It somehow doesn’t seem the same as it did in 1999 or 1989. Those were monumental decades both of my youth, but also in my musical development. And then there’s the lack of succinct terminology for this decade. It isn’t the ”80s’ or the ’90s’ or the ‘zeros’ and the British-coined ‘naughties’ just doesn’t work in Canadian English. So when it recently dawned on me that this decade was almost through, it felt a little anti-climactic, like the proverbial “meh” that has defined alot of my reactions to 21st century music. We as a whole have been exposed to more music in the last 10 years thanks to the sheer volume available at the click of a button (a big ‘thank you’ to Napster for setting up the initial model for internet-available music), so amidst the cacophony of crap, there also has been a surprisingly good number of gems put out, or so I’ve realized after having prepared my list. That said, here are the first 15 of 25 albums that made the first decade of the 2000s listenable for me. Make sure you click on the “favourite songs” titles to see special performances or versions of my favourite tracks!
25 Definitive Albums of My Decade
TWENTY-FIVE | WILCO YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT(2002)
It wasn’t until almost halfway through the decade that I’d ever heard of Wilco. Then one day I woke up and realized they’d released four albums this century, not the least of which is this 2002 album, which incidentally is on almost every Top 10 list of that year and every other Top 20 of the decade. I recently went to a concert of theirs for the first time–thanks to a good friend who not only introduced me to their music but is also their biggest advocate as far as I know–and when it came time for Jesus, Etc., it was all about the crowd singing it all. I’ve been in concerts where this has happened before, but only at this did the crowd seem this impassioned, and the music surrounded me and I was impressed.
1. Jesus, Etc.
2. I am Trying to Break Your Heart
3. I’m the Man Who Loves You
TWENTY-FOUR | ROISIN MURPHY RUBY BLUE (2005)
Thanks to a long lost poet, I learned of Róisín’s solo career. I hadn’t really heard too many pop albums that used technology along with everyday objects for rhythms, so the innovation she brought with what might have seemed a less-than-commercial LP is exactly what drew me to it. And then there is, of course, one of the sexiest songs ever, Rama Lama (Bang Bang), which knocked me off my feet, especially when matched up with zombie choreography in a So You Think You Can Dance number in 2006. Her next release would be a pretty good follow-up, but like so many, it’s the freshman outting that takes the cake.
1. Rama Lama (Bang Bang)
2. Night of the Dancing Flame
3. Ruby Blue
TWENTY-THREE | PHOENIX ALPHABETICAL (2004)
Good beats, loungy rhythm, cool & laid back sounds – there’s not much else this first album from Phoenix needs in order to earn a spot on my countdown. Parts of the album bring me back to the days of the Gandharvas, so there’s definitely a bit of nostalgic love going on. I can’t say I’ve loved their follow-ups even half as much, so it’s a good thing this one has 5 or 6 masterful tracks on it to keep my love on.
1. Victim of the Crime
2. Run Run Run
3. (You Can’t Blame It On) Anybody
TWENTY-TWO | BRITNEY SPEARS BLACKOUT (2007)
Hey! Don’t hate. Even I’m surprised that anything by psycho Spears made my list, but when going through all the albums in my playlist from this decade, you can’t escape the remarkably large number of great pop songs included. When almost everything else about the album reeks of indifference (videos: drunken utter crap, coverart: possibly the most amateur and ugly in the history of album artwork), she or someone who wasn’t fucked up all the time put together almost unbeatable number of catchy tunes together in one place. So it must be true that when singers are at their lowest personally, their best music gets made–even if they can’t remember making it.
1. Gimme More
2. Ooh Ooh Baby
3. Outta This World
TWENTY–ONE | DAFT PUNK DISCOVERY (2001)
Yes, their first album defined electronic music, but it was in the 90s, so… So what? This second effort eclipses their first in almost every song (minus perhaps the unmatched Around the World). From the time the album leaked to the rightful release, the hooks and technological use of vocals enthralled me with each listen. And what was smart on their part? Each video was actually a cut from the anime movie, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, and each video showcased not the artists, but the extraterrestrial band continuing the mystery of who Daft Punk actually were.
1. Digital Love
2. Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
TWENTY | BECK MODERN GUILT (2008)
Beck is the first of three artists to have made my top 25 list with more than one album–that’s how good I (and my playlist count on lastfm.com and iTunes) think Beck’s albums are. This one came out only last year, but there are so many great tracks, reminiscent of earlier days and which work so well live. I must admit that I’ve always thought his vocals were killer too. And he can harmonize. And he plays guitar. And he makes trippy lyrics. And he can dance. And…
1. Gamma Ray
3. Modern Guilt
NINETEEN | VAMPIRE WEEKEND VAMPIRE WEEKEND (2008)
I don’t even know how to describe this music when I am faced with the challenge of interesting others in it so they’ll become fans too. “Indie” is too general. “Folk” is too corny. I just don’t know what to call it exactly. There’s enough variety in rhythm to not call it anything I guess. Whatever you choose to say about it, this album is a refreshing break from hardcore -insert top 40 genre here-. Definitely one of my proudest discoveries of this decade.
