Best of the Decade – Music Edition November 16, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Bon Iver, decade, Eminem, Fleet Foxes, guns n roses, Iron and Wine, Johnny Cash, K'Naan, Mos Def, The National, top 100, Warren Zevon
A few weeks ago I wrote a short entry regarding my plans for compiling a monstrous list of the top 100 albums of the past decade, from 2000-2009. Since the end of the year rarely yields any real gems in the music industry, I felt that this would be as good a time as any to start our list, so below are the first ten, those ranked 91-100, and the rest will follow of the course of the next few weeks. As we move along let me know what you think.
100. Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy (2008)
There are few albums that match the level of anticipation that followed this, G N’ R’s first album of original material in 17 years, but nobody really knew what to expect. The result was, well, interesting. Some tunes like the title song and “Shackler’s Revenge” rock like only Axl & co. can, some, like the excellent “Better” and “Catcher in the Rye” seem to hint that the band still has great things ahead of them, and then there are songs like “If the World,” which sounds like some cheesy James Bond theme reject. It’s no Appetite for Destruction, but it’s not bad.
99. Johnny Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
There are few figures in the annals of country music with the kind of well-deserved stature that Cash had and this album, one of five produced by Rick Rubin, was a fitting goodbye to the Man in Black. His baritone was well-worn with age, but that only added character to this set of songs reflecting on a life well lived. With the end in sight, Cash’s selections were particularly poignant, particularly “Give My Love to Rose,” “We’ll Meet Again,” and the heartbreakingly beautiful “Hurt,” a song originally performed by Nine Inch Nails. Some of the choices go a bit overboard in the sentimentality (do we really need versions of “Desperado” and “Bridge over Troubled Water?” but I guess when you’re a 70+ year old music icon, you’ve earned the right to play anything you want.
98. Iron and Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days (2004)
Sam Beam’s mostly one man band is oftentimes compared to past artists like Nick Drake, Simon and Garfunkel, and Elliott Smith. His fingerpicked acoustic guitar style is both beautiful and haunting, while still being quite listenable and rarely boring. On an album where the songs tend to blend together, “Naked as we Came” is one that stands out as truly great. After a hard day, this is a great one to just turn on and relax to.
97. Mos Def – The Ecstatic (2009)
Mos Def is an anomaly in the world of modern rap music. His lyrics are intelligent and socially conscious with a style that is as inventive as anybody working today. Songs like “Auditorium” and “Quiet Dog” incorporate interesting samples with good beats that complement Def’s flow nicely.
96. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
This one hasn’t held up as well for me as other albums (hip hop and otherwise), have over the past decade, but it still deserves a spot for its timely shock value and cultural significance in the early part of the decade. Though he soon became a parody of himself, this album really shook things up in 2000, providing a quite a subversive shock through the establishment with infamous songs about dangerously rabid fans and killing his girlfriend.
95. Warren Zevon – The Wind (2003)
In 2002, wry singer-songwriter Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable terminal cancer. Rather than engaging in treatments that might prolong his life but leave him incapacitated, he decided to record this, his final album. The Wind retains much of Zevon’s characteristically dry and somewhat morbid sense of humor, while offering up the poignant views of a man who has reached the end of life’s road. His cover of Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” takes on a lot more meaning when sung by someone in his state and the album’s finale, “Keep Me in Your Heart,” is a fitting goodbye for a singer-songwriter who tasted success, but never let it control his artistry.
94. The National – Boxer (2007)
Best characterized by vocalist Matt Berninger’s deep baritone and their downbeat style, The National had been playing together for several years before becoming critical darlings in the last half of the decade. Their style is expansive and lush, with songs like the politically motivated “Fake Empire” and the incredible “Mistaken for Strangers” (which is probably one of my favorite songs of the decade), this album is definitely one that needs to be heard.
93. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)
With vocal harmonies reminiscent to those of past acts like Crosby, Still, & Nash, Fleet Foxes burst on the scene in 2008 with one of the more unlikely success stories of 2008. “White Winter Hymnal” is an inescapably catchy song that will grasp hold of your brain and not let go.
92. K’naan – Troubadour (2009)
I imagine that Mogadishu-born Muslim rapper K’naan just shakes his head at American rappers and their tales of life on the street saying, “You think you have it hard?” His rhymes cover timely topics involving the problems in his homeland, from civil war to pirates. Troubadour, his sophomore release, is heavy on special guests, some of which work better than others, but the overall product is quite good, especially in songs like “Somalia” and “Wavin’ Flag.”
91. Bon Iver – For Emma, Long Ago (2008)
In early 2007, following two devastating breakups (one with his girlfriend, the other with his band) and a strong bout of mono, Justin Vernon retreated to a cabin in northern Wisconsin for three solid months of solitude. Armed with his guitar, some old recording equipment and a load of heartache, Vernon took on the name Bon Iver and created this album. Songs like “Flume” and “Skinny Love,” feature little besides an acoustic guitar and Vernon’s aching falsetto, but that’s really all you need. This is one beautiful piece of modern day Americana.