Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of the Decade Albums list

I swore that I would do this for a friend (even though as time went on it was quite clear that I am woefully uninformed on the subject matter of this list and absolutely unqualified to complete it).

But, here is my list of the best albums for 2000-2009 (as I see it). I am sorry that I did not go the extra mile and actually rank these in order from Best to 25th Best. I wrote these in the order that I selected them from my iTunes library. That was the best I could do. Please rank to your hearts content in the comments and tell me what an idiot I am for these choices and not for others.

1. Narrow Stairs (2008) by Death Cab for Cutie. I really, really like Death Cab and I really liked this album. Even though I found out that my favorite song on the album (I Will Possess Your Heart) is about a stalker. But hey, that's how I roll. And I also really like Grapevine Fires quite a bit.

2. Wincing the Night Away (2007) by The Shins. My favorite Shins album. Best songs on the album are Sea Legs and Red Rabbits. But I also quite like Australia. That was the song that sold the album for me.

3. Reveal (2008) by R.E.M. There are only three studio album to choose from during this decade and while I do like Accelerate, Reveal is by far the strongest choice. I struggle to find things to like about the middle album, Around the Sun. (I did go see that tour with Lynda in Cincinnati, so that helps.) The best song on the album is Saturn Return.

4. Kid A (2000) by Radiohead. No surprise that this is on the list and I expect it is on many people's list beyond mine. Read their takes for why it deserves to be. I came late to the Radiohead party but I'm a fan for sure. (I paid $10 for In Rainbows when it was available for download, so I've got that going for me, right?) Best song? I'll go with the obvious choice--Everything in its Right Place. (I think I owe some of my appreciation of that to some Chuck Klosterman reference in an essay that was probably about nuclear fission. But it's stil relevant.)

5. St. Elsewhere (2006) by Gnarls Barkley. I remember hearing everyone talk about Crazy and then I eventually listened to the album. I liked it pretty well. And I kept hearing that half of the group was also responsible for The Grey Album. I kept trying to find a way to download the Grey Album, but couldn't. And then eventually I got a copy of it from another friend at work. Unfortunately, I didn't like the end result as much as I wanted to. Best song on St. Elsewhere: A sort of a sheepish tossup between Gone Daddy Gone (good video and it was used in at least one episode of Chuck) and Necromancer (creepy subject but interesting song).

6. Guero (2005) by Beck. I want to talk about Odelay, but that doesn't fit in this decade. And so I'll pick Guero as the best offering Beck made during the last ten years. I do like the emphasis on Latin flavors. Best song: Black Tambourine. But I am also quite fond of Hell Yes.

7. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) by The Flaming Lips. I always think of the Matrix when I hear this album because I first heard it when I was deep within my Matrix obsession awaiting the second and third films of the trilogy. This was also my introduction to the Lips as a group. I feel smarter knowing that they exist, but I probably don't appreciate what they mean sonically, etc, etc. Best song: the eponymous track. (I used it--or attempted to use it--in one of my work email movie invites.)

8. Vampire Weekend (2008) by Vampire Weekend. Typically, I got this album from a friend and I didn't sit down and absorb it right away. But I was told it was good and I copied it over to my iTunes library. And I find that when I listen to it, I really like it. I don't automatically recall it in my head as outstanding, but when I start to hear it, its unique sound combinations win me over.

9. Fearless (2008) by Taylor Swift. I know, I know . . . you're gonna let me finish . . . but this album is suprisingly good. And while I downloaded it primarily for my kids sake, I haven't regretted it at all.

10. Details (2002) by Frou Frou. I first heard of this group when I watched Garden State and then bought the movie soundtrack. Best song: Flicks.

11. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) by Coldplay. Maybe this is the decade of Coldplay--at least on mainstream radio and certainly if not for Radiohead and higher critical judgment. But did anyone else make as much with these years? And this was the album that I was introduced to them with. Best songs: Clocks and Politik.

12. From the Corner to the Block (2007) by Galactic. I got this album from another friend at work. It has a combination of hip hop, rap, jazz, and funk (I  think). I don't listen to it on a regular basis, but when I listen to it, it gets my feet moving. This is maybe one of two chances I've got to suggest an album to you that you haven't heard. If that is so, check this one out . . . and tell them I sent you.

13. Funplex (2007) by the B-52s. I admit that they have never been quite as good as they were in the 1980s when I first heard Rock Lobster. But, they are still as good as they've been in a while. And this album is simply fun to listen to.

