Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The 100 Albums Of The Decade: 30-21

30. Elbow
Asleep In The Back

[V2, 2001]

When Elbow won Britain’s Mercury Music Prize in 2008, it only confirmed what the faithful knew back in 2001, as Asleep In The Back garnered a cult following by virtue of its finely-nuanced balance between prog-rock pulse and Britpop dynamics. Even now, its luster remains undiminished; this is a moody, near-symphonic work with edges sharp enough to draw blood.

29. Daft Punk

[Virgin, 2001]

Hard to imagine, but the mysterious duo known as Daft Punk only released two proper albums in the entire decade. And yet, the legacy of Discovery (Disco Very?) continues to permeate every corner of the pop landscape, from Kanye samples to the gloriously goofy Justice, although no one else manages to walk the tight wire between over-the-top ridiculousness and spot-on sincerity quite like our favorite French robots.

28. Editors
The Back Room

[Kitchenware/Fader, 2005]

Forget the lazy Interpol or Joy Division comparisons; track for track, no other album this decade contained as much raw, nervous, live-wire energy as The Back Room. As with the Strokes’ debut, the shoestring production only amplifies the tension coursing through each jagged, post-punky second, and while Editors went on to conquer the world (or at least Europe), they never again sounded so immediate, or so damn alive.

27. Band Of Horses
Everything All The Time

[Sub Pop, 2006]

BoH’s pitch-perfect debut begins with the sum of its influences—the high-pitched vocals of My Morning Jacket, the atmospherics of Red House Painters—and then, by the fourth listen, everything falls away except that sound, a spacious, hovering force simultaneously earthy and transcendental. If the surging climax of “The Funeral” doesn’t make your hairs stand up on end, you might not be breathing.

26. Tool

[Volcano, 2001]

If Tool is the modern version of Pink Floyd, then Lateralus is their Wish You Were Here, a disc so dense and deep it might take years to finally realize it’s also their career pinnacle. Over the course of seventy-nine minutes, the quartet never once waver from their single-minded—and mind-blowing—course, and anyone with the patience to explore (and possibly rearrange the entire album sequence) eventually uncovers nothing less than the most rewarding hard-rock record of the decade.

25. Josh Rouse

[Rykodisc, 2005]

In a parallel universe, perhaps, Rouse’s brand of beautifully-constructed AM pop sits atop the charts, lavished with the sort of critical acclaim (and, more importantly, promotional muscle) this criminally underrated singer/songwriter could never quite achieve during his tenure on Rykodisc. At a mere forty minutes, Nashville is an unhip, unassuming marvel, every song catchy enough to lodge instantly in your head… and then casually break your heart.

24. Outkast

[LaFace/Arista, 2000]

No offense to Eric B & Rakim, Dre and Snoop, and UGK, but who can argue against Outkast for the premier hip-hop duo of all time? Their fourth album was a loose-limbed, deeply Southern (and deeply stanky) peak of a collaboration that appeared near limitless at the time, and while that prediction turned out to be tragically flawed, the possibilities introduced here—from the George Clinton grooves of “So Fresh, So Clean” to the crazy-quilt head-trip “B.O.B.”—still sound like the future.

23. Jimmy Eat World
Bleed American

[Dreamworks, 2001]

Don’t be fooled by the shimmering production and sticky-sweet choruses. Bleed American (blame Dreamworks for the post-9/11 cop-out title Jimmy Eat World) is a record born of hardship, financed with fan dollars and recorded by a band freshly dropped from their last major label. And if the ensuing rags-to-riches story sounds too good to be true, the Jimmies make it flesh and blood; every hook on American surges with hard-won independence, resulting in the kind of celebratory music that went on to foster an entire movement.

22. LCD Soundsystem
Sound Of Silver

[EMI/DFA, 2007]

Dance music is supposed to lose its shelf life quickly, but Sound Of Silver does the opposite. Two years ago, this album sounded like a handful of brilliant singles surrounded by well-meaning filler; now, it feels like a blueprint for the entire future of smart electronica, with James Murphy tugging your heartstrings and vibrating your skull simultaneously. And the singles? Still brilliant.

21. The Hold Steady
Boys And Girls In America

[Vagrant, 2006]

Possibly the most literate, most poetic… and hell, smartest bar band record since The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle. Which makes total sense, because Boys And Girls In America is when Steady mastermind Craig Finn began to truly channel the raw-and-wooly sound of early E Street Band into his own whip-smart brand of indie-flavored punk. Delve deep into the lyrics, or just lean back and let the music kick your ass; Boys And Girls delivers in spades either way.

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