Saturday, December 28, 2019

A Decade of Decadence: 2010-2019 Music

Don’t let anybody fool you. 2010-2019 will go down as a quintessential decade for music. Not unlike the 60-80s era, we are amid something truly special within the music community. There’s been a drastic shift in technology catapulting both the accessibility and artistic freedom in music but also a shift in the business model that we’ve become accustomed to throughout the heyday of big business. Bands are creating music with true passion and creativity AND can be heard around the world via a click of the mouse. With this newfound convenience and ease of recording high quality music compared to the ‘good old days’ we’ve re-established the community within a smaller market music scene. Bands are forced to step it up a notch, knowing that there are tens of thousands of other talented bands lurking within a mouse click away and there is a need to stand out. There are also more people listening, newer talent in the promotion pool telling us what bands to watch for. We’re not reliant on the couple big corporate bozo’s running the FM radio to depict which artists to hear. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the classic rock era of the 60s and 70s, we had no opportunity to know about who was good and who was not unless we were living right on top of them in a bigger city. We relied solely on the big-name labels and TV/Radio to push the material to us. Today, we are our own DJs, we pick our own favorites, and we share any band at any moment with anybody in the world. Social media and streaming platforms are the new radio, big business is struggling to adapt at the rate of the music community. This all started forming in the decade prior, but I’d say it wasn’t until this decade that the streaming models and the DIY ethos began to really make a statement in the way music was heard. While this article isn’t necessarily meant as a dissertation on the state of music, I figured it was worth a mention as seen through the eyes of a super fan like myself. My own personal journey in the music scene has continued to shape and this decade has set its hook deep inside my soul in terms of how music has impacted my life and my musical tastes.

Here are some milestones or highlights of my journey in music this last decade.

           Pre 2010-2012:  Blog Review sites, Online forums prime music discovery means

           2010: officially reviewing music on various blogs
o          Grip of Delusion Radio
o          Sludgelord
o          The Ripple Effect
o          Doom Charts

           2011: Started using Bandcamp
o          Amassed nearly 1,000 followers
o          Accumulated over 3500 albums in my personal collection

           2014: Started collecting vinyl
o          1000+ albums in the collection (Mostly all 1st time limited editions)

           2015: Ripple Music Scout (A&R)
o          My ear caught the ear of the label. Been good friends with the crew ever since.

           2019: Still no Spotify premium account. Refuse to pay a subscription to them.

I’ve been putting together lists on favorite albums for well over a decade in some form or another. Every year technology and accessibility become further advanced leading to higher accessibility and more efficient means of discovery. This lends to more albums being listened to every year compounded by the seemingly increasing quality. We’re seeing not just a volumetric increase but an increase in quality as well. We’re constantly aging, tastes shifting, memories hazing, and all that adds up to less motivation to compile best-of lists. With the closing of an entire decade it felt obligatory to put together thoughts representing my tastes during 2010-2019. I have been on a journey through many different shades of music. At the beginning of the decade I was in full bore music discovery mode finding most of the new albums via the blog review site route. Blogs have since taken a back seat for me as a discovery vehicle as the streaming platforms and social media have made their way to the forefront. We were at a point where the internet allowed us to share music with friends and peers via social media that took over the ‘word of mouth’ concept and catapulted it to the forefront of importance. We all got to know folks around the world who had an ear for good music and were able to follow them and engage in conversation about music with them. This was fantastic for bands lurking in the underground who didn’t have major market interest on their side promoting them to a mainstream audience.

Without further ado, I present to you a list of 20 (or so) albums in chronological order that had an impact on me in terms of listening progression, feelings at that time, or just flat out kicked ass enough to stand above the crowd. This isn’t a statement as to the best albums of the decade, more so a representation of my own personal taste throughout the last decade.

