Eggs’ Top Albums Of The Decade: 50-26
When I set out to put together a best album of the decade list, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was undertaking. I knew it would be some work, but what I didn’t know is that it was going to be one of the most time consuming projects I’ve ever attempted here on BOT. I’ve never been the biggest on album reviews, only ever doing a handful in my time, so when I started to write out fifty of them, I eventually fell into serious stall mode. I originally planned to post my full list on December 15th, then that got pushed back to the 21st (good job for making that deadline Tofu Scramble!), eventully the Holiday season took over, and I just never found the opportunity to finish this list. Now that I’m just about done with it, I’ve decided to bring it to you in two parts. While it took tons of time, I thoroughly enjoyed recapping my past ten years in music, especially having a reason to listen some of my all time favorite albums non-stop for the last month.
50. Ween, White Pepper (2000)
This is one of the first albums that came to mind when running through which albums deserve to be on my best of list. While it’s obviously not my favorite album of the past ten years, it is one that has been in semi-constant rotation ever since its release five months into the 2000’s. You can’t ever describe which genre Ween represents with White Pepper, since it jumps from rockabilly to funk to blues to Caribbean in the matter of just the first four songs. “Bananas and Blow” is one song that will always make me smile, while “Stroker Ace” is the perfect soundtrack for taking straight shots of Kentucky bourbon (which is always a fun event!). Ween’s best work to date.
49. Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight (2008)
This is an album I came to a year late. It didn’t even make it to my year-end list in 2008, but over the past 12 months I’ve truly fell in love with the sophomore effort from the Scottish indie-rockers. Frontman Scott Hutchison’s vocal honesty and openness leaves his story out for everyone to take in, but also adds a fair share of metaphoric lyricism that allows the listener (me!) to put themselves into the music. This has one of the those first listen/fall in love type of things going for it, that many of my top 10 albums also share. For an album that I’ve only had for a year, by a band that hasn’t even been a band for the whole decade, The Midnight Organ Fight is definitely one of the best. If I had more than a year to take it in, it definitely would have found its way to a higher spot on this list.
48. Jack Johnson, Brushfires Fairytales (2001)
Pop music at its finest. Simple, slow folk songs about surfing, smoking pot, and loving both women and life. You can’t ever say that Johnson performs bad music, despite your love or distaste for it, and the debut album from the sandaled singer/songwriter was by far his best. When Brushfires Fairytales was first released, it was the complete opposite of any of the other male singers efforts in pop music. The radio was dominated by boy bands still, and Johnson’s stripped down folk songs were a breath of fresh air. Big thanks to my good friend LL for initially making me listen to this album – you were a huge influence on my musical tastes at the beginning of the decade, and I appreciate that immensely.
47. The Secret Machines, Ten Silver Drops (2006)
The Secret Machines were kind of accidentally put into my life during my first Voodoo Experience in 2006, when we randomly stumbled across their “in the round” set that wasn’t running during its scheduled time. The trio blew everyone in our groups collective minds, and immediately warranted a second listen on our return to Houston. The first album I picked up was their recently released LP, Ten Silver Drops. “Alone Jealous and Stoned” was my first studio experience with TSM’s, and damnit if it’s not one of my favorite songs ever. The churning beat of the pop-filled “Lightning Blue Eyes” is brilliant, while the very dark and droning “Daddy’s In The Doldrums” is hauntingly beautiful. “I Hate Pretending” is the perfect fuzzed-out anthem in the middle of an album, and “1000 Seconds” serves as a sonically perfect way to finish the album. Gotta give mad respect for their Houston roots as well.
46. Reflection Eternal, Train Of Thought (2000)
Not much hip-hop made it to my top albums list, but Talib Kweli’s collaboration with DJ Hi-Tek was an easy addition. Hi-Tek’s beats are the perfect match for Kweli’s intelligent rhymes, and for just over an hour, this killer combination is displayed on Train Of Thought. Reflection Eternal is more than just a name given to the duo, it’s a perfect description of the content of the album. It shows Kweli leaving it all out on the plate, with lyrical content describing his life, including both the positives and the negatives. We all know “The Blast,” which made waves on the pop charts at the turn of the century, but it was the rest of the albums cohesiveness that did it for me. Choice guest spots from the likes of De La Soul, Xzibit, Kool G Rap, Les Nubians and his BlackStar partner in crime Mos Def (not to mention a couple Dave Chapelle cameos) also added to the excellence of Reflection Eternal’s debut effort. If you’re looking for smart hip-hop, this album should be one of your first steps.
