What is it that makes us want to deconstruct art by units of time? Lists. We love making them. We love arguing over them. And here, on the verge of a new decade, we’re in a position to do the same again. What were the best albums of the past ten years?
Here at AD, we started talking it through and decided we weren’t going to add to the cacophony of lists being put out by various music pubs. There are enough of those. Rather, we elected to let our four main writers have a chance to write about any and all of the albums they felt shaped the last decade.
From the beginning of October through the end of December, Monday through Thursday, AD will feature a post, or posts, from a particular writer detailing their favorite albums of the decade. On a given week there might be one album a writer talks about, there might be six, but they’ll get a chance to have their say on everything that comes to mind. Our hope for you, the reader, is that you’ll jump in with your comments on the album selections – tell us why you agree or disagree – and also be exposed to some albums that you may have missed over the last ten years. Now, as the decade starts to wind down, let’s celebrate.
Looking back, the release of Iron & Wine’s The Creek Drank the Cradle was a sort of tipping point; a sea-change that ushered in (for a moment anyway) a new take on whole quiet is the new loud aesthetic. Yes, Sam Beam may have been tilling the same fields as Will Olham, Jason Molina and countless others, but there was something different about Creek, something special, something ineffable. And it is that exact ineffability that ultimately draws us back to our favorite albums, books, films and poetry.
Recorded straight to an old 4-track, The Creek Drank the Cradle features Beam and Beam alone, working his way through eleven southern-gothic vignettes. Acoustic slide guitar and banjo accompany Beam’s whisper-moan, sounding like some long lost Alan Lomax field recording just discovered at the bottom of an old storage trunk. There is a haunted midnight quality to these tracks that begs for nighttime listening, a quality that is part humidity, part mystery and part Flannery O’Connor — ultimately hypnotic and completely absorbing. Great art creates a world of its own and Creek is no exception; it draws you in, holds your attention and works on your imagination. This is an album whose contents are best ingested as a whole–as in one sitting. A concept that is becoming more foreign with every passing year.
On future releases Iron & Wine would largely abandon the hushed nuances of Creek, favoring poly-rhythms, cleaner production and fuller arrangements. All interesting to be sure, but save The Sea And The Rhythm EP none came close to capturing the lightening in a bottle demonstrated on that first release. That ineffable quality.
“Found your name across the chapel door carved in cursive with a table fork. Muddy hymnals and some boot marks where you’d been. The shaking preacher told the captain’s man the righteous suffer in a fallen land and pulled the shade to keep the crowd from peeking in.” – The Muddy Hymnal
MP3: Iron & Wine :: Lion’s Mane
MP3: Iron & Wine :: Promise What You Will