Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The best albums of the 2000s: 10-1

This is it. The end. The final countdown. The top 10 albums of the decade, according to us.

Mason has posted his personal top 100 list as well. So we all have our own personal posts for your review (see the "contributors" sidebar).

10. Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker (2000)

While a fan of Adams and Whiskeytown, I somehow didn't own this album until I saw it on this list. I have since downloaded it, and subsequently confirmed that I am a moron. It's very good! - TN

One! Two! a-one whee-hoo! Who in the hell starts out a song like that? Someone who's bent on having a good ol' big time, that's who. And Ryan Adams does just that throughout this album, even with the more somber tunes. - AC

I was a latecomer to the Ryan Adams bandwagon, and while my first (Easy Tiger) is closest to my heart, the song “Come Pick Me Up” on this album pretty much brings me to my knees every time. - GC

That separate list I made ranking just Ryan Adams output during the 2000s - this is at the top. A harbinger of the (mostly) great things that RA would produce throughout the decade. - MD

To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, is To Be High) - Ryan Adams

Oh My Sweet Carolina - Ryan Adams

9. Radiohead, In Rainbows (2007)

Did you notice how many wags in mainstream media tried to call this album economically unsuccessful -- mainly those working for publications owned by the same megacorps threatened by Radiohead's daring new funding model? Radiohead has made better albums, but never a bolder statement. - TN

It wasn't until I went back to this album fairly recently, that I realized how good it was. Powered by a model that said "pay us what you want for it," it probably exposed the band far and away to people who'd otherwise never hear them and those who checked it out were rewarded with a treat. - RB

Radiohead's approach to releasing this album was a bold statement. But even if it had been released in the more traditional fashion, I would still rate it highly. The musicianship and creativity on display in In Rainbows is as good as anything else this band put out in the '00s. - AC

This album, for me, is a perfect fit - I find all of the classic Radiohead motifs are present and wrapped in a nicely evolved, tightly held package. Each song craftily transitions right into the next, so worthy of being listened to in whole-record, beautiful form. Most classic. - HR

All I Need - Radiohead

Weird Fishes/Arpeggi - Radiohead

8. The Strokes, Is This It (2001)

"Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee asked in a 1969 single. Forty years later, The Strokes rephrase the question, but it is no longer a question; it is a blase statement. Is This It, both the album and the title track, explore the power of ennui. But don't mistake that attitude for dullness. Songs like "Hard to Explain" and the single "Last Night," with jangly, tinny guitars chugging alongside Julian Casablancas's world-weary vocals, evoke a modern take on New York City '77-era punk. This is it. - AC

Is this It is a futuristic sort of tv dinner from the past - without a doubt this is the most listened album for me. It was one of those last few physical CD treasures before I transitioned to mp3s and other digital varieties - a semi broken plastic case where a worn CD lives with my ticket stubs, memories of joining a fan club (!) and standing in line post-shows like a 14 year old waiting for Elvis. It was a golden moment of heraldry, a beacon which announced 'this decade may not suck musically after all.' I find rock and pop perfection in Jules' voice alongside my favorite guitar sound (thank you, Nick Valensi) of the decade. I see and hear music everyday that's been influenced by it - it touched everything. Each moment is perfect, down to the last minutes where 'Trying your luck' and 'Take it or leave it' rock the universe. Love it, can you tell? - HR

Hard to Explain - The Strokes

Last Night - The Strokes

7. The Postal Service, Give Up (2003)

The pairing of Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello was simultaneously fresh and exciting, cynical and world-weary. - TN

This may not be the best album of the 2000s, but one could argue it is its most definitive, both in terms of its musical style and how it was created. - GC

A well-deserved ranking for a project that took place via a medium that many believe is outdated. There's no dud anywhere on this one, either. I once heard a speaker muse about the music that my generation would listen to in our cars; sometime in the future that we'd fondly recall as seminal works from our generation. Hearing this one again, I believe this would make my shortlist. - RB

Such Great Heights - The Postal Service

Sleeping In - The Postal Service

6. The National, Boxer (2007)

Another unexpected critical darling, the album drags at times (imho), but establishes a very good and original sound. We can debate for ages whether Matt Berninger's Leonard Cohenesque vocals are a strength or a weakness, but no argument that the album belongs on this list. - TN

In a world where grown men wearing skinny jeans prolong childhood to avoid responsibilities and student loans and lament lost lovers who came and went ages ago, The National pens tracks that grown folks can listen to without feeling lame. - RB

One of the most important bands to come to prominence in this decade. And this album is nearly perfect. - GC

I can't top what RB said here. Terrific songwriting with a delivery that is simultaneously mellow and burning with a slow urgency. - MD

Slow Show - The National

Mistaken for Strangers - The National

6. Modest Mouse, The Moon and Antarctica (2004)


Once upon a time, there was a band that was the darling of the indie set. They made songs that made its denizens happy. Hear them as they were then. - RB

Folksy acoustic guitars mesh with interesting sonic backgrounds. Isaac Brock's disjointed vocals -- he goes from nursery-rhyme sing-songy to mental-ward squacks in a nanosecond -- create an otherworldly musical mood. The album title conveys a sense of distance, isolation and alienation, and it's there in many of the tracks ("Alone Down There," to name one). But there's also a strong thread of humanity woven throughout. This is one album I never get tired of listening to. - AC

I have to say, I never saw it coming from this album that they would become a near-mainstream hit. This may be their peak, but the works that followed didn’t fall too far off. - GC

3rd Planet - Modest Mouse

Wild Pack of Family Dogs - Modest Mouse

4. Sufjan Stevens,
Illinois (2005)

Having previously composed album dedicated to the state of Michigan, Sufjan Stevens once told what ended up being a joke in an interview that he wanted to make an album for all fifty states. Fans hung on his every word and waited for their favorite state album to be released. Before he revealed it wasn't serious, he released Illinois. Critical acclaim has nothing to do with this one, it's inventive, creative and just plain good. - RB

This masterpiece soars with sweeping, Coplandesque orchestral compositions and Americana tales of stepmothers, cancer treatments, UFOs and Superman. - AC

Just genius. Since he could never do all fifty, I only wish Sufjan would pick up on the Lincoln connection and put Kentucky in the queue. - MD

