Best Albums of 2011: 31-40 December 19, 2011Posted by Matt in Best of 2011.
Tags: Amy LaVere, Best of 2011, Bright Eyes, Das Racist, J Mascis, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Lucinda Williams, music, Radiohead, Smith Westerns, The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, Wye Oak
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And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, it is time for the list.
As an avid music lover and collector, I have published lists online for the past few years detailing my favorite releases from those times, and this year is no different. It has been an incredible year for music, with great releases by hugely popular artists as well as many by lesser known, below-the-radar ones, and thanks to both the regular MP3 deals on Amazon and the presence of Spotify, I have procured and listened to more new music than ever before in 2011. Please feel free to give your comments and critiques each day this week as we work our way through my 40 favorite albums of 2011.
40. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Tell Me
I saw Jessica Lea Mayfield open for the Black Keys a few years ago and quickly fell in love with her voice, so I made sure to listen to her latest album when it was released this year. At just 21 years old Mayfield seems to have already grasped the art of restraint in her music, not going over the top with her vocals and instead letting the songs speak for themselves. She comes across as genuine and unpretentious in songs like “Our Hearts are Wrong,” when she sings “My self esteem / Is heating up the room / You’re intimidating as all hell / but I ain’t scared of you,” and perhaps that realness is what attracts me the most to her music.
39. Wye Oak – Civilian
Employing an incredibly rich sound that belies their status as a two person band, Wye Oak have crafted one of the more beautiful and dark albums of the year. “Holy Holy” takes a driving guitar and a foreboding undercurrent, mixes it with vocals in ___’s almost childish style, with lyrics like “Holy, holy, holy / There is no other story / It is madness seeking mastery / We will be who we want to be,” to create an album that, regardless of its early release date and the number of great works from this year, was unforgettable. There’s a line from the title track that has stuck with me all these months, “I wanted to give you everything / But I still stand in awe of superficial things.” Exactly.
38. Various Artists – The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams
The legendary Hank Williams was one of the greatest and most prolific songwriters to ever grace the genre of country music. By the day of his untimely death at age 29, he had written and recorded hundreds of songs, much of which remains the standard by which all country music is measured to this day, more than six decades later. So, when a notebook of unfinished and unrecorded songs by Williams was discovered, who better to complete the work than fellow legend Bob Dylan. For the task, Dylan recruited a wide variety of artists, both young and old, from Merle Haggard and Levon Helm, to Jack White and Norah Jones, and all together they did Hank proud. Personal favorites from the album include Dylan’s take on “The Love that Faded” and White’s version of “You Know That I Know.” This is a must-hear, both for Williams fans and those of younger generations who may not have discovered his genius yet.
37. Bright Eyes = The People’s Key
Album releases by Bright Eyes have long been a hit-or-miss proposition with me. I’ve been a fan of Conor Oberst’s songwriting and wavering vocal style for years, so I’m always quick to listen to each new release. The People’s Key stands as one of their better ones, showcasing the indie folk style that put them on the map. It kicks off with a strange sci-fi soliloquy about lizard people from another dimension that came to earth long ago, and from there the band takes over with a flourish. The superbly catchy “Jejune Stars” is the kind of song that reminds you of Oberst’s incredible talent as a pop songwriter. It’s definitely a good album and certainly worth a listen.
36. Das Racist – Relax
Experimental rap outfit Das Racist doesn’t easily fit into any predetermined categories in the music world. Combining lyrics loaded with satire over danceable beats, they are truly a one-of-a-kind outfit. In a genre that often takes itself too seriously, you can’t help but like nonsensical lines like “I’m DJ Khaled / I’m a Daikon radish,” and any listener has to chuckle at the song “Rainbow in the Dark” with lyrics like “I’m at the White Castle / (I don’t see you here, dog) / Tiny ass hamburgers / Tiny ass cheeseburgers / Tiny ass chicken sandwiches / It’s outlandish, kid.”
35. Amy LaVere – Stranger Me
Memphis’s own Amy LaVere is one of those many artists toiling away in today’s world that should be heard by everybody, and never is that more clear than on this, her latest release. LaVere’s sound is dark and dusky, dripping with Southern Gothic styling, creating a riveting, out-of-the-mainstream work. The opening track, “Damn Love Song,” stands as one of my favorite kiss-off songs in recent years, I can just imagine a guy asking her to write him a song and her answering him with opening lines of this song, “Right now / I’ll do it right now / Here’s your damn love song / And don’t it say it all.” “Red Banks” carries on the dark “murdering your man” motif of “Killing Him” from her first album and makes it clear that she’s definitely not a girl I’d want to be involved with. But, I still enjoy her music.
34. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
Thom Yorke’s critically lauded, groundbreaking band is perhaps rightly considered by many to be the greatest of the past two decades. From The Bends to OK Computer to Kid A to In Rainbows, they have time and again shown themselves ready and willing to break the mold and start over just for the sake of doing so. I like The King of Limbs pretty well, but I must admit that it hasn’t hit me in the same way as their past works. After several listens over the past months, I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, but Radiohead is the type of band whose albums seem made to grow on a listener. Is it brilliant? I’m not quite sure. I like songs like “Morning Mr. Magpie,” and I like the overall structure of the album, but I’m still wrestling with my overall feelings. Then again, maybe that’s a sign of its brilliance.
33. Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde
With bands like Magic Kids, Girls, and Smith Westerns starting to break through, it’s a good time for psychedelic, bubblegum pop in the indie music world. On Dye it Blond, Chicagoans Smith Westerns wear their T. Rex influence in bright letters on their sleeves while crafting some fun, bouncy tunes that will appeal to even the most hard hearted person. With lyrics like “Weekends are never fun / Unless you’re around too,” the band exudes the innocence of a past time and the jangly guitars will wrap their arms around you and not let you go.
32. Lucinda Williams – Blessed
Years ago Lucinda Williams famously sang, “You took my joy, I want it back.” Well, judging from her latest release, she finally found it. At the age of 58 she remains one of the preeminent songwriters in the music world, but now, having conquered inner trials and tribulations, she is taking a look outward and focusing on the plight of others. In the title song she sings, “We were blessed by the minister / Who practiced what he preached / We were blessed by the poor man / Who said heaven was within reach,” and with this latest release you can see that she believes it, that maybe heaven is closer than we ever imagined. The album reaches its crescendo with the wonderful “Awakening” in which she, in a moment of looking both back and forward, says “In the awakening, in the awakening / I will honor the mistaken / I will honor the truth / In the awakening, in the awakening / I will honor the forsaken / I will not mourn my youth.” It’s a beautiful thing to witness someone coming into their own.
31. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
As the vocalist and guitarist for the long-running Dinosaur Jr., the brand of fuzzed out noise created by J Mascis has been the stuff of legend. So, given that his name has been made with heavy distortion and high volume, it may seem out of character when you consider that this solo work is a sparsely orchestrated acoustic affair, but you can safely put any doubts aside. He sounds perfectly at home on this collection as the apparent brokenness in his voice takes center stage. The easy strumming of “Listen to Me” kicks things off with a flourish, and the plain-spoken nature of “Is it Done” will stick with you, but the song that captures me more than any other is the excellent “Not Enough,” one that sounds as though it would be perfectly comfortable in the loud, Dinosaur Jr. setting, but that captures new and different aspects of emotion and sound when done acoustically. J Mascis is a master at what he does.
Ten for Tuesday: 2001 July 19, 2011Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 2001, best albums, Bob Dylan, drive-by truckers, Gillian Welch, Jay Farrar, Jay-Z, Radiohead, Spoon, The Shins, The Strokes, The White Stripes
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It has been some time since we last stepped foot in our top ten time machine, so today seems like an appropriate one to take another look back. This time we will set the course for ten years ago, the year 2001. So, without further ado, here are my top ten albums of 2001.
10. Jay Farrar – Sebastopol
Whether in groundbreaking alt-country band Uncle Tupelo, his longstanding group Son Volt, or in his solo recordings, Jay Farrar’s voice remains one of my favorite in the music world. It has an organic, broken-down quality that pierces right to your soul and, though this release differs from his bands in sound, it is still quite good. Download: Barstow, Feed Kill Chain
9. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
On their debut as The Shins, the band crafted one of the seminal works of indie pop for the early 21st century. The music didn’t really enter the public consciousness, though, until Natalie Portman told Zach Braff in the wonderful 2004 film Garden State to listen to the band and it will “change your life.” We did and it did, for the better. Download: Caring is Creepy, New Slang
9. Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Welch’s third release (not counting her work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack), is an incredibly beautiful work of folk music that sure deserved the praise heaped upon it over the years. It’s dark and real and wonderful, with her backwoods voice blending with banjos and guitars perfectly and wonderfully. Download: Revelator, Red Clay Halo
7. Radiohead – Amnesiac
In 2000 Radiohead slammed the music world with a proverbial curveball when they released the incredible Kid A, an album that deviated so wildly from their earlier works that it left many past fans scratching their heads, and this album continued in that same direction. Their experiments with ambient sounds, electronica, and jazz probably turned off some listeners, but those who stuck around were rewarded well. Download: I Might Be Wrong, Knives Out
6. Spoon – Girls Can Tell
Austin’s Spoon creates some of the most fun and danceable tunes you’ll hear anywhere and this, their third release, is no exception to that rule. Britt Daniel’s band comes out strong with an 80’s inspired guitar riff in “Everything Hits at Once,” and never let up for the remainder of the album. Seriously try to listen to this and not at least nod your head. It’s impossible. Download: Everything Hits at Once, Me and the Bean
5. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
In case you ever wonder what the big deal is about hip hop artist Jay-Z, just pop in a copy of The Blueprint. With plentiful soulful samples and Jay-Z’s swaggering rhymes, this stands as one of the greatest works to ever come from the rap community. Check it out and I bet you’ll agree. Download: Izzo (H.O.V.A.), Girls, Girls, Girls
4. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells
The blues-based indie rock duo of Jack and Meg White had been around for a few years when White Blood Cells was released, but for many this was their first exposure to the group’s roof-blowing sound. Together, the Stripes blast through genres with great aplomb, from the aforementioned blues to country (Hotel Yorba) to the almost punkish “Fell In Love with a Girl.” Download: Hotel Yorba, Fell in Love with a Girl, I Can’t Wait
3. The Strokes – Is This It
The do-it-yourself garage rock ethic of the early 2000’s can be, in large part, traced back to this earth-shattering gem. Julian Casablancas’s lyrics were spot on for those of us in our mid-20’s, recent college graduates, coming to grips with a pasture that wasn’t quite as green as we had hoped. If the early part of the decade had a soundtrack, The Strokes would hold a prominent spot on it. Download: The Modern Age, Someday
2. Bob Dylan – Love and Theft
If 1997’s Time Out of Mind was a powerful, late career surge in creativity for the legendary artist, Love and Theft was the amazing continuance of that wave into the new millennium. This entry no doubt deserves a prominent spot in Dylan’s canon as a definite high point in the last chapters of his lifetime in the music business. Download: Mississippi, High Water (For Charley Patton), Moonlight
1. Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
Could there be any doubt that the best album from my favorite band of the past decade would be at the top of the list? If there is one thing you can say for Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and the others, it is that they are ambitious. The fact that they released a double concept album revolving around the dual story of growing up in the South in the 1970’s and the rise and demise of Lynyrd Skynyrd, should be proof enough of that. But the band isn’t just ambitious, they are awfully good, one of the best musical ventures to come out of the South in years. Download: Zip City (one of my favorite songs ever), Let There Be Rock, The Southern Thing, Guitar Man Upstairs
A Playlist for the Apocalypse May 20, 2011Posted by Matt in music, top ten.
Tags: AC/DC, Apocalypse music, Beck, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, end of the world, Hayes Carll, John Prine, Johnny Cash, May 21, Nirvana, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd, playlist, Prince, Radiohead, Soundgarden
My friend Susan gave me an idea today when she posted R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” on my Facebook wall in celebration of the global apocalypse scheduled for tomorrow (Check your local listings). I think we need a good playlist to celebrate our last day on earth. Here are some choices from my iPod.
10. Hayes Carll – She Left Me For JesusIt’s time for those last minute conversions and this is the perfect song for it.
9. Beck – Earthquake WeatherAccording to the apocalyptic prognosticators, we can expect a global earthquake tomorrow that should reach us around 6:00 pm. I think we should dance to Beck.
8. Prince – Sign O’ the TimesYes, we should have been looking for the signs, I know, I know…
7. Radiohead – How to Disappear CompletelyWell, that is what happens in the rapture, right? Cars will veer off the road unattended and suddenly unpiloted planes will crash and burn. Well, either that or it will just get a little more pleasant for the rest of us.
