Friday, December 11, 2009

The best albums of the 2000s: 40-31

Welcome to our top 40. The countdown rolls on.

40. Passion Pit, Manners (2009)

I am happy to see these local folks (Boston-bred!) on the list. They take the whole electro-pop thing to 11, and top it all off with Michael Angelakos' wicked falsetto. - GC

Some of the finest glimmer-shimmer pop I've ever heard. - AC

This has no business working as well as it does. But boy, does it work. If you need something upbeat to inject some happy into your day, here's your album. - RB

The melodies are so good you'll get past the high voice fast if that's something that initially intimidates you. You'll find yourself picking favorites, then new favorites will emerge, then they'll change once more, and before you know it you love every song on the album. - SB

Intriguing and fun. -HR

Little Secrets - Passion Pit

39. My Morning Jacket, Z (2005)

How can you not love a band that fuses southern-rock influences with power pop and some funky, understated keyboard? Not every tune is southern-fried, but lead singer Jim James certainly has the requisite good-ol'-boy name. If the music gig doesn't work out, maybe Jimmy James could make sausages or something. I'd buy some. - AC

Whether you take this album in while you work or as the centerpiece of a staycation listening party, you'll find it resonates: familiar and fresh at the same time. - HR

I love this band and the fact that they keep evolving with every release. Fun fact: No idea about sausage, but two different college friends dated Jim James in his coffee shop/bar table-waiting days in the late '90s (around the time of their debut album). Second fun fact: one of my daughters is named after a MMJ song. - MD

Anytime - My Morning Jacket

37. Metric, Fantasies (2009)

Drawing on techno-dance roots, Metric created a beautiful album that includes one of pop music's most important questions: Beatles or Stones? - AC

Emily Haines and crew deliver a polished, complete album that's accessible and full of mainstream fare. In this case, that's not a bad thing at all. - RB

My favorite of 2009. I had zero idea who this band was before I read this blog post from Topspin Media. I pre-ordered it immediately and never could have predicted how much I'd listen to it. Every single song is gold. While the songwriting is really strong, this band wouldn't be much without Emily Haines. Certain people have that special something and she's got it. And she's absolutely amazing on-stage. - SB

Help I'm Alive - Metric

37. Radiohead, Hail to the Thief (2003)

Radiohead's fourth-best album of the decade, imho. #justsayin. - TN

Probably the band's most underrated album. - RB

Probably the Radiohead album of the decade that I didn't really listen to much. - AC

Hail to the Radiohead. - HR

There There - Radiohead

36. Jay-Z, The Blueprint (2001)

This album was released on 9/11. This release introduced us to the work of Kanye West, a little-known producer at the time and Just Blaze, both of whom have gone on to mainstream success -- the former as a rapper/producer, the latter as a hitmaking producer. Beyond that, its title artist reinvented himself for the better with this release, giving rise to the wave of soul sampling in hip-hop, as well as an MTV Unplugged set with The Roots backing him that was widely acclaimed. A good entry point to his catalog if you've only heard his recent stuff. - RB

Song Cry - Jay-Z

35. The Mars Volta, De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003)

I've heard them called a tornado of pretentious trash-noise. I invented a fake person who called them a team of self-indulgent fabric softeners at their finest. I don't know what that means. Maybe that fake person is trying to get at the fact that you've probably never heard of a team of self-indulgent fabric softeners before. Sounds pretty cool. You open the box and because those cute little fabric softener sheets are so "self-indulgent," they smell better than other fabric softeners. They've spent a lot of time honing their scent skills. Developing their odor talents. Becoming the smell. So in a sense I'm asking you to think of band members Cedric and Omar as fabric softeners. Sprawling creativity. An interesting listen from start to finish, it was a huge influence on my friends and I. The lyrics are certainly difficult to comprehend and I challenge anyone to know exactly what he's talking about, even if you've read the short story the album's based on. Songs bounce around but are filled with powerful choruses. Sensational guitar. Lots of Latin and jazz influence. Heck, you know it's good when Pitchfork gives it a 4.9. - SB

It's quite possible the world will never be fully prepared for this record. Amazing. - HR

The Mars Volta - Drunkship of Lanterns

The Mars Volta - This Apparatus Must be Unearthed

34. Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope (2006)

This album hit me over the head, and when I woke I was reclining in a hammock, beguiled yet relaxed, sipping the sweetest lemonade ever. And wanting to continuously hit the "repeat" button. - TN

Some hits and misses here, but mostly spot-on hits. Ms. Spektor's mix of classical piano, sweet vocals and hip-hop influences is both uplifting and can break your heart-art-art-art-heart. - AC

This was the album that brought me into her camp. I wasn't a fan before, but this one did it for me. - RB

Apres Moi - Regina Spektor

32. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (2009)

If I ever get to interview Ms. Case, I'll have to ask why she's so fascinated by dismemberment. But some good retro stuff here; I'd love to hear Case and M. Ward collaborate. - TN

