Thursday, December 24, 2009

The 100 Albums Of The Decade: 90-81

90. Radiohead
Hail To The Thief

[EMI, 2003]

Originally perceived as a drop-off in quality from the amazing heights of Kid A, Radiohead’s 2003 album now feels more like a natural assimilation of all their influences to that point in time, its best tracks coming alive in concert and fitting comfortably inside the band’s ever-impeccable canon.

89. Green Day
American Idiot

[Reprise, 2004]

Call it Aging Punk Band Comeback of the Millennium: against all odds, American Idiot managed to make loud, catchy, social protest relevant again—along with Green Day themselves.

88. Clipse
Lord Willin'

[Star Trak/Arista, 2002]

Hell Hath No Fury got the stronger reviews, but I’ve always found Clipse’s earlier effort an easier entry point, and arguably a better album to boot. Start to finish, it’s easily the best Neptunes production to date; factor in the swaggering, dead-eyed boasts from brothers Malice and Pusha T, and you're left with a modern hip-hop classic.

87. Say Anything
...Is A Real Boy

[Doghouse/J, 2004]

Max Bemis’ love of modern punk doesn’t stop him from sending up its clichés and excesses, and few albums cast a wink as knowing as Say Anything’s major-label debut. It’s a disc full of intelligence, wit, and outright mockery, all cutting lyrics and stylistic change-ups—but more importantly, it still rocks like a mother.

86. Fiona Apple
Extraordinary Machine

[Epic/Clean Slate, 2005]

Wilco wasn’t the only artist dealing with a clueless record label this decade; a re-recorded Machine appeared more than two years after its original release date, after Epic heard “no obvious hit singles.” You won’t find any on the finished version either—just a gloriously weird, artistically brave statement, and one that definitely deserves a follow-up after five years of waiting.

85. Matthew Good
Hospital Music

[Universal Canada, 2007]

One of Canada’s very best songwriters delivered in spades with his most stripped record ever: a raw, wounded beauty of a disc, equal parts caustic and calming. Available on iTunes with no label affiliation whatsoever, it’s definitely one to seek out; the gorgeous Dead Kennedys cover (!!) alone is worth the price of admission.

84. Modest Mouse
Good News For People Who Hate Good News

[Epic, 2004]

Riding the coattails of “Float On,” Good News is a fitfully brilliant jumble of left turns, with moments as weird—and awesome—as anything in Isaac Brock’s back catalog. That more than a million people bought it was triumph enough.

83. The White Stripes

[V2, 2003]

In the spotlight for the first time, Jack White stepped up when every other over-hyped “garage rock” act faltered, delivering his most consistent work to his widest audience. Future endeavors—the Raconteurs, producing Loretta Lynn—would broaden White’s scope, but no other album better captured his strengths.

82. Phoenix
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

[V2/Loyauté, 2009]

Four albums into their career, Phoenix finally moved beyond great singles to create a complete listening experience, and they did it by harnessing the best attributes of their French counterparts—Air’s dynamics, Daft Punk’s production—in the service of wide open, joyous music. And yes… they still made great singles, too.

81. U2
All That You Can’t Leave Behind

[Island/Interscope, 2000]

The comeback record, or, more precisely, the moment when U2 realized they didn’t need to run from their “classic” sound any longer. It’s here that Bono and company begin to fully embrace their legacy, while at the same time turning out a collection worthy of standing alongside their earlier triumphs.

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