6. Pearl Jam – Given to FlyThen again, maybe we’ll actually see people ascend bodily into heaven. That would be much cooler.
5. Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around / Metallica – The Four HorsemenYeah, worldwide destruction is what’s in store for those of us left behind. At least we have some diverse music choices dealing with it.
4. Soundgarden – Black Hole SunThe sun will turn into a black hole? I think they’re reading of Revelation may be a little off.
2. John Prine – Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven AnymoreMaybe extreme patriotism isn’t the best way after all…
Most likely, though, I think this song will be appropriate for those actually expecting the world the end tomorrow.
Bob Marley – Waiting in Vain
What songs would you put on the End of the World Playlist?
Matt’s Meandering Mind on Monday February 21, 2011Posted by Matt in Matt's Meandering Mind on Monday.
Tags: Beale Street Music Festival, good friends, I love used books, Radiohead, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Willie Nelson in Southaven
So much going on…
- We had a great weekend, with my friend James coming over Friday night and the Sanders family the next evening. James and I listened to the new Radiohead and played old Megaman games on the NES after the kids went to sleep. I grilled some tuna steaks for the Sanders, they brought a jug of wine and we visited for 5 much-to-fast hours. Good times.
- Speaking of the new Radiohead, if you haven’t downloaded it (or bought the physical copy), you definitely should. They never fail to impress and amaze me. Their latest release, The King of Limbs, reminds me of their last one, In Rainbows, in that it continues the percussion-oriented sound. I’m a big, big fan.
- I bought my tickets for the Beale Street Music Festival already, even though they haven’t officially announced the lineup. So far, Pollstar has reported that Cee Lo Green and The Avett Brothers will be there and that’s certainly enough to get me in the door.
- I also just found out a few days ago that Southaven will host a Willie Nelson/Jamey Johnson concert this summer. How cool is that? We haven’t had a decent show since people complained about the noise level of the Velvet Revolver/Alice in Chains show (I was there!).
- We still love the church we’ve been attending, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, and couldn’t imagine being happier and more fulfilled anywhere else, even though we still have a great deal to learn.
- The Memphis library is having their annual used book sale this Friday and I’m already chomping at the bit for it. It’s like having another Christmas Day!
Things are going well here. How are things in your world?
Ten for Tuesday: 1995 August 31, 2010Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 1995, alice in chains, Bruce Springsteen, Everclear, Foo Fighters, Garbage, music, Oasis, Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, top ten, Tupac Shakur, Wilco
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Hey everybody! It’s time to hop back into our top ten time machine and take a trip back a few years to see what made the music and film industries tick during that time. Over the past few weeks we’ve checked out the tens: 2000, 1990, and 1980, and we’ve looked back five years at 2005. Today we’ll take a look at 1995. In 1995 I began my senior year of high school, turned 18, and spent my time driving the backroads around our small town in an old 4-Runner. While much of the popular music I listened to at the time was not that great (Silverchair and Bone Thugs to name two regrettable choices), there were some true gems released that year, some of which I didn’t come to appreciate until much later.
10. Garbage – Garbage
I always liked what I heard from this album, but it wasn’t until later, after I saw them open for the Smashing Pumpkins, that I finally bought it. Its combination of dance-rock beats, a shoegazing guitar sound, and Shirley Manson’s vocals make this a recording that still holds up well. My favorite track is probably “I’m Only Happy When It Rains,” but the best known one is undoubtedly, “Stupid Girl.”
9. Foo Fighters – Foo Fighters
Following the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994 and the subsequent demise of grunge rock in general, many music fans looked around bewildered, wondering what would be next. They would not have to wait long, though, for rising Phoenix-like from Nirvana’s ashes was drummer Dave Grohl, now as the singer/guitarist of a new band, Foo Fighters. Their brand of pop-punk-rock was a departure from the sometimes noisy sounds of Nirvana, but it was a welcome one nevertheless. “Big Me” was the hugest hit, particularly for it’s video, but I really like the songs “I’ll Stick Around” and “This is a Call” the best.
8. Alice in Chains – Alice in Chains
As the final album featuring vocalist Layne Staley, this work stands as an exit sign of sorts for the grunge era. While I don’t love this as much as 1992’s classic Dirt, it is still a good album that features a good deal of Jerry Cantrell’s trademark sludgy guitar riffs with metal sensibilities. My favorite songs on this collection include “Grind” and “Over Now,” with “Heaven Beside You” also standing as an excellent piece.
7. Everclear – Sparkle and Fade
This album is included more for the nostalgia it induces than anything else, especially since I was part of a band at that time that played “Santa Monica.” Overall, the album is a good one about growing up and moving on, topics that were important to me as an 18 year old. Though I still occasionally like to turn this one on, its place was somewhat diminished after I saw Everclear put on one of the worst concerts I’ve ever seen several years ago. Check out the aforementioned “Santa Monica” and “Summerland.”
6. Tupac Shakur – Me Against the World
Tupac was widely known as one of the best rappers of the decade even before his murder in 1996, and this album, along with the even better All Eyez On Me, display him in top form. For better or worse, Tupac took the 90’s thug persona to a whole new level and his untimely death made him a legend. On this album, check out the monster hit “Dear Mama,” and the title track.
5. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
With the possible exception of the aforementioned Everclear album, there were no new discs that I listened to from beginning to end more often as a high school senior than this one. The Gallagher brothers reached the pinnacle of their rock star careers with this one and that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. “Wonderwall” is one of the best and most nostalgia-inducing songs of the decade, while “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” are also great listens.
4. Wilco – A.M.
Wilco’s debut album following the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, evaded my interest as a high school senior and it wasn’t until several years later that I first realized the brilliance of Jeff Tweedy. Sure, this is not among their best albums to date (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Summerteeth), but it is still a very good one, particularly on songs like “Passenger Side,” “I Must be High,” and “Box Full of Letters.”
3. Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad
There is something criminal about the way that this incredible acoustic work from The Boss was swept under the rug in the mid-90’s. Harkening back to the great Nebraska, this album finds Springsteen traveling back to the Midwest, to the trials and tribulations of the common man, and emerging with sparse tales of hard times. Check out the title track, “Youngstown,” and “My Best was Never Good Enough.”
2. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Mellon Collie is no exception to the general rule of double albums. It is bloated, ego-driven, and sometimes displays a little too much self-importance, but when Billy Corgan’s band is on target, which they are most of the time, they are one of the best around. The band rips through some huge riffs in songs like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Zero” that can still blow the listener away.
1. Radiohead – The Bends
Before The Bends, most thought of Radiohead as little more than a one-hit wonder of the grunge era. Their song “Creep” was huge, but there was little else on their debut that captured the imagination of music fans. When they burst back on the scene in 1995, though, it was with a true game changer and one of the best albums of the entire decade. Everyone remembers songs like “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees,” but it is the album in its entirety that truly astonishes. The Bends also marked the first entry in a trilogy of works, along with 1997’s OK Computer and 2000’s Kid A, that stands as quite possibly the best threesome of albums in the history of rock music. Seriously, I will put these three up against any three album span of The Beatles, Dylan, anyone, and I think it will fare just fine. For now, though, just listen to The Bends. Turn it up loud and let the genius of Thom Yorke take you away. You won’t be disappointed.
Ten for Tuesday: 2000 July 20, 2010Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 2000, Coldplay, Eminem, Johnny Cash, music, O Brother Where Art Thou, Outkast, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Ryan Adams, Steve Earle, The White Stripes, top ten
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Today we step back in to the metaphorical time machine to take a quick trip back to 2000, the year that marked the beginning of a new millennium. In 2000, I was 23 years old, graduated from Harding University, and began my first failed career as a public school teacher. My music collection was quite large, for I had high speed internet and no qualms about using whatever method of file sharing I could get my hands on, from Napster to Kazaa to others. I quit participating in music thievery long ago, but at that time it was not a big deal to me, especially since I had massive student load debt and a job that paid barely over $20K a year.
But I digress, 2000 also marked our entrance into a new age, one of uncertainty and unrest, with a once-booming economy starting to show some strain and threats to safety looming just over the horizon. Today’s list will look at the entertainment defining that year – specifically in music and film.
Top 10 Albums Released in 2000
10. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
Say what you want about Eminem, but in 2000 he set the standard for shock-rock, incurring the wrath of parents across the country as rapped, with a delirious exuberance, about doing drugs and killing his girlfriend. Sure it was twisted stuff, but few artists had ever truly captured youthful angst in a violence-obsessed culture the way he did then.
9. Steve Earle – Transcendental Blues
In the 1980’s Steve Earle was riding high as a new breed of country-rocker with hit songs like “Guitar Town,” but drug problems and a prison stint in the early 1990’s quickly put a hold on his burgeoning career. He returned with several excellent works in the second half of the 90’s, but it was Transcendental Blues that truly blew me away. Mixing country music pain with a Beatles-esque psychedelic sound, Earle made an early decade masterpiece that continues to astound today.
8. The White Stripes – De Stijl
Though their big mainstream breakthrough was yet to come, this nugget marks the period when music fans started paying attention to the duo of Jack and Meg White. On De Stijl, the Stripes blaze through a number of blues-rock cuts with such insistent fervor that you cannot help but be impressed. The cover of the blues standard, “Dead Letter,” is an incredible piece of work – particularly if you ever see it live.
7. Pearl Jam – Binaural
As all of you are probably aware, I’m a huge Pearl Jam fan, have been for nearly 20 years and probably will be until Eddie and company finally hang it up, but I was not that impressed with this work upon its release. It wasn’t until after I saw them live again that year that I came to really appreciate this more experimental sound.
6. Various Artists – O Brother, Where Art Thou?
This collection of revivalist folk/bluegrass music was probably the surprise hit of the year and helped old-timers like Ralph Stanley enjoy a career resurgence and younger artists like Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch to be propelled into the American mainstream. The most recognizable songs, though, belonged to the film’s fictional band, The Soggy Bottom Boys. A great movie (more on that later) and a great soundtrack.
5. Coldplay – Parachutes
Coldplay rightly deserves some of the criticism they receive for being derivative, unchallenging, and a bit boring, but that doesn’t mean all of their music is bad. Parachutes, the band’s full-length debut, is one of their better works, with great songs like “Don’t Panic,” and the piano-driven “Trouble,” leading the way.
4. Johnny Cash – American III: Solitary Man
The late-life run of The Man in Black and producer Rick Rubin is the stuff of legend and introduced him to a whole new generation of fans. This collection of original tunes and unlikely covers is the type of thing that will touch a nerve with anyone. In particular, you should check out his versions of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” U2’s “One,” and the amazing cover of Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat.” This is powerful stuff.
3. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
When Ryan Adams is on, the guy is among the best young singer-songwriters working today and this, his solo debut, is without a doubt the greatest musical achievement of his young, but prolific, career. “Oh My Sweet Carolina” is quite possibly one of the best country songs from the past decade and the fact that it received little to no country radio airplay is a sad reminder of what the genre has become.
2. Outkast – Stankonia
If rap music is art, this is a masterpiece. The Georgia-bred duo of Andre “Andre 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton blew everyone away with this, their fourth and probably best album. Together they mash up a variety of styles, from Sly and the Family Stone-style psychedelic funk to classic rap to the funky rock sounds of Prince. This was an instant and unavoidable classic.
1. Radiohead – Kid A
After two universally acclaimed, era-defining albums in the 1990’s (“The Bends” and “OK Computer”), all eyes were on Radiohead as the millennium turned. When they finally emerged, the product they offered was so different, so out of the ordinary, and so not radio-friendly, many of their past fans, myself included, did not know what to make of it. Ten years later this challenging and strange work, incorporating electronic sounds, danceable beats, and few guitars, is the stuff legends are made of. This was the perfect album, fraught with fear and uncertainty, to usher in the new millennium.
Next: The top movies of 2000.
Best of the Decade – Music Artists February 9, 2010Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Arcade Fire, Beck, Bob Dylan, Bright Eyes, Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, drive-by truckers, Green Day, Interpol, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, josh ritter, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, neko case, Outkast, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Ryan Adams, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, The Avett Brothers, The Black Keys, The Decemberists, The Flaming Lips, The Hold Steady, The White Stripes, top artists of the decade, Wilco
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Over the past few months we’ve taken a look at the music from the past decade in my ranking of the top 100 albums released during that time period. To arrive at this list, I considered more than 400 releases from those ten years, the majority of which I actually own. But, this undertaking led me to yet another question – if these are the top albums, who are the top artists? So, using these 400 albums and my rankings as a guide, I have compiled a listing of my 30 top artists of the time period stretching from 2000-2009. Let me know what you think.
