They say the older you get the faster time goes by, but 2000 – 2009 seemed like a long time to me. I don’t know if this decade offered a whole lot of originality or if I was just too lazy to find it. The main thing I took away from it was that the music I listened to in the 90’s was mostly crap and holding on to it for nostalgic reasons could pose a health risk. Still, the zeros weren’t completely devoid of good music.
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show your Bones, 2006 – Their breakout album, 2003’s Fever to Tell, was fun but had too many cringe moments for me when I wished the lyrics were more thought out or the music was more interesting. The best three songs on the album are the last three mellower tracks; Maps, Y-Control, and Modern Romance. I thought Show Your Bones showcased Karen O’s range and songwriting and felt a lot less gimmicky than Fever to Tell. I’m couldn’t be more envious of Nick Zinner’s guitar work, too.
9. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary, 2005 – I have a confession. Until I saw them live in 2007 I didn’t realize Wolf Parade had two singers. Seems F’ing ridiculous to me now, since they sound and write so differently.
8. The National – Boxer, 2007 – Another example of a followup album surpassing the breakout, but even more so. On Boxer, the National finally figured out what the hell to do with Matt Berniger’s voice (ie. raise the tempo just slightly and elevate the drums on the mix). It wasn’t a huge change from Alligator, but it sounded better.
7. The Blow – Paper Television, 2006 – I was late to this band, but found them through last.fm this year while painting my son’s room. On came True Affection and I instantly fell in love with Mikhaela Maricich’s voice and songwriting. It’s electro-folk-pop and Eat Your Heart Up is the power song on my iPod when running.
6. Beck – Sea Change, 2002 – Flashback to the late 90’s: Beck ruled my life. There was no other stronger musical influence than Odelay, Mellow Gold, and One Foot in the Grave. I adored Midnight Vultures. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mutations, but I still excited when I heard Beck was going to continue his alternating Rock and Folk albums. Sea Change ended up being his last truly original statement as an artist. He’s still relevant. He’s still putting out good music, but Sea Change was the last time he blew anyone’s mind. It’s easy to remember things differently before Beck was an XPN staple, but despite the Grammy and awards for Odelay, many people pegged Beck as a novelty… especially musicians. He was a few rungs above Weird Al and the Monster Mash and it was ok to listen to him once and a while, but he shouldn’t be taken seriously. On Sea Change he surprised us by being serious.
5. Modest mouse – The Moon and Antarctica, 2000 – It’s hard to believe this album came out this decade (and yes I’m including 2000 in decade, otherwise I’d be doing this list next year). I have a soft spot for any songs that throw in weird questions about space and time and try to connect them to humanity. On this album they do that better than anyone.
4. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, 2006 – It’s almost a crime that this is above the Moon and Antarctica, but that tells you how much I like this. My fascination with this band started back in 2003 when I saw Alec Ounsworth at an open mic in Philly. Their debut album was a battle between being a pop band or an art band with the pop side winning a little. Their later efforts have been less interesting so far, but what a start. I listened to it thousands of times.
3. Black keys – Thickfreakness, 2003 – Dan Auerbach is a guitar god in a world where kids stand in front of the TV pretending to play guitar for their video game system. It would be like if Tiger Woods showed up just as miniature golf overtook golf’s popularity. The Black Keys are a 20ish, two piece, garage-blues band from Akron, Ohio and they should be loved by everyone.
2. The White Stripes – Elephant, 2003 – For better or worse, I think the White Stripes defined the decade. They were fresh, but retro. Simple, but artsy. Somehow, they came up with a Smoke-On-The-Wateresque riff that no one had thought of before and called it Seven Nation Army. It helped to kill off some of the god awful bands popular at the time and Elephant was the album that established their reign over the first half of the Zeros.
1. Arcade Fire – Funeral, 2004 – I don’t know how anyone can be in a band as large as Arcade Fire. I can barely stand to play with 2 or 3 others, much less the 10 or 12 in Arcade Fire. They were somehow able to record the best album of decade. I didn’t write this list because I think I’m a great writer. I wrote it to make sure anyone who reads it buys this album.