Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Favorite Albums of the Oughties

Following after my smash hit Top 100 Songs from the Oughties, here are my favorite albums from the same era. Albums are tougher. They have to hold together from beginning to end, which was easier when we had vinyl and were limited to 45 minutes or so. The advent of the CD was great for those artists who had more than 45 minutes of good material for an album but the vast majority don't have more good songs and this led to a lot of musical wanking and second-rate songs. The advent of the iPod has made this worse as artists can put out anything they want of virtually any length and now we have lots of garbage floating around. Nevertheless, there are some artists who still produce good full-length "albums" (to use a rapidly irrelevant term). Here are my picks, a total of 87 as I just couldn't come up with 100 that held together completely.


  • Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabeté, The Heart of the Moon
  • Amadou & Mariam, Dimanche à Bamako
  • Andrew Bird, Noble Beast
  • Ani DiFranco, Revelling/Reckoning
  • Arcade Fire, Funeral – If I actually ranked these choices, this would probably be my number one. Sweeping, uplifting music executed with love and enthusiasm (and a wide variety of instruments), dark and haunting lyrics, sudden tempo and style changes: this album restored my faith in rock.
  • Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
  • Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast
  • Band of Horses, Everything, All the Time
  • Beck, Guero
  • Beck, Sea Change – One of the best collections of songs about love ending I’ve ever heard.
  • Belle & Sebastian, Dear Catastrophe Waitress
  • Bjork, Vespertine
  • Bob Dylan, Love and Theft
  • Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
  • Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene
  • Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People – This is another one that would appear near the top of my list.
  • Cat Power, The Greatest
  • Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head
  • Cowboy Junkies, Open
  • Dashboard Confessional, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar
  • The Decemberists, The Crane Wife - You’ve got to love a band who chooses to make an old Japanese folk tale the centerpiece of its major label debut.
  • The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love – You’ve got to give even more love to a band whose second album for a major label is a concept album with an English theme, an evil witch, a magical faun, and a rake who kidnaps the heroine after murdering his own children.
  • Dresden Dolls, Yes, Virginia
  • FanFarLo, Reservoir
  • Feist, The Reminder
  • Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine – I’ll never understand why Sony took so long to release this album. It sure didn’t seem that non-commercial to me. 
  • Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
  • Franz Ferdinand, s/t
  • The Glands, The Glands
  • Green Day, American Idiot – A rock opera, from a band that used to disdain songs over two minutes. And a good rock opera at that. Perfectly captures the angst of the Bush era.
  • Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
  • Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova , Once Soundtrack – This movie could have been such a cliché but they managed to avoid that. The songs match the movie and vice versa, as a good soundtrack should.
  • Interpol, Turn On the Bright Lights
  • Interpol, Antics
  • Iron & Wine, The Shepherd’s Dog
  • Mark Isham, Bird York and Stereophonics, Crash Soundtrack– Two great songs (York’s “In the Deep” and The Stereophonics “Maybe Tomorrow” wrapped around Isham’s beautiful and atmospheric use of Rai singing – a perfect accompaniment to the film.
  • Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
  • Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around
  • Josh Ritter, The Animal Years
  • Josh Ritter, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
  • Kathleen Edwards, Failer
  • Lori McKenna, Bittertown
  • M. Ward, Post-War
  • The Mammals, Evolver
  • Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News
  • My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges
  • My Morning Jacket, Z
  • Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood– An album of perfectly executed character portraits and environmental concerns, presented by Neko’s suddenly more subtle foghorn of a voice and a kind of music that meets the cliché of “timeless.”
  • The New Pornographers, Electric Version
  • The New Pornographers, Mass Romantic
  • The New Pornographers, Twin Cinema
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, No More Shall We Part
  • Paul Simon, Surprise
  • Pinetop Seven, Bringing Home the Last Great Strike
  • PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
  • The Postal Service, Give Up
  • Radiohead, Kid A
  • Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope
  • Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous
  • Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo y Gabriela
  • Ron Sexsmith, Cobblestone Runways
  • Ryan Adams, Gold
  • Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker
  • Sarah Harmer, You Were Here
  • Sigur Rós, Meo suo í eyrum vio spilum endalaust
  • Sigur Rós, ( )
  • Soundtrack of Our Lives, Behind the Music
  • Spiritualized, Let It Come Down
  • Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • Spoon, Gimme Fiction
  • Starsailor, Love Is Here
  • Stereolab, Margerine Eclipse
  • Sting, If On a Winter’s Night - Sting hasn’t been on my radar screen in years but we just happened upon a PBS special on this album and I was quite taken. I love the concept of a winter album (as opposed to a Christmas album) and he perfectly captures the combination of somberness and joy that makes up winter.
  • The Strokes, Is This It?
  • Sufjan Stevens, Michigan
  • Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
  • Tarbox Ramblers, A Fix Back East
  • Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards
  • Toumani Diabate, The Mandé Variations
  • TV on the Radio, Dear Science
  • U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind
  • The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
  • Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  • Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
  • Yo La Tengo, I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Kick Your A**

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