Welcome back to the CDP Decade In Review, and the second week of The CDP’s Top 250 Albums Of The Decade. Today begins our Top 100, which I will once again reiterate was ranked by how important the album was to me at its best possible moment. It’s impossible to do these things with any sort of uniformity and universal acceptance, so I just went with what I liked the best at any given time. It’s my list, not yours, and neither of us should pretend any differently.
Please enjoy. Let’s go.
100. The Strokes – Is This It
The Strokes came out of NYC with a huge amount of hype, and their big debut more or less delivered. Solid and memorable tracks like ‘Last Nite,’ ‘Hard To Explain’ and ‘Someday’ rocketed Is This It to major critical acclaim, topping many year-end charts for 2001.
You Must Hear – ‘Hard To Explain’
99. Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour Of Bewilderbeast
I’m always blown away by both the production and instrumentation on this album. The strings are absolutely everywhere, the song structure catchy yet disjointed, all laying out a blank canvas for artist Damon Gough to paint a masterpiece.
You Must Hear – ‘Once Around The Block’
98. Morrissey – Years Of Refusal
Probably my favorite Morrissey solo album, he cranks the distorted guitars, injects himself with some youthful exuberance and releases one of the most inspired albums of his career; much more than the doom and gloom of Ringleader Of The Tormentors.
(ONE OF MY TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2009!)
You Must Hear – ‘Something Is Squeezing My Skull’
97. Architecture In Helsinki – In Case We Die
When I saw Architecture In Helsinki (from Melbourne, Australia) in concert, I saw no less than six brilliant multi-instrumentalists in perfect harmony. Although they switched duties on nearly every track, their indie/twee/dance party was as tight as their terrific debut.
You Must Hear – ‘The Cemetery’
96. Sage Francis – A Healthy Distrust
A Healthy Distrust was my first introduction to Sage Francis, a freestyle champion rapper whos work more parallels Pinkerton than Jay-Z, featuring deeply personal lyrics about hang-ups, neurosis and paranoia. Boasting a near cult-like following, you’re either really into what this guy has to say, or are generally turned off completely. I am usually the former.
You Must Hear – ‘The Buzz Kill’
95. Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
Year Zero was quite the triumph for NIN; a band that peaked nearly 13 years earlier (has it been that long?), gathering waffling reviews since. With what seemed like a newfound purpose (a vision that was clear in the ‘concept’ nature of the album itself), Year Zero hit #2 on the charts and once again reminded us of the genius of Mr. Trent Reznor.
You Must Hear – ‘Survivalism’
94. The Killers – Hot Fuss
If there is a 21st Century code for writing the perfect rock song, The Killers have been hanging onto it for three straight albums now. Say what you want, but the dudes know how to write a freaking song. With Hot Fuss, we were hit with huge singles like ‘Somebody Told Me,’ ‘Mr. Brightside,’ ‘All These Things That I’ve Done,’ ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ and ‘Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine,’ all from the same album. If you can’t find anything to be impressed about, you’re not looking hard enough.
You Must Hear – ‘Mr. Brightside’
93. My Morning Jacket – Z
My Morning Jacket always used to tease that the reverb was treated like an additional member of the band. With Z, it was still there, just taking more of a backseat to solid, polished tracks like ‘Off The Record’ and ‘What A Wonderful Man.’ In 2005, Pitchfork awarded Z the #2 album of the year spot, trailing only Sufjan Steven’s Illinois.
You Must Hear – ‘Off The Record’
92. Pretty Girls Make Graves – The New Romance
I had avoided PGMG for as long as I could, before a friend introduced me to The New Romance, and I just dig it immediately. This is great ‘Driving to the bar/concert/party’ music, especially during a thunderstorm in some battered, rundown city that you’re sick to death of.
You Must Hear – ‘Something Bigger, Something Brighter’
91. The Format – Interventions + Lullabies
Interventions + Lullabies was our first full-length introduction to The Format; our chance to watch the evolution of singer/songwriter/vocal powerhouse Nate Ruess from indie rocker to orchestral juggernaut. An album that sort of fell through the major label cracks (much like Saves The Day’s In Reverie), it’s what we grew to expect from these guys; one supremely catchy hit after another. A little less than three years later, The Format would release Dog Problems, an album that took their songwriting to its logical (and literal) conclusion.
