29 December 2009

Top Albums of the Decade

I wasn't going to do this list, but I started with my favorite singles and albums of 2009, and that got me to reminiscing ... and, well, I kind of had to do it. Plus, I can't spend my entire vacation laying on the couch watching TV and baking. I needed to do something to stimulate my brain. Right?

My first run through iTunes left me with 72 albums. I was hoping to have a Top 10 list, but after only successfully knocking off about 20 entries on the first pass, I set my sights for a Top 20. Once I was down to 32, I decided to go with a Top 25. I'm pretty proud of myself for paring the list down to that, given where I started. Those that remain have been in fairly constant rotation over the years. I can listen to them over and over again and never tire of them. Some have a really special place in my life and very specific and significant memories. These are my favorites, for whatever reason.

The list is in reverse chronological order, by year. I couldn't really rank them, other than to say the top three would be Coldplay, Interpol and Neko Case. Do remember the links are for educational purposes only. Buy the album if you like it.

Metric, Fantasies (2009): I cannot stop playing this album. I've liked Metric since Old World Underground, Where Are You?, but never so completely as I have with this disc.

Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (2009);
Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (2006): I seriously considered putting Blacklisted on the list, too. I loves me some Neko, y'all. Her voice gives me the chills. Words kind of fail me.

Amy Winehouse, Back To Black (2006): Has it really been almost four years? Oh Amy. How you've fallen. I suppose it's better to have one great album and then fade into drunken, drugged, violent, boob-job-getting obscurity than to never have had one great album at all, right?

Spoon, Gimme Fiction (2005): Choosing just one Spoon album was tough. I very nearly went with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but my favorite song is on Gimme Fiction, so that was what swayed me. One of my show highlights from the decade would be meeting Britt Daniel with KayGee after their show at The 400 Bar in 2004 when we were working for Music For America.

The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema (2005): Hey look, more Neko Case! So many great songs on this one. I just fucking love it. Wish I had seen them with Neko, but they're still great without her. And they do the best cover of E.L.O.'s "Don't Bring Me Down," I've ever heard.

Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene (2005); Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People (2002): Another crossover, with Emily Haines from Metric singing with BSS. I saw Metric open for South in February of 2003 or 2004 and then she made an appearance to do "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl," with BSS at The 400 Bar a month or so later, when I saw BSS with The Stills. I honestly didn't realize how much I love BSS until I saw them last year at First Ave. And I've loved most of their solo projects and related bands. They're so much fun live, too.

Bright Eyes, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning (2005): One artist I've never managed to see live, despite all the times they've been in town and all of Conor Oberst's side projects. Again, I love everything he does, but something about this album really worked for me and I listen to it often.

Brendan Benson, Alternative To Love (2005): I cannot believe I haven't seen Brendan Benson live yet. Well, I did see him with The Raconteurs. He makes such great pop music, it's impossible to resist.

The Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004): A simply amazing album.

The Stills, Logic Will Will Break Your Heart (2003): I'm amazed at how a band could make such a great first album and then completely suck with their sophomore effort. I was so disappointed with their second disc and the second time I saw them play. Changing out your lead singer might not have been such a good idea, dudes. They might have even had more albums, but I gave up on them a long time ago.

Snow Patrol, Final Straw (2003): Another band that I went from being absolutely crazy about to not even realizing they have a new album out. Didn't listen to their previous CD, either. I went from having to buy their early albums as imports and seeing them with about 50 people at the former Quest's Ascot Room to seeing them play to a crowd of about 5,000 and not hearing most of the songs I liked. Yeah, I know it smacks of "I liked them before they were cool," but what the fuck can you do?

Longwave, The Strangest Things (2003): How I've not seen these guys yet is beyond me. I love this album, but their most recent, Secrets Are Sinister, almost made the list, too. There is something about their sound that appeals to me, but I can't really explain it. This band has gone through some line-up changes, too, but it hasn't affected their sound in my eyes. And I guess I've seen their guitar player, when he was in town playing in Albert Hammond, Jr.'s band.

South, From Here On In (2002): Their sound has changed fairly significantly over the course of their career. It's become less instrumental, less electronic and much more straight-up indie/Brit pop. Unlike other bands on this list, I've followed all of those changes and I like the way they've progressed. I wish I could understand why that works for some bands but not others, but understanding why I like something and not something else is never going to happen.

