Month of List(s): Top 50 Albums of the Decade

16 Dec

I am honestly terrified by the realization that the decade of my youth is over. I know that sounds melodramatic, but in a way it’s true. I started this decade at 15, wide-eyed and ignorant, still sort of locked into childhood while being on the cusp of growing into being a man, just awkward and lost. Eventually, as the minutes, hours, days, months and years passed, I found myself facing new obstacles, new feelings, new loss and new realizations. It shaped me into who I am and who I will be. Yet I can’t help but lament that those first pure moments of youth are gone, just one more faded memory to be occasionally thought of when recollecting my time back then.

The funny thing about recollection is, if you’re being truly honest with yourself, you realize you don’t recollect that much. It’s true. It’s almost impossible to actually be able to sit down and clearly pick out exact moments from our lives, and have all the details in line, because the mind simply doesn’t have the ablity to do it. So we leave ourselves “bookmarks” to help us bring back those memories, whether it a be a book, a movie, a song or even an album we were obsessed with for an extended period. Hell, a cottage industry has popped up on the internet of people obsessively compiling lists of what’s important/lasting/relevent, serving as bookmarks for themselves and others.

So with these thoughts in mind I sat down and wrote out the 25 albums that in my mind had the most impact on the decade. Unfortunately the list kept growing until I ended up hitting 50, and I had to stop due to the fact that there’s no way I could write about every album the way it deserves to be written about.

50. Mystikal Tarantula (2001)
49. The Unicorns Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (2003)
48. Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere (2006)
47. Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
46. Radiohead Kid A (2000)
45. The Shins Oh, Inverted World (2001)
44. Sleater-Kinney The Woods (2005)
43. Man Man Six Demon Bag (2006)
42. The Postal Service Give Up (2003)
41. Madvillain Madvillainy (2004)

40. Yo La Tengo And Then Nothing turned Itself Inside Out (2000)
39. Menomena Friend and Foe (2007)
38. Desaparecidos Read Music/Speak Spanish (2002)
37. The Walkmen Bows + Arrows (2004)
36. Frightened Rabbit The Midnight Organ Fight (2008)
35. Lil Wayne Tha Carter III (2008)
34. Girls Album (2009)
33. Ghostface Killer Supreme Clientele (2001)
32. Grizzly Bear Yellow House (2006)
31. Midlake The Trials of Van Occupanther (2006)

30. St. Vincent Actor (2009)
29. The National Alligator (2005)
28. Mclusky Do Dallas (2002)
27. Animal Collective Merryweather Post Pavilion (2009)
26. Ryan Adams Heartbreaker (2000)

25. Broken Social Scene Broken Social Scene (2005)

While many point to the band’s Feel Good Lost as the point when BSS truly came together, I’m willing to argue that the more ambitious self-titled album feels fuller and more complete. And very few songs are as electric as “Ibi Dreams of Pavement”.

Broken Social Scene- Ibi Dreams of Pavement

24. The Hold Steady Almost Killed Me (2004)

Picking up the scraps from Lifter Puller and fresh from a move to Brooklyn, Craig Finn and Tab Kubler, put together a band that took the best parts of whiskey-soaked rock’n’roll and the eclectic freedom of indie rock to form a band that would not only grab new fans, but lead older ones down a road of triumph. Much snarkier than the albums that followed, Almost Killed Me serves as a snapshot of a band just starting to figure it out before gathering themselves and making a run at greatness.

The Hold Steady- Killer Parties

23. Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever To Tell (2003)

I remember thinking very distinctly “fuck this art kid bullshit” when first hearing the album in 2003, not realizing that my own trajectory would have me falling further into the world these kids were trying desperately to convey to their audience–one filled with shouts, screams and jagged guitar buffered by a beautiful voice.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Maps

22. Fleet Foxes Fleet Foxes (2008)

Even the most strident anti-folkster had to admit the beautiful harmonizations presented by this album were something that simply couldn’t be ignored over the last year. Fueled by fluid soundscapes that are buoyed by guitar arcs so daunting that I still haven’t figured out how they’re pulling it off live, the songs on this album never wear out their welcome, and so far have shown themselves to be lasting.

