Originally posted on mrchair.
Part I, Positions 20 through 10.
Sick of lists yet? No? Well okay then. Here are my 20 favorite albums of the decade. I struggled to write, and especially to order, a list like this, mainly because if there was one signature theme in the music of the decade, it was proliferation. It was the decade that saw technology cut free all things, but particularly music, from the bonds of corporate distribution. Napster, Myspace, Radiohead, Wilco, Dangermouse, Pitchfork. The seams burst and good music was everywhere. For the first time in history, artists could successfully and legitimately create and distribute music without the aid of … anyone. It was the decade of the mp3 and the blog. Lo-fi met hi-tech. It was the decade of Do It Yourself. As a result, there are dozens of albums on the same tier in my mind. Many could be anywhere on this list, and many I just plain forgot. And I left out some great ones just because I was tired of hearing about them. I’m going to do 20 picks to milk this stupid decade for all it’s worth.
20. Burial, Untrue
Song: Etched Headplate (mp3)
One dude with a PC. This guy was actually recording for two years anonymously. And he managed to move an already forward-thinking genre of dubstep even further, and with mainstream appreciation.
19. Lil’ Wayne, Tha Carter III
Song: Let the Beat Build
There is a dearth of hip hop in my list, partly due to my general dissatisfaction with commercial rap, partly due to my ignorance of underground rap. And while I like artists like The Coup and Dead Prez, I don’t really love them. Lil Wayne is definitely one of those that crossed all of these lines. The hype is actually an understatement of how original and entertaining this record is.
18. The Streets, Original Pirate Material
Song: Weak Become Heroes
Let’s Push Things Forward, Mike Skinner says. A Grand Don’t Come For Free may be a superior musical accomplishment, but Original Pirate Material pushed things forward big time, without a big-time producer.
17. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals
Song: Set It Off (mp3)
DIY, seeing a pattern here? When he wasn’t a biomedical engineering student, Greg Gillis was in clubs assaulting the very idea of copyright. Begging for a lawsuit, his collages of ripped off music make a clear point: Music isn’t property, everything is derivative, and art is more than the sum of its parts. I like Set It Off’s use of Paranoid Android better than I like Paranoid Android.
16. The National, Boxer
Song: Apartment Story (video)
Kind of a sleeper, Boxer to me is the perfect music of city life. I have a weird feeling that they gain in production what they lack in musical genius. But either way, the piano intro of Fake Empire gives me a warm feeling every time. One of the most comforting, warm listens of the decade.
15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever To Tell
Yes, I am totally contradicting my 2009 list, where I say It’s Blitz is a better album. Oh well. I listened to it the other day and changed my mind. Maps is in the top 3 songs of the decade.
14. Rogue Wave, Descended By Vultures
Song: Love’s Lost Guarantee
Zach Schwartz started the band after he lost his job in the dot com bust. If that’s not the perfect origin for a band of the last decade, I don’t know what is. Flawless indie-pop with hooks that make you want to listen to it every morning. I always thought this band was way under-recognized.
13. Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavillion
Song: Summertime Clothes
See 2009 critique. I’m not going to repeat myself.
12. Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career
Again, I’m a busy man, and don’t have time to make the same points I just did a few weeks ago.
11. Rufus Wainwright, Release the Stars
Song: Between My Legs
This is as much a vote for all of Rufus’ albums leading up to Release the Stars, but his sister Martha called his latest record his “accidental masterpiece.” Rufus Wainwright doesn’t do anything particularly unique (singer-songwriter, piano-playing crooner), but somehow is making music different than anything out there.
Stay tuned for 10-1!