Tate Williams

MRCHAIR’S BEST MUSIC OF THE DECADE

Tate Williams January 19, 2010

Originally posted on Mrchair

Part II, Positions 10-1

10. TV On The Radio, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
Song: Staring at the Sun
I really like every record they’ve put out, and their sound keeps getting more polished and sophisticated. But there’s something about that first set of songs I heard from TVOTR that was such a simple combination of sounds that was so unique. The words are touching and powerful, gospel-sounding but also relevant and current. Every time I hear “You were my favorite moment / of our dead century.”

9. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
Song: Skinny Love
This might have been higher up on the list. Maybe it should have been. I can’t really put a finger on why I hesitate. But two years of listening to Bon Iver, and this record is just as beautiful as when I first heard it. And when I saw him live, the audience was totally mesmerized and dead silent during songs. I can’t wait to see where his career goes.

8. The Weakerthans, Reconstruction Site
Song: Plea From a Cat Named Virtue
Couldn’t honor the decade without a little emo (where’s the Jimmy Eat World on this bullshit list!). The cat song alone puts this record in the top ten. Once in Portland I got to a venue too late with my friend Jason and missed The Weakerthans and The Arcade Fire. That may be one of my biggest regrets. John K. Samson writes the happiest songs, with the most tearjerking lyrics.

7. Death Cab For Cutie, Transatlanticism/The Postal Service, Give Up
Song: Transatlanticism/The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Total b.s. that I put these into one spot. But it’s my list. Mine. And these came out at the same time, and Ben Gibbard hit his stride. These two albums were indie rock defined in 2003. Perfect pop songs deconstructed.

6. Calexico, Hot Rail
Song: Service and Repair
My favorite band had to make the top 10. It really could have been a few of their records in this spot, Feast of Wire, even the limited release Aerocalexico. But to me, Hot Rail has always been their defining sound. The spooky mix of Mariachi, Morricone and country rock. It’s there in all of their music, but they set the stage for something special in Hot Rail.

5. Radiohead, Kid A
Song: Everything In Its Right Place
I fully admit to being one of those Radiohead fans who wanted more of The Bends, and put in Kid A, and thought what the fuck is this. But like most of those fans, I’ve come to appreciate it for what it was, a breakthrough for what a rock album could be, and a victory for a band with a scary amount of courage and vision.

4. Elliott Smith, From a Basement on the Hill
Song: King’s Crossing
It’s impossible to talk about Elliott Smith without talking about his death, just as it’s impossible to talk about this album without the fact that he killed himself before it could be finished. Neither fact is irrelevant to the musician or the music. But had he lived, it could have been high watermark on a long and amazing career. He didn’t, so we’re left with a beautiful finale to a body of work by a musician with a deep, sad heart.

3. The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
Song: Citrus
Dark, dark stories, set to catchy rock anthems, by musicians who love rock and roll as much as the people they play for. I love this band. I love this record. I love every song on it, and I’ve heard them all a thousand times. Go to The Hold Steady for rock salvation, and you will be saved.

2. Modest Mouse, The Moon & Antarctica
Song: 3rd Planet
2000 set a really high bar for the rest of the decade. Modest Mouse set a really high bar for indie rock that was to follow, including their own. Catchy, but not pop, cause you can’t play a sprawling 9-minute fairy tale on the radio. Vocals that screech like punk, disco bass lines, slacker emo lyrics with just enough sneer to not be sappy. Also, a childlike sincerity that seemed to signal that it was time to move past the cynicism of the 90s.

1. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Song: Jesus, Etc.
You could put aside the story that led to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s release, but everyone likes a good story. The way Wilco escaped their single-hungry label to put out a game-changing record might just be the story of the decade in music. Wilco created a fairytale for musicians about artists ripping apart their sound and creating something entirely new, a little scary, and so good that record executives couldn’t put a price tag on it. It established Wilco as avant garde icons, and summed up the budding irrelevance of the recording industry. But none of that enters my head when I push play and hear “I am an American aquarium drinker,” and listen to it all the way through, excited for each song as it starts. It’s so much more than a great story; it’s my favorite record of the last ten years.

And then a whole bunch of others I left off on purpose or by accident … Arcade Fire, White Stripes, Ratatat, Neko Case, Animal Collective?!, Outkast, JayZ, Sigur Ros, Fuck Buttons, Okkervil River!, Bjork, Bright Eyes, LCD Soundsystem, Sufjan Stevens, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, Kanye West, MIA, Flaming Lips and on and on and on … what great music.

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