Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The 50 Albums of the Decade

As promised, I’ve compiled my favorite albums of the “noughties” or whatever the powers that be have decided to call this decade. The original compact I had with my friends specified that each of us come up with a top 20 of the decade. Really, this was an incredibly hard exercise, so I had to start somewhere. So, obviously, I’ve erred on the side of caution, mostly because leaving so many worthy albums out just felt wrong to me. Thus, I’ve listed my top 50 for the decade by year, leaving aside the rankings of the top 10 or 20 for another post, which I hope to post with some reasoning behind my selections in the coming days (providing thoughts on 50 albums is even to time consuming for someone currently on stay-cation).

In retrospect, this last decade has been an incredibly fertile one for the type of music that I enjoy most. I know that this list should probably have some hip hop on it, notably Kanye West and Outkast (among others), but as I’m only a casual listener to the genre, I don’t feel qualified to judge.

2000
Kid A – Radiohead
Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams

2001
Is This It? – The Strokes
White Blood Cells – White Stripes
The Tyranny of Distance – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
Microphones – The Glow Pt 2
Gorillaz – Gorillaz

2002
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco
Turn on the Bright Lights – Interpol
Kill the Moonlight – Spoon
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots – The Flaming Lips
Source Tags and Codes – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

2003
Transcendentalism – Death Cab for Cutie
You Forgot It in People – Broken Social Scene
Meadowlands – The Wrens
Give Up – The Postal Service
Mass Romantic – The New Pornographers
Decoration Day – Drive-by Truckers
Fever to Tell – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Chutes to Narrow – The Shins

2004
Funeral – Arcade Fire
Bows & Arrows – The Walkmen
Our Endless Numbered Days – Iron & Wine
The Tigers Have Spoken – Neko Case

2005
Set Yourself On Fire – Stars
The Decline of British Sea Power – British Sea Power
Separation Sunday – The Hold Steady
Silent Alarm – Bloc Party
Takk – Sigur Ros
Apologies to the Queen Mary – Wolf Parade
C’mon Feel the Illinoise - Sufjan Stevens
The Woods – Sleater Kinney
Z – My Morning Jacket
Picaresque – The Decemberists

2006
Alligator – The National
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not – Arctic Monkeys
Return to Cookie Mountain – TV on the Radio
Boys and Girls in America – The Hold Steady

2007
Person Pitch – Panda Bear
Sound of Silver – LCD Soundsystem
The Flying Club Cup – Beirut
Boxer – The National
Neon Bible – Arcade Fire
All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone – Explosions in the Sky

2008
In Rainbows – Radiohead
For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver

2009
Middle Cyclone – Neko Case
Meriwether Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
Vecktamist – Grizzly Bear
Rated O – Oneida

Once I had dropped each album into yearly buckets, some patterns began to emerge. Some confirmed some ideas I had before I came into this exercise (2005 and 2009 were great years for music). Others surprised me (I didn’t think 2003 and 2007 would stack up so well).

The sharp-eyed among you will notice quite a bit of jostling from my original yearly rankings, which I’ve been doing for half of the decade. All I can say to that is, well, things change at every moment you think of things in this way. Looking at it now, I seriously underestimated Neko Case’s album from this year(!), not to mention my original ranking of In Rainbows.

Well the base list is out there. While you're waiting with baited breath on the actual rankings of the top 10 or 20, what do you think? What have I gotten totally wrong? What albums have I missed?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

America at the Bat: thoughts on baseball and culture. (via Sportsfilter)

My Year in Cities 2009

I'm shamelessly stealing this idea from kottke.org. Here are the cities/places I visited in 2009:

Moline, IL*
Davenport, IA*
San Francisco, CA
Fenton, MI
Minneapolis, MN*
Raphine, VA

The rules: one or more nights had to be spent in each place. Those cities marked with an asterisk (*) were visited multiple times. It feels like I did a lot more travelling than that this year, but working on the road will do that to you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Top 20 Albums of 2009

It's the end of the year again--the end of a fabulous year in music. While I think the lower end of this list probably could stand some tweaking, time is running out. There are five more albums that I think could fit on this list; particularly the albums put out by The Low Anthem, St. Vincent, Passion Pit, Micachu & the Shapes, and Bat for Lashes. [Ed. Note: That was a sneaky way of getting them in there anyway.]

But the deal this year was 20 albums, so here goes. The write-ups this year will be briefer than normal, since I'm also spending a good bit of time ranking the best 40 albums of the noughties, which is a tremendously difficult task. Look for a post or a series of posts to drop sometime next week on that one.

Obviously, this list reflects my own personal tastes and opinions. For example, I don't listen to a lot of hip hop, so it naturally wouldn't make it into this list (though it has in the past).

When the Animal Collective album came out in January, I said then that it would probably be my album of the year, and lo and behold, that distinction held. There's not a weak track on the album, and "My Girls" could be a candidate for song of the year.
  1. Merriweather Post Pavilion - Animal Collective
  2. Veckatamist – Grizzly Bear
  3. Rated O – Oneida
  4. Hospice – The Antlers
  5. Logos – Atlas Sound
  6. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix
  7. Post Nothing – Japandroids
  8. Wind’s Poem – Mount Eerie
  9. The xx – The xx
  10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  11. Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors
  12. Dark Was the Night – Various Artists
  13. A Brief History of Love – The Big Pink
  14. Dragonslayer – Sunset Rubdown
  15. Middle Cyclone – Neko Case
  16. It’s Blitz! – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  17. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
  18. Blood Bank – Bon Iver
  19. Know Better Learn Faster– Thao with the Get Down Stay Down
  20. Hometowns – The Rural Alberta Advantage
Update: Massive senior moment alert. I totally forgot Reservoir by Fanfarlo. This would certainly make my top 20, but at which album's expense? Let's just say I'll call it tied at 19th or 20th.

2010 looks to be a good year as well, with new albums from Arcade Fire, Spoon, Liars, TV on the Radio, Interpol, Wolf Parade, and Magnetic Fields all in the works.