Monday, June 21, 2010

Albums of the Decade

Oh wow. After over a year, my list is ready. I first got the idea for this LAST summer, as a way to catch to reflect on this decade in music, as well as to discover some new albums that I may have overlooked. It's been a great experience, and pushing myself to listen to albums that I wouldn't normally was actually incredibly rewarding. We all develop eventually develop comfort zones in music, and breaking from them can be uncomfortable. That is a dumb truth. Music is the most amazing thing in the world. There should be a constant celebration for its existence. I've listened and re-listened to several hundred albums over this past year that were released during this decade, and this list is the result of that undertaking. There was a point where I considered making this a Top 500 Albums of the Decade, though that's a bit ridiculous. Albums in the late 400s would just be ones that I find pretty not bad. This list was assembled very gradually, beginning with the definite top 25 albums and continuing from there. It's amazing how much one listen can change an album's placement. There's many albums on this list that I could put on right now and their position would change for better or worse. Though an album is always the same, it's remarkable how much time and place can affect how you hear it. Despite this, I feel that I've finally reached the point where I can step away from this list, satisfied with the places where things stand. In addition to this big list, I made several smaller ones based on albums, artists, and songs. I love lists. Ok, here it is...

200. Mount Eerie - Wind’s Poem (2009)
199. The Dodos – Visiter (2008)
198. Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna (2008)
197. Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds (2006)
196. Santogold - Santogold (2008)
195. Air - Talkie Walkie (2004)
194. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (2006)
193. A Silver Mt. Zion - Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upward (2001)
192. Spoon – Gimme Fiction (2005)
191. Spiritualized - Let It Come Down (2001)
190. British Sea Power - The Decline of British Sea Power (2003)
189. Sparklehorse - It’s a Wonderful Life (2001)
188. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals (2008)
187. Bjork – Vespertine (2001)
186. Andrew W.K. - I Get Wet (2001)
185. Architecture in Helsinki - Fingers Crossed (2003)
184. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup (2007)
183. The National – Boxer (2007)
182. Cursive - Domestica (2000)
181. Mclusky - The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire (2004)
180. Black Dice - Beaches & Canyons (2003)
179. J Dilla - Donuts (2006)
178. Fuck Buttons - Street Horrrsing (2008)
177. Battles - Atlas (2007)
176. Mclusky - My Pain and Sadness is More Sad and Painful Than Yours (2000)
175. Eels - Blinking Lights and Other Revelations (2005)
174. Department of Eagles – In Ear Park (2008)
173. Elliott Smith - From a Basement on the Hill (2004)
172. PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (2000)
171. The Blood Brothers - Burn Piano Island, Burn (2003)
170. The XX - XX (2009)
169. Sleater-Kinney - One Beat (2002)
168. Black Lips - Let it Bloom (2005)
167. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped (2006)
166. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (2006)
165. Menomena - Friend or Foe (2007)
164. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (2003)
163. My Morning Jacket - Z (2005)
162. Vashti Bunyan - Lookingaftering (2005)
161. The Magnetic Fields - i (2004)
160. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Yanqui U.X.O (2002)
159. Manitoba - Up in Flames (2003)
158. Lightning Bolt - Hypermagic Mountain (2005)
157. M.I.A. – Kala (2007)
156. Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)
155. The Blow - Paper Television (2006)
154. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Abattoir Blues/ The Lyre of Orpheus (2004)
153. John Cale - Hobosapiens (2003)
152. Deerhoof – Milk Man (2004)
151. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It’s Blitz (2009)
150. Blur - Think Tank (2003)
149. Morrissey - You Are The Quarry (2004)
148. Gorillaz – Demon Days (2005)
147. Hercules & Love Affair - Hercules & Love Affair (2008)
146. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)
145. Antony & the Johnsons - The Crying Light (2009)
144. Girls - Album (2009)
143. Kanye West - Graduation (2007)
142. Sigur Ros - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (2008)
141. Matmos - A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure (2001)
140. M.I.A. – Arular (2005)
139. The Swell Season - Swell Season (2006)
138. Tom Waits - Blood Money (2002)
137. Boredoms – Vision Creation Newsun (2000)
136. Tom Waits - Alice (2002)
135. Dirty Projectors - Rise Above (2007)
134. My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves (2003)
133. The Magnetic Fields – Distortion (2008)
132. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (2007)
131. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004)
130. Flaming Lips - Embryonic (2009)
129. WHY? - Alopecia (2008)
128. Danger Mouse/ Jay-Z – The Grey Album (2004)
127. Mount Eerie – Lost Wisdom (2008)
126. Yo La Tengo – And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (2000)
125. The Strokes – Room on Fire (2003)
124. Bright Eyes - Lifted or the Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002)
123. WHY? - Elephant Eyelash (2005)
122. Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow (2003)
121. Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse (2004)
120. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2008)
119. The Dismemberment Plan – Change (2001)
118. Scott Walker - The Drift (2006)
117. Circulatory System – Signal Morning (2009)
116. Oh No! Oh My! - Oh No! Oh My! (2006)
115. The Books - The Lemon of Pink (2003)
114. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport (2009)
113. The White Stripes - Elephant (2003)
112. Deerhoof – Reville (2002)
111. Radiohead - Hail to the Thief (2003)
110. Menomena - I Am the Fun Blame Monster (2003)
109. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours (2008)
108. Deerhoof – Apple ‘O (2003)
107. Black Lips – Good Bad Not Evil (2007)
106. The National - Alligator (2005)
105. No Age – Nouns (2008)
104. Liars – Liars (2007)
103. Destroyer - Streethawk: A Seduction (2001)
102. Sigur Ros - Takk (2005)
101. The Streets - Original Pirate Material (2002)
100. Low - Things We Lost in the Fire (2001)
99. The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree (2005)
98. Ozma – Rock and Roll Part 3 (2001)
97. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (2005)
96. Built to Spill - Ancient Melodies of the Future (2001)
95. Eels - Daisies Of The Galaxy (2000)
94. Aereogramme – Sleep & Release (2003)
93. Outkast – Stankonia (2000)
92. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)
91. Smog - Dongs of Sevotion (2000)
90. Gorillaz – Gorillaz (2001)
89. At the Drive-In – Relationship of Command (2000)
88. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place (2003)
87. Liars - They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top (2001)
86. M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us (2005)
85. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (2006)
84. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
83. Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow (2005)
82. Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005)
81. Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond (2007)
80. Kanye West - The College Dropout (2004)
79. The Rapture - Echoes (2003)
78. The Clientele - Suburban Light (2000)
77. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II (2009)
76. Super Furry Animals - Rings Around the World (2001)
75. The Walkmen – You & Me (2008)
74. The Books - Thought For Food (2002)
73. Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat (2004)
72. Islands - Return to the Sea (2006)
71. Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)
70. The Mountain Goats - All Hail West Texas (2002)
69. Explosions in the Sky - Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever (2001)
68. Grandaddy – The Sophmore Slump (2000)
67. Boards of Canada - Geogaddi (2002)
66. The Microphones – Mount Eerie (2003)
65. Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007)
64. Sonic Youth – Murray Street (2002)
63. Múm - Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK (2000)
62. Avey Tare and Panda Bear - Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (2000)
61. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell (2003)
60. The White Stripes - De Stijl (2000)
59. Architecture in Helsinki - In Case We Die (2005)
58. TV on the Radio - Dear Science (2008)
57. Fugazi – The Argument (2001)
56. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity (2007)
55. M83 - Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts (2003)
54. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
53. Sigur Ros - ( ) (2002)
52. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up, I am Dreaming (2006)
51. Deerhunter - Microcastle (2008)
50. McLusky – McLusky Do Dallas (2002)
49. Destroyer - Destroyer’s Rubies (2006)
48. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm (2009)
47. Kanye West - Late Registration (2005)
46. Portishead - Third (2008)
45. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca (2009)
44. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)
43. Clinic - Internal Wrangler (2000)
42. The Wrens – Meadowlands (2003)
41. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)
40. Circulatory System - Circulatory System (2001)
39. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)
38. Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing in the Hands (2004)
37. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (2006)
36. Radiohead - Amnesiac (2001)
35. Cat Power - You Are Free (2003)
34. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)
33. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)
32. The Notwist – Neon Gold (2002)
31. Liars – Drum’s Not Dead (2006)
30. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)
29. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (2007)
28. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005)
27. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (2007)
26. Deerhoof - The Runners Four (2005)
25. Madvillian - Madvillainy (2004)
24. The Avalanches - Since I Left You (2001)
23. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (2007)
22. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot it in People (2002)
21. And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Source Tags & Codes (2002)
20. The Walkmen - Bows & Arrows (2004)
19. Animal Collective - Feels (2005)
18. The Microphones - It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water (2000)
17. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)
16. The Strokes - Is This It? (2001)
15. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs (2004)