You Must Hear – ‘The First Single’
90. OutKast – Stankonia
The is the greatest hip-hop duo of all-time, releasing arguably their greatest album of all-time. Pulling mainstream hip-hop out of their stale and unoriginal funk (which is what Andre 3000 and Big Boi always seem to do), Stankonia hit from all angles and influences, giving us huge singles such as ‘Ms. Jackson, ‘So Fresh, So Clean’ and the timeless ‘B.O.B.,’ easily the best hip-hop track of the entire decade (not counting Andre 3000’s ‘Hey Ya!’).
You Must Hear – ‘B.O.B.’
89. Band Of Horses – Everything All The Time
The entire album is fantastic, but I’m going to focus primarily on ‘The Funeral,’ the major standout track from Everything All The Time. The first time I heard this track, much like hearing any amazing song for the first time, I was nearly overwhelmed by the personal message and distinct feeling it awakened within me, all while being transcendent for anyone to have a personal connection with, a staple of a great songwriter. Anyone who has experienced any sort of heartbreak will understand immediately what Ben Bridwell means when he yells ‘At every occasion, I’ll be ready for the funeral.’
You Must Hear – ‘The Funeral’
88. Daft Punk – Discovery
It’s sometimes hard to believe that in the nearly 17-year-long career of Daft Punk, they’ve only released three studio albums, one of which was sort of a disappointment (2005’s Human After All). I guess that’s a sign of an influential group, however; the ability to seem like you’ve been around forever, releasing a constant stream of hits and live shows to a global audience. Discovery didn’t change the world like Homework did, but it damn sure tried, showing off some of Daft Punk’s biggest and catchiest dance hits.
You Must Hear – ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’
87. M83 – Saturdays = Youth
The 2000’s was a decade of musical nostalgia, from rock bands channeling the 70’s, to electronic and hip-hop acts borrowing from the 80’s, all the way up to shoegaze and emo bands drawing influence from the fuzz-drenched guitars of the 90’s (not to mention the countless 90’s alternative bands reuniting for one last suitcase full of cash). M83 was one of those electro/shoegaze acts that drew liberally from the 80’s, but succeeded where others merely imitated. Saturdays = Youth is not a beautiful 2008 album that sounds like an 80’s album; it’s a beautiful 80’s album that hadn’t been released until 2008. At least, that’s how it feels, which makes it a triumph.
You Must Hear – ‘Kim & Jessie’
86. Longwave – The Strangest Things
Steve Schiltz’s baritone voice. The dragging-yet-shimmering guitars, vaguely reminiscent of U2. The swelling, epic choruses and positive messages throughout depressing compositions. The Strangest Things was not an album that I thought I would be into so much in 2003. You can’t argue with a flat-out good album though, and these guys are solid as can be.
You Must Hear – ‘Tidal Wave’
85. Ozma – The Doubble Donkey Disc
Ozma. Jesus, Ozma. These guys didn’t write pop-rock songs with tasty guitar licks, beautiful synth lines and three-part vocal harmonies, no. They wrote miniature rock operas, with lyrics so clever it made you sick. A band that seemed too perfect to last (which was indeed true). The Russian-influenced Doubble Donkey Disc wasn’t necessarily a ‘concept album,’ but sort of felt that way, with melodies that showed up in various songs and tie-ins peeking around every corner. All that and a rock cover of ‘Korobeiniki,’ the instrumental best known as the music from Tetris.
You Must Hear – ‘No One Needs To Know’
84. Beulah – The Coast Is Never Clear
Disciples of the wildly-influential Elephant 6 Collective, Beulah took from the sunshine pop of early Of Montreal and catchy hooks of The Apples In Stereo, and threw a blasting horn section over the top of it to create a distinct and unique (and utterly awesome) sound. Although they broke up five years ago, The Coast Is Never Clear seems to be the type of album that always feels modern in it’s 60’s attitude; begging to be re-discovered by generations of indie kids every few years or so.
