I’ve always been a list maker. Most nerds are, and certainly, most music nerds are. We can’t help it.
What is it about music that lends itself to list making? I think most music fans have a tough time talking about music with non-fans. And by non-fans, I mean casual listeners. Those are the folks who wouldn’t even consider making a list of their favorite albums of the decade.
We make lists for those people. They might not want to hear us ramble on about the differences between early and late-era Belle & Sebastian (anyway, those differences are so obvious, what would be the point?) but anyone can read a list. And every now and then, you turn someone on to a new band. And that always feels good. It’s not done to justify our own tastes, but to share something that someone else may have never discovered.
But as noble as that sounds…we really make these lists for our fellow nerds. Who else is going to read through the whole thing? Sometimes, even hardcore music fans have a hard time talking to each other. The quickest and best way to get a feel for someone’s tastes is by rattling off a list. “High Fidelity” has made this more acceptable, so thanks, Nick Hornby.
Undoubtedly, a few 2009 albums released during the latter part of this year won’t make this list, though they might on a future, revamped version. For instance, I really dig the new Islands and Arctic Monkeys albums so far, but they were released too late to make a mark.
One more thing. This is a list of personal favorites, not an attempt at a definitive list. But then, that should be obvious, right? It’s more fun that way.
100. The New Pornographers – Electric Version (2003)
“It came out magical, out from blown speakers”
99. Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping (2008)
“My lover, I’ve been donating time to review, all the misinterpretations that define me and you“
Along with Spoon, these two bands appear most on the countdown. But if you were to ask me if any of these three groups were my favorites of the decade, they wouldn’t come to mind first.
Electric Version is my least favorite New Pornographers album, which is to say, it’s a very, very good album. You know how people love Weezer’s blue album because it was near-perfect power-pop? Well, we can enjoy the New Pornographers now, folks. I love “My Name Is Jonas” as much as the next guy, but let’s get with the times.
Skeletal Lamping is definitely flawed. There are plenty of Of Montreal fans who don’t even care for this album. It’s disjointed and messy. An alter ego is involved. So, no, it’s far from perfect, but it’s always a fun listen. There’s far more to be discovered here than in albums that barely missed making the list.
The New Pornographers – “The Laws Have Changed”
Of Montreal – “Id Engager”
98. Beck – Sea Change (2002)
“These days I barely get by…I don’t even try”
Beck’s best of the decade is a fine album, sure, but what happily married man is going to plumb these depths often? For the heartbroken and lone wolves.
Beck – “The Golden Age” (live)
97. Franz Ferdinand – You Could Have It So Much Better (2005)
“So I’m sorry if I ever resisted, I never had a doubt you ever existed, I only have a problem when people insist on taking their hate and placing it on your name”
At first, I really thought this was better than the group’s debut. I thought it was more consistent. Maybe that’s true, but as good as “The Fallen” is, this doesn’t quite grab me like the self-titled album. “Eleanor Put Your Boots On,” is quite lovely, though. FF should do more of that sort of thing.
Franz Ferdinand – “The Fallen” (live)
96. Spoon – Girls Can Tell (2001)
“Everything hits at once, what we needs is just what we wants”
“Everything Hits At Once” might be my favorite Spoon song. It’s just so cool. It makes me want to take a lonely walk through a city. Any city. It’s even a better walking song than “Take a Walk.” You can’t go wrong with buying any album Spoon has released this decade.
Spoon – “Lines in the Suit”
95. Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
“She was all right because the sea was so airtight, she broke away”
Interpol doesn’t necessarily seem like a band I would like. The group is like its own Stella character: always down. But I dug the intensity, and the guitars. And the ‘pol, as I’ve never called ‘em before, tapped into the right mood at the right time.
Interpol – “Obstacle 1″
94. Bob Dylan – Modern Times (2006)
“We live and we die, we know not why, but I’ll be with you when the deal goes down”
This late period Dylan stuff is a revelation. Not that it’s anywhere near the best stuff of his career, but it’s really spectacular from a guy in his 60s, even if it is Dylan in his 60s. Especially if we’re talking about Modern Times. Dylan’s lyrics turn something old into something new. Something timeless.
Bob Dylan – “When The Deal Goes Down” (live)
93. Ben Folds - Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001)
“25 years, he’s worked at the paper, a man’s here to take him downstairs…and I’m sorry, Mr. Jones..it’s time”
Ben Folds doesn’t get much critical respect, but then again, what young piano men really do these days? I still think Rockin’ the Suburbs is the best thing he’s ever done. It’s accomplished songwriting, but it’s not dull. (Can’t say the same for the follow-up album.) “Fred Jones Part 2″ is killer. It plays to his strengths – solid melody and honest, heartfelt lyrics.
I think where Folds gets in trouble is on a song like “The Luckiest,” which people adore. I like it, too. It’s a really sweet love song. But one part always bothers me. He goes into a verse about how an old man passes away, and his widow passes away days later. It’s touching. But he can’t just leave it at that. In the next part, he sings, “I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong…” C’mon, don’t apologize. That’s unnecessary. I mean, Morrissey never sang, “And if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die….I know that’s a bit weird.”
Ben Folds – “Fred Jones Part 2″ (with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra)
92. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (2008)
No lyrics for this one. They’re all taken from other songs. It’s no wonder that music nerds love Girl Talk. We can play “spot the sample” whilst gettin’ down. And Gregg Gillis doesn’t discriminate. Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” over The Guess Who’s “These Eyes?” Money. P-burgh represent!
Girl Talk – “Set It Off”
91. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain (2006)
“I was a lover, before this war”
TV on the Radio’s Young Liars EP sounded like the future, but Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes never really fulfilled that promise. Return to Cookie Mountain did. The songs felt whole, the album more self-assured – an experimental rock band became a rock band that experimented.
TV on the Radio – “Wolf Like Me” (live)