Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Top 100 Albums of the 2000s

I've been working on this for forever, and though it's not the project it started out to be (it’s become way less grand), I'm pretty proud of it.
Without further ado, here is my list of my top 100 favorite albums of the decade. I'll start with the honorable mentions - the ones that came out too recently to tell, and the ones that didn't quite make the cut:

Britney Spears - Greatest Hits: My Prerogative: I left this off because it wasn't really an album of new music. If I had though put it in the list, it would have likely been in the top 25.
Scissor Sisters – Scissor Sisters
Teitur – The Singer
Department of Eagles – In Ear Park
Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster!
Cansei De Ser Sexy – CSS
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Roisin Murphy – Overpowered
LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem
M. Ward – The Transfiguration of Vincent
Sleater-Kinney – One Beat
Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
Voxtrot – Voxtrot
Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway
M83 – Saturdays=Youth
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
King Khan and the Shrines – What Is?!
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – Shake the Sheets
The Fiery Furnaces – EP
The Fiery Furnaces – Bitter Tea
Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins
Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms
Girls – Album

And now, the top 100:

100. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Howard Shore: I had to pay a tribute to this soundtrack. Howard Shore was able to perfectly evoke the spirit of this fantastic movie and book. When I was a junior in high school I saw this movie eight times in theaters, and bought the soundtrack after probably the fourth viewing. I listened to the cd I swear, everyday practically till the end of the school year. I doubt any other music was played by my hand during this time period. I will never forget the impact these movies and this music had on my life.
99. M83 - Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts
98. Feist - Let It Die
97. The Go! Team - Thunder Lightning Strike!
96. Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward
95. Devendra Banhart - Cripple Crow
94. Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
93. Pinback - Autumn of the Seraphs
92. The National - The Boxer
91. Metric - Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
90. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
89. Tilly and the Wall - Wild Like Children
88. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary
87. Asobi Seksu – Citrus

86. Christina Aguilera - Stripped: This album sponsored some of the best times I had in my late teens, post high school. I’m not sure what exactly inspired me to buy this CD. I think it was the third single, “Fighter.” I had an epiphany that pop music could be okay when I began to really enjoy the entirety of this album. I think I still know all of the words. And no matter that we played it to death, I still LOVE "Dirrty"; the entity of that song sums up all of my adventure post-high school and pre-twenties.

85. The Knife - Silent Shout
84. Lily Allen - Alright, Still

83. Maria Bamford - The Burning Bridges Tour: The Burning Bridges Tour opened up a hole into the world of Maria Bamford. It's an introduction to the hands down most hilarious comedian I've ever heard. She has a way of seeing the world and reflecting it through her bizarro sense of humor that is unlike anyone working in comedy today. And it's only even hinted at in her debut. A personal favorite bit on trying to recruited into a cult: “She told me I was afraid of success, which may in fact be true, cause I have a feeling fulfilling my potential would REALLY cut into my sitting around time. I got a lot of shit I gotta not get done.”

82. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

81. White Rabbits - Fort Nightly: White Rabbits have recently earned double points with me after seeing them open for Vampire Weekend earlier this month. Their act is one of the most entertaining live shows I've ever seen.

80. Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair
79. Beirut – Gulag Orekestar
78. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
77. Stephen Malkmus – Face the Truth
76. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
75. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
74. Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
73. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans
72. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods
71. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
70. Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
69. Roisin Murphy – Ruby Blue
68. Blood on the Wall – Awesomer
67. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
66. The Decemberists – Picaresque
65. Maria Bamford – How to Win!
64. The Fiery Furnaces - Gallowsbird's Bark
63. Pinback – Summer in Abaddon
62. Belle & Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress
61. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
60. The Shins – Wincing the Night Away

59. Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton – Knives Don’t Have Your Back: probably singularly the best album to listen to while depressed.

58. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup

57. Animal Collective – Feels: this is the album that changed my entire outlook on the Animal Collective. First was "Grass," which I was introduced to by the genius of iTunes Genius. Then came a fateful Christmas vacation home where my best friend introduced me to "Did You See the Words?" and opened the floodgate of my 2009 immersion into all things Animal Collective. “Did You See the Words?” is arguably still my favorite song by the Collective.

56. Menomena – Friend and Foe: this album will truly always have a special place in my heart. In an effort to depend less on the recommendations of friends, Friend and Foe was the first album explored completely on my own without recommendation from anyone else. After a listen or two, I was in love. “The Pelican,” “Wet and Rusing,” and “Muscle and Flo” were all in my top 25 on iTunes for several months; the success of my endeavor gave me confidence and an ear for listening to music that wasn’t always completely accessible, but was definitely rewarding.

55. Yann Tiersen - Amelie: A truly good movie score is pretty hard to come by. The movie Amelie still stands as one of the most beautiful movies I’ve ever seen, so it’s fitting that it is also coupled with one of the most gorgeous soundtracks of all time. By listening to “La Noyee” I’m immediately transported to a crowded market in Montmartre. The preceding track "Comptine d'un autre été: L'après-midi” is a heartbreakingly beautiful piano piece, which immediately calls up a major theme of the movie: how to help and show love to those around us, while struggling with inner sadness and isolation – a theme not just in this track, but present throughout the whole movie and score. It makes it a good album for rainy, depressive days. But I never finish listening without feeling a bit uplifted. Yann Tiersen did more than just capture the spirit of the movie in his music; I believe that without this score Amelie as a whole would have been a far different experience.

54. Feist – The Reminder

53. Maria Bamford – Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome: this was the album where Maria Bamford really and truly bared her soul. Interestingly enough, the album where she makes herself most vulnerable is full of her funniest jokes so far. By finally letting her audience in on the real personal struggles she’s gone through (nearly thirty years with undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder), her routine becomes more than just funny and quirky. It makes her whole body of work make more sense, and it helps the listeners and fans understand and relate to her better than we ever could before. After three albums, she’s like one of my friends. And as she’s gotten older, her delivery, her expression, and just about everything about her and her act has just gotten better and better. By baring all, she’s truly done her best work yet.

