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Best Of The Decade: Albums

I know what you’re thinking, I’m way behind on my “Best of the Decade” list. Wrong! I’m right on schedule. You can’t make a “Best Of…” list before the time-frame has finished because new things can come out. Think about all the goobs who made their “Best of ’09” lists in November and thus left out Avatar, easily the best movie of the year. Well, now it’s time to deliver and I plan on showcasing my favorite albums, TV shows, movies, music videos, and more of the past 10 years. It’s gonna be tough. Joel over at Persona Don Dada has already put up some pretty comprehensive lists (here + here + here), but I’ll try my hardest to prove that I have a better understanding of what was great in the oughts. So stay tuned over the coming (insert measurement of time here) for all those. Hope I can remember them all. To quote a great philosopher: “You know how many drugs I’ve done since then?” — Mayor Prankster, 1983-?.

Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) by Animal Collective

This is hands down the best album of the year, and I strongly feel that it’s the best album of the decade. It has pushed music to points it has never been before while also tying together influences from across the history of written and recorded sound. Many of the albums on here are new, strange, and cutting edge, but none are as succinct and flawless as Merriweather Post Pavilion. The innovation on this album is unmatched by any other piece of music put out in the past ten years. And that’s just the start. I’d be willing to argue that this is the single best album created since the Beatles called it quits. And there have been times that I have listened to it and thought that it was the pinnacle of all music ever created. Now, you may not follow me that far, but you gotta admit it’s pretty fucking good. And as a runner-up (I only want to have one album per artist), Feels (2005). I essentially felt the way about Feels that I do about MPP when it came out.

The Lemon Of Pink (2003) by The Books

Back when DC++ was the way my friends and I got all our music, I stumbled across this album while looking for something else. I was struck with the urge to download it, and upon listening to it, I felt like a fool. The Lemon Of Pink was perfection in the merger of pop and sound collage. I felt like a fool because it made the sound collage music I was making seem like a joke. I highly recommend this album to anyone seeking a transcendental soundtrack. The beautiful thing about this album is how it blends with the ambient sounds in the world around you, ensuring that it sounds completely new each time you hear it. Unless you’re in a sound-proof chamber.

Gorillaz (2003) by Gorillaz

While Demon Days (2005) is a more cohesive album and easily a runner-up, it lacks the impact that Gorillaz had when it emerged. I was blown away when I first heard “Clint Eastwood” and when I bought the album I was amazed when, song after song, I heard a different band playing a different genre; many I had never heard before. To me, Gorillaz will always be the main Damon Albarn band. All others pale in comparison.

Year Zero (2007) by Nine Inch Nails

Year Zero made it’s initial impact not as an album, but as a viral marketing campaign. I’m a sucker for ARG’s and conspiracy theories, and this hit the spot for me. I was rapt in the world of Year Zero and when the album came out, it was the first CD I had purchased in a solid year. And I was not disappointed. Trent Reznor shed his label and with it, all the previous trappings of Nine Inch Nails. He emerged with a sound far more reliant on electronics and sampling, empty space, soundscapes and glitches, than screaming guitars and thundering drums. Year Zero isn’t just the best NIN album of the decade, it’s the best NIN album ever.

Sleeping With Ghosts (2003) by Placebo

A lot about my love of Sleeping With Ghosts is personal, so it may not seem as great to others, but if you haven’t ever listened to a Placebo album, this is a good place to start. Without You I’m Nothing may be superior, but it didn’t come out in this decade (ignore lala, they always crew up the years) so Sleeping With Ghosts is a strong replacement. It’s a shame this band seems to have lost their way, though they’ve certainly had missteps before. But this album puts them at the melancholic best. Who knew glam could be so goth.

YoYoYoYoYo (2006) by Spank Rock

YoYoYoYoYo holds a special place in my heart. I have probably listened to it more than any other album ever. The reason is, that it fits virtually every mood and situation. From partying, to driving, to massive coke orgies. In my book, this is as good as hip hop gets, and it just makes me that much angrier that we’ve yet to see a proper follow-up. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone who loves rap, hip hop, pop, electro, or dance music not loving this. And certainly anyone who loves good music as well. And the official number of “Yo’s” is 5. Hehe, looks like boobs.

