October 27, 2009

Best Records of the 2000's

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the 10 Blogs, 1 Decade collective, where ten different indie, DIY blogs like mine post their favorite records from this decade. Yesterday’s list was provided by the fine folks at Count Me Out, and tomorrow’s can be found at Orange Alert.

This decade (also known as the ’00s and/or the Aughts in some circles) has brought about, in the eyes, mind, and ears of some people, a veritable revolution in how people learn about, listen to, and create music. Granted, since October brought to the blogosphere the extensive set of lists from Pitchfork, some would say that anyone’s lists that followed those would be either full of copycat selections or redundant. Whatever – I started working on this list back in June.

Whatever the case may be, here is the list of my favorite records from the past 10 years. Yes, you might have seen some of these records in other places, but that’s what makes them the best and most memorable from this decade. Many of these albums helped define, propagate, and develop the music blogosphere (and were helped by it), but just because a record might seem to be over-hyped in some quarters, that doesn’t and shouldn’t diminish its power and high quality.

As is my modus operandi, this list is presented to you in alphabetical order (last name of a solo artist first!), mostly because I don’t have it in me to declare anything as the (insert any number of superfluous, hyperbolic adjectives here) best, standing tall above everything else. Also, please note that I’ve only included one record from any given artist/group – I might want to throw in multiple projects from Radiohead, Animal Collective, and/or TV On The Radio, but I decided to limit myself to one.

In general, I’d rather celebrate and enjoy all of these records for what they are – great records (i.e. my favorite) from a rather solid all-around decade.

Lily Allen – Alright, Still – This is a brilliant collection of catchy, snarky pop jams, complete with all sorts of club-ready, reggae/dub-influenced sounds.

Animal Collective – Feels – Forget everything else: here is where Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and friends finally saw their tripped-out brand of music coalesce into the arty, fuzzy brand of indie-fied pop we all love/hate these days.

Arcade Fire – Funeral – This record might serve to define the actual sound of the ’00s. There may have been better records (nah – not really), but Win and Regine created a modern masterpiece here.

Beach House – Devotion – What we have here is a gloriously fuzzy dream-pop for all of your late nights spent inside with your significant other (or just a bottle of great liquor as you bemoan how alone you feel).

The Life Pursuit
Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit – Simply put, Stuart Murdoch’s finest effort. EVER.

Bloc Party – Silent Alarm – This is another record that will stand as a testament to the sounds of this decade, despite how blatantly derivative it seems at times.

Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning – Conor Oberst grew up on this record, leaving us with the most cogent batch of songs in his pantheon.

Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People – To hear these tracks performed live takes the emotion and artistry of this album to a complete new level.

Burial – Untrue – Despite the fact that this record is a complete gloom-fest meant for darkened clubs on rainy, cloudy nights, I still can’t get enough of it.

Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood – With this effort, Ms. Case solidified her position as the true torch singer (complete with twinges of naughty mischief) of our generation.

Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around – The last truly excellent record from a true American musical icon.

Cat Power – You Are Free – Ms. Marshall came into her own here, as she learned to sing a bit more clearly and lead us willingly deeper into her sordid, heart-wrenching stories.

Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury – One of the most furious, angry, and swagger-filled rap albums I consistently enjoy. I can’t stop myself from smiling each time I start singing along to this duo’s tales of woe, cocaine, and diamonds.

Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours – Classic, killer dance music for people who like pop songs.

Daft Punk – Discovery – For all of those people who hate dance music and/or blame Moby for “killing techno” with Play and 18 (which he didn’t, by the way), Daft Punk has consistently created outstanding, rocking songs full of huge hooks, memorable tag lines, and floor-filling beats.

Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca – Avant-pop for a new generation, complete with stunning female vocals and quirky, technical guitar riffs.

Dream Theater – Systematic Chaos – I include this record at the behest of my prog-rock loving brothers, as they feel that this record best represents the true depth of talent and imagination by this most revered of bands.

Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes – Over-hyped? Hardly. I’ll take everything I can from this group of crooning, harmonizing, bearded folkies.

Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound – Who really cares about Green Day anyway? This is probably the best punk record of the decade, especially when you factor in the heavy Springsteen influences.

Boys And Girls In America
The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls In America Speaking of Springsteen, Craig Finn will always capture my heart with his woebegone tales of young love gone awry in the Twin Cities.

Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights – Yet another classic “This is the ’00s” record, complete with pummeling bass lines and true staying power.

Jay-Z – The Blueprint – No matter the genre, this gentleman is the reigning Kingpin of Popular Music, and he displays his power and majesty on this record with unrelenting passion.

Joy Electric – The White Songbook – One of my personal favorites (and one you probably won’t find on another list), this unrelenting minor genius produced his finest effort here, and it’s a purely analog magnum opus.

Justice – Cross Symbol Thingy – Blasted in some quarters for being a Daft Punk ripoff, these two gentlemen have been consistently upfront with their influences in creating this record, which is simply the slamming hyperactive little brother to Discovery.

The Knife – Silent Shout – This might be the darkest, creepiest, arty electro record you’ve ever spun at a party, as it combines the weird artistry of Bjork with the macabre sensibilities of Nordic metal.

Sound Of Silver
LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver – Honestly, this is most likely my favorite album of the decade, as it fuses together all that I love about pop music, dance hooks, and coming-of-age lyrics.

Lil Wayne – Tha Carter II – Love ’em or hate ’em, Weezy is one of the hardest working guys in music today, bringing together irrepressible attitude, stunning bouts of confidence, a penchant for hilarity, and a shit-ton of sizzurp.

