The top albums of the decade. This is opinion and for some reason 2005 was my favorite year of the decade in music. It shows in this list. I could listen to these albums, and only these albums, from now to the end of time and continue to find something wonderful and new in each one. The funny thing is that 3 of these albums had trouble getting released and another one skipped labels all together and decided to release it on the internet.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco
The story of this album is amazing. That it had to be leaked to the internet because the label didn’t hear a single is amazing. Simply a gorgeous album – one of my all-time favorites, and this says a lot: one of Wilco’s best.
My Favorites: Jesus Etc., Kamera, I’m the Man Who Loves You
Figure 8 (2000) – Elliott Smith
At the time this album came out many of Smith’s fans thought this album was over produced. Compared to Smith’s previous albums, it was. This is also one of Smith’s best. Unfortunately it was his last before his death.
My Favorites: Son of Sam, Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud, Can’t Make a Sound
Bachelor No. 2 (2000) – Aimee Mann- Another album that waited on someone’s desk because they didn’t hear a single. Fucking record execs are morons.
My Favorites: Red Vines, Deathly, Calling it Quits
Extraordinary Machine (2005) – Fiona Apple
Whoa, yet another album where the execs didn’t hear a single. Jon Brion stirred Apple out of a funk and produced album and then the execs “didn’t hear a single”. A joy to listen to. Brilliantly unique.
My Favorites: Extraordinary Machine, Used to Love Him (Tymps)
In Rainbows (2007) – Radiohead
Radiohead set the world on its head by releasing this over the internet, for free. It is their best album since OK Computer. It brings together elements of their best work of the past two decades.
My Favorites: 15 Steps, Bodysnatchers, Reckoner
Stories from the City – Stories from the Sea (2000) – PJ Harvey
I missed this album when it was released and now I get to rectify that mistake.
My Favorites: W***es Hustle and the Hustlers W***e, The Mess We’re In
American Idiot (2004) – Green Day
I never took this band seriously until this album. Full of angst and serious while maintaining their distinct sound. Took me months to realize how great this was.
My Favorites: Holiday, Wake Me Up When September Ends
Back to Me (2005) – Kathleen Edward
Three brilliant albums – I had a hard time figuring out which was the best, but after listening a few times, this is the most complete – and has the big songs. She will go down as one of the best. She keeps knocking them out of the park.
My Favorites: In State, Copied Keys, Back to Me
Leaders of the Free World (2005) – Elbow
I don’t get why people don’t know this band. They are THE brit pop band around today (outside of Radiohead that is). Start listening to this band.
By definition all of these albums here are classics. To fit into the top 20, an album needs to be a constant play on my ipod or iTunes. These all fit the bill and are great from beginning to end (another requirement).
11. A Rush of Blood to the Heart (2002) – Coldplay – This is the last Coldplay album I can fully recommend. Containing classic songs like “The Scientist” and “Clocks”, this is the one Coldplay album that works all the way through.
12. Funeral (2004) – Arcade Fire – This album will probably rate higher on national magazines decade lists. Widely recognized as one of the best albums of the past 10 years – it’s worthy of all the acclaim. Another band following in the Neutral Milk Hotel path, this album has an epic feel to it.
13. The Woods (2005) – Sleater-Kinney – It’s crazy that this was the end of Sleater-Kinney. Each album they created was a masterpiece, and they saved their best for last. May not appeal to everyone – it’s loud and discordant, but in a way that works for this album.
14. MP4 (Days Since a Lost Time Accident) (2000) – Michael Penn – It’s criminal that Sony sat on this album, allowing it to slip into this decade. One amazing song after another. Songs such as “Trampoline”, “Whole Truth”, and “High Time” are among my all-time favorite Penn songs.
15. Delivery Man (2004) – Elvis Costello & the Imposters – This is the best of Costello’s most recent albums. Great duets, fantastic songwriting.
16. Plans (2005) – Death Cab for Cutie – From the opening notes of “Marching Bands of Manhattan” you know this will be a classic album. I’ve always loved non-traditional love songs, and this album includes the daddy of them all: “I Will Follow You into the Dark”.
