Top 10 Albums of the 2000’s – Mark

You know, it’s been a pretty good decade for music.

Sure, the 2000’s haven’t really had anything as memorable as say Nirvana or U2, and now it seems more then ever that bands release a few singles, an album and kind of vanish into the ether, but still, there’s been a lot of good stuff released.

This list represents one stab at the top 10 albums of the decade. I make no pretense of this being THE list, nor even a list I’ll agree with tomorrow… why, if I were to make it again, I’m sure the order would be different and somebody else would have made the cut at another bands expense… but hell, aren’t all lists like that?

10 ) Gorillaz – Demon Days (2005, Virgin)

Gorillaz first album was like a shot out of left field – there wasn’t really anything I had ever heard like it before.  By the time the follow up arrived, expectations were through the roof. And boy did this album keep pace. It took the best elements from the first album, added some slick production from Danger Mouse and became more band-like. It wasn’t hard to imagine this album being played live by the Gorillaz (which later happened).

Standout tracks: Feel Good Inc., DARE

9 ) Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (2008, XL)

I wasn’t privy to the hype surrounding this release (indeed, I didn’t even hear it until well after it came out). But damn, this was a great debut. Sure it’s a little too cute an tries to be too clever sometimes, but I think that on the whole, it’s a really cohesive work. And hell, when bands come out of the woodwork sounding like you, that’s gotta mean something good.

Standout tracks: M79, Oxford Comma

8 ) Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine (2004, Last Gang)

DFA 1979 was like a shot ringing out. There wasn’t really anything quite like them before in music that I could think of – in a way, they were the black to Jack White. Frantic drumming, relentlessly pounding bass and lyrics that came screaming out at you… it was pretty awesome. It’s a real shame the band didn’t stick around, either. Their total output, I think, can fit on just one CD (remixes excluded). Still, you can’t go wrong with their only LP.

Standout tracks: Little Girl, Blood On Our Hands

7 ) Feist – The Reminder (2008, Arts & Crafts)

Before everybody and their mother heard 1234 played to excess, Fiest was a hell of a secret. Despite a good debut album – the solid Let it Die – and appearances with Broken Social Scene (more on that later), she was pretty firmly stuck in that netherworld of CBC Radio 3, a landscape of underappreciated Canadian rock that didn’t really have much of an audience. But thanks to that song (and an iconic Apple ad), she rocketed right into the mainstream. But the album was more then just a hit single. It highlights different sides of Fiest: rock, piano-driven pop, world music.

Standout tracks: My Moon My Man, Sea Lion Woman, I Feel It All

6 ) The Go! Team – Proof of Youth (2007, Sub Pop)

Brash, loud, unafraid to go wherever the hell it wants. Like the title suggests, the Go! Team’s sophomore album is the kind of thing just oozes youth with no regard for conventions. Almost without remorse, it’s eclectic mix of samples beam in from all over – from old school rap to Glen Campbell – and mesh with the band’s live playing. It suggests anything and everything at once. It’s a mashup, it’s an alternative album, it’s dance-punk… it can be what you want it to be as it constantly reinvents itself.

Together, The Go! Team represents where music has gone towards the end of the decade. They don’t just create, but distill everything – the chants from the schoolyard, the guitar riffs from the indie scene and the beat  – with myriad samples for a unique sound. I personally found this album tremendously exciting – Grip Like a Vice, for one, offered a feeling of something completely new: a beamed in vocal sample from over 20 years before mixed into something new.

Proof’s still their defining album and remains an underrated gem.

Key tracks: The Wraith of Marcie, Grip Like a Vice, Titanic Vandalism

5 ) Tegan and Sara – The Con (2007, Vapor/Sire)

With So Jealous, Tegan and Sara exploded out with a new wave-ish sound, with a lot of keyboards and bloops and such, but for their followup, they returned to a rootsy kind of sound, one that suited their skillset. At once current and timeless (shades of REM’s Murmur), The Con resonated with all of Tegan and Sara’s skills – their sharp, smart songwriting, their knack for catchy melodies and their talent at harmony. Whereas all the gimmickry on So Jealous quickly became dated, I think the basic The Con will hold up for a long time. On every level, it’s their best.