Truly one of the best of the decade and also one of the most accessible - there is impressive artistry at work. Clever song writing through historical narrative; delicious but stable, sensible orchestrations that have an exotic and familiar feel. Something you can safely listen to with a senior citizen, a four year old, and your peers. Pretty much anyone you know can dig it. Awesome. - HR

Chicago - Sufjan Stevens

Decatur, or Round of Applause for Your Stepmother - Sufjan Stevens

3. Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004)

It's a beautiful, bizarre day in the four-part "neighborhood" suite that opens this Canadian band's debut. Born out of band members' personal tragedy, Funeral is a beautiful meditation in combining unusual sounds -- from brass instruments to violins to tea kettles -- with more conventional elements of pop and rock -- your drums, guitar, keyboards and bass -- to form amazing music. - AC

A record that seemingly came out of nowhere to become loved just about everywhere. It's hard to exactly pinpoint its charm: the gritty anthem spark, the quirky instrumental arrangements, the clever lyrical arc? Maybe its ability to seem so much greater than the sum of its parts is part of its appeal. - TN

Magical. Love every single song. Validated lots of stuff going on in our local music scene, so it has an extra special place in my heart. Repeat. - HR

Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire

Neighborhood 3 - Power Out - Arcade Fire

2. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Since his days with Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy (Wilco's front man) was known for his roots-rock musicianship. But with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco took a sharp turn away from their roots to create one of the best experimental albums of the decade. The music industry wouldn't touch it -- at first. But eventually Wilco got a record deal and the rest is recent history. Parts of this innovative work sound as though Radiohead broke into the studio and jacked with the tracks. - AC

I think some critics buy into the narrative about this album more than the product itself, but the last release fed by the creative tension between Jeff Tweedy and the late Jay Bennett has its merits. While I find it lyrically short of some Wilco efforts, Tweedy does some of his best vocal work. - TN

I have to confess that this is another one I missed the first time around. I picked it up a couple of months ago out of the used bin and it hasn't left my car cd player since then. Sure folks tend to get caught up in the creation myth of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (see this Pitchfork review from 2002), but it stands on its own as a fine album full of poetic truths embedded in catchy, inventive pop songs. This one endures. - MD

Much more than 'the album with a movie attached.' A slighly augmented Wilco proves they were meant to set the bar in the alt-country world - some of the best songwriting and musicianship from a band whose discography is full of home runs. - HR

When I saw Wilco live and they played the last track on this album, “Reservations,” I was reduced to a quivering wreck. And that pretty much sums it up. - GC

Kamera - Wilco

Heavy Metal Drummer - Wilco

1. Radiohead, Kid A (2000)

This album was a kick to the head of the world of rock'n'roll ... in a good way. By all rights, we shouldn't want to inhabit the dystopian, disturbing landscape painted here, yet it is endlessly marvelous and mesmerizing. - TN

Kid A sounds great when I'm on over-the-counter cold medication. Seriously. Next time you're at home with a head cold, pop some NyQuil, put on the headphones and crank it. You will disappear completely into the soundscape. But even if you're the picture of health, Kid A will do your head good. - AC

It's really strange to be looking back at ten years of music and believe it all started here. In many ways, Kid A defined the beginning of the decade. It is sparse and rich, for the more reflective side of yourself, a promise to emerge later on as 'the future.' This enigmatic meditation was played a lot in my classroom. Eleven year olds gave it rave reviews while it brought out their scholarly side. Apparently other folks held it in pretty high regard as well ... here it is at number one. Take a listen and remember the journey. - HR

“We’re not scare mongering. This is really happening.” If ever a song to kick off the 2000s with, “Idioteque” was it. - GC

The National Anthem - Radiohead

Kid A - Radiohead


* * *

So, there you have it. Thanks for following along with us as we revisited some of our favorite music from the past 10 years. We hope you found something in common with us in these groupings, but no doubt we omitted some of your favorites, included something you would find unworthy, ranked some album much higher or lower than you think it deserved. We hope that maybe our little project led you to discover some new sounds, or rediscover old albums you had set aside during the preceding decade. At any rate, thanks for reading, and please, by all means, tell us where we went astray.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The best albums of the 2000s: 20-11

We've reached the top 20 alums of the decade. In celebration, from here on out, we give you two tunes per album. Enjoy!

Note: Over the weekend, Steve posted his personal top 100. So it, along with everyone else's, is now included in the sidebar for posterity.

20. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (2008)

A group of Seattle hipsters compose a lush arrangement of the most beautiful songs you're going to hear, period. A favorite of the NPR set, all of the praise heaped on this particular debut (yup, the first one) is warranted. Check out "White Winter Hymnal" and "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song." Enjoy it, because this sort of output will be hard to replicate. - RB

When I first heard “White Winter Hymnal,” it was like a hypnosis. And I have yet to break from the spell. - GC

This album is a joy and will brighten your space . - HR

Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes
White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes

19. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (2007)

No sophomore jinx for this Canadian band, whose 2005 debut Funeral garnered high praise for musical innovation. Springsteen-esque at times, baroque at others, the tunes on this album further display the diverse talents of these fire-starters. - AC

Not the home run Funeral was, but a hard shot into the gap with plenty of memorable tracks. - TN

A more accessible album that their debut, Neon Bible is an enjoyable experience from start to finish. - RB

This is a powerful contribution from a very talented crew. - HR

True confession: I own this album, but it’s still in the shrinkwrap. *ducks* - GC

No Cars Go - Arcade Fire

Intervention - Arcade Fire

18. The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema (2005)

Meet the new porn, not the same as the old porn. A.C. Newman, Neko Case and the rest of this collective of Canadian musicians put out their finest work to date with Twin Cinema. This is not the stuff you need to hide under your bed. Listen loud, listen proud. - AC

Twin Cinema grabs you from the opening riffs of the title track and never lets go. The New Pornographers can't make a bad album in my book. This is my favorite. - MD

Use It - The New Pornographers

Sing Me Spanish Techno - The New Pornographers

17. Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)

Glamtastic tunes about S&M, sexual ambiguity and unrequited lust. Song titles that send you running for your European history textbooks. One relatively decipherable tune, "She's a Rejecter," includes perhaps the greatest line of the decade: "There's the girl that made me bitter/Wanna pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her." - AC

There don't really make words to explain bands like this. You just have to fire it up, be patient with it and see where it takes you. No matter what, I'll assure it'll be different than anything you might be accustomed to. But it'll be a good thing, I promise. - RB

