While I think that the late1990s and early years of this decade failed music fans, the latter half of this decade really shone in terms of music; independent artists rose up and took back the medium with full-force, retro sounds were a ramped thread in several albums, and superstars from prior decade like Green Day, Pearl Jam and the Red Hot Chili Peppers truly owned the decade with their most challenging and inventive records yet. A poor economy, a bizarre and unpleasant meshing of church and state, a pointless war and a president who quickly became Enemy No. 1 were all muses it seemed, for singers and musicians and overall, I’d say that this decade produced some of the finest, most important songs and albums since the grunge movement.
I’m going to name (in ten incriments) my 50 favourite albums of the decade (mostly in no particular order). These albums are not necessarily the “best”, but they’re the ones that most impacted my life and my search for meaning in my universe.
50. The Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium. While not as commercially successful as Californication or the 90s’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, this album cemented the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ place among the BEST mainstream rock acts in years. The star of Stadium is obviously John Frusciante, whose compelling guitar work makes a dynamic move into the forefront of the band’s offerings. Songs like Readymade KILL while Slow Cheetah, Strip My Mind and Wet Sand remind you of what it’s like to BE killed. Both discs on this superb double-album are winners from start to finish. While an edit COULD be proposed, this album is a reminder of what can happen when three incredibly talented mature musicians and one of rock’s most interesting frontmen get together and make music in uncertain times. I’ve recently learned that this will be the Chili Peppers’ last album with Frusciante and it will definitely be one of the decade’s grandest swan songs.
49. Coldplay – Viva La Vida. The world first heard Coldplay’s best track ever, Yellow at the very beginning of the decade, and the gorgeous tune only peaked at #5 on the Canadian charts before sliding away. #1 that week? Butterfly by Crazy Town. As the decade wore on however, Coldplay rose to the top of not just the charts, but the world both commercially and artistically. Viva La Vida, their last album of the decade was one of their best. Like Green Day’s American Idiot, the album features talk of revolution and upheaval, social consciousness being a constant in Coldplay’s amazing repetoire. But the reason this record means so much to me (other than seeing it performed live in what was the best concert of the year, the summer, the decade and thus far, my life) is quiet romantic odes like Strawberry Swing and darkly beautiful ballads like Violet Hill. Songs that remind me of what it means to be a human, a music fan, and a person in their twenties growing into a REAL adult in a world of faulty romances, disappointing governments and personal perpetual heartbreaks.
48. Alexi Murdoch – Time Without Consequence. Summertime, 2006. I was still incredibly hopeful that the then-love of my life would come back to me, I was hopeful that my days would pass by more quickly, I was hopeful that my world would be revolutionized by all that my first-ever writing class had brought me. And then, I was offered a job wit the university, went to the city for a week of training, and discovered this record and all of its acoustic, lyrically-blessed glory. Murdoch has done little since this album (though apparently, he may release something new in 2010) but he hasn’t needed to. He has written an all-time CLASSIC song, the kind of son that will surely be covered by future generations of singers simply because of the song’s everlasting beauty. That song is Orange Sky, and while the other songs on this album challenge me, make me cry, make me think, make me remember a simpler time in my life, it’s Orange Sky that is truly a memorable and essential song of the 2000’s for me.
47. Cat Power – The Greatest. I was slightly late in jumping on the Cat Power bandwagon, but I’m glad I did. Chan Marshall’s amazing voice and her dreamy yet oddly hopeless songs really resonate with the hopeless dreamer in me and the ways in which she tells her stories are saddening, maddening and so personal, that by the end I feel like I know Marshall and can step into her views of what it’s like to be alive. The funny thing about the album is that the title seems uncharacteristically egotistical, until you hear the title track (and my favourite track on the album). Another phenomenal gem is Hate is a strangely bouncy alt-country “fuck you” to… anything and/or everything. And worth mentioning too is Love and Communication, a full-sounding rock ballad trimmed with a driving section and a retro organ, that helps you feel the urgency of Power’s message. Stunning.
46. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans. I think Death Cab for Cutie is unfairly criticized; it seems after being championed by The O.C‘s Seth Cohen, the indie world turned their backs on this band, simply due to drama-loving teeny boppers and mopey junior high-aged emo kids suddenly busting out Transatlantacism. Yet, despite that stigma (and conversely, more positive hype surrounding the band’s earliest efforts) the music of Death Cab never really resonated with me. Until hearing Plans. Yeah — on occasion, I buy albums due to either snob-appeal or media hype. And this was a case of the latter. I bought it at HMV, put it on my discman, and walked home. The first song on the album, Marching Bands of Manhattan starts with ethereal keyboards and Gibbard breaks the trance with “if I could open my arms and span the length of the isle of Manhattan/I’d bring it to where you are”. I was instantly smitten. The song swells to a slamming high-energy chorus with shredding guitars. It grows and grows until it reaches a kind of climax in which all of the song’s instruments work together to create this painted masterpiece. And that’s just the beginning. As the album progresses, there is a plethora of emotion, variety, experimentation, incredible lyrics… and by the last notes of the calming Stable Song, a song in which Gibbard states “it’s time for the final bow”, I was aware that I was hearing an instant classic.
45. The Fratellis – Costello Music. Usually, the kinds of albums that deeply affect me aren’t “fun” or “racuous” or whatever, but more subtle, calming and alluring through their whispering screams. However, Costello Music is one of Scotland’s finest exports of the decade, because it’s — well, fun and racuous. When I first heard Flathead in an ipod commercial (Mac introduces the world to so many hidden gems it seems), I was totally in love with it; its catchy hand-clappable energetic dirty sound was something that could easily soundtrack that summer. When I purchased the album, the first B-side that instantly grabbed me was Chelsea Dagger, a song essentially about not much, but mindless partying, a sly sexy girl, and a lot of clapping, drumming and “do do do”‘s. And the best part about it, is that it doesn’t really need anything else. An opening line like “well you must be a girl with shoes like that” sets you up for the rest of the frat boy antics to follow. Are they parodying the Ramones with their fake Itlian family shtick? Or emulating them? Whatever the case, I love every minute of this motherfucking badass catchy drinking album. It’s one of the most fun records of the decade by far.