This was the first Animal Collective I ever heard. Back in 2004, Animal Collective and Black Dice were about equal in popularity, perhaps Black Dice a bit more, so as they would still headline shows when playing together. Five years later Black Dice would open for Animal Collectives at venues six times the capacity, their sound alienating many of Animal Collective’s newfound fans. Times certainly have changed. The odd thing about revisiting this album, still my favorite Animal Collective record, is that while so much different than the records that followed, it still is a distinct product of the band. In 2009 they exploded in popularity with their ninth album, an almost entirely electronic record, yet this record is almost entirely acoustic. It’s so strange to think that when this album came out they were lumped into the “freak-folk” genre that was hyped at the time, mentioned alongside Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Vetiver, Akron/Family, Coco Rosie, and etc. It’s also funny to think of this album as once being their “pop record,” as with each following release, they further embraced their musical roots- a love of pop music. It’s additionally strange as the first Avey Tare and Panda Bear collaboration, 2000's Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished is very rooted in pop, yet for the following three years the band become significantly less interesting in writing more traditional and structured “songs.” While this album does have more straightforward moments of pop bliss, most notably the gorgeous “Winters Love,” other parts are more like the bands earlier records, where the songs are more like soundscapes than anything. You can enter a distinct otherworldly place just by listening to this album. You experience strange emotions yet cannot pinpoint exactly why. The band’s previous album Here Comes the Indian at its best moments functioned in this way, yet a lack of memorable melodies and much looser focus made it a far less commanding album. Its shocking how much of a better band Animal Collective became in less than a year. Still, it took me awhile to come around on this album, as its far from accessible. Its staying power though is remarkable, as after listening to it regularly for nearly five years now, it’s still wonderfully fresh and just as unique as ever.