Without a doubt, one of my favorite bands of the decade (Of Montreal made my list twice). I absolutely adore, adore, adore Hissing Fauna. There are wonderful sounds at play and the words will entertain - an entire conversation could be carried on based on lyrics from this record. I imagine Kevin Barnes as a parallel universes' equivalent of Homer's red-do-(voice by Johnny Cash)-spirit-guide in the chili pepper of insanity episode. - HR

Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider - Of Montreal

She's A Rejecter - Of Montreal

16. Green Day, American Idiot (2004)

Maybe more acts don't do concept albums because this one is so good? Years from now, hip history professors may assign this as testament to modern living. - TN

Just when we thought this trio of punks was washed up -- hadn't they just released their "best of" collection, International Superhits? -- they crank out their best album ever. As political polemic, American Idiot is a brilliant, bombastic indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration's failed politics of division. But this album extends beyond political commentary to tackle the vagaries of American life at the opening of a new century. American Idiot the best rock opera since Tommy. - AC

Holiday - Green Day

American Idiot - Green Day

15. Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)

Nashville wishes it could find someone with the authenticity, booming voice and indomitable spirit of Neko Case, the Crown Princess of Americana. It would fit perfectly on any dirt road you could find to drive on or parked at a scenic place, sitting silently with someone you like a bit. Don't worry, she has the words where you can't fill them. - RB

I've already expressed my love for Neko Case elsewhere in the countdown, so I won't rattle on here. Suffice it to say that her gift for storytelling and imagery combine with that distinct voice to make one beautiful package. - MD

Such languid, Patsy Cline-inspired vocals. No other modern-day country crooner compares to Ms. Case. - AC

You know how J. Lo. supposedly has her butt insured? You better hope State Farm has assessed this lovely lady’s golden pipes, for they are truly a national treasure. - GC

This Tornado Loves You - Neko Case

John Saw That Number - Neko Case

14. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular (2008)

This album crept up with single after single. Heavily influenced by the sonic underpinnings of 1980s pop, yet refreshing modern and clear, The band formerly known as The Management bring a fresh take on electro-pop modernity in a way few would dare attempt, much less pull off. - RB

I can't help myself. This stuff makes me want to get up and dance. - AC

I just recently got turned on to this one (I'm often a little bit late). But it is damn infectious. - MD

Some of the best. Can't miss it - fell first for Electric Feel and Time to Pretend, then found favorites Weekend Wars and Of Moons, Birds & Monsters. - HR

Time to Pretend - MGMT

Kids - MGMT

13. Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism (2003)

I ranked this #1 on my list because I played it more than any other this decade. I consider the bridge of the title track is one of the more transcendental moments in music. - TN

His delicate voice does some nice storytelling throughout this album. Making it through the slower pacing of many of these songs (Passenger Seat, Tiny Vessels) is really rewarding... not after the song, but during the song because you just can't wait to hear what's next. Title and Registration is probably the most cathy track, but I love the uptempo We Looked Like Giants best. - SB

Transatlanticism - Death Cab for Cutie
Tiny Vessels - Death Cab for Cutie

12. Outkast, Stankonia (2000)

What's great about these ATLliens is their ability to stand on the borders of hip-hop, but never actually bothering to cross. They infuse authenticity into all of their work and as such, this album represents what at the time was a bold treatise that no hip-hop act -- much less a duo -- could muster. - RB

The hip hop album of the decade and on my list at number three overall. - MD

Beautiful prose-poems from the streets. - AC

I traded by best friend's brother a CD for this CD and it kills me I can't remember what it was. Some of the most popular tracks (So Fresh, So Clean, Mrs. Jackson) are actually my least favorite tracks, but they're still good. I think this is the primary hip-hop album that really said to aspiring artists in that genre that it's OK to explore and experiment with anything and everything, when it comes to your sound. - SB

Bombs Over Baghdad - Outkast

Ms. Jackson - Outkast

11. The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You (2009)

Masterfully written, performed and produced. An undeniably talented combo + Rick Rubin's production skillz = easily the album of the year. - TN

Simply some of the most beautiful songwriting and guitarcraft I've heard in some time. - AC

The Avett Brothers put out some good albums before this one, but this stripped down collaboration with Rick Rubin is deserving of all the accolades it has been receiving. - MD

Surprised but happy to see this album rank this highly. It came out of nowhere with a mindblowing title track and stole me away with an entirely solid disc. The best part is, there’s a rich back catalog, to boot. - GC

Ten Thousand Words - The Avett Brothers

I And Love And You - The Avett Brothers

Friday, December 11, 2009

The best albums of the 2000s: 30-21

One more of our members, Andrew, has posted his personal picks for the decade. Check out his list -- but not until you see what's in store for you here.

30. TV on the Radio, Dear Science (2008)

Just an enjoyable, funky album, from start to finish. - AC

Unlike Return To Cookie Mountain which led this band to widespread acclaim, this LP is experimental and yet, beautifully composed. It's almost understated, but goes down really smooth. - RB

An underrated album. I've always respected TV on the Radio but never really considered myself a true fan until this release. They're awesome live, too. - SB

Dancing Choose - TV on the Radio

29. Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors (2005)

So happy to see Ms. Veirs rank so highly on the list. “Year of Meteors” is a beautiful, stunning album, unassuming yet urgent. - GC

The best singer-songwriter you've never heard of, Laura Veirs brings honesty and refreshing clarity to every song. Beautifully composed, simple and yet lush. All at once, no less. Also an absolutely joy to see live. - RB

Parisian Dream - Laura Veirs

28. Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

“Fight Test” is one of those few songs that reliably, no matter how many times I’ve listened to it, lifts my spirits and demands my attention whenever it comes on. Now that’s a way to start an album. - GC

This record is full of light; accessible and poignant. - HR

Fight Test - The Flaming Lips

27. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (2007)

Another study of contrasts that works surprisingly well. - TN

What an odd pairing. Who'd have believed the Led Zeppelin front man and the reigning queen of bluegrass would have merged so beautifully? A few tracks on this album don't quite work for me, but in the balance, this is a well done effort. - AC

There are so many reasons this never should have worked. But I'd buy an album of Alison Krauss singing phone listings from the phone book, so that makes it easy to understand where this went right from the start. "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" and "Please Read The Letter" are fantastic songs. Both Plant and Krauss bring their A-game to this and it pleases. - RB

Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) - Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

26. The White Stripes, Elephant (2003)

A beautiful beast of an album. On Elephant, the White Stripes are harder, darker and more aggressive than ever. - AC

Fully realized Stripes. Impressive. - HR

The Hardest Button to Button - The White Stripes

25. At The Drive In, Relationship of Command (2000)

If the song Arcarsenal doesn't get you fired up nothing will. I used to sit in my room listening to this (album) over and over again just staring at the CD cover, occasionally pulling out the lyrics to try and get something out of it (it's not easy). This album is just so FUN. Screaming to this and bouncing around rooms in college with friends are memories that'll last forever. There's a ton of high energy here (Arcarsenal, Mannequin Republic, etc.) but they know how to slow it down, too (Invalid Litter Dept., Quarantined). Arcarsenal and Enfilade are my favorite songs. These guys are the second band I would have loved to see live, behind Nirvana (Led Zeppelin would be third). - SB

This record is brilliant, the sounds were astounding at the time, absolutely changed my ears. Mad talent props. - HR

Cosmonaut - At the Drive In

24. Kanye West, The College Dropout (2004)

The Jesus-talkin' Kanye changed the way I think about hip hop. - AC

Love him or hate him, his production skills changed the game of hip-hop and braggadocio is only palatable because of his immense talent. Here he arrives still somewhat humble and in awe of his ascendancy into the pantheon of the genre's greats. - RB

"Imma let you finish" - but long before he was a stage stealer-turned-internet meme Kanye stepped out from the production booth to prove he had serious talent on the mic. College Dropout warrants particular interest for higher ed for its biting social commentary on issues of college access and success ("We Don't Care," "All Falls Down," etc.). - MD

Jesus Walks - Kanye West

23. My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (2008)

For years, I've had this love-hate thing going with My Morning Jacket. I would love their hard-driving tunes but was less enamored with their mellower stuff. Plus, I thought they should try harder to subdue their Kentucky roots. But with Evil Urges, MMJ has managed to mitigate my worries, and now I have nothing but love for the band. - AC

Nothing evil about this record in my mind at all. Enchanting. - HR

What I said earlier about loving MMJ's constant evolution really comes to a head on Evil Urges. The opening funk notes and falsetto of "Highly Suspicious" practically holler: "I'm Jim James, bitch!" Elsewhere on the album MMJ showcases their signature reverb-laden Southern, 70s infused rock. Still other songs are spare and beautiful: "Librarian" takes the sexy librarian pop culture archetype and makes it tender and believable. - MD

Touch Me I'm Going to Scream - My Morning Jacket

22. Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (2004)

This album became less interesting after the first 100 or so times I played it, but no denying "Take Me Out" is a brilliant bit of quirky pop. - TN

This Glasgow band's debut album was their finest hour. Also, hands down, the best album named for an assassinated archduke I've ever heard. - AC

I can't not move to this. Lots of workout playlists back in the day included this record. - HR

Take Me Out - Franz Ferdinand

21. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)

If only the band seemed a little less self-satisfied, smug and smirky, I'd dare to love them more. But when they hit it, they hit it. - TN

This Texas band has churned out some great albums during the 2000s. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, despite its silly title, was Spoon's most accessible. - AC

The Underdog - Spoon

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

The best albums of the 2000s: 50-41

Kicking off the second half of our fin-de-decade countdown. We begin with alt-metal and remind you that we really, really want to talk about this stuff. So comment, please. And we'll comment back.

50. Deftones, White Pony (2000)

Their most mature output to this point, White Pony comes equipped with a polished sound that'll even allow the faintest alt-metal fan to enjoy the noise out of the speakers. - RB

Change (In The House of Flies) - Deftones

49. Iron and Wine, Our Endless Numbered Days (2004)


Having interviewed Sam Beam, of Iron and Wine fame, I can say that there is no nicer man deserving of this slot. He is like his music: simple, humble and full of wisdom and warmth. - GC

Sinning Hands - Iron and Wine

48. Stars, Set Yourself on Fire (2005)

With alternating boy-girl vocals to die for and a thousand and one heartbreaking ways to sing about love, Stars is remarkably versatile yet comfortingly consistent. - GC

Stars and Broken Social Scene seem to pass a few members back and forth, with outstanding results. "Set Yourself on Fire" brims with ridiculous hooks that will burn inside you for days. - TN

"Your Ex-Lover Is Dead" ruminates. -RB

Reunion - Stars

47. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

“Turn a Square” is one of the top 10 pop songs of the decade, no question. - GC

Must note The Shins' fanning of the retro flames that flourished through the decade. -HR

Turn a Square - The Shins

46. Cat Power, You Are Free (2003)

Chan Marshall's spare vocals meander through simple but beautiful arrangements. While she rounded out her Memphis soul sound with horns and bluesier compositions in her follow-up The Greatest, this album is still, in my opinion, Cat Power's best work. - AC

I Don't Blame You - Cat Power

45. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones (2006)

Not as much caterwauling as on the debut Fever to Tell, but Karen O.'s feral vocals still power this second release. And is there any better combo of vocals and kick drum than on "Honeybear"? - AC

Delicious; authoritative and delicate at the same time. Ranks slightly higher on my personal list than Fever - this whole listmaking business is not for the faint of heart... so bittersweet. -HR

Honeybear - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

43. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (2008)

Surprised to see these guys rank so highly - I am a fan, for sure, but I always straddle the fence as to whether they are just a fad. Then again, I thought The Strokes were a fad and look how highly they rank :-) - GC

Too-clever-for-their-own-good college kids sing joyously about serial commas, French architecture and weekends in Cape Cod, all to a driving ska beat with a touch of baroque. Yes, it's overrated. But for some of us, it's a not-so-guilty pleasure. - AC

Agreed that it's probably not the 43rd best album of the decade in an objective sense. But I make no apologies for having it on my list. I find myself cranking this one up when I need to plow through something especially tedious at the office. - MD

Just saying: if you're sick for months continuously early 2008.. and you finally come out of it - this album will seem as though it invented spring. -HR

A-Punk - Vampire Weekend

43. Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown (2009)

I don't think it's quite as good as "American Idiot," but this modern rock opera has some serious gas on its own. - TN