Amnesiac (2001) by Radiohead

Fuck Kid A. Ok, that’s a bit strong. I love Kid A. But it is not the best Radiohead album of the decade. Amnesiac is. And you know what, Amnesiac is the best Radiohead album ever. There, I said it. Like OK Computer, Kid A was innovative at the time, but both of those albums mark a transition for Radiohead, from the generic Brit-rock/pop of thier first two albums, to the amazing experimental, electronic pop of their recent albums. Both Kid A and OK Computer have too many of those early vestiges to be truly great albums, but Amnesiac delivers a set of songs that can scarcely be classified as anything other than Radiohead. People say that Amnesiac was just the leftovers from Kid A, but it’s clear that Kid A was the album they had to put out first, for the fans and the label, because Amnesiac would have been to alienating by itself. In Rainbows (2007) is a strong contender as well, but Amnesiac edges it out due to it’s sheer forces and jarring qualities that make it slightly less palatable and thus all the more satisfying.

Noah’s Ark (2005) by CocoRosie

It’s hard to describe Noah’s Ark. Imagine two long-lost sisters reuniting in their 20s in a Paris apartment, and making bizarre electronic pop that sounds like an opera singer and a rapper took acid and started traveling through time. Well, I guess it wasn’t that hard to describe.

Arular (2005) by M.I.A.

Along with Piracy Funds Terrorism Volume 1 (where’s Volume 2 at?!), Arular was a revelation in the world of electro/hip hop/dance/world music. M.I.A. should have blown up a long time before she did. She’s fashion forward, socially and politically conscious, merges together virtually every style of popular music from around the world, and is a mega babe. Her and Diplo are one hell of a dream team and I think they’ve helped each other grow a lot. Those in the know knew the duo years before Pineapple Express and Jay-Z made them sort of popular, and we will always love Maya for being one of the first to bring back the 90s and make day-glo AK-47s cool. Plus, total babe.

Funeral (2004) by Arcade Fire

I like to think of Funeral as the musical/lyrical version of The Catcher In The Rye. It has that same bittersweet tone of youthful rebellion, love, and loneliness that makes that book perfect for ages 13 through infinity and this album matches it.

Exclusively Talentmaker! (2000) by Optiganally Yours

Along with its 90s counterpart, Optiganally Yours eponymous debut, Exclusively Tastemaker! shows that Rob Crow can do more than croon over math rock, he can belt out whimsical tales over Pea Hix radical Optigan manipulations, while adding in his own musical touches so well, you can’t tell what’s coming from the machine and what’s coming from the dude. I really hope these bros pop out another batch of psychedelic sample songs for us to groove to. What could they sing about next? Killer tomatoes? Hot pink bunny rabbits? Hansel and Gretel drag racing? I can’t wait to find out.

Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003) by Belle & Sebastian

When I first heard Dear Catastrophe Waitress, I thought Belle & Sebastian were the next Beatles. I may have been going overboard a bit, but it’s still an amazing pop album full of brilliant song-writing and beautiful vocals, so it’s not too crazy of a statement.

The Libertines (2004) by The Libertines

Speaking of hearing a band and thinking they were the next version of an older, popular band, when I heard the Libertines, I thought they were a decent punk band. Then I heard their self-titled sophomore release and thought “These guys are the next Clash.” Not because they sounded similar, though their are obvious similarities, but I thought they’d have the same impact on punk as the Clash did. They didn’t and again, I was a bit overzealous. Or maybe I was just the right amount of zealous. Either way, the album is a fantastic showcase of British pop/punk that’s probably closer to the Undertones than the Clash. That’s still a pretty big compliment.

Hell Hath No Fury (2006) by Clipse

They might as well attribute this to Clipse & the Neptunes. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that the Neptunes are just as integral to the greatness of Hell Hath No Fury as Clipse are. A lot of people say the Neptunes made Clipse, and while that’s true to an extent, I think Clipse helped make the Neptunes. They are a perfect symbiote; at their best when they collaborate.

