Monday, November 30, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #1

#1 - Radiohead

Of course, if you know me this shouldn't come as any surprise at all. However, this pick wasn't made solely on the fact that Radiohead is my favorite band in the world. They were also easily the most consistently great band of the decade, and spent the last 10 years showing just how capable of greatness they really are. When OK Computer was released in 1997, many felt that it was clearly a peak for the band, and that they after conquering the musical universe, the only way they could go was down. When Kid A came out in 2000, however, Thom Yorke and company showed that there would be no let down, and this album was one of the greatest re-workings of a band's sound in music history. Instead of the Pink Floyd and David Bowie references of the previous album, Kid A went deep into the electronic world, bringing to light a whole new set of artists who had previously been under-appreciated, such as Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. Throughout the remainder of the decade, Radiohead would go on to incorporate the rock elements of their past with their newfound mastery of the electronic sound, creating three more of the greatest albums of the decade. The 1990's set Radiohead apart as something great, but the 2000's cemented their legacy as one of the most creative, brilliant artists in the history of recorded music.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Kid A (2000)
2. In Rainbows (2007)
3. Amnesiac (2001)
4. Hail to the Thief (2003)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #2

#2 - Animal Collective

The single greatest band to come entirely from this decade, Animal Collective will one day be looked back upon in the same light that the Beach Boys are seen today. If there were any band that can be compared to AC, as a matter of fact, it would have to be the Beach Boys, actually. Like the 60s band, both rely heavily on beautifully harmonized vocals and a very experimental way of doing things in the recording studio. Beginning early in the decade with a largely acoustic, free form sound, the group led by vocalists Panda Bear and Avey Tare produced a few great albums early. Beginning with 2004's Sung Tongs, though, the band began to incorporate more of a pop element into their music, and their sound became one of the greatest, and most unique things in music history. Just this year they've released two of their greatest records, only going to prove that this is one band that could continue to make hugely important music for years and years to come.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)
2. Sung Tongs (2004)
3. Fall Be Kind (2009)
4. Strawberry Jam (2007)
5. Feels (2005)
6. Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (2000)
7. Campfire Songs (2003)
8. Water Curses (2008)
9. Here Comes the Indian (2003)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #3

#3 - TV On the Radio

TV On the Radio are the perfect mix of Fela Kuti, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Radiohead, and My Bloody Valentine. This may seem like a pretty strange mix, but these guys do it amazingly. Also amazingly, between Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone, TVOTR contain two of the 3 best vocalists of the decade. Their ability to harmonize and hit a seemingly impossible range of notes (for an indie rock artist, at least) is second to none. Their music has consistently gotten better with each full length release (their opening EP notwithstanding, which is probably the best thing they've done), and there seems to be so much more potential there that hasn't even been tapped......they've had an amazing decade, but the next one could be even better.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Young Liars (2003)
2. Dear Science (2008)
3. Return to Cookie Mountain (2006)
4. Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (2004)

Friday, November 27, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #4

#4 - Ghostface Killah

Ghostface, Ghost Deini, Ironman, Tony Starks, Pretty Toney.....whatever you wanna call Dennis Coles, you should also call him the greatest rapper of the decade. When Ghost made his name in the early 90s with the Wu-Tang Clan, he was (along with Raekwon) a clear standout amongst the group. His solo album Ironman in the 90s was outstanding, but it wasn't until 2000's Supreme Clientele that Ghost not only became the standout in the Wu-Tang, but also THE standout in all of hip-hop music. While his lyrics may not be for the weak-hearted (or weak-stomached at times), Ghostface Killah's rhyming abilities are unmatched. He can spit the most non-sensical things at times, but still do it in a way that will have you foaming at the mouth to hear more of it. It doesn't hurt that the production on all of his albums has always been top-notch, but it's Ghostface himself that is the reason why I would place 3 of his albums in my top 25 favorites of the decade.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Supreme Clientele (2000)
2. Fishscale (2006)
3. The Pretty Toney Album (2004)
4. The Big Doe Rehab (2007)
5. Bulletproof Wallets (2001)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #5

