Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Favorite albums of the decade

Tell me why I'm wrong/what's missing in the comments section.

It'd always be preferable, obviously, to say things were better off exiting the decade than entering. But my generation's first decade with a (nearly) grown brain was one of disappointment — the country, the world, etc. It's like everyone was handed a Faberge egg in 2000, told to look after it, and instead used it as a drink shaker for Jeppson's Mallort and pyrite.

While our country was raging war across the globe, weathering one recession and entering another, I had some of the best years of my life. (Insert white guilt here.) Senior year of high school, all of college and every summer in between was like my own carefree icing on top of the world's fresh-shit cake.
Am I better off (life's achievements relative to age) now than I was at the dawn of the century? The jury's still out.

Attempting to choose even just one infinitesimal aspect of human life from the decade — music — and decide if it took a leap or a plunge as a whole is a similarly maddening experience. Picking what was the "best" will fail by definition. My first CD as an 8-year-old was Niel Diamond's "Greatest Hits," so we'll just go ahead and assume some of these albums will be slightly embarrassing in 15 years. Trends and (non) trends come and go. What appeared to be a cutting-edge melding of two seemingly disparate genres in the year 2007 could easily sound fool-hearty and painfully dated in the year 2020. But, listing arcane knowledge helps my brain keep it all organized for my own future listening pleasure, and that's the real point, right?

So, here's the familiar cop out — these are my favorite albums of the decade. The best as viewed through my prism of experience.

In 2000, I was 14, and my tastes were mostly defined by classic rock, grunge and blues. The newer stuff I did listen to sided towards alternative (when that word meant something) from the '90s — Beck, Cake, the Eels. I was also starting to find something considered "indie" interesting, which was difficult without an older sibling or a college radio station in my home town. That was also the year I saw a CD burner for the first time, and Napster. And with the added access, came more new music than I ever would have discovered otherwise.

The Walkmen - "You & Me," My Morning Jacket - "It Still Moves," Vampire Weekend - "Vampire Weekend," Modest Mouse - "Good News for People that Love Bad News," The Go Team - "Thunder Lightening Strike, " The Streets - "Original Pirate Material," Bob Dylan - "Modern Times," Okkervil River - "The Stage Names," M83 - "Before the Dawn Heals Us," The New Pornographers - "Twin Cinema," Lupe Fiasco - "Food and Liquor," Black Lips - "Good Bad Not Evil," Rjd2 - "Deadringer," The Postal Service - "Give Up," People Under the Stairs - "OST," Band of Horses - "Everything all the Time"

29. The Avalanches - Since I Left You (2001)
Key track: "Frontier Psychologist"

28. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
Key tracks: "Do You Realize," "Fight Test"

27. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black (2007)
Key track: "Me and Mr. Jones"

26. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
Key tracks: "Summertime Clothes," "My Girls," "Brothersport"

25. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
Key tracks: "Lisztomania," "1901," "Love Like a Sunset (parts I and II)"

24. Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)
Key tracks: "Grace Kelly Blues," "It's a Motherfucker," "A Daisy Through Concrete"

23. Blackalicious - Blazing Arrow (2002)
Key track: "Blazing Arrow"

22. Kanye West - Late Registration (2005) - I guess being crass isn't always so bad, especially when it's this fun.
Key track: you know which ones

21. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (2007)
Key track: all of them

20. Decemberists - The Crane Wife (2006)
Here's some escapism, if killer children and sharpened bayonets ingrained in a Japanese folk tale are your idea of a pleasant distraction.
Key tracks: "The Crane Wife 3," "O Valencia!," "Shankhill Butchers"

19. The Thermals - The Body the Blood the Machine (2006)
Key tracks: "Here's Your Future," "A Pillar of Salt," "Returning to the Fold," "St. Rosa & the Swollows"

18. M. Ward - Post War (2006)
A warm blast of reverb and Americana when my cornfield-lined routes needed it the most. I absolutely wore out this record after finding it used at Co-op.
Key tracks: "To Go Home," "Requiem," "Chinese Translation"

17. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (2003)
"Oh, Inverted World" got all the attention, but this is where I got into the Shins, and looking back, most agree this is the superior record ... driving to Andiamos during high school for Thursday open mic night, sneaking a cigarette on the ride down, staying too late, and listening to "Chutes Too Narrow" both ways for several months.
Key tracks: All of um

16. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (2007)
A cold sound for a cold year. Iraq was still dragging into civil war, and "the surge" had not yet quelled partisan fighting. The housing market was starting to plunge, and deep down everyone (hopefully) knew the economy wasn't actually healthy. But cognitive dissonance can be a powerful thing. Famous for its party's over vibe and lyrics of the lead single, I can't think of a better record to play when the concrete walls finally close in, and you know, we have to fight the symbiotic robots wearing red Elephant patches. I'll play "Get Innocuous" when Pfizer pays the FDA to approve Soma and Monsanto runs the USDA.
Key tracks: "All My Friends," "Get Innocuous"

15. Black Keys - Rubber Factory (2004)
Key track: "10 A.M. Automatic,"

14. Arcade Fire - Funeral and Neon Bible (2004, 2007)
Key track: "Wake Up"

13. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)
Key tracks: "White Winter Hymnal," "Ragged Wood"

12. My Morning Jacket - Z (2005)
Key tracks: "Wordless Chorus," "Off the Record," "Gideon"

11. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
Key tracks: "Everything in its Right Place," "The National Anthem"

10. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)
Key tracks: "Jacksonville," "Decatur," "Chicago," "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."

9. Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America (2006)
Key tracks: "Stuck Between Stations," "Hot Soft Light,""South Town Girls," "You Can Make Him Like You," "Massive Nights"

5-8. Spoon - Gimme Fiction/ ga ga ga ga ga/Girls Can Tell/Kill The Moonlight (2000-2007) I couldn't pick one of these four above the others. The band is unstoppable. Look forward to Transference next month.
Key tracks: all of um

3 and 4. White Stripes - Elephant (2003) and White Blood Cells (2001)
Jack White has participated in a great album every year this decade except one (EVERY YEAR!), be it with the Raconteurs, Loretta Lynn, the Deadweather or his marquee group, The White Stripes. Guitars and feedback and rock and roll vocals hadn't sounded this fresh in decades. The visceral, lo-fi punch of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" is when I first fell in love with the White Stripes' bursting energy and childlike enthusiasm for the blues and rock 'n' roll, and White hasn't let up steam since.
Key tracks: all of um

1 and 2. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001) and A Ghost is Born (2004)
I have nearly nothing to say. This is my favorite two album stretch by Wilco (and almost any other band). These songs made sense to me, mystified me, challenged me as a 16 year old and a 19 year old, and they make even more sense in different ways as a 24-year-old. They soundtracked the brooding moments in the bedroom after arguments with friends and family, they soundtracked sunny road trips to visit friends at other colleges, they soundtracked both get-togethers in college and meditative moments of solitude in the dorm room, and they soundtracked my first two years on the job. Let's hope Tweedy and Co. continue to soundtrack the rest of our journey.
Key tracks: all of um


Carrie said...

Band of Horses and Cold War Kids need at least special mention

The Juice Box said...

I love half the albums on this list, and haven't yet listened to the other half. So, good job.

By the way, I found someone here who's as obsessed with the Black Keys as much as you are. I found out because he was playing (you're going to kill me because I'm too lazy to look it up) the one guy's solo project. And I recognized it. Boo ya. I don't even listen to the Black Keys.

The Juice Box said...

P.S. - Nice going with putting up all the album music links. How long did that take you? Probably as long as it's taken me to do my Top 25 li-- oh wait. Nevermind.

Warped Coasters said...

it didn't take as long as I thought it would, with lala open in one window, and this open in the other, just copy/pasting/copy/pasting to infinity

A Mixed Tape said...

Lots of great albums on this list. I'm looking forward to working on my back catalogue over the next couple of years and revisting my own list. There was just so much music I missed out on while wearing my punk goggles (man it feels wierd putting three g's in that word)