Sunday, June 13, 2010

Favorite Rock Albums of the 2000s

I don't claim that this is a "best of" list. I don't buy the many hundreds, or thousands, of albums necessary to provide an accurate guide to all the best popular music of a decade, nor is my taste broad enough to encompass all the many niches and subniches that have evolved over the years. (If it were so broad, it would hardly be "taste" at all.) These are just some of the rock records from 2000-2009 enjoyed and recommended by We Wrenched Our Necks.

1. Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, PJ Harvey: Sublime suite of songs from the greatest female rocker of all time. A case study of how a "difficult" artist can achieve beauty and accessibility without losing integrity.

2. Turn On the Bright Lights, Interpol: The best neo-postpunk album of the decade: a perfect distillation of that early '80s vibe coupled with a distinctly contemporary shimmer and mood.

3. Hail to the Thief, Radiohead: Not as heralded as Kid A, but for my money a more attractive combination of Radiohead's fascinating electronica and rock-oriented songcraft.

4. Isolation Drills, Guided By Voices: The kings of lo-fi go full-throttle hi-fi, giving the stupendous pop more power than ever before.

5. Bachelor No. 2, Aimee Mann: Gorgeous melodies and crisply intelligent lyrics wrapped in ingenious soft rock arrangements. Only flaw is a degree of emotional monochromaticism.

6. Relationship of Command, At the Drive-In: You want over the top? You want a feast of crazy, roaring riffs and furious shouting? You got it.

7. The Obliterati, Mission of Burma: The sequel to the almighty comeback is even stronger, even more intense, even more packed with smart, blistering tracks.

8. Leviathan, Mastodon: The metal Moby-Dick is absolutely exhilarating, even for nonmetalheads (like me). Occasional Rush-style prog touches add spice.

9. Silent Alarm, Bloc Party: British neo-postpunk with strong Gang of Four influence. The superb first four songs justify the entire album.

10. Takk..., Sigur Rós: Slightly more song-oriented than the also excellent Ágætis Byrjun, but still blissfully, beautifully disorienting.

11. Veni Vidi Vicious, The Hives: Stomping Swedish garage-punk that breaks windows, kills cats, and enrages neighbors. And catchy, too.

12. Decoration Day, Drive-By Truckers: Southern rock rides again, but through a darker, more bitterly introspective landscape. Best country-style song title of all time: "Hell No, I Ain't Happy."

13. Kid A, Radiohead: The consensus critics' choice for album of the decade, this brilliant work is the rare experiment in which virtually everything works.

14. ONoffON, Mission of Burma: The reunited art punkers' first LP in 22 years, this surprised even the group's diehard fans with its potency. Greatest comeback album ever.

15. The Back Room, Editors: Interpol sound-alikes hit a similar sweet spot of textured guitar work, but with a slightly higher cheer-to-gloom ratio.

16. A Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay: Lessons learned from Radiohead and U2 backed with consistent songwriting and more energy than detractors would expect.

17. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, U2: The choice between this and All That You Can't Leave Behind is a toss-up; I find this one a bit more vibrant.

18. Elephant, The White Stripes: Frighteningly good guitar thrashing and blues belting from Jack White. With a real drummer, this could have been a masterpiece.

19. Is This It, The Strokes: Not the revelation it was first proclaimed to be, but still an irresistible collection of hipster ditties.

20. Bleed Like Me, Garbage: Swan song from slightly twisted mood rockers is actually the band's hardest-rocking effort.

21. Accelerate, R.E.M.: Not quite at the level of the group's mid-80s zenith, but close enough, for a change.

22. Antidotes, Foals: Somewhat freaky mix of dance punk and math rock. You can count to it!

23. Gozo Poderoso, Aterciopelados: Cool music from Colombia blends stylish beats with infectious tunes and spaced-out atmosphere.

24. Good Morning Aztlan, Los Lobos: Classic, genre-crossing Los Lobos, with composing and performing at a gratifyingly high level.

25. Real New Fall Album, The Fall: Another confounding bullseye from Mark E. Smith after several arrow-in-foot attempts. The U.S. mix of "Theme From Sparta FC," here called "Sparta 2XX," is probably the best Fall song of the 2000s or the 1990s.

Honorable Mentions: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Wilco; Songs for the Deaf, Queens of the Stone Age; Electric Version, The New Pornographers

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