Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's the end of a decade, in another ten years' time...

I guess it was inevitable that another ten years would pass, but I still can't believe it. Now that I have officially reached an age group where I am one of the few still interested in recorded popular music (especially music in a physical format), I feel it is my duty to anthologize and rhapsodize a bit on what has transpired. Ten years ago, the western world was in the midst of a pop-culture blitz where the almighty $ reigned supreme. There had been big pop eras before, but we really reached a peak in commercialism in 1999 with Britney Spears, N'Sync, and Backstreet Boys dominating the world of pop music, joined by Eminem and Jay-Z in rap, and Limp Bizkit and Dave Matthews in rock. Oh, and Radiohead had just morphed into the best band in the world. Now ten years later, some of those names are still relevant while others have thankfully long since faded into the ether. What originally began as sharing of song files through facilitators like Napster has begun to move into the world of paying for digital downloads, and Apple (not the Beatles' company) is more powerful than ever because of it.

Speaking as a music fan, I remember buying 45s in the early 80's, and felt like I had something to show for it. Now I get a file to call my own. I graduated to LPs not long thereafter, moving quickly from the remnants of 70's corporate rock to my newfound obsessions like Duran Duran, Culture Club, Eurythmics, Thompson Twins, the Cure, and Prince. I still have some of those records, refusing to jettison everything when they looked to be "things of the past". I enjoyed my LPs a lot, even though they were really heavy, and didn't always have the greatest sound (certain ones I memorized with the minor scratches), but they had a tactile warmth about them, which is much of their appeal, I suppose. Now I have more CDs than LPs, and yet I still enjoy having CDs around. I cannot imagine a house so cold that it lacks a single CD or LP. Why would you want that? I guess it makes mobility easier in a dangerous world where you don't know if your house will be blown up tomorrow or not, but I appreciate them. Some albums I even own on CD AND LP. Now THAT's dedication.

In an era where CDs are on the decline and everybody talks online, I get the sense that we are in the process of losing something that was once quite special. Music stores, now few and far between, were also places where people could get together and discuss their latest finds in a very personal, face-to-face situation. Now, you have to get on a computer and find a group somewhere that supports similar tastes to yours, making it difficult to get exposed to other types of music. As music styles seem to be blending more and more to try and capture more listeners, music audiences are becoming more fragmented due to their self-isolation. Sure, you can congregate at Starbucks, but how many people stand around talking about their favorite new band there? I remember hearing Madonna for the first time, thinking she was black. Her music had a hot beat, her voice had a soulful quality, and there was no music video for "Holiday", so until the LP was released with her picture on the cover, we fantasized about what she could possibly look like, hence her eventual influence on 80's fashion. Similarly, Prince was somebody who set rock music on it's ear, incorporating many different styles, yet his background was not one typically connected to rock music (this probably goes back to Jimi Hendrix, but that was a little before my time).

The radical changes in the way music is made and (hopefully) sold in the past ten years are a direct influence on the selections on this list. I will spare your precious time by not going into extended detail as to why these are the best albums of the past decade...they just are. If you don't agree with me, it's OK...this is not your list. Most of these albums are known in many circles, while some are very little known. Their sales figures do not necessarily equate with their excellence. What are the parameters? Really it all comes down to their musicality and production, cultural significance, and how much I liked them. A list such as this was very difficult to compile, as I have listened to literally thousands of albums over the past ten years. If I recommend it here, it HAS to be good. And so, in alphabetical order (I found this much easier than trying to select them numerically):