2. Oxford Comma
3. The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance
EIGHTEEN | FATBOY SLIM PALOOKAVILLE (2004)
Norman Cook has always produced some of the bounciest electronic pop music with some of the most extremely memorable samples and vocalists there are. After a bit of a harder-hitting album effort prior, Palookaville returned to the sound made famous in the 90s with You’ve Come a Long Way Baby and I fell in love again. This time around, he remixed highly recognizable bands like Steve Miller Band and tracks like “Signs”. Now the only question is, where the hell is the new record, Norm?
1. Put It Back Together
2. The Joker
3. The Journey
SEVENTEEN | BJORK VESPERTINE (2001)
Björk is weird. We all know it. But she’s beautifully weird and maybe if there are more like her in Iceland, it must be a fantastically mesmerizing atmosphere in which to live. And all this weirdness lends itself to some unique (and often unrecognizable English) phrasing and imaginative brilliance. Vespertine lacks the predominantly rhythmical pop sounds of earlier albums, replacing them with harps and angelic harmonies, but that’s what separates this album and makes it worthy of masterpiece titling.
1. It’s Not Up to You
2. Hidden Place
SIXTEEN | MADONNA AMERICAN LIFE (2003)
For the longest time, this was my favourite Madonna record and probably my favourite record overall. Obviously I still think it’s awesome, but have come to appreciate a later effort of the Queen’s more. What I’ve always loved with this album of edgy coverart is the variety of speed, sounds, electro and acoustic parts found throughout the eleven tracks. No matter how terrible some of the lyrics appear to be (repeating the word ‘bad’ in Love Profusion must have been intentional; I mean really), Madonna continues to produce some of the best melodies out there.
2. Mother and Father
3. Love Profusion
FIFTEEN | ROBYN ROBYN (2007)
Who knew she’d be back a decade after Show Me Love? And with such a masterpiece album to boot! The album is a cornucopia of beats and potential urban lingua franca. From beginning to end, I was blown away by how catchy and varied the tracks are. Plus, they didn’t really sound like much else on the market at the time, though a year or two later, Britney Spears did come out with ‘ground-breaking’ stuff that intentionally or not, played off of tracks from Robyn. Bom-diddi-bom di-dang di-dang diggi-diggi!
1. Who’s that Girl
2. Should Have Known
FOURTEEN | BASEMENT JAXX ROOTY (2001)
It’s Basement Jaxx who introduced Bollywood dance to North American mainstream familiarity thanks to Romeo and look where that style of dance has taken off to. It pops up everywhere now. Though the album sounds almost tame now in comparison to the more hardcore Kish Kash, there were a lot of releases and potential singles from it that kept my ears happy for hours and hours. A good album back in the day (can’t believe that phrase now applies to 2001!)!
2. Broken Dreams
3. All I Know
THIRTEEN | KYLIE MINOGUE FEVER (2001)
Way to make a splash comeback into North America, Kylie! Sure, it only lasted for one single, but it made the idiots who’d been stuck on hip hop and rap realize that you weren’t just a one-hit wonder–something us intelligent folk had known along. More than this, girl knows how to put together a pretty video! Single after single, video after video, remix after remix (one of which produced by a group who appear later on this album list!), she couldn’t make a wrong move with this album. Commercial solidity! Plus, it has a few special (and forbidden) memories attached to it for me.
1. Come into My World
2. Can’t Get You Outta My Head
3. Love at First Sight
TWELVE | EELS SHOOTENANNY (2003)
I have always adored Eels. “They” reminded me of Beck (vocally) and the Beatles (melodically) and what better mixture could there be to create fantastic music? None, of course. I chose this album over his other list-maker, Hombre Lobo, because of the number of tracks that I are just so powerfully beautiful and meaningful. Plus, the cover is just so raw, like he doesn’t care. Or like he cares too much?
1. Somebody Loves You
2. Love the Loveless
3. Wrong about Bobby
ELEVEN | LILY ALLEN IT’S NOT ME, IT’S YOU (2009)
Welcome to 2009! This is the first of three albums from that other list I made for the end of year to appear on this decade-long countdown. Having almost made my Top 10, this album is a clear indication of the caliber of music released this year–much great stuff! What more can I say about Lily’s second effort? Every song is catchy and fun to sing along with. She makes telling someone off and despairing in post-coital frustration something that almost sounds cute in a pop song.
Other favourite songs than the 3 I mentioned before:
1. Never Gonna Happen
3. Not Fair
Wow. This has been a most excellent musically nostalgic journey for me and hopefully for you. Thanks for riding the train with me. If you’re not ready to get off the train, let’s go to the Top 10!