Best of the times

Best of the times

By
December 29, 2009 21:31
white stripes 248.88

white stripes 248.88. (photo credit: )

When you first start compiling a list of the best albums of the '00s, the first thing you start thinking is "this came out in this decade?" It's hard to imagine the musical landscape without the Strokes, the Arcade Fire or Bright Eyes, but before the '00s they had never released a record. Entwined with these "new" artists are enough veterans and burgeoning talents to demonstrate that while record sales may be plummeting, the quality of the musical talent out there is as strong as ever. Asking the forgiveness of the creators of the thousands of albums that never reached my ears this decade, I humbly offer, in alphabetical order, some music from the last 10 years that has endured. ARCADE FIRE Funeral (2004), Neon Bible (2007) This Canadian gender-mixed gang of iconoclasts stakes its claim for greatness with its first two albums, which contain huge ambitions, deeply tapped emotional veins and expansive arrangements. BRIGHT EYES I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005) Bright Eyes a.k.a. Conor Oberst represented the sensitive indie folkie of the decade with this collection of hushed acoustic-based tunes, including the stark "First Day of My Life," featured in the opening of Eytan Fox's film The Bubble. NEKO CASE Middle Cyclone (2009) For lovers of literate, country-based rock, Neko Case takes on the personas of wild animals to explore the spooky side of the American landscape with a collection of tuneful rockers that bode well for the next decade. COLDPLAY A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002), X&Y (2004) Before the Coldplay boomerang took place mid-decade due to odd baby names and general overexposure, the group did actually release some fantastic music. STEVE EARLE Jerusalem (2002) The venerable roots rocker takes on sacred cows amid an intolerant post-9/11 atmosphere, and doesn't blink. Even includes a dig at us in the jangly title cut. GREEN DAY American Idiot (2004) Who would have thought that these punk/pop progeny of The Ramones, who had seemingly lost their way mid-decade, would return with such a literate, relevant, and rocking album? And their 2009 followup 21st Century Breakdown proves that it was no fluke. THE HOLD STEADY Boys and Girls in America (2006) Vibrant rock & roll that comes alive via a well-developed cast of seedy yet poignant street characters inhabiting a Springsteen mirrored landscape of cheap thrills, muted ambitions and boredom - it's what happens when the boardwalk closes up. THE JAYHAWKS Rainy Day Music (2003) Alt-country pioneers The Jayhawks have both the songs and the performances in spades on Rainy Day Music, as they reach an understated and sublime pinnacle to a tremendously accomplished career. Sounds great on sunny days too. KINGS OF LEON Only by the Night (2008) These Tennessee alt-rockers join the U2-anthem era with an expansive - and convincing - show of force that spawned well-deserved mega-hits in "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody." THE LEMONHEADS The Lemonheads (2006) The 1990s grunge pop poster boy Evan Dando is older and wiser, but his knack for hook-filled vignettes is more spot-on than ever. AIMEE MANN Lost in Space (2002), The Forgotten Arm (2005) While Lucinda Williams gets all the press as the queen of rock & roll, the title really belongs to Mann, an exquisite singer-songwriter who connects with both a collection of Beatles-esque pop and a shaggy, '70s-drenched boxing love story-turned-concept album. MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE The Black Parade (2006) This over the top concept album about a dying cancer patient that liberally borrows from classic rock greats like Queen, Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd has become a classic of its own. Old-timers smiled and nodded, while teenagers said it changed their lives. ROBERT PLANT and ALISON KRAUSS Raising Sand (2009) The Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris of the '00s, this unlikely pairing of rock god and bluegrass goddess is an subtle, harmony-drenched, acoustic masterpiece. THE RACONTEURS Broken Boy Soldiers (2006) White Stripes axeman Jack White finds the perfect foil in indie popster Brendan Benson, resulting in an appealing mix of crunchy '70s guitar riffs and melodic power pop that makes you want to dig your air guitar out of the closet. RADIOHEAD Hail to the Thief (2003), In Rainbows (2007) While Kid A and Amnesiac are touted as the decade's breakthroughs for these gold standards of rock, these later albums find them combining the tunefulness of their earlier work in the '90s with their later electronic experimentations. REM Accelerate (2008) A revitalized statement of purpose that brought the once-great rock band back to the forefront, this album reminds us why REM developed a rabid cult following in 1983. ELLIOTT SMITH Figure 8 (2000) Some great music by the late indie rocker was released this decade, but none that sounded like the pop symphonies of the expansive Figure 8, the last of Smith's albums to be released during his lifetime. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN Magic (2007) The Rising may have captured a country in turmoil following 9/11, but it was with Magic that Springsteen once again effortlessly created the timeless pop that had already cemented his legendary status decades earlier. THE STROKES Is This It? (2001) Coming on like the CBGB class of '77, this New York band's opening shot combined the grittiness of their hometown with the punk pop effervescence of all the greats that preceded them. U2 How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), No Line on the Horizon (2009) While most thought their best days were behind them, Ireland's rock heroes defied the odds and made two of their most durable and versatile albums. THE WALKMEN You & Me (2008) Uneasy but essential, this ultimately gratifying listening provided by New York brooders breaks from rock conventions in exciting strange ways. Both troubling and uplifting. THE WHITE STRIPESElephant (2003) The duo's major label debut left listeners breathless with its raw, Zeppelin blues rock, led by the iconic "Seven Nation Army." PAUL WESTERBERG Stereo/Mono (2002), Folker (2004) The founder of 1980s indie heroes The Replacement found his adult voice in the '00s with these uncompromising looks at what happens when a punk rocker grows up. WILCO Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002), A Ghost is Born (2004) With a plethora of choice offerings during the decade, like the killer live album Killing Television and this year's Wilco - The Album, America's finest band offered its most compelling work on the ornate landmark Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and the raggedly gorgeous A Ghost is Born. WARREN ZEVON The Wind (2003) The poignant swan song by one of rock's greatest satirists stares in the face of death and barely flinches. The mix of an aching sense of purpose and a devilish sense of fun has never been more moving.


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