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The Top Fifty Musical Long-Playing Recordings of The Decade 2000-2009 (Part Two, 20-1)
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There are two versions of this list, both featuring the same records. You can find the other list on Facebook, which is a personal journey through my favorite albums of the decade; why they mean so much to me, and the memories/people/experiences I associate these records with.

This list is a more objective version, from my point of view as a music fan. I give reasons why the albums are such great albums and why you should listen to them. Because, when all is said and done, I don’t think I’d ever associate the best moments of my life with crap music anyway.

20.The Stills – Logic Will Break Your Heart (2003)
Unfortunately not too many people gave the Stills’ amazing debut album love. I blame everything on the release date-- the tail end of 2003, when year-end lists were done and everyone had writer’s fatigue. Still, that’s no excuse to overlook this beautiful postpunk masterpiece from Canada. Before vocalist/guitarist Greg Pacquet exited in 2005, leaving them to make crappy follow-ups, the Stills had a talent of turning heartbreaking songs into heartwrenching ones. In Gender Bombs, he gives us a warning, “logic will break your heart forever, be brave”, singing it with absolute resignation. This pain reaches a climax in "Animals & Insects", where it seems he can no longer contain his desperation, crying out three simple words as the chorus: "Oh My God." Oh my God indeed.

19. At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command (2000)
These days, pundits classify At The Drive-In under “emo” or the hilarious (but more acceptable)“post-hardcore” genre, but really – nothing else sounds like Relationship of Command. RoC is what happens when you have a group of talented musicians coming from and going to different places, but finally meeting at the center. It’s riotous and explosive but also very musical, and the last time I felt that way with any piece of music was with Nirvana. I remember seeing this band for the first time at Conan o’ Brien, and I was just staring, mouth agape, at this insane performance before me. Even the weepy Sparta and the annoyingly-progressive Mars Volta, both follow-up bands of ATDI members, could only dream of replicating the magic that happened with this album.

18. Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs (2001)
Funnily enough this album was number one of the year that my choice for album of the decade came out. It didn’t really stand the test of time, but there is and will always be a certain kind of genius in Ben Folds’s first solo album, which has him at the crossroads between being a fun-loving freewheeling 90s indie star and a serious musician and family man. There are songs like “Not The Same” that still give me goosebumps, and tearjerkers like “The Luckiest” and “Still Fighting It” that show a vulnerability rare in music today. Unfortunately the sappiness took over, and the albums that followed were overtly sentimental and weepy. Thank God we still have Rockin’ The Suburbs.

17. Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)
After OK Computer and Kid A, Radiohead didn’t have to do anything anymore. Their place in rock music history was set, and to even dare to do something else may have seemed anti-climactic. Suddenly, and without warning, they release an album that everyone can download online for whatever price they see fit. Yes, even for free. The insane thing about this is that it makes them more money than any of their other albums have ever earned. Most importantly, they give us another classic- this one a perfect combination of their early 00s experimenting and their brilliant 90s songwriting

16. the xx – xx (2009)
Everything But the Girl meets PJ Harvey, Chris Isaak meets Nick Cave; the xx’s simple and barebones debut is a breath of fresh air that came at the right time. When everyone else seemed to be outdoing each other with controllerism know-how and overproduced electromusic these 20 years olds snuck up on us with a masterful offering that balances just the right amount of sex and silence.

15.PJ Harvey – Stories from The City, Stories from The Sea (2000)
This is inspiration. This is what a city can do to someone. Brit Rock n’ Roll stalwart PJ Harvey moved to New York city for a while, leading her to create the antithesis to her grimy, dirty 90s sound. The result is something eminently beautiful, but still signature Harvey. There are still some tracks that sound angry, such as “Kamikaze” and the opener “Big Exit”,but a lot of the album seems to come from a very serene and personal place. You’re actually there when you hear Harvey sing about “a rooftop in Brooklyn, at one in the morning, watching the lights flash in Manhattan.” And of course, who can forget the haunting moment in “The Mess We’re In” when PJ Harvey and Thom Yorke stop echoing each other and start wailing in unison. There are a few albums on my list that I would dare call a classic, and Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea is definitely one of them.

