Saturday, January 2, 2010

The culminaton of a story and a goodbye session: My favorite albums of the decade from hell.

It's all too convenient to say that the '00s was the weakest decade for rock music. As someone who operates a blog dedicated to the sounds of the good 'ol twentieth century it makes such a claim all the more viable and tempting. I will say this however. Back in December of 1999, eons before this page sprouted up, I put together a list of my 100 favorite albums of the '90s, purely to disseminate among my friends and peers. In that decade, and ditto for the 1980s, there were roughly 200-300 quality albums that could have realistically vied for one of those coveted top-100 spots. This time out, I absolutely struggled to come up with 100 worthy titles. Ultimately I didn't, but I'll come back to this dilemma in a few moments.

The aughts were not about trends, at least as far as I was concerned. Though many were represented, to this set of ears this was the first decade of my existence that was devoid of any bona fide genre-breaking. Just as it's convenient to proclaim the music of the past ten years was comparatively inferior, another wholesale realization was that virtually everything dispelled in the post-Y2K era entailed: a) an obvious throwback; b) a rehash; c) a nifty melange of multiple genres of yore, or perhaps more overarching, technological advancements applied to any of the three variations I just rattled off.

For me, the appeal of music in the past decade often pivoted on what struck my fancy during the '70s, '80s, and '90s. This was also the scenario for a lot of people I'm acquainted with, but unfortunately, many of them took the lazy way out and subconsciously (or not) ceased exposing themselves to new artists, rather almost exclusively supporting established acts from the century past. The truth is, there was a lot of commendable music being churned out during this rather miserable ten-year span, but given the noticeable dearth of innovation, the bulk of it went in one ear and out the other...or was dismissed entirely. And as much as I'm loathe to admit it, I'm as guilty as anyone else I'm referring to out there.

After you take a gander at my 90 or so picks, I know what a lot of you are bound to be scratching your head over. Saves the Day? Dashboard Confessional? Owl City? The Juliana Theory? No less than all three Motion City Soundtrack albums? Even a Fall Out Boy disk? All these out-of-place monikers on a best-of the decade list from a chap that fancies utter obscurities from the golden age of college radio? Yet some, if not all of the aforementioned and their associated ilk outlined in the list below bestowed some of the finest pop songs and albums of this decade that will resonate with me for many more to come. These were hardly guilty pleasures (though at first they certainly felt like it). In fact the aforementioned were the lifeblood of my soundtrack over recent years.

As to why I cut the cord at 95 albums instead of 100, I believe that over the next couple of years (perhaps beyond) I'll find another five albums at least from the '00s that I haven't stumbled upon yet. Instead of "dropping" albums from this list as more preferable ones make it into my stereo and MP3 player, leaving things open-ended with built-in placeholders seems pretty logical - something I failed to do with my 1990s album list, but I digress. Anal and self-indulgent as hell, I know...

In parting, I thought it would be appropriate to provide a little critique and backgrounder for my number one pick of the decade. Around 2005 or so, a lot of you may have caught wind of an intercontinental, slightly raunchy blues/folk duo known as The Kills. Additionally, even more of you are probably familiar with The Dead Weather, a side endeavor of Jack White. The link between these two groups is one Alison Mosshart (who opts for the assumed name of VV when in Kills-mode). As it turns out, I have been following Allison since the mid-90s when as a teen/early-twenty something she was fronting a fledgling indie pop-punk crew based in Vero Beach, Florida called Discount. By the time they got to their third and final album, Crash Diagnostic, they weren't merely "fledgling" anymore - in fact, they had wholeheartedly arrived. Diagnostic was an OK Computer-savvy kiss goodbye and simultaneous kiss-off to the emo/punk scene that bore Discount, soon to be watered down for the masses over the course of the forthcoming decade. Bristling with 13 raw, exposed nerves (i.e. songs), seeped in oblique lyrics, arresting dynamics, not to mention more Fugazi worship than you could shake a stick at, Crash Diagnostic was something of a grower at first, but would soon become an inseparable part of my life. While the facets I laid out in that last sentence comprised the meat and potatoes of the album's aesthetic, the glue stringing all of it together was of course Alison Mosshart's frenzied, about-to-careen-off-the-track vocal aplomb that she has yet to employ in her post-Discount ventures (but I'd say masterminding the album of the decade is enough of an accomplishment). Incidentally, Crash Diagnostic was literally the first release of the year 2000 to fall into my hands, and I would be dumbstruck if you told me at the time that nothing coming down the pike in the next nine years and eleven months would top it. You can listen to the whole thing here. Enjoy, and remember, it's only a list.

