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Obligatory Best Of The Decade: Music

Monday December 21st 2009

by Paul Armstrong



Decades only come every ten years, which makes reflection upon those years past a necessity. Over the next few days I will attempt to post my personal best lists in music, film and television from the decade that (nearly) was — and believe me, its not easy when one has a short term memory disorder, because decades come only once every tens years (wait, did I say that?)


Honestly I had to go to Wikipedia to remember what albums had been released from 2000 - 2009, as sometimes I erroneously place an album in one year or another. These are my personal choices, not some larger than life all-time best of the decade that all people, regardless of age, sex, belief, geography or perferences must unequivocally accept (though, deep down, I really think you should). You won't find U2 (whom I think peaked with Achtung Baby) or Sufjan Stevens (because I have tried on more than 7000 occasions "get" him and I simply don't) or any hip-hop (because I don't listen to it, sorry), or pop rock radio staples (because it mostly all sucks). My list is (mostly) void of strange, obscure, so-Indie-they-might-not-exist-yet bands, but a list of music that I repeatedly listen to, day in and day out, that carries the weight of my life along with it, that speaks in the undercurrents of events, and in a way shaped who I am.


  • The Sophtware SlumpThe Sophtware SlumpGrandaddy
    Tight on the heels of OK Computer, Grandaddy produced a lo-fi, sonic, redneck inspired steam-punk homage to the 1997 classic. A masterpiece of musical construction paper, Elmer's glue, felt and elbow macaroni.

  • Kid AKid A Radiohead
    Am I a Radiohead fanboy, yes. I don't care. I thought about including Kid A, Amnesiac AND In Rainbows (as I fnd them all stunning), but then I listened through the tracks and couldn't in do justice to how oddly placed, timed, brilliantly disaffecting and disturbing Kid A was when it was released. No one knew what to make of it. It took multiple listens to decipher the blips, repeats, echoes and undertones. Music was put on notice, and most are still trying to capture what was left revirberating (and let it be know that In Rainbows approaches the level of brilliance as OK Computer). But than again, I'm a fanboy.

  • Yankee Foxtrot HotelYankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco
    This album makes just about every critics top of the decade list; and for good reason. It's stunning in nearly every regard. An almost perfect album. There isn't much I can say that hasn't been said.

  • EveninglandEveninglandHem
    Over the Rhine has disappointed me years lately, their music losing what I had grown to love about them - becoming more country folk infused adult contemporary than my ears care to endure - Hem has stepped in to fill the gap.

  • Winners Never QuitWinners Never QuitPedro the Lion
    A conceptual album to end all conceptual albums, that summarizes the political, social and moral subtleties of the American landscape, with brilliant, understated and biting lyrics and music to wrap the package.

  • Figure 8Figure 8Elliott Smith
    What I consider the last masterwork of the late, great Elliott Smith. Sure he had another (post-humous) album "From A Basement On The Hill" (and the collection of b-sides with "New Moon), but it didn't come close to Figure 8 in terms of expansie, melodic music that summarized the abilities of Elliott as a singer and songwriter.

  • Logic Will Break Your HeartLogic Will Break Your HeartThe Stills
    If you know me, you know that I love the shoegaze sound. Though its time has passed (by at least 2 decades), its effects still trickles through music of today. When I first heard Logic, I feel deeply and madly in love. Such an understated and brilliant album; that I listen to repeatedly still.
  • Daisies of the GalaxyDaisies of the Galaxy eels
    The context of the album is this: a man loses both his sister and mother within the year. Depression sets in, and the man pours himself into music; a piece of his soul left within. Its at once bitter, honest, hopeful and contemplative; while somehow managing to be highly energic and enjoyable. Some people have compared eels to Beck, but don't be fooled, eels have actual substance, on top of musical talent.
  • FuneralFuneral Arcade Fire
    Another album that nearly instantly was considered a classic, Funeral was a combination of Bowie, Talking Heads and U2 — an anthemic, quirky, bombastic and emotional force. It is a classic, and nearly an impossible debut for any band to top.

  • Our Endless Numbered DaysOur Endless Numbered DaysIron & Wine
    After Elliott Smith's death in 2003, I felt that I'd not find a singer/songwriter with the passion, subtley and depth again, but Sam Beam/Iron & Wine have managed to follow the lead (Nick Drake, et al). One feels as if they're in the darkened bedroom of the singer as he reads from his notebooks of poetry about death, family and living.

  • Rubber FactoryRubber FactoryThe Black Keys
    I was never much of a blues guy, but my friend Luke forced me to listen. Wow. They're not an unknown band any longer, but at the time I was blown away at the depth of sound and intensity two guys could make. TWO guys! An album that captures the raw energy of rock.

  • TransatlanticismTransatlanticismDeath Cab For Cutie
    Say what you want about Death Cab, this album was their last great stand against the commercializaton of their sound. There isn't any ground-breaking musical explorations, nothing that hasn't been heard; but merely a complete and masterful album.

  • A Rush of Blood to the HeadA Rush Of Blood To The HeadColdplay
    OH NO, it's Coldplay — how could I? This is a great album. Maybe you hate melody and well constructed songs that you can actually sing along to; and there are plenty of bands (that will no longer exist in 3 years) for you to listen, for me Rush was and is a brilliant album; that knocked U2 off the pop king-of-the-hill.

  • TakkTakk...Sigur Ros
    I don't have a clue what is being sung on any of the songs, which makes the album that much more lush and gorgeous. The mystery and ambiance that transports you to another timen and another place — like entering a world painted by Mark Rothko.

  • Fleet FoxesFleet FoxesFleet Foxes
    You are lost along the Appalachian Trail in the early spring. The sun has set and the crickets began their songs.  Through the dense thicket of undergrowth you see the glowing light of a fire and the subtle smells of smoke waft your way, followed by music that could only be sung men grown in the bark of fallen birch and pine. Soothing, haunting. This is Fleet Foxes.

  • Vampire WeekendVampire WeekendVampire Weekend
    Take Paul Simon, throw in early Police and shake it up with an ivy league sportcoat and you end up with Vampire Weekend. College frat boys with a sharp wit, knack for

  • Ghosts of the Great HighwayGhosts of the Great HighwaySun Kil Moon
    I've been a fan of Mark Kozelek since his days in Red House Painters (in the early 90s) and Sun Kil Moon managed to take his slo-core sensibilities and meld them with folk/pop accents into a timeless story, blanketed with ghosts and sadness.


Honorable Mentions




Comments for "Obligatory Best Of The Decade: Music"

I am a bit surprised that you didn't mention Andrew Bird anywhere in this list! Of course I don't know you, but judging by your taste of music I'd think you'd be into him... hmm...

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