17. Twin Cinema (2005) – The New Pornographers – A lot of the New Pornographers work has a similar sound – not in a bad way though. Very literate, fun, bouncy. This is my favorite of their albums – and more good stuff from Canada.
18. One Nil/One All (2001) – Neil Finn - This album is up there with anything that Finn recorded with Crowded House.
19. All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2001) – U2 – Part of me regrets putting this as high as it is on this list; it’s not on par with albums like Achtung Baby or The Joshua Tree. Then I remember seeing U2 in New York City’s Madison Square Garden merely a month after 9/11. This album meant more than notes on a page can convey. At least to me it does.
20. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007) – Foo Fighters – As much as I like FF’s The Color and the Shape, this is their masterpiece. Includes all the fun songs, the hard rockers, and the epics.
Radiohead and Michael Penn would have found their way onto my top albums of the 90′s, but the rest of this list is brand new to me this decade; a good sign.
21. Late Registration (2005) – Kanye West – People are going to forget Kanye due to his tabloid craziness and his VMA “Ima let you finish” rant – but no one produced as consistently great music as Kanye did. I don’t generally like entire rap albums – a lot of them tend to be 2 or 3 good songs and a lot of filler. Even the skits on this album work for me.
22. Picaresque (2005) – The Decemberists – Following in the footsteps of Neutral Milk Hotel, this is a geek band with lush production, varied instrumentation, and great lyrics.
23. Kid A (2000) – Radiohead â€“ After O.K. Computer, Radiohead went in a totally different direction. This is what great bands do. More electronic in sound, it almost eschews guitars. As great as O.K. Computer is (my all-time favorite album), Kid A and Amnesiac are the two albums that cement Radiohead as a great concert act.
24. Post-War (2006) – M. Ward – Who knew? Quietly M. Ward has become a songwriter’s songwriter. His songs seem older than they are – almost whimsical. Not country; not folk; not pop – a little bit of everything.
25. 12 Memories (2003) – Travis – This is Travis’ response to 9/11 and near personal tragedy. It works in a different way than their other albums. It’s still poppy – but it just seems better than Coldplay generally is.
26. Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947 (2007) – Michael Penn – There’s never any wasted space in a Michael Penn album. Power-pop brilliance from one of the masters of the form.
27. Asking for Flowers (2008) – Kathleen Edwards – I’ll say more about Edwards when we get to the top 10 (that would be foreshadowing). She is simply one of the best singers songwriters around.
28. Illinoise (2005) – Sufjan Stevens – This is an epic album with brilliant songs. Nothing else sounds like it – except for another Sufjan Stevens album.
29. Sam’s Town (2006) – The Killers – This album keeps moving up the list. Not their most popular – likely because it’s a concept album that rejected the overtly pop sound of their debut album. Rewards repeat listening, seriously – this album started in 60′s on this list. I’m not sure it shouldn’t be higher.
30. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) – Spoon – They never set the world on fire for me, but they are the most consistently very good band out there. Very catchy songs that doesn’t sound like everyone else.
These ten albums are tinged with covers, 9/11, and Radiohead. Obviously 9/11 left an indelible mark on the music of the decade. The Dixies Chicks Taking the Long Way and Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief don’t exist without 9/11. Ryan Adams’ Gold becomes more noteworthy because he films a video for the first single across the river from the Twin Towers 4 days prior to the attacks. Radiohead is all through these 10 – with 2 of their albums, a Radiohead tribute, and one album that features a Radiohead cover. Enjoy and comment.
31. Version (2007) – Mark Ronson -Ronson is more known for his work producing Lili Allen and Amy Winehouse, but I think he saved his best work for his own album. He produces other artists doing covers of famous songs. All of the covers are done way differently than the original – which should be the point of recording a cover. Check out Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. Radiohead’s “Just” may be better than the original.
32. Taking the Long Way (2006) – Dixie Chicks - The outrage over the Dixie Chicks’ comments about George Bush lead them to make a less country album. It works on so many levels. They worked with songwriters such as Dan Wilson of Semisonic and Neil Finn.
33. Radiodread (2006) – Easy Star All-stars - Second cover album in this 10. It’s a tribute to how great the songs of Radiohead are that they work as reggae. Of course focusing on one of the greatest albums of all-time (OK Computer) helps.
