I could have put any Spoon record on this list and most everyone would be content. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga just has a more confident aura about it. Not only that but it contained one of the best and most popular film songs of the decade, “The Underdog”. On Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon laced Rock with Funk and it is about as unique as you think it’d be. Spoon’s best attribute is that they never seem to totally fail you. Yes, there may be moments of question (See: Gimme Fiction). Yes, you may worry they’ll become something you’ll come to hate. But every time, Britt Daniel and company manage to impress you and be the most indie band they can be. I’d like to think Spoon is the definitive indie band. They have the definitive sound. They’re on a definitive indie label. They’re definitively awesome. They’re not intrusive on your life like so many bands are these days, and that makes you want to welcome the band even more. Spoon is kind of like that dude you see on campus all the time, and you always love talking to him because he makes you laugh. You always say to your self, “Man, I wanna hang out with that dude more. He’s so cool.” You never get close to that guy, he never returns your calls, but it doesn’t phase you ever. That’s Spoon.
You’re a fool if you think that American Idiot sounded different to any other Green Day record. If you want to hate a Green Day record for sounding different, you should really hate Warning. The only difference between American Idiot and past Green Day records is that the songs are strung together and there’s a “plot” (allegedly). The thing that makes this record great is the ebb and flow of all the songs. It’s was as true of an “album” as you could really find at the time. Not only that but it was a hit. Everyone had it. Including the people who hated it. What is there to hate about this record? “WTF, The songs are too good.” “Billy Joe’s song writing is growing, what an asshole.” “The band is way too creative.” Cry me a river you blubbering baby. Get over it. Green Day recorded songs that were ambitious but not overly pretentious. Must I reference Angels & Airwaves again to prove my point? American Idiot just came at a perfect time. Everyone form the ages of 14 to 22 hated Bush and they needed a song to sing. Green Day gave them a song to sing. And just in case they were heartbroken, they gave them a few more songs to sing as well. So, if you’re afraid to come out and say you love this record dear reader. Fear not. I’m here for you. Just say it. Scream it. That’s right. Let it aaalllll out.
When I created this list, I didn’t include my favorite band, Alkaline Trio. I’ll expand on that later. I decided to include my number two. The Lawrence Arms created one of the best punk records of the decade. I say this because Oh! Calcutta! is pure Chicago punk. The bassist and co-vocalist, Brendan Kelly said that while writing this record, they kept in mind all the things that got them to love punk. They reflected heavily on why they were in this band and why they were making their 5th full length. The answer? Love, loss, beer, weed, the music, friends and the Chicago skyline. I would say 95% of the people who read this entry will absolutely hate this band and every song on this record. That’s okay. The closing line on Gavin Castleton’s Home is “Home is not the place you dwell/Home is where you see yourself.” That sort of how I feel about this album and this band. They represent comfort. So much so that this past October I drove from Nashville, Tenn. to Chicago, Ill. to see The Larry Arms play their 10th anniversary show. The album is the best representation of the band. The guitars are huge. The drums are huge. The bass is huge. Everything is just in your face and its perfect. For those who can appreciate it, Oh! Calcutta! is something that will last for a long time. It’s an album about the human condition and I think people can connect with that. I just pray to baby Jesus that my kids will like punk.
My Mom is pretty cool. Every once in a while I’ll get Wall Street Journal articles about bands like The xx (thats actually the name of the band) or cool columns on music publishing or concert promotion from her in the mail. Her greatest moment of coolness is most certainly when she turned me on to Fionn Regan. In 2007, he was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Since my mom checks all the Irish news publications, Fionn Regan fell into her lap and then into mine. The Irish singer-songwriter from County Wicklow is a mind-blowing talent. On the surface, Regan just totally rips your fucking face off with his finger picking. Never have I heard better acoustic guitar playing. That goes with out future withdrawal or retraction. Once you get past the superficial mind-fuck, there is so much more to this record. These sweeping collection beautiful lullabies will leave you feeling like everything will be okay. While his guitar playing could be perceived as a distraction, it isn’t in the slightest. Even if he sucked at guitar, these songs would still be phenomenal. Songs like “Hey Rabbit” and “Noah (Ghost in a Sheet)” are so simple and cozy, but deep down they are songs sung for a purpose, speaking volumes at such a low amplitude. I hate to say this kind of stuff, but this guy is finishing what Elliot Smith failed to finish (that damn coward). And he is NOT the next Bob Dylan. If you like folk music and incredible songwriting, Fionn Regan is a necessity. The few of us who know Fionn Regan, have been waiting so very patiently for album number two. On February 9th, almost four years later, we’ll finally get our second album.
