Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Top 10 Albums of the Decade
In no particular order (picking 10 was hard enough).
I'm ashamed to say that I hadn't heard many -- and in some cases any -- of the tracks from these albums until earlier this year.
I feel like some will underestimate the impact that this decade will have on the fate and future of music. There is now a tendency to revolt against the excessive commercialism and marketing that plagued the industry -- even though it has always been there, and modern music has always been just as much a business as it is an art.
Having a negative feeling toward something that destroys art is natural, but we began to lump every popular artist into this group of sell-outs. At some point, mainstream became a bad word, and having the least amount of people know about about your favourite artist made you stylish. In many cases, though, mainstream and epic are synonymous (See beatles, Rolling Stones, etc., etc.).
I wouldn't say the industry is in the most capable hands at this point, but the following arists have managed to create a collection of original music that will inspire, either directly or indirectly, the next musical generation. Based on that assumption, this millenium has some pretty wild shit in store.
1. Radiohead - In rainbows
Big surprise having Radiohead on a top ten list. It was a horrible task deciding between In Rainbows and Kid A, but I'm guessing the recency played a small role in my final decision. In Rainbows was a collection of rhythmic bass lines and thought-provoking lyrics...again, big fucking surprise.
"How come I end up where I started/How come I end up where I went wrong"
2. Kanye West - The College Dropout
Kanye restored my faith in hip hop. Great production was accompanied by meaningful lyrics. Gangster rap can be entertaining and often interesting, but at some point I wanted to feel like the music I listened to meant more than just loud beats and an upbeat chorus. When my kids ask me about hip hop in my day, this is what I'll show them
"But he wasn't talking bout coke and birds it was more like spoken word"
3. Kanye West - 808s and heartbreak
It took a little while for this album to grow on me, but when it finally sunk in I began to understand how good it really was. People seem to forget that Kanye succesfully flipped his style upside down to create something original. Even if you're Kanye west, that takes balls; and more importantly, musical intuition.
"So I hopped in the cab and I paid my fair/See I know my destination but I'm still not there"
4. MGMT - oracular spectacular
This album was the rebirth of an incredible spirit lost somewhere in this generation. It was fun and different, but at the same time exploding with pure heart. You want to dance, do drugs and fall in love at the same time.
"I'm a curse and i'm a sound/When I open up my mouth/There's a reason I don't win/I don't know how to begin"
5. Arcade Fire - Funeral
When I first saw Arcade Fire performing on a late night talk show about five years ago, I was fucking baffled. The group had like 15 people playing violins and cowbells and pianos. The worst part was finding out that all of them (except the lead singer) are Canadian. When I gave the group a chance, I realized how epic this group of pilgrim-looking musicians really was. Unfortunately European fans caught onto this much earlier than we did, but you can't blame us for not giving a Canadian act the benefit of the doubt.
"Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up"
6. Dr.Dre - Chronic 2001
Chronic 2001 is the most complete hip hop album ever made: 22 tracks of hypnotizing beats and raw lyrics. It's a tribute to Dre's attention to detail, and a refusal to settle for anything below perfection. Dre sealed his legendary status with this album, and also shone a refined spotlight on rappers like Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Exibit and Nate Dogg.
"This is the millenium of Aftermath/It ain't gonna be nothin after that/So give me one more platinum plaque and fuck rap/You can have it back"
7. Eminem - The marshall mathers LP
I wasn't surprised to hear that Marshall Mathers was the best-selling artist of this decade; he may work harder than anyone in the industry. Also, like Dr.Dre, he has managed to avoid a celebrity brand that most rappers get lured into. The Marshall Mathers LP was the definition of raw, and I'm sorry to say its the last you'll see of the sort. Eminem's talent is still thriving and his anger is still there, but his success brought him a taste of something that was so detrimental to his lyrics that he'll never be the same again: stability.
"When I go out, I'ma go out shootin/ I don't mean when I die, I mean when I go out to the club, stupid"
8. Strokes - Is this It
Usually, the success of a group of lazy New York rich kid musicians with direct connections to an industry that they were practically born into, would piss me off. For The Strokes, though, I'm able to let it slide. This is likely because the group created -- either through luck or intuitive instinct -- such a timeless LP. Is This It smashed the happy ideal of rock at the end of last century. Less is more replaced bigger is better.
"Stop to pretend, stop pretending/It seems this game is simply never-ending"
9. Metric - Fantasies
Emily Haine may have the coolest voice on the planet. Metric's four albums over this decade have brought the group from a trendy Montreal indie act, to a new wave giant -- and they've dragged the entire Toronto and Montreal indie scenes with them. I chose Fantasies as the best of the best because it feel like it was the most accurate reflection of Metric's music as a whole. They are the solitary group in an indefinable new wave genre that has already had a major influence on Toronto's scene. Their sound is mellow power.
"Come take my pulse the pace is on a runaway train"
10.Outkast - Stankonia
Stankonia was the first album I bought this decade, and it gave me -- and continues to give me -- fresh optimism for the future of hip hop. Big Boi and Andre 3000 stretched and twisted the genre beyond limitations to form a strange and original sound. Stankonia combined hip hop, soul, rock, hardcore rap and gospel to create music that is blood-pumping at some points and dreamy at others. Big Boi and Andre dropped cool and wild in a fucking magic music blender.
"Too Democratic, Republic fuck it/We chicken nugget, we dip in the sauce like mop and bucket"
Honourable mentions: Drake: So far gone (mixtape shmixtape), Radiohead: Kid A, Kanye West: Graduation + Late Registration, Deadmau5:random album title, DJ Dangermouse: The Grey Album, Jay-Z: The Black Album, 50 cent: Get Rich or Die Trying, MIA: Kala, etc. etc. etc.