30. Bright Eyes – Between his solo work and that with Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst is one of the most prolific artists on my list. Though he can be a bit over-earnest at times, I’m still a big fan of his unsure, wavering voice.
Notable Albums: Lifted or The Story is in the Soul, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002), Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005), Cassadega (2007)
29. The Avett Brothers – I became an instant fan of The Avett Brothers after hearing 2007’s alt-grass classic Emotionalism, a feeling which has only grown stronger through 2009’s piano ballad-driven I and Love and You.
Notable Albums: Mignonette (2004), Emotionalism (2007), I and Love and You (2009)
28. Modest Mouse – Modest Mouse had been around in indie rock circles for several years, but it was 2004’s unavoidable catchy “Float On” that propelled them to stardom.
Notable Albums: The Moon & Antarctica (2000), Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004), We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007)
27. Interpol – Downbeat and depressing, Interpol brought back everything that was good about the early 80’s post-punk movement.
Notable Albums: Turn on the Bright Lights (2002), Antics (2004), Our Love to Admire (2007)
26. Ryan Adams – Another prolific artist, Adams released the equivalent of 10 studio albums over the past decade. Though most of his work is hit and miss, when he is on, he’s among the best working today.
Notable Albums: Heartbreaker (2000), Gold (2001), Love is Hell (2004), Easy Tiger (2007)
25. Johnny Cash – The Man in Black may have passed away in 2002, but that didn’t stop him from being among the highest rated artists of the decade. His final series of works with Rick Rubin are some of the most poignant to be found anywhere.
Notable Albums: American III: Solitary Man (2000), American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002), American V: A Hundred Highways (2006)
24. Jay-Z – There are few hip-hop artists who reach stardom that continue produce top-notch albums. Though Jay-Z has had his fair share of misses, he continues to be one of the best in the game.
Notable Albums: The Blueprint (2001), The Black Album (2003)
23. Neko Case – I fell in love with Neko Case’s soaring voice following her stellar ’06 release, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and she has yet to disappoint me.
Notable Albums: Blacklisted (2002), Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006), Middle Cyclone (2009)
22. Arcade Fire – With a huge sound and a big Springsteen influence, Canada’s Arcade Fire burst onto the scene in a big way with their 2004 debut Funeral. They have a great deal of energy and passion that translates well in their stadium-ready songs.
Notable Albums: Funeral (2004), Neon Bible (2007)
21. Wilco – Though 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may be the creative pinnacle of their career thus far, in my opinion, the 1990’s were a far better decade overall for Jeff Tweedy’s band. Nevertheless, they did produce some enjoyable and inventive fare over the past ten years.
Notable Albums: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), Sky Blue Sky (2007), Wilco (The Album) (2009)
20. The Decemberists – As I have mentioned in the past, there is probably no success story that is more unlikely than that of The Decemberists, with their obscure lyrical references and use of uncommon instruments (accordions, Wurlitzer organs, etc.).
Notable Albums: Picaresque (2005), The Crane Wife (2006), The Hazards of Love (2009)
19. Outkast – Given the fact that they have released two of the all-time quintessential hip hop albums over the past ten years, I wanted to place Big Boi and Andre 3000 higher then this. But, their lack of quality output since 2003’s double album extravaganza hurt them in the long run.
Notable Albums: Stankonia (2000), Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)
18. The Flaming Lips – Trippy and weird, these Oklahomans have been cranking out alt-rock oddities for more than two decades. The past decade from the Lips brought us pink robots, politics, and a penchant for sonic insanity. Really, what else do you need?
Notable Albums: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2000), At War with the Mystics (2006), Embryonic (2009)
17. The Black Keys – This is down and dirty blues-rock done right – by a couple of hippy-ish white guys from Akron, Ohio. The Keys have put together work after work of irresistible riff-rock that needs to be heard.
Notable albums: Thickfreakness (2003), Rubber Factory 92004), Attack & Release (2008)
16. Coldplay – Sure, their sound may be a bit contrived and safe, but this band, which is certainly among the most popular groups of the decade, know how to make stadium-ready rock.
Notable albums: Parachutes (2000), A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)
15. Kanye West – With the kind of talent Kanye has who cares if he’s not a nice guy. If there is a single hip hop artist to be identified with this decade, it must be him. He is creative, fun, and a definite risk-taker across all four of his excellent releases.
Notable Albums: The College Dropout (2004), Late Registration (2005), 808s & Heartbreak (2008)
14. The Hold Steady – The band once proclaimed to be the “best bar band in America” has become one of the best bands period in America. Openly wielding a love for Springsteen, the band tears through song after song about the dead end people and towns.
Notable Albums: Separation Sunday (2005), Boys and Girls in America (2005), Stay Positive (2008)
13. Bob Dylan – Dylan’s career resurgence following 1997’s Time Out of Mind carried through the first decade of the millennium, a time in which his releases went from incredible to strange (whoever guessed we’d have Dylan Christmas album?), but never boring.
Notable Albums: Love & Theft (2001), Modern Times (2006), Together Through Life (2009)
12. Kings of Leon – KoL began the decade as little-known Southern rockers, the sons of a Tennessee preacher, and ended it as one of the biggest bands in America.
Notable Albums: Youth and Young Manhood (2003), Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004), Only By Night (2008)
11. Beck – Eschewing his “two turntables and a microphone” persona, alternative rock’s Dylan began the decade with a sad and darn near perfect collection of acoustic laments before carrying on with a return to the fun-loving and danceable tunes that propelled him to stardom in the 90’s.
Notable Albums: Sea Change (2002), The Information (2006), Modern Guilty (2008)
10. Sufjan Stevens – Earnest and uncertain, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens chose to do things his way over the past decade, releasing entire albums devoted to the states of Michigan and Illinois, producing a collection of Christmas EPs and wearing his spiritual side on his sleeve.
Notable Albums: Greetings from Michigan (2003), Seven Swans (2004), Illinois (2005)
9. Pearl Jam – The majority of Pearl Jam’s releases this decade were good, but lacking a bit when compared to their work from the 1990’s – or course, that was prior to 2009’s Backspacer, which ranked as one of my very favorite albums of the entire decade.