How do you follow up a multi-platinum rock opera (2004's American Idiot)? With another rock opera, of course. Somehow, Green Day pulls it off. - AC

Peacemaker - Green Day

42. Coldplay, Parachutes (2000)

Before they became U2 Jr. and ultra-annoying, they were a really, really good band. Amid the crap that is everything after “A Rush of Blood to the Head,” everyone forgets that their debut was remarkable. - GC

This record taps into something bigger. It's beautiful and I admit it, I've given it some listening love. -HR

Shiver - Coldplay

41. The National, Alligator (2005)

In another universe, this album charts five top-10 singles on the Billboard charts. It’s loaded with powerful melodies, amazing stories and the feeling that this is the way rock music was meant to be. - GC

For me, few bands are as good as The National at capturing postmodern angst and disillusionment with the mundaneness of office jobs and everyday life and turning that into something beautiful, poetic, and rocking. - MD

Mr. November - The National

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The best albums of the 2000s: 60-51

Whoa-oah! We're halfway there... Today's installment gets us to the middle of our countdown. Enjoy. And please comment.

60. Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around (2003)

Looking at the playlist, you'd scratch your head at the odd mix of covers. What's the Man in Black doing, singing Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails? And why is Simon and Garfunkel in the mix? But aided by producer Rick Rubin's light touch, Cash turns every song into an intimate, spare and haunting experience. Most bone-chilling of all is his rendition of NIN's "Hurt." - AC

Not that The Man in Black needed to cement his legacy, but this was a heartbreaking and exhilarating exclamation point on a great career. - TN

Johnny Cash takes a bunch of covers and delivers a powerful and darkly autobiographical album. I was very glad to rediscover this one during the list-making process. - MD

Hurt - Johnny Cash

59. Tegan and Sara, So Jealous (2004)

The Quin twins have produced a lot of great music, but this is their masterpiece to date. Consistently powerful, catchy and smart. - TN

Take me Anywhere - Tegan and Sara

58. Bloc Party, Silent Alarm (2005)

Catchy techno beats and blips, wrapped around sharp shards of rhythmic guitar, all overlaid by lead singer's Kele Okereke's ghostly vocals. The combination made this debut by the British band one of the more unusual offerings on the indie scene by mid-decade. - AC

Like Eating Glass - Bloc Party

57. Death Cab for Cutie, Plans (2005)

How do you follow up an album like Transatlanticism? You can't. And to DCfC's credit, they didn't try to. Still, some of these tracks are among the group's best. - TN

Another album full of parallel universe top 10 hits. I can’t possibly top Tim's quip about them so I’ll just hush and say that they’re awesome. - GC

Your Heart Is An Empty Room - Death Cab or Cutie

56. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (2006)

Danger Mouse returns to our countdown, this time in cahoots with Cee-lo Green. Together, they create an innovative work that featured one of the decade's most infectious tunes ("Crazy") and my personal favorite, the cover of The Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone." - AC

You can put "Crazy" in the mix for Top 10 singles of the decade. - TN

This thing came out of nowhere. One of the most original albums of the decade, easily. - RB

Crazy - Gnarls Barkley

54. Interpol, Antics (2004)

Simple, thumping bassline and deadpan vocals made this New York band. But it didn't hurt that lead vocalist Paul Banks sounds like he could be Michael Stipe's goth-emo little brother. - AC

While some prefer their earlier work, tracks like "Evil" "NARC" and "C'mere" and "Length of Love" are really enjoyable ballads that don't sacrifice an iota of rock in the process. - RB

Love the space within this album, encompassing - driven. HR

Evil - Interpol

54. Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am That's What I Am Not (2006)

How can these young, snotty Britbrats rock so hard? I don't know, but they do. Jamie Cook does some major damage with a Telecaster. - AC

Deservedly pretentious... must give in to the momentum. - HR

I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor - Arctic Monkeys

53. Belle and Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (2006)

A lot of B&S purists hated this record, because it departs from the standards of past releases. But that's one reason I like it. It doesn't sound that much like the Glasgow band's older stuff. Clever lyrics hold more humor and light-heartedness that past efforts. And "White Collar Boy" features a chunky "Spirit in the Sky" fuzz-guitar opening and bassline that sticks in the ear, and conjures up nostalgia for Norman Greenbaum's one and only hit. That alone is enough of a reason for this album to make the cut. - AC

This is indeed a pop album by a twee pop outfit that keeps the coffee shop crowd in a tizzy. Yet, you can't deny this one is full of winners. Simple, breezy and catchy tunes abound on this one. - RB

White Collar Boy - Belle & Sebastian

51. Ryan Adams, Gold (2001)

The first half or so of this album sits among the best run of songs recorded this decade. An inconsistent second half kept me from loving it more. If I had this in vinyl, Side A would be worn out by now. - TN

I'll admit right up front that I love Ryan Adam, so much so that while compiling my top 100 I got distracted from my main list by ranking RA's top albums of the decade. Gold didn't quite make the top of that list, but it is a great album all the same. The coincidental, September '01 timing of "New York, New York" created a post-9/11 anthem. It helped thrust Adams into the mainstream where people like me who weren't originally Whiskeytown acolytes could discover him. - MD

New York, New York - Ryan Adams

51. Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene (2005)

Sitting atop the many compelling Canadian indie collectives, Broken Social Scene hasn't done anything as complete or consistent as this sterling disc. Great to work out to as well. - TN

Personally, I put You Forgot It In People above this album as far as energy and achievement, but this self-titled album rocks in its own right. - AC

Improvisationally orchestral - deepens with time. - HR

Swimmers - Broken Social Scene

The best albums of the 2000s: 70-61

Bonus links: Some of us have posted our own personal top 100s on our personal blogs. Check the sidebar links to see Ron's, Georgy's and Tim's best-of-decade picks, and follow along with Holly Rae's hollyraeraedio to read her own countdown. I'm sure the rest of us will post our personal picks soon. Stay tuned.

This installment starts with a three-way tie and ends with a three-way tie. Now if only we could get mashups of music by the artists locked in ties...

