Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My 50 Favorite Albums of 00

When it comes to music, can there really be a "Best of..." list? I mean, there are certain albums and artists most people can agree upon as being examples of the best (U2, Aretha Franklin, Dark Side of the Moon, Lady GaGa), but since music is so remarkably personal and subjective, I couldn't bring myself to try to create a "definitive" list of the best albums of the double-zeros. Besides, when you consider how many goddamn albums have been released in this decade alone (almost 800 a year, not counting the number of independent releases), it's impossible to listen to them all, so any "Best of..." list would be complete uniformed bullshit.

So, I won't give you my "Best of..." Naw, I'd rather you read through a list of my favorites. Maybe you'll remember some fondly. Maybe some you've never heard of and want to listen to. Maybe you'll think I'm a fucking idiot for liking what I do (and you're probably right), but these are my 50 favs (in no particular order).

In creating my list, though, I had to make a couple rules. First of all, I realized that I had to pick music from different genres. I have more cravings for good rock music, but there were some amazing Hip-Hop/Rap albums released these last 10 years. So, on this list you'll find albums ranging from Rock to Rap to Metal to Bluegrass to Folk. My second rule was not to include multiple albums from the same artist. I love Radiohead, for example, but it wouldn't be fair to take up three spots with Kid A, Amnesiac, and In Rainbows. So, in the event that a favorite artist had more than one great album, I went with my favorite of the group.

Well, now that you're bored, here's that list. Hope it inspires you to listen.

1. Smile, Brian Wilson (2001)

This album took 34 years to finally see the light of day. I won't bore you with the history, but it's a testament to the healing power of music that Wilson was able to finish this amazing album. Smile is a rock symphony; a one-of-a-kind collection that -- at least for me -- inspires, startles, mesmerizes, and transcends. Wilson always said he wanted to create the album that people pray to... I thank God for Smile.

2. Death Magnetic, Metallica (2008)

3. Evil Urges, My Morning Jacket (2008)

4. Back to Black, Amy Winehouse (2006)

5. Elephant, The White Stripes (2003)

If you could name anyone to be the "Artist of the Decade," you would be hard pressed to find an artist more versatile, eccentric, productive, and influential than Jack White. On Elephant, he created a flawless record about heartbreak. Songs like "Seven Nation Army" became anthems, but songs like "I Wanna Be the Boy To Warm Your Mother's Heart" and "Hardest Button to Button" revealed him as a sensitive genius.

6. Lifeline, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals (2007)

7. In Rainbows, Radiohead (2007)

8. All That You Can't Leave Behind, U2 (2000)

9. Songs in A Minor, Alicia Keys (2001)

10. Illinoise, Sufjan Stevens (2005)

Who would have thought that an album that proposes to tell the story of the state of Illinois would become a deeply reflective album on faith in a decaying world? Songs like the haunting "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." force us to see a connection between our own sin and that of a serial killer, while "Casimir Pulaski Day" becomes a holiday commemorating the loss of a girlfriend and faith in God. This album will grow on you. Trust me.

11. Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand (2004)

12. Consolers of the Lonely, The Raconteurs (2008)

13. American Gangster, Jay-Z (2007)

14. Raising Sand, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (2007)

15. Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo y Gabriela (2006)

Mexican mariachi-folk-metal! Now that's what I call awesome! This group blew my mind when I first heard their version of Led Zeppelin's timeless "Stairway to Heaven," but the real showstopper here isn't any particular song as much as it is Rodrigo y Gabriela's ability to make acoustic guitar song edgy. When you get a chance, check out their website -- Rodrigo gives guitar lessons. Talk about fan-friendly!

16. Dear Science, TV on the Radio (2008)

17. Weezer (Green Album), Weezer (2001)

18. The Fragile Army, The Polyphonic Spree (2007)

19. Extraordinary Machine, Fiona Apple (2005)

20. Corinne Bailey Rae, Corinne Bailey Rae (2006)

From the moment I heard her sing on "Austin City Limits," I was in love. Every song on this debut album from the British R&B singer is a love letter. There's a melancholy joy in Bailey Rae's voice that most other modern R&B singers can't match. But it's the honesty of songs like "Choux Pastry Heart," "Breathless," and "I'd Like To" that make this one of my personal favorites.

21. Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam (2006)

22. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case (2005)

23. Hot Fuss, The Killers (2004)

24. The Revolution Starts Now, Steve Earle (2004)

25. Sea Change, Beck (2002)

Beck's greatest album is his most personal. This is not the party Beck we saw on Odelay! or Midnite Vultures. This Beck is heartbroken, lost, confused, and unsure of his place in the world. It's amazing to think that even these rich and famous people are just as prone to depression as the rest of us. This album got me through my divorce -- there's something comforting about knowing someone's more fucked up than you.

26. Why Should the Fire Die?, Nickel Creek (2005)

27. Wolfmother, Wolfmother (2006)

28. Electric Version, The New Pornographers (2003)

29. City of Evil, Avenged Sevenfold (2005)

30. In Between Dreams, Jack Johnson (2005)

I think all of us need a little Jack Johnson in our lives. Something in his music evokes the need to relax and enjoy the little things, like surf, sand, breathing, dreaming. In Between Dreams is one of the greatest lazy day albums of all-time. No matter where I am, it transports me somewhere better, where there are no worries. You know you're listening to something special when you forget where you are.

31. Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn (2004)

32. Gold, Ryan Adams (2001)

33. St. Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley (2006)

34. Spend the Night, The Donnas (2002)

35. A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay (2002)

I remember when this album came out -- it was the first album by any modern artist my dad had purchased since the early 1990s. Dad was a music snob, so when he said Coldplay was the best thing going, I knew he was probably right. Now, I know he was right. I wish he had gotten the chance to hear Viva la Vida, which I like more, but realize isn't as good as this breakthrough album.

36. The Eminem Show, Eminem (2002)

37. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco (2002)

38. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (2008)

39. Toxicity, System of a Down (2001)

40. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Arctic Monkeys (2006)

I love the wordplay and defiant spirit of this recording. It's like at any time Alex Turner, the lead singer, could jump right through the speakers, start a fight, and try to make out with your girlfriend. "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor," "Still Take You Home," and "Fake Tales of San Francisco" are indie-punk classics.

41. The Execution of All Things, Rilo Kiley (2002)

42. Prairie Wind, Neil Young (2005)

43. Graduation, Kanye West (2007)

44. Neon Bible, Arcade Fire (2007)

45. American Idiot, Green Day (2004)

No one re-invented themselves quite like Green Day did this decade. They were at the end of the road creatively, when suddenly they produce the first rock opera since...? American Idiot is challenging, frustrating, and just goddamn good. It can be added to the pantheon of punk rock records that prove sometimes three chords are all you need to say something worth saying.

46. I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, Bright Eyes (2005)

47. Good News For People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse (2004)

48. The Crane Wife, The Decemberists (2006)

49. Modern Times, Bob Dylan (2006)

50. Continuum, John Mayer (2006)

John Mayer said everything I could say about relationships on this album. And that's just with his guitar. "Gravity" is one of my all-time favorite songs, but others like "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," "Vultures," "In Repair," and the remarkable cover of Hendrix's "Bold As Love" are just as brilliant. Continuum is an album I will keep revisiting -- it's more than an album; it's a friend.

Looking over this list, I forgot a few other favorites:

1. The Rising (2002) and The Seeger Sessions (2006), Bruce Springsteen

2. The Black Parade, My Chemical Romance (2006)

3. Arigato!, John Davis (2007)

4. The Delivery Man, Elvis Costello and the Imposters (2004)

5. Feed the Animals, Girl Talk (2008)

6. World Without Tears, Lucinda Williams (2003)

7. Oracular Spectacular, MGMT (2007)

8. Era Vulgaris, Queens of the Stone Age (2007)

9. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Flaming Lips (2002)

10. Stadium Arcadium, Red Hot Chili Peppers (2006)

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