Fleet Foxes- White Winter Hymnal

21. The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002)

The Flaming Lips traversed the landscape from being an underground critical darling in the 80’s, to being soundtrack fodder in the early 90’s, to experimenting with their sound in the late 90’s. But there’s still nothing they could have done to top the album that led to their late-period resurgence. Mining the best traits of their previous albums, The Lips were able to come up with an album so wonderfully eclectic and beautiful that it managed to have its solemn, mortality-wrestling ballad become the official song for one of the country’s most conservative states.

The Flaming Lips- Do You Realize?


20. Interpol Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

To be in your 20’s in New York in the early part of the century was to be filled with loss, ennui and a want to feel something. Some turned to drugs, some to music, some to sex. The guys from Interpol turned to all the above. Weaving vices in and out of their songs that sounded deep, but came off as hollow at times, Interpol managed to capture the distastefulness of youth, and to remain sort of likable while doing it.

Interpol- Obstacle 1

19. The Exploding Hearts Guitar Romantic (2003)

The great “What if?” of the decade–what if a tour van hadn’t flipped over and wiped out most of a pop-happy group of punks who wanted to do nothing more than make music as fast, and as loud as they could? I would argue that we didn’t deserve more then one album of pitch perfect day-glo punk from a band that seemed to be having the time of their lives.

The Exploding Hearts- I’m A Pretender

18. Wilco Yankee Foxtrot Hotel (2002)

Less an album, more an all-encompassing tale of growth, YFH took Wilco from merely being a band to being the band for a large section of America. Filled with sounds foreign to the band’s earlier wor, and songs about hardship, YFH connected with the listener in ways that it’s still hard to explain.

Wilco- I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

17. Sufjan Stevens Illinois(2005)

With his tall tale of epic proportions, Sufjan Stevens takes the listener through the highlights, lowlights and obscure lights of the state of Illinois, and he does so with a sense of pop dramaticism. Exciting and wondrous, it’s a journey everyone should take once.

Surfjan Stevens- Casimer Pulanski Day

16. The Killers Hot Fuss (2004)

Though now they’re routinely (and unfairly) dismissed due to time and people feeling they aped their sound instead of finding it organically, at one point The Killers were the band to breakthrough to everyone with an album front-loaded with catchy sing-along pop songs firmly rooted in nostalgia, and with an eye turned toward the evolution of a sonic fad. Vampire Weekend should take notes.

The Killers- Mr. Brightside

15. Of Montreal Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?(2007)

The best funk album of the decade to come by way of synth-laden glam rock, Hissing Fauna is testament to band leader Kevin Barnes’ quest to change. Always jumping from one area to the next, yet firmly locked on towards reaching a singular goal (to get your ass up and dancing), Of Montreal’s best album is absolutely captivating.

Of Montreal- Cato As A Pun

14. Beach House Beach House (2006)

The first word that runs through your mind when listening to this album is “dream”, this comes to you because, the retro fuzz & drone of the music leads you to feel as if you’re currently sitting up from a nap, and your world is still in that hazy realm of not quite alert, and not quite sated.

Beach House- Apple Orchard

13. Spoon Kill The Moonlight(2003)

The follow up to Girls Can Tell, and the album that perfectly encapsulates what Spoon is (catchy pop songs, fully realized through tireless studio work), can be summed up pretty easily: Cool.

Spoon- Small Stakes

12. MIA Kala (2008)

The hipster dance record of note during the summer of ’07 couldn’t so much as be mentioned in “regular” circles until it was perfectly used in a trailer for a movie that gained more detractors than fans. Yet somehow it suffered little to no backlash. Why? Because it’s fun. And who doesn’t like fun, even when it’s co-opted by people you have little patience for?

MIA- Paper Planes

11. Elliot Smith Figure 8 (2000)

The fact that Elliott Smith, a man suffering a considerable amount of turmoil and personal setbacks, was able to refine his songwriting to the extent that he did is impressive. But being able to make it timeless and accessible? That’s the stuff of legends.

Elliott Smith- Son of Sam

10. LCD Soundsystem Sound Of Silver (2007)

Is it dance? Is it new wave? Is it art rock? I have no idea. I only know that James Murphy crafted an album so listenable that I’ve yet to not finish the whole thing once I start it. Bombastic and infinitely layered, it’s an album one cannot get tired of.

LCD Soundsystem- Someone Great

9. Cat Power The Greatest (2007)

Overlooked for its brilliance, Chan Marshall’s most ambitious work is a Southern-style trip to the past. Sounding like a barroom version of the big band era, Marshall often comes off as a modern day Pilaf. Bouncing from songs of heartbreak and remorse to songs covering even more heartbreak and remorse, The Greatest stands as a example of what a talented artist can accomplish despite herself.