I don’t know anything about OK Go. I could probably spout more information about Alkaline Trio, Bob Dylan and Arctic Monkeys than I could about my own life. The only thing I know about OK Go is they know how to write near perfect pop music. They can do it better than anyone I could think of. Everything is there: Witty one liners, over-arching stories with each song that has a clear resolution, big hooks, bigger guitars, great energy and sweet videos to go along with sweet songs. Pop music usually always revolves around the three “L’s”. Love, Loss, Lust. That’s pretty much OK Go in a nutshell. Take “You’re So Damn Hot” for example. A song about getting over a past love, and how you've grown to hate this woman. But deep down...you still really wanna do this chick. OK Go’s lack of shame on their first record is what makes it pretty great. This past semester, I got my iPod stolen so I was forced to use my CDs. Just for kicks I busted out this CD. Their talent was like a revelation. The crunchy power pop chords with doo-wop backing vocals? Friggin’ genius! I always loved OK Go, but I assumed that they’d be a band I’d like for a time then forget about them and never listen to them again. After this last listen, they proved that after 7 years their music stood the test of time. That’s tough and worth noting. So thank YOU douchebag roommate who stole my iPod, wallet and spare change out my room while I was sleeping. I would have forgotten all about OK Go if you weren’t such a arrogant dick.
This IS the most personal record on my list. I was in a relationship for a long time. It was my first girlfriend. It was (and still sort of is) the best human relationship I’ve ever had. The first time I attempted to take her out, it failed miserably. I had just finished recording my EP and I was taking her to the city to take some photos for the album art. Well we missed the train and she had lacrosse practice. In a last minute desperation move, I woke up my friend Jake at 9:30 a.m. to get my copy of Once so me and my ladyfriend could watch it. I knew it was something she’d love and it was a super romantic movie with great music. My little trick worked and by the end of Once, my ladyfriend was starting to look like more than a friend. The fact that the music from this movie was the glue to the beginnings of the most important relationship in my life, it sort of gives me a good reason to put it in my top ten. When it comes to songwriting, my biggest thing is honesty. If it’s not honest, why bother giving my time and ears? Glen Hansard is as honest as a man can get. With songs like “Leave”, you feel like you’re right there in the room when Glen confronts his ex-lover. The bravery of these songs is something to admire. Hansard also seems to fall into a groove and find his own style of song structure. I think he knows the rarity of this and he embraces it. While his then girlfriend, Marketa Irglova, wrote and co-wrote some songs, she’s young and has a long way to go before she’s on Glen’s level. Unsurprisingly enough, over a year later me and my girlfriend hit a rough patch and while we were trying to sift through our issues, who comes up on her iPod? The Frames, Glen’s band. After a handful of songs things seemed to just magically heal them selves. Glen is the glue in my life. I wish I could just tell him that my self.
Everyone knows the Gorillaz. Everyone knows “Feel Good Inc.” Everyone knows these silly group of monkeys. What people may not know is that Damon Albarn is one of the best musicians of our time and he created the most eclectic record of the 2000’s. I don’t think you could fully appreciate the sheer impressiveness of Demon Days until you watch the Demon Days Live DVD. It took 30 musicians to perfectly execute it live. Demon Days is a cultured piece of work. Demon Days is politically conscious, socially conscious, spiritually conscious. Albarn had his eyes open during the writing and recording of this record. On most songs there’s a guest musician and Albarn shows his musical awareness by selecting some of the most compelling artists around. Most you haven’t heard of but you definitely take note on some of them after listening to this album. Some people that appear are De La Soul, MF Doom, Bootie Brown. The exception is Shaun Ryder on “Dare”. You are so fucking annoying Shaun Ryder. You ruin that song for the world. Put a sock in it, you dumb Cockney jackass. The most mesmerizing song on the record is “Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head”. The song is a mostly spoken word account on a fictional/figurative town at the foot of Monkey Mountain and it’s monkey inhabitants, The Happyfolk. The famed actor, Dennis Hopper, narrates the haunting story of a eerie infiltration by the Strangefolk which led to the brutal eruption of Monkey Mountain. The song can only be a response to one thing: Albarn clearly disagreed with the United States and Great Britain's choice to go to war. This song made this album my number eight because it shows the diversity. When you’ve got a contemporary pop record like Demon Days, the last thing you expect is a song like “Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head”. If you don’t listen to the whole record and least watch a live version of that song. Dennis Hopper delivers it like the gospel and it gives me chills.
