- Tool: Lateralus (2001)
Tool’s Lateralus might not just be my album of the decade but my favorite album of all time or at least an album held in as high regard as Nine Inch Nail’s deeply underrated Fragile album. That admission automatically takes this list out of the realm of the objective (as if even a “good” list could be) and lands it somewhere between the idiosyncratic and the imprudent. Even so, I would classify Tool’s oft-divisive work as something I can’t get by without to this day. To even call it music seems unfair. It’s meta music, something transcendent and I mean that in the most pretentious way possible. Metal rock, prog rock, math rock, art rock, metaphysical rock, rock-um-rock, I could go on all day trying to figure out Lateralus’ complex style, strange sounds, shifting genres (not to mention time signatures) and enigmatic-to-a-point-of-parody lyrics but what would be the point of all that? Tool doesn’t make albums that can or should be understood with conventional logic or rational thinking. All that’s needed is a brain, a play button and a hefty dose of repressed childhood trauma and unexpressed rage.
Best Moment: Towards the end of “The Grudge” Maynard unleashes an barrage of “let go(s).” Very cathartic. Also, it’s hard to beat the alien invasion that ends the album.
- Beck: Sea Change (2002)
Tool was able to tap into the primal part of our brains. Beck, however, had the emotional side of things covered. It’s hard to put this album into words. And, no, calling it a “break-up album” are not the words I or anyone should be looking for. Call it that is like calling “Citizen Kane” a break-up movie. It is but… it’s really not. Sea Change is about so much more than relationships. It’s about loss, regret, self doubt and growth. But, of course, in typical Beck fashion it is about those things without actually being about any of those things. In a lot of ways this is Beck’s most honest straightforward album. The lush production, melancholic smoothness and deeply meaningful lyrics (he actually completes full and coherent sentences in this album) hint at a totally different type of artist. For a musician that was known in the 90s as a master of gimmicks and playful funk the arrival of Sea Change signals a literal see change in the artist and rock music in general for the decade. I didn’t expect it but I also (thankfully) didn’t resist it. Above all, Sea Change is a very personal album for both the person making it and the person listening. It’s perfect.
Best Moment: The final moments of of “Lonesome Tears.” The violins grow and grow and grow then, with a bit of uneasiness, it sounds like a plane is passing by and everything settles. Very transcendent.
- Spiritualized: Let It Come Down (2001)
I must admit that Spiritualized’s music, especially on Let it Come Down, is the closest I will ever get to having a “religious experience.” Quite appropriate considering the band’s name.
Best Moment: The first mention of Jesus. And drugs. And Jesus doing drugs.
- Pulp: We Love Life (2001)
Along with NIN, Pulp defined 90s music for me. One of the nicest surprises of the decade was Jarvis Cocker and Pulp’s ability to effortlessly carry the band’s legacy over into the new decade if only for a moment. A triumph in every way imaginable, We Love Life puts most of the music of the decade to shame. But, unlike a lot of veteran bands working in a new era (ahem, U2), it does not succeed by not a rehashing old sounds or tropes. It’s simultaneously a bold new direction and a tragic glimpse of the greatness that was surly still to come from Pulp had they not broken up. But if this this album teaches us anything it is that everything that is beautiful and thriving in this world must also eventually decay and die.
Best Moment: The lyrics “Took an air-rifle and shot a man to the ground. And it died without a sound.” Stone cold! Also, the optimism of the song “I Love Life” preceded, of course, by the darkness of “The Night That Mini Timperley Died.”
- Porcupine Tree: Fear of a Blank Planet (2007)
If putting Tool at #1 almost invalidated the list then the inclusion of Porcupine Tree is the nail in its coffin. While Tool gives Porcupine Tree a run for its money nothing can dethrone this band’s status as nerdiest, whitest rock music around. Three years in and not a week that goes by where I do not listen to some if not all of this album. What can I say: I love modern prog. Blank Planet introduced me to the prolific but little heard of (in America) British band Porcupine Tree and for that reason alone it deserves special consideration. Exploring the alienation of modern culture through technology, Blank Planet is one of the most serious (and just plain best) progressive rock albums to date. It’s the kind of album that would make people rethink their inexplicable hatred of the prog genre–provide the album was actually heard by anybody, which it wasn’t. The exquisitely exhaustive 17 minute opus “Anesthetize” is the album’s showpiece and the best Porcupine Tree song of all time. That’s no surprise considering the album it’s on is nothing short of the band’s best album to date. Which is saying something. While I’ve only been a fan of Porcupine tree for three short years they have ranked more albums on this list than any other band: Lightbulb Sun, In Absentia, Deadwing, Fear of a Blank Planet and 2009’s The Incident. Either I’m obsessed or the band is really good. Maybe both?
Best Moment: The best prog song ever recorded is the sit-come length “Anesthetize.” Also the strings in “Sleep Together.”
- Crystal Castles: Crystal Castles (2008)
In terms of new music the biggest moment of the decade for me was when a a dear friend turned me on to this self-titled Crystal Castles album. Less than a minute into “Untrust Us” and I feel in love. For those of us who always wanted to know what was in those suspicious pills that Dr. Mario was always messing around with, the answer is Crystal Castles. Naturally I figured this 8bit, Nintendo on acid electronica noise album would cause a revolution. Though it has its fans, it didn’t. Not even Crystal Castles repeated this album’s winning formula with their second (also self titled) album. That makes this a one of a kind experience that easily ranks Crystal Castles up there as my favorite new band of the decade. Along with two albums listed above, this one’s still in my car’s six disk changer which, lets face it, is the mark of a masterpiece.