AIR--Talkie Walkie (2004)
AMY WINEHOUSE--Back to Black (2007)
ANJA GARBAREK--Smiling & Waving (2001)
ANJA GARBAREK--Briefly Shaking (2006)
ANNIE--Anniemal (2005)
ANNIE--Don't Stop (2009)
APPLETON--Everything Eventual (2003)
ARCTIC MONKEYS--Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
ARCTIC MONKEYS--Humbug (2009)
ARCTIC MONKEYS--Whatever People Say That's What I'm Not (2006)
ARCADE FIRE--Funeral (2004)
ARCADE FIRE--Neon Bible (2007)
BASEMENT JAXX--Kish Kash (2003)
BASEMENT JAXX--Rooty (2001)
BAT FOR LASHES--Two Suns (2009)
BELLE & SEBASTIAN--Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)
BJORK--Vespertine (2001)
BLACK BOX RECORDER--Facts of Life (2001)
BLACK BOX RECORDER--Passionoia (2003)
BWO--Prototype (2005)
CAMERA OBSCURA--My Maudlin Career (2009)
CICADA--Roulette (2009)
COLDPLAY--Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
COLDPLAY-Viva La Vida (2008)
COLDPLAY--X & Y (2005)
CURVE-Gift (2001)
CUT COPY--In Ghost Colours (2008)
CYNDI LAUPER--Bring Ya to the Brink (2008)
DAFT PUNK--Discovery (2001)
DARREN HAYES--Tension & the Spark (2004)
DARREN HAYES--This Delicate Thing We've Made (2007)
DAVID SYLVIAN--Manafon (2009)
DIVINE COMEDY--Absent Friends (2004)
DIVINE COMEDY--Victory for the Comic Muse (2006)
DOVES--Last Broadcast (2002)
DRAGONETTE--Fixin to Thrill (2009)
DRAGONETTE--Galore (2007)
ED HARCOURT--Beautiful Lie (2006)
EDITORS--Back Room (2005)
EDITORS--In This Light & On This Evening (2009)
ELBOW--Cast of Thousands (2004)
ERASURE--Nightbird (2005)
ERASURE--Light at the End of the World (2007)
FLAMING LIPS--Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots (2002)
FRANZ FERDINAND--Franz Ferdinand (2004)
FRANZ FERDINAND--You Could Have it So Much Better (2005)
FROU FROU--Details (2002)
GIRL CALLED EDDY--Girl Called Eddy (2004)
GIRLS ALOUD--Out of Control (2008)
GIRLS ALOUD--Tangled Up (2007)
GLASVEGAS--Glasvegas (2008)
GOLDFRAPP--Black Cherry (2003)
GOLDFRAPP--Felt Mountain (2000)
GOLDFRAPP--Seventh Tree (2008)
GOLDFRAPP--Supernature (2006)
GOOD, THE BAD, & THE QUEEN--Good, the Bad, & the Queen (2007)
GOSSIP--Music for Men (2009)
GRACE JONES--Hurricane (2008)
GUILLEMOTS--Through the Window Pane (2006)
GWEN STEFANI--Love.Angel.Music.Baby. (2004)
HERCULES & LOVE AFFAIR--Hercules & Love Affair (2008)
HUMAN LEAGUE--Secrets (2002)
IAN BROWN--My Way (2009)
IMOGEN HEAP--Speak for Yourself (2005)
INTERPOL--Turn Off the Bright Lights (2002)
JENS LEKMAN--Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)
JOSEPH ARTHUR--Come to Where I'm From (2000)
JUNIOR SENIOR--Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (2006)
JUSTICE--Cross (2007)
KAISER CHIEFS--Employment (2005)
KATE BUSH--Aerial (2005)
KEANE--Hopes & Fears (2004)
KILLERS--Hot Fuss (2005)
KIRSTY MACCOLL--Tropical Brainstorm (2000)
KNIFE--Deep Cuts (2005)
KNIFE--Silent Shout (2006)
KYLIE MINOGUE--Fever (2002)
KYLIE MINOGUE--Light Years (2000)
LA ROUX--La Roux (2009)
LADYHAWKE--Ladyhawke (2008)
LAST SHADOW PUPPETS--Age of the Understatement (2008)
LILY ALLEN--Alright, Still (2006)
LILY ALLEN--It's Not Me, It's You (2009)
LUCKY SOUL--Great Unwanted (2007)
LITTLE BOOTS--Hands (2009)
M83--Saturdays = Youth (2008)
M.I.A.--Arular (2005)
M.I.A.--Kala (2007)
MADONNA--Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)
MADONNA--Music (2000)
MARC ALMOND--Stranger Things (2002)
MARY ONETTES--Islands (2009)
MARY ONETTES--Mary Onettes (2007)
MOLOKO--Statues (2003)
MORRISSEY--You Are the Quarry (2004)
MUMMERS--Tale to Tell (2009)
MUSE--Absolution (2004)
NICK CAVE & BAD SEEDS--Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus (2004)
NINE HORSES--Snow Borne Sorrow (2005)
NINE INCH NAILS--Year Zero (2007)
NO DOUBT--Rock Steady (2001)
PALOMA FAITH--Do You Want to Know the Truth or Something Beautiful? (2009)
PATRICK WOLF--Magic Position (2007)
PET SHOP BOYS--Fundamental (2006)
PET SHOP BOYS--Yes (2009)
PIPETTES--We are the Pipettes (2006)
PORTISHEAD--Third (2008)
POSTMARKS--Memoirs at the End of the World (2009)
PREFAB SPROUT--Let's Change the World With Music (2009)
PRESETS--Apocalypso (2008)
PRIMAL SCREAM--Evil Heat (2002)
PRIMAL SCREAM--Xtrmntr (2000)
PULP--We Love Life (2000)
R.E.M.--Reveal (2001)
RACHEL STEVENS--Come & Get it (2005)
RADIOHEAD--Amnesiac (2001)
RADIOHEAD--In Rainbows (2007)
RADIOHEAD--Kid A (2000)
RICHARD X--Richard X Presents His X-Factor (2003)
ROBBIE WILLIAMS--Sing When You're Winning (2000)
ROBYN--Robyn (2006)
ROISIN MURPHY--Overpowered (2007)
ROISIN MURPHY--Ruby Blue (2005)
ROYKSOPP--Junior (2009)
ROYKSOPP--Understanding (2005)
SADE--Lovers Rock (2000)
SAINT ETIENNE--Finisterre (2002)
SAINT ETIENNE--Tales From Turnpike House (2005)
SANTOGOLD(SANTIGOLD)--Santogold(Santigold) (2008)
SARAH NIXEY--Sing, Memory (2007)
SCISSOR SISTERS--Scissor Sisters (2004)
SCOTT WALKER--The Drift (2006)
SCRITTI POLITTI--White Bread Black Beer (2006)
SHOUT OUT LOUDS--Our Ill Wills (2007)
SIGUR ROS--Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (2008)
SIOBHAN DONAGHY--Ghosts (2008)
SIOUXSIE--Mantaray (2007)
SNEAKER PIMPS--Splinter (2001)
SOPHIE ELLIS-BEXTOR--Trip the Light Fantastic (2007)
STROKES--Is This It? (2001)
TEARS--Here Come the Tears (2005)
THOM YORKE--Eraser (2006)
TRACEY THORN--Out of the Woods (2007)
VAMPIRE WEEKEND--Vampire Weekend (2008)
VEILS--Nux Vomica (2007)
YEAH YEAH YEAH'S--It's Blitz! (2009)
YUKSEK--Away from the Sea (2009)
ZERO 7--Simple Things (2001)
ZOOT WOMAN--Things Are What They Used to Be (2009)

That was tough. We'll see if I can even compile a list like this in another ten years...Hopefully albums will still be around. Stay tuned...

Up on the lookout for the best songs of the past decade...

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