Happy New Year! Here is the next entry in the Decade’s Best Albums series. I hope you enjoy, and check back soon for the next installment!
20. We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes by Death Cab For Cutie
So many times in the past 10 years, I’ve seen Death Cab get tossed aside, as whiny, sell-out rock that stands as trendy and pointless. Yet in my estimation, every album is essential, full of vitality and strong personality. Of course, I do play favorites here. We Have the Facts is a bit more sparse than their other albums and holds an air of mysteriousness. The music isn’t quite as muscular, but the spaces work wonders, giving a real desolation and distinction.
19. Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand
You got your disco in my rock! No, you made my dance music have strong guitars! No matter what the angle, Franz Ferdinand would have been labeled relatively successful if they had only released this debut. Strong repetition and tight rhythm keep this party from falling to pieces. Of course, it helps to have a seductive lead voice and strong lyrical catch-phrases in literally every song.
18. Apologies to the Queen Mary by Wolf Parade
Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire, and Broken Social Scene have all done so much to build up the reputation of indie music in Canada. From the nation of hockey comes a very personal album, stuffed with bold noises and individuality. There are no weak links here as each song holds memorable song ideas and commentary. Yes, there are some hints of Modest Mouse in the production, but there are no other songs on this planet like “Shine a Light” and “I’ll Believe in Anything.”
17. Sea Change by Beck
To be perfectly honest, I don’t label myself as a Beck fan. I appreciate his strong songwriting skills, but I can never really claim that I enjoy everything he’s done. But then there is Sea Change. This is powerful music, with a core that aches, demands attention and support. Of course, I can’t help but feel that Nigel Godrich helped pull out this kind of performance. Similar in feel to Pavement’s Terror Twilight, this whole album captures my ears. Also, this holds a kind of personality like that of Nick Drake’s work. It’s enchanting, sad, and fantastic.
16. No One’s First and You’re Next by Modest Mouse
This has the distinction of being the only EP in the list, but this is EP only in name. It’s eight songs and over 33 minutes of brilliant Modest Mouse work. After starting the decade on two high notes, the subsequent album (We Were Dead) was a bit of a letdown. But here we find a ragtag bunch of songs that manage to shine brighter than any Mouse album since The Moon & Antarctica. The biggest problem I have with this EP isn’t even a problem: why weren’t these songs included on a proper release? Each one brims with more creativity than most of the songs from the past two real Mouse albums.
15. Boys and Girls in America by The Hold Steady
Separation Sunday may actually be a better release, but I honestly haven’t had enough time with it. I’ve had Boys and Girls for a longer period, and it’s a kind of attachment thing. Craig Finn’s distinctive voice and the nice crunchy guitars meld great story-songs, full of memorable moments and great riffs. Yes, this album really works better for lyric fans, but they’ll turn you into one after the guitars get under the skin.
14. You Forgot it in People by Broken Social Scene
If you’re looking for a sort of “greatest hits” of indie, this would be the place. Yes, it’s by one band. No, it’s not the best album of the decade. But You Forgot it in People manages to blend so many ideas and stereotypes of indie in one convenient disk. Even better: the band plays it so well. Anthems and fist pumpers have strong feeling, there are phenomenal dynamic changes, and the multiple voices are excellent. You should really get this.
13. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix
I’ve already gushed about this album in terms of this year’s best. But it’s worth noting that Wolfgang is really that good in a wider context. The pop is powerful, the tunes catchy, and the whole thing just makes me smile. And again: the first two songs are nigh-untouchable, but the rest of the album is charmingly addictive too. Get it for “Lisztomania” and “1901,” but love it forever.
12. Kid A by Radiohead
So, I feel a bit guilty placing this album so far down. After some big names (Rolling Stone, Pitchfork) determined this to be the best album of the decade, I was a bit depressed to leave my favorite band so low. But, Kid A is on my list for a reason. It’s full of innovative sounds, effortlessly brilliant construction, and some of the best intro-to-electronica most people have ever heard. And if those aren’t reason enough, please listen to hours of “regular” music before hitting “Everything in its Right Place” again. It can still give chills.
11. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire
The epic follow-up to an epic debut is bound to leave some fans disappointed. But after going through the two albums, I find Neon Bible to be on similar footing to Funeral. The sounds are a bit darker and seem to tend toward Bruce Springsteen, yet people are quick to dismiss this sequel as rubbish. But guess what: the sounds are still brilliant, and I still want to see them in concert. Taken as a pair, the two Arcade Fire albums are probably the best combo of the decade.