Best Moment: Alice Glass says “hi” to start off the dissonant song “Alice Practice.” It’s the only intelligible lyric in the whole album. Actually, maybe not. I think I also heard her howl the word “chips,” “breasts” and something about a robot with AIDS.
- Radiohead: Amnesiac (2001)
Kid A got all the glory but Amnesiac meant more–to me at least. The tone, themes and musical range in this red headed stepchild of an album is all over the place. It is viewed by most as a curious Kid A offshoot but not much else. But this is one of those rare cases where the b-sides are better, or at least more interesting, than the a-sides. Amnesiac is one of the most unique Radiohead albums ever produced because it’s more impulsive, raw and awkward. It’s also not over-thought which can be a problem with some recent Radiohead works such as Hail to the Thief and In Rainbows.
Best Moment: Thom Yorke gets all (ironically?) pugilistic on “You and Whose Army” threatening to destroy everyone and their mothers. Aww, how cute.
- The Mars Volta: De-Loused in the Comatorium (2003)
Oddly enough, the best description of how awesome (and/or silly depending on your point of view) Mars Volta is came from the movie “Get Him To The Greek.” Johna Hill’s girlfriend asked him who Mars Volta was and he answered with this. Over the last seven years I think of a lot of us prog nerds tried and totally failed at making our girlfriends dig Mars Volta. It’s just not gonna happen. Mars Volta exploded on the prog scene with this multi-layered album that is equal parts brilliant and baffling. The often mocked band banged out some of the most unique and original sounds of the decade (a single song could range from prog to jazz to full on psychedelia), something Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala could never have done (or continued to do as they have four albums later and counting) had they listened to critics or, um, girlfriends.
Best Moment: The opening song followed by the lyrics “Noooooowwww I’mmmmmm loooooooooosssssstttttt.” VOLTA!
- Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero (2007)
Just when I thought NIN was done with concept albums Trent Reznor released his most ambitious project to date. Year Zero, NIN’s final studio album, chronicles, through the band’s fitting industrial sound, the end of the world though the tragically necessary collapse of a civilization taken hostage by imperialism, ignorance, greed and religion. When Trent Reznor sings “As time is running out, let me take away your doubt. We can find a better place in this twilight” we not only feel his pain and passion but are exhilarated by his dark sense of storytelling. On The Fragile Reznor sang about a hand reaching down from the sky and crushing us all but it was more symbolic. With Year Zero it’s almost literal hand–“Some say it was a warning, some say it was a sign. I was standing there when it came down from the sky.” Exorcising a lot of demons (political, personal and otherwise), it feels as if this album rekindled Reznor’s love of music. Perhaps mine as well. As a bonus it’s the band’s most industrial sounding album since the misunderstood “Fixed” ep.
Best Moment: Every great song ends with a minute or two of grinding industrial sounds. The uplifting (and apocalyptic!) ending is also pretty amazing.
- Super Furry Animals: Rings Around the World (2001)
Lead singer Gruff Rhys described Rings as a “cosmic rock record” and that might even be downplaying it. When you listen to this, or, indeed, just about any Super Furry Animals album you feel as if anything is possible and with songs styles ranging from psychedelic techno to death metal (“Receptacle For the Respectable”) you never know what you might hear next. Could be Auto-Tuned vitriol on songs like “Juxtaposed With You” (“You’ve got to tolerate, all those people that you hate, I’m not in love with you, but I won’t hold that against you…”) and “No Sympathy” (“you deserve to dieeeeeeeeeeeeeekasjdfkajskdfjkjdskfajskdfjkjk” the song goes just before undergoing the most amazing two minute stuttering schizophrenic music breakdown of all time), could be fluffy surf music (“Sidewalk Surfer Girl”) or tributes to Doris Day, could be a scathing commentary on modern religion on the underrated techno country (what?) track “Run! Christian, Run!,” or hell, it could just be Paul McCartney on “carrot and celery rhythm track.” Everything I love about the band is super sized on this deliberately bloated two disk explosion of eclectic oddities. After a triumphant 90s SFA created some of the most enjoyable music of this last decade and this album is what got the ball rolling.
Best Moment: So many moments. Many are listed above.
- Muse: Black Holes and Revelations (2006)
One of the most exciting NEW rock bands to emerge from the last decade released their opus in 2006. In retrospect its easy to see why this robust album made Muse popular even though it took a little while to catch on (proud to say I voted it the best album of 2005). Its one of those rare cases where (a) I dig a super popular rock band and (b) I’m happy that a band –making a prog album no less!– found mainstream popularity. Some bands are so good they need to be big so they can put everything else to shame. Rock may have died these last ten years but Muse did their best to keep it alive and they did that through strobe light political/sci-fi anthems worthy of and possibly even surpassing the best of their influences (David Bowie and Queen).
Best Moment: The end of “Take A Bow,” “Buuuuurrrrrrnnnnn in hell, yeah you’ll buuuuurrrrnnnn in hell for your SINNNNNNSSSSSS– dum, dum, dum, dum AHHHHHHHHHHHH!” followed by “Starlight.” Definitely gets us in the mood!
