Sunday, December 20, 2009


Top albums of the past decade

I don't claim to be one of those kids who grew up listening to my Dad's Beatles albums. I didn't make mixed tapes that included bands like The Cure, The Velvet Underground and Nico, Depeche Mode, or Sex Pistols. I liked Tori Amos in high school. I listened to her every day (and was called a lesbian for doing so) the Smashing Pumpkins, Fleetwood Mac, and Fiona Apple. When I was sophomore in high school, I went through a period in which I listened to Three Six Mafia and Crucial Conflict only. I burned cd's for my school dance team that included some run of the mill dance music (Jock Jams anyone?) and didn't even know that music outside of pop and rock existed.

I wasn't exposed to different music genres until I moved to Chicago when I started going to shows and meeting music geeks. Tori Amos was my first concert on October 23, 2001 at the Arie Crown Theater. A troubadour named Howie Day opened for her. A few months later I saw Howie Day at The Vic Theater and a woman named Charlotte Martin opened for him. She covered The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" and I realized how much I love that song. I bought two Cure albums the next day. That summer, I attended "Curefest" in Detroit and Chicago where I discovered Interpol, Mogwai, and The Rapture. It's been a glorious music cornucopia ever since.

My journey with music for the past decade has been enlightening, thrilling, and joyous. I have bought (and “illegally” downloaded) thousands of songs and albums, been to hundreds of concerts, and bonded with numerous people over music. I am still discovering "The Greats" (have you people ever heard of this guy named James Brown? Brilliant. Though I think he beat his wife. Jesus man, keep your abuse to yourself damn it) and am grateful to be able to listen to music at any given moment. Thank you internet.

I'm not a music critic. I try to keep an open mind about all music genres (except that twangy pop country shite). I know there is so. much. music I haven't heard, so this list is probably missing some effin' great albums. My "top ten favorite albums of the past decade" list include albums that continue to have profound effects on me; they continue to surprise me each time I listen to them, they inspire me and make me excited about life!

Here they are. And guess what? This list doesn’t include Radiohead’s "Kid A"!

Arcade Fire, “Funeral”

Thanks to the discovery of Arcade Fire's “Funeral”, I was exposed to the beauty of baroque pop. The arrangement of strings and brass, combined with emotionally loaded lyrics makes this album unparalleled. It explodes with life; the angst we all experience, death, love, growing up, and tragedy. “Funeral” is so ingenious that it exposes human suffering in an enlightening way. It is not a depressing album by any means. There is no better feeling than blasting the album and singing along with it (particularly the song "Wake Up").

The Knife, “ Silent Shout”

What I like most about “Silent Shout” is that it takes me into another dimension; a dream state world that no other album has the ability to do. “Silent Shout” is such a contradictory album; It's frightening, yet danceable; timid, yet explosive; rough, yet graceful (kind of like life). The numerous voice pitches, the use of the vocoder, with the layers of synthesizers and percussion make this album complement only itself.

The Kills, “Keep On Your Mean Side”

This is raw: a female, a male, a guitar, and a drum machine. It's a gritty, bluesy, garage revival album that, like their live shows, exudes madness and desire. Hotel’s raucous guitar riffs are unusually inviting. VV’s sinister presence surfaces with addictive and compelling attitude.

Santigold, “Santogold”

This album is new wave, indie rock, and electronic: some of my favorite music genres in one! “Santogold” is a refreshing album that I can listen to from beginning to end without skipping one track. Each track is catchy in its own right, which is rare to find on an album. It is an exceptional solid album for Ms. Santigold.

Sigur Ros, ( )

Sigur Ros created an album in a language which I'm not sure exists. I find comfort in the entire enigmatic form; from its blank album booklet, to the song titles (or lack of song titles), to the album name, to the semi-language. It allows listener to tap into their imagination and create their own meaning for ( ).

Tori Amos, “Scarlet's Walk”

What would a top ten list of mine be without Tori ? “ Scarlet's Walk” is the first album of hers which the piano is not the most prominent instrument. Lyrically, it's her most ambitious work (“Carbon”, “Virginia”, “Pancake”, “Sweet Sangria”). She takes us on a journey through America where the album is surprisingly luscious and graceful considering the topics she covering (Native American genocide, the attacks on The World Trade Centers, the Religious Right continuing to lie and brainwash citizens, American Pornography, etc). The journey makes me nostalgic and hopeful. Two contradictory feelings as often times we are nostalgic because things don't seem as hopeful as they once were.

Imogen Heap, “Speak For Yourself”

The first song I heard off this album was "Hide and Seek". Holy shite. She uses a vocodor and layers the lyrics like it’s nobodies business, but the song sounds completely genuine. Track after track has innovative and audacious soundscapes. She plays all of the instruments on this album, ranging from the piano, the keytar, a hang, cello, guitar, and array mbira. Some music critics and people compare her to Tori and Sarah McLaughlin. Please don’t do this. It’s not right.

Justin Timberlake, “Futuresex/Lovesounds”

Ooh La La. If this album doesn't make you dance, I don't know what will. Not only is it dance music, but some of the best songs (“What Goes Around Comes Around” and “Lovestoned”) have rock elements to it. The album proved that Justin is more than a cog in the "boy band" era. He has some real talent and can hit a falsetto pitch pretty damn good. It's a feel-good album, a classic from a man who is a great entertainer.

Fever Ray, “Fever Ray”

This album is haunting and enchanting. On sleepless nights, I put my white ipod buds in a play this album on repeat. The Knife is a definite influence on her solo work (I guess she is one half of what makes up The Knife), but this albums explodes with much darker and enigmatic themes than "Silent Shout" or "Deep Cuts". Fever Ray is definitely in a class of it's own. It is the only album on my ipod which is labeled "unclassifiable" (my ipod did the labeling, I didn't). The use of the vocoder is probably what makes her sound so incomparable and unusual. The video that accompanies "If I had a Heart" is so frightening you won't want to stop watching it.

Neko Case, “Middle Cyclone”

The first time I heard this album in its entirety, Evelyn and I were driving on Highway 1 after an awesome weekend at Coachella Music and Arts festival. For this reason, it beat out her "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood." The arrangement of her music makes me say "Damn, this woman knows how to write a song." This album is genuinely beautiful; she has a luminous voice and her lyrics about nature are graceful and definitive. Many music critics describe Neko as a "Tour De Force". I think they are right.

MIA, “Kala”

Dudes, if I'm lost on a dessert island, I hope to God I have this album with me. (Let's pretend I have a magical record or cd player with me too). I would play this everyday, all day, and dance. I don’t know whether to categorize this album as electronic-dance, hip-hop, or pop, but it doesn’t matter. M.I.A. is bold, unrestrained, and authentic.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Fever to Tell”

A groundbreaking debut album; there is not one dud on it. One of the greatest love songs ever written is on to boot. If you don't know what song I'm talking about, Google this album, listen to it, and figure it out for yourself. Nick Zimmer’s guitar + Karen O’s seductive lyrics and voice + Chase’s drum = Rock N’ Roll.

There you have it. These lists could go on for days (especially the top ten tracks of ’09), but who has a finite list? Nobody. Not even Pitchfork.

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