01. DiscountCrash Diagnostic (2000, New American Dream)
02. My VitriolFinelines (2001, Sony)
03. Passion PitManners (French Kiss, 2009)
04. Mike ViolaHang on Mike (2003, Sony)
05. The StereoRewind + Record (2002, Fueled By Ramen)
06. The NationalBoxer (2007, Beggars Banquet)
07. Local RabbitsThis is It, Here We Go (2001, Brobdingnagian)
08. Element 101Future Plans Undecided (2000, Tooth & Nail)
09. Panic! At the DiscoA Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (2005, Fueled By Ramen)
10. Sig Transit Gloria – s/t (2000, Johann’s Face)

11. Exploding HeartsGuitar Romantic (2003, Dirtnap)
12. The Lives of Famous Men – three eps: Rehearsal/Modern Love/Sunshine (2007-09, self released)
13. The Strokes – Is This It? (2001, RCA)
14. Dashboard ConfessionalThe Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (2001, Vagrant)
15. Motion City Soundtrack - Commit this to Memory (2005, Epitaph)
16. Saves the DayStay What You Are (2001, Vagrant
17. Amusement Parks on FireOut of the Angeles (2006, V2)
18. The BravesLove and Mercy (2005, Johann’s Face)
19. Fall Out BoyTake This to Your Grave (2003, Fueled By Ramen)
20. The AnniversaryDesigning a Nervous Breakdown (2000, Vagrant)

21. The Doleful LionsSong Cyclops Vol. I (2000, Parasol)
22. Ben KwellerSha Sha (2002, ATO)
23. Paul WesterbergStereo/Mono (2002, Vagrant)
24. Rooney – s/t (2003, Interscope)
25. The Mary Onettes – s/t (2007, Labrador)
26. Nada SurfLet Go (2002, Barsuk)
27. Hey MercedesEverynight Fire Works (2001, Vagrant)
28. Ben FoldsSongs for Silverman (2005, Sony)
29. StewGuest Host (2000, Telegraph)
30. Taking Back SundayWhere You Want to Be (2004, Victory)

31. The LillingtonsThe Backchannel Broadcast (2001, Panic Button)
32. Kings of LeonOnly By the Night (2008, RCA)
33. Phantom PlanetThe Guest (2002, Sony)
34. Motion City SoundtrackI Am the Movie (2003, Epitaph)
35. Mike ViolaJust After Dark (2005, Good Morning Monkey)
36. Jack’s MannequinEverything In Transit (2005, Maverick)
37. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – s/t (2009, Slumberland)
38. ElliottFalse Cathedrals (2000, Revelation)
39. Damien JuradoGhost of David (2000, Sub Pop)
40. FM KnivesUseless and Modern (Empty, 2003)

41. Motion City SoundtrackEven if it Kills Me (2007, Epitaph)
42. Ben FoldsRockin’ the Suburbs (2001, Sony)
43. Tugboat AnnieThe Space Around You (2000, Big Top)
44. Emm GrynerThe Summer of High Hopes (2006, Dead Daisy)
45. The Juliana TheoryEmotion is Dead (2000, Tooth & Nail)
46. This Is Me Smiling – s/t (2005, The Vinyl Summer)
47. Mew…and the Glass Handed Kites (2005, Sony)
48. Owl CityOcean Eyes (2009, Universal)
49. The BravesThat’s the Hot Part (2002, Arms Reach)
50. Taking Back SundayTell All Your Friends (2002, Victory)

51. Fiona AppleExtraordinary Machine (2005, Sony)
52. The Marked Men – s/t (2003, Dirtnap)
53. Dashboard ConfessionalThe Swiss Army Romance (2000, Drive-Thru)
54. Cockeyed GhostLudlow 6:18 (2001, Karma Frog)
55. CruiserweightSweet Weaponry (2005, Doghouse)
56. Bad AstronautHouston, We Have a Drinking Problem (2002, Honest Don’s)
57. Lightweight Holiday – s/t (2003, Porterhouse)
58. Amusement Parks on Fire – s/t (2005, Filter/BMG)
59. Pedro the LionControl (2002, Jade Tree)
60. Lifetime – s/t (Fueled By Ramen, 2007)