Notable Albums: Binaural (2000), Riot Act (2002), Backspacer (2009)
8. Green Day – This decade marked the evolution of Green Day from juvenile pop-punkers to worldwide fame and renown. Their newfound maturity and political themes turned Billy Joe’s band into one of the most important ones in America today.
Notable Albums: American Idiot (2004), 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
7. Spoon – Though Spoon had been around in the 90’s, it was not until the early 2000’s that I came in contact with their infectious, danceable tunes and I loved it. There are few bands that have been as consistently good as Spoon over the past 10 years.
Notable Albums: Kill the Moonlight (2002), Girls Can Tell (2001), Gimme Fiction (2005)
6. My Morning Jacket – Jim James’ band burst through their reverb-soaked haze early in the decade to claim a piece of the 2000’s Southern rock crown. Though their sound can veer from Neil Young to Prince, the overall product is a distinctly Southern one and not to be missed.
Notable Albums: It Still Moves (2003), Z (2005), Evil Urges (2008)
5. Josh Ritter – Ritter is quite possibly the best songwriter of my generation, and that’s really saying something. He could be the next Springsteen or the next Dylan, or maybe sometime in the future we’ll be calling another young singer-songwriter the next Ritter.
Notable Albums: Hello Starling (2003), The Animal Years (2006), The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
4. Drive-By Truckers – There are few artists that I have followed as intently over the past ten years as DBT. There is just something about their stories of the dark side of the South that I find appealing and they have a killer live show.
Notable Albums: Southern Rock Opera (2001), Decoration Day (2003), Brighter than Creation’s Dark (2008)
3. Radiohead – If my generation has an answer to The Beatles, it is Radiohead. Thom Yorke’s band has continually pushed boundaries for the past 15 years and, in so doing, have produced some of the most creative and incredible pieces of work to be found in the music business today.
Notable Albums: Kid A (2000), Hail to the Thief (2003), In Rainbows (2007)
2. The White Stripes – I’m an unabashed worshipper of the power of Jack White and his guitar. The guy can pull incredible solos out of nowhere and make them look easy. This duo’s five albums of blues-rock are among the best of anybody for the entire decade.
Notable Albums: White Blood Cells (2001), Elephant (2003), Icky Thump (2007)
1. Bruce Springsteen – Who cares if the Boss topped 60 last year? The guy can still bring it like no other. The 2000’s have proven to be his most fruitful time since the early-mid ‘80’s, with 5 great albums released over the course of ten years. All hail the Boss, he’s still the man!
Notable Albums: The Rising (2002), Magic (2007), Working on a Dream (2009)
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (1-10) February 2, 2010Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: Beck, best of 2000's, Bruce Springsteen, Green Day, josh ritter, music, Outkast, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens, The Swell Season, top ten, Wilco
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I hope you have enjoyed our look back at the top 100 albums of the past decade. Today we will complete our journey with my top ten. Enjoy.
You can see the past entries in our countdown here:
10. Green Day – American Idiot (2004)
American Idiot marked a true milestone for Green Day, for it was the moment in which they truly grew up, maturing beyond their bratty 90’s punk rock to another level where they donned the mantle designating them as one of the greatest bands of a generation. Combining influences like The Who with their own punk sensibilities, Green Day constructed this magnum opus, a rock opera centered around the fictional character Jesus of Suburbia who is desensitized by a diet of “soda pop and Ritalin.” The album has a number of great songs, including the 9 minute “Jesus of Suburbia,” “Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”
9. Glen Hansard/Marketa Irglova – The Swell Season (2006)
I was introduced to Hansard, Irglova and, by extension, The Frames, through their work in the incredible 2007 film Once. This album, recorded prior to the movie, contains much of the same material found on the soundtrack. The music is sparsely orchestrated, preferring to put most of the focus on Hansard’s emotional appeals to love with the Czech-born Irglova. Like the movie, it is quite a ride and one that everyone should experience. “Fallen Slowly” is the great Oscar-winning love song that most people have heard, but you should also check out “This Low,” “Lies,” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”
8. Outkast – Stankonia (2000)
Funky and hard-hitting, this is what Southern hip-hop is all about. The Atlanta duo of Antwan “Big Boi” Patton and Andre “Andre 3000” Benjamin have proven themselves time and again to be among the most creative and interesting artists working in the rap world today. The album seamlessly blends different styles and genres of music, at times employing heavy guitars, George Clinton-like psychedelic funk, and others, layering them on top of each other from song to song to create one of the greatest rap albums ever recorded. Listen to “Gasoline Dreams,” “Ms. Jackson,” and “B.O.B.” and you’ll agree.
7. Bruce Springsteen – Magic (2007)
Springsteen’s comeback in the 2000’s, during which he released 5 albums, is the stuff of which legends are made. Today I’ve settled on Magic as my favorite of the Boss’s releases this decade, though with the volume and quality of his recent work, it can be hard to choose. This work flows exceedingly well from great song to great song all the way from beginning to end, putting it on par with his classic works of the ‘70’s and 80’s. If you have any interest in Springsteen at all (and if you don’t, you should), you need this album. Check out “You’ll be Comin’ Down,” “Livin’ in the Future,” “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” and “Long Walk Home.”
6. Sufjan Stevens –Illinoise (2005)
This second volume of the banjo-wielding Sufjan Stevens’ “50 State Project” consists of 22 songs and interludes, all of which reference something about the state of Illinois. It is a strange and interesting work, and one that caught the attention of the public upon its release in 2005 as Stevens led them on a guided trip around the state. My favorite songs include, “Come On! Feel the Illinoise,” “Chicago,” “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.,” and “Decatur, Or, Round of Applause for Your Step-Mother!”
5. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
After years of toiling away under the radar making great albums, Jeff Tweedy’s longtime band broke out 2002 with this, their masterpiece. Wilco’s preceding album, Summerteeth, displayed a band longing to break free from the alt-country constraints, but when they readied this Radiohead-influenced work for release, their label balked at its non-commercial sound, so Wilco decided to take matters into their own hands. In September 2001, they began streaming the album in its entirety on their website, amassing tens of thousands of hits. Soon after the web success, it was released by another label where it sold more than 500,000 copies and garnered rave reviews. Check out songs like “Kamera,” “War on War,” “Jesus, Etc.” and “Heavy Metal Drummer.”
