Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best of the 2000s: Albums

Before I unveil my favorite albums of this decade, I will give you some songs that missed the cut. I meant to add this to my last entry.

"Kids" MGMT, "Keep the Car Running" Arcade Fire, "Optimistic" Radiohead, "Munich" The Editors, "Tie Up My Hands" Starsailor, "Jesus of Suburbia", Green Day

Moving on ... I know any real list would have Eminem, Kanye West, Amy Winehouse etc.
Again, I'm as narrow-minded as a Tea Partier when it comes to music, though I do appreciate some of the above artists' songs. Also, unlike real lists, you won't see Radiohead here 15 times.

So here's my Top 10, brought to you by WBRU.

10. Good News for People Who Love Bad News - Modest Mouse (2004): An quirky collection of songs, some with a dreamy feel (Float On), some punkish (Dance Hall) and some very understated and folksy (The Good Times Are Killing Me). This collection of songs sounds from another planet, from another time. It's easy to lose yourself in this 16-track behemoth.

Best songs: Ocean Breathes Salty, Dance Hall, Float On.

9. Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand (2004): While some albums drag, especially towards the end, this one checks in at a scant and rollicking 38 minutes. Right from the catchy "Jacqueline" to the final " '40," you don't have much time to breathe. There are no acoustic ballads or filler tracks to calm things down. These Scots start off running and they don't stop. "Take Me Out" is the masterpiece, but it's not the only notable track. "This Fire" sticks to your brain and "Darts of Pleasure" does the same, the latter containing the album's best lyrics. "You can feel my lips undress your eyes" and "Words of love and words so leisured / Words of poisoned darts of pleasure." These guys came out of nowhere - for me anyway - and I haven't heard much from them since, but at least they left us with this memorable record.

Best songs: Take Me Out, Darts of Pleasure, This Fire, Jacqueline

8. By The Way: Red Hot Chili Peppers (2002): The Peppers eschewed their usual funk stylings with their most pop-friendly, accessible album. The title track gets the adrenaline started but mellow, sad songs mark this album, from "I Could Die For You" to "Tear." They definitely throw in some rockers, like "On Mercury" and my favorite, "Can't Stop." They toss the entire playbook in this one, which sets By the Way apart from much of their work. It's emotional, subdued and some of the songs are downright beautiful. No "Suck My Kiss" or "Give It Away" here.

Best songs: Can't Stop, On Mercury, By the Way, Tear

7. In Your Honor: Foo Fighters (2005): Dave Grohl has said he wants to be remembered for this album. This isn't the best Foo Fighters record - that goes to The Colour and the Shape - but it's their best since Y2k ended the world in 2000. Inspired by his time campaigning with John Kerry in 2004, he penned this double-album, one disc full of rock songs and the other full with acoustic tracks. "Best of You" and "DOA" mark the first side with typical Foo Fighters energy and melody. What really separates this from the rest is the acoustic part. For these hard-rockers to discard the amps and electric guitars and come up with very solid, stripped down songs is a major achievement. The haunting "Over and Out," the whimsical "What If I Do?" and the jaunty "Hard Day in the Sun" highlight the softer side of In Your Honor. It's hard to pull off a double-album, especially these days in ADD nation, but the Foos did it.

Best Songs: DOA, What If I Do?, Over and Out

6. Elephant: The White Stripes (2003): In the annals of album openers, "Seven Nation Army" is near the top. Right away, you know the Stripes are following up White Blood Cells with an album even more diverse, daring and bare. The garage rock tunes still pepper this album, but Jack White slows it down with some slower, even odd tunes, like the final "It's True That We Love One Another" and the piano-tinged "I Want To Be The Boy Who Warms Your Mother's Heart." They don't forget their roots though, which explains "The Hardest Button to Button" and "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." Jack White is an old-school blues musician who comes up with simple, home-spun lyrics and chords that just thump like a heartbeat. Elephant was universally praised by critics and fans alike - for good reason. It turned the Stripes from niche garage rockers to megastars.
5. Songs for the Deaf: Queens of the Stone Age (2002): Anytime you have Dave Grohl as a drummer, odds are the album will kick ass. He mans the drum kit for this amazing collection of head-banging, mosh-pit rock. It's more than just some songs thrown together; Songs for the Deaf actually serves as a concept album of sorts. It's a car ride from LA to the Mojave Desert where we get to hear the Queens poke fun at the state of radio. It begins with "Clone Radio" in L.A., that proudly says "We play the songs that sound more like everyone else than anyone else." Everything from Spanish stations to college stations appear, adding another level to what is already a great album. "No One Knows," "First It Giveth" and "The Sky is Falling" are some of the standouts. While satirizing the stale, mind-numbing airwaves, Josh Homme and company find the time to add in great song after great song after great song. Not bad.