Cat Power- Lived in Bars

8. D’Angelo Voodoo (2000)

The soul record of this decade, and hell the last decade as well, is a testament to what a voice can do if used properly: captivate and enhance. Minimalist to a degree that was stunning, D’Angelo’s ode to the works of his forefathers remains a stunning piece of work.

D’angelo- Untitled

7. Beck Sea Change (2002)

I remember we all said, “What the hell happened to Beck?” in unison when this album hit our cd players. Coming off an album rife with sex and R & B, Beck hit the public with an album concentrated solely on heartbreak that’s stripped of his usual blips, beats and samples and built upon acoustic guitar and delicate strings. While it was confusing, it managed to be utterly touching and has served as a signal that anyone can lament when moved.

Beck- End Of The Day

6. The Strokes Is This It (2002)

This album that saved rock’n’roll, then killed it, and now it seems saved it all over again. But honestly the band that made this album seemed like they couldn’t care less at the time, and that’s what made it so cool. Detachment has never sounded as appealing as it did during those first few weeks of listening to this.

The Strokes- Is This It

5. Outkast Stankonia (2000)

For a time Outkast were the only hip hop artists that mattered. And on their last true album as a duo (unless you count the three original songs that were on the Greatest Hits record), the boys from ATL took us to places we hadn’t seen in a genre that was growing stagnant, and left their compatriots on Earth as they blasted off for the stars.

Outkast- B.O.B

4. Kanye West College Dropout (2004)

Hip hop’s one-time savior arrived with a bang, bringing honest rhymes and incendiary production that had him poised to be the people’s champion. We had been begging for an intelligent performer with an eye directed toward society for years, and now we had one. It’s unfathomable to think about him in that way now, but at the time we thought Kanye was going to change everything. And he did, just not in the way we thought he would.

Kanye West- Through The Wire

3. My Morning Jacket Z (2005)

Why would you create a spacey rock opera when all you had to do to cross over into the world of endless success was throw in some extra reverb and shred some southern-style licks every other song? We may never have an answer, and that’s what makes Z so interesting. The boys from Louisville could have rehashed forever, and maybe crossed over Kings of Leon style. Instead they went beyond left field and delivered an album as interesting as any made this decade.

My Morning Jacket- Gideon

2. White Stripes White Blood Cells (2001)

The sound of a band coming fully into its own, in this case, is loud, raucous and exciting. Jack & Meg White’s third album delivered on the promise of the first two by giving us a blues-tinged pop record that let out a growl at its competitors and sent them away with intimidation. Dirty, stripped and perfect, White Blood Cells is the album we’ve always wanted to drink whiskey and make mistakes to.

White Stripes- Fell In Love With A Girl

1. The Arcade Fire Funeral (2004)

It’s fitting that the album that sums up this decade is both a reflection on loss, and a call to arms set together by a band of misfits from two neighboring countries. Embracing emotion as much as they did their influences, The Arcade Fire was able to take the world by storm with an album that, despite its few detractors, manged to capture the hearts and minds of a youth in revolt. Further testament to the album’s lasting appeal is the endless number of bands building careers off of it, something we seem to see once a decade.

Arcade Fire- Rebellion (Lies)

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4 Responses to “Month of List(s): Top 50 Albums of the Decade”

  1. Ira December 17, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    Even if “Hissing Fauna” contained nothing but “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” it would still belong on this list.

    • Jaime-Paul December 17, 2009 at 1:52 pm #

      Fun way to piss off a bar is to put that on, and follow it up with “Street Hassle”

      • Ira December 17, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

        I once heard someone play the full 20-odd-minute version of Sonic Youth’s “The Diamond Sea” in a bar. It was transcendent.

  2. Drake December 29, 2009 at 4:43 am #

    Man, you’ve got a really nice selection of music over there. I’m also sorta leaving behind all my youth years with the end of this decade. The 2000’s were a great 10 years. I’ve been looking at your music and if i made a list the majority of yours would probably be on mine. There are a few albums though, which you put which i havent heard of, such as The Hold Steady- Killer Parties and Fleet Foxes- White Winter Hymnal – I think i’m gonna try them out though. I’ll download them now from http://www.kazaa.com

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