The decade (in music) so far

eminemAwhile back I posted my finalists for the best films of the 00s. Now I turn my attention to the best albums.

This is a harder assignment because I find my musical taste fluctuates a lot more than my movie taste. A band I obsess over today might not get much play 6 months from now. I tend to go through phases where I’ll play all of an artist’s albums for weeks at a time and then shelve them for a couple of months before revisiting them.

Also, far more so than my movie lists, I find that albums I ranked in the lower half of my top ten in a given year have surpassed those I once ranked above them.

But still, I’m giving this a shot.

My one ground rule is that I’ve forced myself to consider all of my CDs as albums rather than collections of songs by artists I like. That’s the reason for some surprise omissions on this list… for example, Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams — two of my all-time favorite artists — didn’t make the cut here. They put out a lot of wonderful material over the past nine years, but neither released an album that, on its own, rose above the 20 I’ve listed.

So without further ado, here are my twenty finalists (in alphabetical chronological order):

Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Elliott Smith – Figure 8 (2000)

Bob Dylan – Love and Theft (2001)
Ron Sexsmith – Blue Boy (2001)

Beck – Sea Change (2002)
Counting Crows – Hard Candy (2002)
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)

Rufus Wainwright – Want One (2003)

Tift Merritt – Tambourine (2004)

Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine (2005)
Ben Folds – Songs for Silverman (2005)
Josh Rouse – Nashville (2005)

Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit (2006)
Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)
John Mayer – Continuum (2006)

Lily Allen – Alright, Still (2007)

Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers (2008)
TV on the Radio – Dear Science (2008)
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)

Bruce Springsteen – Working on a Dream (2009)

9 thoughts on “The decade (in music) so far

  1. Dana says:

    Well, the tilt toward music of this year seems to support your admission of giving greater attention to the new. Perhaps this list should be done in 2015.

  2. Clay says:

    I have three from 2008 and one from 2009… that’s not much of a tilt — the average should be 2.5 per year. When I get a chance I’ll see which years the rest are from.

  3. Clay says:

    OK, I reordered them in chronological order. 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2008 lead the way with three albums apiece, with 2000 and 2001 right behind with two apiece. 2004 and 2007 produced only one album each.

    I’ve included the Springsteen album from 2009, but it’s the first and only album I’ve heard this year. That’s the one with the most potential to fall off this list, I suppose. I’ve had it in constant rotation so it’s very much on my radar right now.

  4. Amy says:

    I’m familiar with a few of these, but I only KNOW one of them. Thank God for Counting Crows. If , musically, you skew recent, clearly I’m still reliving previous decades.

  5. Clay says:

    I wonder if it has more to do with the prevalence of iTunes in the past decade. You know songs from these albums, I’m guessing (‘Stan,’ ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ and ‘Gracie,’ for example) but probably not the full albums.

    My guess is the albums you hold dear were mostly released in the pre-iTunes era.

  6. Amy says:

    Sorry, I just now saw your reply, Clay. Yes, I’m sure it’s the iTunes generation. I do know the whole Vampire Weekend album, but I do only know songs from a few of them. And others are completely off my radar (Beck, Rufus, Tift, Lily – I’ve heard of them but don’t know them). I find it fascinating that you choose someone such as Lily Allen over someone such as Amy Winehouse, when Amy is considered the breakthrough (and throwback) artist whose succcess made it possible for the next group of artists. Hmmmm.

  7. Clay says:

    I don’t see much of a connection between Allen and Winehouse, apart from their accents. Allen is far more modern while Winehouse is more of a throwback. Duffy and Adele seem to be following in her footsteps, Allen not so much.

    Regardless, though, I’m just picking the best albums here, so things like who came first don’t enter the equation.

  8. Amy says:

    Yeah, I guess I’m confusing the Duffy/Adele comparisons to Winehouse with Allen. I do love the Winehouse album, though.

  9. Clay says:

    Yeah, it’s a great one. It was on my longer list before I cut down to twenty.

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