I’m a little afraid that my “best of the 2000’s” album list will seem a mite predictable. I’m not the musical snob I was in my youth. If Casey was doing a best films list, I could flaunt my offbeat, obscure film knowledge a bit. [Editor’s note: we might just do that. Lists, lists, lists!]
With music, while I think I still have good taste, I’m not exposed to the rich palette of indie sounds that I could be if I invested a little more time in the pursuit. Still, even though most of my picks are major label releases, I think it’s a good list. These are the records that made up a great deal of the soundtrack for the last decade of my life.
Casey said 5-10 picks. I’ve got ten. Here goes… (List after the jump.)
Radiohead, Kid A – 2000
The joke was that it took people a while to warm up to this record and I was totally one of those people. But once I got it, I loved every second of it. This is still my favorite post-’90s Radiohead album, hands down.
Gillian Welch, Time (The Revelator) – 2001
I got into Welch’s beautiful twangy sound after hearing a bit of Hell Among the Yearlings at Pure Pop in the late ’90s. This is the best of her four records and it really features David Rawlings‘ genius harmonies and guitar work beautifully (he’s another tremendous underrated guitar player). Every track on this recording is a gem.
Röyksopp, Melody A. M. – 2001
When this album came out I was living with some computer nerd friends who had electronica playing all the time and this electronic Euro-pop was the definition of catchy and cool. It’s funky and kind of sad at the same time.
Kings of Convenience, Quiet is the New Loud – 2001
Speaking of Euro-pop, these guys are like the Norwegian Simon & Garfunkel. This album is so fucking beautiful. It makes me want to fall in love in a snow-covered sauna and frolic in the fjords with my European girlfriend wearing giant knitted sweaters.
The Decemberists, Castaways and Cutouts – 2002
The ’00s were The Decembersts’ decade. Any of their albums could have made my list, but this was the one I first got into and it was their first full-length release. I think it’s fair to say they’re my favorite band right now. I’ve seen them live six or seven times and I *never* go out to see live music anymore. It’s sea shanties and Irish folk ballads and prog-rock experimentation and concept records and it all sounds kind of like a mix of Robyn Hitchcock, Pink Floyd and Jethro Tull, but with hyper-literate song-writing. I. Love. This. Band.
Iron & Wine, The Creek Drank the Cradle – 2002
Every track is an amazing little present. So mellow and sweet, but kind of dark and scary too. Samuel Beam is the poster child of the New Sincerity in popular music. Irony is dead.
Various Artists, Garden State Original Soundtrack – 2004
Speaking of the New Sincerity, this compilation is a bit uneven, but it came at a time of musical discovery for me and I think it captures the mood of 2004 pretty well. This is included on my list instead of a record from The Shins, I suppose.
Sufjan Stevens, Illinois – 2005
I find this album to be Stevens’ most accessible and fun release. It’s at turns dense and sparse, light and dark. I think Stevens played all or most of the instruments on the record and engineered it too. The guy’s a balls-out genius. I’m going to go listen to this album right now.
Neil Young, Live at Massey Hall 1971 – 2007
This is the best Neil Young record I’ve ever heard. It was recorded on stage in Toronto in 1971 shortly before he recorded Harvest. It’s just him and a guitar and piano. It started the Neil Young archives project that recently culminated with the giant (and expensive) Blu-Ray box set.
Sigur Rós, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust – 2008
I wasn’t sure which Sigur Rós album to include, but the latter half of the decade was looking a little sparse so I went with this one. This record is a lot more poppy than previous releases, but it’s great. It turns out they’re not just ultra-dramatic, ethereal, orchestral minimalists after all, but Icelandic pop stars to boot.