Favorite Song: “Winter’s Love”

14. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (2009)

The highest placing recent album on this list, Veckatimest was one of my most anticipated albums in a long time. Back in June of 2008, the band played a brand new song on Conan entitled “While You Wait For the Others.” I was floored. I was well familiar with the band before, though didn’t love them until I saw them with Feist in the July 2007. Feist was good, but Grizzly Bear seriously stole the show. After their set, their merch table had a massive line, honestly 5 times the length of the one for Feist. They put on one of the best shows you can ever hope to see. Anyways, this new song was the band’s best song yet, especially impressive considering that Yellow House had some pretty massive highs. The following month the band played another new song on Letterman, “Two Weeks.” This song was fantastic as well! Then, in August, I had the pleasure to see Grizzly Bear open for Radiohead in Boston. Though the venue was hardly the optimum place to see the band, they still played an amazing set, once again winning many new fans. The real treat though was hearing two more new songs live in addition to the first two, “Cheerleader,” and “Fine for Now.” These songs were wonderful as well. How could this band have so many amazing new songs? When would this album finally come out?! The hype was ridiculous. After a painful wait, Veckatimest finally leaked in early March and my ears were far from disappointed. Though easily the most accessible of the band’s three albums, it holds up amazingly after repeated listens. Though some missed the unique atmosphere that made Yellow House such a success, the more direct approach to songwriting works really well, as the songs themselves are the band’s most consistent yet. Still, the album is dense with instrumentation and vocal harmonies, with each layer meshing together to form something simultaneously grand yet also cohesive but individually distinct. It’s not surprising and absolutely perfect that it was recorded in a church.

Favorite Song - “While You Wait for the Others”

13. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

Uh oh. THIS album. Easily 2009's most critically acclaimed album, and still holding an 89 on Metacritic, there hadn’t been an indie album as massive popular and with such masterpiece worthy praise since Funeral in 2004. Of course, its no coincidence that it’s the highest rated album on a certain popular music review site since the release of Funeral. However, in the five years since the release of that Arcade Fire album, much has changed in the music world, specifically the advent of music blogs. Though, technically existing since the early 2000s, the MP3 blog breakthrough was clearly in 2005. Soon enough everyone who could use a computer could have their own MP3 blog, and their influence soon became apparent. If it weren’t for these blogs, bands such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Tapes N’ Tapes likely would not have broken out. Though blogs could suddenly put an unsigned band in the spotlight overnight, they also brought a more negative change to the music world - backlash. Sure, backlash goes back to the dawn of humanity, but with it now being easier for anyone to get their opinion out, tongues lashed fire. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Tapes N’ Tapes received nearly as much backlash as they did hype, and this trend would continue to amplify. Backlash these days is absolutely inevitable, and more often than not it is completely unjustified. The worst reason of them all has to be backlash simply based on newfound popularity. Backlash based on stereotypes of a band/artist’s fanbase is pretty terrible as well. Anyways, what I’m getting at here is that the backlash for this Animal Collective album received was quite extreme. For example, here’s some words used to describe the album in negative user reviews on rateyourmusic.com-

Pretentious, grating, repetitive, indulgent, jarring, garbage, annoying, drivel, exhausting, rubbish, indie, stupid, filthy, hipster, ridiculous, monkeyish, overrated, cloying, and bloopey.

Ouch. I on the other hand love this album to death, however I personally enjoy Sung Tongs and Feels a little bit more. I prefer the highlights on Strawberry Jam over the highlights on this album as well. Still, I rank this album the highest out of all of Animal Collective’s albums as it is both their most consistent and concise album, as well as the one that functions best as a collective whole. When comparing the negative reviews of the album to the positive ones, I found that much of the negative reviews focus on the sounds in the music, while the positive ones focus on the feeling that the music evokes. This is a really important distinction, as most of the negative reviews wrote the album off immediately, while the positive ones took their time to explain why they feel the album is great.

This album took me about six listens to get into, and I’m still a bit perplexed at how popular this album is considering its relative inaccessibility. For Animal Collective though, it is quite accessible, definitely more immediate than Sung Tongs. Many of these songs are at the core, basic pop, though their presentation is what makes them unique. Using layers upon layers of arpeggiating loops, obscure samples, and electric sequences, each song is coated in a dense psychedelic atmosphere. The most fascinating thing about this album for me, is that it was recorded in a studio the same way a rock band would- something that is almost unheard of these days for electronic albums. For the recording, the numerous samples and sequences were triggered live and played off of each other, recorded by microphones. This gives the album a much more human and earthy feel than an electonic album that was sequenced entirely by computer, making many albums seem sterile in comparison. On the other hand, many people seem to have problems with this, with the words “jarring” came up frequently in negative reviews. In a way Captain Beefheart’s classic Trout Mask Replica is similar to this album. The vocals on that album were song without headphones and only while listening to reverberations in the studio. With the recording method used on this album, it also has a similar jarringness, though of course with Trout Mask it is to the extreme. Both albums are also similar in that many songs were formed as the result of improvisation, with a healthy attitude towards new approaches and directions. With repeated listens the unexpected and extreme meet a middle ground that is infinitely more interesting and re-listenable than the basic level of a band taking a more straightforward and formulaic approach. The only downside is that falling for an album like this can make music you once loved seem boring in comparison.