45. Spoon, Gimme Fiction (2005)
Browsing through a ton of different best of lists, I noticed that not once was Spoon’s Gimme Fiction listed. I don’t really get why?! Sure, they had several other good albums this decade (particularly Kill The Moonlight), but if I want to get my fix of the Austin, TX group, Gimme Fiction is always the first album I reach for. It’s really really good. Like, consistently good from start to finish. “The Beast And Dragon, Adored” is one of the best album openers I’ve heard, while “My Mathematical Mind” could possibly contend for best song of the decade. I haven’t even mentioned the radio-friendly “I Turn My Camera On” or the sing-a-long “I Summon You.” Another reason I love this album so much is the inclusion of tracks in the film Stranger Than Fiction, the only time Will Ferrell has impressed me outside of his worn out comedic role.
44. Delta Spirit, Ode To Sunshine (2008)
This is another album that came to me too late to include on my best of album list for 2008. I actually discovered this album in the early spring of this year while awaiting The Virgins to take the stage at Rudyard’s. The song “Trashcan” was blaring through the speakers, and I immediately fell in love. I powered up my iPhone, opened up Shazam, and found out who the band was – Delta Spirit. I’d actually seen Delta Spirit about a year earlier, opening up for Matt Costa at Houston’s Meridian, and really enjoyed their set. It was the night before shipping off to a major music festival, so I kind of forgot to do further investigation into the band. I’m sort of pissed that I never checked them out again sooner. As soon as I got home, I immediately picked up Ode To Sunshine and started to dissect it song by song. It wasn’t until I saw them again at Bonnaroo this year (possibly the best set of the year), that I would turn it into a weekly listen. “Trashcan” follows a perfect opener in “Tomorrow Comes Today,” which is book-ended by the sing-songy “People, C’Mon.” “House Built For Two,” “Strange Vine” and “Streetwalker” are all soulful rockers, and the ballad “People, Turn Around” is the song that keeps me coming back. A final gem on the album, “Children,” is a churning, drum-heavy harmonica-lead ode to finding your own voice – pushing children towards a better self-lead life, rather than one pushed by the ideas of media and government. This album is on this list because, beyond providing great background music, after giving it a true listen, each song carries an incredible amount of meaning.
43. Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (2009)
This is the only album from 2009 that made it to my decade list. It’s funny because when I put together my best albums of 2009 list, it might not even be at the top. Weird, I know. When putting together my decade list, there was an extra category that I had to use to base my picks off of – staying power. Veckatimest has serious staying power. I’ve been a huge fan of Grizzly Bear’s 2006 debut LP Yellow House since its release, but when their latest arrived, YH moved to second in line. “Southern Point,” “Two Weeks” and “Ready, Able” anchor an album that seems to get better with every listen, but it’s the hauntingly beautiful “While You Wait For The Others” that has been on repeat since the albums release towards the end of May. Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen prove with Veckatimest that they are at the top of their class of indie rock songwriters. They also prove that America’s best music is still coming out of Brooklyn.
42. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers (2006)
I mean, come on. Jack White steps away from Meg White to form a folk-based indie-rock band with a host of talented players including Brenden Benson, and it was an easy decision to pick up this album as soon as it was released. Before the albums release, the quartet released an acoustic version of their lead single, “Steady As She Goes,” as a free weekly download on I-Tunes’ front page. I knew they’d have a much more rocking sound with their album, but this was a nice taste of things to come. Actually, after digesting that version for a while, I always had hope of an all acoustic album from the Raconteurs. Broken Boy Soldiers was an unexpected and very welcome debut from them, and while many would argue that their sophomore LP, Consoler Of The Lonely, is a much stronger effort, the rawness of BBS is what really sells me. White did a good job of stepping away from the sound of The White Stripes, and pretty much out of the center spotlight, and with Benson wrote a short-but-solid rock album filled with folk, country, indie and blues influenced rock and roll. Like Grizzly Bear before this, The Raconteurs have serious staying power, and this is the album that brought them to that level.
