The 2000’s wasn’t necessarily the year of the singer/songwriter, but really what years since the 70s were? Instead, the recent decade saw singer/songwriters working hard to break through using the new social media and internet tools available to them, many unknown artists rising quickly to fame through savvy business marketing and commercial spots. Still, there are some singer/songwriters that have managed to stay under the radar, not content to shill out their music to the new Audi car commercial or Bud Light ad. Here is a list of the top singer/songwriters of the decade.
John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats
Few songwriters can match Darnielle for pure intelligence and wit. Darnielle can take the life-story of writer H.P. Lovecraft’s experience in Brooklyn or a song from the perspective of a parkeet in a bird cage and turn it into a clever and catchy rock song. Darnielle has a knack for elusive story-songs that make you return over and over to the track to dig further into the lyrics. The one negative about Darnielle is that his voice is a bit of an acquired taste—a nasally high yelp that many find intolerable.
Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields
Merritt has been writing some of the best pop songs, dare I say, since Burt Bacharach. This decade has seen a resurgence for Merritt, eschewing his past electronic musical forays for what he is calling his “no-synth” trilogy of albums “i” (an album in which every song title starts with the letter “I”), “Distortion” (a homage to the shoegazing and noise-rock bands of the early 90s) and the soon to be released “Realism” (what he is calling his “folk-record”); Merritt has been on a roll, writing and recording the most whimsical and clever pop songs of recent memory.
Bill Callahan of Smog
With his low baritone and rustic delivery, Callahan has made his name as a singer/songwriter with his honest and introspective songs that are not easy to pin down. There is a crypticness about Callahan’s work and you never know exactly which way his lyrics or music will turn. His recent work under his own name has flirted with traditional country, gospel hymns and spoken word. He is one of the most interesting and powerful singer/songwriters of the decade and will be seen as one of history’s best.