Favorite Song - “Bluish”

12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven (2000)

One of this decade’s most definitive post-rock albums, this album is difficult to describe without sounding completely overblown. In addition, this record is easily one of the decade’s most universally acclaimed, and it currently holds the #2 spot on RateYourMusic (between the almighty Kid A and The Moon & Antarctica). The album consists of four movements, the shortest of which is 18:57. This band is easily the closest post-rock ever got to its classical roots, and the technical capabilities of this band are remarkable. However what makes this album truly shine is the scope of emotions the music conveys. As I’ll talk about in a Sigur Ros blurb later, I’m always fascinated by the ability of sounds to reflect and elicit emotions in a way that can rival any other means. Unlike Sigur Ros though, Godspeed are completely instrumental, so vocals, the instrument we all connect to the most, can not be used as an emotive tool. What this band does with their arrangements though blows my mind. This album is a complete emotional journey, at times bleak and depressing, while at others hopeful and inspiring. This music breathes so much life. Bar none this is the most massive sounding album of the decade. Despite how strongly I connect to this album now, it took me a long time to fully appreciate this album. Listening to this album is quite different than most other music, as you need to focus on the sometimes subtle textures of sound, shifting and molding from one movement to the next, eventually building up to a divine and cathartic explosion. I’ll admit I found it initially boring at times when I first head this six years ago, but each follow up listen became significantly more rewarding. Albums like this are so refreshing as they re-define the way that music can be made and listened to for so many people, as well as what music can accomplish. It certainly helped to do that for me.

Favorite Song: “Sleep”

11. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)

In many ways, much of the 2000s were about revivals. There was first the garage rock revival with The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, and The Vines (eek). Then things moved on to the late 70's with a post-punk revival. There we had Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand, Liars, the Arctic Monkeys, the Killers, The Rapture, Bloc Party, and etc. However the way these bands interpreted their influences were all quite different, with Liars for instance embracing the most experimental aspects of the genre, while others like the Arctic Monkeys came off more like a post-punk boyband. Still, Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights remains the best album from any band in this movement. Though taking heavily from Joy Division and Bauhaus in style, the songs on this album are all so great that Interpol clearly transcends the tag of being rip-offs. This is one of the best late night albums I’ve heard, especially when driving. It just sounds so huge! Unfortunately Interpol never even came close to this album with their following two, Antics and Our Love to Admire. For Antics, it’s like the band tries to rewrite this album, not deviating to a fault. There’s a few good tunes, yet the fantastic atmosphere of their debut is lost, as well as the consistency, placing them alongside many of their peers instead of in a separate league. And Our Love to Admire... well, yikes.

Favorite Song: “The New”

10. Brian Wilson – Smile (2004)

This is Metacritic’s highest reviewed album of the decade, with an average critical score of 97. That’s pretty insane, especially considering that this album was released nearly 40 years after it was originally intended. Smile was originally intended to be the Beach Boys attempt to one up Sgt. Pepper, an album which was the Beatles attempt to one up Pet Sounds, which was the result of the Beach Boys trying to one up Rubber Soul. Healthy competition sure results in some fantastic albums. Still, Brian Wilson’s mental breakdown cancelled the release of Smile, though the quickly assembled replacement album Smiley Smiley was a classic in its own right, my second favorite album of theirs after Pet Sounds. So when Brian Wilson was healthy enough in 2003 to begin work on finally realizing Smile, it was a true moment for music history. Though to be fair much of this album’s greatness can directly be attributed to the talents of the Wondermints, Wilson’s present back up band. They’re incredibly tight, and really recall the brilliance of the Beach Boys at their prime. Wilson’s voice 40 years later is also not quite what it once was, though I personally feel its aged sound adds a new layer to the album. It’s inspiring to hear this man finally singing his intended magnum-opus after all he’s been through, just as it is to known that Brian Wilson is stable and performing again. Still, this album pales in comparision to some of the fan assembled versions of the album using bootlegs of Smile demos from the original sessions. Damn you Mike Love. We could have had brilliance and you gave us Kokomo.

Favorite Song: “Surf’s Up”

9. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Unlike the rest of these bands, there isn’t too much I can say on Wilco, as they’re not really my thing. I enjoy Summerteeth enough, though I only find this one to be absolutely fantastic. Though I was still listening to mainstream rock radio when this album came out, I for the first time was getting subscriptions to Spin and Rolling Stone, and thus had some sense of which recent albums were highly regarded. The three big press albums from 2002 were The Streets’ Original Pirate Material, Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf, and this Wilco album. I wrote the Streets off at the time, as I was stupidly anti-rap then, and had previously purchased Songs for the Deaf after hearing “No One Knows” on the radio basically every 20 minutes. Still, buying the Wilco album was a chance, but I decided to go for it. It was either that or use Kazaa to download the songs individually, and assemble the album myself. That was if you could even find every song in consistent quality. Oh the days without torrents and megaupload... Anyways, I didn’t like the album that much then apart from “Heavy Metal Drummer,” easily the most accessible track. These days, that song is my least favorite. After finally joining team Kid A the following year, I came back to the album and it finally clicked. Wilco was getting the American-Radiohead tag a lot in the press and it finally made sense. Like Kid A, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot brilliant combines experimentation with pop sensibilities. The middle ground this creates is a key formula for many classic albums, and Wilco definitely pulled it off here.