#5 - Kanye West

While not being quite my favorite member of the hip-hop community this decade, it's hard to argue that one person had a bigger influence on the genre as a whole than Kanye West had. Beginning early in the decade with his production work on the landmark Jay-Z album The Blueprint, Kanye set himself as someone to watch out for in the world of hip-hop producers. When his first solo album College Dropout was released, however, the world at large was put on notice that this was a man that had his sights set squarely on the complete domination of the music industry. While certainly not being the most technically skilled rapper alive, Kanye's abilities have opened the doors for the underground backpack hip-hoppers to garner some acclaim for themselves as well. While his personal antics at times may overshadow the more positive things about the man (especially lately), Kanye is still one of the most important musicians of our generation and respect must always be given to this man and everything he'll ever do.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Late Registration (2005)
2. Graduation (2007)
3. College Dropout (2004)
4. 808's & Heartbreak (2008)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #6

#6 - Arcade Fire

More than any other album this decade, Arcade Fire's 2004 debut Funeral was able to make the listener feel the emotions of the songwriters as if you had actually experienced the tragedies that had beset them. From beginning to end, it's probably the single most important album of the last 10 years, and all by itself is enough to warrant the band this spot on my list. The hype that preceded their follow-up album Neon Bible was also more than any other band experienced. While that album may not have been as emotionally charged as it's predecessor, it certainly wasn't any slouch itself, and went a long way towards proving that Arcade Fire is one band that will survive into the ages.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Funeral (2004)
2. Neon Bible (2007)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #7

#7 - Spoon

Spoon have made their way onto the number 7 spot on my list due to being easily the most consistent band of the decade. From Girls Can Tell in 2001 on through Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in 2007, each album has been a classic in it's own right. While nothing the band ever does will ever top Kill the Moonlight, Britt Daniel's group has probably made 4 of my top 50 favorite albums this decade. I once read a comparison between Spoon and MacGyver....this might seem weird on the face of it, but when you hear the music you can start to understand. Each seems to get by fantastically using as little as Spoon's case some songs only contain a small guitar line, or a little organ piece, or in the case of one song nothing but Britt's vocals and some beatboxing. No matter what he does to make his songs, though, you can always count on a Spoon album to be something special.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Kill the Moonlight (2002)
2. Girls Can Tell (2001)
3. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
4. Gimme Fiction (2005)

Monday, November 23, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #8

#8 - Broken Social Scene

The 2000s saw a much higher percentage of great music coming out of Canada than any decade in music history. At the center of all of this was the large musical collective known as Broken Social Scene. Formed by Kevin Drew (of the band KC Accidental) and Brendan Canning, BSS helped launch and/or solidify the careers of many indie rock luminaries of the decade, including Leslie Feist, Emily Haines of Metric, all of the members of Stars, and members of the band Do Make Say and Apostle of Hustle among others. Broken Social Scene's music itself is pretty much what you'd expect from such a large collective of musicians, as they tend to jump from style to style, all the while doing so in a manner that seems almost effortless. They are definitely one of Canada's greatest gifts to the musical landscape.

My Favorite Albums:
1. You Forgot It In People (2002)
2. Broken Social Scene (2005)
3. Feel Good Lost (2001)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #9

#9 - Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens is possibly the most unique character to emerge from this decade. Starting off in 2000 by releasing what sounded to be a global folk record, following this with a strange electronic album, and then introducing his greatest (and apparently since aborted) plan to record an album based on each state in America. The two resulting albums of this idea - Michigan and Illinois - are two of the most breathtakingly beautiful albums of the decade. Michigan conveys the sound of a downtrodden, economically bleak area (dead on, obviously), displaying how hard life is in this depressed state. Illinois is seen as more of a jovial, nice place to live, as evidenced by the heavy brass, marching band influence much of the songs display. Not to be overlooked, however, was Sufjan's 2004 album Seven Swans, which was released between Michigan and Illinois. This album is a quiet affair, displaying a lot of Sufjan's banjo skills, and relates to his relationship with God, but does so in a way that's not too hard to identify with even if you don't share his beliefs. Overall, he was clearly one of the most important, and BEST artists of the decade.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Illinois (2005)
2. Michigan (2003)
3. Seven Swans (2004)
4. The Avalanche: Outtakes from the Illinois Album (2006)
5. Songs For Christmas (2006)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #10

#10 - Modest Mouse

Typically when a band moves onto a major label, their first album sounds overproduced, and loses much of the rawness that made that certain band who they were in the first place. This should have been especially true with Modest Mouse, a band whose recordings in the 90s were SO reliant upon the rough, Pixies-like sound they had formed. When The Moon & Antarctica was released in 2000, however, any notion of a flop was dispelled the second the first track came into your ears. This album was one of the greatest odes to the fears of death ever written, and is both lyrically and instrumentally amazing. One of the strangest moments of the decade was when the song "Float On" off of their next album became a #1 hit in the US....a moment no Modest Mouse ever anticipated.