One of the sweetest voices in the alt-county universe. - AC

Easily one of the best albums of 2009. - RB

Neko Case is a goddess. Her voice is penetrating and powerful, her storytelling superb. Her second best album of the decade and one of the best of '09. - MD

The Pharaohs - Neko Case

32. The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (2001)

Jack and Meg White are largely responsible for the garage-rock revival, and the single "Fell in Love With a Girl" made their noisy, feedback-laden sound accessible to the masses. But the White Stripes also infused this album with a bit of country ("Hotel Yorba"), rootsy semi-ballads ("Now Mary") and softer pieces ("The Same Boy You've Always Known"). - AC

This record fulfilled my every expectation and remains for me the quintessential Stripes sound. - HR

Hotel Yorba - The White Stripes

31. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell (2003)

It surprised me when I looked back to see how much a critical part of the music of the 2000s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been, and this is the album that started it all. - GC

Karen O. and company unleashed a powerful mix of garage-punk reminiscent of the '70s New York City scene. Heck, she even had a Joey Ramone haircut. - AC

This album is direct and powerful - especially in context. It takes some serious musical skills to make noise. One of my favorites, truly. - HR

Maps - Yeah Yeah Yeahs


  1. My favorite tune from that Regina Spektor album is the opening track, Fidelity

  2. Yeah, Hotel Yorba. Surprisingly little to say about this installment, but all interesting choices.

  3. I'm a sucker for synth pop sung by female artists with tone and flavor to their voices -- Allison Moyet's Raindancing, for example. So yeah, I really like Fantasies. The earlier Metric stuff is good, but uneven, imo, so it was nice to see them put a full album together.

  4. @WM I agree on Metric. After Fantasies I went back through their catalog and nothing even closely compared to Fantasies. Certain things here and there maybe, but as a whole this album blows away anything they had ever done before.

  5. @Andy I'm just starting to explore Regina Spektor. Downloaded her new one (Far) from this year but haven't listened enough yet to say much.

  6. Steve - Far was kind of disappointing to me, but I do like the message of the song Laughing With. I would highly recommend you listen to Begin to Hope, but no need to bother with Soviet Kitsch, IMO.

  7. William - Glad there's one on the list (so far) that you like. :)

  8. Hands down #40 is my #1 for 2009! I fell in love with Passion Pit at Bonnaroo 2009. Sleepyhead was on repeat for about 3 months after that show. Sadly I was supposed to see them in DC and Austin but never made the shows. Ahh something for next year hm?

  9. @Andrea Ah yes, they're so good live. I saw them at the Monolith Festival at Red Rocks this year. I actually didn't think the music translated well live when I saw their Letterman performance, but in person at the festival was super.

    Sleepyhead FTW!

  10. @Andrew

    Heh. Oh there's more than that, but a) I don't own that many albums so for many of these picks I only know a song or two and b) I don't always have something to say. For example, I'm still trying to figure out my love for Green Day and if (possibly) overrate them because of the hometown factor (I'm from the East Bay) or if there is a core aesthetic foundation there as well.

  11. "Hail To The Thief" is the only recent Radiohead album I can actually stand. Interesting.

    And I can't, for the life of me, get into the Mars Volta. And I'm down with some weird rock stuff, but it just doesn't do anything for me. I've even come back to it and tried multiple times... but nothing.

    The White Stripes have grown on me, though.

  12. Andrea, Steve - "Sleepyhead" is a terrific tune. So great that you guys got to see Passion Pit live.

    William - I think you're overthinking the whole Green Day thing. Just enjoy them for the tight concept/prog-rock band in punk rock clothing that they've become. :)

    Chris - How do you define "recent" Radiohead? This decade? Post-OK Computer? Post Kid A? Just curious. P.S. - I cant get into the Mars Volta much either, and I do like noise.

  13. Oh, totally. Bring on the bombast, I say.

  14. @Chris I give you mad props for at least giving TMV a shot. You're certainly not alone in your struggle.

  15. I'm with Chris, Hail To The Thief is my fav Radiohead output. And I too, can't abibe much of the Mars Volta, despite my friends insisting on me trying.

  16. I'd say anything post-"Creep." (Okay, maybe post-"Fake Plastic Trees.")

    I really thought TMV is something that would really resonate with me. I'm a huge Dream Theater fan, I love what Claudio Sanchez is doing with his bizarre storyline, I'm a wannabe guitar geek... but I just didn't get it.

  17. I contributed a different Metric album to my own top 100 initially, mainly because I hadn't fully listened to "Fantasies" yet. I can, however, admit when I'm wrong.

    I am way behind on the Regina Spektor train, as well. Though I loved "On the Radio" before I knew it was her.

    Chris - I love "Hail to the Thief," as well, and was sad that "In Rainbows" trumped it. "In Rainbows" left me totally cold.

  18. You know what's excellent? Regina Spektor's guest spot on "You Don't Know Me" by Ben Folds. It's perfect.