Favorite Song: “I am Trying to Break Your Heart”

8. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica (2000)

This album was my introduction to Modest Mouse, and it was definitely a great one. As Modest Mouse’s first album on a major label, the album has a completely different sound than their previous albums released on Up records. With a greater budget and a talented producer, the album presented them sounding their best yet, with a depth of sound on the record that matched their epic songwriting. Their previous records seem under produced in comparison, yet the fact that they sound so powerful with such limited studio effects seriously attests the band’s talent. Like most Modest Mouse albums, there are song by song highlights, though the albums succeed best as wholes, each one a thematic journey completely distinct from the last. Modest Mouse found unexpected popularity with “Float On” in 2004, which found them playing to a significantly larger audience than ever before. This was the same time The O.C. and Garden State were at their height of popularity, introducing “indie music” to a new and younger audience. This trend would continue for the rest of the rest of the decade, resulting in much complaining and snobbery. Still, the division between New and Old Modest Mouse fans was very frustrating, as their two most recent albums are a long cry from their early material, as well as this album. If the Beatles were still around and playing, it would be like somebody going to a show and heckling for Wings songs. The crowd would erupt during “Float On,” “Ocean Breathes Salty” yet classics like “Trailer Trash” and “Doin’ the Cockroach” would be met with less enthusiastic reactions. Its thankfully a little different now as many bandwagon fans have moved either away from the band or backwards in their discography, where the gold lies.

Favorite Song: “The Stars Are Projectors”

7. Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone (2003)

In terms of sub-genres that become most played-out and overcrowded, I can’t think of any that fits the crime worse than Indie Pop (apart from Acoustic Singer-Songwriters, but they’re always a problem). Stemming out of Twee Pop, with most notably Beat Happening and the Field Mice, the genre reached its peak in quality in the mid to late 90's with the Magnetic Fields, Belle & Sebastian, and the Elephant Six collective. As the years went on, the genre just got increasingly boring yet also increasingly popular. There’s little room for innovation, and many bands just come of as redundant retreads of bands that were much better the first time around. Still, there’s a handful of unique, innovative and completely refreshing indie pop albums from this decade, and this Unicorns album is the best of all. There’s an absurd amount of fantastic pop hooks on this album that stick with you long after the album is over. Still, what makes this album most fascinating is the structure of the songs. In a world where 99% of pop songs are verse /chorus / verse / chorus / bridge /chorus, this album throws traditions out the window. Songs twist and turn in every direction. Sometimes you think you’re leading up to a chorus, but nope, the Unicorns pull out something completely different. The constant surprises on this album are what makes it so much fun and a thrill to listen. In addition, the album follows the concept of thoughts one may be experiencing upon their final breath. The album begins with fear and disbelief on“I Don’t Want to Die,” and ends with the acceptance of “Ready to Die.” The contrast of these dark themes and the joyful music part works better than you could ever imagine. It’s a pity the Unicorns broke up the year after this album was released. Some moments on Islands first album Return to the Sea recalled some of this albums brilliance, but far from met them. This album is an unlikely masterpiece, one that just could not have been followed up or exceeded in any way. Things just came together in a way that was pure magic. Still, I miss them so much. At least the next year the Go! Team released their fabulous Thunder, Lightning, Strike, and once again indie pop was saved.

Favorite Song: “Les Os”

6. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

At this point the Arcade Fire are so huge that a song of theirs can be used during the Super Bowl as segue music. The appeal for this band is very wide and reaching, yet as noted before, they are very accessible. I remember right when this album came out, the fall of my senior year, and within two listens, it already felt like a timeless classic that had always been there. With its universal acclaim and seemingly never ending discussion, its easy to become jaded and think “was this really that great?” However, then you put it on and, “wow, it really was.” It’s really hard to put on an album that is both instantly accessible yet long enduring, yet this is one of the decade’s best examples. The hype for their follow up album, Neon Bible, was probably the most insane anticipation I’ve seen for an album this decade. It certainly helped that the band fueled the fire like no other, offering things like cryptic videos, phone hotlines to call in order to hear samples, and even releasing the full lyrics before the majority of the songs were even heard. Though the album hardly expands on the bands sound, it’s a satisfying though somewhat disappointing follow up. While the highlights are as good as some of the mid range Funeral songs, it is a bit too overblown at times and suffers from some overly glossy production. Their next album is due this summer, and it will be interesting to see where they head next.