I can tell you this much, Kvelertak was a band I discovered while I was deep into a podcast phase, where I listened to a variety of podcasters who focused on metal, post-hardcore, and a lot of European based music that at that time was what I was into. This album had guitar riffs like I’d not heard in a long time. The vocals were not in English, which was not too common a thing to be into at the time either and were relatively harsh and screamy which can be a turn off to a lot of folks. This will not, and does not appeal to your everyday Joe, but to those that know what I’m talking about know that the debut album by Kvelertak is a perfect album to kick off the decade and represent 2010. They are a phenomenal band still active and planning a February 2020 release of a brand-new album I am over the moon about.

Slow Season were a band who put out some music on their website, free to download, back when downloading was the primary means of digital listening for most folks. I had never heard such Zeppelin’esque sounds since well, Zeppelin. These guys weren’t and are not just aping Zep and there is a genuine vibe of authenticity and groove in what I heard on the original discovery and infatuation with the self-titled debut. I remember this being one of the highlights of the time when I found this online, and it seemed only a handful of folks even knew anything about them. They have since released 2 more full length records all of which came out on Riding Easy Records, and a handful of singles. Based in the farm town of Visalia, CA, the boys are the real deal and I figured their debut was what best represented the decade and how they came to my attention and changed my view going forward on how bands could pull off a Zeppelin influence just as many have been influenced by Sabbath over the years.

Woah, when this thing hit my speakers, I didn’t know what had happened. It was the first I had heard of the band, who had already put out a self-titled full length in 2007, which I had never heard. Anyway, this was my intro into the retro/occult blues rock style that has since became a staple of the 2010s. I didn’t quite realize at the time that this album would now be considered a stone cold classic, but it certainly is.

I was onto Royal Thunder with their debut EP released in 2010. I think I discovered it on iTunes, as I was just coming out of the iTunes era and had my eyes on the band when this one was released to the world. Miny Parsonz and her soulful croon was like nothing I was hearing at the time. The music was bluesy yet highly progressive and technical in areas all wrapped up with gigantic riffs, and psychedelic grooves. Still one of my all-time favorites in terms of heavy music goes and stands the test of time.

Zodiac was another discovery of mine that just ticked all the right boxes with me at the time. I played this album more than any other album back when it was released, and it had enough of an impact on my musical journey to be included in my decade favorites list. It’s not reinventing any wheel, some may wonder what’s the big deal, and for me it was solely the fact that the songs were varied, the lyrics hit home, and the vocals burly and lush. Coming Home is an epic closer of a track and this was an album that gained the attention of many peers in real life while I played from my truck out and about getting them all wondering where the cool music came from. Well guys and gals, this shit comes from Germany

Witchcraft were a band coming into full bloom with Legend. Riding on the heels of their like-named brethren band ‘Witch’ Witchcraft created an occult blues brand of rock that not only remained muscular and gritty with the underground fiends, but also had more of a mainstream accessibility to it than its prior releases. Maybe that’s because the songs were really wellconstructed, and the rhythm and groove was dynamic and loud without being harsh. Either way, Legend is a legendary album and puts Witchcraft into the underground Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if there ever was such a thing.

Taking the occult to the dark side, Brimstone Coven came on my radar via a newly discovered boutique label who specialized in limited vinyl runs, and it just so happened I had been infected with the vinyl bug right around this time. I think I had been following a blog or two who the writer was a big supporter of STB Records and featured all the releases in recommendation form of which Brimstone Coven was the first one that I bit on. They put out the Metal Blade Records release on hot wax. I got the hot pink edition, which to this day remains one of my favorite records in my collection.

The Heavy Horses are a band I still listen to on the regular each and every year. They put out a record that caught my ear right away with its spooky and twangy outlaw country vibes. The Canadian band create a devastatingly southwestern array of Americana making the most of its steel guitar, whistle, banjo, mandolin accordion, vocal harmony, upright bass, and other instruments. The stories are comprehensible, intoxicating and timeless. They just released their long awaited second album this year called With Darkness in My Eyes, that lives up to this debut and with time, might even top it.
Take the country twang of classic Guy Clark, 'Tennessee Pusher' era Old Crow Medicine Show, the americana soul of Blue Mountain and throw it in a blender. Absolutely amazing stuff! Favorite track: Hell Awaits.

