Thursday, 10 December 2009

My Favorite 20 Albums of the Decade

So before I get started, for all intensive purposes, I must write a disclaimer. You see I have never been into looking out into the world and objectifying something so subjective as music, however I have absolutely no problem in objectifying my own opinion. So this is not the 'best albums of the decade' firstly because I don't care to objectify music in that way. Secondly I am not an authority in popular music, and have no qualifications to be. I don't have an extensive knowledge of the music of the past decade, that's why these are my 'favorites', nothing more, nothing less. I am the kind of guy who would rather listen to 100 albums and be totally changed and moved by them, than 1000 and have a huge body of music knowledge. For instance, because I am a slow-album-listener I haven't got around to totally immersing myself in Grizzly Bear's 'Veckatimest', so even though the songs I do know well from that album are better than what is on 'Yellow House' it can't yet make the cut.
Also I am not writing this so much as a review of each but more like the character from high fidelity arranging his albums autobiographically. This is more like a personal reaction and how these albums affected me in the past decade. Also I don't have that great of music knowledge and wouldn't be great at critiquing it from that stand point anyway.
So the list has it's problems, and they almost stopped me from doing this list, but hey, that wouldn't be fun at all! So have fun with the list, see what you think. Feel free to input your opinions and thoughts. Enjoy.

20. Deltron 3030 - Deltron 3030

We start off with probably the album that least fits in with the other albums, Deltron 3030. I wasn't 100% sure about including it but the more I thought of it the more I couldn't leave it off. If you don't already know, its a hip hop album featuring Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Kid Koala and Dan the Autmator (he produced the first Gorillaz album).
It's a concept album about the year 3030 and Deltron 3030 is a gone rebel mech warrior who is using the past (our present) hip hop style to communicate through time to us about the problems in the future. The really cool thing is that obviously the result is super relevant, with well thought out protest themed rap songs. I have never been up for any political-music, it's like an oxymoron, but the concept here makes the delivery way more effective. The lyrics are smart, the rhymes are smooth and the flow is amazing. The beats are underground style wise with loads of catchy choruses. I believe this album is in a different league than any other straightforward hip hop album I have ever heard.

19. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

The critically acclaimed Wilco album eh? This album is so good that it has affected me in a different way than any other to date. Because of popular opinion and such a high love for this album I have yet to listen to another Wilco album, and probably never will. Don't get me wrong I totally and utterly love this album, know it backwards and forwards, but unlike most times I obsess over an album, I have yet to check out the rest of Wilco's back catalog.
It's quite simply really, I don't want to ruin it. I love the album so much I just don't want to be disappointed with the rest of their work, don't even bother saying 'Oh but you gotta check ... out' because it won't do you any good!
What I love about this album is that the song writing is so straightforward beautiful folk songs but what makes it rise above the rest is the music and production. At any given time I am not really sure what all the sounds are, but it never sounds experimental to me. I am a huge fan of orginality but pop appeal and it doesn't get much better than this.

18. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's debut was a big moment for me. I actually found it at a record store for 3 pounds, and since I had heard a lot of good things I had to pick it up. In fact I am not entirely sure what to say about this album. Lots of modest mousey+violent femmes sounding pop songs that are all really strong. This is one of those albums that I listened to over and over and over and that's why it makes the list, anything you can listen to as many times as I did, it must be great.

17. Postal Service - Give Up

I knew if I put this on here I had some 'you shoulda left that album at university' waiting for me, but I had no choice. In fact I listened to it a few days ago for the first time in at least a year if not two and I still love it. More than that though, it had a huge affect on me when it was released, it was where I realized that good pop music was what I was really into. In fact, the first time I heard it was with some new friends in the early morning hours while driving around town, and I distinctly remember thinking it kind of sounds like the backstreet boys but good. Actually one of my favorite songs of all time is 'The District Sleeps Alone Tonight' and I don't know if I can ever escape it. The picture that is painted in that song perfectly matches and compliments the music in ways that so many songs do not.

16. Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It in People

The first time I heard this was in the passenger seat of a car heading down the highway at 70mph, with all the windows down, stereo full blast, on a 90 degree day. When 'KC Accidental' came on, that was it, I was totally and utterly hooked. I remember that moment so clearly and every time I drive down the highway on a nice day in the summer I hope to replicate that feeling, but I can't and I think it's because it doesn't get much better than this album. I absolute love it from head to toe. I suggest just next summer trying to replicate this experience it might just blow your socks off!

15. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

Like everyone else, when I first heard 'Wolf Like Me' I was like 'SAY WHAT???!!!', but then I heard the album and said 'OH YEA, BOYEEEEE'. This album is amazing and to go against the critics I think its a lot better than their new album. This album has a rough, loud, noisy hip hop sound and I much prefer it to the polished sound of 'Dear Science', which I still love but think it lost something in the translation into a cleaner sound. Here is how I describe this album: Prince+David Bowie (Literally)+crazy hip hop drums.

14. Animal Collective - Feels

This is the first album I heard from Animal Collective. I bought it when it came out just as I was starting art school and it was like discovering another dimension. I would listen to it in my headphones as I did my work and get lost in the hundreds of layers on this album. It's kind of like listening to an album from a different planet, by aliens that have evolved in a similar way to humans, but sound different and came to different conclusions musically. It's the alien race's Beatles. I think this is their least human sounding effort to date and stands in a very different place than the rest of their work, or any bodies work for that matter, and that's what makes it so great.

13. Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala

It's always strange to me that Jens Lekman seems like the hardest sell to my peers. I think it's because unless you are willing to take someone's word for it and spend some time cuddling with this album you will never get it. On first listen it's easy for this to sound like another indie album, but possibly a little more flamboyant, but with the second and third listen however, whoa ho ho you find the hidden treasures! The amazing samples, the unbelievably witty and hilarious lyrics and the narratives comparable to any great writer. This album is a masterpiece I think, with music spanning from so many genres it's a real feat that it sounds so cohesive! You will find doo wop, disco, folk, and even some hip hop style drum beats.

12. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Cabin, falsetto, blah blah, woods, blah, wisconsin, blah blah, cheese, the whole nine yards. Anywho, this album is amazing. I listened to 'Skinny Love' and loved it but it wasn't until the end of 'Wolves (Act I and II)' where there is some auto-tune and Animal Collective sounding screeching that I started thinking there is more to this than some guy in a cabin doing some folk songs. With more listening the I realized this was like R&B infused folk songs. I think that my youth of listening to mainstream R&B and rap has helped albums on this list to really speak to me, like the new and old of my life coming together in beautiful ways. Oh yea, and did I mention falsetto.
This albums is truly beautiful in ways that most of the music I listen to is not. It can really break your heart.

11. Sigur Ros - Takk...

Here is an album that I have heard maybe more than any other album. For months I listened to this album every single time I went for a jog and more than any album I have heard it has unbelievable replay value. It might be that it's not in English that it's easier to listen again and again, but the truth is it still to this day plucks my heart strings with every listen.
I know there are all kinds of things musicians can do to make you have an emotional experience, and I know anytime channel 4 in Britain wants to make you cry they just play this song over anything they want, but I really think there is something absolutely other worldly about this album and I hope it never loses it's gleam in my ears.

10. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House

What can I say. Every once in awhile I get into a band that blows my mind, and a lot of times it's partly that I'm not familiar with the bands influences. So I know there is some Beatles and Beach Boys here, and I know them all too well, but the rest I don't really know what it comes from and it makes it even more exciting to me.
The first time I heard this it was one of those times where you just know you hearing something that is amazing and is going to be a major part of your life. Like I said, I haven't been able to devote enough time to Veckatimest to know it as good as this album, so it doesn't make the cut, but this album I am sure about being such a huge thing this decade. The pop sensibilities of 'the knife' and the amazing atmosphere of 'on a neck, on a spit'. Classic.

9. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

Man this album is amazing. I love pop music, my favorite music in fact is original pop music. This ticks all the boxes, super original super poppy. Here is my description: Mariah Carey + Led Zeppelin + Crazy Vocal parts. Awesome. Really though it just doesn't really sound like anything I have ever heard and that is what I love about it.

Some of the best pop songs I ever heard I reckon. That's enough for me.

8. The Shins - Oh, Inverted World

Man what a fabulous album. Caring is Creepy, New Slang, Pressed In a Book the whole lot. There is a vibe here that really affects me, and even though I love the other two shins albums that vibe didn't transfer on to the others. It's a shame but at the same time I love how unique this feeling is. It's sad but true, the vibe that is.
What I love about the vibe of this is that it's sad but not teary sad, it's got some parts that just sound empty sad, but in a very altruistic human experience sort of way and I love that.

