As promised, here's Owen and my list of our favorite 50 albums from the decade. We tried to keep it tight, but there are quite a few close contenders below the list. Leave a comment and let us know what your favorite album(s) of the decade were!
50) Neko Case //
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)
49) Snow Patrol // Final Straw (2003)
48) Spoon //
Kill the Moonlight (2002)
47) Portugal. The Man //
The Satanic Satanist (2009)
46) Camera Obscura //
Let's Get Out of This Country (2006)
45) Peter Bjorn & John //
Writer's Block (2006)
44) Death From Above 1979 //
You're A Woman, I'm A Machine (2004)
43) The Decemberists //
Castaways & Cutouts (2002)
42) Deltron 3030 // Deltron 3030 (2000)
41) School of Seven Bells //
40) Radiohead // Amnesiac (2001)
39) The Unicorns //
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? (2003)
38) Daft Punk // Discovery (2001)
37) Cannibal Ox //
The Cold Vein (2001)
36) Franz Ferdinand //
Franz Ferdinand (2004)
35) Grizzly Bear // Veckatimest (2009)
34) Death Cab For Cutie //
The Photo Album (2001)
33) Radiohead // In Rainbows (2007)
32) Thee Oh Sees // Help (2009)
31) LCD Soundsystem //
Sound of Silver (2007)
30) The White Stripes // De Stijl (2000)
29) Madvillain // Madvillainy (2004)
28) Bibio //
Ambivalence Avenue (2009)
27) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart //
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (2009)
26) Tapes 'n Tapes // The Loon (2005)
25) The Avalanches //
Since I Left You (2000)
24) The Postal Service // Give Up (2003)
23) Coldplay // Parachutes (2000)
22) Sufjan Stevens // Illinoise (2005)
21) Death Cab For Cutie //
We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes (2000)
Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone (2002)
Besides their conscious attempt at a more produced, "epic" rock album (Bows + Arrows), none of their work hits quite as hard as their gritty and intense debut. Somehow this record manages to balance scratchy/raw guitar chords, strained vocals, and loud drum beats with pretty melodies and the delicate ping of an old Steinway upright. Only one band could pull off such a gratifying combination as well as The Walkmen did here.
Only one man knows how to take a guitar and several other instruments you used to play with when you were five, and create playful, colorful pop songs that you take you back to your childhood like the Japanese-born Shugo Tokumaru. To call him talented is a grave understatement. Just to the opening track Parachute can get anyone's head spinning with the catchy-as-hell melodies and perfectly-layered guitar lines in an instant. The next nine songs are no exceptions. I stumbled upon his music just a few months after Exit was released, and I'm so glad I did.
Bright Like Neon Love (2004)
Australian techno-pop group Cut Copy had nothing short of a tasty debut. 2004's Bright Like Neon Love is arguably the group's strongest release to date. The Aussie's first LP is 40 minutes packed with electrojams, from the funky That Was Just a Dream to the blissed-out Electric Neon Payphone. However, what separates Cut Copy from the dozens of similar acts is the amount of character that invigorates their electronic grooves.
Wincing the Night Away (2007)
Few albums have earned such a soft spot in my heart as The Shins' third LP. Wincing the Night Away is the pinnacle of the The Shins' work, as they broke up briefly afterwards. Frontman James Mercer's simple tunes drive an infectious album filled with delicious hooks. Wincing the Night Away is nothing short of superb.
Simply put, Transatlanticism is fantastic. The intricate ballads and the unique lyrical style of Ben Gibbard started a revolution in the early aughts. Dozens of bands spent millions trying to achieve the sound that this Seattle-based foursome found such success with. While the sea of corny piano ballads written by their peers that followed may have tarnished many's view of the original, there is nothing cheesy here. Transatlanticism is beautiful. It walks the very fine line between 2001's "too cool for you" lo-fi release The Photo Album and 2005's "too popular for you" LP Plans. The band's current decline makes Transatlanticism even more bittersweet.
Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)
If 'fun' could be described in sound, it would be this album. Honestly, after listening to this for the first time, I couldn't listen to an album, even among my favorites, that didn't give the same playful/energetic feel that this one did. Each little thing on this album fuels the energy and awesomeness along; the jangly, lo-fi guitars on Panther Dash, which make it feel like a superhero tv show intro, Ninja's rapping, the bombastic drums, and even the horns, which add a whole new texture to the whole mix, whereas the light-hearted melodies and occasional harmonica/recorder give it that childish vibe that makes it so unique. Each song has its own character, which makes it feel more like an album of singles (in a perfect world, all of these songs would be hit singles), but I mean that in a good way. I can guarantee you that Thunder, Lightning, Strike is unlike anything you've ever heard before.