- Puscifer: V Is for Vagina (2007)
A hated album/band. I get that. I was also down on V the first few times I listened. Ripped from Maynard James Keenan id, Puscifer is a hard one to figure out. It’s like a junk bin full of songs that don’t belong. I was expecting Tool or at the very least A Perfect Circle. I did not expect… this. V is a funky, jokey, and totally serious underneath it all alternative (or is it prog) album with a fertility idol as a mascot. The forced imagery draws upon/creates its own pagan myth and juvenile “humor” (Maynard is as creepy as he is cool). The album is full of cult-like vagina worshiping (for real!) and country boners and that can seem off putting or dumb on the surface. But that’s not the end of it. As a vanity side project this could have gone down the same drain as Albarnn’s forgettable The Good, The Bad and the Queen but a strange thing happened, the album would not go away. I kept humming the Gregorian Monk-like chants, “wake up some of mine…,” “ho-hoooh ho-hooo,” “Je-ho-vah! Yah-weh!”etc. Long story short, the album has stuck around as much as anything released in the last few years. It was not long before I finally had to give in and admit that I love the hell out of Puscifer. In the end this underrated album is far more memorable and audacious than his popular Perfect Circle side project and ultimately worthy to be spoken of in the same breath as Tool. Give it a chance!
Best Moment: Vaginas!
- Blonde Redhead: 24 (2007)
The most ethereal and down right dreamy album of the decade. This is an album that is easy to get lost in during long drives and thinking sessions. That’s very surprising considering the band’s past work not only went for a more rock oriented sound but was not even very original at that. This is one of those cases where sounding like Radiohead is the best thing a band could do and that’s quite ironic considering it surpasses much of what Radiohead did in the 2000s.
Best Moment: This is not really an album of moments but about broad gestures.
- The Knife: Silent Shout (2006)
My love affair with the brooding synthpop Knife siblings (Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer) began here. Every bit as good as Deep Cuts (ranked 43 on this list), the release of the darker and more electronic Silent Shout is the moment when The Knife quietly became one of the best bands of the decade. I have little doubt that this album will stand the test of time. It’s a hard one to shake. As a bonus check out The Knife’s first ever live album called Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience for a whole new interpretation of this amazing album.
Best Moment: Andersson robot voice on “Neverland.” Vader would be proud.
- Nine Inch Nails: The Slip (2008)
Radiohead got all full of themselves when they pretended to release a “free” on-line album (In Rainbows). NIN actually did it. That the album is one of Reznor’s best is just the icing on the razor blades and metal shard flavored cake. It returns NIN to the raw yet melodic rock sounds that Reznor achieved on Downward Spiral and Broken.
Best Moment: While listening to The Slip for the 100th time on I saw that on my iPhone the lyrics and artwork show up! Trent is so cool!
- Ladytron: Velocifero (2008)
Velocifero surprised the hell out of me. After a lukewarm response I didn’t even expect to like 2009’s Ladytron album. Don’t get me wrong I always enjoyed this electropop band (60 4 and Light & Magic have their moments) but never knew they would capable of something this big. A total grower. After many listens I realized that the entire album plays like a flawless best-of that most bands take years to compile. I can’t wait to see what Ladytron does next.
Best Moment: Black Cat. I mean, when was the last time anybody jammed this hard to a Bulgarian language song?
- Gomez: Split the Difference (2004)
Gomez’s best album to date! The all-over-the-place traks are unified only by the band’s willingness to experiment more and more with their already quirky brit rock sounds. I love how the members of the band work on their music independently and come together to form, well, Gomez. The resulting madness resulted in my pick for best album of 2004. Gomez had a great decade and a case could be made for each album (except for their last, A New Tide) being their best.
Best Moment: The messy but catchy opening three tracks (“Do One,” “These 3 Sins,” and “Silence” sets the mood for the rest of the album.
- The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
There was a time when the only thing I knew about The Flaming Lips is that they wrote a creepy song about jelly and made an appearance at the Peach Pit After Dark on “90210.” Then Yoshimi hit and everything changed. This celebrated album elevated The Flaming Lips into artists (at least, for those of us not fortunate enough to have heard The Soft Bulletin a few years earlier). But what’s so cool is that the band got some much earned credibility without sacrificing their sense of acid blasted fun or experimentation. This album was so special (is there any other word for it?) that it took the band a full album to recover. After selling out to every car commercial known to man and the making the confused (in a bad way) At War With the Mystics, the Lips got their groove (and integrity) back with . Oh, and they also put on what is without a doubt the best live show of the decade!
Best Moment: Oh, has to be the moment that Unit 30021 awakens and makes a humming sound.
- Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus (2004)
Cage replaced angry howls with a soulful gospel album. The results are maturity and refinement without the loss of that vintage dulcet doomed Cave-ness that we fans love. It is with this double album that Cave, in my opinion, perfected his craft. Soul, fury, god, sex and blood. Lots of blood. And with lines like “Karl Marx squeezed his carbuncles while writing Das Kapital/And Gaugin, he buggered off, man, and went all tropical…” his songwriting has never been better, funnier, deeper or more strange.
Best Moment: Every second of “There She Goes, My Beautiful World” especially the song’s rousing chorus. How was that song not a single?
- Herbert: Scale (2006)
Matthew Herbert’s electronic masterpiece takes from the best of electronica, Jazz and, yes, even classic Hollywood compositions. Beeps, buzzes, trickles, drips, bangs, and, if Wikipedia is to be believed “breakfast cereal, gas pumps and coffins.” But the album is not some heady and inert piece of electronic music. The everything-AND-the-kitchen-sink music technique is offset by gorgeously sweeping symphonic movements that paint a surprisingly elegant soundscape. There’s so much going on in terms of all the sounds that every listen yields something new and exciting. It’s catchy, it’s soulful and its fun. Contributor Róisín Murphy also does some of her best work on this album. And finally, if all that wasn’t enough, the song “Something Isn’t Right” is one of the decade’s best songs.