41. Yeasayer, All Hour Cymbals (2007)
In the winter of 2008, when BOT was just an infant, we headed over to local indie venue Walter’s On Washington for a showcase of two of Brooklyn’s up-and-coming imports, MGMT and Yeasayer. If you’ve never been to Walter’s before, it’s a tiny venue that when you catch a rising band there, can be quite the intimate experience. I went to the show longing to see MGMT, but left with a much better taste in my mouth from the psychedelic freaksters known as Yeasayer. As we all know, both bands blew up soon after that, right along with my love for Yeasayer. All Hour Cymbals is almost the absolute album, one I can guarantee I’ll still be listening to thirty years from now. I stop everything I do when album closer “Red Cave” comes on, and will always turn up the volume for every other track. Their long-awaited follow up to OTS, History From Below, is one of my most anticipated albums of 2010, and if it’s anything like their first, It should be quite the effort.
40. Keller Williams, Laugh (2002)
This album was almost an introduction to my foray into the world of jambands other than Phish, The Dead and Widespread Panic. For a while I had been listening to those three mega-jambands, but it took me some time to expand further. I was told by a friend to check out the song “Freeker By The Speaker,” and if I liked it, dig deeper into the world of Keller Williams. I heeded my friends word, and soon picked up Laugh, the album which features “Freeker” as its lead single. I loved it – to the point of it not leaving my stereo for several months. On Laugh, Williams uses his folk influences, and fills them with funk, electronic, rock and other genres, performing pretty much every instrument by himself. When he doesn’t take it all into his own hands, he is helped by the incredible drum and bass talents of Dave Watts and Tye North respectfully, two players that add so much to any recording they’re apart of. Laugh is Williams’ most complete work, and probably the best example of what he brings to the table during his live shows.
39. Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People (2002)
An indie-rock supergroup at its finest. Broken Social Scene made their best album in 2002, with a line-up that consisted of three Canadian female powerhouses in Leslie Feist, Stars’ Amy Milan and Metric’s Emily Haines, as well as the core line-up of Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Andrew Whiteman and Justin Peroff among several others. I didn’t fall in love with this album until 2006, after witnessing their incredible set at the Voodoo Experience, the same weekend I discovered the Secret Machines as mentioned above. From start to finish, You Forgot It In People hits hard with indie-rock anthems. “KC Accidental,” “Pacific Theme,” “Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” and “Cause = Time” could all be added to my top songs of the decade, and are still spun on the regular after so many years.
38. Wu Tang Clan, The W (2000)
This is the album that helped soundtrack my senior year in high school. I can remember several nights driving around in my car from party to party, bumping The W as loud as possible. You can’t deny the awesomely cheesy “Gravel Pit,” which shows what it would be like if The Flintstones were mixed with The Boondocks. While original Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard didn’t partake in this album other than one short verse, the vocal efforts of Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Rza, Raekwon, Gza and Inspectah Deck are better than any time I’ve heard them, solo or as a collective. I think the reason I like The W so much, is that it is so much different than every other hip-hop album, even those The Wu-Tang Clan have put out prior to it. It’s a very clean album, and the mixing of so many talented MC’s moves it along quite nicely. It still finds its way to my stereo quite a bit.
37. The National, Boxer (2007)
If I hadn’t have seen The National recently, Boxer might not have made it to my top fifty, but after hearing all the songs performed live again after some time, I fell in love with the album all over again. Opener “Fake Empire” brings the album to one of its many climaxes right from the get-go, and from there it only gets better. Once again, Brooklyn shines throughout this LP, and songs like “Squalor Victoria,” “Slow Show,” “Start A War” and “Ada” come off as brilliant pieces of work. I’m stuck on this album, and even after taking extended breaks from it, it always creeps its way back into my cue.
