massacre is just a classic rock record, it actually blows my mind that more people haven't heard of them.  Little Steven, who produced the album, said it is one of the best albums he has ever worked on.  Think about that for a second.  By the way, I agree with him.  This album would be considered a classic and they would be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if this came out in the '60s, '70s or '80s.

6. Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop, Drop and Roll!!! Of course, FHT is actually Green Day, but this was a great side project, and it's my favorite thing they've ever done, including American Idiot. This was my favorite album of 2008. The greatest radio station of all time, SiriusXM's Underground Garage, played every single song on this album. (yes I work at SiriusXM). It is perfect garage rock.  It's fun, unpretentious and the songs are incredible. It's too bad that they don't do any FHT songs during Green Day concerts (and the Hot Tubs rarely do concerts).

7. The Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark which was one of my favorite albums of 2008.  This is when I started rollin' with the Truckers.  I think I heard "3 Dimes Down" on another of my favorite radio stations, SiriusXM Outlaw Country, and I was sold on the band. I love that they quote Seger's classic "Rock and Roll Never Forgets" in the song. That's one of the things that's so great about this band.  They did it with no irony, most modern bands would sort of do that tongue in cheek.  One of the many reasons that the DBTs are so much better than most other bands these days.

8. Mavis Staples You Are Not Alone This was my second favorite album of 2010, but the title track was my favorite song of the year.  It's one of my favorite songs ever. The album was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, who wrote the title track for Mavis.  Music is subjective, but I think when you write a song like "You Are Not Alone," you would have to know that it is an incredible song.  For him to give it to Mavis is amazing to me. But she sang it better than he could (I have heard his solo acoustic version on a bootleg, and he does it great, but she takes it to another level). The rest of the album is lovely also.  More than lovely: it's moving.

9. The Raconteurs - Consolers Of The Lonely was one of my favorite albums of 2008. (I bet some of you were wondering when Jack White would make his first appearance here!) I think that they are an excellent band, and lately they've been a bit forgotten between Jack's other bands.  I think that Jack and singer/songwriter/guitarist Brendan Benson are a great team, and compliment each other incredibly well.  Jack brings out a bit of darkness in Brendan, and Brendan brings more melody to Jack's songs.  And of course the rhythm section of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler (both of The Greenhornes) rock, they hold it down.  I know they are doing a few shows this year, I hope they return full time.

10. The Roots - How I Got Over was one of my favorites from 2010. The minute I heard it, I knew it was a great album. They were always a great band, but I think playing on Jimmy Fallon's show made them get even better, mainly (I think) because they backed up so many artists.  The album's guests were certainly informed by their experiences on the show: Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk, the ladies from Dirty Projectors and Joanna Newsom all  collaborated on the LP.  Also, Black Thought - in my mind, one of the most underrated MCs in hip-hop and also one of the best - sings a bit, which I think is something that started on Fallon.  As always, Questlove's beats and production is crisp and on point, but this album had some of the group's best songs, including the title track, "Dear God 2.0," "Now Or Never" and "The Day."

11. Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. If I had to pick right now, this is my favorite album of 2011.  I doubt it will make many, or any, year-end best-ofs.  Social D get respect from music critics (I think), but I don't think many of them listen to their recent music. What a shame - I'd say to them, put down the Animal Collective and check out this gem. There's some new elements on this album: they make more use of Hammond organ than before, and there's also backing singers on a few songs.  And the songs are more accessible than ever, without losing Social D's badass identity.  Listen to this album, and then say it out loud: the D is one of the best American rock bands of the past three decades.  They deserve their due. And you deserve to hear this album.

12. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand What else can I say about this album?  OK, it got a lot of hype, and a lot of Grammys. In retrospect, it deserved all of its props and more. I've always enjoyed Robert Plant's solo career, but this album provided him with a new career peak.  That's no small feat.  It's as timeless and as beautiful as Zeppelin (if not quite as earth shaking or game changing).  Of course, Alison is a huge artist in her own rite as well, and this is one of her greatest albums as well. Some credit needs to go to producer T-Bone Burnett, who helped select the songs and also assembled the band on the record.

13. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy One of my favorite albums of 2010, I recently wrote that I didn't want to write more about it, because so much has been said. But it really is a phenomenal record. Kanye is one of he most ambitious artists in any genre these days, and he deserves credit for that. He certainly is one of the most ambitious in hip-hop, and one of the only commercially successful artists who seems determined to stretch the boundaries of the genre.  Is he a nice guy?  I don't know, is Bob Dylan? I don't want to hang out with Kanye, but I do want to listen to his music.

14. Q-Tip The Renaissance One of the most underrated albums of the past few years and one of my favorites of 2008.  Tip goes his own way, it's too bad that the media doesn't follow him, it would be a more interesting path for him.  I told people about this album and many (even people who described themselves as fans of A Tribe Called Quest) didn't even know about this album.  So I talked about it a lot, and I'll continue to. Tip is one of the best MCs of all time, and you hear it on this album, but musically, he's has his own sector in the universe.  The album doesn't really remind me of anything else out there.

15. The Black Keys  Brothers was one of my favorite albums from last year. The Black Keys recently were on the cover of the great UK magazine Mojo, and they deserved to be.  The cover usually goes to legends (McCartney and Marley have been on the covers of the last two issues), but I think The Black Keys deserve to be there. Brothers is a great album: it has reverence for the past, but isn't bound to it, it's funky, sexy and has swagger but isn't douchey.  There aren't many rock and roll bands doing what they do anymore. This album will hold up in 40 years.

16. Steve Earle  Washington Square Serenade Doing an album with electronic beats instead of working with his long time band, the excellent Dukes, could have gone wrong. Instead, the beats were subtle, and the songs were up front.  It could have easily been an acoustic album - this wasn't a "Dylan at Newport" or "Achtung Baby" moment at all. It featured some of his best songs, which is really saying something.  I think the universe needs to be adjusted: Steve Earle is supposed to be a huge rock icon, like Springsteen, Seger or Petty. His progressive politics (which he's more vocal about than Springsteen) has put off a lot of people (especially the country crowd) but this album doesn't have (too) much of that. OK, other than "City Of Immigrants."

17. The White Stripes - Icky Thump The final album, but we didn't know it at the time. Twelve words: "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do What You're Told)." One of their greatest songs.  It would have been one of Zeppelin's greatest songs. Just amazing. (Great video also).  Of course, I'm bummed that the band announced their breakup a few months back. This album was a great one to go out on (I'm glad they didn't finish with Get Behind Me Satan). They went out while they still were making incredible music. And of course Jack White is still doing interesting things with his two other groups, as well as the artists he produced for his record label, Third Man.

18. Muse The Resistance One of my favorite albums of 2009, and one of my favorite new-ish bands. I was so excited to see this band graduate to arenas on their latest tour, they are one of the only recent bands who can pull off arena shows, in my opinion. There are a few bands that are part of a "prog-rock" underground, but Muse seem to be the only ones able to headline arenas like the prog-rock legends of the '70s and '80s (Yes, Genesis, Rush, Pink Floyd) were able to do. Not to say that Muse is overly in debt to those bands: they definitely have their own thing going on. I can't wait to see what they do next.

19. Pearl Jam Backspacer got an "honorable mention" on my favorite albums of 2009 list.  In retrospect, it should have made the list.  It's amazing that a band like Pearl Jam is still adding new classics to their catalog.  "The Fixer" is one of my favorite PJ songs - the line "If something's old, I wanna put a little shine on it. When something's gone, I wanna fight to get it back again" is something of a mantra to me.  But "Unthought Known" is another classic, and "Just Breathe" should have been a huge hit single. They also get extra points for album art by the great cartoonist Tom Tomorrow.

 20. Elizabeth Cook Welder was one of my favorite albums of last year. Her time is coming!  She is going to be a star... at least if there's any justice in the world of culture (I know there isn't much justice, but hopefully there is at least some). She's a great songwriter, a unique singer and supposedly she is great live (I have to see one of her shows next time she comes through NYC). Her songs range from really funny ("El Camino" and "Yes To Booty") to tragic ("Heroin Addict Sister").  She's got so much talent, and besides being a great artist, she's a great radio host. Hear her weekdays from 10 am - 2 pm ET on SiriusXM Outlaw Country.