7. Arcade Fire - Funeral

If this was anybody's number one for the decade I would totally understand. Anybody who knows this alum well knows something very amazing happened when they made this.
What makes it so great I think is all the imagery about growing up and the implications childhood has on all of us. Where I think lyrically this album succeeds where 'Neon Bible' didn't is that it talks about issues in metaphorical ways that are piercing and beautiful where 'NB' is too straightforward in it's protest and opinions.
This album to me is a like a band of 5 year olds protest album and I think there is something extremely true about humans being told in this story.

6. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

When I first heard 'Fireworks' I listened to it about 10 times in a row and I was just blown away. AC stripped down from the heavy layered 'Feels' and I was a bit worried, but boy was I wrong. 'Fireworks' may be the saddest AC song and possibly best written song too, straight up songwriter speaking.
Strawberry Jam was one of the only records that came out since I have been an adult that on the release date I ran to the record shop as giddy as could be, AND when I got there they were playing it over the speakers!!! It did not disappoint either, some super duper gems here.

5. WHY? - Alopecia

This album is kind of unlike any of the others on this list in terms of how it affected me. I don't know if it's because Yoni Wolf, the frontman, comes from a similar place in America, and grew up in a similar time but there is something about this album that really speaks to me on a very personal level. He says 'If you grew up with white boy that looks at black and puerto rican porno than you know where you're at' and I did and do.
The thing that really does it for me here is that I grew up listening to rap and grew into independent music, and WHY? basically ties in my present and past in such a way that I honestly know myself better from hearing this amazing album.

4. Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica

This album actually changed my life...and I hate saying that! It sounds so cliche and silly but it's actually true. I got into this album at a time when I was reading lots of amateur guides to quantum physics and learning bits and pieces about transcendentalism and it fit so perfectly. I spent most of my childhood and teenage years trying to be Ace Ventura and never thought twice. It wasn't until high school that I ever thought about taking anything seriously really and as cliche as this sounds my high school english teacher kind of became a catalyst into a deeper thought process. He helped me believe that something quite amazing could be had by taking a deeper look into life and a more serious approach.
This album came at the same time. The lyrics here are unmatched in any MM album. I love the latest releases but I think when this was released the critics saw a glimmer of a band that might just be one of the most influential and innovative of our time, but I think the later albums strayed too much from what made this so brilliant and didn't build on the amazing things that were happening here.
This album is cold and lonely just like the moon and antarctica, but I reacon is a cold in lonely place its a great time to sit and think, and here Isaac Brock becomes a very great thinker, as well as an amazing song writer.

3. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

Ultra credible innovative and unique pop music. I really think that a post modern look at music is deconstructed by the laptop as an instrument. At the moment it can be a bit boring to watch someone play a laptop on stage but I reckon innovation will come soon enough to make it way more interesting.
I think the laptop will be the biggest most versatile intrument we will see for years and years and I think the AC are the band utilizing it in the most futuristic way. That's why I think they are so innovative.
No body does more interesting vocals and these songs are so catchy. 'My Girls' is an absolutely amazing track, could be the banger of the decade. I love repetition in music, I love to be able to slip completely into my subconscious with a song, and I love pop music, not easy to crack both of these in one song, but on this album they do it almost perfectly on every single track.

2. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

I love the beach boys and I think this is the most linear evolution from what they were doing. This album came out and I hadn't heard anything like it. The sound was so fresh with melodies you could float away in.
Noah Lennox make music that touches me, and it usually relates to things I can relate to. No crazy love ballads and equally no crazy hidden concepts and metaphor, just a guy with regular problems representing them with catchy and beautiful songs.
I love the lush texture of these songs, the noise and the nostalgia. All the samples here make you feel like you have heard it before but the melodies sound like something completely unique.
I could get lost in this album for the rest of my life I think.

1. Sufjan Stevens - Come On Feel the Illinoise

Wow. I don't want to go too long with this bad boy, but I prayed for something like this. This album really owned 2005 I think. The thing that is so amazing is that there are loads of great artists out there today that have a similar setup and mind set as Sufjan, and they make great albums but nothing touches this masterpiece for me because the writing and attention to detail on this is unmatched I think as far as any album is concerned. He wrote like 50 songs to make this thing!
With my own work I always want to encompass my whole experience. So I have skulls and silly creatures in the same drawing. Why? because that is life. Death, theology, happiness, depravity and humor all in one. Sufjan I think is like that too and I think that is what has influenced me in that way. John Wayne Gacy Jr and Chicago on the same album.
This album really blew me away and still does. Call me a silly hipster, but I honestly think this is a great artistic achievement of the decade. Go Sufjan! ...and make another why don't you!