Last week we kicked off this list. There’s some stand out works on that list, and it only gets better. This week we’re tackling the next ten entries, some of which you’ve most definitely heard, some of which you can’t even pretend to have heard of. So, without further ado…
40. LIVE AT IGGY’S (Super Soul Bros, 2012)
I’m not huge into jazz. I love Louis Armstrong, but long drawn out improvisational jazz has never really been my thing. Similarly I’m not huge into video game music. I like the classic Final Fantasy soundtracks and Disasterpiece’s FEZ soundtrack, but for the most part I’ll only listen to game soundtracks when I’m playing the game. Super Soul Bros, quite remarkably, fuses the two into something I can’t get enough of. Hearing the horns blare over the Mario Underworld theme or the rip roaring guitar solo over Sonic The Hedgehog’s Chemical Plant Zone always gets me. It’s like the jazz party anthem of the 80s and 90s we needed but didn’t get until now, and Live at Iggy’s is exemplary of that.
39. WHITE CROSSES (Against Me!, 2010)
Against Me! had to make it onto this list somewhere. Laura Jane Grace is too influential on both punk rock as a whole and my own taste in punk rock to exclude it. I first encountered them seriously when they opened for Gaslight Anthem on the Get Hurt tour. I hadn’t really been able to get into them until I saw them live, but seeing Laura and the gang railing away at those songs in person converted me. White Crosses is my favorite of their releases of this decade, because it’s hard rock with a good beat and compelling lyrics. “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” is perhaps the most potent of the songs on there, with hallowing lyrics about aging and giving up on revolution.
38. SIT RESIST (Laura Stevenson and the Cans, 2011)
Laura Stevenson was one of my favorite modern artists in high school. Sit Resist and Wheel were the soundtrack to my life any time I wasn’t feeling very rock and roll. From folksy a capella like “Red Clay Roots” to rhythmic anthems like “The Healthy One,” Laura was always a great breath of fresh air from the classic rock I drowned myself in. I’ve seen her four times and, although I like her studio stuff more than her live performances, she’s got a great stage presence and I’m so glad to have been able to see her while my fandom for her was at its peak.
37. RED (Taylor Swift, 2012)
RED is usually called Taylor Swift’s rock album. A bit of a misnomer (there are some considerably more rock tracks on Speak Now than anything on RED) but overall a good description. With a widely diverse set of tracks, ranging from the beat heavy “Holy Ground” to her soulful acoustic ballad with Ed Sheeran “Everything Has Changed,” RED was the album that got me back into Taylor Swift after a few years of intermission as I dived into the classics and indie rock.
36. HAMILTON (Original Broadway Cast, 2015)
I have a LOT of beef with Hamilton. The standard whitewashed version of history we learned in school but with rap sounds like something The Simpsons would’ve made up as a joke in the early 90s. Nevertheless, Lin Manuel Miranda combined his stellar musicianship with his unbelievable wordsmithing to make an unforgettable experience. All my gripes with it’s overly safe interpretations of the American Revolution aside, he does introduce the audience to great historiographical concepts in songs like “The Room Where It Happens” and “Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story,” and who thought Angelica Schuyler would be the greatest of all time female rapper?
35. AMERICA (Your Heart Breaks, 2015)
It kinda killed me when I looked up the year and found that Love Is A Long Dark Road (Love Is All You Need) by Your Heart Breaks was a 2008 release, missing the cut off date for this list by two years. That was my intro album to YHB and still my favorite, but the greatest thing about it was that it introduced me to the rest of their discography. When America first came out I was a little baffled by the departure from lite DIY punk rock to straight up techno pop, but it was an endearing changed that worked great for Clyde Peterson, who really grew up on acts like Arthur Baker and Pet Shop Boys. This album turned out great and I’m so glad I’ve been able to watch YHB evolve into that new style.
34. ONES TO KEEP CLOSE (The Bones of JR Jones, 2018)
Bones is my favorite blues artist of the modern era. His guitar work is impeccable, his production is stellar, and on this album he really broke ground with his arrangement. Introducing synthesizers into a few tracks and exploring more pop-oriented blues, Ones To Keep Close was a welcome departure from Bones’ first two albums of hard and heavy blues.
33. YOU GOTTA SELL SOMETHING (Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, 2017)
“Drive out to the ocean and look out from the shore/watch how every crashing wave is made by the one that crashed before/It’s like the one you’re watching now is a million years in it’s making/just like every consequence of every action that you’re taking”
If those aren’t the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard set to proper hot jazz, I don’t know what is. You Gotta Sell Something was hardly a departure from the tried and true formula of Crimmins’ first two albums, but since he’s pretty much cornered the market on 21st century Dixieland music, I can’t say that I fault him. From goofy songs like “Top Of The Class” to sincere sweet tunes like “Gypsy Lullabye,” this album is a true masterpiece.
32. ATLAS (FM-84, 2016)
The 2010s were the return of the 80s in some ways. This was the decade we saw the rise of the vaporwave genre and all it’s spin offs. The best thing for me to come out of vaporwave, however, was the introduction of retrowave, an 80s-tastic genre defined by synthesizers, smooth rhythms, and heavy beats. Artists like Gunship and Timecop1983 broke ground in this realm, but in my opinion FM-84 mastered it, and Atlas is proof of that. It’s perfect late night walking home in the dark music like I’d never heard before.
31. LEMONADE (Beyonce, 2016)
2010-2019 was the decade of Beyonce. I know the American Music Association is gonna give “artist of the decade” to Taylor Swift, and I love Tay, but Beyonce was the event of the musical world these past 10 years. Her most sensational release, not necessarily in terms of quality (I haven’t listened to every Bey album from this period) but in terms of pure phenomenon status was Lemonade. There is no denying that it had more cultural impact on the world than any other album released, and single handedly making Tidal an actual competitor in the streaming music market. And all that is deserved. It is a diverse beautiful RnB album that captures this period of that genre perfectly.
Come back in two weeks for 30-21!
Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.