Interpol, Turn On The Bright Lights (2002): I fell in love with this album the on the very first listen. I was worried I wouldn't like it after hearing the first single, "PDA." When I saw them for the first time at First Ave on a cold January night (for $10!), I was blown away. I've seen them many times since and I love all of their albums, but I don't think they'll ever do anything like Turn On The Bright Lights ever again. I don't know how they could replicate that. And I don't think I'd want them to, anyway. I can listen to it endlessly and at any time, but it is so perfect for cold, gray Novembers and winter nights driving for a while.

Gomez, In Our Gun (2002): Again, I could have put Split the Difference or How We Operate on the list, but this is the album that made me really like Gomez. I saw them on a very, very cold January night in 2004 at the Quest. It was nearly 30 below, but I braved that shit. I've seen interviews where they talked about that show, because it was so cold. Sadly, Gomez is now another example of a band that suddenly comes out with a shitty CD after I've liked them for a while. I'm beginning to think I'm the problem here.

... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Source Tags & Codes (2002): GREAT shows. Seeing them with Queens of the Stone Age was definitely an experience. I was filthy and covered with spilled and thrown drinks after. Saw them another time when they had two complete drum kits/drummers. Watching that all in sync was so very cool.

The Strokes, Is This It? (2001): God, I hope they have gotten their solo projects out of the way. Save for Albert Hammond, Jr.'s first album, they've all sucked so much ass. Clearly, the whole is much better than the sum of the parts in this case.

Ryan Adams, Gold (2001): So much material from which to choose, but this album again was from a very specific time in my life and helped to shape this decade, musically, for me. God, I love this crazy motherfucker and everything he's done.

Elbow, Asleep In The Back (2001): I bought this album without ever having heard a note. It is amazing and Elbow are one of my very favorite bands ever. Guy Garvey has a voice to die for. I don't care that The Boy I Currently Like thinks he sounds like Peter Gabriel. I haven't let that ruin my beloved Elbow for me.

Doves, Lost Souls (2000): Doves and Elbow kind of go together for me, for some reason. One of the best shows I've ever seen was Doves and Elbow at The Fine Line (shitty venue, but I'll brave it for amazing bands). This album is so beautiful and expansive. I love everything they've done, but again, this is on I fell in love with on my very first listen.

Coldplay, Parachutes (2000): It's amazing that probably my favorite album of the decade comes from a band I now hate. And good lord, do I fucking hate Coldplay. But Parachutes? Simply amazing. My former love of Coldplay led me meeting some really wonderful people I love dearly. I saw the band at the Vic Theater in Chicago, The 9:30 Club in DC, First Ave and at the University of Illinois Chicago. Those were all in one summer and I've not seen them since. As much as I hate the band now, this album (and the material that came before it) will always have a special place in my heart.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, B.R.M.C. (2000): It took me a while to get into BRMC. But they've consistently put out amazing material since their debut. They put on really fucking incredible shows. When I first saw them at The 400 Bar, the experience was exactly what I felt when hearing their music -- it just felt like you should be in a small, dark, smoky bar, packed in like sardines with other sweaty show-goers. It was so fucking perfect.

Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast (2000): Just a lovely, lovely album that never gets old. It's perfect to listen to at any time.


my name is Amanda said...

My boyfriend of the time period went to that Gomez show, and I kept hearing about the show and cold from him and his friends for *months* afterward. I saw their next two shows at The Quest; your list reminded me of how much I loved Gomez a few years ago. And yeah, they sort of suck now. It's not just you. I second you on Neko. She's simply wonderful, every time.

Anyway - great list. I loved reading about what each album meant to you personally.

Happy New Year/Decade!

kegster said...

yes, meeting britt daniels was awesome. kaygee is gagagagagaga over him. (ha).

Jess said...

Holy shit. I can't believe how long this ended up being.

Thanks, Amanda. It's so nice having my music snobbery validated/made to seem not-so-snobby.

I'm looking forward to more Spoon in the new decade! That was such a lovely experience.

blythe said...

you are my music twin! not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. rock on!

Jess said...

I'm going to go ahead and say it's a good thing.