Best Moment: The first organic sounding blip. It’s as if we’re trapped inside the bowls of a musically inclined whale!
- Tool: 10,000 Days (2006)
A bigger fan of Tool’s last two albums I find myself in minority. It seems that most Tool fans are not to fond of 10,000 days but Tool fans are not commonly fond of anything beyond the band’s first two albums (they did, after all, sell out and suck up to THE MAN). So is this lesser Tool? Objectively, that’s a hard one to answer because, again, going by critics and fans, one would think it is. It’s not. It’s a great work full of complexity and unrelenting rock passages that solidify Tool’s status as legends of modern music. It offers some of the band’s most ambitious and absurd songs to date. Often in the same song! “Rosetta Stoned” is about a hippie who takes some bad acid and is visited by aliens telling him he’s the messiah. Then he freaks out and “shits the bed.” That people still call Tool pretentious is one of the great mysteries surrounding the band’s impact (or lack thereof) on music. Say what you will about 10,000 Days but it features some of the best work by the best guitarist in the world, Adam Jones (check out his work on the song “Jambai”), drummer Danny Carey (“Intension,” “Right in Two”) and of course singer Maynard James Keenan who surprised a lot of Tool fans like me with his deeply moving “Wings for Marie (Pt 1),” and “10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2).”
Best Moment: Easy one. “Rosetta Stoned.” Guy takes too much acid. Aliens talk to him and tell him he’s the chosen one. He freaks out and “shits the bed.” Goddamn.
- Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
The best album of the decade according to many. A great Radiohead album according to me. Why is that not enough? Radiohead defined rock in the 90s and almost single handily added electronica to rock in the 00s. The fact that I’m still listening to it means that everything is indeed in the right place.
Best Moment: “Everything in it’s Right Place.” What a perfect way to open an album like this. Hum, is everything really in the right place? OMG, Radiohead’s being ironic again!
- Gorillaz: Demon Days (2005)
The best novelty band of all time. Perhaps because of that novelty aspect though the Gorillaz are not given enough credit as one of the most innovative and defining bands of the last decade. Led by Blur front man Damon Albarn, Gorillaz helped change music. The band highlights a lot of what music was about in the 2000s. They fused rap, hip-hop, rock, pop and world music better than any band, and a lot of bands tried. On top of that they a function as a gimmicky act, yes, but also a remarkably creative and robust commentary on commercial excess and even the apocalypse. Demon Days, my favorite Gorillaz album, is a full blown concept album featuring a fully animated “fake” band of primates that put most real bands to shame. That they are constantly able to adapt and evolve (hehe) is another benchmark. This new decade has already brought great promise with the new Plastic Peach album that will most certainly be featured on a list very similar to this ten years from now.
Best Moment: Simple village people called “Happyfolk” are terrorized by corporate greed. World swallowed by the darkness that ensues. God looks up in Heaven and laughs at us. That’s Dennis Hopper’s spoken-word song “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head.” Like Year Zero, it ends the album on an apocalyptic note. As a bonus Demon Days’ epilogue is two blissfully sad tunes aided by the The London Community Gospel Choir.
- Super Furry Animals: Phantom Power (2002)
SFA scores another winner! Phantom Power even ranked as my number one album of 2005. I still regard it very highly but feel that Rings Around the World is the better, more authentic Animals effort. Still, this album, more melancholy and sober than their past work, is ambitious and offers a refreshing change of direction for the oft wild band. SFA have not revisited the sounds of Phantom Power since but that only makes it all the more special. While Gruff Rhys and his fellow insane Welshmen still find time for songs about “Golden Retrievers” and turtles named Venus and Serena, Phantom Power goes on to explore unjust wars, cycles of violence and a post-9-11 culture of fear. It is an album that is hard to define that was released in an era that was even harder to figure out.
Best Moment: Goooooolden Retriever. Go-ooh-ooh-lden Retriever.
- Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (2005)
I don’t understand how anyone could dismiss this album. Porcupine Tree fans like me say this a lot. And they say it about each album. A towering achievement from a band that just gets better and better. PTs eighth album shows no sign of the band slowing. Quite the opposite. They upped the intensity and emotional connections to their prog rock sounds on this highly cinematic “ghost story” concept album. Perhaps Deadwing is also their most mainstream album to date as well. There are so many great PT songs are in this album (“Shallow,” “Lazarus,” “Halo,” “Open Car,” “Arriving Somewhere”) that I find it impossible not to rank it high. In fact, shame on me for not getting it in the top ten.
Best Moment: The twelve minute prog opus “Arriving Somewhere but Not Here” gives “Anesthetize” a run for its money.
- Daft Punk: Alive 2007…
- …and Discovery (2001 and 2007)
Though I have a weak spot for live albums I tried to keep them separate from the regular albums (see list below for a best live list) but this isn’t a normal live album. Daft Punk does not just present their best songs they rethink them entirely! It’s a new way of making music through artful synthesis. Mash ups are often fun but they have never been this thoughtful or cleverly implemented. Radiohead comes close when they remix their songs live but Daft Punk went one step beyond. The lovable robots looked back at their short list of songs spanning only a few albums (a few GREAT albums, notably Discovery) and, like the dutiful machines they are, reimagined them, remixed them and took them even deeper into the realm of the unreal. And they did it live! If songs like “Hard, Better, Faster, Stronger” weren’t good enough on their own, when interwoven with a club hit like “Around the World” a whole new experience is created. One of the biggest musical marvels of the decade.