68. Beck, Guero (2005)

Sea Change got my attention, but I never really got into Beck until I heard this album. It's just unbelievably good. Not having heard anything from it, I spontaneously picked it up at a going-out-of-business record store for $7. It's obvious I made a good decision that day. Catchy, creative, and full of character. It's also worth checking into the remix album Guerolito. - SB

I've always appreciated Beck's experimentation with sounds, but never more than with this record. "Girl" and "E-Pro" are favorite tracks. - AC

Beck - E-Pro

68. M.I.A., Arular (2005)

Simply (or not so simply) put, you're getting an incredible creative spirit exploring herself musically for the first time who isn't tying herself to any rules. It all feel very natural. It's a more cohesive effort than Kala, and I imagine she had a blast and experienced little heartburn writing it. Favorite song: 10 Dollar. - SB

Steve's assessment is right on. M.I.A.'s graphic arts background surely influences her musical bricolage in a very nice way. - AC

MIA - Galang

68. U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)

The album that made U2 relevant again. After finally parting ways with the Flood wall-of-sound effect, this was their return to larger-than-life anthemic rock. - TN

I've loved U2 since my college days, when my cooler roommate introduced me to Boy and October. This band has never been tighter on a studio recording than with this 2000 release, and the writing on songs like "Walk On," "Beautiful Day" and "Stuck in a Moment" convey political and spiritual significance. - AC

U2 - Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of

67. The Swell Season, Once Soundtrack (2007)

Yes, they may be hipsterrific, but you can’t deny that Glen and Marketa have together forged some durable, powerful songs. - GC

If you didn't see the movie "Once," you may yet like this album. If you saw "Once," you'll probably love this album. - TN

I did love the movie and the album. As a bonus, it led me to discover The Frames. - MD

The Swell Season - When Your Mind's Made Up

66. A Perfect Circle, Mer De Noms (2000)

The debut side project from Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, this album emerged out of nowhere to start the decade quite right. Another one you can listen to from cover to cover, it demurs in the ways that Tool raises hell. Rather than just a collection of songs, it's genuinely an experience. - RB

Virtually unknown before this release, everyone should be aware of who Billy Howerdel is today. The primary brain behind this album, dude can write songs and play guitar with the best of them (he's an accomplished singer as well, but that's not on display much here). Excellent rock songs from front to back. I read in an interview that Howerdel initially envisioned a female vocalist for this project, and while I'm sure the result would have been marvelous, I'm quite happy he decided to work with Maynard. - SB

A Perfect Circle - 3 Libras

64. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America (2006)

I totally swallow the Kool-Aid that Craig and co. are the inheritors to the Bruce Springsteen mantle. I’ve never seen a band be so genuinely anthemic without going over the top. - GC

The best bar band in America than never plays in a bar. Anthem rock for the indie kids. - AC

The Hold Steady - Stuck Between Stations

64. Alejandro Escovedo, A Man Under the Influence (2001)

AE can go all Chuck Berry on you in a fast minute, as he does with "Castanets," then turn it around and deliver soulful ballads like "Rosalie" and "Follow You Down." Then, just when you're seduced into those sweet, mellow stylings, he'll power up again with "Velvet Guitar," a love song to an instrument that beautifully expresses what many of his fellow guitarists feel. - AC

What AC said. Alejandro Escovedo is a crazy talent. If you get a chance to see him live, do it. And while it's not on this album, "Sad and Dreamy (the Big 1-0)" from around the same time is probably the best song for kids (ostensibly) that you've never heard. - MD

Alejandro Escovedo - Castanets

61. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (2006)

She’s come a long way from “The Wizard.” This album is like the aftermath of a thunderstorm on a hot, humid Southern day: rumbling with power and drenched in longing. - GC

The sounds on this record are classic. Jenny's lyrics make it edgy. Lovely. - HR

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rise Up With Fists

61. Feist, The Reminder (2007)

The clever one-shot video for "1 2 3 4" hooked me first. But the whole album is outstanding and heralded the arrival of Leslie Feist as a first-class songstress. - TN

Feist - 1 2 3 4

61. M.I.A., Kala (2007)

Yes, there are some questionable politics going on here, but much like I ignored Eminem’s misogyny and homophobia, I set them aside here because the music is damned, damned good. - GC

Though it's a bit unfocused and thrown together in comparison to Arular, it's still M.I.A. and still mighty fine. Semi-related: don't visit her website if you're susceptible to seizures. - SB

Pirate skulls and bones, sticks and stones and weed and bongs... -- and an ingeniously sampled Clash track. - AC

MIA - Paper Planes

The best albums of the 2000s: 80-71

We begin our latest installment with yet another tie. Actually, we do not, although there are some other ties in this installment. When we first posted this, we somehow overlooked the No. 80 album in our countdown. But that error has now been corrected, and the blogger who committed this sin of omission has been duly reprimanded (see note on No. 80 for a further explanation). (P.S. This is the only entry of the weekend. We'll be back with the next chunk of musical goodness on Monday.)

P.S. - Thanks to Largehearted Boy for including our project in his Best of the Decade list of lists.

80. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)

The story goes that after his band broke up, Justin Vernon went to the woods of Wisconsin and emerged from his dad’s hunting cabin after the long winter with this ethereal album. Kind of like a modern day indie Thoreau. - MD

As penance for omitting this important musical contribution from the initial post, I am growing a beard today as an homage to Mr. Iver. (P.S. - It was only recently that I learned his name should be pronounced Bone Ee-VERRR. I really should be more attuned to these things.) - AC

Skinny Love - Bon Iver

Penance bonus: For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver

79. The New Pornographers, Challengers (2006)

This album was a grower for me, as it’s not as accessibly frantic as their previous works, but once it got me, it would not. Let. Go. A deep and beautiful album. - GC

Another solid effort by Canada's premier alt-indie supergroup. - AC

Not the best New Pornographers album, but very, very good all the same. I can listen to this on repeat for hours. - MD

I did enjoy the record, and though it didn't make my list, it is well worth your time. - HR

Mutiny, I Promise You - The New Pornographers

79. Dr. Dog, Fate (2008)

These guys are often compared with Brian Wilson, as a post-sixties pop band that produce good music with melodies. I didn't really understand what that meant, but you listen to Fate a few times and before you know it, you'll be boppin' to the tunes like they've always been on your radar. A real surprise hit for a band that's arrived. - RB

To me it came off as simple, at first. Saw Dr. Dog at Lolla 2008 and fell in love - appreciate almost every song and the diverse, almost geeky keys, vocals, percussion, and guitars. A pretty accessible album - the band's fifth - makes this whole music-thing look and sound easy. - HR

The Rabbit, The Bat and The Reindeer - Dr. Dog

76. Lucinda Williams, World Without Tears (2003)

This Louisiana native sticks true to her roots of Delta Blues and hard country to create some of the most powerful and painful songwriting in alt-country circles. World Without Tears is filled with heartbreak and struggle, story-songs told in a world-weary whiskey voice and spare production values. This is Lucinda Williams's masterpiece. - AC

When my son (now 6) was a colicky baby I would put him in his swing with this turned way up to drown out the screaming, and we'd both find peace for a little while. And I didn't get out (that colicky son was first of three kids in four years) to see much live music this decade, but I did get to see Lucinda twice at a historic theater in downtown Lexington. She is one of the best - a master songwriter with a voice that just gets better with age. - MD

Those Three Days - Lucinda Williams

76. Kathleen Edwards, Failer (2003)

Another excellent Canadian import, Kathleen Edwards has a gift for being both blunt and tender. These songs are enjoyable, affecting and unique in their humor and grace. - GC

I didn't rank this album, but it's fantastic. Canadian country at its finest, truly. The song "Hockey Skates" will leave an imprint, too. -RB

Six O'Clock News - Kathleen Edwards

76. DJ Danger Mouse, The Grey Album (2004)

A brilliant mashup of the Beatles' White Album with Jay-Z's Black Album, this album helped pave the pave the way for future mashup artists like Girl Talk and M.I.A., and gave us a sample of this master mixologist's production talents. - AC

The album that brought Danger Mouse to prominence cost absolute nothing for those who heard it. Despite the attempts of The Beatles label to shut it down, it gave people who "don't listen to rap" a reason to change their tune. - RB

99 Problems - DJ Dangermouse

74. Various Artists, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack (2000)

Not only an outstanding collection, it did the seemingly impossible by making bluegrass cool in the mainstream. The resulting Down From The Mountain Tour also was one of the best of the decade. - TN

Ralph Stanley finally gets his due. - AC

Big Rock Candy Mountain - Harry "Haywire Mac" McClintock

74. Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)

I will forever be grateful to “Float On” for getting me through the last few months at an increasingly torturous job. Thanks, Isaac. - GC

There isn't anything about this album that really reached out and grabbed me. But the collection of tunes and sounds here tend to envelop the listener and make for an interesting experience. I can't really explain it. But it's good. - AC

Everything in context. MM tweaked our ears just a tiny bit so we could be open to some of the creative stuff coming later in the decade. - HR

Float On - Modest Mouse

71. Rufus Wainwright, Poses (2002)

This album is both epic and granular. You can somehow picture both the flip-flops on Fifth Avenue and the sweeping majesty of the landscapes and castles his songs evoke, while never losing sight of the fact that these songs are about people held, for better or for worse, in love’s sway. - GC

Ok, I adore Rufus. We just have to get that out of the way and acknowledge that. Love Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk. Composition, voice, lyrics... 'these are just a couple of my cravings.' - HR

Poses - Rufus Wainwright

71. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & Codes (2002)

It's hard to explain this band, with everything from their wacky name to pegging them to a particular genre. Still, if you like rock on the fringes of the experimental, with long breaks and introspective lyrics, give this album a spin. -RB

I think of Trail of Dead as the My Bloody Valentine of the 2000s. This record explores every dimension, all emotions, instruments and effects. It doesn't hurt that you the talents of both Keeley and Reece at the singing and songwriting helms alternatively. Unparalleled in context. -HR

How Near How Far - ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

Relative Ways - ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

71. Tegan and Sara, This Business of Art (2000)

It's fairly safe to say Canada will never produce a more talented set of lesbian twins than the Quins. "My Number," from this album, was the first indication of how good they would become. - TN

My Number - Tegan and Sara

The best albums of the 2000s: 90-81

The countdown continues, with even more ties:

90. The Weakerthans, Left and Leaving (2000)

I discovered this album while hanging out with a friend who had a fling with someone in the Canadian music industry. “Left and Leaving” was her souvenir. Their relationship didn’t work out, but it did spark my love affair with this band. - GC

Left and Leaving - The Weakerthans

86. Tool, Lateralus (2001)

The Grudge (track 1) wastes no time setting the tone for what's ahead. 5 years after truly showing the world what they were capable of with ├ćnima, the talented foursome headed further down the progressive/art rock path. You don't need anymore proof than the song Schism, which begins in six, moves to six-and-a-half, then, according to bassist Justin Chancellor "goes into all kinds of other times." The direction of Maynard's lyrics also takes a slight shift towards the imaginative and spiritual. A nice preview to what we'd come to hear another 5 years later. - SB

Lateralus - Tool

86. Gillian Welch, Time (the Revelator) (2001)

I couldn't tell you who introduced me to Gillian Welch or pinpoint when I fell in love with this album. What I can tell you is that it's one I never grow tired of - lately I find these songs playing in my head all the time. Welch's melancholy, beautiful vocals and storytelling combine on this album with David Rawlings' simple acoustic accompaniment for a near-perfect listening experience.This was my pick for second best (and most underrated) album of the decade. - MD

Revelator - Gillian Welch

86. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals (2008)

The other day on the bus, a co-worker commented that this might be the definitive album of the 2000s, given how it takes all the music from the preceding decades, chews them up and spits them out in a delightful bolus of digital mashup. Good argument. - GC

A must-listen for fans of Lil Wayne, Rick Springfield, Big Country, Rod Stewart, Sam and Dave, Kenny Loggins, Michael Jackson, Tag Team, Twisted Sister, Pete Townsend, Of Montreal, Sinead O’Connor, Radiohead, Tom Petty, Madonna, Queen, Busta Rhymes and dozens of other artists sampled in this masterful mashup. - AC

Hands in the Air - Girl Talk

86. The Hives, Veni Vidi Vicious (2000)

What a way to kick-start the decade. This garage band out of Sweden came, saw and conquered with a fury of buzzsaw guitar and snotty juvie-hall vocals. Later efforts haven't been on a par with this effort -- more like a mild rash compared to this itchy disease of an album. - AC

Hate to Say I Told You So - The Hives

85. Tool, 10,000 Days (2006)

In my opinion the band's masterpiece. The musicianship displayed on this record is nothing short of extraordinary. Jambi is mind-blowing and has always been my favorite track. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more personal and emotional song than 10,000 Days, which took guts to write. And I can assure you, you've never heard anything quite like Rosetta Stoned in your life. From a band that takes music more seriously than most, this is the album that will cement their place as the Led Zeppelin of our time. - SB