Favorite Song: “Wake Up”

5. Sigur Rós - Ágætis Byrjun (2000)

Though this album was released in Iceland in 1999, it came out internationally in 2000, so thus I’m considering it fair-game for this list. Easily Sigur Ros’s best album, this is one of the most emotional albums I’ve ever heard. The ways this band can make you feel with the music they make is remarkable, especially considering how most of the band’s audience at this point do not speak the band’s native language and thus can not understand the lyrics. It really shows the power of music, with how sounds can bring as strong emotions in us as a particular piece of poetry. However, words do have to resonate with us in a particular way first, while music can do the same in a more basic level. I can be going along my day perfectly fine, while a Sigur Ros song can suddenly hit me in the gut. The tears begin flowing. One of the few completely distinct bands of the decade, there’s no one else out there like Sigur Ros. Their popularity earlier in the decade brought a resurgence to post-rock, resulting in a genre high like never before. Though for the last three years, the popularity of post-rock has waned a bit, there’s no doubt denying the power of the genre’s most classic albums, Ágætis Byrjun being one of the greatest, if not the greatest one.

Favorite Song: “Svefn-g-englar”

4. Joanna Newsom - The Milk-Eyed Mender (2004)

This is one of those albums that just cuts right through you. It is an emotional whirlwind of joy, sadness, wonder, and hope. It’s incredibly life-affirming, and completely magical. Like many, this album took me awhile to fully appreciate. Joanna’s voice on this album can difficult at first. Much less so than for male singers, there’s this preconceived notion on how a female voice should sound, and when one breaks that mold, they’re suddenly committed this horrific crime. It’s really stupid, especially considering how many male singers there are who can’t sing to save their lives. Rather than just, “I don’t really like this guy’s voice,” it becomes “bitch sounds like a dying cat!” Anyways, this quote from a TinyMixTapes article from years ago nails this record better than I could ever hope to-

"Her songs are stories that evoke fairy-tale melancholy and become the warmest part of your being upon first listen; they are a woven tapestry of child-like candor and sagely wisdom. Using the harp strings to seemingly endless depth and fullness, her voice coos and croons with an unabashed child-like timber as endearing as the first butterfly of the spring. Her music is that which makes us call forth a part of ourselves, that we have long neglected, and for this it sounds familiar as a sister’s gentle sigh, but it is also a vehicle to render us breathless at the beauty inherent in musical honesty".

Right on. The “upon first listen” part is a bit too intense for me though, as in my experience I didn’t like this album at all when I first heard it. It stayed collecting digital dust on my hard drive for nearly a year before I gave it a second shot. A few more songs popped that time, and in a handful of listens later I began to really like the album and its raw beauty. I swear, so many of my favorite records are ones that I actively did not enjoy initially. It’s all about familiarity it seems, and those truly unique listens are off putting by definition.

Favorite Song: “Sadie”

3. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

Kid A near the top of a decade list?! How shocking. The critical acclaim for this album is so universal, these days its only shocking when it isn’t number one on a decade list. I mean it even topped Rolling Stone’s list! As my number three, I do find it to be a masterpiece and not a tad bit overrated in the scope of things. Oddly enough, I hated this album when I first heard it! I was upset that I purchased it, and only enjoyed “How to Disappear Completely.” Initially, my frustration motived me to listen to the album more, in attempt to get more out of it. In months time, my persistence payed off in a big way.

The album still sounds ahead of its time, while it remains one of the most influential albums in recent memory. Listening to this album with a great pair of headphones is a divine experience. The production is absolutely phenomenal, easily the best work of long time Radiohead producer/engineer Nigel Godrich. Few bands choose to completely reinvent their sound following the release of an instant classic. Nirvana just ditched the glossy production for In Utero, not completely reinvent the way they made music! The risk was worth it, and Radiohead will be immortalized as one of the few bands to top numerous album lists for two consecutive decades.

Favorite Song: “How to Disappear Completely”

2. The Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2 (2001)

The first three songs on this album are one of the best introductory runs of all-time. Though Phil Elverum does work with collaborators, the fact that much of this album is the work of just one man is truly remarkable. This record is a thematic sequel to the song, “The Glow,” the best track on the Microphones previous album It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water. The production on this album is simply the best I have ever heard. Like Kid A, headphones greatly aid the listening experience, yet with this album they are completely essential. There’s so much going on in each channel that listening in other way could make the album sound like a dense mess. Like In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, an album this is often compared to, this album that requires all the songs to be in place, and when taken out of context, they do not have nearly the same effect. Also like that album, I’d be uncomfortable taking these songs from the album to use on a mix or playlist. The album is such an distinct experience, it’d be offensive to place a portion of it in the context of other people’s work. The follow up to this album, 2003's Mount Eerie continues right where this album left off, beginning with the foghorn motif that’s throughout the Glow Pt. 2. Its simultaneously fascinating and difficult, and while significantly less accessible than this album, its beauty shines through with time.

Favorite Song: “The Moon”