My Favorite Albums:
1. The Moon & Antarctica (2000)
2. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007)
3. Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)

Friday, November 20, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #11

#11 - My Morning Jacket

For whatever reason, when I first heard of My Morning Jacket I instantly pigeon-holed them as some sort of terrible emo band simply based on their name. When I got around to hearing their music soon after, however, I realized that I couldn't have been more wrong. MMJ have carried on the southern rock tradition in remarkable fashion, creating songs with big vocals and blistering guitar solos, and most importantly becoming one of the most interesting live acts around. Jim James heavily reverbed vocals are beautiful (he's probably my favorite vocalist of the decade), sounding like they're being sung in the middle of the largest cathedral in the world. The band's album Z is what a southern rock album from the 70s would have sounded like if it had magically been introduced to Radiohead's OK Computer, and is one of the masterpieces of the 2000s.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Z (2005)
2. It Still Moves (2003)
3. At Dawn (2001)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #12

#12 - Sigur Ros

When I first heard Sigur Ros' Agaetis Byrjun I sincerely had no idea what stratosphere this music had come from. It sounded like an angel singing from inside a womb, which strangely enough just so happened to be exactly what the album cover depicted. The band uses a made-up version of their native language (they're from Iceland) they call Hopelandic, allowing the vocals to basically just act as another instrument in the mix of violin-bowed guitars, drums, and pretty much every brass symphonic instrument known to man. This mix allowed for some of the strangest and most beautiful music of the decade.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Agaetis Byrjun
2. ( )
3. Takk....

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #13

#13 - Interpol

Interpol's 2002 debut album Turn On the Bright Lights remains to me as one of the greatest first albums by a band in music history. The amazing thing to me about this album is that it's clearly the sound of a weary, veteran band wanting to create something lasting, even though it was produced by a band that had just come into existence. The Joy Division comparisons are still pretty spot-on (especially in Paul Banks vocal style), but this band was clearly a force to be reckoned with all to themselves in the early to mid part of the decade. After their most recent album being a bit of a flop, the promise of a return to the old sound has been made, and Interpol could carry on into the 2010's with something huge.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Turn On the Bright Lights (2002)
2. Antics (2004)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #14

#14 - Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear are another of those bands, like Fleet Foxes, that I can see dominating a list like this in another 10 years. There are also some strong similarities among the two, as they both use a heavy dose of gorgeous melodies, coupled with a strong folk music influence. Grizzly Bear, however, uses more lush instrumentation that lead to some of the greatest songs of the decade. When the band's Yellow House album was released in 2006 I knew they had the potential to be something great, but it wasn't until 2009's Veckatimest that the potential was fully realized. It was clearly one of my favorite records of the decade, and one that will be hard to top in the future, even though I can clearly see the band doing just that within the next few years.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Veckatimest (2009)
2. Yellow House (2006)
3. Horn of Plenty (2004)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #15

#15 - The Flaming Lips

After the greatness of 1999's The Soft Bulletin, the Lips returned with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots a few years later, reinterpreting the previous albums symphonic orchestration into a sort of quasi-concept album about an Asian girl fighting against a bunch of gigantic robots. The final product was amazing, and after a rather mediocre album in '06, they returned in '09 with Embyronic which once again completely reinvented the sound of the band. The album was the darkest by the group yet, and leaves me wondering going into the next decade where they will go from here, into their 4th decade as a functioning unit. Also, they are simply the greatest live band around today. Go see them immediately.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
2. Embryonic (2009)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #16

# 16 - Clipse

You might say that every single Clipse song is exactly the same, and in a way you'd be correct. The subject matter of all of their songs revolve around one thing.....selling cocaine. However, the way they go about this subject lyrically is where their true greatness lies. For one thing, they've created more descriptions of the game than anyone in history, using a million different words to describe the same thing. Along with this, they don't necessarily glamorize the subject, despite the fact that they've made most of their money off of it. They realize that it's a cold, difficult life to lead....and not one they'd suggest for anyone else. Let us not forget another key component to their music, however, as they are basically the house band for the great production duo that is The Neptunes. Without their minimal electro beats, Clipse might just be a bit more ordinary.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Hell Hath No Fury (2006)
2. Lord Willin' (2002)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #17

