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Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

  • Jan 25, 2010
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This is, quite simply, a list of my favorite albums of the last decade.  These are not the best sellers, the highest voted in a Rolling Stone readers poll, the critics choices or the most popular, these are the albums that I return to again and again.  Albums that have seen me through the best and the worst moments of the last ten years, albums that I cannot live without.  I most certainly did not forget "the Blueprint," "Stankonia," "White Blood Cells," "Funeral," "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," or for that matter Kanye, Amy Winehouse, Ghostface, Sufjan Stevens, and the New Pornographers, but I left them off because for one reason or another the albums here were more important to me, made a deeper impression on me.  I love music, possibly more than anything in my life, and these ten albums help to strengthen that love every time I hear them.
Kid A
(2000) Is explaination for why this is the best album of the decade really necessary? "Kid A" is a defining moment in modern rock, like the Beatles "Revolver" or David Bowie's "Low," a moment from which all things are measured as 'before' or 'after.' By taking the basics of their previous albums and pushing them to extremes, by supplimenting their already substantial musical ability with electronics, Radiohead created a new musical language that we are still unraveling today. The vocals have never been bigger and more obscure, the beats have never been so pounding and subtle, the guitars have never been so absent and revelatory. But the real breakthrough, one that even Radiohead has not equalled, is the use of electronics. Foreshadowing an entire decade's worth of music they fused Aphex Twin to Brian Eno and invented the saddest, most dancable, complicated music of the decade. Without this album none of the other albums on this list exist, without "Kid A" Radiohead is just a more talented version of Coldplay, without this the direction music takes over the last ten years is anyone's guess, but I know it would be a much shallower world for it.
M.I.A. - Kala
(2007) Similar to "Kid A" in its refusal to accept established musical boundaries M.I.A.'s second album is a watershed moment for what was once called 'world music.' Now we just call that music 'awesome.' The only thing constant on the album is M.I.A. (although Diplo & Switch do produce 7 of the 12 tracks), she hops from hip-hop to Bollywood to baile funk to rock & roll to tribal music spanning every continent, she samples and incorporates the Clash, the Pixies, Wreckx-n-Effect, and the Modern Lovers. Nothing is off limits in her vision of a universal musical form, the future of music has never been so clear as on this disc. And none of that is to mention that every single song is amazing; how often can one say that the Timbaland produced track is an albums weakest? She blew up the airwaves with "Paper Planes" and closed a season of 'Entourage' with "Come Around" and one can still hear every other song on the album in a club, at a house party, or blaring from a car window. If M.I.A. never releases another album she will still be one of the most influential artists of the next decade merely by watching everyone else try to catch up to her.
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
(2009) As stated in my Best Albums of 2009 "MPP" is the moment in which Animal Collective fuse all their previous songs, sonic experiments, musical collages, and attempts at Beach Boys style harmonies into one beautiful and awe inspiring whole. Functioning equally as an album about the joy of everyday life, and as a final goodbye and way to heal after the death of Panda Bear's father, this album is full of bliss. The ordinary elements of a life are the most common themes, from the obvious subject matter of "Summertime Clothes," to the desire to build a home for one's family in "My Girls," to an examination of a sense in "Taste." But although the album focuses on the everyday it could never be called simple, and deals with family, grief and loss as elegantly as it does flowers, sunshine and home; and tracks like "Brother Sport" (a play on 'brother's support') written for Panda Bear's brother Matt to help deal with the loss of their father add a weight to the album none of their previous releases came close to. Simply put, a masterpiece.
Daft Punk - Discovery
(2001) Shedding most of the elements that made them a household name in the Chicago house scene the French duo revamped for the new century and made one of the best dance/post-disco albums of all time. Every song pulses with energy and excitement, the sense of fun that only popped up occasionally on their excellent first album is boundless here. The songs are all as obvious as they seem, from the first track "One More Time" to the brilliantly titled 10 minute closing song "Too Long," but obvious only means that there is nothing hidden, no negative connotations, merely that they put everything up front. Completely misunderstood at the time of its release this album has only grown in stature over the last decade as more and more artists and fans realize how much fun this music is, the edges of darkness from the previous album have all been erased, leaving only joy, beats and an uncontrollable desire to dance.