52. The Arcade Fire – Funeral: It sounds so big. It’s so epic, so full of emotion; real, honest to goodness, heart-on-sleeve heartbreak and sadness. When I first heard the “Neighborhood” trilogy (the fourth one doesn’t count; it’s one of the only snoozers), I didn’t know if I’d ever need any other music again. But that was in 2006, two years after it debuted. Since then I have lost no love for Funeral, but unfortunately it’s become one of “those” albums which I have to be in a particular mood for. And it’s become very particular. Still, when it hits, it’s undeniable. In the midst of a decade of frustrating stagnation (and a time of rather acute personal turmoil) it was a shot in the arm and a breath of fresh air and a glass of cool water all in one. I think it deserved all the praise it got, and though my opinion of it is slightly marred now by a lack of repeated listenability, I don’t forget how it once made me feel hopeful when hope seemed gone.

51. The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca: I didn’t quite latch onto this album as quickly or for as long as the critical acclaim it received would have suggested. But one thing that I can say for Bitte Orca is that it has remained fresh, entertaining, and unexpected. It’s not really something I will listen to over and over, but it still sounds new each time I do listen. And you’ve got to love all the interesting harmonies they make; it makes the music sound so dense and even a bit complicated, but really it’s just three very talented singers doing harmony in a way most others haven’t even considered.

50. The Strokes – Room on Fire: The Strokes’ second album is highly underrated. For a long time I preferred it to their debut. First Impressions of Earth started a decline in the amount of Strokes listening I was doing, but recently I’ve gone and back and rediscovered how awesome their beginning was. More of the same can indeed be a good thing, especially when it produces gems like “Reptilia,” “Meet Me in the Bathroom,” and “Whatever Happened,” another pitch perfect Strokes opener.

49. Passion Pit – Manners: Manners is pure enjoyment from start to finish; bright, sunny beats, lush chimes, bells, and whistles, catchy tunes, and a through and through spirit of exuberance. I was prompted by my best friend to get this album because it would be this year’s “summer jam”, and I don’t think there’s been a better description of Passion Pit’s debut yet. Every song is worthy of status as a single. It’s the type of album where any song could easily be your favorite song. “The Reeling”, “Sleepyhead”, “Moth’s Wings” (the elegant, almost ballad that propelled them to more than just a one trick pony), and “Swimming in the Flood” are all favorites for me. But Manners is one of those albums which is best heard and experienced, rather than discussed. There’s not much to be done to prepare a new listener for the onslaught of such electronic brightness. But I will say that it’s an excellent listen when you want to bring yourself out of a slump.

48. Iron & Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days: A glorious step between the slick, modern production aesthetic of The Shepherd’s Dog, and the stripped down, DIY of The Creek Drank the Cradle, Iron & Wine’s second album inhabits a world all it’s own. Equal parts grand production and trademark, minimal whisper-singing, Our Endless Numbered Days was a pleasant surprise for me. I first fell in love with The Shepherd’s Dog, but initially wrote off Iron & Wine’s previous work for fear that most of it would fall under the sound of his cover of “Such Great Heights”. But these fears were unfounded. The album is a graceful, beautiful ascension; it begins softly with “On Your Wings”, a song that grows majestically, giving the listener a good idea of what to expect before entering the gentle, lovely “Naked As We Came”. The flow of the rest of the songs follows a logical, pleasant progression, and it’s almost impossible to not listen to it all in one go. The album is confident and exquisite, and although in my opinion The Shepherd’s Dog is his finest work, Our Endless Numbered Days gave me twelve more undeniable reasons to love Sam Beam.

47. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People: I had forgotten how much I enjoyed this album until recently when hearing the beautiful “Cause = Time”. You Forgot It In People is a very cohesive album, which is surprising considering the grab bag of different songs and styles used in them. But it’s only fitting that such a grand album would contain so many different prizes; after all, like 50 different artists participated in it’s making. It starts with a slow, melodic lead in on “Capture the Flag” before the racing emotion of “KC Accidental” (another iTunes top 25 for a period). There are slow, minimalist productions like the yearning (and slightly twisted, imo) “I’m Still Your Fag,” instrumentals “Shampoo Suicide”, “Late Nineties Bedroom Rock for the Missionaries”, the clap-along of “Stars and Sons”, and of course the unforgettable fan-favorite “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” with Emily Haines’ increasingly distorted, breathy vocals. The brilliant “Cause = Time” comes smack dab in the middle, and is by far the masterpiece. You hardly realize it as each progressing chord becomes more urgent, more beautiful until it finally unleashes and climaxes (moans and all), and then thunders on to the finish.

46. Menomena – I Am the Fun Blame Monster: Menomena is another of those bands that has the air of effortless coolness. I Am The Fun Blame Monster (an anagram of The First Menomena Album) starts off with “Cough Coughing,” a fast, almost hectic drum beat and lead in “force yourself to breath/my hand is only there to stop the cough”. From there it breaks into stark piano, more excellent drumming, and then eight more of the weirdest, loop heavy, inexplicably catchy pop songs that still don’t really sound like anything anyone else that’s being done right now. Filled with unexpected sounds and many instruments (including glockenspiel, alto and bari-sax, baritone guitar, self-developed – on their own software! – MIDI-loops, keyboards) Menomena debuted a sound completely and totally theirs. “E. Is Stable” was one of my top 5 songs on iTunes; it even made the climb to the top 25 a second time after starting a new library.

45. Sufjan Stevens – Greetings from Michigan: Sufjan Stevens was without a doubt one of the indie gods of the decade. But before Illinois was the word on everyone’s lips, he released Greetings From Michigan, the first in a will he or won’t he project of fifty albums for fifty states. But Michigan is so much more than just the prep album for the virtually flawless Illinois; in it’s own way, Michigan feels much more personal than the lauded follow-up. Michigan is filled less with the stories of others and state and township facts, and more with hints at a personal side of Sufjan. He has such a way of singing “Romulus” that it could easily pass for one of his own childhood memories. “Detroit…” is a confident plea with the once grand city of his home state to re-envision, “The Upper Peninsula” is an ode to one of the truly forgotten areas of the United States, and “Holland” sounds like a memory of first love, strong and pure. It seems more personal because this is Sufjan’s home state; he knows it well, he knows it’s woes, and he wants to make them known.

44. Animal Collective – Sung Tongs: Of all of Animal Collective’s post Here Comes the Indian, melodic experimentalism, Sung Tongs caught on last with me. It’s generally marked as AC’s ascent to what they’ve become today. A mere five years later, and they’re poised as the most likely (and yet unlikely) mainstream crossover the indie world has seen in years. Sung Tongs is illusive in that it’s by far one of the most gorgeous and an unexpected triumph of the decade, but it still defies labels and categorization. I’m still not sure what exactly I’m listening to when I put it on. Through Animal Collective’s amazing ascent into the most celebrated band of the decade, Sung Tongs remains probably the most cohesive and beautiful of all of their efforts to date.

