Welcome back to the blog ... anyone that we hadn't complete run off due to my absence since June 2nd, enjoy.
1) Outkast – Stankonia
Not sure if Andre 3000 and Big Boi knew that they had made the soundtrack for the decade when they finished this masterpiece but with a standout like Bombs over Baghdad (a full THREE YEARS before there were actual bombs… over Baghdad) this album continues to sound innovative and simply UNDENIABLE nearly a decade after its release
My personal connection: Driving to school senior year of high school, I switched back and forth between this album, Arman Van Helden’s Killing Puritans, and The Run Lola Run Soundtrack…. no I did not do ecstasty.
Where I Purchased this: Martinsville, VA Circuit City
2) Radiohead – Kid A
Chuck Klosterman’s write up of how this album predicted the September 11 attacks in his book Killing Yourself to Live is millions of times more brilliant than anything I could write… Just like Stankonia, this album could come out tomorrow and the world would be clamoring about the new musical ground that Thom Yorke and the Greenwood Brothers had broken. Idioteque and National Anthem make any mix CD sound edgy and cool.
My personal connection: On the walk back from an awkward William and Mary freshman mixer during orientation I ran into a guy who called himself DJ Project, walking back to the dorms in the rain, this douchebag talked about how much he loved this album and then sang Pyramid Song off of Amnesiac for the duration of the walk back. Go Tribe?
Where I Purchased this: Roanoke, VA Books, Strings, and Things
3) The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
Pithy Natalie Portman in Garden State commentary aside, the Shins do a really great job of being a really accessible band. 30 years ago they wouldn’t be in that douchy realm of indie rock, they’d simply be pop stars. Songs like Saint Simon and Kissing the Lipless should be loaded onto college freshmen computers in the factory.
My personal connection: My commute to Grafton Middle School for student teaching took exactly as long as this album, I would roll into the parking lot as Kissing the Lipless was restarting.
Where I Purchased this: Williamsburg, VA Plan 9 Records
4) Justin Timberlake – Justified
This album could have been 14 tracks worth of Rock Your Body and it would have made the top ten. Add one of pop music’s all time greatest Fuck You tracks in the form of Cry Me a River and it becomes increasingly clear as to why ‘N Sync was SO MUCH MORE AWESOME than the Backstreet Boys.
My personal connection: In my imminently important position as Delta Chi Formal playlist creator (read sarcasm), I don’t think I made a list that DIDN’T have Rock Your Body on it and every single time it played I recall some serious near baby making going down…. not with me of course, because I was there alone…. but with everyone else
Where I Purchased this: My final 10 CDs for Free order from BMG
5) Arcade Fire – Funeral
This was that album that spawned a million lame attempts by hipster guys to hit on hipster girls with the line, “Have you heard the new Arcade Fire?.” No? Just me? Whatever. This album is as epic as rock can get. Neighborhood’s 1-4 are the perfect indie arena rock suit and if you can listen to Wake Up and not pump your fist then you don’t have a soul. 10 years from now, these guys will be selling out stadiums.
My personal connection: There was no music listener in Williamsburg whose approbation I sought more fiercely than that of the guy with the beard at Plan 9… if you went there EVER, you know who I’m talking about… I bought this the day it came out and he gave me a strong shout out. Also, I’m a huge douche.
Where I Purchased this: Williamsburg, VA Plan 9 Records
6) The Strokes – Is This It
It sucks how much cooler the Strokes are than the rest of us. That was the aesthetic that these hip, children of privilege projected on their debut LP. As obnoxious as this is, it TOTALLY works simply because it’s impossible to call music as simple and catchy as this pretentious The opening chords of Last Nite (even though they BLATANTLY rip off Tom Petty’s American Girl) are ideal for that moment where it’s clear that you’re settling in for a long night of drinking, debauchery, and excess.
My personal connection: If you are drinking with me at Capital Ale House in Richmond and you DON’T hear this song, then it’s probably not me.
Where I Purchsed this: Charlotte, NC Borders
7) Kanye West – Late Registration
My heart says this spot belongs to the College Dropout in all of its sprawling, messy, and inconsistent glory but my head says to go with the much tighter Late Registration. I hope that Kanye’s current experimental phase hasn’t caused anyone to forget just how awesome it felt the first time you heard Gold Digger. I believe my precise reaction was OHHHH SHHHIIIIITTTT… not SHEEEEEEEEEEEET in the Senator Clay Davis tradition but SHHHHIIITTTTTTT in the way that people freak out when they see a colossal pancake block in a football game. And that isn’t even one of the three best songs on the album. For that you’ll have to listen to Drive Slow, Touch the Sky, or the Diamonds from Sierra Leone (remix) where Jay Z does in fact kill Kanye on his own song
My personal connection: Nothing beats driving an hour to buy this the day it came out (I was living in Hillsville, VA at the time and the closest record store was in the bustling metropolis of Wytheville), coming home with the giant Kanye Bear cardboard cutout in my car that I asked for at Sam Goody. And calling Goodwin, Jon, Grant, and Vida after listening to it to talk about how great it was
Where I Purchased this: Wytheville, VA Sam Goody
8) Drive by Truckers – Decoration Day
If this was a list of my favorite albums of this decade this album would be number 1…. no doubt. As it is, I’m able to put aside my personal tastes for the top 7. No matter who you are, Marry Me should be on your radar as one of the best songs of the decade but if you’re from the south.. like the real south… then Decoration Day is YOUR soundtrack
My personal connection: Listening to this for an entire weekend in the rural climes of Lee County, VA while visiting family who could have been the inspiration for any song on the album. Jon was there for this and will absolutely confirm how perfect this album was for this trip. Gives me chills just thinking about it
Where I purchased this: BMG Music Service
9) Spoon – Kill the Moonlight
The fact that top 40 music has become so homogenous and fallen so far that albums as poppy and accessible as this one are labeled “indie” rock is a true tragedy. “The Way We Get By” should have been a MASSIVE hit while “Jonathan Fisk” should be this generation’s anthem for disaffected and pissy youth.
