I listened to too much music in the 2000s. Well you can never listen to too much music, but I listened to a lot. At home, at work, studying, in the car, music followed me around everywhere and with the invention that was the ipod, carrying around my discman and CD wallet became irrelevant. Now I can have my favourite albums with me at all times and listen to whatever I feel like when I want to, it’s quite fantastic really. Strangely, only one of my Top 12 comes from after 2006, i guess with the advent of the ipod I started to listen to more albums than listening to the same ones over and over again. On the other hand, those albums from early in the decade have been with me much longer and I know that i’ll appreciate them in the years to come, while music from the last few years haven’t had that test of time yet.
I tried to narrow it down to 10 albums, but i couldn’t so here’s my Top 12 of the 2000s. I’d also like to acknowledge 3 albums that came close, so here are my honourable mentions for the decade: Bran Van 3000 – Discosis, David Holmes – Bow Down to the Exit Sign and The Avalanches – Since I Left You. All 3 of these albums were excellent and played a large part in the last decade, but the Top 12 are just a little bit closer to me. Also there are a few artists who released consistently great albums in the 2000s, like Spoon, TV on the Radio and Nick Cave, but no one album stood out. Maybe those artists are even better than the ones below because of that.
12. Gorillaz – Demon Days (2005)
2006, The Bean in Beeston. After getting permission to add new music to the coffee shop’s library I uploaded a few albums to the computer including this one. I was sick of listening to Jack Johnson all the time, as Drew, the resident Kiwi barista, listened to him non-stop and was about to take off back home for a couple months. With the music power in my hands, I ended up playing Demon Days every shift I worked and all of the songs, except a few, went through the stages of being my favourite. The more immediate singles, ‘Feel Good Inc.’ and ‘Dare’ are great tracks, but each track has its own special moments and as a whole it goes through world, chill, dance, electro and spoken word genres to make a true complete album. It was the best thing any of the artists on this album did in the 2000s and makes Gorillaz rival Blur as Damon Albarn’s crowning achievement.
11. Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R (2000)
I wasn’t sure if this album came out in the 2000s, but upon careful inspection (wikipedia) it did. I was introduced to Queens of the Stone Age through some British music magazines and decided to pick this up during my tenure at HMV. Since then it has become a staple of my collection and every time I feel like listening to a song to get my adreneline going I put on “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” and scream along to the chorus of “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, Marijuana, Ecstasy and Alcohol… Co-Co-Co-Co- Caine”. In my opinion this album marks the pinnacle of the Queens discography and though most people prefer Songs for the Deaf, this one will always have a special place in my heart as their greatest and most complete work.
I have also managed to snag the vinyl version of this album called Rated X, which sports a red cover, has an extra track and contains random gratuitous photos.
10. Fugazi – The Argument (2001)
Now here’s a band I started listening to way too late in my life. The Argument was the first Fugazi record I listened to, and sadly up to this point it is the last record they have released. The Argument is likely Fugazi’s most restrained album and within almost all the tracks you can feel the tension perpetually building, only to be released in a few epic seconds of cathartic release. Classified as punk music I was hesitant to check them out in the 90’s, but I’ve found Fugazi to be a punk band that retains the aesthetics of the DIY punk attitude with a sound closer to Wire or Television, than that of other 90’s punk bands. If Fugazi never release another album I will continue to be satisfied with The Argument as a perfect end to a brilliant career.
9. Blonde Redhead – 23 (2007)
Blonde Redhead’s 23 is a great album, but I don’t believe any one thing makes it stand out among their catalogue or the albums in this list. I listened to 23 at the time when my emotions and the emotions created by the album were following parallel lines. I still come back to this album quite regularly even though I’m not in the same state as I was in then. I have high hopes for their next album, but I think this will be the high point in their career. The aural textures created by the vocals of Kazu Makino and the swirling guitars of Amedeo Pace are a triumph to listen to, just take a listen to the title track to get a sense of this.
8. Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy (2005)
There was a time when this symphony of sadness would have been in my top 3 of the decade, but over the last few years it has lost some of its lustre due to, in my opinion, Okkervil’s weaker follow-ups and the fact that I’m not nearly as depressed as I was when I discovered it. This album kept me company many lonely nights in Nottingham, while I was still trying to adjust to a new city, being away from family and friends, and various other things. I managed to see them live my first month there and a few months later again among 100 or so others who had managed to listen to this masterpiece. The emotionally draining songs such as ‘A Stone’ and ‘So Come Back, I’m Waiting’ put meaning to what I had left behind, but gave me hope that everything was going to get better. Sure i’m being over dramatic, but sometimes music does that to me. I chose this over the National’s Alligator in 2005 as my favourite album, sure that has changed now, but it shows how much I loved this album back then.