43. Spoon – Kill the Moonlight: The thing I love about Spoon is their ability to make their songs sound simple. Ones like “Stay Don’t Go” seemingly don’t have a lot to them. It’s a talented band that can take such simplicity and make it sound so effortless. In an age where music production is almost limitless, it takes a degree of restraint to stick to what works and not go overboard with layers and layers of over-production. And Kill the Moonlight works this way through and through. Every note and phrase is in place, and it keeps the album a constant pleaser.

42. Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism: If any band personified the rise of indie into the mainstream this decade, few would argue that it was not Death Cab for Cutie, and most specifically their album Transatlanticism. Sure The Shins, Modest Mouse, Interpol, and others helped, but it’s undeniable that the following of these guys has seen the most exponential growth. Transatlanticism’s themes run the gamut of adolescent emotions admirably, but not in such an angsty way that the album doesn’t have moments of transcendence. After all, though it’s to a greatly lesser degree, those emotions are something we struggle with the rest of our lives, and this realization is one of the album’s biggest strengths. “Tiny Vessels” is one of my favorite tracks, exemplifying the fact that sex can be good, but sometimes for so many reasons, it’s completely regrettable. “Title and Registration” opens with one of my favorite Death Cab verses, and is a staple of my personal “depression music” (and that’s a good thing). “Expo 86” was my favorite Death Cab song for a good while, and I love how the ending of “A Lack of Color” melds seamlessly into the opening of the first track, “The New Year”. All thanks to… The O.C.? I never saw a single episode of the show, but I’m not sorry they widened the exposure for Death Cab.

41. Silversun Pickups - Carnavas: Carnavas was a very surprisingly enjoyable listen for me. Carnavas was my first real taste of the power of shoegaze. The hazy, tripped out noise break at the end of “Lazy Eye” had me hooked for many, many months, and it’s still high in my Top 25 on iTunes. At one time or another I was hooked on nearly every song; most songs are filled with the kind of pleasing high you can only get from good shoegaze, but even the slower songs “Rusted Wheel” and “Three Seed” are set in perfect accord with the progression of this fast-paced album. It climaxes with “Common Reactor,” leaving the listener gasping at the end of the ride with about a minute of pure noise. Sadly, the Pickups have manifested as a sort of one-trick pony; this year’s follow up Swoon proved to just be more of the same. Still I treasure this album, though it’s stature in my repertoire has diminished somewhat. I will always be thankful for the Silversun Pickups (and especially “Lazy Eye”) for giving me a much needed introduction to elementary shoegaze.

40. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!: The best thing about the YYYs is that they could have been the worst kind of one-trick pony. It’s not hard to imagine their sophomore and junior releases as just re-hash, 2.0 versions of Fever to Tell. With a debut like that, it’s almost inevitable that the band would be pigeonholed. It’s Blitz! (in true YYYs fashion) spits in the face of such a notion. Electronics and higher production standards seem now like an obvious move, but whether it was obvious or not, it was an excellent one. The electro touch compliments the unmistakable YYYs sound well, and the album is a delightful, easy pill to swallow because of it. While Show Your Bones showcased their new “mature” sound, sometimes the album suffered because of it. But It’s Blitz! thrives. The band sounds like they’re having so much fun, and it gives each track a fresh, heart-pumping excitement. “Soft Shock” is my favorite. All aspects of the song continually build up to what I consider the most epic and exciting track on the album. “Zero” was a perfect first single; fun, light, and a good example of the new direction of their sound. It’s experimental for them, it’s a step in a new direction, and it sounds like the band is having fun, which may have been the biggest thing missing from Show Your Bones.

39. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: I think the best words for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are “delayed” and “gratification”. If you can deal with that, then this is one of the most rewarding listens on the whole list. It’s rich, but it’s subtle and challenging. It’s not weird, really; it’s deceptively simple. But when the glorious moments comes when you “get it” (in my case, at least – I’m sure there are plenty who got it the first time, and plenty who will never “get it”) it’s undeniable. “War on War” and “Kamera” have my vote for best tracks (I don’t know if that’s a xylophone or marimba or whatever at the end of the latter, but it’s brilliant), but “Jesus, Etc.,” “Pot Kettle Black,” “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” and “Heavy Metal Drummer” are all peerless endeavors. In addition to all of the new sounds and bands that have sprouted up in the past decade, it’s been so exciting to see the maturation and flowering of the ones who already had so much promise in the nineties.

38. The Shins – Oh Inverted World: The Shins were unique among highly hyped “indie” bands of the decade. Their big break, hype, and popularity didn’t come about for several years after this album (their debut) was actually released. Their sophomore release Chutes Too Narrow had already come out by the time this one was being noticed. All thanks (let’s face it) to a shout out in Garden State. Well, that and the fact that it’s a fantastic piece of work. I bought the Garden State soundtrack, mostly for “Let Go” by Frou Frou. But by chance or fate, the two songs I was stuck on after “Let Go” had dissipated were “Caring is Creepy” and “New Slang”. Part of me wants to say that I bought the soundtrack before I even saw the movie, but at this point I couldn’t say for sure. What I do know is that The Shins did change my life, just like Natalie Portman said they would.

37. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam: This was my first foray into Animal Collective. I was… semi-impressed? At first. It seems logical now that before listening to Strawbery Jam none of my friends who were fans bothered to tell me what Animal Collective sounded like; I never asked, and can you honestly describe something that sounds like this anyway? Listening to Strawberry Jam, a seasoned AC fan couldn’t even compare it to Feels or Sung Tongs, really. Obviously they have their influences and trademark tricks they pull from, but Animal Collective stand as one of the most unique artists of the aughts (along with probably Sufjan, Joanna Newsom, and the Fiery Furnaces on a list I made up just now). I was never a fully fledged fan of Strawberry Jam until after liking Feels and this year’s MPP, but I’m glad I didn’t ever totally give up. “Fireworks” is more beautiful with each deeper look, which is shocking when I think of how it sounded to me initially, and “For Reverend Green” and “Peacebone” have some of the most singable choruses in the Animal Collective pantheon, and “Derek” makes me want to clap along. If only I could just convincingly do that scream thing Avey Tare does…

36. The Strokes – Is This It?: My general music taste took a radical shift mid-decade from butt rock and top 40 indulgence to the type of music seen on most of this list, but The Stroke’s debut Is This It? is one of the few albums I enjoyed pre-shift that’s survived to this my 24th year. I listened to “The Modern Age” on a whim recently, and it has ushered in a rekindled love affair with this album, and I think it’s been even more enjoyable this time than ever before. It’s just as strong and endlessly catchy and fun as it was when I heard “Last Nite” on the radio (a future karaoke staple for myself). It was the beginning of a bunch of hyped garage revival, but this proved at least one to outlast all that nonsense, as each song was so flawlessly executed. When I look back at the history of not just the music of this decade, but of myself this decade, Is This It? has a definite, irreplaceable spot of importance.

