I find that trying to define the decade in music for me was as frustrating as trying to figure out what to call this decade. Or as mind-numbing as describing this picture of Kanye West and Paul McCartney. Do you call it the 2000’s, or the 00’s, or the Aughts? I have no idea. Music, this decade, was quite the same. There was no defining, Earth-shattering movement; CD sales plummeted as the internet became the Wild West of music sharing; and genres fractured into sub-genres, which split into sub-sub-genres.
I listen to a good amount of music each year, but the 2000 version of me would probably raise an eyebrow at some of the stuff I’m listening to at the end of 2009. But that’s part of the adventure and excitement of exploring what’s on the horizon. The adventure never gets old. Here are some of my random thoughts and observations on music that I listened to this decade, followed by my favorite songs and albums, as we’re moments from 2010. Enjoy.
First and Only Song Lyric That Affected My Sense of Taste: “Yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon” from “Everything In Its Right Place” by Radiohead.
Best 6-minute Beginning to a Song: “Storm” by Godspeed You Black Emperor
Album I Initially Had No Interest In, But Now Love: Modest Mouse The Moon and Antarctica
Funniest Lyric: “My dandy voice makes the most anti-choice grannies panties moist” from the song, “MTV Get Off the Air Part 2” by MC Paul Barman. Uhhhh, wow…and it only got worse.
Coolest Song from Music Critic’s Choice as Album of the Decade, Radiohead’s Kid A: “In Limbo”
Most Moving Moment: U2 performing “Where the Streets Have No Name” during halftime of Super Bowl XXXVI. Some may see it as exploiting a tragic event, but I found it unbelievably moving.
Two Songs Perfectly Suited For Use in a Kick-Ass Movie With Tons of Sex and/or Violence: “Hello Operator” by The White Stripes; “Grass” by Animal Collective
Some Important 90’s Artists That Failed to Sustain Momentum in the 2000s: Pearl Jam; The Smashing Pumpkins; Beastie Boys (it pains me deeply to write this); Moby; R.E.M.
Some Important 90’s Artists That Succeeded in Remaining Relevant in the 2000s: Radiohead; Yo La Tengo; Stephen Malkmus; Beck
Best Song From a Video Game Commercial: “Mad World” by Michael Andrews for Gears of War
Movie/TV Score of the Decade: The Venture Bros. by J.G. Thirlwell. The Lord of the Rings scores are epic and majestic; anything by Thomas Newman is pure gold; The Triplets of Belleville score is one-of-a-kind, but The Venture Bros. music is the shiiiiit.
Song That Made Me Miss the 90’s the Most: “You Know You’re Right” by Nirvana
Song That Scares the Living Shit Out of Me: “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” by Of Montreal. 11 minutes and 53 seconds of nightmarish music that I can’t turn away from.
Best Song From a Car Commercial: “We’ve Been Had” by The Walkmen for Saturn (R.I.P.)
Best Song to Open an Album: “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” by Wilco on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Best Debut Album: The Strokes Is This It? A notch below, but no less deserving, are: The Shins Oh, Inverted World; Girls Album; Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Worst Album Following a Great Debut: Some Loud Thunder by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. If they were intentionally trying to alienate their fans, it worked.
Best Albums to Listen to on an Airplane: Air Walkie Talkie; Stars of the Lid And Their Refinement of the Decline; Lindstrøm Where You Go I Go Too
Best Unofficial Album: Dangermouse The Grey Album. Mashing Jay-Z’s The Black Album with The Beatles White Album was pure genius. It spawned hundreds of copycats, but none even came close to this. This still amazes me 5 years later.
Worst Album by One of the Best Bands of All-Time: R.E.M. Around The Sun
Best Song With the Worst Title: “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
Most Consistent Band: Spoon
Winner of the “I Don’t Understand Why They Aren’t One of the Biggest Groups in the World Award”: Spoon
Current Over/Under for Number of Years It Will Take Sufjan Stevens to Record an Album for All 50 States: 329. 2 states down, 48 to go.
Best Led Zeppelin Imitation: “Intimate Secretary” by The Raconteurs
All-Time Greatest Use of a Song To End a TV Series: “Breathe Me” by Sia for the finale of Six Feet Under
Two Bands That Critics Love, But I’m Not Feeling…Yet: TV on The Radio; Dirty Projectors
The “David Cross Award” for the Group Whose Song Titles Have Absolutely Nothing to Do With the Song Itself, But Are Interesting to Read Nevertheless: Stars of the Lid. Examples: “Dungtitled (In A Major)”; “That Finger on Your Temple is the Barrel of My Raygun”; “December Hunting for Vegetarian Fuckface”. Sample these on iTunes to see what I’m talking about.