Standout tracks: Knife Going In, The Con, Back in Your Head

4 ) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell (2003, Interscope)

Karen O is kind of a weird person. I don’t mean that she’s crazy or anything, but that she seems to draw fans from all over. I liked the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I had a friend who was a big Insane Clown Posse fan who liked them too. So did the cool kids, too. This album – their breakout album, if it can be called that – was a real draw, with Maps as it’s hook. But it was more then just Karen O’s balladry – they crunched through sonic blues and just maybe invented indie rock with Pin.

YYY was a band that got a lot of good press for two EPs (neither of which I really liked), but they justified it with a stunning debut. They still haven’t matched it.

Standout tracks: Maps, Pin, Y Control

3 ) The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001, Sympathy for the Record Industry)

For all they’ve done since – and they have done a lot of good stuff since – their breakout album is still the one that retains the most power. Maybe it’s because of what they’ve done, though. Since this album exploded, Jack White has gone, as Stephen Leacock wrote, madly off in all directions. From a band with nothing save guitar and bass to all kinds of sounds – timpani, marimba, horn sections… but here, it’s simple. Loud crashing drums and fuzzed out guitars. Or quiet, simple chords. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground – but it didn’t need it.

Standout tracks: We’re Going to be Friends, Fell in Love with a Girl, Hotel Yorba

2 ) You Forgot it in People – Broken Social Scene (2002, Arts and Crafts)

This album’s one of the cornerstones of where my taste in music lies – along with The Wedge and CBC Radio 3, this album shaped what I was interested in. This record is packed to the brim with the talents of Canada’s indie scene at the time (Amy Milan, Fiest, Emily Haines, Ohad Benchetrit) to the heavily-talented core of BSS was just enough to push the band out of the confines of their debut, a meandering record that didn’t know what it was. I remember a poll a couple years back that called this the second-best Canadian album ever made. Maybe it’s not quite that high… but it’s close.

Standout tracks: Cause = Time, Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl, Stars and Sons

1 ) The Stokes – Is This It? (2001, RCA)

Okay, step back to 2001 with me for a sec. Back about 10 years ago, the entire music scene was (as I remember it) completely different.

The Billboard Top 10 toward the end of August as ruled by R&B (Nelly, Destiny’s Child, Eve) and some lightlight pop (Train, O-Town). Top selling albums included:

  • Various – Now 7
  • N’Sync – Celebrity
  • Aaron Carter – Oh Aaron
  • Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

It wasn’t a great time, really. Rock was quietly vanishing from pop culture in a flood of Nu-Metal, that hybrid fusion of rap and metal that unabashedly stole from Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine, and added a lot more bullshit posturing (Looking at you, Fred Durst). Who had guitar solos? Three Doors Down?

Enter Julian Casablancas and co.

They had clean-sounding, simple little rock songs that were smart, charming and catchy as hell. They brought a vaguely underground scene (think The Mouldy Peaches) and brought it to the masses. If anybody asked me, I’d say Last Nite was a sensational track and without it, popular music would be a lot different. I have no way to prove this, I’ll admit, but without the breakout success of the Strokes, do The White Stripes find an audience? Does the New York scene explode, pushing edgier acts like the Yeahs, Vampire Weekend or !!! to fans?

Like the song said, it’s hard to explain. They sounded both old and new at the same time – equal parts late Velvet Underground and Oasis. Check out their first video – between clips from all over the place, there’s a shot of them playing under a sign bearing more then a passing resemblance to Elvis’ on his comeback concert. Symbolism – rock was making a comeback.

It was a bit of a shame, really, that the Strokes never were able to recapture the same feeling on either of their follow-ups. I remember when Room on Fire came out, it had been delayed a bit – they had recorded an album with Nigel Godrich that ended up getting shelved. They also ditched a live album for reasons that never were explained. Room on Fire felt too slick and empty, like a model house of their debut. Their latest – 2006’s Last Impressions of Earth – had them rocking harder and louder… and was missing the same charms.

More and more, it felt like The Strokes were trying to be the band they were instead of just letting it happen. And while they waited and tried to force it, pop moved on and evolved into the mainstream.

Key tracks: Last Nite, Hard to Explain, Is This It?


1 Response to “Top 10 Albums of the 2000’s – Mark”

  1. 1 Mike
    December 4, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Great blog, good selection of recordings. Here’s one of mine Bill Charlap “Written In the Stars”. Great acoustic jazz!

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