Jack White has done wonders for my generation. He brought back song writing as the most important facet in popular music. He brought back the art of The Cool. Most recently, he (along with a few others) brought back the guitar. The first Raconteurs record was good. It was a good step forward for White. When The Raconteurs surprised the world on March 18th, saying that in one week, The Raconteurs would put out their second record, Consolers Of The Lonely, the world wasn’t ready. To my great shock, this was the best modern Rock N’ Rock record of the decade. Jack White and Brendan Benson could possible be the strongest songwriting team since...Hall & Oates...? If your heart’s not totally racing by the end of this record, you need to go to the doctor. They just do everything right. I don’t need to list it. If you can think of it, they executed it perfectly. No need to continue here.
When I said Jack White was among the musicians who brought back the guitar, John Mayer was another. Continuum is a modern masterpiece. It’s fully thought out both sonically and musically. I just listened to this record Christmas day with my mom (like I said, she’s cool), and I couldn’t help but think how easy it sounds. Of his latest record, Battle Studies, Mayer said that he pined over every note of every song trying to create the best melodies possible. While these melodies are outstanding, the melodies of Continuum are so much more natural. This is in part because I’m pretty sure John Mayer and Steve Jordan jammed in a room until Continuum just fell out of them. I remember the day I found out John Mayer could do more than write Bubblegum-Pop. It was 2004, maybe 2005 and Dave Chappelle was trying to prove a point that white people are the only ones who respond to fancy guitar work. Chappelle hired Mayer to rip a few solos. I honestly thought it was a fake track that Mayer was fake-guitaring over. I was baffled but curious. I did some You Tubing and a few hours later I was a John Mayer convert. The next year, John Mayer put this somewhat hidden talent (at least to me) to tape with Continuum. Continuum is John Mayer at his core. It's the record he always wanted to make from the start but never could without a few hits under his belt. These songs are great pop songs that are hidden with amazing guitar work. Battle Studies is the exact opposite.
If you are my friend, you know Dr. Manhattan. If you have never ever heard of Dr. Manhattan, we definitely are not friends. I never ever shut up about the greatness of Dr. Manhattan. They are what I latch on to from home. Dr. Manhattan is mine as far as Murfreeboro, Tennessee is concerned. That’s not the point. Dr. Manhattan started in 2005 while Matt Engers, Adam Engers, Nick Vombrack and Andrew Morrison were in high school. After a demo, an Ep and a whole lot of shows, Vagrant Records took note of these dudes and signed them. They put out their phenomenally smart debut self titled record. They toured. A lot. They toured a lot more. They toured more than any band ever. More than Dylan. They achieved some pretty great things. They did Warped Tour, Bamboozle and got their video on MTV2. I’m not really sure what happened after this. Somewhere along the line their label, manager and booking agent cut them loose. They were back to square one. I was talking to the bassist, Adam, and he told me that they were dying to record another record. So they put aside shame and asked recording engineer Casey Bates if they could record now and pay later. Bates said, “fuck it. I’ll do it for free. I just wanna make good music.” A few days later, a man by the name of Chris Conely of Saves The Day calls dman (dman got to open up for Saves The Day for an entire tour) to ask what they’ve been up to. Once he heard about the situation, he offered his talents as producer to the band….also for free. While everything seemed to suck for Dr. Manhattan, their sheer talent enabled them to record a record for free. Pretty amazing. So after 303 words, shall I get to the content of Jam Dreams? Well, it’s pretty much the rocking-est, funkiest, jam dreamy-est collection of songs I’ve ever heard. The record is primal and fun and crazy and carefree. After seeing these guys 10 times, Jam Dreams fits them way better than their self-titled. The first record was serious music (minus “Tracy’s Buns”) made by goofy dudes. Jam Dreams is goofy music made by goofy dudes. Jam Dreams is a record that will sneek up on you and smack you in the ass. Most of my friends claimed that Jam Dreams wasn't as good as Dr. Manhattan, but once I made them think about Jam Dreams song by song, they sort of realized it's strength. This was not the case for me. My anticipation for the record was nauseating, possibly the my most anticipated record of the decade (excluding Angels & Airwaves’ first record...sigh…). Jam Dreams shows off the extreme talent of these dudes. After years of seeing this band and listening to them, the last thing I expected was a tapping guitar solo on “Mailman”. Or incredulous rapping on “Misses Steward” or three intertwining melodies on “Hard Time”. This record puts a smile on my face and I never ever get sick of it. It’s just another representation of where I’m from and why I’m proud of that.