#17 - The Decemberists

The Decemberists are easily the nerdiest band that I've ever heard. With their epic songs about life on the high seas, their album length rock operas, and the lyric sheet that requires either an Ivy League vocabulary or the largest dictionary known to man to decipher, The Decemberists were truly one of the unique entities of the decade. Inspired largely by the much-beloved 90s band Neutral Milk Hotel, each Decemberists track is like a novella that requires multiple careful listenings before the true emotional impact of the story sinks in....but once it does, the stories that singer/songwriter Colin Meloy tells are simply amazing.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Picaresque (2005)
2. Castaways and Cutouts (2002)
3. The Hazards of Love (2009)
4. Her Majesty....The Decemberists (2003)
5. 5 Songs (2001)
6. The Crane Wife (2006)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #18

#18 - The Walkmen

Forget The Strokes....The Walkmen were the key early-to-mid decade New York band that really mattered. They took Hamilton Leithauser's Dylan-esque screeching vocals, mixed them with some pounding drums and prodding guitars, and then threw in a piano that sounded as if it were at least 150 years and made some truly great music. Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone was a great album, but it was 2004's Bows + Arrows that showed the greatness within this band. The ebb and flow of the entire album is incredible, as it probably has the greatest pacing of any record of the decade.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Bows + Arrows (2004)
2. Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone (2002)
3. You & Me (2008)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #19

# 19 - Stars

While not necessarily being the most original band in the world, Stars have claimed the title of my favorite indie-pop band of the decade. Sounding at times (especially on the songs that Torquil Campbell sings) like an electro version of The Smiths, Stars spent the decade consistently making some of the most well-constructed songs I've heard. The band's instrumentation is very tight, and coupled with Campbell's songwriting abilities and Amy Millan's amazing voice, Stars were able to make not just one but three of my favorite albums of the last 10 years.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Set Yourself on Fire (2004)
2. In Our Bedroom After the War (2007)
3. Heart (2003)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #20

#20 - Fleet Foxes

It definitely takes a special band to only have to release one full-length album in the decade and still make it onto the list of my 25 favorite artists. Fleet Foxes are certainly that special, and so much more. Their EP Sun Giant seemed to come out of nowhere in 2008, and it immediately hit me as something out of the ordinary. When their self-titled debut album was released a few months later, it was cemented in stone that these guys are a once in a generation type band, and I strongly believe that when I make one of these lists in 10 years that you will be seeing Fleet Foxes up near the top for the next decade.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Fleet Foxes (2008)
2. Sun Giant (2008)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #21

#21 - The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers really couldn't correctly be called a supergroup until a few years into their careers, but they definitely released some super music right from the beginning. Comprised of some of the most talented indie musicians in the game (AC Newman, Dan Bejar and the amazing Neko Case among others), this band has a penchant for crafting some of the most epic, sugar-filled hooks known to man. Each of the musicians solo work is also great, but it's when they're together that the fireworks really start to fly.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Mass Romantic (2000)
2. Twin Cinema (2005)
3. Electric Version (2003)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #22

#22 - The National

The National are easily one of the more underrated bands of the decade, as their music requires repeated listening in order to feel the full impact of their amazing songwriting abilities. Their first two albums were pretty good, but beginning with 2005's Alligator they quickly flew into the upper echelon of the indie rock stratosphere. Their next album The Boxer was a contrast to the previous album's emotionally aggressive stance, as it was one of the most elegant releases of the decade.

My Favorite Albums:
1. The Boxer (2007)
2. Alligator (2005)
3. Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #23

#23 - Outkast

While the late 90s were definitely the group's heyday, Andre 3k and Big Boi began this decade off in a remarkable fashion, releasing one of my favorite hip-hop albums of all time, Stankonia. Taking their strong lyrical style and fusing it with beats that sounded at the time like they came straight from outer space, this was one of the most groundbreaking releases of our time. A few years later things began to change as the two started to drift apart, releasing Speakerboxx/The Love Below which was basically a collection of solo albums packaged together under the Outkast name. Overall the content wasn't quite as strong, as Big Boi just wasn't the same without Andre, and Andre completely drifted off to another planet with his half of the double album.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Stankonia (2000)
2. The Love Below (2003)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #24

