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.
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.
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.
There’s a good reason why I didn’t do this earlier. Last year I lost my commute via public transportation. I didn’t give all the albums I got the same listen I used to. So I didn’t feel right judging them. After being laid off, I’ve had more time to ruminate. I know you’ve been waiting. The lack of A Rubber Door’s official recommendation is the one thing I can point to hurting the music industry this year.
I promise to make it up – the best of 2009 is coming within the week.
Honestly without M. Ward – this may not make the list. More Him, less She (Zoey Deschanel). And he listened – a new M. Ward album this year. (OK – I just relistened to You Really Got a Hold On Me – maybe it was the right amount of She)
My Favorites: Why Do You Let Me Stay Here, You Really Got a Hold On Me
I figured for 99 cents this was worth an entire album, and it is. Balin reminds me of Kathleen Edwards – the songs have a countrified tone about them without straying too far into country. If you like Edwards or Lucinda Williams, you should like this. Pick it up quickly – not sure how long it’s on sale.
On a day like this (80 degrees and sunny) it’s a tease to have my desk surrounded by windows. Hoping to leave a little early. Anyway.
I’m still on a Kathleen Edwards high from last week and it made me want to listen to John Doe’s last album, A Year In the Wilderness, where Edwards sings on three songs, the best of which is “Golden State”. Listen to it a couple of times and you’ll realize it’s a smartly different approach at a love song. The version below is with Cindy Wasserman – great songwriting (the lyrics are after the video