21 Century Breakdown: Mike Farley’s Top 10 Albums of the 2000s

The past decade to me was less about musical trends and styles, and more about how I listen to music. I’ve always been a mix tape guy, and as the ‘90s moved to Y2K, I was entering the world of burning mix CDs. But then around 2004, everything changed, and changed for the better, when I discovered iTunes. Now I could not only make up my own playlists from my music collection, but I could order single songs for 99 cents and add those to my collection. Suddenly I was re-discovering songs from my childhood and teen years, and basically every phase of my music-listening life. And I could arrange all those songs any way I liked…playlists galore and, as I described them, “kickass mixes.” Every four to six months, I make a new play list of what I’m currently listening to, and date that as a new Kickass Mix, something I can go back to that makes me remember what I was doing and feeling at that point in time.

As for the actual music I’ve been listening to and enjoying, there are a few acts that have entered my iTunes world this decade that have become favorites that I can’t get enough of, no matter how many times I listen: The Damnwells, the Silver Seas, Ari Hest, Jason Spooner and Butch Walker, to name a few. I know that radio is basically a shell of its former self and we find and listen to music in so many different ways, but I, for one, have fully embraced the digital world of music.

Here are my picks for top albums of the decade.
1. The Silver Seas: High Society
2. Jason Spooner: The Flame You Follow
3. Ari Hest: The Break In
4. Stereophonics: Langauge, Sex, Violence. Other?
5. The Damnwells: Air Stereo
6. The Southland: Influence of Geography
7. The Damnwells: One Last Century
8. Josh Rouse: 1972
9. Butch Walker: Left of Self Centered
10. Paddy Casey: Addicted To Company

  

Love and Theft: World Wide Open


RIYL: Poco, Jimmy Wayne, Restless Heart

Every once in a while, a country act comes along that opens eyes and ears. Sometimes they’re so good that they also open mouths. Frankly, that may not seem to be difficult when many acts in the genre not only do not write their own music, but also don’t sing it. That might sound harsh, but it’s a fact of life on Music Row these days. But alas, there is a new kid in town, or, should we say, kids. Love and Theft is a trio of young men who can write, sing and deliver three-part harmonies that not only rival the best country has to offer, but also may bring to mind classic country rock acts like Poco and Restless Heart. Their debut on Carolwood, World Wide Open, is one insanely catchy song after another, and a breath of fresh air that could just amount to a hurricane in Nashville. The title track is punchy and powerful, and features the kind of chorus today’s music industry execs drool over, but there are plenty of other gems – like the rocking “Runaway,” the harmony drenched “Don’t Wake Me” and the stunning, goose-bump inducing closer “Drowning,” which is easily the best track on here. If you’ve been meaning to give country music another chance, make this be the band that brings you back. Heck, you don’t even have to dig country, because it’s just as much a pop record. Either way, Love and Theft is a young act with unlimited potential. (Carolwood 2009)

Love and Theft MySpace page

  

Rob Blackledge: Inside These Walls

Mississippi-raised and Nashville-based Rob Blackledge was torn between pursuing a career in baseball or in music. But his love of music was affirmed after he decided to attend Belmont University in Nashville, a music industry hub, when Blackledge won a talent contest and had a positive crowd reaction leave him wanting more of that artist/audience connection that can be magical when it’s right. Blackledge honed his craft while touring with Nashville favorite son Dave Barnes, co-wrote country act Love and Theft’s “Runaway,” then later signed with One Revolution Entertainment. Now Blackledge has his own debut album, Inside These Walls, and his wide range of influences are all there for the world to see – James Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Ben Folds among them. That may seem crazy, but it’s not – Blackledge is accomplished on both piano and guitar, his melodies soar with his falsetto (which he wisely does not overuse), and everything is tied together nicely by producer Jeff Coplan. Among a solid set of songs, the best ones are the hummable “Early Morning Riser,” the radio-ready “Should Have Known Better,” and the understated R&B-infused beauty, “Worth Taking” – the latter of which could be a huge Top 40 hit in the right hands. (One Revolution Entertainment 2009)

Rob Blackledge MySpace page

  

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