You have to understand where Bob Dylan has been to understand where he is today and where he will go in the future (the little future thats left). Dylan is inherently American and “Love & Theft” is an inherently American record. Ironically it was released on September 11th, 2001. It’s interesting to think about Bob’s career. In the early stages of his career he was a groundbreaking rock musician who wrote the rule book on modern pop music. As time went on, he broke the rules less and less. What he did do was fine tune those rule and come about as close as you can to perfecting them. You might see this as boring but if you take the time and just listen to “Love & Theft”, it’s exponentially more exciting because of that. Recorded with his touring band in 12 days, “Love & Theft” is the smoothest Dylan ever sounded. He got rid of the annoying producers, got rid of the annoying session musicians and just had fun and made a record with his friends. The albums third track, “Mississippi”, Dylan shows off that he can still write a beautiful pop tune. The song was originally written for a 1997 Dylan album but he ended up giving it to Sheryl Crow. He finally got it right in 2001. “Mississippi” is the epitome of smooth. He sings with such sorrow and regret, you can’t help but take in all the wisdom he has. On the past 3 or 4 records, Dylan has a lot to say. On “Love & Theft”, Bob squeezes in as many words as he can but gives enough room for the music to breathe and room for the band to create a luscious web of sound. A lot of people like to think that Oh Mercy or Time Out Of Mind were Dylan’s comeback records, those were precursors to what was to come, the best and most fun Dylan record since Blood On The Tracks.
Poor Wilco. They never get a break. As I read just about every major Top Records of The Decade list, Wilco is always somewhere in the top five. They can never quite squeeze their way into the number one spot. They never will. Can I tell you why exactly that is? No, I can’t. Do I wonder why I complained that poor Wilco never got the number one spot on any list, yet here I am not giving them my number one spot? Yes, yes I am. Wilco’s just always been that band that gets short changed with the runner-up position. It’s kind of funny, seeing that they’re from The Second City. So what’s wrong with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot? Well...nothing. I think… I mean it’s a pretty much perfect record. Sort of. I guess it comes down to how the listener relates to it. On one hand, you could have the artsy college kid who is lost on the path of his or her life and that student connects with its disconnection. Then on the other hand, you could have the college kid who just doesn’t get it. That’s something that is totally possible. This record is so fucking weird, most human beings can’t connect with it too heavily. The songs are most certainly great. I mean, you can’t turn away from a song like “Heavy Metal Drummer”. I can’t really say that any song is bad. But Jeff Tweedy, what in God’s name are you talkin’ about in “War on War”? Or “Kamera”? Nonsensical lyrics are fun and all...but it holds the record back. I salute them for creating a sonic adventure. For pulling apart all these songs and finding they best way to present them to the world. If you ever watch the documentary on the making of this album, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, you’ll see that. You’ll see them pick apart the songs. How many bands really care to do that? Being a musician, I can tell you that doing what Wilco did is hard. I know I seem to be sort of raggin’ on the record, but there are a ton of things that make this record great. First, they proved to the world what everyone said they couldn’t do. The major labels rejected Wilco but Wilco believed in them selves and their music enough to prove them wrong. After being booted from Reprise records for not creating something “commercial”, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was released almost a year late and went on to sell 500,000 records: A commercial success. Another thing that makes Yankee Hotel Foxtrot a landmark album is that they consistently challenge the listener. If you start off a record with with a song like “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”, you’re really asking the listening, “Okay, do you ACTUALLY want to be here, or are you just fucking with us?” Slightly off topic, I have a theory that with their next record, A Ghost is Born, they sequenced the songs backwards just to create discomfort with the listener. Well it totally worked. Regardless, Wilco could have just made a typical, yet solid, rock record with these songs. It would have been so easy. Even I could have done it. But they didn’t make a rock record. They made a weird, monster of a masterpiece. Now that I think of it, the imperfections, the atonal garbage that litters this album is what makes it so great. It’s so uncertain. Wilco took their uncertainty and made it the most certain thing on earth.
stay tuned for the honorable mentions and the number one album of the decade...