Friday, December 18, 2009

Top 25 Albums of the Decade

This post took some planning and a whole lot of thought...but here's my tops/favorites for the entire decade in music. (I tried not to duplicate some artists, but it just couldn't be helped.)

25. Beck - Sea Change
In which we got a closer look at the weirdo hipster in the throes of heartbreak. This album is Beck at his most introspective and the most Dylan-esque outing of his career. At first it was strange to hear this quirky funk man sound so depressed but somehow, it worked.

24. Harvey Danger - King James Version
Recorded and then pretty much shelved by their record label, HD's second outing evolved their sound from distorted musing on the world to an all out blast of Indie badassery. Heartfelt songs like "Pike St./Park Slope" made you feel like you were actually at that intersection while "Loyalty Bldg." made you fear nuns all over again. An overlooked gem of an album that more people should have heard.

23. David Bowie - Heathen
The Thin White Duke's great comeback. Working with producer Tony Visconti for the first time in 22 years, Bowie made his strongest album in that span of time. From the haunting opener of "Sunday" to a great cover of the Pixies' "Cactus" this album had a little something for almost every kind of Bowie fan. He would only release one more album this decade, the only slightly less great "Reality," but if rumors are true, we should be hearing from him again very soon.

22. Dangermouse, Jay-Z & The Beatles - The Grey Album
Even though this jump-started that horrible "mash-up" fad of the mid-2000's, it's still the peak of it's genre. Not only is it better than the actual Black Album by Jay-Z, it introduced The Beatles to a new generation of listeners that probably never would've given them a second thought. Also, if this album doesn't prove that Ringo should guest-drum on a rap song from time to time, I don't know what does.

21. Radiohead - Amnesiac
Sure when this was first released it was laughed at by some as simply being "Kid B", seeing as how it's essentially leftovers from the Kid A sessions. Such jokes are not to be made however, this is one of this British band's stronger outings (it almost made you forget that Pablo Honey ever existed...almost). From the pulsating beat of "Packt Like Sardines..." to the creepy instrumental "Hunting Bears" this album was everything that Kid A was and more. Plus, any album that includes "Knives Out" is worthy of any Top Albums list.

20. Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
A fine return to his Beatles-Era form, this had everything that makes McCartney one of the best songwriters of all time. From interesting pop, "Dance Tonight" to strange character pieces like "Mr. Bellamy" to the closing medley this album more than any other in his catalog brought back fond memories of The Beatles.

19. Kelly Clarkson - My December
Was it a huge seller like her previous albums? No. Does that even matter? Of course not. This is the OG American Idol's strongest moment. She wrote/co-wrote all of this albums songs and it shows that if she's ever allowed to do that again, she'll have one of the strongest female catalogs in recent times. From F-U's to her ex's to songs written on a bar napkin, this is one of the most personal albums released by a major star in the 00's that I can recall.

18. Weezer - Weezer
The Revenge of the Nerds!!! But seriously folks, this is one of the catchiest albums of the last 10 years. It's no Blue Album or Pinkerton to be sure, but it's most definitly a great addition to Rivers' legacy as a great songwriter. Sadly, they would only release one more truly great album this decade. There's always the future...right?

17. The Hives - The Black and White Album
After being disappointed with Tyrannosaurus Hives, I had written this band off as just a bunch of crazy-ass Swedes...damn, was I wrong. Even though "Tick Tick Boom" got overplayed the rest of this album reveals new sounds on each consecutive listen. Pelle still sounds like a young Mick Jagger (in a good way) and the band, working with multiple producers get to cross genre-lines like never before. Their best album...and one they're going to have trouble improving upon.

16. The White Stripes - Redd Blood Cells
That's right, Redd Blood Cells not White Blood Cells. Redd Kross bassist Steven McDonald added bass-lines and backing vocals to this classic White Stripes album and made a classic in the process. This used to be readily available on his website but has since been relegated to torrents and blogs. It's a fantastic idea and it only added to this albums rawness.