7. Beck – Sea Change (2002)
When it comes to Beck, I always underestimate how much I actually like him as an artist, the other artist this is true for is David Bowie. Looking at my last.fm they are both in my top 20 most listened to for the last 4 years, but I feel like I just don’t listen to them enough or give them credit for the amazing music they’ve released. I used to favour Midnight Vultures, but Sea Change is easily my favourite Beck album and is essentially the best break-up album besides Blood on the Tracks. My only regret, as sado-masochistic as it is, is that I couldn’t have listened to this album after a devastating break-up, to actually feel what Beck was feeling when he wrote these songs. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching record that deserves a late night listen with a bottle of whisky and a dim lamp casting shadows on the wall.
6. The Knife – Silent Shout (2006)
Terrifying dance music. I used that phrase as a placeholder for this album and as I think about something to say about Silent Shout I think it remains the most appropriate phrase to describe The Knife. Deep Cuts, their 2004 breakthrough, has the better songs, but Silent Shout creates a tragic clausterphobic atmosphere punctuated with electro/techno beats. Karin Dreijer’s vocals make The Knife stand out among any bands within this genre. Her vocals are twisted and manipulated to make it seem like each song has its own singer and personality. Personally, I’ve never heard The Knife in a club, but next time I do, I’ll be out on the dance floor seeing what kind of dance I can come up with to contemplate their unique sound.
5. The National – Alligator (2005)
To think I was close to passing over this band after listening to this album multiple times, but only having ‘All the Wine’ resonate with me. Subconsciously I must have known that there was something behind these songs that would eventually click and after listening for a few weeks it finally did. The rest is history. If I make a mixtape for someone I try to have a National song on it, if I go on vacation I make sure to have an ample supply of their songs with me, if i’m driving late at night I listen to the National. They have permeated my listening tendencies that I’ll listen to them at least once a week and more often once every couple of days.
Boxer may be the more immediate album, but Alligator has the slow-burners that get under your skin, crawling their way up into your brain and heart. It’s a perfect middle ground between the rockier Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers and the direct Boxer. Alligator is the contemplative National record, perfect for sitting back and using the music to explore your own thoughts.
4. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot opens with the quintessential Wilco song. ‘I am trying to Break your Heart’ is the standard on which I judge every Wilco song I have heard since 2002. The rest of the album is not that shabby either. This album was full of hype and had a great story behind it, but the music spoke for itself and I have no idea why their label decided to drop them because the album lacked singles or selling power. Wilco, number 4.
3. The Dandy Warhols – 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia (2000)
Around the year 2000 I stopped watching music videos as Muchmusic had followed MTV by only showing reality tv shows and Fallout Boy videos. One of the last I remember watching was ‘Godless’ by the Dandy Warhols. The song immediately struck a chord with me and I purchased the album the next day. It needed no time to grow on me as I loved it right off the bat. The next few years I searched out as much of their stuff as possible, buying all of their albums and searching the Internet and Napster with my 28.8 modem for their B-sides. If their was one band I listened to the most, besides Radiohead, in the early 2000s, this is them. I still get chills from the opening chords of ‘Godless’ or the transition from ‘Mohammed’ to ‘Nietzsche’. I still sing along to Courtney’s dead pan vocals on ‘Horse Pills’. I still find the trio of ‘Cool Scene’, ‘Bohemian Like You’ and ‘Shakin” some of the greatest party music ever. These are only three reasons among the hundreds that make this record one of the best of the last decade.
2. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
I was just wondering about Broken Social Scene. Should You Forgot It In People be on this list. Nah, screw it. Funeral was the best Canadian album of the 2000s and arguably the best of the last 25 years. Funeral was unique as it was different enough to not sound like anything else at the time, yet accessible that everyone could enjoy at least a few tracks off the record, if not the whole damn thing. One of my favourite Arcade Fire moments is an impromptu ‘Blues’ version of ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ that Zoeller (otherwise known as the unnamed band) tried to pull off in a failed band session. Sure we probably butchered it, but it sounded cool at the time. ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ could be my favourite song of the decade. Funeral falls short of my favourite album of the decade to my favourite album of all-time and a band that could do little wrong in the 2000s. Funeral, where were you when you first heard it?
1. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
Sometimes you have to pick an album by an artist that represents their complete output from a decade, but still resonates enough to be the closest to what you consider a perfect album. Radiohead released four albums in the 2000s and three of those could be included in this list. I decided to limit the albums on this list to one per artist and it was inevitable that Kid A would be on top. Every time I make a top albums list of all-time for atease.web or in some random Top 5 countdown Kid A is either first or second, depending whether I’ve been listening to The Beatles a lot at the time.
Kid A is a cold record that is best listened to in the middle of Winter in the dark. Luckily I live in one of the coldest cities in the world so this is possible about 4 or 5 months every year. There is a chill in every song and I always imagine fields of snow, ice-capped mountains and a stillness of all life, yet songs such as ‘The National Anthem’ and ‘Idioteque’ are filled with hypnotizing grooves, free-form jazz freakouts and beat-box beats. Really, what hasn’t been said about this album and its greatness. I’m not going to bore you with more information on that. Best album of the 2000s. Bar none.