1. Joanna Newsom - Ys (2006)

Ah, Ys. I’ve heard this album more than any other album on this list- the only one that comes close was Joanna Newsom’s other album from the decade, The Milk-Eyed Mender. As I’ve gotten to know this album over the last few years, my appreciation has only increased in time. Like most of the all-time great albums, this is an album that takes its time revealing itself, so much so that I was unsure how much I liked it at first. Despite being my favorite artist, I’m fascinated by how every time I hear a new Joanna album, I am unable to come to terms with it upon the first listen, even first few. Her album from this year, Have One On Me, took me the longest out of any album of hers to get into, yet somewhere around the 8th listen, the familiar obsession had once again started. There’s simply no one else out there right now making music quite like her, and this album is a showcase in many ways. Nearly everything about Joanna has been refined in on this album- with superior harp arrangements, vocals, lyrics, and melodies. Unlike the musically sparse Milk-Eyed Mender, this album is nearly bursting at the seams, with a 29 piece orchestra on four of the five tracks. The orchestral arrangements were written by Van Dyke Parks, known best for his work on Smile. As if the lyrics weren’t didn’t resonance enough on their own, the strings push the album up to another level, bringing more emotions yet never by sentimentally telling you how you should feel. The best song on the album, “Sawdust and Diamonds” is actually the one without strings. It’s Newsom’s most complex harp arrangement to date, and watching a life performance of the song is like watching a circus act. Each hand plucks a different rhythm while her feet go to town on the pedals, all while she sings a completely different melody with lyrics that most would stumble over without any of the above. Beyond it being technically masterful, the song itself is one best I have ever heard, hypnotizing you to the extent that its nine minute length flies by. Though it can be overwhelming at first, its an album that simply never gets old. I’m at the point where I can recite 90% of the lyrics, yet depending on when and where I listen, it’s often a different experience. I mean even my Mom is obsessed with this album! She listens to it almost every night, and has probably racked in more listens than myself. All in all, this is a work of genius by the best songwriter working today. The follow-up, Have One on Me is the best album of this next decade so far. Now I’m looking forward to if Joanna herself, or anyone else will top it in these next 10 years.

Favorite Song: “Sawdust and Diamonds”

Top 10 Bands of the Decade:
1. Animal Collective
2. Radiohead
3. Deerhoof
4. The White Stripes
5. Grizzly Bear
6. Liars
7. TV on the Radio
8. Arcade Fire
9. The Microphones /Mount Eerie
10. Sonic Youth

10 Most Overrated Artists/Bands of the Decade:
1. U2
2. Lil Wayne
3. The Killers
4. Arctic Monkeys
5. Vampire Weekend
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers
7. Eminem
8. Kings of Leon
9. Green Day
10. Regina Spektor

5 Best Reunions:
1. Dinosaur Jr.
2. The Pixies
3. My Bloody Valentine
4. Mission of Burma
5. The Feelies

10 Underrated Artists/Bands from the Decade:
1. Super Furry Animals
2. Mclusky
3. The Notwist
4. Smog
5. The Wrens
6. Clinic
7. Ozma
8. Matmos
9. The Clientele
10.The Books

25 Favorite Songs of the Decade:
*-Animal Collective – Fireworks
* -Animal Collective - Winter’s Love
*-Antony and the Johnsons – Hope There’s Someone
*-The Avalanches – Frontier Psychiatrist
*-Beirut – Postcards From Italy
*-Built to Spill – The Weather
*-Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth
*-Clinic - Distortions
*-Deerhoof – Milk Man
*-Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For the Others
*-Joanna Newsom – Sawdust & Diamonds
*Joanna Newsom - Sadie
*Joanna Newsom - Peach Plum Pear
*-Lightning Bolt – Dracula Mountain
*-The Microphones –The Moon
*-The Microphones - The Glow
*-Mirah – Cold Cold Water
*-Of Montreal – The Past is a Grotesque Animal
*-Panda Bear - Bros
*-Radiohead - How to Disappear Completely
*-Radiohead – Pyramid Song
*-Sigur Ros - Svefn-g-englar
*-The Unicorns – I Was Born (a Unicorn)
*-The Walkmen – The Rat
*-Wolf Parade – I’ll Believe in Anything

25 Decade Songs I Hope to Never Hear Again:
1. Creed - With Arms Wide Open (2000)
2. Baha Men - Who Let the Dogs Out (2000)
3. Crazy Town - Butterfly (2001)
4. Nickelback - How You Remind Me (2001)
5. Uncle Kracker - Follow Me (2001)
6. Linkin Park - In the End (2001)
7. Train - Drops of Jupiter (2001)
8. Nelly - Hot in Herre (2002)
9. Sheryl Crow (ft. Liz Phair) - Soak Up the Sun (2002)
10. Jimmy Eat World - The Middle (2002)
11. John Mayer - Your Body Is a Wonderland (2002)
12. Evanescence - Bring Me to Life (2003)
13. Green Day - Boulevard of Broken Dreams (2004)
14. Hoobastank - The Reason (2004)
15. Black Eyed Peas - Let's Get It Started (2004)/ My Humps (2005)/ EVERY SONG OF THEIRS
16. Justin Timberlake - Sexyback (2005)
17. James Blunt - You're Beautiful (2005)
18. Fall Out Boy – Sugar, We’re Going Down (2005)
19. Pussycat Dolls - Don’t Cha (2005)
20. Daniel Powter - Bad Day (2005)
21. Gwen Stefani ft. Akon - The Sweet Escape (2007)
22. Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend (2007)
23. Sean Kingston - Beautiful Girls (2007)
24. Kid Rock - All Summer Long (2008)
25. Asher Roth - I Love College (2009)

10 Most Overrated Albums of the Decade:
1. Green Day - American Idiot
2. Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
3. Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP
4. U2 - All That You Can't Leave Behind
5. My Chemical Romance - The Black Parade
6. Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
7. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
8. The Killers - Hot Fuss
9. The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
10. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

