My favorite albums of the decade

Decade lists are lame.

Summing up all of the music from the 2000s into a list of 10 or 20, or even 500 top albums strikes me as an arrogant thing to do. However, I find myself compelled to mark the end of this decade with some sort of list. I blame High Fidelity for this impulse.

I believe my musical awakening (when I began listening critically and actively seeking out good music) occurred somewhere around 2004, and the point where I actually figured out how to do this effectively probably occurred somewhere around 2007. So, I spent much of the decade playing catch up.

Here it is. My picks for the top 10 records of the 2000s, unranked, listed in chronological order

Godspeed You! Black Emperor- Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (2000) (Constellation Records)
This is the best post rock album ever. Godspeed You! Black Emperor went above and beyond any and all expectations with Lift Your Skinny Fists… The album boasts beautiful arrangements of epic proportions, with everything from guitar and drums to strings and horns all coming together to form a near flawless whole.

Radiohead- Amnesiac (2001) (EMI)
Kid A will top almost everybody’s decade lists. My argument for Amnesiac is simple: If the release dates for these albums had been switched, so would the acclaim. Kid A is revered moreso because it turned what we knew Radiohead to be on its head than because it is a great album (which it is). Amnesiac and Kid A were recorded at the same time, and they have a similar vibe. The only real difference is intensity. Amnesiac is an exaggeration of Kid A’s eccentricities. The challenge of Kid A was to sift through the ambience and electronics and find the Radiohead album inside. Amnesiac on the other hand, doesn’t wait for you to look, it pummels you. This album changed the way I listen to music.

Pageninetynine- Document #8 (2001) (Robotic Empire)
Having to pick one screamo record from the 2000s was tough. It came down to a choice between Orchid and Pageninetynine. Document #8 won out over Orchid’s Dance Tonight! Revolution Tomorrow! due to its existence as a full package. Both albums mark two of the genre’s most influential and near flawless bands at their best. Document #8, much like Dance Tonight! is filled to the brim with passion, beautiful lyrics and brutal, screaming instrumentals. However, it is the artwork which takes this album over the top. The cover art and liner notes are beautifully dark and beautiful, taking the songs themselves further than they could on their own. From the Kurt Cobain sample at the beginning to the cathartic instrumental outro of “The Hollowed Out Chest Of A Dead Horse,” this album hardly lets you breathe.

Converge- Jane Doe (2001) (Equal Vision Records)
Jane Doe changed the way I looked, and look at hardcore. This album took everything I knew about the genre and obliterated it. Jane Doe is the heaviest album I have ever heard– not because it is the lowest tuned, or has the most chugs– but because this record does not sound like it was recorded on this planet. Jane Doe is an extreme record. However, from a songwriting standpoint, Converge seems to take its cues from more melodic sources. You can hear a lot of Fugazi and late Dischord in the way everything is put together, and at times it almost sounds like Siege covering The Jesus Lizard.

Hot Snakes- Suicide Invoice (2002) (Swami Records)
The Hot Snakes never tried to prove anything, they didn’t aim to break barriers. They were merely a rock n’ roll band. And they filled this niche with near perfection. Suicide Invoice is filled with driving riffs, pounding drums and beefy bass lines, all executed with a near mind-boggling metronomic consistency, and topped off with interesting vocal lines inhabiting the space between singing and yelling. Suicide Invoice is nothing more than, and nothing less than a really great rock n’ roll album.

Isis- Oceanic (2002) (Hydra Head)
Oceanic is the perfect Isis album. Written as a concept album complete with backstory, this record tells the story of a man who, while nearing the point of emotional numbness, engages in a relationship which completes him. However, he discovers that his lover has had a long-term incestuous relationship with her brother. This fact destroys the protagonist. He loses all hope, and drowns himself in the ocean. Oceanic is a flawlessly executed concept album, with the recording process being pivotal to the way the album conveys its message. The guitars sound like crashing waves, and the drums sound like the pounding of the ocean against rocks. This record makes you feel at sea the entire time. Harnessing that kind of transitive feeling through a recording is Isis’ greatest achievement.

The Arcade Fire- Funeral (2004) (Merge Records)
Montreal was the city every musician wanted to be in the mid-2000s. The Arcade Fire played no small part in this trend. Funeral was the most hyped album of 2004, and for good reason. The band presented lush pop compositions with a charming attention to detail. With honest, haunting vocals and driving rhythms highlighting the earnest songwriting beneath it all, string arrangements provided by Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) added sheen to an already beautifully put together pop album.

New Pornographers- Twin Cinema (2005) (Matador)
The New Pornographers break the stereotype of shitty supergroups. Boasting a roster of Canadian indie rock darlings Neko Case, Kathryn Calder, Dan Bejar and more, this creative powerhouse released four full-length albums in the 2000s. Twin Cinema, for me, edges out Mass Romantic as the best of the four. Electrifying guitar and keyboard work and understated rolling drum patterns set a perfect base from which the band unleashes their beautiful pop-driven vocal melodies.

The Marked Men- Fix My Brain (2006) (Swami Records)
The Marked Men are the best pop-punk band of the decade. Which album I chose is of little consequence. However, Fix My Brain is the band at its best. On Fix My Brain, the Marked Men plough through 13 songs in less than 30 minutes, perfectly melding their garage rock songwriting sensibilities with the pummeling pop-punk driven speed.

Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) (Domino)
Animal Collective brought about a whole different way of looking at songwriting over the past decade. Merriweather Post Pavilion has them applying this in their most accessible effort to date. The album is beautiful, from the electronic backdrops, to the delicate guitar work and soaring vocals. Unlike previous efforts, I find that Animal Collective have brought all songs on this record to their full potential, and closed out the decade with their strongest work to date.


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