You Must Hear – ‘A Good Man Is Easy To Kill’
83. Saves The Day – Sound The Alarm
One of my favorite bands of all-time, Saves The Day released four albums this decade (Stay What You Are, In Reverie, Sound The Alarm and Under The Boards), but I wanted to strongly adhere to a ‘Two Albums Max’ cap when it came to bands making my Top 250 list. Unfortunately for STD (and their fans), In Reverie became a sore spot in the band’s catalog (despite being easily their most progressive album yet), and Under The Boards still seems to me to be quite disjointed and sort of uninteresting. However, Sound The Alarm was a return to form for Chris Conley and company, featuring the group at their angriest and with the most to prove. If you were a fan of ‘early’ Saves The Day that gave up on them after In Reverie, I strongly recommend giving Sound The Alarm another spin.
You Must Hear – ‘Eulogy’
82. Beck – Guero
Can we all agree that Odelay was Beck’s greatest achievement? If that statement is true, then Guero was a major return to form for the musical chameleon known as Beck. Radio hits like ‘E-Pro’ and ‘Girl’ made Guero Beck’s highest-charting album ever, also resulting in his most listenable and memorable album in nearly a decade, which is certainly saying something.
You Must Hear – ‘Hell Yes’
81. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News
If the 90’s took Punk Rock to the mainstream, then the 2000’s took Indie Rock to the top of the heap. Well-deserving bands like The Shins, Death Cab For Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, The White Stripes and Modest Mouse all graduated into the big leagues, earning major acclaim and well-deserved worldwide success, and we all cheered them on while simultaneously wondering if this was what we really wanted as a selfish and jaded music fan. Modest Mouse could not be contained by Matador Records any longer, and with the release of Good News For People Who Love Bad News (and their decade-defining single ‘Float On’), Modest Mouse became everyone’s band, and that’s alright by me.
You Must Hear – ‘Float On’
80. The Rapture – Pieces Of The People We Love
The Rapture’s debut ushered in the way-too-short love affair with ‘Dance Punk;’ bands such as Liars, The Faint and Communique led the charge alongside of Echoes, a critical darling. So by the time that The Rapture’s sophomore effort was released, the fad was over and they needed a way to subtly re-invent themselves. What they did was similar to the way that most other bands were keeping atop the scene: they went Disco. The result is refreshing, driving and fun as hell.
You Must Hear – ‘Whoo! Alright, Yeah…Uh-Huh’
79. The Gadjits – Today Is My Day
Today Is My Day-era Gadjits were legitimately a band at the top of their game. They seemed invigorated; the brothers’ Philips snagged two amazing musicians in the form of Ehren Starks and Mike Alexander, turned their two-tone ska sound into a blistering rock-n-soul revival, and put on a live show that was unmatched by absolutely nobody for somewhere in the neighborhood of two years. Today Is My Day was truly a snapshot of a moment in time where these guys were untouchable.
You Must Hear – ‘We Were Right’
78. Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
It’s amazing to think that by the time Conor Oberst released I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning/Digital Ash In A Digital Urn in 2005, he was only 25 years old. After all, these releases were the culmination of what felt like an already-long and storied career; drawing Dylan-esque comparisons from even the most jaded of music critics. We can now look at it as merely the beginning of a new chapter for Oberst, for better or for worse.
You Must Hear – ‘First Day Of My Life’
77. The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow
When an indie band bursts onto the scene with a wildly popular and acclaimed debut album, there’s absolutely nothing harder for them to do than to go into the studio and once again capture lightning in a bottle for Album #2. The Sophomore Slump is so prevalent in recorded music that it has its own terminology. So when a band manages to pull it off and create something that isn’t complete garbage, it’s viewed as a triumph. After everyone fell in love with James Mercer and The Shins following the release of Oh, Inverted World, a collective sigh of relief was left out when Chutes Too Narrow proved to be a fitting and welcome effort.
You Must Hear – ‘So Says I’
76. Muse – Absolution
I was like most Americans when Muse’s third album made its way across the pond and melted eardrums from coast-to-coast. ‘Who are these guys?‘ and ‘Holy shit!‘ were more or less the first and only things I said for a couple of weeks afterward. The amazing musicianship. The wall of sound. The live shows. The perfect blend of prog-rock with hooks. Just a total success across the board.
You Must Hear – ‘Hysteria’
Thanks much for reading. The CDP Decade In Review continues tomorrow, as we dig in to #75-51 of the Top 250 Albums Of The Decade. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.