Friday, October 2, 2009

20 Best Albums of the Decade (According to Me)

None of this is definitive. Every single one of these "top"lists are purely opinions. That's the beauty of it, you can read these kinds of things and argue them or praise them. It all adds to the overall conversation of music. These twenty albums might not align with the industry "experts" but I think they are important in their own right. So here we go...

1) Radiohead - Kid A

There is absolutely no questioning the legitimacy of Radiohead. Each one of their albums has pushed the envelope of experimental alternative rock in some kind of way. Before Kid A was dropped in 2000, the band had been riding high on success of The Bends and OK Computer. Many critics thought that with OK Computer the band had reached their pinnacle. This gave Radiohead no room to breathe. There was no way they could continue delivering the same big guitar sound of "Paranoid Android" without coming off as repetitive. So rather than succumbing to it, they completely stripped their sound, dropped their guitars and picked up synths. This gave birth to Kid A an absolute achievement in re-invention and experimentation. Without this album, Radiohead might have hit their peak earlier in their career and gone by the wayside. However, with this album they clearly show that they are a band, like so few bands before them, who are able to drastically change their sound for the sake of keeping their art invigorating.

2) The White Stripes - White Blood Cells


Well, you saw it coming didn't you? I mean after all this blog is named after a lyric from this album. Down the line, there will probably be arguments that their next album Elephant has the upper-edge on this one but I pick White Blood Cells on the sheer diversity of material on this album. It's hard to imagine that just two people are able to create so much with such minimalist settings. This was the album that drove The White Stripes to prominence and it only took Elephant to take them to superstardom. The music video for "Fell In Love With A Girl" deserves an entire blog by itself, and it just may be the last great film in the dying art of the music video.

3) Daft Punk - Discovery 

I am one of those types who generally has a dislike for techno, but loves Daft Punk. Daft Punk became the standard in their genre, and their album Discovery has become a regularly mixed album at raves. From start to finish this album will have your body moving in some kind of way. Recently, the rave culture has flourished, and has almost become akin to that of Disco. If that is true, then Daft Punk is The Bee Gee's of their generation. Even though there is so much more to Daft Punk, their mysterious identities behind their robot helmets, their strange avant-garde silent films, and their life changing (to say the least) live shows, what keeps them anchored is they know how to make amazing music to dance to. And Discovery is their masterpiece.

4) Arcade Fire - Funeral

Arcade Fire are still a fairly young band, but they are going to have a hard time living up to the greatness of their debut Funeral. The odd thing about Arcade Fire is that individually there is nothing great about their music. However, when all of the elements come together it creates something magical, tremendous soul-drenched landscapes. "Wake Up" alone is proof of this.

5) Sigur Ros - Ágætis byrjun 

A religious experience. Words cannot describe how other-worldly beautiful this album is. These Icelandic boys know how to make grown men cry. 

6) Animal Collective - Sung Tongs 

And who said good experimental music is dead? You might recognize Animal Collective from this year's smash hit album Merriweather Post Pavillion. Yet, Sung Tongs is where it all started. The thing about Animal Collective is their strange experimentation often leads to some god-awful songs. This album was their transition from their grating songs that one couldn't bear listening to into some spectacular psychedelic-pop gems. Songs like "Leaf House" "Who Could Win A Rabbit?" and "We Tigers" are all templates for the Animal Collective that they would later become. What I find amazing about this group is that they are still fairly new, yet have influenced numerous other artists that are on the rise as well. That is the true mark of a brilliant band.

7) Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

CBS News recently did a piece on Wilco, stating them as "The biggest band that nobody's ever heard of." Sadly, in this day in age is true. I can't believe there are some people out there who don't know who Wilco are. Wilco, the All-American great folk/rock/country band delivers their masterpiece here. Personally, I am partial to Sky Blue Sky but I will acknowledge the genius behind this album. I mean after all not too many records get a documentary name after them. 

8) Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise 

If you haven't heard "Chicago" then you have been living under a rock. Sufjan Stevens, the man determined to record an album dedicated to every state before he dies delivers his opus about Illinois. This album is seamless chamber-pop is unique and enjoyable from start to finish. And hey according to some study he'll even make your kids smarter. 

9) LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver

God I love LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy makes some of the best music to work out and to drive to. Just blast this album when you're driving late at night with the windows rolled down. I guarantee you will enjoy that drive. What makes LCD Soundsystem great is their ability to produce their pseudo-techno disco-punk with using mainly conventional instruments and a minimal amount of synths. James Murphy and his tight-as-fuck drummer Pat Mahoney lead the way as they blow the competition out of the water. "All My Friends" is one of the best songs of the decade, or any decade. 

 10) Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

Seriously, where the hell did Bon Iver come from? In 2007, no one ever heard of Justin Vernon. Then this guy breaks up with his band that no one's ever heard of, then he retreats into the woods like Henry Thoreau, and comes back with an album that he recorded that he didn't want anyone to hear, then someone sends it to a label for him and suddenly he's one of the best folk artists around! It's because this album is one of the most honest records of the decade. "The Wolves (Acts I & II)" especially show how hauntingly beautiful this dude's music is. 