36. Dave Matthews Band, The Lillywhite Sessions (2000)
Technically not a released album, the “Lillywhite Sessions” were so vastly leaked, that if you didn’t have them or hear them, you must’ve been hiding under a rock. Recorded as a follow-up to their last great studio work, Before These Crowded Streets, TLS were a full set of songs recorded with famed producer Steve Lillywhite, the man responsible for DMB’s first three albums as well as efforts from U2, Phish, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, The Smiths among numerous others. As soon as the album leaked, it was picked apart by the world wide web, and had an overwhelmingly positive response. It was what DMB’s Everyday should’ve been. It’s also what their Busted Stuff should’ve been. Both those albums, and every one that came after that did not touch the genius of TLS, or their three LP’s prior to that. If DMB knew what was best for them, they would’ve stayed with Lillywhite, because he knew their sound, and the direction in which they needed to go to remain relevant while still growing larger. While I’ll always have love for DMB, and will catch them live on occasion, I haven’t fully enjoyed a single one of their albums since they scrapped this one.
35. The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree (2005)
I can’t really relate to the subject matter of The Sunset Tree, as I was never abused as a child, but their still is a whole lot to take out of this album. While also being an incredibly written song, “This Year” describes my mid to late teens perfectly, driving around trolling for girls and partaking in the sauce, trying to make it out of school and through the year alive. Clocking in at less than forty minutes, the John Vanderslice-produced record is full of two-to-three minute stories about frontman John Darnielle’s childhood and teen ages. Quick and depressing, each tune captures what it was like to grow up in an abusive home, but with the peppiness of each tune, it is displayed in a lighthearted and easy to listen to way. If you didn’t pay attention to the lyrics, you would have a much different perspective on The Mountain Goats – probably one with less sad thoughts.
34. Beck, Guero (2005)
Many people might question my choice of Beck’s Guero over his more critically acclaimed Sea Change, but the main reason for my choice is because this is the album that got me back into Beck. For a while I took a Beck hiatus, and Sea Change just happened to fall right in the middle of it, so my love for that album never really increased later in life. Guero is chock full of delicious nuggets that once again prove that Beck is one of the best and most innovative performers of the past twenty years. “E-Pro” starts out the album with fury, making you headbang from the get-go. Soon, Beck changes from heavy guitars and drums to synthesizers and bass for the next few tracks before coming back to the drum-heavy “Black Tambourine,” one of my absolute favorite songs of the decade. “Scarecrow” hits later, and finds you bobbing your head right along for the duration. A random one-off guest spot by Jack White on bass during “Go It Alone” goes somewhat unnoticed, but the string work by the White Stripe and Raconteur is actually quite nasty. “Farewell Ride” is Beck’s version of a funeral dirge, and with heavy harmonicas and twangy guitars, it could be the perfect soundtrack for an old western death march. From start to finish, Guero is a trip through Beck’s obvious bi-polar mind, and is a welcome return to the funky Beck we all grew up with.
33. Jamie Lidell, Multiply (2005)
Another discovery of Voodoo 2006 (that’s the third on this list, if you’re counting), Jamie Lidell is quite the unique entertainer. His soulful songs, and smooth-as-silk vocals completely counter-balance his quirky-yet-accessible personality both on and off his records. The song “Multiply” was my soundtrack for the end of 2006, and lead me into 2007 grinning. Album opener “You Got Me Up” is a quick hitter, but is one of the funkiest songs of the decade, and the perfect way to start out the LP. “A Little Bit More” made waves in the commercial world, and might be recognizable to most people, but it’s the soul equivalent to a TV On The Radio song, “Music Will Not Last ,” that comes off as one of the strongest on the album. Great party music.
32. Panda Bear, Person Pitch (2007)
One of the most sonically satisfying albums ever. Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox takes all of his best parts from every Animal Collective album, and heightens them to new levels. “Comfy In Nautica” is a joyous, noise-filled event, while “Take Pills” starts off dark and dreary, but ends almost the complete opposite, with a Beach Boys-like sing-song. The Beach Boys actually show up a lot throughout Person Pitch, especially during the mammoth “Bros,” before that song takes off into a rather psychedelic territories. The true climax of the album is the three-part opus “Good Girls/Carrots” that starts out as an electronically fueled tribal noise jam, leads into a darker bass-heavy section, then finishes with a bout of very spacey psychedelia. To counter my friend Tofu Scramble, this album reaches into some serious jamband-like territories.