Best Moment: Rock!……… robot bock… around the world.
- Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2001)
What happened to Wilco? Well, actually, after two flawless back-to-back alt-rock winners, Yankee and A Ghost is Born, Wilco simply went back to… being Wilco. You know what, it doesn’t even matter because at least they got to make this totally original, genre bending, studio-be-damned album. All the overrated country folk rock albums in the world won’t change that.
Best Moment: The amount of time it takes “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” to get going and the effect of how cool it is once it does.
- Nine Inch Nails: With Teeth (2005)
Not one of the band’s best but certainly one of Trent Reznor’s most important albums to date. It is a victorious (and vicious) comeback album. After the soul crushing gap before and after The Fragile release it was uncertain if NIN would ever really be back. With Teeth answered that with an emphatic “yes.” Unlike most of his 90s peers that includes toothless acts like Pearl Jam, Marilyn Manson, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots (etc. etc.), Trent has gotten smarter and sharper with age rather than soft and irrelevant. He is able to redirect his trademark anger into something darkly beautiful and edgy. “The Hand That Feeds” and “Only” remain some of best 2000s singles.
Best Moment: The spaced out “Beside You in Time” would have been the perfect note to end on but, sadly, the feelings that mostly wordless song evokes ruined by one of NIN’s worst songs to date: “Right Where It Belongs.”
- Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf (2002)
I never would have imagined that Queens of all bands would have put out an album this cohesive after the good but messy Rated R. This album is epic. The kind of effort that proves a classic rock album could be made in the 00s and be made as good as anything in the past. If the term Neo-Classic Rock didn’t exist before Songs for the Deaf, it should damn well exist after it. This is the last great album Queens of the Stone Age will ever make. Even if Josh Homme brought back Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl I doubt they could re-capture the magic of Deaf.
Best Moment: The radio show segue gimmick shouldn’t work but it’s really cool here. My Chemical Romance does a similar thing on their new 2010 album and it’s… lets just say not as cool.
- …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: Worlds Apart (2005)
…and you will also know this band by the bombastic sounds of this amazing (and amazingly underrated) alt-rock album. World’s takes all the magic of Source Tags and Codes only to blow it up, stretch it out and experiment the hell out of the boundaries of this music genre. It does not get the credit it deserves.
Best Moment: The intense, almost theatrical instrumental opening followed by a woman screeching and saying “and you will know us by the trail of dead.”
- Weezer: Maladroit (2002)
The hardest Weezer has ever rocked. And the funniest they’ve ever been. And the most iconoclastic (as the title would indicate). Oh, and of course the creepiest and most neurotic (the song “Love Explosion” opens with this classic Rivers Cuomo gem: “Take a listen around you/to all the people that crowd around in your house/They be wanting to kill you… in your sleep”). In a way it’s also their most confident. Maladroit is sound of Weezer hitting their peek. Sadly, it was all downhill from here. This is easily my favorite Weezer album to date and that’s mostly because I’ll never understand why Pinkerton is so trendy.
Best Moment: The “Keep Fishing” video. Oh nothing, Weezer is just jamming with The Muppets!
- Neon Neon: Stainless Style (2008)
A retro 80s concept album from the frontman of Super Furry Animals. The album is a biopic of sorts about the crazy, drug fueled life of the inventor of the Delorian. Yes, that’s the Back to the Future car guy. How cool is that? Actually, it would not be that cool at all if the album wasn’t really good. It is. Give it a shot.
Best Moment: A small moment in the song “I Told Her On Alderon” (Han Solo’s home planet?). Gruff sings about a doctor and then does the doctor’s voice “hello, come right in.” For some reason I find that hilarious!
- Beck: The Information (2006)
While it didn’t make my top twenty the year it came out this is one of those albums that grew and grew and grew on me until I could not deny it’s status as a masterpiece (the opposite happened with Guero for some reason). The Information combines all the eras of Beck-dom with ease and fun and a lot of funk. There’s love songs (“Think I’m In Love”) there’s old school Beck (“1,000 BPM,” “Elevator Music”), stoner beck (“Nausea”) and there’s even a new Beck: space age time travel. The final epic, a three song suite featuring Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze talking about space crafts is an moody ambient masterpiece. If the album ages any better then ten years from now it may give Sea Change a run for its money no pun intended.
Best Moment: The last song is so trippy it defies words.
- Tenacious D: Tenacious D (2001)
Call it joke album if you want but it happens to be a joke album with really good rock music. And the comedy skits that are just as good (Drive Through, Friendship Test etc.). Listening to Jables (Jack Black) and Rage Kage (Kyle Gass) double team the ladies, vanquish dragons and fight over kielbasa sausages only to make up through a song about friendship and running naked through the park is just as enjoyable to listen to today. I’ve quoted this album way too much over the years. “Yeah, that’s right, that’s a karate chop.”
Best Moment: Don’t make me pick just one… okay it’s when JB and KG double team a woman, treating to a night of toe sucking pleasure that most of us dare not dream of. “Now we’re talking… DOUBLE TEAM!”