61. Hot Hot HeatElevator (2005, Warner Bros.)
62. The Straylight Run – s/t (2004, Victory)
63. Pete YornDay I Forgot (2003, Sony)
64. Jets to BrazilFour Cornered Night (2000, Jade Tree)
65. Rhett MillerThe Instigator (2002, Elektra)
66. The StryderMasquerade in the Key of Crime (2000, Equal Vision)
67. Reeve Oliver – s/t (2004, Militia Group)
68. Something CorporateNorth (2003, Drive-Thru)
69. Blake BabiesGod Save the Blake Babies ( 2001, Rounder)
70. Graig MarkelHard Grammar (2001, Mag Wheel)

71. Saves the DayUnder the Boards (2007, Vagrant)
72. The 101Green Street (2005, Limekiln)
73. Hellogoodbye Zombies!, Aliens!, Vampires!, Dinosaurs! (2006, Drive-Thru)
74. The Bon MotsLe Main Drag (2003, Mellifluid)
75. Kevin Tihista’s Red TerrorDon’t Breathe a Word (2001, Parasol)
76. ChamberlainExit 232 (2001)
77. Jon AuerSongs from the Year of Our Demise (2006, Pattern 25)
78. MaritimeHeresy & the Hotel Choir (2007, Flameshovel)
79. Band of HorsesEverything All the Time (2007, Sub Pop)
80. High Speed Scene - s/t (2005, Star Trak/Interscope)

81. Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinPershing (2008, Polyvinyl)
82. All Systems Go! – s/t (2001, Cold Front)
83. Turin BrakesThe Optimist (2001, Astralwerks)
84. Two Tongues – s/t (2009, Vagrant)
85. DaysleepersDrowned in a Sea of Sound (2008, Clairecords)
86. Mark Kleiner Power TrioLove To Night (2002, Mint)
87. DrugMoneyMtn Cty Jnk (2004, Hybrid)
88. Young SportsmenDeath to Palaces (2007)
89. InterpolAntics (2004, Matador)
90. Red Fox Grey FoxFrom the Land of Bears, Ice and Rock (2007, Afternoon)

91. Schatzi50 Reasons to Explode (2002, Mammoth)
92. House & ParishOne, One-thousand ep (2007 Arena Rock)
93. Steven Mark-WrightPop Motel (2006, Not Lame)
94. Drag the RiverClosed (2002, Upland/Suburban Home)
95. Broadfield MarchersWhen the Lifted Connive (2006, St. Ives)
96-100 ?????


vex_voxtone said...

Very interesting list and I could agree with you on some of the names on your list. Thanx again for your enthusiasm and for keeping this blog. It's a great place. All the best in new year and see ya around.

Powerpopster said...

Thanks for all the great music last year and a happy new one.

/ Jonas, Sweden

joseph kyle said...

i like this list... very varied. and i agree with a number of your choices, especially the doomed Exploding Hearts record.

here's one that escaped a lot of attention, Arlo's wonderful Stab the Unstoppable Hero, a wonderful slice of modern power-pop. Sadly ignored, probably due to a 3.8 rating by Pitchfork:

keep up the good work!

TapDatApp said...

Never known anyone else who knows about The Candy Butchers (aka Mike Viola's band) + you like Fall Out Boy, so Good Choices!! =)

Neal said...

hmm. as someone with similar taste, i'm surprised not to see any hot snakes or mclusky on your list. when i think of the 2000's, those and nada surf are the first ones that come to mind. i'd have a hard time after that.

congrats on another year of your blog. definitely one of the best out there. thanks for all the hard work!

Alabama Street said...

nice list. i'd agree with neal in that i thought maybe hot snakes and their respecive offshoots might have made it. bloc party, the twilight singers, chokebore, and the riverboat gamblers all had strong albums the last decade too.

also, thanks for the treepeople and pollyanna downloads.

Steve said...

That's a very interesting list. glad to see the Mark Kleiner disc on there - that's a real lost gem. Keep up the great work!

johnnybgoode said...

no apples in stereo and no sloan? you missed the two best bands of the 00's.

bevington said...

My Vitriol number 1 in my books. Onya for putting in there !!

Robert Nagle said...

Lots of terrific albums and groups here. Thanks for posting. Learning about Mike Viola was a real treat. Can't wait to dive into the Candy Butchers stuff. Also enjoying The National greatly and Exploding Hearts.

For what it's worth, I have started a long rdio playlist called "Willfully Best Naughts" containing many of these groups. Work in progress.

I know it's all a matter of perspective, but this is the first time I learned that Motion Picture Soundtrack is actually the name of a group and not actually a soundtrack. I've been overlooking these CDs for some time now.