And now, finally, it’s time to get started with the Proper Top 100 list! A lot of truly excellent music came out in the 2010s, to the point where narrowing it down to the most deserving albums required a mental refresher on well over 200 albums that I had enjoyed during the last ten years. It’s taken me longer than expected to get this list off to a proper start, due to a bit of a counting mishap when I was choosing my finalists, resulting in some painful last-minute cuts when I realized that I had put more than 20 albums in my lowest tier out of the 100. But that’s all settled now, and I’ve got my list broken into 5 parts, during which I’ll take a look back at 20 great albums per installment.
Everything in this first section of the list would score a B+ if I reviewed it today, so it’ll be a little ways up the list before we get to the truly amazing stuff. But even within this initial batch of 20 albums, there are tons of fond memories that I get from going back and revisiting the vast majority of the tracks on each of these – and in a few cases, new memories still being formed, as I discovered a few of these albums for the first time during a huge back catalogue binge I embarked on last year.
Artist: Jennifer Knapp Album: Love Comes Back Around Year: 2017 Grade: C+
In Brief: While it’s a thematically warmer record that opens up a little more about the long-term relationship that Jennifer has been in, I’m not finding a whole lot here that keeps me engaged on a musical level. She’s played it safe with her mid-tempo heartland rock/adult contemporary style for two albums in a row now, and that’s a bit frustrating given the unique perspective that she has to offer.
Artist: Jennifer Knapp Album: Set Me Free Year: 2014 Grade: C+
In Brief: What starts off as a gutsy, confessional, and even mildly confrontational record sadly slips into the adult contemporary doldrums barely a third of the way in, and it never truly recovers. I’ve got nothing but love for Jennifer as a person, but Set Me Free plays it way too safe to be nearly as lovable as her classic albums or even Letting Go.
It’s that time of year again, when I arbitrarily sort through the list of songs I’ve been obsessed with over the past 12 months, and try to whittle it down to a semi-reasonable list of 100 favorites. A lot of these were released in 2013, and a few even in 2012, but as usual, I was late to the party.
Music videos and some live performances are embedded for most of the Top 30. I didn’t want to go too far beyond that, for fear of crashing your browser. I’ve also created a Spotify playlist that explores a number of these favorites, more or less chronologically in the order that I discovered them.
“Movement” is the word that comes to mind when I think of the late spring and early summer of 2010. It’s a freedom that I almost feel like I was taking for granted, now that I’m thinking about it from the perspective of 2020. The month of May started off with a weekend trip to Vegas. In mid-June, I surprised Christine with another weekend trip, this time to Colorado, where we managed to cram in a National Park visit and one of my “bucket list” concerts all in a single day. In between the two, we moved to a new apartment – only 2 miles away from our old place on Granada near the train tracks, and still technically within the city of Alhambra, but close enough to its northern boundary to have a more peaceful “San Marino ambiance”. On the surface, we were turning over new leaves and doing a lot of fun things, and life was good. Deeper down, more of an unsettling sort of movement was going on. I can still remember the exact moment when a “dark epiphany” hit me that sent me into an emotional tailspin that I’d struggle with on and off for the better part of the next two years. As much as listening to this set of songs instantly brings back my excitement at the newness of our surroundings during that time, it also reminds me of some questions that haunted me at the time – things I would have never thought in a million years I’d ever have to wrestle with.
The beginning of a new year, 2010, and a new third digit in our numbering system for years that indicates I’ll likely never see another year with “0” in that slot for the rest of my lifetime, means that for the first time, this relatively young music fan gets to look back at entire decade (these things being commonly delineated by that third digit even if the technical scientific approach says our decade isn’t over until the beginning of 2011) and try to sum it all up in terms of the music that was meaningful to me over the course of nearly a third of my life. That’s right, I’m just a smidgen over 30, which means that the 2000’s (or the “Ought Nots”, as I’ve decided to call a decade of learning what not to do in retrospect) were my first full decade of being a true music fan. I might have come of age and finished high school and college in the 90’s, and I have my fair share of nostalgic tunes to whisk me back to those days. But this most recent decade was when I truly opened up, with the advent of file sharing and social networking making it remarkably easy to burst the bubble of “Christian music only” that I started out with, to go beyond the basic pop/rock styles largely dominant on the radio, and to really dig deep and find my own musical personality, unburdened by rumors of danger beyond the comfortable fences I had previously built for myself.
The summer of 2003 was a tough one. I felt like I was trying to pull off a tricky balancing act – the weekends were filled with dates and other fun outings with Christine, most of which I genuinely enjoyed, but there was this feeling lurking underneath that I had issues I needed to work through before I could fully get my head into the game, in terms of where our relationship was going. It was one of the most stressful things I’d ever been through, and I knew I couldn’t keep it all beneath the surface for too long.
In with the New:
Steven Delopoulos (as a solo artist – appears previously with Burlap to Cashmere)
Out with the Old: