Sunday, July 25, 2010

Best of the Aughts

i) This is a list of albums that were the best of the last decade
ii) This list represents my personal opinion; if you disagree, cool
iii) You might notice that there are several bands with more than one album on here, this is because, I feel, the few bands that caught onto something amazing in the 2000's, did it more than once.

1. "Merriweather Post Pavilion": Animal Collective
Let's face it, this album is incredible. Never have so many styles, sounds, ideas, and techniques been combined in such a flawless setting. 11 songs, about an hour, incredible harmonies, infectious melodies, etc. This album proved that Animal Collective are really The Beach Boys with samples and synthesizers. Oh, and the Noah Lennox is a genius.

2. "Illinois"- Sufjan Stevens
I fell in love again. This man is a genius. Proof; he made biblical references tolerable and interesting in a secular, urban genre. But then again, he is really the modern day Bob Dylan with a jazz-tinge. This album is a modern classic in every aspect. He is such a great story teller, and his dexterity in music and raw talent is evident in every note. I feel that in 20 years, this album will be held in even higher regard. "Casimir Pulaski Day" could make the devil cry tears of joy.

3. "Oh, Inverted World"- The Shins
This is such an incredible piece of pop music. In 2001, modern Indie was still a developing genre, and what they created here lit the fuse on the Indie Pop scene. Their sound was instantly influential because bands in the later 2000's cited The Shins as an influence. Very few bands have created such an impact in such a short amount of time, and this album gets me every time. Every song, to me, is a masterpiece, especially "Girl Inform Me" and "New Slang". James Mercer is the Brian Wilson of today, and in my mind a living legend.

4. "Is This It?"- The Strokes
Julian Casablancas is a freaking badass. Who would guess that the drunk lead singer parading around the stage in leather pants is the mastermind behind it all? They have such an edge that is the envy of any musician, because everyone wants to be badass. But beneath the edge, they are really very melodic and somewhat wise. The lyrics consist of sex, drugs, rock n' roll, living in the city, and being young. The modern Velvet Underground.

5. "Room For Squares"- John Mayer
You may not like John Mayer, but on his first album is where he managed to create a really solid debut that highlights his guitar skills, songwriting skills, and pop sensibility. He writes songs with really complex structures and it's really impressive from a young guy (at the time). This song is one of the first albums I ever got into, and it has always been really endeared to me because the songs are so meaningful.

6. "Ganging Up on the Sun"- Guster
Sort of a dark "Pet Sounds", this album can effectively soothe any sort of somber feeling. Which is kind of odd because of the moody nature. But the dark soundscapes are contrasted with really well crafted lyrics. It is apparent to me that this album was meticulously crafted. The melodies are just as infectious as The Shins, which has made me always associated this album as sort of a cousin or brother of "Wincing the Night Away".

7. "Wincing the Night Away"- The Shins
By 2007, the Shins were all grown up. The broken heart was a continuity, but no more happy sunshine pop (save "Australia). This definitely finds them exploring the night element of Indie, if their first two albums were morning and afternoon. This is a perfect winter album because it encourages introspection, and it's extremely comforting and satisfying to listen to "Sleeping Lessons" at night and just think about things. "Girl Sailor" is one of my favourite songs of all time.

8. "Oracular Spectacular"- MGMT
Not the Management, em gee em tee. Dear MGMT, thank you so much for introducing Indie kids to psychedelia. But wait, MGMT isn't psychedelic? Shut up. "Electric Feel" is hawt and naughty. "Time to Pretend" gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it because it reminds me how badly I want to be a successful musician, and it really lines out why musicians do what we do. "Kids" is epic, and sort of a U2 like anthem in a modern setting. The other songs on the album are perfect precursors to "Congratulations", and if you paid enough attention to that section of the album, then you got a feel for who MGMT actually are. All the songs are hinting at the rising difference between mainstream and the counterculture, and our generation has a growing awareness for the latter, which makes me feel incredibly optimistic for the next decade in music.

9. "Fleet Foxes/Sun Giant EP"- Fleet Foxes
I had to group them together. They go together flawlessly. All I have to say is wow. Talk about young talent, Robin Pecknold has got it. They turned harmonies into an instrument again, and flawlessly seamed it through an entire album. Robin's voice is really powerful, and when I saw them live, they were magnetic. You could hear everyone singing with the band, and it was just awesome. The lyrics just really click with me. "He Doesn't Know Why" and "Blue Ridge Mountains" are really really meaningful to me, and I will always identify this album with the summer I got it. I read the review of the this record in Rolling Stone, listened to the samples on itunes, and immediately drove to Best Buy and bought it. Love.

10. "A Rush of Blood to the Head"- Coldplay
Two words: "The Scientist". All you have to do is put this album on and it matches whatever you're feeling. They took what they started on their first cd and really took it to the next level. "Green Eyes" feels wicked poetic, and Chris Martin is quite skilled as a lyricist. Sure, they kind of abused this sound on "X & Y", but if you caught onto this sound and found out that worked so well, you would probably abuse it as well.

11. "Chutes Too Narrow"- The Shins
James It's not quite as shimmering as their debut, and not quite at the introspection of "Wincing", but this beats a shit ton of other albums from the past 10 years. This album was always my least favourite of the three Shins' LP's, until this past summer. During that time I began to understand what the words were really about, and I started focusing less on the music which isn't quite as poppy as their debut. "Those To Come", "Kissing the Lipless", and "Gone for Good" cement James Mercer's name in the book of incredible songwriters.

12. "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix"- Phoenix
Elastic comes to mind a lot when I think about their sound. Air tight is another one. Every note and every line seems mechanically placed into each other. Not mechanical in an anesthetic sense, but the songs are extremely air tight and engineered to a tee. I love that they are French, because I love hearing a third person's interpretation of the English language and the words he chooses to piece together the lyrics. Everyone loves when Thomas Mars does his little squeal, and repeats syllables over and over again, but they manage to throw together long instrumentals with lovely pop songs. Giiiiiirlfriend. And the words to "Lasso" are a big slap in the face to any mean girl ever.

13. "Future Sex/Love Sounds"- Justin Timberlake
Okay before you shake your head at me for liking Justin, remember all the times you've nodded your head to "Sexy Back". It just proves that in pop music, everyone wants to dance. So just put this shit in and dance, already! And have sex...that'd probably work for this one too...just sayin...

14. "Vampire Weekend"- Vampire Weekend
The whitest band of the last 10 years? Maybe. But they've got enough West African Soweto influences to be rightfully compared to The Police. First off, Ezra Koenig doesn't speak like WE do, he just kind of puts random words together and decides which syllables to pronounce. When I first read the lyrics to "A-Punk" I was like "there's NO way he's saying that". But besides the elliptical enunciation of the English language, this album has so much melody. The guitar never takes up too much space, Rostam does his production thing, the rhythm section is boisterous, and you can just groove to it. This was my summer 2008 album, and it was so perfect for the time, and I will always love this album for all the good times I associated it with. Love.

15. "Give Up"- The Postal Service
Whether you like Death Cab or not, this side project successfully linked electronica/techno with Indie. Like Passion Pit? You can thank The PS for making synthesizers okay to use on a regular basis in the genre. "Such Great Heights" is one of the most incredible songs of all time, and this album has done incredible things for innovation.

16. "The End of History"- Fionn Regan
Probably the one true folk albums of the last decade. There's nothing complex here, it's just him and an acoustic with some small embellishments. His lyrics deal with a sort of critique of modern society, sort of with life in the Irish countryside, sort of with the struggle of urban life, and managing to tie it all together with really heartfelt and intimate delivery.

17. "Feels"- Animal Collective
Beautiful. No one can pull off screaming in a song like they do in "Grass". This album is extremely raw when compared to MPP, yes, but the melodies are just as extravagant. Most songs either consist of a bones-y delayed guitar with grooving percussion, or really chill and mellow piano lines. The piano, by the way, was specifically tuned to sound a little too sharp because they liked the way it sounded. Unorthodox, yes, but thank God orthodox and Animal Collective don't have to be associated with each other.

18. "Parachutes"- Coldplay
"Don't Panic" has always seemed extremely odd to me that that is the first song of their first album. First off it's unique in that it's just over 2 minutes, something extremely uncommon for them. I always grow way too attached to a band's first album, but in this sense, it's perfect. Because they hadn't quite found their feet yet like they did on their second album, but they weren't too repetitive and cocky about it like on "X & Y". "Shiver" gives me shivers, and "Yellow" and "Sparks" are delicious.

19. "Person Pitch"- Panda Bear
As if it wasn't enough to have "Strawberry Jam" and "Feels" already under your belt, Noah Lennox (of Animal Collective) decided to release a dynamite solo album too. He seriously has talent coming out of every orifice. I am soooo jealous. "Ponytail" is incredible. I will never forget going to see Fleet Foxes and they had the recording of this playing and they all ran on stage, locked arms, and jumped up and down. Incredible. "When my soul starts growing..."

20. "Veckatimest"- Grizzly Bear
It took a long time for me to properly appreciate this. But once I got it, I was all over it. They take the harmony thing seriously, not in a CSNY way like Fleet Foxes, but in more Beach Boys way, but a little darker, if that makes any sense. It makes sense to me that the album is named after an island in Massachusetts, because it definitely feels like this has an ocean of reverb, and really great instrumentation.

21. "Furr"- Blitzen Trapper
This is a band that successfully breaks down the barriers of all genres in a generation where everyone is always asking, "what genre are they?". Well, to answer that, within the context of this often folk-rocky album, they are psychedelic, jam band, experimental, folk, acoustic, rock, dance-hall showtunes, soft rock, the list really goes on. But what really matters is not their skill of transcending, but their overall skill. Eric Early is just as much Bob Dylan on "Furr" as he is Johnny Cash in "Black River Killer", both songs that will be remembered as some of the decades best, along with this album, in the years to come.

22. "For Emma, Forever Ago"- Bon Iver
"This wasn't planned...the goal was to hibernate". Well, you took your skinny love out to the boonies and you effectively composed a 9 song slap in the face. I hope whoever "Emma" is feels really great about herself, because whatever she did to Justin Vernon, he got her back. Oh and by the way, it's pronounced "bohn ee-vair". But if you want to keep saying "bawn eye-ver" and sounding stupid, that's okay too. ; )

23. "Smile"- Brian Wilson
All I have to say is that this album took 37 years. Incredible. Are you Brian Wilson? Oh what's that? You're not? Oh okay.

24. "Our Endless Numbered Days"- Iron & Wine
The other great folk album of the decade. This album is so summery that it feels wrong to listen to it anywhere but on the back porch at sundown in a lawn chair. Or in a field of grass at dawn. Love.

25. "Myths of the Near Future"- Klaxons
Indie/Rave/Dance/Punk. Sort of a Justin Timberlake meets Franz Ferdinand at a rave. And of course, what the hell is a golden skan? Who cares. It's an incredible title for a song

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