Thursday, December 3, 2009

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

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)

30. Beulah: 'The Coast Is Never Clear'
Neither very Elephant 6 or lo-fi sounding as with previous efforts, this polished piece, in my opinion, is their magnum opus. The lyrics are sharp and humorous, and the music is pure pop. Too bad it was released on 9/11. Perhaps it could have been a bigger hit. I have heard songs from it piped into "dude" clothing stores. So, they have that going for them.

29. Webb Brothers: 'Maroon'
With the theme of late-night swingers and barflies, the sons of Jimmy Webb created lush orchestration and beautiful harmonies to describe a pretty depressing life of hooking up with strange women and drowning sorrows in all sorts of intoxicants. I liked their previous record, 'Beyond the Biosphere', a bit better, but this effort is right there.
The Webb Brothers - The Liar's Club (mp3)

28. Preston School of Industry: 'All This Sounds Gas'
Critics didn't like this one much (or anything by Spiral Stairs, for that matter), but this was one of my favorites from 2001. I agree with the critics on just about everything else he has produced, but this one is worth another listen.
Preston School of Industry - Whalebones (mp3)

27. David Bowie: 'Reality'
Although he is nearly my favorite artist, I'm the first to admit the previous decade was a lost one for Bowie. This decade wasn't particularly prolific, but both records from the 2000s were quite good. It is, in no small part, due to teaming up with one of his old producers and friends, Tony Visconti. Has it really been six years since we had a new record?

26. Wondermints: 'Mind If We Make Love to You'
They are known more as Brian Wilson's brilliant backing band, but Wondermints have had a few excellent power-pop albums during their sporadic career. This is their sole contribution to the decade (sans Wilson). Actually, I just remembered Wilson makes a guest appearance on the record. Never mind.

25. Brendan Benson: 'Lapalco'
Benson's bad contract with Virgin cost listeners several lost years between 'One Mississippi' in 1996 and this brilliant followup in 2002. The power-pop genius seems to finally be getting his due now (thanks to his exposure in The Raconteurs), but this is his best solo work and is much better than anything he did with Jack White.

24. Phoenix: 'Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix'
The best French export since brie absolutely exploded in 2009 with this one. If I did this list a year from now, I imagine this record would be ranked much higher. As a longtime fan that thinks they have done better work, perhaps I'm creating my own personal backlash. Cadillac commercials and 'SNL' appearances aside, the bottom line is there wasn't a better album all year.

23. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: 'Clap Your Hands Say Yeah'
Do you remember the Internet buzz around this band in 2005? Well, I bought it hook, line and sinker. I rooted for them as they recorded, produced and released an absolute stunner all by themselves. As often happens in these situations, the excitement is gone now. The band has yet to replicate a record like this, and Alec Ounsworth is releasing solo material. I don't care. No matter what happens, they gave us a piece of work to place beside Talking Heads and Neutral Milk Hotel.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Upon This Tidal Wave Of Young Blood (mp3)

22. Robert Forster: 'The Evangelist'
In all candor, Go-Betweens' last record, 'Oceans Apart', just missed making this list. The death of Grant McLennan hit me hard, and you can tell by this record that it hit Forster hard, too. They were working on the next Go-Betweens album when McLennan passed. Forster pressed on... and not entirely without his collaborator. "Demon Days" was written by McLennan, and he played it for Forster just before he died. Forster recorded it in his honor, and it is one of my favorite tracks of the entire decade. I'll be sure to include it on my best-tracks list next week.
Robert Forster - Pandanus (mp3)

21. Doves: 'Lost Souls'
The singles on 'Last Broadcast' are better than the singles on this 2000 effort, but this Brit-pop beauty is the better overall record. In fact, Doves never quite equalled their debut.

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