- Doves: The Last Broadcast (2002)
After this album the Doves should never be considered secondhand Radiohead British knockoffs.
Best Moment: The song “Words” chills me out.
- Robbie Williams: Sing When You’re Winning (2000)
I was once really into Robbie Williams. “greatness.” After revisiting this playful and catchy album earlier in the year I do not regret it either.
Best Moment: Rock DJ. What a song! The video where Robbie Williams tears off his skin and throws it to the ladies is amazing.
- Gomez: In Our Gun (2002)
Gomez’s has had an astonishingly good run but the kind of run nobody even knew was in play. Still, this hot streak didn’t even start with In Our Gun. It did, however, intensify with it as it’s Gomez’s most complex album to date. An album that pointed the band in the right direction. This album got me into Gomez.
Best Moment: The first time I heard it I was impressed by the range of singers in this band and album. That still makes Gomez very unique.
- Badly Drawn Boy: One Plus One Is One (2004)
Not bad from a solo artist that many believe to be past his prime. While mostly known as a 90s artist, Damon Gough did some of his best work last decade. From the beautiful About a Boy soundtrack to 1+1 to his underrated meditation on being British Born in the U.K., this singer/songwriter is able to have fun with his never-pretentious music.
Best Moment: Ba-by, Ba-by… buzzzsssccchhhhh.
- Dave Matthews Band: The Lillywhite Sessions (2001)
The most talked about non-released album of the decade, maybe ever. After their scrapped album leaked (and was loved by fans) DMB said, okay, how about we re-record it and release a souped-up studio version minus producer Steve Lillywhite. And it sucked. Well, it didn’t suck (“You Never Know” is a DMB classic) but it was lacking the previous album’s magic. Just listen to the new/neutered version of Bartender for an example of what’s missing from the original (thankfully a great live version of Bartender is floating around). DMB was looking to have a really good decade until the Lillywhite/Busted Stuff mishap took them out of their game. The result was the abhorred adult contemporary ez-listening soft rock Stand Up. They lost their way but found it again at the eleventh hour with 2009’s triumphant Big Whiskey come-back album.
Best Moment: Very few moments in rock match the brilliance of the song Bartender. That moment was squandered on Busted Stuff but thankfully resurrected whenever DMB plays that song live.
- Marilyn Manson: Holy Wood (2000)
Manson is not cool any more. That’s stating the obvious. Maybe he never was. I don’t know. What I do know is that Holy Wood is a very good rock album that became a victim of Manson’s annoyingly arch “goth” theatrics. That does not change the work at hand. This album is better even than his iconic 90s releases Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals. But it was too late and by the turn of the century people were really sick of him (including me) and nobody was able to look past the passé artist to recognize the art. So, yes, I will defend this album.
Best Moment: The moment you realize a Marilyn Manson album doesn’t suck.
- Pantha du Prince: This Bliss (2007)
Techno has a bad name. Like, even the word sounds cheesy and lame. The elegant minimalism offered by bands like this in albums like this are looking to change that. Bliss was made for people who would rather soak in atmosphere and think than mindlessly dance. It is, in the best sense of the word, the closest thing we have to classical music. Pantha du Prince proves that, when it comes to techno, less is better. Less says more. And less makes more of an impression.
Best Moment: It’s hard not to fall in love with the album the moment you hear the song “Asha.”
- The Knife: Deep Cuts (2003)
Not as dark as Silent Shout but, amazingly, just as good in a lot of ways. For one it’s more accessible. “Heartbeats” is easily the best pop song in years. Speaking of pop, this album taught a lot of people that euro and/or electro pop is not just for, well, Euros. Oddball Swedish siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijerget a simultaneous award for most changed band and most versatile (not only did Andersson release a solo album with her band Fever Ray in 2009 but The Knife’s live album Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience is a blast. And perhaps likely to end up in prison. The Knife also made going out in public in Venetian masks cool again.
- Best Moment: Lots of moments. Certainly “Heartbeats.” I also love Andersson’s voice on “Got 2 Let u,” and “You Make Me Like Charity.” Never has a singer sounded so cute while singing about “paying enough taxes.” I am particularly obsessed with the lyric “I felt the war. I felt her exposed… position.” And, no, I have no idea what that means either.
- Stars of the Lid: and Their Refinement of the Decline (2007)
It’s a tossup as to which Stars album from the last ten is my favorite seeing as how both Refinement and Tired Sounds… are equally impressive. Each album, while nuanced and changing ever so slightly, feels like an extension of this Texas ambient band’s last. Besides, we’re not even dealing with album in the typical sense of the word. More of a wandering and ethereal experience that transcends typical feeling we get from modern music. A mandatory requirement to enjoying this music is to give in to the lack of structure. Side Note: over the last few years its the album of choice to nap to and I mean that as a compliment.
Best Moment: The moment the album ends and you start it all over again.
- Annie: Hey Annie (2009)
Less than a year later and I’m upset with myself for not giving this album of the year for 2009. Oh well. Hey Annie is even better than Anniemal, the album that put the Norwegian electropop singer on the map. Sure, Annie name drops every chance she gets and even dresses crazy (lipstick necklace and all) but she is able succeed where the superficial Lady Gagas of the world failed. Annie backs up her funky and somewhat self aware (err, at least I think) dance-pop sound with something infectiously fun that also seems to have substance. Pop music hasn’t been this good in ages. I love you, Annie!
Best Moment: Annie asks what we want for breakfast. The answer: Annie!
