Ten years is a long time. I’ve been sort of thinking about what my favorite albums and songs of the last ten years are and it’s a pretty tough list to make. I’m not even sure what the criteria would (or should) be. Anyway, here is a rough go at a few of my favorite albums of the last decade.
Bjork: Vespertine (“Coccoon”, YouTube link)
Vespertine was a Christmas gift from my dad — I listened to it while falling asleep every night for probably a year? When I think of this album I think of going to bed at 7, lying still and curled up and bundled under lots of blankets, heavy snow, dark skies, feeling safe and sad.
I think a lot about the punk years: the sloppy kids in messy houses drinking and shouting and drinking some more. I think a lot about how I tried to glamorize that whole travesty — tried to talk it up through the construction of community, intentional living, fucking the man, whatever. I ignored: substance abuse, misogyny, racism, general teenage fuck-uppery. But this: this album was the teenage punk rock utopia I dreamed of. 13 songs in less than 28 minutes. Songs that you can scream along with. Vocals that have that Westerberg edge of longing that make mediocre songs great. Especially on “Fireman’s Bakesale.” Be Still is $5 via Plan It X — actually, I guess it’s out of print now? If anyone’s interested, I can upload it.)
Churchbuilder: Patty Darling
I know I’ve written about Churchbuilder before, but this album was it for awhile. This album was a whole identity and existence compressed into sweet pop songs: trying on vintage clothing at the Renaissance Parlour while “Vespa” played in the background, lounging in bed with best friends listening to “Hey Flannery,” shouting along with “French Kiss Conspiracy” (“It was your kiss! That threw me! It was your kiss! You killed me!”) This album was pure teenage longing and desperation and misunderstood intelligence and aptitude and I loved it. I love it.
I Like Japanese Hardcore: Live (Free download on archive.org)
I wasn’t going to put this on here. I wasn’t going to talk about it — it was just a weird CD-R with little animals drawn on it and it’s sort of like how when you go to an open mic night and you just know it’s going to be dudes covering Jack Johnson or whatever? Except this is sort of like an indie girl open mic night where every song sounds a little bit like Go Sailor (that saccharine pop with a hidden razor sharp edge). My favorite line: I’m not a loser baby, losing you’s not gonna kill me. This whole album is me trying to get up the nerve to end a relationship, singing along over and over: “You’re no Calvin Johnson, don’t want your lo-fi love songs!” The earnestness of this album is something that made me feel capable.
Jen Wood: This Uncontainable Light EP (Ride mp3)
I have this tremendously vivid memory of waiting and waiting for this to come in the mail and finally getting it in mid-summer, graduation party season. Driving home from a party thrown by someone I didn’t know, being driven by someone I didn’t like. It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I loved the song “Ride” intensely, with all the passion my 16 year old heart could muster.
Le Tigre: s/t (“Phanta”, YouTube link)
I got Le Tigre’s first album as a gift for my 13th birthday along with a Le Tigre t-shirt that my Uncle had won from a call-in contest on college radio. I played this CD non-stop, continuing my love affair with Kathleen Hanna that lasted well into my teens. My favorite song was “Phanta” — I spent a lot of time feeling like I was falling apart (and sometimes actually falling apart), but something about the way Kathleen wailed, “now here’s all right” helped me to feel whole. (later, when Feminist Sweepstakes came out, I felt the same way about the speaking part in “Tres Bien”).
Mirah: You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This (“Telephone Wires” (Live, incomplete), YouTube link)
Everything always ends up being about Mirah. If I’m talking about what I listened to over the last decade, the answer is: Mirah. Mirah is what I listened to in middle school and high school and college and now that I’m out of college I am still listening to Mirah. This Christmas my boyfriend bought me a Mirah record (the vinyl reissue of You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This) — he got me a Mirah record last Christmas, too (College Park is Always Ready to Party). And when I think of my best records of the last twenty years and the last thirty years of the twenty first century or whatever, it will probably always be Mirah.
When I was in the eighth grade my mom was driving me to school and we were listening to “Stone Cold Bikini” (a local college radio program) and I heard “Stand Up” by the Sissies and it stayed lodged in my brain forever after that. At the time I was really into DIY and punk and writing and music that was pro-girl and pro-queer and my whole identity was essentially rooted in these quirky interests fed almost entirely by zines and music and the Sissies were like the epitome of the tiny posi culture I was building for myself. Everything In the World collects everything the Sissies ever did and puts it out on one CD for $5. You can order it here, from Plan-it-X.
(Other things that could have gone on this list: Fevers and Mirrors by Bright Eyes, Pink Hearts Yellow Moons by Dressy Bessy, Saddle the Bridge by Bonfire Madigan, Day One by Sarah Dougher, lots and lots of others.)