The first in what we were all hoping would become the alleged "50 States Project", Michigan was a huge leap away from the sporadically enjoyable, mostly-cacophonous electronic blips on 2001's "Enjoy Your Rabbit", to a much more inviting, though still unique sound with a variety of instruments that all came together to form completely moving songs, both lyrically and melodically. If anything, Michigan is an achievement in capturing the feeling of growing up in rural America. None of the songs here reach the epicness of tracks like Jacksonville or Chicago, but they don't need to. In my opinion, no one nowadays can quite write a song as touching as Sufjan can. And on Michigan, his ideas and intentions came together best.
It was 2001, and the world absolutely stoked for The Strokes' first major album Is This It. The Strokes were arguably the world's first buzzband; the hype surrounding Is This It was absurdly huge. However, the New York group lived up to expectations and brought everything to the table: casual garage rock, great tunes, more guitars than you can count, black leather jackets, long hair, and, most importantly, Julian Casablanca's signature "I don't give a FUCK" lyrical style; the chic New Yorkers just radiated cool. 11 tracks and 35 minutes of tasty guitar licks, Is This It is totally rad, man.
Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
Scottish twee legends Belle & Sebastian were at a pivotal point in their career in 2003. After taking the nineties by storm (quietly) with delicate, sentimental, and introspective acoustic tunes, the well was starting to run dry. They were five albums into their career, and lyricist Stuart Murdoch was struggling to sing about girls like Judy dreaming about horses with the same gusto he could five or six years before. Critics were beginning to slap labels like "self-parodic" on the Scots. All of that stopped with the release of Dear Catastrophe Waitress, however. The introduction of the full band playing more than one or two measures a song coupled with more electric instrumentation transformed the group's sound. Waitress was certainly nothing like anyone they had done before, but few could protest the band's changes, as these songs are simply too damn good.
After dropping out after three years at Berkelee and then playing guitar in Sufjan Stevens' backing band, Annie Clark had all the indie cred anyone could ever want. All she had to do was release a revolutionary record and hop on a tour bus with the likes of Grizzly Bear and Andrew Bird and she would be set. Actor is that record. Its fuzzed out guitars and classical arrangements are a work of art.
White Blood Cells (2001)
It took a while for The White Stripes to gain the world recognition that they did when Seven
Nation Army came out, but they definitely got a whole lot popular with this release. On this record, they cleaned up their sound even more than they had done on De Stijl, but still sticking with their iconic just-guitar-and-drums set-up that, still to this date, they've managed to pull off the best. Sure this album isn't completely devoid of filler, but there's 16 tracks here, so it's chock-full of excellent material. Plus the balance between fun, blastable tracks like opener Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground, Fell in Love with a Girl, and Aluminum, and more laid-back ones like We're Going to Be Friends and The Same Boy You've Always Known is done really well here. Plus, all of the other tracks straddle the line between the two differences, so you're not completely disoriented and thrown off. Basically, this is the most cohesive, well-balanced White Stripes LP there is, and the one with most of my favorites.
Hmm...how should I start yet another evaluation of this record? Well, I don't love this album to pieces, I don't think it's a masterpiece, and it's not my favorite Radiohead album, but it's a really great and innovative record that I think everyone should listen to at least once in their lifetime, and I think that these guys did a pretty interesting and risky thing with the incredibly huge amount of hype that came with this. I can say though, that none of their other albums quite managed to match the broad soundscape of this album, and the sonic textures of each track are extremely immersive, some more so even than those on OK Computer or The Bends. Sure it has a few moments that I don't really dig, like How to Disappear Completely, which seems to be a favorite among fans, and also Idioteque, which starts to annoy me pretty quickly, and though Optimistic and Morning Bell are great tracks, they could be a little more captivating. But regardless, this is a solid record from a still solid band that have yet to lose their creative spark.
You Forgot It In People (2002)
Like Thunder, Lightning, Strike, this is another album that's really hard to compare with
anything else. The idea of an 11-piece band seems like a recipe for an incohesive mess, and granted, it is pretty messy, but in the best way possible. Even the slightly bizzare production done on this album (eg. Stars and Sons, KC Accidental) works so well with this band. We've got loud, in-your-face guitars and loud, in-your-face drums on one side, and string arrangements on the other, which makes for an oddly satisfying blend. Plus, Leslie Fiest makes for the occasional appearance on vocals. The album has its mood swings too. Right after the knock-out 4 opening tracks, it goes into a chill-out sesh with Looks Just Like the Sun and Pacific Theme, then the incredibly blissful, emotional drive of Anthems For a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl, then straight back to catchy beats and raw guitar licks on Cause=Time, then a little later, the emotions come flowing back with Shampoo Suicide and fan-favorite Lover's Spit. It's hard to describe their sound exactly, so I'll put it into a poor analogy. It's kind of like a band of homeless geniuses with ADHD were picked up off the streets and given instruments. It's dirty, it's all over the place, but it's brilliant.