14.Death Cab for Cutie – We Have The Facts and We’re Voting Yes (2000)
Death Cab for Cutie’s 2000 album starts out unassumingly enough, with a lo-fi guitar + vocal sound reminiscent of their debut album Something About Airplanes. Midway through the track, 1.40 to be exact, the most miraculous thing occurs-- Death Cab for Cutie stops being “just another indie band” and becomes my favorite band. We Have The Facts and We’re Voting Yes is consistent, painful, rocking and honest. It’s a record by a band who have no idea if they’ll even be able to stick around for the next album, with no clue on how great they’ll eventually become. It’s a record untainted by the OC, Twilight and Zooey Deschanel. It’s a record by musicians, and up until vocalist Ben Gibbard almost screams “This is my last defense” at the end of “Scientist Studies”, Death Cab never lets go.

13.Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It in People (2003)
The first track off of You Forgot It in People is “Capture the Flag”, and it feels like something left behind from their post-rock debut Feel Good Lost. It’s atmospheric, easy and dreamy. It also doesn’t give you a clue of the glory you are about to witness. That happens on the second track, "KC Accidental", an anthemic, loud, experimental ditty that throws all your expectations out the window and welcomes you to what we all now know as BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE, a collective of Toronto musicians who put Canada on the music map with not only this group but also the individual members’ other bands (Metric, Feist, Stars. Jason Collett) . What follows is a record alternately cool (“Stars and Sons”), celebratory (“Almost Crimes”), sexy (“Lover’s Spit”) and solemn (“Anthems for A Seventeen Year-Old Girl”)

12.Sleater-Kinney – One Beat (2002)
I must admit that I like the songs in Sleater-Kinney’s earlier 2000 record All Hands On The Bad One better, but One Beat is just one of those rare albums that works perfectly as a whole entity. This is an album by a band at the top of their game, and every beat, strum and piercing scream is testament to their greatness. The songs seamlessly flow into each other, and every listen offers something new. There is also the feeling that after all the drama and infighting, at this shining instant the three girls have finally come to understand each other. By the middle of 2002 Sleater-Kinney was the most important American rock band alive, and One Beat just served to make them too important for even that.

11.Yo La Tengo – And Then Nothing Turned itself Inside-Out (2000)
I can think of no better album cover that perfectly encapsulates the music within than that of And Then Nothing Turned itself Inside-Out. On it, a lone figure stands outside his suburban home at the break of dawn, staring at what could either be a lone lamppost or a UFO. This is Yo La Tengo’s best album, the musical equivalent of Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, with its suburban depression and poignancy. From the dark opener “Everyday” to the sadly funny “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” to one of this decade’s true masterpieces “You Can Have it All”, this is the sort of album that wholly captures a certain mood and takes you to a different place. It’s also one of those albums that works best as an album, where listening from start to finish is just the most rewarding experience.

10.American Analog Set - Know by Heart (2001)
The best background music ever made, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Andrew Kenny and company, with xylophones, acoustic guitars and brush sticks in tow, create an effervescent record that relaxes as much as it incites one to listen deeper. It might be overtly mellow, but that’s also the reason that you won't be able to stop listening to it.

9. Life Without Buildings - Any Other City (2000)The most interesting thing about Any Other City is that it went mostly unnoticed the year it was released, and then throughout the decade it would just start popping up in blogs and music lists. No other band has ever sounded like Life Without Buildings, with the band’s jangly, new wavey sound and vocalists Sue Tompkins’ nymph-like mad ramblings. At one point in “The Leanover”, for example, the lyrics read “high hills, high hills o i, m b v m b v m b v m b v m b v more m b v hi fi”, and there’s a strangely touching moment in “Envoys” where the music starts building up and she just repeats the word “salt” over and over again until it becomes “assault”. With this impressive debut the band seemed primed and ready to be one of the greats, except they just mysteriously broke up, leaving only a live album 6 years later. Their time together was so fleeting it almost feels like a dream, yet it makes completely perfect sense when you hear Tompkins sing “don’t you know? I’m leaving you in 14 days. Take all your precious things, nothing less.”

8. Mates of State – My Solo Project (2000)
This debut by an unlikely boy/girl duo consisting of keyboards and drums came mostly unnoticed, but over the years Mates of State would gather a dedicated fan base that appreciated their barebones indiepop. The best, most interesting thing about My Solo Project is that it’s an unapologetically happy album that seems to be made by a couple more concerned about expressing their love for each other than being known as great musicians. Many songwriting rules are broken, and even the instrumentation is not that great. Alas, like it always does, love wins in the end.