Room On Fire (2003) by The Strokes

Is This It (2001) opened the door for the so-called Rock Revival of the early 2000s, and it’s packed full of great songs, but as a cohesive album, Room On Fire is a lot stronger. I remember the anticipation I felt as this album was approaching and how excited I got every week for a month when they played a new song on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. The album was not a disappointment (though it’s follow-up was) and if JC’s solo work is any indication of where the Strokes are headed next, then they might be putting out an even better album sometime soon.

Satanic Panic In The Attic (2004) by of Montreal

My college years must have been all about finding the next Beatles, because just like Dear Catastrophe Waitress, when I heard Satanic Panic In The Attic, I thought of Montreal were the ones. In retrospect, they were more like the next Odessey and Oracle Zombies. But that’s still pretty fucking amazing. So in lieu of accolades for this album, just listen to that one and then add some modern zest.

Talkie Walkie (2004) by AIR

AIR haven’t received the credit they deserve for their last two albums, but at least everyone could agree that Talkie Walkie was the shit. I’ve had friends who have heard AIR and asked if we were listening to Dido or Enya, and to the passive observer, you might hear some of those sounds from their music. But the beauty of AIR has always been how they take that laid-back, new age ambient electronic lounge vibe and filter it through a smoky low-key French house vibe to come out with a sound that’s sexy and tongue-in-cheek, flitting around those tried conventions but never staying too long as to fall into the self-absorbed trappings of that MOR music they superficially resemble.

Original Pirate Material (2002) by The Streets

Like many of the albums I’ve picked, Original Pirate Material is more disjointed than its follow-ups, and A Grand Don’t Come For Free (2004), with it’s hip hoperatic feel and overall story arc, show Mike Skinner at top form. But where A Grand… showcases a Skinner that has found his footing, OPM is still where it all began and that beginning is like nothing I had previously heard from the hip hop world. I remember the first time I heard the Streets, watching MTV before I went to school my senior year of high school. The video for “Don’t Mug Yourself” came on, and while it was a wacky piece of work in itself, the song was far more bizarre. I had never heard a British rapper and even if I had, they wouldn’t have sounded like Mike Skinner did. He uses the verbal equivalent of Drunken Boxing, stumbling haphazardly through lines, think with an assumed cockney accent, but never missing the beat of the song, though you may not always know what it is. The album is full of things you wouldn’t expect to hear in rap or in 2-step, but he does them anyway, and it all weaves together to create the sound of the Streets.

Apple O’ (2003) by Deerhoof

I had a hard time deciding between Apple O’ and Milk Man (2004) for best Deerhoof album of the decade. It’s hard to believe that they were only a year apart in release because, while still maintaining the bizarre sound and quirkiness of Deerhoof, Milk Man is far more polished and accessible than Apple O’. It’s mainly for that reason that Apple O’ (along with being the first Deerhoof album I ever heard) is my pick. Milk Man goes down easier, but when you want that Deerhoof sound, nothing satisfies quite like the oddities that make up Apple O’.

Worlds Apart (2005) by …And Your Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

Source Tags & Codes (2002) may be the fan-favorite Trail of Dead album of the decade, and believe me, it’s fucking good, but unlike a lot of hard core Trail of Deadheads, I loved the shift the band took with Worlds Apart. These guys have been making toons for almost 15 when this album came out, and people still wanna hear the same raucous, post-hardcore, indie/emo band from all those albums gone by. Yeah, I loved them too. But a band has to grow, and with Worlds Apart, AYWKUBTTOD took their sound to a new level, one they’ve continued to approve upon with Worlds Apart‘s two follow-ups. They took all that visceral energy and maniacal aggression and fused it with choruses and orchestras, finally creating music that mirrored the themes and visuals that always surrounded the band. The cover says it all. It’s not just a static shot of some nuns or an elephant, it’s an all-out epic fantasy war. And the music encased in that image lives up to it.

