The past decade has been an interesting one for the music industry. We rolled into the decade with both artists and record companies fearing the internet and electronic distribution. Now buying music that is digitally delivered to your computer has become the norm.
In my previous life as a blogger, I had a series called Everyday Albums. These are albums that can be listened to everyday without tiring of them. I used the same approach to ranking these albums. I expanded on the top 10 but also listed an honorable 40 albums.
The Top 10
10. Pete Yorn – Musicforthemorningafter (2001)
Pete Yorn’s name had managed to get passed around quite a bit prior to me ever hearing anything from him. What I’d heard: young musical genius plays all his instruments bridging genres with Jersey swagger. What was clear when I finally got my hands on Musicforthemorningafter was that it was real. It was fresh and new with a raw feeling. Even today, there’s a genuine quality that keeps it fresh nearly a decade after release.
“Stories and cigarettes ruined lives of lesser girls”
9. Mates of State – Bring it Back (2006)
I didn’t know anything about Mates of State when I saw them listed on the 2005 Austin City Limits Festival lineup. On the ACL Fest site, there were samples and bios from most of the artists. When I listened to their samples, I put them on the must-see list for the festival. Despite it being upwards of 1000 degrees and no shade in site, I managed to sit through their set and knew I had found a new favorite. Their sound is unique and 2006’s Bring it Back is packed with honest, fun music.
“And you will surely find this news pleasing to your ears”
8. Matthew Ryan – Regret Over the Wires (2003)
Matthew Ryan has become a favorite of mine in this decade. A true independent artist, with a unique voice both in sound and from the fresh songwriting perspective. He’s certainly not alone in creating amazing music without fanfare, but it seems as though anyone I introduce to his music comes away a fan.
“Am I talking too much about a girl from nowhere?”
7. Travis – The Invisible Band (2001)
In the summer of 2001, I drove a truck from Chicago to Portland, OR. I did this alone and somehow ended up without any CDs for the 2200 mile trip. It wasn’t until Minneapolis that I got tired of jumping from station to station on rural (probably because I was wrapped up in an Art Bell show about monsters). I walked into one of the original Target stores and bought three CDs. Unapologetically, I bought Bon Jovi’s Crossroads, Weezer’s self-titled green album, and The Invisible Band from Travis. I rotated the 3 albums all day for 3 straight days. I have nothing but fond memories of that trip and that Travis album.
“The grass is always greener on the other side, and the neighbor’s got a new car that you want to drive”
6. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)
This is one of a handful of CDs that got me through my first Alaskan winter. I moved to Alaska in the late summer of 2002, and while the fall lasted unusually long, once winter hit I needed all I could get to keep me going through it. This album is a perfect companion for cold, dark days. I still consider this a near flawless album.
“And the truth is I miss you”
5. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
I’ll admit it, the first I heard of Arcade Fire was when “Wake Up” filled the San Diego Sports Arena on March 28th, 2005 as the house lights dropped on the opening night of U2’s Vertigo tour. The intro music would have been an appropriate time for many in the crowd to whip out their smartphones and fire up Shazam to find out who it was. I remember it was much like the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack puts on The Beta Band and gets everyone to listen. I had no insight into their existence before that moment. I was not cool enough to know who they were before Bono and the boys introduced me to them. A few months later they were on every hipster’s radar at the Austin City Limits festival drawing one of the bigger crowds of the festival. Funeral and their follow up, Neon Bible made a mark on the decade both in hype and substance.
“And since there’s no one else around, we let our hair grow long, and forget all we used to know”
4. U2 – How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)
I still remember sitting at my cubical with a coworker and lighting up U2.com while they were streaming their album in its entirety. Something done quite frequently now, but at the time it was pretty rare. Songs like “City of Blinding Light” and “Original of the Species” still amaze me at the way they were crafted.
“Of science and the human heart, there is no limit”
3. Josh Ritter – The Animal Years (2006)
The first time I heard this album it blew my mind. I’d known about Josh Ritter and heard his name mentioned in different circles, but assumed that because the only song I knew from him seemed to be a bar sing along song (Kathleen). The first song I heard on Animal Years was “Girl in the War” and it has become not only one of my favorite songs, but also an anthem for this decade of war against two countries and a concept.
“I got a girl in the war, Paul, the only thing I know to do is turn up the music and pray that she makes it through”
2. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (2000)
When I first heard Heartbreaker, I was headed out to the Wilson River in the Oregon Coast Range for some summer fishing. The shade of the tall fir trees wasn’t the only relief I got that day. The songwriting is incredible and the production is clean and pure. I debated whether to include Gold or Heartbreaker in my top 10 and gave the nod to Heartbreaker strictly based on the power of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Come Pick Me Up.”
“I ain’t never been to Vegas, but I’ve gambled all my life”
1. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
What haven’t I said about this album? It’s Wilco’s Achtung Baby, their OK Computer, their Abbey Road. The production and story of distribution redefined what being an independent artist mean for this decade.
“All my lies are always wishes”
The Honorable 40
(Secret: I started out putting these in ranked order, but quit halfway through and it kind of deferred to alphabetical order)
|Damien Rice – O – 2002|
|Ryan Adams – Gold – 2001|
|U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind – 2000|
|The National – Boxer – 2007|
|Keane – Hopes and Fears – 2004|
|The Jayhawks – Smile – 2000|
|Drive-By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera – 2001|
|Coldplay – Parachutes – 2000|
|Band of Horses – Everything All The Time – 2006|
|Dixie Chicks – Taking The Long Way – 2006|
|Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism – 2003|
|Counting Crows – Hard Candy – 2002|
|She & Him – Volume One – 2008|
|U2 – No Line On The Horizon – 2009|
|Wilco – A Ghost Is Born – 2004|
|Damien Rice – 9 – 2006|
|The Swell Season – The Swell Season – 2006|
|Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter – 2007|
|The Killers – Hot Fuss – 2004|
|Mates Of State – Re-arrange Us – 2008|
|Matthew Ryan – East Autumn Grin – 2000|
|The Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way – 2002|
|Feist – The Reminder – 2007|
|Athlete – Tourist – 2005|
|Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago – 2006|
|Death Cab for Cutie – Plans – 2005|
|Doves – The Last Broadcast – 2002|
|The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America – 2006|
|K.T. Tunstall – Eye to the Telescope – 2005|
|Kings of Leon – Because of the Times – 2007|
|Ray LaMontagne – Trouble – 2004|
|The Shins – Oh, Inverted World – 2001|
|The Shins – Wincing the Night Away – 2007|
|Snow Patrol – Final Straw – 2004|
|Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – 2007|
|The Strokes – Room On Fire – 2003|
|Sufjan Stevens – Illinois – 2005|
|Weezer – Weezer (Green Album) – 2001|
|Wilco – Sky Blue Sky – 2007|