20. Nada Surf – if I had a hi-fi
They’re probably my favorite band of the last 10 years, but even I’m not a big enough homer to rank this cute album of covers any higher. Is it as essential as 2002’s masterpiece Let Go? No. (I won’t rest until everyone hears and loves that album). But it is the thinking man’s covers album, especially for our generation, when the interpretations include Depeche Mode, Kate Bush and the Go-Betweens run through Nada’s unique brand of warmth. Put it this way, everything they do is good. Even the stuff that is most disposable.
Nugget: "Enjoy The Silence"
19. Tie - The Roots – How I Got Over / Wake Up!
The Roots. The Roots. The Roots were on FIRE last year!
Not only did they release their strongest and sleekest album in over a decade (Over), but they teamed up with John Legend to reinterpret some classics of jazz and blaxploitation cinema (Wake) for today’s r&b lover. Over holds the edge of the two ever-so-slightly because of the strength of the material (great originals has to trump great covers) and the assemblage of out-of-nowhere collaborators (Joanna Newsom?!). But, Wake Up brings excellent, forgotten classics to the masses. Which would you choose?
Nugget: Over – “How I Got Over” : Wake – “Compared to What”
18. Elton John and Leon Russell – The Union
When was the last time Elton did anything worth anything? Not in the last 20 years at least. Is it a coincidence that it took bringing his idol Leon Russell back from the dead to inspire him to produce one of the greatest things he’s ever done? The last 10 years has seen Elton trying to go back to his earlier, rootsier stuff and none of it has hit. But match him with Russell and the two kill it. Proof you must sometimes go back in order to move forward. 10-1 says John’s next solo album goes back to sucking though.
Nugget: "Hey Ahab"
17. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
Prog rock for the modern rock lover. The Lakes build these intense, majestic soundscapes, like tidal waves crashing in the night, that never veer off into noodling weirdness, and always nail the target head on. Almost every track is a complete journey with a slow build (or a fast one, but always a build), a goose-bump-inducing middle, and a post-orgasmic comedown. Think Sigur Ros with hair on its chest.
Nugget: “And This Is What We Call Progress”
16. Massive Attack – Heligoland
It’s been a while since MA have come close to reaching the galactic heights of perfection that they managed to reach with 1992’s Mezzanine. But, Heligoland comes closer than anything they’ve done since, and near perfection is still pretty damn good. The dark, milky intensity remains with that beautiful black undercurrent of dread lurking in every shadow, and who would want it any other way. They’re always one of the most intensely gorgeous musical experiences you can have.
Nugget: "Girl I Love You"