15. Brian Wilson - SMiLEHe finally finished it...and it only took 37 years! One of the most beautiful pop-rock records of the 00's, Smile is Brian Wilson's crowning achievement...filled with pretty harmonies and off the wall instrumentation this album was a Beach Boys fan's dream come true. "Good Vibrations" has never sounded so full of life and "Cabin Essence" has never sounded so defining.

14. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely
The Led Zeppelin reunion album that never was. From scorching guitar solos to a rhythm section that could melt your soul and the vocals to match, this album has everything a fan of true rock music looks for. From the punk-like "Salute Your Solution" to the heart-wrenching "Many Shades of Black," the Raconteurs second release is a feast for the ears and then some.

13. Modest Mouse - Good News for People Who Love Bad News
This is the album that proved that an Indie band could not just make it big...but make it huge. From the lasting and brilliant first single "Float On" to the lyrically hateful yet likeable "Satin in a Coffin," this, their follow up to the immaculate 'The Moon and Antarctica' left listeners wanting more. It's Issac Brock's peak of his own brand of oddly commercial songwriting and one can only hope he continues to make music as great as this.

12. Pearl Jam - Backspacer
When I first played this for some friends (who are Pearl Jam fans btw) a lot of them didn't believe it was them. As I've said before, this is their strongest outing since 1998's 'Yield' as well as their first album with Brenden O'Brien since then. This album opens with some of the best songs of their long careers. "The Fixer" is like MadLibs after a crazy brainstorming sessions. Apparently this is the first time they wrote songs before hitting the studio...perhaps they should stick to that formula in the future.

11. Kings Of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak
Oh Kings of Leon...where have you been my whole life? When they released their first album they were wrongly labled as the "Southern-Fried Strokes"...people could not have been more wrong about them. Even though they've hit the stratosphere with their most recent album 'Only By The Night,' they've never sounded more enthusiastic and vital then they do on this, their second studio album. From the roaring opener "Slow Night, So Long" and it's left-field coda to the incredibly danceable "Four Kicks," this is the essential album in their discography.

10. Black Francis - Bluefinger
I have a strong feeling that this was supposed to be the new Pixies album we've been waiting for since 1991. It's not hard to believe since this is some of Frank Black's strongest writing since the Pixies last outing, 'Trompe le Monde'. From the face melting "Threshold Apprehension" to his cover of "You Can't Break a Heart and Have It," this is such a brilliant album it's almost ridiculous.

9. U2 - No Line on the Horizon
I consider this a better album than both 'All That You Can't Leave Behind' and "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb' combined. Bono sounds revitalized here and The Edge comes up with some of his coolest guitar parts in a long, long time. Truly great songs like "Unknown Caller" and the half spoken "Cedars of Lebanon" share space with one of their most beautiful in the form of "Moment of Surrender." If this is a preview of what this band is going to be putting out in the future, I'm really eager to hear more.

8. Vampire Weekend - Self-Titled Debut
I almost didn't put this album so high on the list...but I would've been wrong not to do so. This album is an excellent example of everything that's so right about Indie music nowadays. From truly catchy hooks to a singer that sounds like he may or may not be going insane, this album is simply a perfect example of the genre. I'm guessing these guys listened to a lot of Paul Simon growing up (which is nothing to be ashamed of). The opener "Mansford Roof" preps you for whats going to come and they don't let up throughout this albums enthralling 35 minutes. I have no idea what "Blake's Got a New Face" is about, but I don't care...when a chorus is that great it rarely matters.

7. Beck - Guero
Beck and The Dust Brothers recapture their 'Odelay' greatness on this, one of Beck's catchiest albums. When this first came out it was the soundtrack to my summer and rightfully so. "Talkin' trash to the garbage around you" a lyric from the excellent "E-Pro" ranks with "Get Crazy with the Cheese Whiz" as one of Mr. Hansen's best quips in a career filled with awesome witticisms. Try to not get the urge to dance while listening to this album...you'll find it quite difficult.

6. The Strokes - Is This It
This is one of the albums that helped to save rock music from the downward spiral it was going through at the time. It's also one of the best and grimiest rock albums of the past 20 years, with nicely distorted guitars and fuzzy vocals you can't help but love. The opening drum beat of "Is This It" let you know what you were in for...a great album to put on at a party and just enjoy. They've yet to top it, which is saddening, but if they can ever come within a 100 feet of 'Is This It's' greatness once more, music will be all the better for it.