Eat Lightning, Shit Thunder (2001) by An Albatross

You might as well throw in We Are The Lazer Viking (2003) since together they clock in around 20 minutes, but Eat Lightning, Shit Thunder can definitely stand alone as a fantastic representation of what Wikipedia calls “an odd mix of death metal, grindcore, circus music, jazz, 8-bit, Dance music, hardcore punk, and countless others into its extremely chaotic sound.” That about sums it up.

Fishscale (2006) by Ghostface Killah

The ultimate hip hop comeback of the decade, Fishscale is what The Black Album wanted to be: a rap pioneer still at the top of his game, putting out an album that could be his end-all, be-all, but we all know is just a new beginning. A fortunately when Ghostface continued to put out music, he didn’t sound like your cranky grandpa trying to stay relevant like Jay-Z has on everything post-“his last album.”

Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004) by The Go! Team

Whatever happened to these guys. I know, they still make music, but man, they were the most buzzed about band of 2004. I’ve always admired albums that can sound so new and so old at the same time. Thunder, Lightning, Strike still comes off like a bunch of sugar-fueled teenage girls tried to recreate the Golden Age of hip hop in their basement using a 4-track. If that doesn’t whet your musical appetite, you must be a fuckin’ zombie.

Get Behind Me Satan (2005) by The White Stripes

White Blood Cells (2001) is a very close competitor. It laid the foundation for the garage rock revival and is a great piece of bluesy-punk with hints of experimentalism. But Get Behind Me Satan took the White Stripes to another level. It’s hard to believe that so many different styles and sounds came out of so many different instruments being played by only two people. And let’s face it, one of them was doing a lot more of the work. Get Behind Me Satan manages to transition through rock, blues, punk, garage, bluegrass, piano ballads, and more. It renewed my faith in the White Stripes of the mediocre Elephant and it made Icky Thump sound that much more generic. Let’s hope those two come back together and make something interesting for the first time in 5 years.

Wavvves (2009) by Wavves

This is one of those visceral choices. Wavves is like Ariel Pink on speed. He loves goths, rainbows, and weed. Come on, we’re soulmates. And Wavvves is his best yet (out of two albums). He will definitely be on next decade’s list, because the shit he’s working on now is bananas. He’s already got the whole reverb-drenched garage punk surf rock thing down, now he’s melding it with Animal Collective to create the ultimate hipster boner.

In Our Nature (2007) by José González

He’s a Swedish dude named José González. And he’s one of the only indie folksters that makes the music his own and makes it relevant in today’s music world. He’s not just a picker or strummer, he’s a Classical guitarist, minus the pretense. And he does a mean cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop.” In Our Nature is the only non-Freak Folk that I’d let rotate in my compact disc changer. Those are still around, right?

03/07–09/07 (2008) by High Places

Though 03/07-09/07 is a compilation of singles and B-sides, it still serves as a better High Places album than their eponymous debut. Two of my favorite things musically are lots of vocals and lots of miscellaneous percussion. That’s High Places. Listening to them is like floating on a Caribbean island through space well stoned out of your gourd.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen by The Good, The Bad & The Queen

Let’s face it, Damon Albarn and Danger Mouse make beautiful music together. If the Gorillaz are the best of Damon Albarn, this is a close second. Let’s hope The Good, The Bad & The Queen wasn’t a one-shot. You know, like Gorillaz was. Not.

Crystal Castles (2008) by Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles isn’t a perfect album, but the sound is so immediate that its presence can’t be ignored. Call it dance music from the future. But not some populist one. More like the soundtrack to some dystopian future where underground dance parties are held to fuel the rage of the rebellious youth as they strike blows at the heart of the imperialist oppression of the world around them. At the same time, it has definite echoes of the past etched throughout, weaving a thread between mutant disco and no wave. In other words, it’s the sound of New York City. Plus, Alice Glass is the girl of my dreams. don’t worry Ali, you’re still the girl of my reality.

Louden Up Now (2004) by !!!

