Thursday, December 3, 2009

Top 41 Albums of the Decade (#20-#11)

Before I reveal my picks, I should explain a few things. This list covers the years 2000-2009. No compilations or reissues are allowed. Although no live albums made my list, they are acceptable. EPs are OK, too. My choices are based, partly, on past year-end lists, but I weighed the number of listens recorded on my iTunes too. There are only two choices from 2009 on my list. That's because I feel recent releases need more time to breathe. How will I feel about 2009 releases even a year from now? The 2009 picks that made the cut were a little easier to judge because they came out quite a while ago, and I had the records many months before the official releases. I chose these particular mp3s because the songs will not make my best tracks of the decade list. Let the grilling begin!

Top 41 Albums of the Decade (#41-#31)
Top 41 Albums of the Decade (#30-#21)

20. Vampire Weekend: 'Vampire Weekend'
Sometimes a new record can sound so familiar and, yet, so fresh at the same time. There were some obvious comparisons to Paul Simon's work during his South Africa phase, which I love, but this highly touted debut from 2008 was full of indie cred, too. And I don't hold it against the boys that their label completely screwed me when I posted one of their songs for a few hours and immediately took it down when asked. The end result was my file-storage account was shut down anyway. Hey XL! I fart in your general direction! Now, on with the countdown.

19. The Exploding Hearts: 'Guitar Romatic'
I'm going to have to bring this list down a little bit. This Portland-based band was so punk rock and one of the bright spots of 2003. "Modern Kicks" sounded an awful lot like "Teenage Kicks", but if you're going to wear your influences on your sleeves, make sure they are as awesome as Undertones and The Clash. Tragically, not long after this debut was released, three of the four band members were killed in a van accident. "RRRRiiichchieeeee!"
The Exploding Hearts - Modern Kicks (mp3)

18. Paul McCartney: 'Chaos and Creation In The Backyard'
The consensus seems to be this record was OK but not nearly as good as the followup, 'Memory Almost Full'. I disagree. It's too bad this one will end up being remembered as a love letter to his ex-wife, Heather Mills. The truth is he produced a beautiful and understated record full of beautiful strings and heartfelt lyrics. This is particularly true with this song. Imagine where he was in his life when he recorded it.
Paul McCartney - How Kind of You (mp3)

17. The New Pornographers: 'Twin Cinema'
Of all the bands this decade, I think this one was the most productive and, overall, my favorite. All four of their records came out this decade, and each of them was an excellent piece of power pop. For once, even the listening public agreed. 'Twin Cinema' just missed cracking the Top 40 of Billboard's album chart.

16. The Pipettes: 'We Are The Pipettes'
What fun! There were several excellent girl groups resurrecting the sounds of the '60s this decade, but The Pipettes did it best because these were bad girls that weren't afraid to be brash. The Supremes would never say "leave me alone, you're just a one night stand to me".

15. David Bowie: 'Heathen'
Covering "I've Been Waiting For You" was the only misstep in an otherwise perfect record from 2002. Bringing Tony Visconti back into the fold was a godsend.
David Bowie - Slow Burn (mp3)

14. A.C. Newman: 'The Slow Wonder'
The New Pornographers are a side project that eclipsed the careers of participants Dan Bejar, Neko Case and Newman, but all three have had moments of brilliance on solo records this decade, too. I think this one is the best of that lot. Some fans, no doubt, don't even think this is Newman's best LP. Let's agree to disagree. 'The Slow Wonder' is the rare record that gets stronger with each passing song. When was the last time you heard an LP that concludes with such strength?

13. The High Llamas: 'Beet, Maize & Corn'
I never did a list like this for the '90s. If I had, The High Llamas' 'Hawaii' would have been in my Top 10. This record is quite a bit different than that one or any other High Llamas record. You won't find much Brian Wilson here. You'll find a wee bit of Burt Bacharach. There are no electronics. Everything is acoustic. It's still chamber pop, but it sounds like a record from another era. The strings and horns are straight out of 'Dangerous Liaisons'. It's quite beautiful... just not mainstream.
The High Llamas - Calloway (mp3)

12. Stephen Malkmus: 'Stephen Malkmus'
The Pavement frontman's first solo record has turned out to be the only record of his that I love from beginning to end. Malkmus has produced several good pop songs this decade (including some real stunners on the "Dark Wave EP"), but most of his albums have been chock full of jam-band qualities that have really turned me off. This is how I choose to listen to him.

11. Arcade Fire: 'Funeral'
Two things about this record still give me goose bumps. Win Butler's passionate vocals remind me of David Bowie during the build in "Heroes". The other is how much space the instrumentation seems to consume. This record feels so full. Themes of love and loss make this an exhausting listen. I mean that in the best way possible.

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