- Belle and Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
I recently had a chance to listen to all major Belle and Sebastian albums and EPs. What a great idea! This is so much more than an indie pop band. B&S has never released anything close to a mediocre album. I don’t think they could if they tried. This album may be their best while the same time it is the one that appropriately divides its fans. On one hand it’s certainly their most joyful and catchy work to date but what puts it over the edge is the dark lyrics that undercut the cheery facade. “I’m going deaf, you’re growing melancholy/ Things fall apart, I don’t know why we bother at all/ But life is good and it’s always worth living… at least for a while.” Ah, Stewart Murdoch, all it takes is a few tracks from this album to put me in a great mood. Thank you.
Best Moment: Love the horns.
- The Soundtrack of Our Lives: Behind the Music (2003)
An album that seems to belong to a different era. As someone who hates “classic rock” I should clarify that I mean that in a good way. Behind the Music is T.S.O.O.L.’s best album to date. It’s full of sounds both epic and classic. There’s a lot of range and a lot of heart from this Swedish band.
Best Moment: The brooding “In Your Veins” is a highlight.
- Andrew W.K.: I Get Wet (2001)
PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!!PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!! PARTY!!!………… gasp………. PAAAAAAAARRRRRRTTTTtttttyyyyyyy…. clang, thump, thud!
Best Moment: Party!
- Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004)
A beautiful, singular album. One of those rare musical endeavors that just about everyone can agree is a defining moment for music in the 2000s. The kind of album that anchors you to the time you heard it. I’ve even tried not to like or downplay this album… until I heard it again with an objective lens. There’s no denying it’s power or place in history.
Best Moment: Lies!
- Of Montreal: Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)
A late addition to this list. Outside of the brilliant song “Labyrinthine Pomp” which made my top ten songs of 2007, the album Hissing Fauna did not interest me when it first came out. I found it to be annoying and over the top. I’ve learned to appreciate the quirky sounds that vacillate between high minded and frivolous. Everything just comes together perfectly here. Not in a tidy way either but in a slapdash release of funky angst way. And, really, nobody is writing lyrics like Kevin Barnes, er, pardon I mean Georgie Fruit (his Fauna alter ego). Weather it’s songs about drugs “come on chemicals,” a kick ass choirs if there ever was one, or random as hell stream of consciousness musings like “I spent the winter on the verge of a total nervous breakdown while living in Norway/I felt the darkness of black metal bands” this is a one of a kind album. The kind of crazy I can really relate to these days.
Best Moment: Chemical-eul-eul-eul-eulaaaaaas!
- Coheed and Cambria: Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV (2005)
I’m counting this one in my top fifty because Daft Punk took up two spots. I have come to regard Good Apollo as a major prog album in the vein of Rush, Pink Floyd and At the Drive In. Claudio Sanchez’s comical falsetto and heavy rock influences didn’t impress me at first but it literally did at second and it hasn’t stopped since (the follow-up No World For Tomorrow is just as good as Apollo). Coheed does not even stop at delivering amazing guitar heavy prog albums, they create a whole sci-fi world around the music in the form of comics. Really ambitious and yet also really unnecessary because the album is so good on its own.
- Postal Service: Give Up (2003)
It’s rare that an artist’s side project eclipses in every possible way the band said artist is best known for. Not only did that happened with this amazingly polished electronic side project by Deathcab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard but it’s so good that I found myself annoyed with every new “Deathcab” because that meant Gibbard was not working on a new Postal Service. Note: points lost for selling out big time to to credit card commercials and Grey’s Anatomy. Seriously, Grey’s Anatomy? Soooo not cool.
- Franz Ferdindand: Self Titled (2004)
Not a single weak on the whole album from this Scottish rock band. Every song rocks and every song could have been a single. What’s more improbable than that is that nearly every Franz Ferdinand song/album after this spotless self titled epic has pretty much sucked. Franz Ferdinand never needs to put out a “best of” album because they accomplished that tasked on their first try.
- Green Day: American Idiot (2004)
I am not a an of Green Day/I am a huge fan of this Green Day album. It’s possible.
- Supersilent: 9 (2009)
Cllllllllllllllllllllllllllliiiiinnnnnnnnggggg…. vroooooooooooooshhhhhhh… buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssshhhhhhh… weeeeeeeee… waaaahhhhhhhhh… eeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhh… berrrr… vereeeeverrrrrveeeeverrrrrr…
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling (2001)
Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk about it.
- Sigur Rós: ( ) (2002)
Taps into so much energy, emotion and sadness while at the same time saying so little. An album that literally transcends language by inventing its own. The album’s empty title makes perfect sense even though it does not even begin to express the depth at work here.
- St-Germain: Tourist (2000)
Jazz fusion made fun. Pop this sophisticated electronic gem in to impress your friends. Or just go into chill mode and listen away. If only St Germain made more albums.
- Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga (2008)
Weed. Underdogs. Japanese cigarette cases. What a delightful album. Spoon brings much needed humor and sense of fun to the pretentious, often insufferable indie rock genre. And they managed to do it in just over 30 minutes.
- At the Drive-In: Relationship of Command (2000)
At the Drive-In is a faded memory at this point. This album keeps that memory alive. The band may have splintered into Mars Volta and Sparta (both good bands) but this album will carry the legacy of ATDI for years to come.
