UPDATE: Wait no longer – Radiohead released the album a day early. In true Radiohead fashion, it was released early because “everything was ready and in place, so Radiohead decided there’s no need to wait an extra day.”
Back in the day I remember buying albums unheard. No 30 second samples. No streams. No bootlegs. Maybe you’d hear a song on the radio, but that was it.
Now we make decisions based on an avalanche of information and access, and the experience has long ago changed.
Tomorrow Radiohead’s next album “The King of Limbs” will be released and I haven’t heard a damn thing – and I like that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love new technology opening me to more music than I’d ever have access to before. But I don’t need any information to know that I would buy Radiohead’s album and enjoy.
Going into tomorrow with all my expectations in tact is refreshing.
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.
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.
I had my “holy shit” moment a few days ago when I realized that this is the end of the decade we’re coming up on. Where have the last 10 years gone? It seems like yesterday we were celebrating a millennium. I started compiling a list of the best albums of the decade – really Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief is six years old? It’s scary when time flies in six year chunks.
Share your favorite albums of the past decade in the comment section. I’ll be publishing a list soon.
I will never ever again take the ferry to Camden to see a show. I’ve waited over an hour and just finally got on a ferry. There’s only on ferry, so if you can’t get on one because it’s full, then you need to wait 30 plus minutes for the next one. This is what they call express service. I needed to allot at least two hours to get to the show on time.
And there are still people who are probably going to miss this one.
Never again. Do not take the riverlink ferry if you don’t have hours to kill.