10 Worst Albums (I’ve Heard) from the Decade (and Haven't Completely Forgotten):
1. Limp Bizkit - Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water (2000)
2. Blink 182 - Take of Your Pants and Jacket (2001)
3. Atreyu - Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses (2002)
4. Trapt - Trapt (2002)
5. Audioslave - Audioslave (2002)
6. Evanescence - Fallen (2003)
7. Linkin Park - Meteora (2003)
8. Louis XIV - The Best Little Secrets Are Kept (2005)
9. Black Kids - Partie Traumatic (2008)
10. Weezer - Raditude (2009)

10 Worst Cover Songs of the Decade:
Madonna - American Pie (2000)
Britney Spears - Satisfaction (I Can’t Get No) (2000)
All-Star Tribute - What’s Going On (2001)
Goo Goo Dolls & Fred Durst - Wish You Were Here (2001)
Celine Dion - You Shook Me All Night Long (2002)
Counting Crows - Big Yellow Taxi (2002)
Limp Bizkit - Behind Blue Eyes (2003)
311- Love Song (2004)
Hilary Duff - My Generation (2004)
Korn - Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 1,2,3) (2004)

Top 10 Albums for Each Year:
1999 (Just because this year was so amazing...)
1. The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs
2. Polaris – Music from the Adventures of Pete & Pete
3. The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin
4. Of Montreal – The Gay Parade
5. Built to Spill – Keep it Like a Secret
6. The Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage: Animation Music (Volume One)
7. The Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I
8. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – I See a Darkness
9. Pavement – Terror Twilight
10. Beulah – When Your Heartstrings Break

2000
1. Radiohead – Kid A
2. Sigur Rós - Ágætis Byrjun
3. Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
5. The Microphones - It Was Hot We Stayed in the Water
6. Clinic - Internal Wrangler
7. The White Stripes - De Stijl
8. Avey Tare and Panda Bear – Spirit They’ve Gone Spirit They’ve Vanished
9. Múm - Yesterday Was Dramatic – Today Is OK
10. Grandaddy – The Sophmore Slump

2001
1. The Microphones – The Glow Pt. 2
2. The Strokes – Is this It?
3. The Avalanches - Since I Left You
4. Radiohead - Amnesiac
5. Circulatory System - Circulatory System
6. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
7. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
8. Fugazi – The Argument
9. Explosions in the Sky - Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever
10. Super Furry Animals - Rings Around the World

2002
1. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2. Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
3. And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Source Tags & Codes
4. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People
5. The Notwist – Neon Gold
6. McLusky – McLusky Do Dallas
7. Sigur Ros - ( )
8. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
9. Sonic Youth – Murray Street
10. Boards of Canada - Geogaddi

2003
1. The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone
2. Cat Power - You Are Free
3. The Wrens – Meadowlands
4. M83 - Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever to Tell
6. The Microphones – Mount Eerie
7. The Rapture - Echoes
8. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
9. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place
10. Aereogramme – Sleep & Release

2004
1. Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender
2. The Arcade Fire – Funeral
3. Brian Wilson – SMiLE
4. Animal Collective – Song Tongs
5. The Walkmen – Bows & Arrows
6. Madvillian – Madvillainy
7. Devendra Banhart - Rejoicing in the Hands
8. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike
9. Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat
10. Kanye West – The College Dropout

2005
1. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
2. Animal Collective – Feels
3. Deerhoof – The Runners Four
4. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
5. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
6. Kanye West – Late Registration
7. Architecture in Helsinki – In Case We Die
8. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
9. Devendra Banhart – Cripple Crow
10. M83 - Before the Dawn Heals Us

2006
1. Joanna Newsom – Ys
2. Liars – Drum’s Not Dead
3. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
4. Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies
5. Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up, I Am Dreaming
6. Islands – Return to the Sea
7. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain
8. Oh No! Oh My! – Oh No! Oh My!
9. Scott Walker – The Drift
10. The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America
10. The Swell Season – Swell Season

2007
1. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
2. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
3. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
4. of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
5. Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
6. Radiohead – In Rainbows
7. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
8. Liars - Liars
9. Black Lips – Good Bad Not Evil
10. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

2008
1. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
2. Portishead – Third
3. Deerhunter – Microcastle
4. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
5. The Walkmen – You & Me
6. Bon Iver – For Emma Forever Ago
7. No Age - Nouns
8. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colors
9. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!
10. Mount Eerie – Lost Wisdom

2009
1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
2. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
3. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
4. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
5 . Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt. II
6. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
7. Circuatory System – Signal Morning
8 Flaming Lips – Embryonic
9. Girls - Album
10. Antony & the Johnsons – The Crying Light

2010 (so far)

1. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
2. Beach House – Teen Dream
3. The National -High Violet
4. Sleigh Bells – Treats
5. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
6. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
7. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
8. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
9. Liars – Sisterworld
10. Jonsi – Go

5 comments:

Ivan said...

Just fuckin fantastic dude !

Alex said...

comprehensive beyond words man excellent job.

Shadow33 said...

This is the best list i have seen, way better than "that popular music review site" lists. I don't agree with everything, but it's my favorite list, i will have to check out some of the albums i haven't heard yet

mattadactyl said...

Thanks for the feedback! It's greatly appreciated. I'm planning on doing the exact same thing for the 90's. If it continues at the same rate, it should be done by next Summer.

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