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
(2007) What happens when you mix a bit of Daft Punk with a touch of punk aesthetics and a whole lot of Brian Eno? You get James Murphy's best album to date. Essentially an album about the most preposterous of concepts: a dance-punk aging gracefully, "Sound of Silver" asks all the difficult questions and answers them beautifully. How do you deal with the death of a best friend (or the end of a relationship as it is often read), answered in "Someone Great." How do you deal with being a nearly 40 year old American in love with the music of 20 something Europeans, answered in "North American Scum." How do you deal with a lifetime love affair with New York City in a post-Giuliani world, answered in "New York I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down." The beats never stop, the examination of a life is never easy, but in the end it leaves you wanting more. Murphy has made an album that grows and evolves, like a human life. He is never shy about making his influences obvious and makes music that is as much in love with the past as it is the future. A dance album for Bowie fans, a rock album for Blondie fans, an electronica album for Happy Mondays fans, this is an album capable of crossing boundaries because it simply does not recognize them. The only album on this list that my retired mother and my grade school nephew both love.
Gorillaz - Demon Days
(2005) In the 1990's Damon Albarn's band Blur gave the UK Britpop scene one of its defining albums. A decade later he expanded his gaze and gave the whole world a post-9/11 defining album. Filled with fear, angst, dread and anger "Demon Days" captures the feelings of the planet in an age in which nothing is certain, no one is safe, and everything we grew up believing has been called into question. The song titles say it all: "Last Living Souls," "Kids With Guns," "Every Planet We Reach is Dead," and "All Alone." Even the lighter moments echo the end of the world vibe with "Feel Good, Inc." and "Dare" both sounding like post-apocalyptic Top 40, eerie instead of peaceful, violent instead of soothing. Pulling in guests from all aspects of music with, among many others, MF Doom, Shaun Ryder, De La Soul, Ike Turner, and the London Community Gospel Choir (as well as Dennis Hopper for an excellent spoken word section) as well as a producer capable of tying all these elements together in Danger Mouse, Albarn never fades into the background, this is always his album no matter who joins him on a track.
Mastodon - Leviathan
(2004) Metal is dead. Everyone who bought "Nevermind" knows that. But like the darkspawned beast that it so badly wishes to be, metal can never die. Mastodon prove this and so much more on their second album. Destroying nu-metal and rap-metal (thankyou thankyou thankyou!!) in one swift and devastating blow with crushing riffs, thundering double bass pedals, and lyrics filled with spit, bile and rage Mastodon are the saviors of metal. But unlike most previous metal incarnations they are not concerned with loose women, cocaine, satan or eye-liner, but with intellectual and literary pursuits. The second of a four album cylce of the ancient elements "Leviathan" is a double concept album, covering both the element Water as well as functioning as a study of Herman Melville's masterpiece 'Moby Dick.' The album is bone-jarring, crushing, dominating, but never loses a well honed sense of song craft and tune, a metal album with great hooks, a pounding head splitting assault that never ceases to be artistic and creative. Mastodon are actively redefining what metal is capable of being, and it is a wonderous thing to behold.
Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
(2006) "Hell Hath No Fury" indeed. Produced entirely by the Neptunes at the height of their minimalism and written with as much anger as any punk or metalhead could imagine, brothers Pusha T and Malice created possibly the angriest album of the decade. Revolving around a theme of cocaine dealing, in massive quantities resulting in massive bankrolls of course, the brothers never let go of their venom. They have words for everyone around them, from the copycats in "Mr. Me Too" to the girls they surround themselves with in "Dirty Money," everyone that is except the record label that put them in release date limbo for years. But they never need to explicitly detail their label troubles, their rage is so overarcing, so powerful that a single target could never take it all, they must expand their vision to the entire world around them. Cameos by Pharrell and Slim Thug seem like afterthoughts when compared with the gritty verses laid down by the brothers, this is their time to shine, and anything beyond their words seems like an unnecessary addition. The exception being the closing track, "Nightmares," which is sad and reminiscent and offers a view inside the mind of the monster, is it all bluster, or does their fury not only reach outward but inward as well?
Puffy - Nice
(2003) Probably the best album of the last ten years of which you've never even heard, "Nice" is the moment when Puffy was going to cross over into mainstream America. Be it due to the fact that we were sold Puffy AmiYumi as a cutsey Cartoon Network show or the fact that Americans almost never put non-English songs at the top of the charts, or any of a number of other reasons, Puffy never quite broke, but that never stops this album from being incredible. You can feel the 'sky is the limit' attitude, the joy of the pure pop form, and a true love for what they do. Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura moved away from their 90's existence as a prefabricated dance/pop girl group and became possibly the best rock band in Japan by the end of the 00's, and this album is where they begin to stretch their musical legs. They had experimented with rock on previous albums and had written their own music before, but on "Nice" they find a foothold and take their art to a whole new level. Some of the credit goes to producer/song writer Andy Sturmer (formerly of the band Jellyfish) who certainly gave them the push to try and conquer America, but the fact that a failure on that front never stops them from making amazing songs is all thanks to Ami and Yumi. In the years since "Nice" they have only grown stronger and 06's "Splurge" and 07's "honeycreeper" could be on this list just as easily, except for the fact that there's just something totally pure, something magical, about this album. Even with half the songs in Japanese and a crappy cartoon holding them back from American success one can never question the power of these songs.
The Marshall Mathers LP
(2000) Before Justin Timberlake and Bubba Sparxxx worked with Timbaland, before Brittney Spears worked with the Neptunes, there were Eminem and Dr. Dre. We've seen the clamatious "white rapper" scene before, with Marky Mark and Vanilla Ice and others, but Eminem was the first time the "rapper" was far more important than the "white." He showed promise on "The Slim Shady LP," and even more promise on Dr. Dre's "2001," but with this album he surpassed all the lessons, the student became the master. Utilizing a very limited number of producers, notably Dr. Dre and himself, the album has a cohesive, unified sound that falls somewhere between horrorcore and the darkest g-funk ever recorded. And the lyrics and themes of the album match the music perfectly, beside the single "The Real Slim Shady" which blatantly mocks popular music by copying it, the album is one long exploration of Marshall Mathers' head space, from self loathing and self doubting to rage and extreme violence. Eminem questions identity, fame, and the meaning of existence, all with the tightest lyrics of possibly any hiphop album ever. It was thought, at the time, that this album would open the flood gates for hundreds of untalented white kids to rap about their parents and the drugs they take, but such a thing would have been impossible. Just as there has never been a "new Dylan" or a "new Beatles" there can never be a "new Eminem," simply because the mold has been broken, the bar has been set too high, he instantly erradicated the possibility of copycats by crafting an album so perfect that it makes the concept of copying irrelevant.

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February 02, 2010
Nice list! You've got a bit of crossover with mine. I just can't really get into Animal Collective yet, though.
January 25, 2010
Nice list, Justin!  I like the eclectic mix here.  Did not realize that Kid A was part of the 2000s, though.  It had always been ingrained in my mind as 90's!  By the way, I think you might enjoy @Count_Orlok_22's list of bands from the decade before.  Thanks for sharing! :)
About the list creator
Justin Freiberg ()
Ranked #531
I love art, all forms of art. Be they painting or film or literature or dance or scotch Ilove all the beauty that man has brought forth on this planet, from the earliest cave drawings to thepure blinding … more
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