11) Beirut - The Gulag Orkestrar

Who would have thought that in this decade brass gypsy music would rise to prominence. Especially who would have expected the best of this euro-centric genre to come from a kid in New Mexico. Zach Condon was a senior in high school when he recorded this by himself in his basement. What resulted was The Gulag Orkestrar a lush album that makes you feel like you're riding along in the rural part of France. 

12) DJ Danger Mouse - The Grey Album

The Grey Album is the mecca of all mashups. Taking The Beatles White Album and playing a cappella tracks of Jay-Z's Black Album the two seamlessly mold together creating this completely original sounding work of art. For the longest time this has been the most downloaded album in internet history, it has spurred much controversy surrounding the illegal downloading debate and subsequent lawsuits from both The Beatles and Jay-Z. Since then DJ Danger Mouse has gone on to be a mega-producer for such bands as Beck and The Black Keys, he has also formed his own band Gnarls Barkley which created the hit song "Crazy."

13) Panda Bear - Person Pitch

It's not often that an artist's solo work outshines his main band's work but in Panda Bear's case it does. Panda Bear, a member of Animal Collective, released Person Pitch the same year Animal Collective dropped Strawberry Jam. What is unique to Person Pitch is it shows what elements Panda Bear brings to Animal Collective. Here he takes his Beach Boys-esque harmony and drenches it with lo-fi acoustic psych-pop.

14) M.I.A. - Kala

Sure, M.I.A. owes a lot to Pineapple Express's choice to use "Paper Planes" as the main song of that movie, but a lot of her popularity is accredited that she is damn good at what she does. Her songs are filled with angst and protest, her fashion statement is bold, and her unconventional mix of percussion creates a driving force behind her music that makes it incredibly good to dance to.

15) Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark

Drive-By Truckers are the best thing that's happened to southern rock in a long time, maybe since Skynyrd. Their 2008 release is their most textured and strongest to date. Their music varies between the pretty folk of "Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife" to the rip-roaring "The Man I Shot." The differences between singer/writers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley's styles of music only add to the landscape of the dirty south. Drive-By Truckers sound like what would have happened if Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd put their differences aside, formed a band and rocked the hell out.

 16) Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Yo La Tengo is the most steady bands of the decade. Every one of their albums has been an achievement in some way or the other, and has earned mass critical acclaim. Yet they still remain fairly unknown, why is that? It's because they are constantly exploring and experimenting with their sound and don't settle for anything. They are just as pleased with letting the fans come to them rather than creating radio-friendly music. I could have put any Yo La Tengo album from this decade on this list, but I chose this one because it's my personal favorite. From the get-go, this album
    roars to life with the ten minute epic prog-rock jam of "Pass The Hatchet, I think I'm Goodkind."              compare that to "Mr. Tough" one of the most upbeat pop songs I have ever heard. If the comparison of these two songs doesn't show this band's range I don't know what will.

17) Blitzen Trapper - Furr

I have never been to Portland Oregon, but I feel like I have after listening to this album. Blitzen Trapper encapsulates the ramble-tamble rock of the west coast. Eric Earley's lyrics paint some of the most vivid imagery of the past decade. Songs like "Furr" and "Black River Killer" are great achievements in song-writing.

18) Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Pitch perfect harmony, and great song-writing are what make this Seattle folk group stand out. Did I mention these guys are great harmonizers?

19) Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest 

If Fleet Foxes have the best harmonies of the decade, Grizzly Bear comes in at a damn close second. Ed Droste is an amazing singer. I had the opportunity of seeing them perform with Wilco this past summer, when he sang the track "Foreground" off of this album, I have never seen a singer been able to completely silence a room with the power of their voice the way Droste did that night. These guys have been having a huge year so far. They have managed to gain respect from some music industry giants like Coldplay and Jay-Z. Hell, after seeing Grizzly Bear Jay-Z released a statement claiming how Indie Rock is going to contest Hip-Hop (click to read). Grizzly Bear have even been fortunate enough to have ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald to cover one of their songs. Why is all of this happening? Because Veckatimest is a damn fine record that's why.

20) Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow

In the New Weird America Freak-Folk movement, this album must have seemed like Dylan going electric. Up to this point Banhart had been steadily releasing acoustic only minimalist records. This record is a departure from the comforts of folk music into the wide realm of rock and roll, samba and everything in between. This album is full of experimentation and serves as a bridge into what Devendra Banhart has become today.

Well, there you have it! My top 20 albums of the past decade. Before finishing this I managed to take a peek at Pitchfork's list and surprisingly my list matches up pretty well with theirs. Hmm, maybe I should apply for a job.


  1. Yankee Hotel Foxtroxt!!!! Clearly the best on this list!!!

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