I want to stress that this list is one of favorites rather than anything I’m claiming to be the best. I’m good friends with too many on this list to claim any sort of broad objectivity, so it’s hardly definitive. And while it’d be easy to find more expertise on Tucson music, I’ve been an active fan of local music all decade, and started writing about it with the inception of this blog in 2004. I promise every one of these records is amazing.
1. Calexico – Feast of Wire (2003)
A masterpiece from Tucson’s best band.
2. Fourkiller Flats – Fourkiller Flats (2001)
Hard-charging rock ‘n’ roll that’s rough, twangy and loud, and full of raise-your-drink-and-sing-along hooks, the Flats debut barely edges out their 2009 follow-up, mainly because I’ve gotten to soak up these songs for nearly the whole decade.
3. The New Drakes – Staircase Wit (2005)
The return of the Drakes – older and wise, of course – is a mellower, more thoughtful record, but one that shows a versatile band driven by top-quality songs.
4. The Swim – Random Walk (2008)
Indie rock that’s alternately somber and catchy, full of bombast and edgy guitars, Random Walk wins with the anthematic “Margaret With Comets” and the closing eight-minute triumph “Piles on the Floor,” which begins as a wistful slow-build before dissolving into an exultant guitar solo.
5. Giant Sand – proVISIONS (2008)
It’s very tough to pick between the decade’s three excellent Giant Sand albums, but proVISIONS stands out for being the most cohesive package of songs. It combines road music with late night music, pairs the off-kilter with the straight-ahead, and like most of Howe Gelb’s music, turns on a dime from being vaguely unsettling to feeling like you’ve just settled into an easy chair.
6. Greyhound Soul – Alma de Galgo (2001) / Down (2002)
I couldn’t choose between these two albums because I saw Greyhound Soul so much during that period that the songs will always blend together for me. The band ranges between classic rock and what I’ve called peyote blues, and Joey Peña's rough desert drawl holds it all together.
7. Chango Malo – The Whiskey Years (2007)
Loud, heavy and practically vibrating with energy, Chango Malo is known to leave its mark on stage than on record, but here the band comes very close.
8. Golden Boots – Winter of Our Discotheque (2009)
The gypsy country weirdness of the Boots peaked on this year’s Park The Van release.
9. Al Perry – Always A Pleasure (2004)
This is a delicious blend of Congress Street honky-tonk and plenty of Telecaster fireworks from our Great One. I know he didn’t write it, but “We Got Cactus” is pure Al Perry.
10. Tracy Shedd – Cigarettes & Smoke Machines (2008)
Shedd’s dreamy, languorous vocals and buzzing, feedback-prone guitars were in effect well before she moved to Tucson, but her latest record definitely goes down as her best so far.