Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Top 10

Louis and I have recently been locked in conversation/debate regarding the recent Pitchfork list of the top 100 albums of the 2000s. The thing about lists, in my opinion, is that when they get longer than a top 20, the order and rank mean less and less. Is 83 really any better than 82? Am I really expected to consider the relative merits of numbers 148 versus 149?

That's why this girl is sticking with a Top Ten Albums of the 2000s, Love It or Leave It Edition. These are my ten favorite albums released during the past decade, every number counts, and it's a heartbreak to leave out some worthy contributions. That is how a list ought to be.

Be on your toes and you might spot:
Midwestern bias! A weakness for concept albums! White guys with guitars!

Regardless, I hope you'll write your own top 10- it's a fun project.

Number 10
The Dismemberment Plan - Change

There is a parallel universe where even at 26, my hair is Super Grover blue, my nose ring is sparkling, and "Time Bomb" is still my personal anthem. Meanwhile in this dimension, it's still one of those songs I like to shout along with and slap the dashboard to. Change is such a reflective album- the last the Plan would ever put out- it showed a kind of maturation while maintaining a wholly appealing angsty sensibility. It's loud, powerful, and lyrical- a timeless album which will always be one of my favorites.

Number 9
The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

For sheer, bouncy, mob pop, this Canadian collective is my go-to choice. Twin Cinema is laced with joy, gorgeous vocals, and tremendous percussion. It's a whirling dervish of an album, and every song is gold. And Dan Bejar, you stole my heart the day I bought this cd at Criminal Records.

Number 8
Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It in People

I know, I know- more Canadians. Get used to it. When I grow up, I'm going to move to Montreal, eat fresh bread, live billingual, and room with Leslie Feist. Broken Social Scene was a revelation to me in my first year of college, and I would dance by myself in my dorm room in front of my goldfish. My E-Mac's speakers at their maximum, the songs didn't play so much as shimmer into the air. It is one of those albums everyone can agree is great, so let's leave it at that. If you haven't listened to it, you need to, and you also need to crawl out of the indie rock bunker you've been living in for the better part of a decade.

Number 7
Cursive - Domestica

Domestica is one of the great concept albums. It is the only record I feel truly captures the anxious and harrowing pain of domestic turmoil. It's an intelligent, examined, and terribly sad record. Domestica hits its stride with "The Martyr" where distrust is a refrain, "Sweet baby, don't you cry/ your tears are only alibis." Tim Kasher, the lead singer of Cursive, throws his gravelly voice into the wound, and in 9 songs takes you through a relationship to its bitter end, what I consider one of the great break-up songs of all-time, "The Night I Lost the Will to Fight." It is, from its opening, a explosion and a catharsis, and it leaves you feeling empty when it is gone. "I need a catalyst/to rekindle the flame/that once burned within these fists/where defeat remains."

Number 6
The National - Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers

I am an unrepentant fan of The National- I love the Smog-esque vocals, the pushy beats, and the ambiguous lyrics. Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers is a brilliant, cohesive, and occasionally creepy record. I would argue that the worst thing about indie rock is that bands so often do exactly what you expect them to do- Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers is full of little hiccups of dirge-y, dour sound that surprise.

Number 5
Radiohead - Kid A

Ok, I know I'm ranking it low, but it's a transformative, gorgeous, painfully good record. Thom Yorke is a genius, and Radiohead is the greatest working band of our time. That sounds begrudging, but it's not. If I didn't have Kid A on this list, I would feel like a phony.

Number 4
Arcade Fire - Funeral

Funeral hit me in the gut the first time I listened to it. The lyrics are beautiful, but it's all those lush layers of instrumentation and sound that make it remarkably distinct. There is something so youthful and poignant about the music of Arcade Fire, the way their voices earnestly soar over trumpets and accordians.

Number 3
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

Sufjan Stevens is an angel brought to earth to sing the prettiest songs. Illinois is a wonderful exploration of the Land of Lincoln, and while everyone waxes fervently and rightly over "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." and the hallelujah chorus that is "Chicago," it is a record so laced with gems as to be ostentatious.

Number 2
Cat Power - The Greatest

If you know me, you knew Chan Marshall had to make my list and make it high. It is her voice, low and breathy, that makes her one of the great artists of the early 21st century. There is a nostalgic tone to this record with its jazz influences- it sounds like you could have unearthed it in a thrift store and had Cat Power all to yourself. The sad wistfulness of her lyrics breaks hearts when she opens and intones, taking on the persona of an aging pugilist, "Once I wanted to be the greatest/ no wind or waterfall could stop me." Because, what Cat Power gets that I don't think any other modern performer has tapped into is that for all the days a girl feels invincible, there is a corollary day when she is sure she will never feel that way again. Cat Power writes music to feel vulnerable to.

Number 1
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is Wilco's magnum opus, an album so inspired and intricate that I have listened to it for years the way some scholars study Moby Dick. I am serious. I think this album is perfect. There are worlds inside of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot- boozy country lounges where fliddlers play, monuments to dead ideals, cities of lost voices. There are secrets inside it to unravel. Jeff Tweedy's musical vision is expansive and precise, and it is realized fully in Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

My gut top 10 (assembled in 5 minutes or less!) would have to be
10) In Rainbows - 99.99% of rock bands would call this their magnum opus. For Radiohead it is their second or third best album of the decade. For everyone else, it was a gamechanger in content and delivery.

9) Vampire Weekend - You know they are awesome. They know they are awesome At least they didn’t go to Duke.

8) Van Lear Rose - Name a five female singers alive with more honest voices than Loretta Lynn. On this album she was a cougar looking for Jack White before the term existed.

7) The Blueprint - Has Jay ever topped Heart of the City?

6) Sound of Silver - I swear that All My Friends was my favorite song off this album before it was on anybody else’s radar (The Pink Floyd reference was the bait and the hook was....uh....the hook?)

5) White Blood Cells - Fuck tanning beds!

4) SMiLE - Would it have been better with young Brian Wilson harmonizing with his brothers? Oh, yeah. The Wondermints are ridiculous pinch hitters, though.

3) Ágætis Byrjun - Listening to this album, not understanding a word but understanding the messages is transformative. I could be a child in Mongolia listening to the Beatles for the first time when I play this one.

2) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - I shake like a toothache when I hear this album. The only-kiss off to a major label more spectacular than In Rainbows.

1) Kid A - Is Kid A Radiohead better than OK Computer Radiohead? Are the Abbey Road Beatles better than the Revolver Beatles? That kind of question and comparison is why Kid A is at the top of this list. And it is daring, musically brilliant, and thematically inspired.