35. Britney Spears – Blackout: Poor, poor Britney. If the 2k decade was characterized by an unprecedented disintegration of genres and labels for music, for celebrities it was characterized by an unprecedented lack of privacy in some cases, and an unprecedented lack of shame in many others. In Britney’s case it was a weird melding of both. 2007 was the year of the Britney Breakdown. We last heard from Britney on the high notes of In the Zone (with the deviously delicious “Toxic”), and her Greatest Hits: My Prerogative a year later (and who could resist so many scrumptious bubble-gum pops hits in one package? – many I’m sure, but not me) fronted by the excellent cover of Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative”. Blackout was a long time in the making, but as 2007 dawned it wasn’t long before we all believed it was doomed. Scarcely a month into the year we witnessed her “fall from grace” (the shaved head – unless you count marrying K. Fed as the fall… it’s a tough call), and nearly one year later it climaxed with her very public hospitalization and court-ordered conservatorship by her father. In between the almost never ending drama, Blackout was released. And it was FANTASTIC. It’s likely that she had little to do with it creatively, and whether it was because she didn’t care, wasn’t mentally capable at the time, or whatever won’t be significant in years (if it even is to begin with). The fact that it came out in a year I wasn’t sure she herself would make it through alive makes it all the more triumphant. “Gimme More,” “Break the Ice,” “Piece of Me,” and “Radar” are four of my all time Britney favorites, and while the rest is typical less-than-remarkable pop filler, as a whole it’s still highly enjoyable, and good for dancing and partying. Which is kind of what mainstream pop music is supposed to be, isn’t it?

34. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend: It feels like I’ve had this album and known about Vampire Weekend forever. It’s almost an obligation to mention The Strokes, and that whole repetitive “hype and backlash” nonsense. But honestly I couldn’t care less if people will say they’re “nothing special,” or “unremarkable,” because “they” are wrong. What makes Vampire Weekend a special record is that it is chock full of tight, slick, exhilarating, pitch-perfect jams. It seemed well-worn and loved after the first listen. When you think of the hundreds of bands out there with even a modicum of talent, it’s clear that it takes one with something a little bit more to deliver such a power-punch of a debut.

33. Radiohead – Kid A: Let’s be honest, this isn’t always the easiest album to listen to. I’m a daily Pitchfork reader, and though I have my beefs with them (what p4k reader doesn’t), it’s a good place to go to read about music, and hopefully to find something you like. I love and enjoy Kid A, although by far the majority of my Radiohead plays are from OK Computer and In Rainbows. But I agree with the critics on this one, and I recognize the great importance it has had on the music scene through my teens and into my twenties. While electronic experimentalism was no secret in decades past, when a huge “rock” band like Radiohead tossed all their accumulated “rock” cred into a corner to do something out there like this (and do it WELL), it ushered in a new age of music. This decade has been full of genre melting, nay… destroying music, as good as or better than anything since the age of modern music began. And we are all the better for it. And I think that in a large part, it is due to this album.

32. The Rapture – Echoes: It’s impossible to read through even the blurbiest of small blurbs about The Rapture on Pitchfork without them mentioning the glorious arrival and backlash of this album and the initiation and backlash of the “dancepunk” genre. It is a little obnoxious, because a) half the time they’re the purveyors of the hype and backlash, b) six years later it doesn’t seem that important, and c) because the album has aged fantastically – although I never heard it in 2003, it’s still undeniably sweet in 2009. It does go to show how oftentimes things are hyped for a reason. And it’s not just the almighty “House of Jealous Lovers” that makes you want to get up and move; it’s just about every other track as well. I was very excited when a friend of mine pointed out “Echoes” in a scene from Superbad. Everyone’s jerking around and dancing and having a good time; it’s a perfect picture of how The Rapture’s debut should be heard and enjoyed. And to top it all off, what a freaking awesome name for a band.

31. of Montreal – Satanic Panic in the Attic: Hissing Fauna was such a masterpiece, Satanic Panic in the Attic is now that album that sounds and feels like the band was on the brink of something amazing. But in some ways it’s worn better than its younger bro. Sometimes epic, serious concept albums become laborious through repeated listens. The opening trio of songs on Satanic Panic has of Montreal doing some of their brightest, poppiest, and most enjoyable work and the album also has some of the Kevin Barnes’ best lyrical work. “Eros Entropic Tundra” and “City Bird” are graceful ballads, and of course “My British Tour Diary” and “Rapture Rapes the Muses” are what got me into the band in the first place.

30. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver: Sound of Silver is probably the most shockingly good, unexpectedly mature (in a good way) follow-up on this list so far. How could one improve on the sound of LCD Soundsystem? It was hard to conceive that something like that could be improved; which isn’t to say that their debut was perfect. It was party music. It was something I would listen to if I wanted to get pumped up and have a good time. The poignancy of Sound of Silver was completely unexpected. While there is no shortage of typical LCD party romps (“Time to Get Away,” “Get Innocuous,” “North American Scum”), nothing could have prepared me for “All My Friends,” and “Someone Great”. The themes are familiar, they’ve been expounded on by innumerable bands and James Murphy himself on his band’s debut. But the helpless, hopeless confusion of getting ever older, and the sorrowful realization of death epitomized in those two tracks would have been enough to carry a much less solid sophomore release.