7.Feist – The Reminder (2007)
“ ‘I’m sorry’ – two words I always think after you’re gone, when I realize I was acting all wrong,” sings Leslie Feist in the first 20 seconds of her 3rd album, The Reminder. She had me at hello, and it only gets more painful from there on. The Reminder, for me, is THE break-up album of the decade, and Feist hits the spot so many times that it feels like she’s inside your heart, jotting down every feeling you wish you could write down. In one of her most powerful songs, “The Park”, she asks “why would he think the boy could become the man who could make you sure he was the one?” Even her most celebratory song “I Feel It All” is tinged with regret-- “I didn’t rest, I didn’t stop. Did we fight, or did we talk?” I blame Feist for making life more painful, but then I also thank her for making it clearer.

6.The Killers - Hot Fuss (2004)
By now, every person and their grandmother knows all the lyrics to Mr. Brightside, and with good reason-- The Killers took the then-floundering dancepunk genre, mixed in some of that then-in-style metrosexual touch, and turned everything on its head with classic lyrical hooks. The result is the perfect pop rock album, filled with hip-shakin songs about sexual confusion (“Somebody Told Me”), envy (“Mr. Brightside”) and redemption (“All These Things That I’ve Done”). And then you have “On Top”, one of the most overlooked gems of this decade. A lot of people love to hate this record. I hate loving it this much.



5.The Strokes - Room on Fire (2003)
The Strokes’ debut album, Is This It? is undoubtedly one of the most important albums this decade, having defined a new sound for the noughties by reintroducing garage rock to the world. I choose their sophomore effort Room on Fire however, because, well, it just kicks so much ass. There is a point in the opening track, “Whatever Happened” (more specifically 0.43 seconds into the song), where drummer Fabrizio Moretti builds up to the promise of something amazing, and lead guitarist Nick Valensi comes in to deliver. Shortly after vocalist Julian Casablancas destroys with his distinctly hoarse vocals. By the end of the first song you’re already spent and satisfied-- then in comes "Reptilia".

4.Pretty Girls Make Graves – Good Health (2002)
The highest ranking hard-rockin’ album on this list, and with good reason. These kids from Seattle, at the height of their career, perfectly combined a DC post-hardcore sound with future forward synths and loops, resulting in new and exciting music you could both mosh and dance to. Andrea Zollo’s earnestness is at times harrowing, and when her voice combines with bassist Derek Fudesco’s screams, nothing else exists.</p>

3.Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)
This album came at a very strange time in rock music-- right after Garage stormed in and shortly before Dancepunk burst onto the scene. I had a hard time classifying it in either, until I finally realized it was just something totally different. Interpol’s debut album sounds like nothing that came before it, and in spite of the Editors, She Wants Revenge and every succeeding Interpol album, nothing that came after. Songs like "Obstacle 1" and "PDA" have this raw energy that can only come with the new, while other tracks such as "NYC" and "Untitled" have a stark and restrained aura that feels like it took years to master.

2.Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
I had never really been big on Radiohead; so no matter how audacious Kid A seemed with its choose-your-own-single scheme and anti-publicity campaign, I figured it was all just another artsy stunt. I liked The Bends and OK Computer enough, but seeing as this was an experimental record I wasn’t exactly excited to get my hands on it. I was dead wrong. At the risk of sounding overzealous, Kid A made me excited about music again. None of it made sense, but the record was beautiful. And I still get the shivers every time I hear the opening of “Everything in its Right Place”.</p>

1.Death Cab for Cutie - The Photo Album (2001)
The reason that The Photo Album is here could be because it’s intertwined with my life. So many great memories are attached to each song in this record, and like any good photo album this brings me back to those places. I figure, though, that this wouldn’t be the case if I wasn’t listening to the album all the time, and I was. Everything about this album is perfect; from the very pensive “Steadier Footing”, where Gibbard asks about “the people we’ve met in the last five years, and will we remember them in ten more?” to my personal favorite song this decade, “We Laugh Indoors”, to the cathartic final track “Debate Exposes Doubt’. “Finally, there is clarity: this tiny life is making sense,” vocalist Ben Gibbard sings with all his heart. Thanks to The Photo Album, I couldn’t agree more.

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number nine is my number sixteen

quark, I can't believe you wrote two completely different "liner notes" for this list, y'done lost yr damn mind, flippy

!--mza.

quark! i love your top 3! love that radiohead appears twice. and hate that i love hot fuss just as much. hehe that said, i have to listen to pretty girls more often. happy new year! :D

ah, wait that's me, lou :)

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