Putting together a list of best albums is difficult enough to do for just one year, but I have always wanted to do a whole decade because it makes me reflect on albums that I still listen to today, have forgotten because they didn’t stick with me long-term or have known all along that they are my all time favorite. I spent more time determining the order of albums then I did picking which to include among the 30, agonizing which album was better than the other. It was a fun exercise and might even lead to further “best of the decade” lists so I hope you enjoy!
Note: This is the repost of a list that I never finished on my personal blog.
Sigur Ros – ( ) (2002)
Few albums in history have been this emotionally devastating. Like watching a tugboat full of baby pandas slowly sink in the ocean while you have an ample stock of panda sized life vests, you find yourself feeling dirty for loving this album so much. The kicker is you can’t even understand the vocals because they are in a made up language, instead you are left blank pages in the liner notes to write your own interpretations, emotional misgivings or even your own lyrics. Track 1 (they don’t have titles) plays out like a dreamscape with a somber piano line and Jonsi’s vocal melody appears to assure your sadness as the song comes to a head and crashes back down. Track 4 with its lightly plucked guitar lines which shifts to a bowed guitar line all with mallet percussion and soft synth, you just get lost. This album will bludgeon you to death with emotions and large musical crashes, but I am ok with that.
Radiohead – Hail To The Theif (2003)
Kid A and Amnesiac in the early 2000’s brought us a very different Radiohead. A band that wanted to explore electronic sounds instead of creating another guitar heavy rock record like OK Computer. Hail To The Thief is a superior record in my mind and a triumphant return to their guitar writing chops. Take the album’s opener “2+2=5” which starts with Johnny Greenwood’s tender slightly off kilter plucking and builds into a hell of a rocker. Or the sexy sleek guitar lines on “Scatterbrain” and “Sail To The Moon” which glide along with Thom Yorks vocal lines weaving in and out of the speakers. The electronics of Kid A are not gone, they are just better utilized with the other instruments and built into some of Radiohead’s best musical landscapes.
Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)
Grandiose, poetic and bombastic are all terms that could be thrown around when referring to Jens Lekman’s sophomore full length and none of those terms would be far off. Jens ability to turn a basic story into a poetic masterpiece is uncanny. Take “Kanske är jag kär i dig” which on the surface is a simple love song but the way Jens sings of love is anything but simple with honest yet endearing lines like “The best way to touch your heart is to make an ass of myself”. He writes so visually and brings you into the song, you can’t help but see yourself in his shoes as he awkwardly tries to show someone that he loves them. On top of his great writing are horn flourishes, strings and fun instrumentation. This album is a difficult entry with how different than anything you have heard, album open “And I Remember Every Kiss” is. Do yourself and skip to “Shirin” if you have troubles because it is a simple song that eases you into the world of Jens and lets your explore his expansive mind.
J Dilla Jay Dee – Donuts (2006)
Donuts in simple terms is a sampling record with short songs built up on blending, shaping and tactfully constructing various samples from other records. What makes it interesting is the skill J Dilla displays in his construction of the songs, knowing the perfect time to speed up or distort the sample into an interesting beat. Layered with recordings of his own percussion and samples from records spanning the globe, you get flavors of funk, rock, spiritual music and a dash of electronic oddities (see “Lightworks”). Even if listening to beats is not your thing, there are some real gems on this record that provide a great backdrop when grabbing a beer with friends. Some people despise sampling as a lazy art form but I find it to be a refreshing musical creation and to listen to a master of his art form J Dilla at his best, showcases the truly endless world of amazing music.
Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)
Modest Mouse were the pinnacle of college indie rock until they made waves and signed with Epic Records for their release of Moon & Antarctica which was released to critical praise. The album didn’t hit with me because it sucked out all the raw nervous energy of the previous record and replaced it with polished flat, uninteresting songs. The follow-up Good News For People Who Love Bad News had the Mouse turning the corner and finding a nice balance of their old sound (listen to “Bury Me With It”) and a new pop twist that perked up the ears of more listeners. Still front and center are frontman Issac Brock’s lispy vocals and tremolo loving guitar hooks, but underneath are some really catchy guitar lines and a start to finish hooky record. “Ocean Breathes Salty” and “One Chance” are great examples of how Modest Mouse grew up but retained enough of the sound that made them indie darlings in the first place.