Maylene and the Sons of Disaster – II – This is yet another personal choice that you probably won’t find anywhere else in the blogosphere. True, this record might not match the artistry nor the critical acclaim of many of my other choices, but it remains one of my favorites, mostly because Dallas Taylor is tops in the game of mixing vintage metal with Southern rock balladry.

M. I. A. – Kala – Hands down, this brash, powerful woman is creating the most brilliant political hip-hop since the heyday of Public Enemy.

Crack The Skye
Mastodon – Crack The Skye – With all apologies to the heaps of always exemplary Scandinavian metal bands out there, this is the BEST metal record of the decade. Prog sensibilities matched with outrageous metal fury laced over insane lyrics about a drug-addled Rasputin.

You Are The Quarry
Morrissey – You Are The Quarry – The Minister of Mope returned with a vengeance on this album, penning his most cutting, incisive lyrics since The Queen Is Dead, and proving he has yet to lose a step.

The Mountain Goats – Sunset Tree – John Darnielle has never been so agonizing and autobiographically transparent as he is here, on the most accessible project in his diverse, far-reaching catalog.

My Morning Jacket – Z – Say what you will about Jim James’ love for reverb in his vocals, but this band represents, to me, the true direction of the new-school jam-band aesthetic.

Joanna Newsom – Ys – A critical favorite to be sure (especially with her trademark vocals), but I remain totally enamored with this Van Dyke Parks curated, seemingly Shakespeare-influenced song cycle. My kingdom for a harp player!

of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? – Yes, Kevin Barnes may have progressed from making catchy, jangling indie-pop to becoming the David Bowie of this generation, but there’s no escaping the gut-wrenching agony expressed over the whole of this album.

OutKast – Stankonia – Along with UGK, these two gentlemen defined Third Coast, Dirty South hip-hop. There is no “Roses” or “Hey Ya” without this amazing record.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – A sure to be quibbled over late inclusion, but the unabashed pop music created by these four Brooklyn kids has won over my heart like nothing else in recent memory.

Panda Bear – Person Pitch – Intelligent, engaging, whacked-out electro-pop goodness. Honestly, you either get it or you don’t (and that’s OK).

Pedro The Lion – Control – What we have here is David Bazan creating a top-notch batch of weary, worn-out tales of heartbreak, woe, and despair, one that trumps everything else he’s done before or since.

Kid A

Radiohead – Kid A – Yeah, yeah, yeah – you’ve seen this record a LOT on lists such as this one, but there’s a reason for it. Not only is this the finest guitar-less rock record in recent memory, but the tones, textures, and sounds projected by Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Pals have never sounded so aware, so tortured, and so strident. There is a powerful urgency at work on this record, and it remains as immediate and “now” nearly a decade later.

Leave Here A Stranger
Starflyer 59 – Leave Here A Stranger – Before people in Williamsburg and other hipster enclaves decided to base the entirety of their sound upon Pet Sounds, Jason Martin crafted this (completely in mono!) stirring homage to The Beach Boys classic, encapsulating the grief, love-lorn longing, and heartfelt emotion of the original with his own ’80s indie rock stylings.

Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – Another record you’ve probably seen everywhere, but this premier submission to my “This is the ’00s” list is rife with gripping storytelling, powerful arrangements, and a whimsical style that many since then have attempted to emulate, but with little success. Stevens is at his best here, and it seems that he realizes it, as he’s struggled to create anything since then.

Justin Timberlake – Futuresex Lovesounds – If you would have told me ten years ago that this list of mine would include a record from the leader of a boy band, I would have probably said some very mean and hateful things. Nevertheless, I’m eating some personal crow here, as the first six songs of this record are some of the best R&B tracks put to tape in this decade.

Thursday – Full Collapse – It would be remiss of me to not mention this album, because it helped to launch a complete genre right into the mainstream. Say what you will about Geoff Rickley’s often histrionic vocals (much less the rise and now steady presence of Hot Topic/Vans Warped Tour kids as a key marketing sub-demographic), but Thursday definitely served as one of the first breakout voices for this generation’s brand of emotional rock music.

Return To Cookie Mountain
TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain – Heady art-rock found its modern masterpiece with this album, as jazz, funk, soul, and rock were fused together to create some high-end grooves that are thick, dense, and so very lush.

Underground Kingz – UGK – R.I.P. Pimp C!

Underoath – The Changing Of Times – In a decade that could alternately be defined as by the rise of third-wave emo (in all of its associated -core forms), few bands stood out like the men of Underoath. Yet, while many of my associates might laud They’re Only Chasing Safety, my money will always rest on the powerful voice of Dallas Taylor (despite how acrimoniously he left the group).

Kanye West – College Dropout – At this point in the decade, thanks to the MTV VMAs debacle with Taylor Swift, most people hate this guy. So what?!? I dig the guy’s tunes, and he’s an even better producer than rapper.

White Stripes – White Blood Cells – Jack White is a musical force that seemingly canNOT be stopped and he pulled out every possible trick in his dirty South-meets-Detroit punk bag of tricks with this outstanding record. This man can just about do no wrong in my book.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Last but not least, we have the poster child for the State Of Music Culture in the ’00s. This band’s story of how this now-iconic album was first rejected and then released has passed on into popular lore as a testament to the power of music and your base of fans. That being said, this record stills aches, creaks, and groans with a sense of heady expectation in the face of a rapidly growing (yet simultaneously breaking) world. Tweedy has never sounded better here and much of that is due to Jay Bennett’s steady production hand (even though he was tossed unceremoniously from the group during recording). This is a rock/country/folk tour de force like none other.

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