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.
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.
Last night we saw M. Ward at the Trocadero here in Philadelphia. There are very few shows that I’ve attended where I’ve looked back and said “I was there when”. They seem to all take place at the Troc. Radiohead and Belly in 1993 and Elliott Smith in 1998 are the two that immediately come to mind. Last night reminded of the first time I saw Elliott Smith (iTunes) play. At the time Elliot was coming off of the release of XO which followed up on his commercial breakthrough which was his soundtrack for the movie Goodwill Hunting. That night I almost didn’t go. I was supposed to go with a girl that I was interested in and she bailed on me. I vacillated between going by myself and staying at home – I decided to stay at home but turned on the television only to see Bill Clinton giving a speech. I turned off the TV and made a mad dash to Center City. It wasn’t quite filled, but it wasn’t empty and all of the fans there walked away amazed. I even met a girl there making the decision to go alone all the more fortuitous. Quite a special night.
Last night was very similar in feel. I was there with my girl – this time my wife Kristen. After last year’s She & Him (iTunes) project with Zoey Deschanel, M. Ward has released the gorgeous album Hold Time (iTunes). Like Smith, Ward has done a lifetime of attention deserving work before people were paying attention. They’re really paying attention now. I’ve seen some major acts at the Troc – Radiohead, Pavement, The Lemonheads at their height – all shows were well attended, last night’s sold out show was the most crowded I remember attending (a scary proposition for those of you familiar with the Troc. Thank god that Ward isn’t really a pyrotechnics type of act.) It started with just him and his guitar for three songs. The crowed was transfixed, mouths agape, as if trying the breathe in the music. M. Ward’s voice is like Tom Wait’s prior to Wait swallowing razor blades. The right amount of personality without going too far. You’re never hearing the voice over the song. Then Ward’s band came out and ran through a 90 minute set that pulled from all 6 of his solo releases.
My only disappointment was that opening act Vivian Girls didn’t translate well live. All distortion and all of their songs literally and figuratively ran together. They’re style is similar to a number of bands from the early 90’s that were better.
All in all – I wish all shows I attend would be like this, but then again, when everything is special, nothing is. Friday night was special.