Out of all the dance punk bands that emerged in the mid-2000s, !!! were the only one that was actually good. Louden Up Now is a perfect showcase of their sound, driven by all the same principles and influences as the first-wave of post-punk. Unlike their inferior peers (LCD Soundsystem, The Rapture, pretty much everyone at DFA), these guys don’t merely samples and rip-off Liquid Liquid, they embody their sound and spirit and make it current.

Person Pitch (2007) by Panda Bear

Call it a blueprint for where Animal Collective would go next. Call it one of the best solo albums by by a member of an already heavily acclaimed band. I call it the perfect fusion between electronica, pop, and trippy neo-psychedelia. Noah samples like nobodies business, and the sound he creates on Person Pitch is an obvious precursor to Merriweather Post Pavilion. The exciting thing is, all three of his solo albums sound completely different from one another, which makes the prospect of his next solo output so tantalizing because what new sound will he create to distance himself from his work with Animal Collective? I can’t imagine, but I guarantee it’s going to be groundbreaking. And I won’t hold it against him for stealing my dream of making psychedelic Gregorian chant music.

Bromst (2009) by Dan Deacon

A lot of fans have hated on Dan Deacon and Animal Collective for their newer, more polished sound. And yeah, compared to their older work, their newest albums aren’t as spastic or quirky, but they’re still radical original and different from everything in mainstream music. So stop hating. As a musician, I understand that sometimes your vision doesn’t match up with your skills and tools. Imagine what the Beatles would have sounded like if they had access to today’s instruments and recording equipment. The past two Dan Deacon albums have seen him refine his sound to something that is still truly him and truly original, while pushing his music and indie music to the next level. It’s akin to electronic choral music, all done by one guy. Bromst is by far Deacon’s best work to date, and the man is only going to get better in the years to come.

Fever Ray (2009) by Fever Ray

I was never into the Knife. I remember some of my friends getting a boner over them in 06/07, but I just thoguht they were annoying (the band, not my friends). But when Fever Ray came out, I realized that the dude musta been the problem cus Karin Dreijer Andersson makes some good fuckin’ music. The title sums up the vibe perfectly. The whole album is a swelling, pulsing, nauseating, haunting dirge of childhood memories and nonsense, put forth by the masculine and beautiful Nordic wail of Andersson. The whole image conjures up memories of Shaye Saint John for me, but in a totally good kind of creepy way.

When (2001) by Vincent Gallo

Who knew this model turned motorcycle enthusiast turned actor/director was also an amazing musician. But he is. This is easily one of the most somber yet trippy albums I’ve ever heard. I swore that it was a girl singing on these songs, and not him. But it’s him, and his guitar work and minimal electronic loops that go along with his melancholy, beautiful voice, will have you listening to this album over and over again. I may have lied when I said YoYoYoYoYo was my most listened to album. I’ve just been so out of my mind half the time I’ve listened to this I can’t be sure.

Nighttiming (2007) by Coconut Records

Who knew that Jason Schwartzman could make such beautiful music. And Kirsten Dunst can sing?! Yeah, she should quit her day job, cus she’s much better at this. And of course, Zooey Deschanel’s sweet tones add to this collection of great pop, folk, and country (even a dance number) numbers. Nighttiming was on constant rotation for weeks in my sound systems, and I still love putting it on.

Psychic Toothpaste/Ocean Ghost 7″ (2009) by Eleven and the Falcons

Couldn’t have a best of list without shoutin’ out my own band’s debut. It’s fuckin’ good dudes, trust me. Psychic Toothpaste/Ocean Ghost 7″ is like a blueprint of where we are headed and rest assured, in the next decade, you’ll be spottin’ our jams on a lot more lists.

Now, a decade is a long time. And I’m sure I forgot some great albums. So if there are any you think I’ve missed, be sure to tell me what a moron I am in the comments section. Or if you think all my choices are a perfect representation of all the best music of the past 10 years, then make sure to tell me what a genius I am. Stay tuned over the coming weeks for more “Best Of The Decade” lists including music videos, tech, movies, and more.


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