- Blur: Think Tank (2004)
Blur, sadly, is no more. If the band, or I should say Damon Albarn, ever chooses to come back –and Dear Lord I hope they do– they can use the awesomeness of this album (which totally should have sucked) as an impetus to get back on the horse or back in the tank or back to modern life or back to the park or, um, 13? Whatever. Come back, guys! Oh, and if you do please remember to pick up some Graham Coxton on your way home. Okay, thanks.
- Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (2002)
Did I mention I like Porcupine Tree?
- Dangerdoom: The Mouse and the Mask (2005)
If all rap was inspired by Adult Swim cartoons then I would probably like rap.
- Jaravis Cocker: Further Complications (2009)
Pulp may be dead but Cocker sure isn’t. Now this is how a rock star should do a solo album! Angrier, funnier, hornier and as melodic as ever. If Cocker keeps this up I may not even miss Pulp anymore.
66 to 100ish
- The Horrors: Primary Colours
- Nine Inch Nails: Still
- …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead: Source Tags & Codes
- Gorillaz: Gorillaz
- Porcupine Tree: The Incident
- TV On the Radio: Dear Science
- Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
- Porcupine Tree: Lightbulb Sun
- Belle and Sebastian: Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
- PJ Harvey: Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
- Justice: Cross
- Nine Inch Nails: Things Falling Apart (best NIN remix album of all time)
- Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP
- The National: Boxer
- Fuck Buttons: Tarot Sport
- Super Furry Animals: Hey Venus
- Mastadon: Crack the Skye
- The Rapture: Echoes
- Mars Volta: Bedlam in Goliath
- The Bravery: The Sun and the Moon
- LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
- Cake: Comfort Eagle (underrated)
- The Strokes: Is This It?
- Radiohead: In Rainbows
- Neko Case: Middle Cyclone
- Godspeed You Black Emperor: Lift Your Skinny Fists…
- Depeche Mode: Exciter
- Beirut: Gulag Orkerstar
- Basement Jaxx: Rooty
- Tom Waits: Alice
- Belle and Sebastian: The Life Pursuit
- Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam
- Interpol: Turn on the Bright Lights
- Bob Dylan: Modern Times
- Mars Volta: Francis the Mute
- No Doubt: Return to Saturn
- New Pornographers: Twin Cinema
- The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan
Favorite New Bands of the Decade:
- Crystal Castles
- The Knife
- The Mars Volta
- Camera Obscura
- The Rapture
- The National
- Postal Service
- Sufjan Stevens
- Arcade Fire
Most “Relevant“/Innovative/Culturally Important/Whatever Bands and Artists of the Decade:
(not that I agree with all of these…)
- Radiohead (for the second decade in a row!!!)
- Kanye West
- The White Stripes (ugh)
- Arcade Fire
- The Strokes
- Animal Collective
- Daft Punk
- The Killers
- LCD Soundsystem
Favorite Live Albums:
- Daft Punk – Alive 2007
- Nine Inch Nails – And All That Could Have Been
- Porcupine Tree – Arriving Somewhere…
- Tool – Salival
- John Coltrane & Thelonius Monk – Live at Carnegie Hall
- Blur – All the People: Blur Live at Hyde Park
- Radiohead – I Might Be Wrong
- Kraftwerk – Minimum-Maximum
- Ladytron – Live at London Astoria
- Wilco – Kicking Television: Live in Chicago
- Dave Matthews Band – The Central Park Concert
- Leonard Cohen – Field Commander Cohen: Tour of 1979
- Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid Live at Abbey Road
- The Knife – Silent Shout: An Audio Visual Experience
- Porcupine Tree – Ilosaarirock
- Muse – H.A.A.R.P.: Live From Wembley Stadium
- My Morning Jacket — Okonokos
- Tom Waits – Glitter and Doom Live
- Neko Case – The Tigers Have Spoken
- Nirvana – Live at Redding
- Porcupine Tree – Coma Divine Live in Rome
Albums ranked #1 At the Time:
2009: Porcupine Tree’s The Incident (okay, so there were some better albums released that year)
2008: Crystal Castles’ Self Titled
2007: Blond Redhead’s 23
2006: Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations
2005: Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth (lesser NIN but still solid)
2004: Gomez’s Split the Difference (I stand by it)
2003: Super Furry Animals’ Phantom Power
2002: Beck’s Sea Change (right on, Greg!)
2001: Tool’s Lateralus (got it right!)
2000: Robbie Williams’ Sing When You’re Winning (woops)
One More List… Best Album of the 90s:
- Nine Inch Nails: The Fragile
- Radiohead: Ok Computer
- Pulp: Separations
- Super Furry Animals: Fuzzy Logic
- Nine Inch Nails: Broken/Fixed
- Pulp: This Is Hardcore
- Tool: Aneima
- Spiritualized: Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
- Beck: Mutations
- Nine Inch Nails: Downward Spiral
- U2: Zooropa
- Pulp: Different Class
- Blur: Blur
- Nirvana: MTV Unplugged
- Depeche Mode: Violator
- Tool: Undertow
- U2: Achuting Baby
- Pulp: His n’ Hers
- My Bloody Valentine: Loveless
- Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers
- Radiohead: The Bends
- Beck: Odelay
- The Pixies: Bossanova
- Belle & Sebastian: If You’re Feeling Sinister
- The Beta Band: Three E.P.s
Best Songs of the Decade in the next week or so… then a break for the best of 2010 then of course Best Movies of the Decade after that (whenever I’m done catching up on/rewatching all those films. Argh, too many best ofs!