30. CELEBRATION ROCK (Japandroids, 2012)
Celebration Rock put Japandroids on the front of every alt rock fan’s mind for a solid year or two in the early 2010s, and had enough of a lasting impression to land at 82nd on Consequence of Sound’s list of the 100 albums of the 2010s. And this success was well earned. Celebration Rock was a brilliant fusion of post-rock, second wave punk, and a uniquely modern production. The powerful overtures on tracks like “Adrenaline Nightshift” and “Nights of Wine and Roses” will stay in the forefront of my mind for years to come.
29. LAND (Swampcandy, 2015)
Swampcandy is foot stomping, hooting and hollering, hard core blues. And LAND is the epitome of this. The production is reminiscent of Tom Waits with its rattling percussion and deeply gothic aesthetic. The riffs are solid delta blues and Texas blues instant classics. I didn’t listen to every Swampcandy release this decade, so it’s completely possible that they have an even better one, but Land is the one I couldn’t stop listening to for months.
28. KNIFE MAN (AJJ, 2011)
AJJ’s People Who Eat People Are The Happiest People In The World is still the penultimate folk punk release. Unfortunately, that album came out in the 2000s so it is disqualified, but two albums later they entered the 2010s with a killer release. Knife Man is arguably the last truly great AJJ release, but boy is it great. From the rip roaring guitar on “Gift Of The Magi 2” to the harrowing lyrics of “People II 2: Still Peoplin’” to the ominous conclusion in “Big Bird,” this whole album is a fantastic punk album all around.
27. AMERICAN SLANG (The Gaslight Anthem, 2010)
American Slang is usually viewed in the Gaslight Anthem fandom as an afterthought to The ‘59 Sound, their 2008 masterpiece. The second album they did with producer Ted Hutt, Slang has many similarities with 59 Sound, but I think it stands on its own as a fantastic album. Not lavished with reverb and chorus like the 2008 album, and with a greater emphasis on classic punk songwriting evident in songs like “The Boxer” and fantastic riffs on songs like “The Spirit of Jazz” adds up for a fantastic album from a fantastic band.
26. CUPHEAD – THE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK (Kristofer Maddigan, 2017)
I said last week in my Live at Iggy’s write up that I’m not huge on video game soundtracks or jazz. This is the other exception — a jazz soundtrack to a video game. Cuphead was a brilliant send up to 1930s cartoons in the style of Max Fleischer or Ub Iwerks. The music, suitably, is channeling Carl Stalling’s hot jazz that was so famously embodied in the Looney Tunes with every bone in its Skeleton Dance reminiscent body. Maddigan churns out hot jazz tunes that sound just like the soundtracks of those iconic shorts to make for a shockingly good album.
25. DREAMS ARE MAPS (The Wild, 2012)
Whatever happened to The Wild is a question I’ve been asking myself for years now. 2012’s Dreams Are Maps seems to have concluded their two studio albums, but they still play gigs occasionally. Regardless, they were (are?) a unique blend of banjos, organs, and heavy electric guitars. It’s a beautiful synthesis of folk arrangement, punk songwriting, and stunning lyrics. “There’s A Darkness (But There’s Also A Light)” is a song I still keep going back to 7 years later.
24. ROCKISDEAD (Dorothy, 2016)
ROCKISDEAD is just about the definition of blues punk. John Lee Hooker-esque riffs on tracks like “Kiss It” and “Raise Hell” kick will make you wanna go out into the street and start a fight, while “Gun In My Hand” feels like an outright country tune with distortion and slide, with one of the greatest country lyrics in this century (“why did love put a gun in my hand”). I truly hope Dorothy Martin and her band don’t stray too far from this style on their third release, because they really were the only ones doing it this well.
23. THIS LAND (Gary Clark Jr, 2019)
This is gonna be a shorter version of the review I gave This Land back when it came out earlier this year. Regardless, this album is a beautiful blues and rhythm and blues album, with influences spanning from Curtis Mayfield on “Feed The Babies” to Motown on “Guitar Man” to Son House on “The Governor.” “Pearl Cadillac” remains a stunning tribute to a loving mother who the narrator felt he never quite did right by, with the most stellar production I’ve heard this year. It easily lands at this spot on this list, but I think time will show it to be even better.
22. DON’T WAKE THE RIOT (Black Pistol Fire, 2016)
You didn’t really think we’d seen the last of Black Pistol Fire all the way back at #50, did you? This was the album when Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen departed from their minimalist blues punk power duo into a whole new style of writing. It was the first album where Owen played keys (which, quite remarkably, he can do while drumming live) and Kevin McKeown put aside his heavier fuzz pedals that shone on earlier albums and started being a little more subtle and sophisticated with his compositions (and possibly Eric Owen too, I don’t know whether they coauthor songs). The end result is a near masterpiece of an album I’ll be listening to for many years to come.
21. OUT OF MY HEAD (Movits, 2011)
Electroswing was the genre of the moment for a hot minute in the early 2010s, and for a brief while Movits were the kings of it. On this truly unique blend of swing, electronica, and Swedish language rap, the influences all synthesize beautifully into arguably the greatest electroswing album of all time. Bringing in everything from ska-style horn sections to drum machines to an accordion, this album mastered the art of the genre.
Come back next week for Part 4, 20-11!
Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.