34. Amnesiac (2001) – Radiohead – Hard to separate this from Kid A but over the years I’ve realized Kid A was the strongest of the two albums released within months of each other.
35. From a Basement on the Hill (2004) – Elliott Smith – It makes me sad that there is no more Elliott Smith. This is the album he was working on when he died. Unlike the album that was released after Jeff Buckley’s death – this works as a real album.
36. Stephen Malkmus (2001) â€“ Stephen Malkmus – Malkmus is one of the best songwriters no one considers. This is a more accessible album than his work with Pavement.
37. The Hour of the Bewilderbeast (2000) – Badly Drawn Boy – Funky and folky at the same time.
38. For Emma, Forever Ago (2008) – Bon Iver – Somber and beautiful album. Owes as much to Radiohead as he does to Elliot Smith. “Flume” and “Skinny Love” are insanely gorgeous songs.
39. Gold (2001) – Ryan Adams - This album became a part of the immediate post 9/11 landscape partly due to his video for “New York, New York” filmed 4 days before the attacks across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center. No fluke though – this is a great album and cemented Ryan Adams as one of this generations great singer/songwriters.
40. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003) – 2003 was safe enough a distance from 9/11 to start lobbing criticisms to the establishment. Radiohead will never be accused of being afraid to take risks. This is their first album post OK Computer that didn’t sound so experimental. Much more accessible than Kid A and Amnesiac.
41. Long Gone Before the Daylight (2004) – The Cardigans
42. Franz Ferdinand (2004) – Franz Ferdinand
43. Parachutes (2000) – Coldplay
44. Van Lear Rose (2004) – Loretta Lynn
45. The Rhumb Line (2008) – Ra Ra Riot
46. The Modern Leper (2008) – Frightened Rabbit
47. You Are the Quarry (2004) – Morrissey
48. Some Cities (2005) – Doves
49. Consolers of the Lonely (2008) – The Raconteurs
50. The Reminder (2007) – Feist
comments: It was hard to rank 100 albums but I feel that the list gets stronger with each 10. Consolers of the Lonely, The Reminder, The Rhumb Line, Parachutes, and Franz Ferdinand are among my all-time favorites. I guess by definition these are all among my all-time top albums.
51. MTV Unplugged (2001) – Jay-Z
52. Gimme Fiction (2005) – Spoon
53. Antics (2004) – Interpol
54. The Greatest (2006) – Cat Power
55. Broken Boy Soldiers (2006) – The Raconteurs
56. Failer (2002) – Kathleen Edwards
57. Hot Fuss (2004) – The Killers
58. Treble & Tremble (2004) – Earlimart
59. Neon Bible (2007) – Arcade Fire
60. The Optimist LP (2001) – Turin Brakes
comments: I didn’t realize how great Jay-z was until this album; thank the Roots for that one. Kathleen Edwards quickly became one of my favorite artists. A worthy successor to Shawn Colvin. Earlimart channels Elliot Smith in an album designed to honor their friend. BTW – I like the Raconteurs more than the White Stripes.
Just found my first “mistake”. Definitely should have put Metric’s Fantasies ahead of It’s Blitz by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but when I’ve listened to somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 albums in the past 10 years – the difference between a couple of spots is minor.
61. Back to Black (2007) – Amy Winehouse
62. New Magnetic Wonder (2007) – The Apples in Stereo
63. Golden Hum (2001) – Remy Zero
64. Loyalty to Loyalty (2008) – Cold War Kids
65. The Seldom Seen Kid (2008) – Elbow
66. How to Walk Away (2008) – Juliana Hatfield
67. The Stage Names (2007) – Okkervile River
68. Achilles’ Heel (2004) – Pedro The Lion
69. St. Elsewhere (2006) – Gnarlz Barkley
70. It’s Blitz! (2009) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
comments: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Okkervile River’s The Stage Names in the top 10s of national publications. It may end up being a classic in the same way Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea has become over the years. I think Elbow may be the best UK band out there. Yeah, better than them. Cold War Kids could become one of my top bands with their current trajectory. And there is something about Juliana Hatfield – she’s still as hot as I remember, but that’s not why she’s on this list – twice.