31. Justice, † (2007)
The only true electronic album to make it to my top 50, Justice’s † is solid from the beginning until the end. The French duo know how to make you move your body, and lead single “D.A.N.C.E.” is the perfect example. I’m not sure if this album would’ve made my top list if I hadn’t seen them live for the first time in the fall, but after that experience, I had a new appreciation for the 2007 LP. What they’ve dubbed as “opera-disco” mixes many different influences including 80’s rock, funk, jazz, hip-hop, metal and soul, but ties it all together to form one complete dance party. “Genesis” is the perfect song for a professional wrestlers entrance, while DVNO could pass for a Busdriver b-side. If you want to incite a dance party, Justice’s † is the perfect album to bump.
30. My Morning Jacket, At Dawn (2001)
I came into the My Morning Jacket party a bit late in life. I saw them at both 2003 and 2004’s Bonnaroo Music Festival, and never left completely satisfied with what I was hearing. It wasn’t until I received a copy of their groundbreaking 2005 LP Z that I truly became addicted. I had a hard time not including their 2003 effort, It Still Moves on this list, but after listening through their discography, it was At Dawn that came out ahead. The song “Bermuda Highway” might be one of my favorite songs ever, and title track “At Dawn” is just as satisfying. “Lowdown,” “The Way That He Sings,” “Phone Went West” – shit, I better stop or I’ll list the whole album. It’s much rawer than MMJ’s newer work, and has a certain appeal that no other of their albums has. Listen to this, then follow it with their Evil Urges, and just see how much MMJ has progressed in their rather short career.
29. Sufjan Stevens, Illinoise (2005)
Before even listening to Sufjan Stevens’ Illioise, I was attracted to the incredibly descriptive song titles. I’m Chicago-bred, and have a storied past with the state of Illinois, so even if the music wasn’t good, I had to know what “Casimir Pulaski Day” sounded like as a song. Fortunately, it was good. Really freaking good. “Chicago” is possibly the best song of the decade, and with it’s multi-layered goodness, it serves as the climax of this masterful record. I’m not even going to try to list other songs I love on this album, because most of them have about fifteen words in the title. I can say this – I love this album with all my heart.
28. moe., Wormwood (2003)
Jambands usually aren’t known for their studio efforts, but with Wormwood, moe. are the exception to the rule. Instead of using the typical studio method of recording, moe. cribbed the live versions of their songs, and took those into the studio for mastering and reworking. Before even recording this album, the songs had already made their way into moe.’s live performances, so each song was already well tested and approved. “Kyle’s Song,” “Okayalright,” “Kids,” “Shoot First” – they’re all great tunes that will have no problem in making you shake your ass next time the New York band comes to your town.
27. Modest Mouse, The Moon And Antarctica (2000)
I was kinda late to the Modest Mouse game, only really falling in love with them in early 2007. The Moon and Antarctica has only been a regular listen since first procuring it January of last year, and has been one of my absolute favorites ever since. It’s consistently good from start to finish, and is the perfect precursor to their other stellar LP’s later in the decade. After listening to this album for the first time, it made me truly question why it took so long for me to love this band. They have plenty more brilliance left in them, and if this is how they started last decade, I am looking forward to see how they ring in this one.
26. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere (2006)
For a brief moment in time, the extremely odd pairing of drum-heavy DJ Danger Mouse and Goodie Mob’s Cee-Lo Green put a rift into radio-friendly pop music with their break-out hit “Crazy.” It was catchy as hell, and got even me to tune to the pop stations on the FM dial. I picked up St. Elsewhere pretty quickly after the song made airwaves, and didn’t expect the content that was included. For many people who purchased the album on the strength of the lead single, it was probably shelved after “Crazy” was ridiculously overplayed, which is a huge mistake. Throughout the debut LP, the duo tackle a series of different subjects including a Violent Femmes song (“Gone Daddy Gone”), ghouls (“The Boogie Monster”), Chinese philosophy (“Feng Shui”), suicide (“Just A Thought”), love (“Who Cares?”), fucking dead people (“Necromancer”) and finding your step again (“The Last Time”). Each song has a completely different feel to it – every one telling a quirky story straight from Cee-Lo’s mind, perfectly matched by the innovative beats of Danger Mouse.
Watch out for my top 25 favorite albums in the coming days, but for now, feel free to debate 50-25…