21. Robert Plant Band Of Joy was also one of my favorite albums of last year.  People couldn't believe that he didn't do a follow up to his Alison Krauss collab, but you have to remember, this is a guy who choose not to do a Led Zep tour so he could could tour with Alison Krauss! At this point in his career, Robert Plant does what he wants to do, and rightfully so.  The great Buddy Miller produced this album, helped Robert put together the band and choose the songs.  It was masterfully done. Robert's last two albums (and three out of his last four) are covers... I wonder if he still has any great new songs left in him.  Even if he doesn't, he knows how to choose the right material, whether or not he is writing it.  I have to say, even I'm surprised to see Robert pop up twice on this list.

22. Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song Another one of my favorites of 2010. I'm not one of those guys who rips on the current state of country music. It's not totally my thing, but some country hits are great songs. That said, Jamey Johnson is more my speed than most of the big country stars of today.  He is a bit more badass than many of his peers.  And like Johnny Cash, there's a great duality there. He has a dark side, but on the other hand, he recently produced the Blind Boys Of Alabama album. It's like he's searching for redemption, and you kind of hear that in his own songs.

23. Gregg Allman Low Country Blues is one of my favorites of this year. Some people might ask the point of a Gregg Allman solo album: The Allman Brothers Band is his band, and with Dickey Betts gone, why does he need to make a solo album? Well, Gregg isn't into the whole jam band thing, and on this album, he plays lots of blues songs and keeps them short and sweet.  It's another T-Bone Burnett collaboration, and I hope they work together again (or that they have another album in the can from these sessions).

24. Ben Harper Give Till Its Gone is Ben's second time on this list, and its another of my favorites of 2011. This one features Relentless7 as the backing band, but they aren't billed, I guess this is a more personal album, and Ben sees it as a solo album. It doesn't have the heavy rock energy of the last R7 album, White Lies For Dark Times. Ben is one of my favorite artists, and this album holds up to his best material.  The album has sadness, but also a sense of things getting better.  "Rock and Roll Is Free" is one of the best songs about rock and roll in recent memory.

25. Foo Fighters Wasting Light is definitely one of the best albums of the year, and one of the best of their career. It is literally a "garage rock" album - it was recorded in Dave Grohl's garage (albeit with a pretty cool studio built into it). The band, which again features Pat Smear (they're a three guitar band now) has never sounded better. I think people kind of take the Foo Fighters for granted and sometimes just check out their singles, but don't make that mistake here, this is a great album.

26. The Drive-By Truckers Go-Go Boots is their third time on this list! You can see that this group has made a big impression on me in recent years. Yes, this is one of my favorite albums of this year. Recorded around the same time as The Big To-Do, I'm glad they split them into separate albums, they sound like separate albums. Lots of great songs here: "Used To Be A Cop" is really good. Nebraska-good. There, I said it. I wonder if Bruce has listened to them. I'm sure he checks out Little Steven's Outlaw Country channel, so hopefully he's caught them.

27. Karen Elson The Ghost Who Walks was a great debut from a cool singer. Another of my favorites from last year. She happened to be married to Jack White (at the time) who produced the album and played drums on lots of songs.  Now that they've split, I wonder what her career will be like.  Well, she wrote lots of great songs on this album, and based on those, I'd want to hear her next album, I don't care who she is married to. She showed a bit of a different side on her cover of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping" on the recent Buddy Holly tribute album.

28. The Dead Weather Horehound was one of my favorites from 2009. Jack White's latest band is also his darkest. Allison Mosshart was already making pretty heavy music with her other band, The Kills, but this introduced her to lots of new people.  She's one of the greatest frontpeople in rock music right now. In fact, she's the only person who holds their own in the charisma department, when on stage with Jack White. If Jack splits his time between Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, I think he'll keep fans happy for a long time.

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