Best Video: Zack Galifianakis version of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” by Kanye West
Best Album Title: When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold by Atmosphere
Songs That Sound Best At An Earsplitting Volume: “Teen Drama” by Times New Viking; “To The Dregs” by Wavves
Album That is Bound to Grow On Me As We Head into the Next Decade: Real Estate Real Estate
Songs That I Refuse to Call Guilty Pleasures:
“How to Save a Life” by The Fray
“Crazy in Love” by Beyoncé
“Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s
“Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
“Upside Down” by Jack Johnson
“Like I Love You” by Justin Timberlake
“Falling in Love At A Coffee Shop” by Landon Pigg
“Fallin” by Alicia Keys
“Can’t Get You Out of My Head” by Kylie Minogue
“Hollaback Girl” by Gwen Stefani
“Poker Face” by Lady Gaga
Musical Moments of Utter Bliss:
The 2:02 mark to the 2:27 mark of “Caring is Creepy” by The Shins
The 1:03 mark to the 1:39 mark of “Automatic Stop” by The Strokes
The beginning of “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes
The first 44 seconds of “Wake Up” by The Arcade Fire
The last 1:05 of “Road to Joy” by Bright Eyes
The last 1:00 of “Emily Kane” by Art Brut
The first time the chorus kicks in on “Abandon” by The French Kicks at 0:55
The 3:17 mark to the 4:02 mark of “Reckoner” by Radiohead. Oh. My. God.
Songs That More People Should Have Heard:
“My Beautiful Friend” by The Charlatans UK
“Fuzzy” by The Incredible Moses Leary
“Wishful Thinking” by Wilco
“Baby, C’mon” by Stephen Malkmus
“Struggle” by Ringside
“Winter Sun” by Rah Rah
“Shout” by De Novo Dahl
“Blood Pt. 2” by Buck 65 & Sufjan Stevens
Bronze Medal Songs of the 2000s:
“In A Little While” by U2
“Where’s Your Head At” by Basement Jaxx
“Iron Galaxy’ by Cannibal Ox
“Pyramid Song” by Radiohead
“I’m Bound to Pack It Up” by The White Stripes
“In My Place” by Coldplay
“99 Problems” by Jay-Z
“Unintentional Tape Manipulations” by Earlimart
“Float On” by Modest Mouse
“The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine” by Spoon
“I Turn My Camera On” by Spoon
“Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn & John
“Breathe Me” by Sia
“Analyze” by Thom Yorke
“A Sunday Smile” by Beirut
“Good Morning” by Kanye West
“Don’t Make Me a Target” by Spoon
“A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend
“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z
“My Girls” by Animal Collective
“Summertime” by Girls
“1901” by Phoenix
Silver Medal Songs of the 2000s:
“Hate to Say I Told You So” by The Hives
“Everything In Its Right Place” by Radiohead
“Caring is Creepy” by The Shins
“I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” by Wilco
“Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes
“Emily Kane” by Art Brut
“The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
“Roscoe” by Midlake
“Reckoner” by Radiohead
“Abandon” by The French Kicks
“Faerie Dance” by Plants and Animals
“Two Weeks” by Grizzly Bear
Gold Medal Song of the 2000s: “Bros” by Panda Bear. 12 minutes and 30 seconds of pure, unadulterated musical escapism. It’s like nothing I’ve heard before and every time I listen to it, I find something new. As far from verse/chorus/verse as you can get, but it has beauty, it has melody, it has rhythm, and it grooves. A sound collage that’s simply beautiful.
Bronze Medal Albums of the 2000s:
Godspeed You Black Emperor Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
U2 All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Cannibal Ox The Cold Vein
White Stripes De Stijl
Beck Sea Change
Coldplay A Rush of Blood to the Head
Jay-Z The Black Album
Air Talkie Walkie
Modest Mouse Good News for People Who Love Bad News
Wilco A Ghost is Born
Stephen Malkmus Face the Truth
My Morning Jacket Z
Raconteurs Broken Boy Soldiers
Thom Yorke The Eraser
Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Kanye West Graduation
French Kicks Swimming
Lindstrom Where You Go I Go Too
Neon Neon Stainless Style
Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend
Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion
Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Real Estate Real Estate
Silver Medal Albums of the 2000s:
Radiohead Kid A
The Shins Oh, Inverted World
The Strokes Is This It?
White Stripes White Blood Cells
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Spoon Gimme Fiction
Sufjan Stevens Illinois
Panda Bear Person Pitch
Plants and Animals Parc Avenue
Gold Medal Album of the 2000s: Radiohead In Rainbows. This is what an album sounds like when amazingly creative people come together to create glorious music without consequence or compromise, without worrying about paying the bills, and without the need to satisfy a record company. They write, play, create, tweak, and play some more. Then they make it available online for people to pay whatever they want. Simple, easy, no middle man between a band and its fans. Granted, only a handful of artists can afford to do this and the music still has to sink its hooks into people in order for them to pony up the cash. On In Rainbows, the music feels more natural than anything else Radiohead has done. Kid A and Amnesiac were revolutionary, but In Rainbows feels so much more comfortable. Sometimes it’s daunting to have nothing left to prove, but it seems to suit Radiohead just fine. They’re playing with house money and we’re all beneficiaries.