4. Josh Ritter – The Animal Years (2006)
I was first introduced to the music of Ritter, who I now consider to be among the best songwriters of my generation, with this incredible album. Combining the sound of a young Springsteen with Dylanesque wordplay, he shows himself to be a true rising star among folk singer-songwriters. I’m a big fan and have no qualms whatsoever telling you that you need to buy this entire album. Just listen to “Monster Ballads,” “Lillian, Egypt,” “Good Man,” and “Thin Blue Flame,” and you’ll no doubt agree.
3. Beck – Sea Change (2002)
If I could only have two words to describe this album they would be, beautifully depressing. For this release, Beck eschews his fun-loving “Two turntables and a microphone,” persona and instead takes on that of a sad countryish balladeer, one that matches his real life personal heartbreak following the end of a longtime relationship. It is an incredible work, the best thing that Beck has ever done and that’s really saying something. This was my personal soundtrack when it came out and it accompanied me in a really tough time in my life. “Lost Cause” may be one of my favorite songs of all time, but you should also check out, “Guess I’m Doing Fine,” and “It’s All in Your Mind.”
1. (Tie) Radiohead – Kid A (2000), Pearl Jam – Backspacer (2009)
It may be a bit of a cop out to choose two best albums of the decade, but in my estimation there were no two works that better encapsulated the ten year period that these that bracketed each end.
With Kid A, Thom Yorke’s band faced a monumental task – following up both 1995’s incredible The Bends and 1997’s generation-defining OK Computer. The band took this daunting endeavor and completely turned it on its side, taking a different approach as they pushed the guitar-driven sound of their prior releases to the side and embraced a more experimental electronic sound. It was a bold move to say the least and one that probably turned off a lot of past fans, but it turned out to be a fitting way to open a decade full of uncertainty and fear. I graduated from college in 2000, saddled with a ton of debt (much of which I still have) and with a certain amount of dread as I entered the real world. The future was shrouded with darkness and mystery and my faith had taken its first real hits (with many more to follow), so it makes sense that this album, a cry of loneliness and uncertainty in a big dark world, became so meaningful to me. This is a true work of art and something not to be missed.
Now approaching middle age, Eddie Vedder’s band is not the same one that set the world on fire in the early 1990’s with stadium-filling anthems, flannel shirts, and crowd surfing. The maturation process has been kind to them, though, replacing youthful angst with a feeling of contentment, a belief in love, and a sense of mortality. I’ve been following the band closely for 18 years of my life now, collecting their music and seeing them live whenever possible, and I do not think I have ever felt a connection with their music that equals the strength of this one. Listening to Backspacer from beginning to end is a spiritual experience, one that is beautiful and moving and like no other. It is a fitting way to end a tumultuous decade, one full of fear and anger and discontent, and look ahead with hope at a brighter future. It is a particularly poignant work for me, personally, at the end of a sometimes stormy ten years. This was the decade in which I became a father x3. This was when I finally and quite painfully destroyed the belief system that had characterized my life to that point and embraced a new and different way. This was the time when I really found myself and came to some sense of understanding. This was when I learned that the only thing that truly matters is love, not doctrine, not education, not money. Pearl Jam’s 2009 masterwork sums it all up perfectly.
As a man in my 30’s with a wife I love and a houseful of kids I’ve come to an understanding. I’ve ventured through peaks and valleys, trials and triumphs, disappointment and victory. I’ve been forsaken by some and embraced by others. In 2000, I faced the world with trepidation, in 2009 that has, for the most part, been replaced with hope and love. The next decade will not be perfect and I’m sure that we will revel in highs and suffer in lows, but I’m looking forward to it – not because I have to, but because I want to.
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (21-30) January 20, 2010Posted by Matt in Uncategorized.
Tags: 2000s, Arcade Fire, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Green Day, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, Kings of Leon, music, Radiohead, The Black Keys, The Decemberists, top 100
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Today we return to our look back at the top 100 albums of the past decade. In case you missed the previous entries, you can get to them through the following links:
30. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (2006)
Leave it to The Decemberists, one of the most unique and unlikely success stories of the decade, to make a incredible concept album based on an old and relatively unknown Japanese folk tale. The songs flow from beginning to end in such a way that the listener becomes completely enraptured in the story and the music. This is a real and true work of art from the hyper-literate Colin Meloy and his bandmates. “O Valencia” was a big hit for a reason, it’s a great and catchy song. In addition to that, check out “Shankill Butchers.”
29. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)
Employing a multitude of soul samples and an almost unmatched charisma, the man also known as Shawn Carter created one of the best rap albums of the decade with The Blueprint. If you ever wonder why people make such a big deal out of Jay-Z, this is why.
Check out songs like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Girls, Girls, Girls” and enjoy.
28. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
Coldplay makes the kind of music whose sole purpose is to fill arenas and earn massive amounts of money, a combination that can oftentimes backfire among the more jaded listeners. Regardless, this album is truly great from beginning to end, a trait seen in the fact that, despite being terribly overplayed, it is still quite enjoyable. Listen to “In My Place” and “The Scientist,” or even “Clocks” if you haven’t heard it 100 times too many over the past 8 years.
27. The Black Keys – Rubber Factory (2004)
The Black Keys rock, plain and simple. I first came into contact with this great blues/rock duo in the great film Black Snake Moan, which featured the incredible opening cut from this album, “When the Lights Go Out,” in one of its first scenes. After that I was hooked and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. You should also check out “!0 A.M. Automatic” and “Girl is on my Mind,” to truly get a fee for this excellent release. Also, if you ever have the chance to see them live, do it. They are awesome.
26. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
Green Day have come a long way since they first burst on the scene in the mid-90’s with songs of youthful angst and umm… self-induced euphoria. This follow up to 2004’s critically lauded and hugely successful concept album, American Idiot,” almost matches its predecessor in terms of excellence. This time the story deals with people struggling in post-Bush America and, though it is a bit hard to follow at times, the fact that the album rocks makes up for it. My favorite tunes are probably “Viva la Gloria!” with its piano balladry leading into classic Green Day punk, the hard-hitting “East Jesus Nowhere,” and the ode to the “Last of the American Girls.”
25. Johnny Cash – American III: Solitary Man (2000)
There are few artists who can pull off the kind of late-career surge that Cash, with the help of producer Rick Rubin, did from 1994 until his death in 2003. This album, like all of those from the period, was stark and dark, dealing with mortality in such a poignant way that it is sure to touch even the most hard-hearted among us. Cash weaves together covers and originals into an incredible commentary on life and death. Included on this album are Cash’s covers of tunes like U2’s “One” and Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat,” that you need to hear.
24. Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak (2004)
One of the few sophomore releases to outdo the original, Aha Shake Heartbreak is a rocking and soulful trip through the American south that is not to be missed. It is, without a doubt, my favorite Kings’ album. It’s young and hungry and loud, the things that make rock music great. Check out songs like “Taper Jean Girl,” and “Slow Night, So Long.”
23. Bob Dylan – Love & Theft (2001)
Beginning with 1997’s classic Time Out of Mind and going through the first decade of the millennium, Dylan enjoyed quite the late career resurgence as he seemed to recapture a creative energy that had been missing for some time. On 2001’s Love and Theft, the 60 year old poet proved that he had plenty to offer the world and re-established himself as the poet laureate of rock and roll. My favorite tracks include “Mississippi” and the crooning “Moonlight.”
22. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
So, you are a band that is 15 years into your career, you have worldwide popularity and are among the most critically lauded groups in recent times: what do you do next? If you’re Radiohead; you take another step into the future and place their entire album online, telling downloaders to pay whatever amount they would like. The gimmick was almost as ingenious as the album itself, which stands up well against anything else in their unparalleled catalogue. You need to hear the entire album, but, if you are hesitant to get the whole thing, check out songs like “Bodysnatchers,” and “House or Cards,” be amazed, and then buy the entire work.
21. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
Dramatic and sincere, with a huge, arena-filling sound behind it, this album blew everyone away upon its 2004 release. Frontman Win Butler has a real dangerous quality to his voice as the band blasts through tales of the broken and beaten down and sometimes triumphant. Listen to “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Wake Up,” then pick up the entire album. It is well worth it.
Best of the Decade – Music Edition (81-90) November 23, 2009Posted by Matt in Top 100 of the Decade.
Tags: 2000s, Belle and Sebastian, decade, Gizzly Bear, Gnarls Barkley, Matisyahu, Modest Mouse, Okkervil River, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, the new pornographers, top 100, U2
Last week we began an ambitious expedition through the best music of the past decade and I posted the albums ranked 91-100. Today we will tackle the next ten, numbers 81-90. Let me know what you think.
90. U2 – No Line on the Horizon (2009)
I’ve long been a fan of U2, but have rarely found their complete albums to be great. Even their magnum opus, The Joshua Tree, is terribly front-loaded. No Line continues their tradition of good recordings, proving to be one of their better collections overall and definitely their best since 1991’s The Joshua Tree. Some of the songs, like “Magnificent” and “Moment of Surrender,” can stand up to anything in their legendary catalog.
89. Matisyahu – Youth (2006)
An orthodox Hasidic Jew doing reggae music? Why not, this is the 2000’s. Matisyahu mixes socially conscious lyrics with danceable rhythms to produce one of the more unusual and surprising releases of the decade. The title track, “Youth,” and “King Without a Crown” are two tunes that particularly show that he could be in for a long and fruitful career.
88. Pearl Jam – Riot Act (2002)
As I’ve mentioned on many occasions in the past, I’ve long been a rabid fan of Pearl Jam and this is probably my favorite of theirs from the intervening years between No Code and Backspacer. It has a varied sound that is more akin to Vitalogy than to any of their other works, while showing the maturity of a group of men closing in on 40. The album contains jabs at corporate America and President Bush, but I think my favorite tunes are probably “I am Mine,” “Thumbing my Way,” and “Love Boat Captain.” It’s definitely a must-have for PJ fans.
87. The New Pornographers – Challengers (2007)
TNG is an indie rock supergroup of sorts made up of AC Newman, Dan Bejar (aka Destoryer), and one of my personal favorites, Neko Case. The band makes interesting music together, but I personally wish they would utilize Case more often than they do. Regardless, this album has some great songs, including “Myriad Harbor” and the title track, “Challengers.”
86. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (2006)
Scottish band Belle & Sebastian have been carrying the indie pop banner for several years now and The Life Pursuit continues their streak of interesting and catchy music. Their sound is similar to the alternative bands of the 1980’s, such as The Smiths, just with a bit more sunshine from earlier mainstream pop. Check out songs like “The Blues Are Still Blue” and “Funny Little Frog” to get a better idea of what they are about.
85. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (2006)
The combination of producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and rapper Cee-Lo Green quickly proved itself to be a formidable one with their debut release, St. Elsewhere. Funky and soulful, with inescapably catchy songs like “Crazy,” the duo blew up in 2006 with this multi-platinum released and have continued to prove themselves with an innovative style that appeals to both critics and regular listeners.
84. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (2009)
Interesting and intelligent, the band Grizzly Bear is a critical darling of the decade for a reason. The have a real knack for bending genres, mixing electronic sounds with vocal harmonies a la Fleet Foxes and some very nice alterna-pop melodies. Catchy songs like “Two Weeks” and “While You Wait for the Others” will be stuck in your head for days. Though I had heard some of their last release, Yellow House, this was the first album of the band’s that I’ve listened to very often, so I’m looking forward to seeing what Grizzly Bear has in store for us in the future.
83. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003)
Would it be considered a heresy for me to call Radiohead the Beatles of generation X? There is probably no other group who have changed music, who have camped out at the cutting edge and set themselves up as the standard-bearers of a generation, to the same extent as Thom Yorke’s band. While this politically charged album may not be among their best, it is still quite good and proves that even when not on top of their game, Radiohead is on another level than everyone else. Songs like “2+2=5” and “There There” are nearly on par with anything in their career.
82. Modest Mouse – Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)
I had listened to some Modest Mouse prior to the release of this album, but for whatever reason, they never truly grabbed hold of me. It was not until the catchy and anthemic song “Float On” hit the airwaves that I went back, listened, and became a fan. This breakout album for the longtime indie stalwarts is definitely a must-own for someone interested in the music of the early 2000’s.
81. Okkervil River – The Stand Ins (2008)
This hyper-literate Austin band hit paydirt with this 2008 release and its ultra-catchy “Lost Coastlines.” Though this set of recordings is supposed to be a companion piece to their 2007 release, The Stage Names, I think I actually enjoy it more. Frontman Will Sheff likes to make strange and sometimes obscure references to everything from French playwright Antonin Artaud to a 1920’s German silent film to the Gospel of Thomas, and that’s only in one song (“Singer Songwriter”). How cool is that? Seriously, check this album out if you haven’t already.