Talk about an album I absolutely love and rave about all the time, Black Cowgirl’s self-titled debut record is it. This album might be the defining sound of my personal taste with its dusty and raspy blues mixed with progressive and psychedelic riffs. Ben is currently working on material in a new band called ‘End of Age’ which from what I’ve heard is basically Black Cowgirl reborn under a new moniker and with new players and fresh ideas.

Whippoorwill is a classic in the sense of a modern band bringing a southern rock flair to the country scene. Not afraid to just write damn good songs and not following any sort of ‘bro country’ trend looking to make a buck. Blackberry Smoke are the real deal and if you don’t believe me go catch them live and/or look them up on YouTube for some live footage that’ll knock your socks off. If Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Rolling Stones were just getting started this century, Blackberry Smoke might be their competition.

Those that know me, know I’ve been a fan of Isbell from way back when he was in the Drive-By Truckers. Things didn’t quite work out for a variety of reasons, but its no secret that Jason’s songwriting and guitar playing ability was the most talented of the bunch in the Truckers and he couldn’t let that go to waste when he went out on the road doing it solo. Southeastern came at a time where he had recently cleaned up his act, gone sober, and met his now wife, Amanda Shires. The songs are morose as fuck but speak with relevance, poise and poetic grace that Isbell has grown to be known for. He’s released 4 full length albums this decade and each one of them could be selected and argued as being better than the next. For me, this album carries the most emotional weight and exhibits a somewhat reborn Isbell in terms of health and wellness, and you can hear it in the songs and the playing. He’s still got the ability to lay it on all hard and fuzzy, but in a more controlled and precise manner which comes with sobriety and awareness. This album will have you in tears one way or another, no doubt.

Lightning at the Door was exactly that at the time. It crashed down with an aural haze of blues that polarized as much as it attracted. I was one of the suckers who kept pressing replay in light of the guys riffing tunes rather untraditional in both style and sound. I was going to write a review of this at one point, but was having so much trouble putting into words what exactly was going on that I just left it in my speakers to let the songs do the talking. I’ve since seen them play live twice in a small intimate venue in Stateline, Nevada and to this day I’ll speak without hesitation to their prowess both live and recording as one of the best active bands in the scene right now. We will look back on this decade and point out All Them Witches one of these days, as standing out from the crowd and winning over audiences with their originality and artistic expression, rather than the tradition music row concept of sales equaling success. That said, I’d love to see them continue to build upon sales and “make it” it in the music business, which has also made a huge transition this decade.

Sturgill Simpson has become a household name in households that actually have good taste in music or aren’t afraid to think outside the box. He’s also a household name in households who would normally mock the mention of country music. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music bridges the gap of genre division within the music community. There are as many punk rock bikers who dig Sturgill as there are grass fed country music natives. I sarcastically chuckle to myself often knowing that I was into Sturgill before it was cool to be into Sturgill, knowing that there is not right time to get into a good artist and being on the cutting edge doesn’t mean you’re any better than anybody else. The fact of the matter is Sturgill Simpson IS this decade and let’s hope he continues to do his thing for years to come.

This one came out like a bat out of hell and remains an cult classic in the doom metal / stoner rock circles. Not fitting precisely into any one genre, Aleph Null (no longer active) brought an extremely wicked concoction of doom, stoner, sludge and prog to the table. Not really sounding like any other band, you knew it when you heard it and it only got better. As if bitten by a zombie, the infection only deepened as more listens went down. After a while you’re full bore Nocturnalized and a fan for life. Thankfully the album was eventually released to its proper form on heavyweight vinyl in a 2LP gatefold form. I got mine on Riding Easy Records in the limited clear version.

Elder have grown into a household name in doom, stoner, and progressive rock circles by the close of the decade. When Lore saw the light of day, not only did it turn heads with its intense album cover art, but it saw the band progressing beyond just being heavy and melodic. The band was doing things that the other bands either can’t or weren’t and they are continuing to grow to this day. Lore will go down as the Elder album of the decade for me with its cold, surreal cover art to its expansive and epic songcraft.