Personal connection: My brother Reid introduced these guys to me and we listened to it in his/my (the jury is still out on this) Dodge Dynasty while Nick Farmer (one of his friends, a true man of genius) rocked out to Jonathon Fisk
Where I purchased this: Christiansburg, VA Target
10) N.E.R.D – In Search Of
This album might be the most forgotten of this list. Anything you need to know about Pharrell or the Neptunes is on his album. He saves all the best beats for himself, he loves soul, and he loves writing songs about sex. If Lapdance ISN’T the hottest song of the decade I’d LOVE to hear what is.
Personal connection: Anyone remember Streetwise? It was this street team agency that used to send out sampler CDs to anyone that signed up online so that they could distribute promo materials. The CD sampler for Lapdance hit Pulaski County High School early senior year and BLEW UP, everyone had it and everyone had the brain sticker that came with it…. it’s possible that 5414 Cougar Trail Rd. was the epicenter of the NERD fanbase.
Where I purchased this: FYE, Christiansburg, VA
11) Queens of the Stoneage – Songs for the Deaf
Josh Homme is THE underrated musical genius of this decade. Combining the Johnny Cashness of his deep snarl with thundering power chords created a great album in the form of Rated R but putting Dave Grohl behind the drum kit for the whole thing makes for a timeless album
Personal Connection: Of the many concerts I attended at the Norva while at W&M, this was the best. Hurtling down I-64E at the speed of comfort in Movie Dan’s Cougar and having my face absolutely melted off by Homme and the underrated Nick Oliveri was fantastic
Where I purchased this: Williamsburg, VA Plan 9 Records
12) Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury
These guys put the criminal in criminally underrated. Unlike Jay Z, when these guys rap about pushing weight, you actually BUY it. This album achieves where other rap albums of this decade fail… it keeps the guest appearances to a minimum and it has ONE producer giving it a unified sound that is strong without exception. And those steel drums in “Wamp Wamp”…. hot fire.
Personal connection: I think I sent the link to the pre-release mp3 “Wamp Wamp” to everyone I knew. I listened to it so loud once that the old ladies living next door to me asked me to turn it down.
Where I purchased this: iTunes
13) Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
If you listen to Wilco or are even aware of them, then you are aware of the mythology surrounding this album, Tweedy’s prescription drug addiction, getting dropped from their label, the near disintegration of the band. One thing I can’t figure out though is why people think the songs here are so strange. Tweedy maintains that familiar tremor and the songs feel like logical and brilliant extensions of those on Summerteeth. Jesus, etc. in particular never ceases to blow my mind in its beautiful simplicity.
Personal connection: I have never, ever liked Norah Jones except for one single 5 minute period. At the Get out the Vote Tour 2008 concert she closed her set by covering Jesus, etc. and earning the tiniest bit of my respect
Where I purchased this: Charlotte, NC Borders
14) Animal Collective – Merriwether Post Pavilion
2008 was such a fantastic year for music with releases from bands like Fleet Foxes, Blitzen Trapper, and Bon Iver that I was ready to be disappointed by 2009. Animal Collective made a very early retort to that. On January 8, this album was released to much fanfare, all of which was well deserved. Every track on the album sounds like a revelation and I’m pretty certain that 10 years from now I’ll be talking about how much I love “My Girls”
Personal connection: Several way too close possibly alcohol influenced sing-a-longs with Grant on an unsuccessful walk home from Avalon
Where I purchased this: eMusic
15) Jay Z – The Black Album
The Blueprint gets way more critical love but for the life of me, I don’t understand why. On this album, Jigga finally seems totally focused on the task at hand. The idea was that it was a retirement, the summation of his career all on wax. He carried this through beyond anyone’s expectations… When he says in Public Service Announcement “Please allow me to reintroduce myself” he absolutely follows through on this lofty promise. If for no other reason this album is deserving of Hall of Fame status because it reunited Rick Rubin with hip hop on album standout 99 Problems, proving to the music world what anyone with ears already knew, no matter how many Neil Diamond and System of a Down albums Rubin helms, his bread and butter is hip hop.
Personal connection: I bought this album and College Dropout on the exact same day during my senior year of college and oh what a fine day. Here is the sequence of events as I remember it…. Get home from student teaching, drive back to Newport News in a minivan to Best Buy, purchase two of the best albums of the decade, burn a party CD for a Mansion party WITH School Spirit and Change Clothes.