Friday, July 24, 2009

Artist of the Decade?

For what it's worth, I think a strong case can be made for Joe Henry as artist of the decade, and I'll probably be making the case in more cogent form in the months ahead. His four albums this decade -- Scar, Tiny Voices, Civilians, and Blood from Stars -- ought to be festooned with 4.5, 5, 5, and 5 stars, respectively. And as much as it's difficult to improve on consecutive 5-star albums, I think he might have done so with Blood from Stars. It's a ridiculously great set of tunes. I'll hold off until August 18th, the official release date, to comment in detail, but I, for one, won't quibble with a couple of the early opinions that it just might be the best album of the decade.

I'm dreaming, of course, to think that most people, or most music publications, will follow suit. Joe isn't young enough, hip enough, or indie enough to merit that kind of consideration from most places. My guess is that the votes will be split among Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, and Sigur Ros fans, and certainly there is great merit in the body of work that each of those performers/bands has produced over the past ten years. It's just that, well, they're not the best. Joe Henry is the best.

Oh, and he's probably producer of the decade as well.

12 comments:

Ian said...

Cheers! Can't wait to hear the new record. Glad to see Jay Bellerose is on this one, too.

Hayseed said...

I've been a fan for a very long time. However, I've not heard anything since Trampoline!

I gotta get caught up!

Saw him once do an in-store show at Waterloo Records in Austin during SXSW. Even in that awkward setting, it was awesome.

Scott said...

"It's just that, well, they're not the best. Joe Henry is the best."

I would argue, however, that it is very hard, if not impossible, to fairly compare Radiohead's or Sigur Ros's ventures to Joe Henry's, which makes choosing "best artist" or "best album" (or whatever), well, a little arbitrary when dealing with classics all around - this sentence demonstrates the arbitrary nature of such pronouncements beautifully.

Joe Henry's a great pick, though, and I don't often quibble if the work chosen is as good as his has been. It's great a few relatively prominent critics are recognizing that.

Andy Whitman said...

Scott, certainly it's somewhat arbitrary, and comparing Joe Henry to Sigur Ros is like comparing apples to orangutans. But I only get one vote, and Joe gets my vote. And that's taking nothing away from musicians/bands who make great music that is nothing like the music of Joe Henry.

gar said...

you have my vote.

Brewnoser said...

No arguments here. I think I own all his albums. He always has something worthwhile to say.

Bull said...

Joe Henry is definitely up there on the top of my list. I have only one complaint: Only 4.5 for Scar? Certainly it is also a clear 5-star album!

dmulqueeney said...

This might sound silly - but if you step away from it a bit, maybe this comment will make some sense.

Joe Henry is this era's Bob Dylan.

That's the biggest complement I can give to both artists.

Andy Whitman said...

DMulqueeney, it doesn't sound silly to me. I've long maintained that Joe Henry is the second-best songwriter going. And in the past few years, Joe has passed Dylan by. Certainly Joe has been influenced by Dylan (who hasn't?), but the past four or five albums have seen him create some musical poetry that is beholden to no one. He's Joe Henry, and he's the best.

The big difference is that everybody, even non-music fans, is familiar with Bob Dylan to some extent. And 99% of Americans still have no idea who Joe Henry is. That's a sad commentary on the current state of cultural affairs in this country.

Anonymous said...

it's too bad he rerecorded "stars" from the original found in season 4 of six feet under. that version was better!

Patrick said...

I wholeheartedly agree with dmulqueeny. Joe Henry is simply that good. He writes, play and produces some of the best music that I have ever listened to.

I am also happy to see Jay Bellerose appear once again. I had wondered what he had been up to.

Daniel Midson-Short said...

Amen, brother, amen.