5. The White Stripes - Get Behind Me Satan
The David Lynch movie of The White Stripes career, the WTF moment where he went from urban bluesman to eccentric Tom Waitsian weirdo. This album was a complete 180 degree turn from their previous album, the hard hitting 'Elephant,' but in all the right ways. We got to hear Jack White explore new avenues and instruments for his songwriting, from the seventies disco rock of "Blue Orchid" to the almost vaudevillian "My Doorbell," this was The White Stripes at their most experimental. It was also the last great album to be put out by the Stripes in this decade.

4. Modest Mouse - The Moon & Antarctica
Issac Brock has never written a song more beautiful and haunting than "Gravity Rides Everything," the second track on this epic album. If you call yourself a fan of Modest Mouse and you can't get into this album, I'd suggest you see a mental health professional. This was the first Modest Mouse album I ever owned and it's still my favorite, from the songwriting to the production it's simply immaculate. It doesn't contain one bad song...it's just an hour long flow of true perfection.

3. Radiohead - Kid A
What a surprise...right? Honestly, I wasn't going to put this in the Top 3, but after giving it another listen I've decided that everyone is right...it deserves legendary status. This is the album that got me into electronic music and made me realize that a band could use more than guitars, bass and drums and be taken seriously. Thom Yorke sang, "Everything in it's Right Place," but at first listen nothing on this album was...at all. From bleeps and bloops to processed vocals, this CD has been copied to death in the years since it's release, but it just reminds you of how great it really is. Yet again, there isn't one bad song on this album...not a single one. This is a record we'll be telling our grandkids about, and rightfully so.

2. Harvey Danger - Little By Little...
"Farewell to the days...of having it both ways," so ends one of my favorite albums of time. This album flew under the radar of just about everyone on Earth...and shame on them. Sean Nelson provides some of his most beautiful lyrics and best singing to this band's final album. Initially released for free on their website (2 full years before Radiohead did that, thank you very much), this album quickly became a classic in my book. From the immaculate "War Buddies" to the haunting album closer "Diminishing Returns," this album has substance and wit to match Oscar Wilde.

1. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The best concept album of the last 30 years? IMO yes. This album was a commercial breakthrough for the Oklahoma based Lips, and it's not hard to see why. Propelled by a seriously bouncy rhythm section and soulful vocals by Wayne Coyne, this record starts on a high point and never lets up. The title track is the best song ever written about a girl who fights giant pink robots and "Do You Realize??" is quite simply one of the most beautiful songs ever composed. I doubt the Lips will ever top level of accessibility and weirdness they reached on this album, but we can always hope.


So there you have it...my list of the Top 25 albums of the decade. I'm sure some of the choices aren't popular...but whatever. Write your own lists/albums/etc in the comments section.


6 comments:

NYstateofmindAD said...

Pretty good list, I think. Agree with you on Kid A, Get Behind Me Satan is definitely hot, and of course the Grey Album is CRAZY. If I had to pick ONE of Beck records, I would have picked Guero. Otherwise, it's definitely a rock list and there have been some tremendous releases in other genres... but I feel your vibe and it's cool!

William said...

Nice list dude. I would drive myself crazy picking my favorite albums from the past 10 years. All the ones that I have heard, I have to say I agree with, and I love them. All the ones I haven't heard I will have to check out, because I trust your opinion.

Ícaro FG said...

Hey Buddy, you have such a great list - I mostly agree with everything in the list.. the white stripes, the hives, paul mccartney, davie bowie are really good stuff i say.

Jesse Perez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jesse Perez said...

For Paul McCartney, I personally would have chosen Chaos & Creation in the Backyard (2005) instead of Memory Almost Full (2007). Brainwashed (2002) by George Harrison is another solo album by a Beatle that was released this decade and I would recommend giving it a listen.

Griffe said...

"I have a strong feeling that (Bluefinger) was supposed to be the new Pixies album we've been waiting for since 1991." Agree, agree, agree ! What a masterpiece !