Best songs: No One Knows, The Sky Is Falling, Go With The Flow, First It Giveth

4. American Idiot: Green Day (2004): Another concept album, but from Green Day? They're used to singing about getting stoned and masturbating. They named an album "Dookie" for crying out loud. The fact they produced a modern-day, suburban America rock opera is one of the biggest surprises of the decade. American Idiot follows the Jesus of Suburbia, a bored, lost and frustrated everyman who runs away from home and falls in love with Whatshername. He also meets St. Jimmy, a self-destructive freedom-fighting rocker who is supposed to represent the Jesus of Suburbia's alter ego. The Jesus of Suburbia medley is beyond great, with Billie Joe Armstrong's best lyrics to date. "I read the graffiti on the bathroom stall / like the Holy Scriptures of the shopping mall." While making an American Beauty-esque critique on American materialism and conformity, Green Days tells this story and, like most operas, it ends in tragedy and loss. Unlike most operas, the music is listenable. The Who would be proud.

Best songs: Jesus of Suburbia, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Holiday

3. Is This It - The Strokes (2001): No list of albums for this decade can ignore this seismic offering from this New York, Emily Schaible-discovered misfit band. While not nearly as good as Nevermind, it had a similar effect on this decade in rock music. While Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit and Korn were dominating the air waves, The Strokes blew everything up. Instead of macho, bloated metal, people started paying attention to alternative bands with tattered jeans, suit jackets over t-shirts and floppy hair. This album lacks any pretension. Simple, groovy, low-key guitar rock, from the huge hit "Last Nite" to the hypnotic "Soma" make up this record. Julian Casablancas growls into the microphone, his voice distorted and probably hung-over. This album kicked off the frenzy for the "The" bands. The Hives, The Vines, The Libertines, even Kings of Leon owe them. This album made alternative cool again.

Best songs: Someday, Soma, Last Nite

2. A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay (2002): These top two albums are in my all-time top five. This album is as close to perfect as an album can be. Reflecting post-9/11 attitudes, A Rush of Blood to the Head begins with the epic piano rock of Politik and ends with a somber and sweet piano song "Amsterdam." I like every single song. Every single one. As you know by now, "Clocks" is the stand-out. But "God Put a Smile Upon Your Face" is infectious while "The Scientist" could make a lesser man cry. The circular guitar and ecstatic vocals of "Daylight" are hard to dislike and the simple "Green Eyes" is enough to make any woman melt. It worked on Gwyneth Paltrow, right? Six years later, I still listen to this album often and I almost never skip a song. This record still stands up as Coldplay's masterpiece. Don't snicker. They've released four albums this decade and all have been good. AROBTTH is more than just good. It's a deserted island album for me.

Best songs: Clocks, Politik, The Scientist, Green Eyes, Daylight

1. Hot Fuss - The Killers (2004): While I love the previous album on this list, I don't think it broke any new ground. This one did. The Killers resurrected 80's synth-rock by jazzing it up with pop melodies and adding sneakily dark lyrics. Fun themes of murder, obsession, helplessness, rage, sorrow and vengeance pop up everywhere. "Jenny is Friend of Mine" has a man confessing to the murder of his sweetheart. "Mr. Brightside" has the man obsessing about his mate girl on him. "Smile Like You Mean It" deals with the break-up. "Midnight Show" deals with the murder. Brandon Flowers shields these dark words with a flurry of pop chords made for radio airplay. It's a delicate balancing act and these Las Vegas guys pull it off brilliantly. It's the one album that I think would make the deserted island list of The Brookline Trio of Jeff, Steve and Zach. The one quibble I have is the final track, but the greatness of what comes before it more than makes up for my distaste. Frankly, I still remember the first time I heard this album. I was laid up after surgery and it was love at first sound. This album just fucking rocks. I don't think I'll ever stop enjoying it.

Best songs: All These Things I've Done, Jenny Was a Friend of Mine, Mr. Brightside, Midnight Show
Whew. This took a while. More than I expected. Here are the albums that missed the cut.

Only by the Night: Kings of Leon

Pearl Jam: Pearl Jam

Oracular Spectacular: MGMT

Audioslave: Audioslave

Hopes and Fears: Keane
How To Build An Atomic Bomb: U2


  1. This list seems to confirm my suspicion that you've been in a coma since 2005.

    However, kudos for leaving Radiohead off of this list. Interesting that five your bands (1,2,3,9,10) owe their careers to The Smiths. Maybe it's time to have a good listen to Moz.

  2. Bad list, and no one deserves kudos for leaving out Radiohead while adding coldplay and the killers.

  3. Hi!
    I think your list rocks!!!
    I love Queens of the Stone Age

    God Bless