Freedom Hawk are a go to band I tell friends to check out if there is any inkling that they are into rock and metal but haven’t shown yet that they are willing to venture outside the mainstream. They are a band that can capture those fans and pull them into the underground property and keep them there happy. Into Your Mind was at the top of my favorites in 2015 and may have been ranked as my favorite album out that year. This was their last album out on Small Stone Records before jumping ship over the the Ripple Music family. With a penchant of Sabbath lingering within the vocals, the guitars, bass and drums keep the riffs catchy, the songs are written with intent, and it manages to bury itself deep within your mind as the title implies.

Warm fuzzy riffs cut the airwaves throughout like a surf board carves a never-ending pipeline. Ecstatic solo breaks drift sporadically between the fuzz fueled chorus lines and bombastic percussion. Freedom Hawk breaks away from the shackles of musical mediocrity and migrates deep into your mind, becoming the pinnacle record of the 2015 Small Stone Records catalog as of mid-year. Full review

This album won me over immediately after seeing that Bloodshot records had signed them and were releasing their debut album on vinyl early in 2017. The band self-released the album digitally in 2016, and was officially released by Bloodshot in 2017. I played this album more than any other albums the year of discovery. My kids loved the album, my then 8-year old daughter made special requests for the album and so on and so forth. Its country music, but it’s also punk rock. The band are outlaw as it gets, and the songwriting is witty and unforgiving. I love music that incorporates a solid one-liner type mentality that both speaks the truth as well as hits the melody and groove of the music. I fell hard for this album and rank it right up there fighting against the heavy rock and metal releases.

Spidergawd is a band that I was relatively late to the game in really getting into. Part of me believes it’s the simple fact that they have resisted putting their material on bandcamp which makes it inconvenient to listen to frequently. The latest album and 4th for the band is arguably their strongest effort to date. They have always been able to be distinguish themselves from the pack by clever usage of the saxophone and they absolutely blew my mind with the latest album. With heavy punk rock hooks, stoner fueled blues, and a psychedelic balladry through and through, IV kept the hairs on end up my neck each and every listen. Combine that with the trippy artwork and thick vinyl package available via the Stickman Records shop and you have yourself a winner.

Where does one start with the band Sasquatch. Not only are they great dudes all around, but they put out an album of a career in 2017 I felt obligatory to include in a decade where hard rock and roll really gained some momentum in the underground realm. Sasquatch have put out a ton of records all of which are valiant and 3 this decade. With Maneuvers, however, I feel the boys really wrote what could be considered their strongest album yet, and it shows their growth as a heavy rock band.

Sasquatch successfully maneuvers its way through a perilous flat spin of grandiose fuzz. Powered by progressive stoner distortia and state of the art vocal delivery, the bearded beast of the desert engages its target and deploys a massive assault of absolute riffage.

What more can I say about this band. I reviewed it in full and it quickly became one of my prized finds of the last decade of scavenging the depths of the internet for music. Again, another band featured over at Stickman Records, I scooped up their entire discography including singles and splits shipped from overseas. That alone is a testament to its marvel and solidifies it as one of my favorites of the 2017 and of the entire decade of the 2000 teens.
The Sheepdogs claimed the throne of my album of the year in 2018, hence deserve a mention here on my decade favorite. I was raised on Hotel California by the Eagles and The Sheepdogs are to The Eagles, as Slow Season is to Zeppelin. There are so much resemblance going on, but the intent is both original and passionate keeping it from falling into that clone category. The vocal harmonies are amazing, full orchestrated band with brass, keys, and multiple guitars, The Sheepdogs from Canada, prove they are among the best in rock and roll and have since toured with well-known acts such as Rival Sons. From the reviews I read, the fans of Rival Sons were blown away if they came early to catch these crazy Canucks. This album speaks to me both lyrically and sonically and will remain one of my favorites of the decade. Also, notable, is their past discography. They don’t have a bad song.

-The Huntsman

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