#24 - LCD Soundsystem

Like Broadcast, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem was also strongly influenced by music from the past. Instead of the 60s sound, however, LCD Soundsystem leans heavily towards the production work of the late 70s disco era, mixing this with the styles of bands/artists such as Brian Eno, Can and Kraftwerk. Along with releasing some of the best dance singles of the decade, Murphy also helped craft some of the best remixes of recent times for his record label DFA, as well as putting out two unbelievably high quality albums.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Sound of Silver (2007)
2. LCD Soundsystem (2005)

My 25 Favorite Artists of the 2000s - #25

#25 - Broadcast

Of all of the artists that I've chosen to represent my favorites of the decade, this band sounds the most out of place. I don't mean out of place in that their talent level isn't as high, or their music isn't as great, but out of place in that Broadcast seems like they belong more on a list of my favorite bands of the 1960s. Borrowing heavily from the 60s band The United States of America, Broadcast mix vocalist Trish Keenan's heavenly voice with a sometimes harsh electronic clattering that in theory may sound a bit rough, but in practice went towards making some of the strangest and best indie-pop music of the decade.

My Favorite Albums:
1. Haha Sound (2003)
2. The Noise Made by People (2000)
3. Tender Buttons (2005)

End of the Decade Extravaganza

During my brief hiatus, I've been putting the finishing touches on a couple of lists comprising my favorite music of the past 10 years. Starting today, I will begin my list of my 25 Favorite Artistsof the 2000s. Over the next 3 days, I will do the first 15 choices on my list, 5 each day along with a short description of what it is that's made me appreciate their work so much. Then, beginning on Saturday, November 21st I will begin the top 10, adding one more artist per day through the end of the month.

Following this, beginning on December 1st I will begin listing my 250 Favorite Songs of the Decade. From December 1st until the 24th, I will post 10 songs each day counting down from #250. On December 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th I will post 2 songs each from the top 10, and then for the final 4 days of the year I will announce my 4 favorite songs of the decade.

As I move along in the process, please feel free to post comments on my choices.....let me know if you agree with my choices, or even if you think a choice I've made sucks. I've put the last 10 years into making these lists, so I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I've enjoyed listening to the music.

The Calendar of Events
11/18 - 25 Favorite Artists - #25-21
11/19 - 25 Favorite Artists - #20-15
11/20 - 25 Favorite Artists - #16-11
11/21 - 25 Favorite Artists- #10
11/22 - 25 Favorite Artists - #9
11/23 - 25 Favorite Artists - #8
11/24 - 25 Favorite Artists - #7
11/25 - 25 Favorite Artists - #6
11/26 - 25 Favorite Artists - #5
11/27 - 25 Favorite Artists - #4
11/28 - 25 Favorite Artists - #3
11/29 - 25 Favorite Artists - #2
11/30 - 25 Favorite Artists - #1

12/1 - 250 Favorite Songs - #250-241
12/2 - 250 Favorite Songs - #240-231
12/3 - 250 Favorite Songs - #230-221
12/4 - 250 Favorite Songs - #220-211
12/5 - 250 Favorite Songs - #210-201
12/6 - 250 Favorite Songs - #200-191
12/7 - 250 Favorite Songs - #190-181
12/8 - 250 Favorite Songs - #180-171
12/9 - 250 Favorite Songs - #170-161
12/10- 250 Favorite Songs - #160-151
12/11- 250 Favorite Songs - #150-141
12/12- 250 Favorite Songs - #140-131
12/13- 250 Favorite Songs - #130-121
12/14- 250 Favorite Songs - #120-111
12/15 - 250 Favorite Songs - #110-101
12/16 - 250 Favorite Songs - #100-91
12/17 - 250 Favorite Songs - #90-81
12/18 - 250 Favorite Songs - #80-71
12/19 - 250 Favorite Songs - #70-61
12/20 - 250 Favorite Songs - #60-51
12/21 - 250 Favorite Songs - #50-41
12/22 - 250 Favorite Songs - #40-31
12/23 - 250 Favorite Songs - #30-21
12/24 - 250 Favorite Songs - #20-11
12/25 - 250 Favorite Songs - #10 & 9
12/26 - 250 Favorite Songs - #8 & 7
12/27 - 250 Favorite Songs - #6 & 5
12/28 - 250 Favorite Songs - #4
12/29 - 250 Favorite Songs - #3
12/30 - 250 Favorite Songs - #2
12/31 - 250 Favorite Songs - #1