29. Girl Talk – Night Ripper: It’s the ultimate party album. It has just about everything you’d want to hear, spliced together in tantalizing 30 second bits. I was on the fence about mash-ups before I heard Girl Talk. For every decent one I heard, there were five more misguided, bad ones. I was ambivalent about checking out Night Ripper as well until one fateful night at a friend’s when I heard the segment mashing The Black-Eyed Peas “My Humps” (of all things) with Annie’s “Heartbeat”. And that was just the start of it; for every favorite song melding, there are dozens more. The overload of sonic bliss was more than enough to begin a sordid love affair with Greg Gillis, seeing him three times in concert in one year, the first of which, at the Ottobar in Baltimore, is still one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever been to.

28. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow: The first Shins song I heard, besides the two tracks from Garden State, was “Fighting In a Sack”. It ended up shifting between my first and second most played song on iTunes for about four months before starting a new library. Listening to the album now I think that spot could have easily been held by any song on Chutes Too Narrow. As is common on albums by The Shins, the opening track is perfectly suited to start it off; “Kissing the Lipless” was another autobiographical track for me for some time, “Saint Simon” showcased some of The Shins best lyrics, and the video for “Pink Bullets” is one of the most adorable I’ve seen. And I don’t even like music videos all that much. And of course, as is common again on Shins albums, the last track “Those to Come” is an elegant closer to an elegant album; one that follows up on and improves everything about their already remarkable sound.

27. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga: Spoon was another one of those bands to get a good start in the 90’s, but skyrocket to true awesomeness in the 2ks. They’ve always had a way with taking seemingly simple ideas and turning them all into pop gems. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, despite its weird name, is, so far, the apex of their combined efforts. “Don’t Make Me a Target” opens on an early high note with a killer riff and genius opening verse, giving way to an album full of the same – killer riffs, clever, cutting lyrics, Britt Daniels’ sexy, unique voice, and enough catchy melodies to make nearly every song worthy of favorite status. “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb,” “Don’t You Evah,” and “Rhthm & Soul” are all favorites of mine (the latter being probably my top favorite of Ga Ga…). The big hit of course was “The Underdog”; a (maybe) not-so-subtle shout out to themselves. But I’m not one to balk at occasional self-praise; Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga dares you to say they don’t deserve it.

26. Veckatimest - Grizzly Bear: I was pretty sure I was missing a piece of the puzzle when I heard this album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard charts. Is this the same Grizzly Bear that almost put me to sleep with Yellow House? Don’t get me wrong, I loved Yellow House, but number 10? Well, the appeal was pretty easy to see after I started listening to the album. Veckatimest signaled a change in Grizzly Bear much like Microcastle had for Deerhunter only a few months before; a change from artsy, experimental, self-indulgence (I don’t use that word in a derogatory sense) to the immediate gratification of accessible pop music. The album exudes a strong sense of confidence; they know what they’re doing, and they know how to present their flashier side just as well as they explored their ability to wander and hypnotize with the sprawling tunes of their previous album. All the things I loved about Grizzly Bear returned better than ever; the vocal harmonies, the multi-instrumental beauty, epic refrains and choruses. It’s definitely made for one of the more surprising follow-ups from an already promising band.

25. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots: The Soft Bulletin is literally flawless; one of the most lush, epic, unique and beautiful albums of the modern age, and a shoo-in for number one on this list had the album come out a year later. It marked the true departure for the Flaming Lips from their weird, noisy beginnings to the band we all think of today. With their new sound and monologues of critical acclaim, they released Yoshimi to show just how far they’d come. The Soft Bulletin might be my favorite album of all time, and while it was definitely The Flaming Lips’ critical breakthrough, Yoshimi was obviously their most commercially successful effort to date. “Do You Realize?” became the state rock song of Oklahoma, for goodness sake. And it’s not surprising; it’s one of their best songs. It walks a perfect line between sugary treacle and heart-on-sleeve, prophetic insightfulness; “you realize the Sun doesn’t go down/it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinnin’ ‘round.” Openers “Fight Test,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1,” and “One More Robot/Symphony 3001-21” are probably the three strongest songs on the album, but the dreamy instrumentals and general musings on life and love (something The Flaming Lips have always been pretty good at) coming to an epic climax with “Realize?” and the gradual denouement of “All We Have Is Now,” and “Approaching Pavonis Mons By Balloon” make for a very worthy follow up to one of the most brilliant albums of recent memory.

24. Guster – Ganging Up On the Sun: Ganging Up On the Sun wasn’t much more than just a light, enjoyable listen until last summer. In one of those rare occurrences I was listening to “Satellite” while taking a walk and the simple beauty of the song shone through; the song went on to be my numbered one, highest played on It’s a bittersweet moment when Adam Gardner sings “maybe you will always be just a little out of reach.” “The Captain” showcases Gardner’s impressive tenor very well, and the instrumental solo at the end is exhilarating. “Ruby Falls” sounds like the story of friends rising like phoenixes out of the ashes of a failed relationship. The lyrics and themes of the album were manifesting to me at an all too perfect time in my life, and Ganging Up on the Sun will always be special because of it.

23. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic: Wayne Coyne is almost fifty years old. Keeping this in mind makes Embryonic a little more logical of a step for The Flaming Lips. It's a melding of all that they've done over the course of their career; squalling, noisy freakouts, lush, beautiful orchestral flourishes, psychedelic expoundations on love, loss, good, and, the newest ingredient of all, EVIL. This was the perfect album to end this year and this decade. It's a testament to their genius; the Lips continue to be one of the most inventive and fresh bands to grace the music scene. All I can think of when I finish "Watching the Planets" is how damn excited I am to see where they go next. And a naked Coyne with a bunch of naked bikers.

22. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit: The Life Pursuit was my first foray into Belle & Sebastian, so I listened without any knowledge of their lo-fi, DIY beginning. I was immediately impressed with how the high quality production went hand-in-hand so well with Stuart Murdoch’s mature-yet-precious pop. My favorite is probably still “Act of the Apostle” with it’s piano riff leading the way into the rest of the completely enjoyable song. The Life Pursuit doesn’t always have as strong of stand-outs as Dear Catastrophe Waitress, but as a whole, it’s the most pleasing B&S album since If You’re Feeling Sinister. It’s cohesive. I love the twist ending of “Funny Little Frog,” and the soaring “ba dah bad ah ba dah” chorus of “We Are the Sleepyheads.” The production is crystalline and elegant, which manifests best on “Act of the Apostle I/II” and “Song for Sunshine,” one of the few non Murdoch tracks to be as listenable as… well, the Stuart Murdoch tracks. This is one of those albums (and bands) that is always a treat to listen to. The peak of nearly all Mousetrap nights at the Black Cat in DC was when they would play something from The Life Pursuit.