Set Yourself on Fire is a slow-burner that, at some point in anyone's life, will garner his affections. A guy named Torquil and a girl named Amy sing a multitude of duets on this '05 release. The album is totally precious, and these sweet melodies are best listened to late into the night. Even the powerful hit Ageless Beauty, is more sweet than sour. While Stars may have called this album edgy at the time, Torquil's definition of edgy probably means throwing rose petals or something. Oh wait…
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)
Apart from the very skippable first track, there isn't a single weak track here, and I genuinely
mean that. Though for some, the vocal delivery on almost every song is impossible to get used to, to me it's only a minor speed-bump in an otherwise superb rock record. Though consistent, each song on the album is it's own little odd-one-out, like 'Details of the War', a slowly churning alt-country ballad with a great harmonica part, 'The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth', an immediately likable song with shuffling drums, an upbeat feel and synthy goodness, 'Over and Over Again', a more subdued song that plays it cool with an excellent bass line, 'Is This Love?', a song characterized by its trotting guitar chords and especially quirky vocals, or 'Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood', which stays the same almost throughout, but is one of the more enthralling tunes. I can't say I'll be forgetting this LP anytime soon.
A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
Coldplay is an easy target for those with "good music taste". Frankly, if you look at my iTunes library, Coldplay looks pretty cold and alone among everything else there. As unfitting as it may seem in this list, I sort of grew up with Coldplay, and maybe that's why I don't immediately detest them. But also, there is more sufficient reasoning for my affection towards them. Perhaps not in their lyrics, but in so much else. A Rush of Blood to the Head is an incredible stadium rock album devoid of any fillers, and jam packed with excellently-crafted melodies, whether they be guitar-driven or piano ballads, strung together with memorable guitar licks. The production is excellent, everything resonates beautifully, and the hooks are undeniable. I mean who doesn't admit that The Scientist, Daylight, or any of the songs for that matter, aren't catchy as fuck? Plus, it's a fantastic late-night-car-drive record. There's something in there for everybody, you just have to listen closely.
There's not too much to be said about Funeral that hasn't already been echoed on every music blog ever. Arcade Fire's first LP was in many places the album of the year, an honor that the Canadians arguably deserved. The group has an enormous sound that commands your attention. The album showcases some great tracks; look no further than Tunnels and Wake Up and I'm sure you'll understand.
I've only known of The Books for a few months now, and this album is already one of the most played on my iPod. "Life changing" is a bit strong, but it holds a special place in my musial library, getting along with the other sample-based artists there, but with enough character and independence to fend for itself perfectly fine. Unlike other sample-based artists, the samples they use here are really fascinating, and mostly completely random. The first time I listened to this, I was waiting in anticipation for what sample or sound would come around the corner next, and by now I'm basically playing them in my head as or right before they go by. Much like their also-fantastic debut Thought For Food, it's got me wondering how they found someone saying something like "One day, a girl climbed into a tree. She climbed down from the tree the next day, god bless her", or an old Italian woman reciting the months in Italian, or even "One day son, you'll grow up to be....uh....woman." And sometimes, it's even kind of beautiful; "Welcome to the human race, you're a mess." I could go on and on about the vocal samples, but I don't have to.
Despite the jarring effect that this collection of sounds has on the mind at first, The Lemon of Pink also succeeds on an emotional level, especially on tracks like There Is No There, Take Time, or That Right Ain't Shit, which is why I put it only slightly higher than their debut. It's a shame the duo had to come to an end, but they ended on a high note, so I can't complain.
The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005)
Eggs is without a doubt Bird's masterpiece to date. After dabbling in the swing scene with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and then noodling around with Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, Bird finally launched his solo journey. It was this album that, in 2005, introduced to the world the whistling and violin-strumming maestro. Eggs is brilliant; it's packed with simple melodies and the acoustic instrumentation gives Bird's whimsical wordplay room to breathe. From the soaring Fake Palindromes to groovy My Skin, Is, The Mysterious Production of Eggs is sure to entertain.
By far Wilco's strongest effort, YHF was written with such a broad emotional landscape, that it's hard to imagine that at the beginning of their career, these guys were writing simple country/folk songs. Maybe I love this album so much because I Am Trying To Break Your Heart was my first real introduction to music, but I think it has more to do with the fact that each song here makes its own perfect contribution, yet as a whole, YHF succeeds on every plane. The melodies are superb, the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) electronic elements nestle in with the basic instruments so well, and the lyrics are simple and even silly at times, but when sung by Jeff Tweedy's wholesome raspy voice, they seem like they mean the world.
This is a record that won't be repeated by the same band ever again, but more importantly, it's a record that only gets better every time I listen to it, and a record that will remain a classic for years to come, at least for me.
Amon Tobin - Supermodified
Animal Collective - Sung Tongs
Andrew Bird - Weather Systems
Beulah - The Coast is Never Clear
Boards of Canada - Geogaddi
Bright Eyes - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
The Dismemberment Plan - Change
Elliott Smith - Figure 8
Fugazi - The Argument
The Futureheads - The Futureheads
Interpol - Turn On the Bright Lights
Iron & Wine - The Creek Drank the Cradle
M. Ward - Post-War
The Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2
The Notwist - Neon Golden
Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R
Say Hi To Your Mom - Impeccable Blahs
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
The White Stripes - Elephant