Sound choices: My favorite albums of the decade

Alex Schaaf

Lists are always interesting. They rarely have something for everyone, and people are always saying, “How could you forget this band?” Also, any list that proclaims “The Best Of” is always more prone to fail than something more subjective such as “Our Favorites.” I will be using this second approach here today, as for this list I am going to look back at the past decade, giving you my favorite five albums of the 2000s.
These are certainly not the “best” albums of the last 10 years, but they are the ones that affected me the most and the ones I’ll be listening to for many years to come. It’s hard to only pick five, and it is slightly ridiculous to boil down ten years of music into five albums, but I’ve got column space to consider, so here you are. The best of 2009 will come next term.1. “Kid A,” Radiohead
No, I’m not just picking this because Pitchfork told me to. All things aside, this album was one of the most unexpected pieces of music to come out in this time period, and this is a major reason why I admire it. Radiohead could have kept in the guitar-rock vein that they had going in the late ’90s, they could have released more songs like “Karma Police” or “Paranoid Android” for years to come, and they would have been fine. But instead they took a bit of a left turn, and this album goes from quiet ambience to crashing horns to heavenly harps in the span of 10 masterfully crafted songs. Highlight of the album – “The National Anthem.”

2. “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” of Montreal
This album succeeds due to its piercing directness; the way in which Kevin Barnes can sing the most personal line over the strangest accompaniment has a way in getting right to the heart of things. Singing lines such as “There’s the girl that made me bitter / Want to pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her” over infectious dance beats, Barnes struck the perfect balance between highly accessible pop-based songs and dark and personal narratives. Highlight of the album – “The Past is a Grotesque Animal.”

3. “Illinois,” Sufjan Stevens
A sprawling, expansive work of 22 tracks, this is Stevens’ finest work to date. The way he melds personal stories of distinct individuals into a larger work about the state of Illinois is what makes this album stick together. Sure, it’s fun to hear about Superman and Abraham Lincoln, but it’s even more intriguing to hear the story of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, with Stevens singing such lines as “In my best behavior, I am just like him.” Highlight of the album – “Chicago.”

4. “The Soft Bulletin,” The Flaming Lips
The most accessible of the Lips’ albums, this saw the band members at their peak of writing expertly crafted pop songs. Mixed in with their psychedelic textures and grandiose orchestral arrangements, songs such as “Race for the Prize” and “The Spiderbite Song” are perfect examples of the catchy melodies that Wayne Coyne and co. are capable of producing. Highlight of the album – “Race for the Prize.”

5. “Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs,” Andrew Bird
This man has been responsible for several of the best albums of the decade, but I had to pick one, so here it is. This album showcases a very interesting point in Bird’s career, as it displays the quirky, old-timey humor of his previous work alongside the more serious folk-based style that he would cultivate further in his later works. “Skin Is, My” and “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” are two stand-out tracks, but it’s quite difficult to say they are the best on the album. As one of the most densely packed albums, with each listen bringing on new revelations, it is well-deserved of the final spot on this list. Highlight of the album – “Tables and Chairs.