14. The Mysterious Production of Eggs (2005) by Andrew Bird. Most of the music I have appreciated over the past ten years are due to the friends I've met since we moved to Ohio. I wouldn't know half of what I "know" without their recommendations, downloads, and burned copies. Andrew Bird is a prime example of this. This is my favorite album of his and my favorite song on this album is A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left.

15. Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State (2003) by Sufjan Stevens. I sort of like his Christmas album best of all, but this is the one that game him the notariety and national press. I am still hoping (for entirely selfish reasons) that the next two states he profiles are Ohio and Georgia.

16. One Cello x 16: Natoma (2005) by Zoe Keating. I love this album because it is very cool to listen to, features a single celloist that loops her multiple recordings onto each other to create a very layered and intricate soundscape. I also love this because it points out one of the most important personal developments of my life during this past decade--the reliance upon podcasts. I first heard of Zoe Keating while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Radiolab. Check out the podcast AND the album when you have the chance.

17. Hotel (2005) by Moby. I swiped this one from the local library and it was the best money I never spent on something. Moby is sometimes hot and cold with me, but I like this 2 disc set more than Play, the album where he based everything off of continuous Gospel hits. Best song: Lift Me Up.

18. Extraordinary Machine (2005) by Fiona Apple. As usual, what I love most about Apple's music are the beats and the rhythms. It always makes me want to be able to play the drums. Best song: the title track.

19. Plans (2005) by Death Cab for Cutie. I got this album because a.) it was by Death Cab, whom I really, really love and b.) it featured the song Brothers on a Hotel Bed, which was used as the theme song for the Vlogbrother's Brotherhood 2.0 YouTube project. When you listen to this song almost 340 times, you're gonna want to get the album. Best OTHER song on the album: I Will Follow You into the Dark.

20. Now Its Overhead (2001) by Now Its Overhead. I had never heard of this trio (?) until Lynda and I went to see R.E.M. in Cincinnati in 2004. NIO opened for them and I liked their set as much as R.E.M.s. I listened to this album MORE than I did R.E.M.'s Around the Sun that came out the same year as their second album--Fall Back Open. Best songs: Blackout Curtain.

21. Hopes and Fears (2004) by Keane. Call me a girl if you want, but this is a good album. And the best song on it is the one that all the girls love to sing along to--We Might as Well Be Strangers.

22. Welcome Interstate Managers (2003) by Fountains of Wayne. I had only known FoW for Jessi's Mom but this album showed me that they were more fun and more thoughtful. Best song: Valley Winter Song.

23. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) by Wilco. I'm quite sure that everyone will list this one. And I'm quite sure that I don't appreciate it enough. But it is a good album and it deserves to be on my list.

24. No! (2002) by They Might Be Giants. TMBG is good in any decade. But when they decided to unleash their creativity and unique sound in service of distressed parents everywhere with a children's album . . . that was genius. All kids should be listening to this instead of Elmo. Best songs: John Lee Supertaster and Where Do They Make Balloons?

25. Up (2002) by Peter Gabriel. I still haven't found a way to download my favorite albums of his (Shaking the Tree and The Passion). But this was a good one that I liked quite a bit--even the song about Barry Williams, of The Brady Bunch fame. Best song: I Grieve.

BONUS recommendations that you will ignore:

a. Lemon Drop . . . the Beat (2007) by Dumbledore. This decade saw the creation of Wizard Rock and I have heard a good amount of it in the last few years. This ep is one of my favorites. It took the fledgling genre of Wrock and twisted it into something known as Wiz Hop. (Stop your snickering!) Bona fide rap songs about Harry Potter characters and events as delivered by the celebrated Hogwarts Headmaster? Sign me up! Best song: U Down with OotP? and D Bowla. OTHER Wizard Rock recommendations . . . Penelope (2008) by The Hermione Crookshanks Experience and especially I Was a Teenage Werewolf (2007) by The Remus Lupins. I was a Remus Lupins fan before I was a Harry and the Potters fan. Choosing between the two was sort of like choosing between the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupak. The Remus Lupins was the California cool side of things, with family connections to the actual recording industry and (at first at least) a bit more musicality. HatP was the brothers team from Massachusetts that originated the genre and they deserve props for starting everything, for embracing time travel, and for improving musically over time.

b. Songs for Dustmites (2003) by Steve Burns. This is the (only?) album recorded by the guy that got famous for playing with felt and talking to an imaginary cartoon dog. But Steve left Blues Clues behind, got some help from the dudes in The Flaming Lips, and recorded some interesting songs about science and math. Best song: What I Do On Saturday.

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