Saturday, December 26, 2009

The 100 Albums Of The Decade: 70-61

70. M83
Saturdays = Youth

[Mute, 2008]

As the driving force behind M83, Anthony Gonzalez’s mastery of soundscapes is nothing short of astounding; his fifth effort, however, was the first to deliver an album’s worth of songs as well. Flecked with bits of Talk Talk and Cocteau Twins, Saturdays=Youth exists in a parallel universe where the Eighties era never died and every teenage summer lasts forever.

69. Jay-Z
The Blueprint

[Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2001]

If Reasonable Doubt is the original classic and Black Album the exclamation point, then The Blueprint is Shawn Carter’s mid-career manifesto, a triumphant comeback where H.O.V.A. simply does everything—pop (“Izzo”), diss (“Takeover”), throwback (“Heart Of The City”)—better than anyone else. Two pointless sequels both fell far short of the original, and for good reason; after the first Blueprint dropped, Jay had nothing left to prove.

68. Gillian Welch
Time (The Revelator)

[Acony, 2001]

Welch’s brand of spooky, backwoods folk has always existed out of time, but rarely the way it does here. Alongside partner David Rawlings, she crafts an Americana classic, an album whose mesmerizing sprawl—witness the 14-minute closer, “I Dream A Highway”—places it inside a universe all its own.

67. Snow Patrol
Final Straw

[Fiction/Interscope, 2004]

Confident and intoxicating in a way their previous albums never were, Final Straw became Snow Patrol’s (deserved) worldwide breakthrough, connecting both with its sublime grace notes and via the sort of swelling choruses that carry all the way to the rafters.

66. Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend

[XL, 2008]

A true blogger phenomenon, the rapid rise of Ivy-League-upstarts-turned-indie-darlings VW might easily overshadow the music—if said music wasn’t the most giddy, infectious hybrid of art-school smarts and African soul since Paul Simon's Graceland.

65. Wilco
A Ghost Is Born

[Nonesuch, 2004]

Unjustly maligned in the wake of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Ghost now feels like that album’s darker twin, a dissonant voyage inside Jeff Tweedy’s fractured mindset that brims with the sort of ferocious experimentation Wilco have rarely engaged in since.

64. Ryan Adams
Love Is Hell

[Lost Highway, 2003]

After a dizzying string of masterworks (Strangers Almanac, Heartbreaker), Love Is Hell marks the last time Adams would be in complete control of his muse; follow-up albums like the tedious Rock N Roll—bizarrely promoted at this record’s expense—replaced inspiration with workmanlike functionality. By contrast, every part of Hell feels thrillingly alive, from the spooky dynamics of “The Shadowlands” to the hold-your-breath cover of “Wonderwall.”

63. Tom Waits
Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards

[ANTI-/Epitaph, 2006]

Cult figure Waits released several studio albums in the 2000s, but none captured all his dimensions and idiosyncrasies quite like this lovingly-assembled collection of rarities and unreleased gems, encompassing unabashed tenderness, jagged weirdness… and everything in between. As a starting point (or possibly an alternate retrospective), you could do far worse.

62. The Shins
Chutes Too Narrow

[Sub Pop, 2003]

Even if the Shins didn’t quite “change your life” like Natalie Portman predicted, consider this: in 2003, the mere idea of James Mercer’s fractured, charmingly off-kilter pop reaching a wide audience seemed unfathomable. Four years later, Wincing The Night Away achieved the highest chart position in the history of Sub Pop, thanks in large part to the foundation built by this deceptively simple record.

61. At The Drive-In
Relationship Of Command

[Grand Royal/Fearless, 2000]

Coming at a time when commercial punk was playing far too safe, Relationship was nothing short of musical defibrillator paddles, a shocking combo of high-minded art and primitive, explosive energy. So volatile was the mix that ATDR would combust in its wake, splintering into two acts (The Mars Volta and Sparta) both unable to attain this album’s giddy heights on their own.

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