Jambi - Tool

85. Sleater-Kinney, The Woods (2005)

Some of the best rock'n'roll fun you can have without a bass player. Not my favorite effort from this band, but as solid and sardonic as any. Too bad S-K broke up soon after this album. - AC

I'm responsible for this ranking as highly as it does. Grrl Rock never sounded better than here. It's fierce and accessible. The best part of it? The fact that they don't make another after this. I can't think of a better way to go out on top than this album here. -RB

Entertain - Sleater-Kinney

83. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin (2007)

The album responsible for bringing this band to mainstream earbuds, Cease to Begin was easily one of the best albums of 2007. It's full of great songs and unlike some albums, which just boast a few songs you skip to reach, you can listen to this one from start to finish. - RB

Cigarettes, Wedding Bands - Band of Horses

83. Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003)

Two words: "Hey ya." My nominee for song of the decade is but one of dozens of great tracks from one of the funkiest, soul-filled hip-hop works of the past 10 years. Andre 3000 and Big Boi even brought Polaroid back into vogue, at least temporarily. - AC

"Hey Ya" is easily in the top 10 singles of the decade. - TN

While I agree that Andre 3000's "Hey Ya" is one of the best songs of the decade, I think on reexamination that Big Boi's "Speakerboxx" is actually the better of the two discs. - MD

In double. Almost like a new 24 pack of Crayola crayons. I find the production lovely. Did anyone mention, 'Hey Ya?'. -HR

Hey Ya - Outkast

81. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

Harmonious, sincere beachy electronic pop. Moving. Not to be missed. -HR

I almost gave up on this album after the first couple of listens. I still don't know that I get it, but now I just turn it up and enjoy. - MD

I did give up on this album. But I'll give it another listen. Promise. - AC

Summertime Clothes - Animal Collective

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The best albums of the 2000s, inaugural post: this one goes to 11

So the seven of us pooled our collective wisdom on all things musical to determine the top 100 albums of the decade. But because of a five-way tie for 97th place (the first of several ties to occur during this exercise), we ended up with 101 best albums of the decade. Since we're planning to share our insights, 10 albums at a time, we begin by bringing you a bonus -- 11 glorious albums that fit our 101-91 spot. Here we go.

97. The Dillinger Escape Plan, Miss Machine (2004)

In your face, aggressive, and genius. Music that's hard enough to perform, let alone write in the first place. They completely changed the metal/hardcore/mathmetal game (call it what you will) with this release. Proof that even the craziest of the crazy doesn't have to lack intelligence. - SB

Unretrofied - The Dillinger Escape Plan

97. Hem, Rabbit Songs (2001)

While we were off being seduced by the dulcet tones of Ben Gibbard, Hem was quietly sitting at home knitting us a rich musical tapestry that will keep us warm for decades. We should be grateful. - GC

Idle (The Rabbit Song) - Hem

97. She & Him, Volume One (2008)

An odd couple, an often compelling disc. Zooey Deschannel's distinctive vocal stylings notwithstanding, I think M. Ward could make a great album with countless chanteuses. - TN

Zooey Deschanel's quirky, plaintive delivery and M. Ward's simple arrangements combine for a beautiful, infectious retro vibe. This is the album Scarlett Johannson and Jennifer Love Hewitt wish they could make. - MD

I Thought I Saw Your Face Today - She & Him

97. Frou Frou, Frou Frou (2002)

I once sat with a close friend for about six hours, while we worked on different projects listening to this album the entire time. Imogen Heap turns this LP into an experience. It's fitting they only did this once, I doubt releasing a second would've come close to how well put together their debut came together. - RB

Breathe In - Frou Frou

97. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, Streetcore (2003)

Released posthumously (Strummer died just before Christmas 2002), the Clash front man's final album was his best with the Mescaleros. Strummer's weary, gravel-voiced cover of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" still makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. - AC

Redemption Song - Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

95. The Killers, Hot Fuss (2004)

The bonus tracks on the deluxe edition alone are better than many albums. And to think some critics don't like The Killers? Just jealous of Brandon Flowers' looks and charisma, I guess. - TN

My husband is the big Killers fan in my household, not me, but his stirring renditions of “Mr. Brightside” on Rock Band may be winning me over… - GC

Mr. Brightside - The Killers

95. Asobi Seksu, Citrus (2006)

Jangly, echo-drenched, bilingual shoegaze. In either language, Japanese or English, the sound is heavenly. - AC

Strawberries - Asobi Seksu

92. Nine Inch Nails, Year Zero (2007)

Limiting himself primarily to a laptop while on tour, Trent Reznor wrote his most electronic album to date. A concept album through and through, the album takes a peek at life in the year 2022. And it ain't pretty. The album was a piece of the much larger Year Zero alternate reality game (must-click if you're not familiar). - SB

Survivalism - Nine Inch Nails

92. Glen Phillips, Winter Pays for Summer (2005)

As a teenager, I was obsessed with the music of Toad the Wet Sprocket. While his first solo album did not captivate me, this album grabbed me and would not let go to this day. It’s classically Glen -- reflective, romantic and catchy as sin -- while showing his musical and personal growth. - GC

Duck & Cover - Glen Phillips

92. Bright Eyes, Lifted or The Story Is In the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002)

This is Conor Oberst at his best, in my mind. The right mix of cyncism and emo-romantic rage that doesn't have much of a mainstream parallel. "Method Acting" is the best song you've never heard. - RB

Method Acting - Bright Eyes

91. Thom Yorke, The Eraser (2006)

The solo debut from Radiohead's front man creeps up on you. - AC

Dark electrophine sounds seep through a 2006, pre-In Rainbows (2007), pre-President Obama vibe. Nicely appreciated now through The Eraser Rmxs (2009). -HR

I was late to the Radiohead party. This got me in the door. - MD

Black Swan - Thom Yorke

***

So, there you have Nos. 91-101. Which should we have kicked off the island?

Contributors: SB = Stephen Biernacki; RB = Ron Bronson; AC = Andrew Careaga; GC = Georgy Cohen; MD = Mason Dyer; TN = Tim Nekritz; HR = Holly Rae