my top 12 albums of the decade

so its that time of year where people are making lists... and theres more of them this year than most because not only is it the end of the year, but its the end of the decade. it got me thinking about making my own list. my top albums of the 2000's. i gotta say, i was worried about music around the turn of the century/decade. really worried. but there were a ton of albums that given me confidence about the state of music, and creative thought in the world... and by the end of the decade, it seems that alot of this independent-minded music has started to win.

so here ya go - 12 albums to check out if you havent already. and if its been a few years since you've heard them, dig out the old cd or look them up on itunes and give them a fresh spin.

12. mastodon - crack the skye :: there are few really heavy albums that i can listen to on a regular basis (achilles and metallica withstanding)... but this is an album that consistently finds its way back into rotation. i think its because there is a real soul to it. its not just blast beats and screaming or groaning. the music is is powerful and heavy, but there seems to be a heart beating below the weight of the music. and there's great vocals.

11. pearl jam - backspacer :: a true return to form - full of muscular pop and rock songs and a few spectacular ballads. the vocals are strong, as are the melodies and hooks. if you liked pearl jam back in the 90s, you should definitely check this album out. its a concise half hour of great rock n roll.

10. john mayer - continuum :: i realize that this pick sounds wussy, but its a solid blues/folk/soul/rock album. its pretty perfect if you take off 'waiting for the world to change' (and just make it its own single). it sustains a continuous vibe throughout, and doesn't go in the normal cheesy lyrical directions that his records typically do.

9. the postal service - give up :: i think i have listened to this album more than any other album that has come out this decade, because it is perfect artroom music. when i first heard it, it was so fresh and different. ben gibbard's voice floats perfectly above and amongst the textural electronic beats. i can't wait for more music from this duo.

8. my morning jacket - it still moves :: my first introduction to one of my favorite bands. they are a wonderful mix of neil young and radiohead. it just feels like REAL music. 'nuff said.

7. modest mouse - the moon & antarctica :: to be honest, i didnt begin to love this album until after i heard their 2 more recent albums. but after hearing this album, it is obvious that it is their best work. it has an energy and flow that the others lack. this is a real gem of the turn of the century.

6. the black keys - attack & release :: i remember reading about the black keys in rolling stone - 2 dudes from crumbling urban ohio playing indie garage blues. it sounded like a cool premise, and with the addition of producer danger mouse, this album cooks. it has a wonderful atmospheric presence that accents the texture and sensitive muscle of the music.

5. arcade fire - neon bible :: indie rock that channeled springsteen. recorded in a church. tons of interesting instruments and multiple vocalists, both creating unique sonic textures. its a little dark but still manages to be uplifting. the perfect winter album.

4. radiohead - kid a :: this one shows up at the top of many many decade-end lists... and it deserves to be there for sure. i didn't think they would be able to top 'ok computer', but this took their fusion of rock and electronic elements to a new level. they were able to fuse passion and detachment into one cohesive package.

3. death cab for cutie - transatlanticism :: i have to thank rob & mandi on this one - they suggested i check this album out. i did, and havent looked back since. death cab has become one of my favorite bands - they have continued to grow and push since this record, but it still stands as their most complete statement. it felt so fresh when i heard it, and it remains that way today.

2. iron & wine - the shepherd's dog :: i loved sam beam's voice from the first time i heard it. but at the time, i was a bit bored by the minimalist instrumentation that backed it (basically just his guitar... very lo-fi recording). 'the woman king' ep came out, and i was more interested. but it lacked a full, solid body of songs. then came the 'the shepherd's dog', recorded with a full band. this, to me, is the quintessential indie folk album. off-kilter rhythms and instrumentation, dynamic shifts within songs as well as between songs, and abstract thought provoking lyrics. this album has been in constant rotation since it was released - and i have a feeling it will continue to be that way. it takes me someplace far away, but is still grounded here in the earth. listen to it and you'll get what i'm saying.

1. wilco - sky blue sky :: this album was all i could talk about for 6 months after it came out. its all i wanted to listen to, it was the first thing i recommended to anyone, and it showed up on all my mix cds. it is the closest thing to a perfect album that i can find - not just in this decade, but its up there with jeff buckley 'grace', pearl jam 'ten', and miles davis 'kind of blue' for me in the realm of complete, perfect musical statements. its not the most exciting album of all time (that title may to go mastodon 'crack the skye'), but with the addition of nels cline on guitar, jeff tweedy found his classic rock and avante-garde partner. this album is escape. its a worship of love and life. its simplicity and subtlety. if nothing else, listen to 'impossible germany' and see for yourself.