21. Annie – Anniemal: Oh Annie, where do I start? Annie is where this list begins. Prior to hearing her marvelous debut, I was still mostly listening to Top 40 music and stuff I’d liked in high school (No Doubt, Incubus, Evanescence, 3 Doors Down). But one fortuitous day a friend played “Me Plus One” while we were driving, and I can honestly say that my life was never the same again. Having my own copy of Anniemal marked, for me, the first departure from the mainstream music of my regional home radio stations. It truly opened the door to the indie scene. Odd, considering Annie makes probably the most bubblegum saturated pop music I’ve ever heard. But my personal Annie legacy doesn’t end there. “Heartbeat” is still one of the most perfectly simple, pleasurable love songs ever. It was number one on my iTunes for many months, and a favorite to listen to whenever I’d find my thoughts turned to a certain, special someone (which was often). Like some sort of prophecy, I would listen and think of him, and my heart would drum to the beat like a symphony.

20. Be Your Own Pet – Be Your Own Pet: BYOP’sself-titled debut was one of those albums which I was inexplicably drawn back to. Over and over and over again. In fact, up until this past summer, BYOP was consistently ranked in my top twenty on, due almost entirely to the blood pumping rush of Be Your Own Pet (the rest being due mostly to “Becky). I guess there’s just something in me that can’t resist a powerful, high energy female front to a band, and Jemina Pearl is high-energy and powerful enough to give even Karen O a run for her money. She heightens everything about every song. Sometimes there’s a very good reason for the lead singer getting all of the attention. The whole album is so sure of itself. There are no duds, no lulls; it goes at breakneck speed from start to finish. I almost want to punch myself when I think that they were only like, 16 when this album came out.

19. The Postal Service – Give Up: Possibly the best collaborative “side-project” of the aughts, but I don’t think of The Postal Service as a side-project. A collaboration that can come up with ten of the most endlessly enjoyable pitch-perfect electro-pop love songs midway through the most transformative decade in music is more than just collaboration, it’s a blessing. It’s almost a shame that Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard have no desire to do a second Postal Service album, but I also think it’s better that way. Give Up now seems like the turning point of the past decade for music; the album title is almost a warning that the music world (and the rest of the world with it) was turning topsy-turvy, and that you may as well just abandon the old ways of doing things. It’s a good thing the content of the album wore so well; “Clark Gable,” “We Will Become Silhouettes,” “The District Sleep Alone Tonight,” “Brand New Colony,” and every other note that came from these blessed two has withstood the young years, and I look forward to being able to pull out The Postal Service long from now and still relish the simple words and beats, and the thoughts of love lost and found.

18. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals: It’s difficult to say which is the best Girl Talk album, Feed the Animals or Night Ripper? After all, each is basically made up of the same thing. But the appeal of a Girl Talk album has always been more than the sum of its parts; that moment when the samples come together to peak and bring about something that sounds more amazing and fun than just mashed up hits. That’s why I prefer Feed the Animals to Night Ripper – it’s stuffed with so many sugary high peaks; maybe it’s just the fact that I was anticipating this album so badly last year, and that it so fully and completely delivered. It was strange to think that all through the wait, the excitement wasn’t to hear new sounds, so much as to hear recycled sounds. What was I going to hear that I’d already heard before? “Umbrella,” “Paranoid Android,” “Girlfriend,” “Since U Been Gone” and so many, many, many others; I almost had a seizure when Ace of Base made its presence known in “Still Here,” and with the heaven sent mash up of Air and Britney Spears in “Give Me A Beat” is one of my favorite Girl Talk “peaks” of all.

17. Interpol – Turn On the Bright Lights: It’s funny to look on my top albums picks, because with the exception of only one or two, almost all the ones I’ve chosen started out as a mere blip on the radar. Guess what Interpol started out as? I got the album in the summer of 07, and over the space of a year it slowly crept up on my awareness. It started out that I would listen to only the first four songs (still, with relish), but by early winter of ‘08 I had discovered the many hooks of “Say Hello to the Angels,” and the sweeping melancholy of “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down”. A friend of mine expressed that he could never “get into” Interpol because of their calculated persona (the matching suits, etc). I’m so glad I didn’t pay much attention to that. Thank goodness for discovering bands after the over-hyped debut.

16. Panda Bear – Person Pitch: Animal Collective has been the name of the game since the glorious night when my best friend played me both “Did You See The Words?” and “My Girls” in an effort to finally sway my opinion of the AC in anticipation of Merriweather Post Pavilion’s release the next week (it worked wonderfully). So after worshipping at the altar for a few months, I decided it was time to return to Person Pitch, which I’d shrugged off in 2007 as another effort of Animal Collective affiliates that I just didn’t “get”. But I got it this time, and now it’s ascended to the status of so many albums on this list: how can I live without it? I love the tempo changes in “Take Pills”, “Bros”, and “Good Girl/Carrots”. “I’m Not” is a beautiful interlude between the two epic 12+ minute opuses of “Bros” and “Good Girl/Carrots”. And, as if sensing the turmoil and upheaval of the next two years to come (and, let’s be honest, to set at ease the whole of recorded human history), Panda Bear admonishes us to ease up, sit back and just “have a good time”. Well spoken.

15. Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender: There was never a period where I just liked Joanna Newsom. I heard of her first after Y’s came out in 2006, but at the suggestion of a friend, I stayed away. I was warned about “the voice”. However, a year later I discovered the warning was needless because the second I heard “the voice” on “Peach, Plum, Pear” I was in love. I was changed, and it’s very likely my life has never been the same again. At least as far as music is concerned, but maybe in other ways. The love affair continued through every song on the album, as her old-spinster via 8 year-old girl voice whisked me away to a land of gumdrop houses, wise old gnomes, heroic unicorns, and lollipop lanes. It’s not even what the music is about of course, but her talent has the ability to transport her listener into the most whimsical, wonderful world that they didn’t even know existed. It’s a beautiful, safe place, and it’s always there waiting for me each time I listen. I don’t know if I’ve ever been affected so deeply by a single artist, but sometimes when I think of Joanna Newsom, I can shrug off my ever-present adult pessimism and relax; the world may be insurmountably unequal and corrupt, but nothing can be terribly wrong where music like this can be created and exist.

14. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell: I’ll never forget the first time I heard Karen O foaming at the mouth on “Black Tongue”. Their debut album was a mile a minute romp of awesomeness with so much energy it nearly blew itself out, and made me perpetually nervous for their future as a band. This album, though flawed, was one of the most high-spirited, pure fun albums of the decade. “Rich” breaks open with one of the most deliciously raw and powerful riffs the YYYs have yet to unveil, and from there it’s a high-energy sprint through O’s orgasmic burst at the climax of “Date With the Night,” breathless chanting through “Tick” (another of my iTunes top 25s), “Maps” one of the most regal and beautiful songs of the decade, and finally culminating in the victory lap of “Y Control”. The YYYs have been one of my favorite bands since I first heard them, and though I’m glad their initial sound has advanced and evolved since Fever to Tell, the punch of their debut will probably always be my favorite.

13. The Avett Brothers – Emotionalism: I gradually became enamored of The Avett Brothers over the course of several months. Initially I only liked “Die Die Die” and “Will You Return?” However, I gave the album in it’s entirety to Adam, and at his suggestion, I began to listen to the rest. I’m very glad that I took his advice, because the whole work is full of poignant, bittersweet but well written love-songs (or in many cases unlove songs). For some reason when they sing over and over about how the love won’t work, it’s doesn’t bring you to despair; you never feel angry with the Brothers and their love-life ineptitude. Each song is rich with sincerity, earnestness and yes, emotion. “Paranoia in Bb Major,” “I Would Be Sad,” “Weight of Lies,” they all give the listener the sense that the Brothers certainly aren’t proud of the fact that they continuously fail at love, but because of their failures over the years they’ve learned a lot, and that the love lost has been worth it. They put it best themselves in “All My Mistakes;” “And I won’t go back/and I don’t want to/cause all my mistakes have brought me to you.” Amen.

12. The Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat: Wow. That one word could almost suffice completely for this piece of genius. I only recently started to really dig the Fiery Furnaces. I had listened to Blueberry Boat before this fall, and I enjoyed it. Still it was extremely seldom that I played the album, and I clearly didn’t pay enough attention when I did because during the course of making this list, the sheer creativity and brilliance of this spectacular piece of awesomeness finally shone through. And since then I haven’t been able to get enough. “Quay Cur” is by far my favorite; initially it seems like the Freidberger siblings have packed it with more than they know what to do with, but as it comes to the show-stopping, tongue-twisting, back and forth mid-point the genius manifests. It’s the catchiest, most entertaining few minutes of just about any of the albums on here. And it’s only the first song. The genius keeps coursing through every second of every track. Even at an hour and sixteen minutes the album is never too much. It leaves me satisfied every time. And Matt Freidberger has a fucking sexy voice.

11. Band of Horses – Everything All the Time: I had expected this album to be a rip-off (albeit an enjoyable one) of The Shins due to endless, cheap comparisons between the two. But as it’s here in 13th place, hopefully it’s clear that it was much more than that (heck, it beat all three Shins records). Even the album artwork is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. From the first echoed chord of “The First Song,” I was in love. Ben Bridwell’s southern twang and the perfectly reverbed guitar swept me off my feet. The simple bass, drum, and guitar of “Our Swords” makes up one of the most modest, yet elegant songs I’ve ever heard. It’s not necessarily an album I think of when I think “epic,” but then I hear “The Funeral,” “The Great Salt Lake,” and the slow, majestic increase of “Monsters,” it’s really the only word for it.

10. of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?: I had a special place in my heart for break-up albums before I ever enjoyed listening to of Montreal (I spent hours listening to No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom), but this was the break-up album to end all break-up albums, mainly because it was nothing like most break-up concept albums. Every song wasn’t pining away; Kevin Barnes strove to illustrate not just the pain and suffering of heartbreak, but the coping, the monotony, and the effort to keep busy as well. Hissing Fauna made me start taking of Montreal seriously. The bassey thump of “Gronlandic Edit” and the light and spry “A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger” are still two of my favorite songs. But the real clincher comes (of course) with the epic “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” where all of his pain and suffering are laid bare for anyone listening. It takes a lot to write a 13 minute song and still have the whole thing be endlessly listenable. My favorite part is still the final song, “We Were Born the Mutants Again With Leafling,” where each “ah ah ah, ohhh waa ah ah” nearly breaks my heart. You know he’s going to be okay, but sympathy and empathy are powerful emotions, and an album which prudently and effectively evokes both is a memorable one.

9. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours: This album is pure enjoyment. It’s light, yet substantial, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. The plague of the 2k decade (in my opinion) has been an excess of irony. Irony took over far too much of music, fashion, movies, and television, using cheap fads and kitsch in place of sincerity and art. But there’s nothing ironic or jaded about In Ghost Colours, even though it’s easily one of the clearest throwbacks to eighties synth music. Paired with the release of Fleet Foxes around the same time, it seemed to mark the start of a comeback to heartfelt, earnest music (a trend that’s been repeated enough in the past two years for me to start calling it a trend). Touched by the Midas hand of the DFA, it’s an extremely hard album to not like, and each track has something special and fun to offer. The first build up and spillover of “Lights and Music” gets my heart racing every time, and the sweet, simple chant of “Feel the Love” makes me feel warm, safe, and happy. Add in the dozen or so equally awesome other tracks, and it’s… well, pretty awesome.

8. Architecture in Helsinki – In Case We Die: It’s strange how much an album can
change over repeated listens. When I first heard In Case We Die, it struck me as interesting, but not catchy at all, with the exception of perennial favorite “Frenchy, I’m Faking”. But, like with so many other albums I’ve come to appreciate over time, each song revealed a certain pop mastery. The music is unique and despite its not always linear construction the songs become catchier and more fun each time I listen. For a while, it seemed like “Maybe You Can Owe Me” was A in H’s unknown biography of my life, and “Do The Whirlwind” became a dual favorite in both its original form, and in the Hood Internet mash-up “That’s the Whirlwind.” My interest in the album started to cool, but was resurrected again when I found it on vinyl; the trademark pops and clicks and all the rest of the cornucopia of instruments they use stuck out even more. I think this was definitely one of the most remarkable and unique albums of the decade.

7. Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Continued: Seeing Microcastle at number 7 makes me happy that I get to make this list now, instead of a year or two ago. With the exception of The Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat, Deerhunter have probably made the biggest leap up this chart since I began making it in February. Deerhunter was like Animal Collective for me; I just didn’t like it. But like with AC, I needed the pop. I needed to hear that one unforgettable song or hook, then I would be a fan forever. That hook came with “Nothing Ever Happened,” the first single off Microcastle. Since this dual LP, I’ve been able to go back and enjoy Deerhunter’s other work, but this is my favorite. I love the shoegaze haze of “Never Stops,” the back and forth “old black bandit” banter of “Saved By Old Times,” and the rich texture of the otherwise very simple “Calvary Scars.” Weird Era keeps up the pace with a more spacious sound, but rip with hooks and melody on tracks like with “Vox Humana,” “Vox Celeste,” “VHS Dream,” and the majestic and beautiful “Calvary Scars II/Aux Out.” After a year of listening to Deerhunter more and more and more, I doubly rescind anything negative I said about them after Cryptograms. I’ll eat my words: it was my fault – I totally didn’t get it.

6. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion: I was not prepared to like Animal Collective. Before this album, it was a stretch to enjoy just about anything I heard by them; it seemed excessive and too purposefully weird. But once again, I spoke (or thought) too quickly. Not until I heard the pop bliss of the entirety of Merriweather Post Pavilion could I go back and appreciate the wonderful, creative genius that has been flowing from the Animal Collective since their radical shift towards melody on Sung Tongs. “My Girls” gets more exhilarating each time (those chimes!), as do “Daily Routine” (a toss-up for one of my most favorite AC songs) and “Also Frightened”. It’s a synesthetic experience; you can practically hear the colors and taste the textures of their music. And I think the band is in on it; “do you appreciate the subtleties of taste buds?”. Avey Tare and Panda Bear make glorious harmonies on “Summertime Clothes,” and even the crazy, electronic ADD shoegaze break in the middle of “Brother Sport” is hypnotic and deliciouisly delightful. I have no idea where they will go from here, but I will be avidly awaiting any and all Animal Collective material from now on.

5. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois: I’m not really sure where to start with this one. If I had made this list two years ago, this album likely would have topped it all. In my (and anyone who’s fallen in love with his soft, lilting voice and outstandingly impressive arrangements) never ending impatience for Sufjan’s next proper album, the scope and wonder of Illinois has diminished somewhat. But it’s difficult to not get roused and excited the moment you hear the horns and woodwinds on “Come On, Feel the Illinoise!”, or when the almost shoegaze shimmer of “Chicago” comes to its climax with what sounds like ten backing marching bands. I made an incredibly nerdy point to drive through Illinois listening to Illinois on my drive across country with my brother (inspired spur-of-the-moment when driving past an exit for Highland). And of course it was awesome. Even though his next album (state album or not) still can’t come soon enough, the scope, imagination and sheer talent encompassed in Illinois is hard to forget.

4. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog: Fan criticisms of this album reference the fact that it’s “too produced”. Whether or not this is true is a matter of opinion of course. For me this was my first taste of Iron & Wine (other than their cover of “Such Great Heights” on the Garden State Soundtrack, which wasn’t a very good introduction), and I think it’s nearly perfect. It brings Iron & Wine’s already immaculate, backwoodsy, southern-comfort folk songs into the 21st century. The production is never too much, always just enough, and is the perfect example of the melding of modern technology with folk throwback. And it’s a perfect complement to the progression of Sam Beam’s sound, first flirted with on Our Endless Numbered Days, and with his collaboration with Calexico. “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” comes in so catchy and hooky, it’s almost impossible for me to not listen to the whole album each time I hear the opening. My top song of 2007 “Innocent Bones” still strikes me as one of the loveliest songs ever created; it still has the third highest play count of any of my songs on iTunes. “Every mouth sings of what it’s without/so we all sing of love”. Not anymore, I don’t. But genius still.

3. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes: Just when I had passed off 2008 as being an off year as far as new music goes, Fleet Foxes goes and releases their self-titled debut, giving me one of my favorite albums of all time. It’s still my top played album on From the moment I heard “White Winter Hymnal” I was a changed man, and I think I listened to it thirty times the very first day. It wasn’t long before I was in love with every song on the album. The musical progression of “Sun It Rises,” “White Winter Hymnal,” and “Ragged Wood” still give me goose bumps. Fleet Foxes weren’t the first to try whole band harmonizing, but they’re probably the ones who did it best. From the first note of the album to the ending of “Oliver James”, you wish it would never stop. The whole thing is so lovingly created, and it will forever remind me of the summer of 2008, one of the best of my life, and one that changed me forever.

2. Radiohead – In Rainbows: I was a latecomer to Radiohead, and the original release of In Rainbows was eclipsed by the fact that I was just barely getting into OK Computer. Still, waiting to appreciate something as grand and satisfying as this album was worth the wait. I remember one day last fall when after wearing out OK Computer and Kid A for about eight months, I finally put this album back on to listen, and I was immediately hypnotized by the drum machine of “15 Step”. The album is a complete success, and the song progression just stacks the triumphs higher. It’s an effortlessly enjoyable listen, and each song seems in the perfect place; to specially mention one is to mention all. It was a perfect complement to their past decade of output. A record this long in the making shouldn’t sound nearly so effortless. But after confounding all expectations with pretty much their whole catalogue, I believe In Rainbows tops it all, because for once the band finally sounds like they’re having the fun you’d expect while breaking boundaries.

1. Joanna Newsom – Y’s: Many albums I love wholeheartedly could have taken this top space, but none fit as well as this one. Y’s was and is unlike any other album to come out in this decade. Precious few artists have been able to reach and touch me on as many levels as Joanna Newsom, and this album eclipsed all expectations I had from her previous but still brilliant work. According to an interview I read, she claims four of the five songs on the album were written concerning four specific, unrelated, life-changing experiences she had in the course of a year. The fifth song, the epic 16+ minute “Only Skin” weaves and relates the others together, trying to make sense of them and accept them. The result is grand and beautiful in every way. You can construct, deconstruct and analyze the lyrics over and over (as I’ve done), and still come no closer to a concrete meaning than the first time you heard it. But that’s part of the magic; the album retains the sense that she wrote it as much for herself as for any fan, and that is something I have the utmost respect for. Before I heard this, I had falsely believed that only reading a book could take me to a place of such imagination, description and depth. I will forever be in debt to the beauty and imagination of Joanna Newsom’s masterpiece.

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