Welcome to Day 2 of The Rawking Refuses To Stop!’s countdown of the Top 100 Albums of the Decade. To start from the beginning, click below:
100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1
Take the jump for today’s picks!
80. Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health
As discussed yesterday, indie rock as we used to know it — I think we can draw the line in 2004, with the explosion of Garden State, the Postal Service, the Arcade Fire, and the term “blogosphere” — has spent much of the decade grappling with the genre’s increasing indefinability. Technicolor Health may be the last of its breed, a record of wiry guitars, over-your-head references and unflappable enthusiasm. Also, a lead singer with a frog reassuringly embedded in his throat. So scared of 2k10, y’all.
>> “Strictly Game”: mp3
79. Lambchop – OH (Ohio)
A simple, disarming record, Lambchop’s latter-days masterpiece sways breezily between full-bodied chamber-pop excursions and patient, deftly enunciated solo guitar meanderings. Kurt Wagner, as with many of this list’s singers, invokes a scream with a whisper and a broken heart with a smile.
>> “A Hold Of You”: mp3
78. Ted Leo – Shake The Sheets
I don’t know how Ted would feel about hearing this is my go-to gym album (on the handful of occasions I’ve made it that far over the last 10 years), but the man’s energy has never been more contagious. From “Me and Mia” on, Ted’s palatable punk slams the pedal down and never looks back.
>> “Me and Mia”: mp3
77. Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump
Capturing the same sort of techno-paranoia as Radiohead’s OK Computer, the album — its title a play on a perhaps-expected sophomore failure — remains Grandaddy’s best, synthesizers and fever-dream dystopia recorded with the fuzzy edge of faltering (read: low-budget) technology. The machines may rise, but they remain man-made.
>> “Chartsengrafs”: mp3
76. Eluvium – Talk Amongst The Trees
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. The cover of Eluvium’s ambient masterpiece captures its foggy, processed-guitar sonics better than a blurb ever could — bleak but beautiful, the album drifts through some Norwegian woods like Beethoven in slow-motion.
>> “We Say Goodbye To Ourselves”: mp3
75. Destroyer – Thief
One could make a case for Destroyer as the artist of the decade. Though none of his records had quite the cultural impact of more lauded bands such as Radiohead or Animal Collective, he released a staggering six front-to-back great full lengths. 2000’s Thief remains, for my money, the best of his early work. His Hunky Dory fixation was already in full effect, as was his Dada-meets-Dylan way with words — “Your love of shit knows no bounds / Trust me this spells / the premature end of us!” What a romantic.
>> “Destroyer’s The Temple”: mp3
74. The Pipettes – We Are The Pipettes
The Pipettes, a pretty young British girl group with an album chock-full of weirdly post-Spice Girls grrrrl power, were not without kitsch, shtick, or schimilar schtuff (schorry), but were only more charming for it. The harmonies are spot-on and the retro songs, thanks to songwriter/ringmaster Monster Bobby, are nearly as good as their mid-century influences. We can suss out their impact on feminism later, let’s pull some shapes over here.
73. Animal Collective – Sung Tongs
Animal Collective, for better or worse, are an A- band in a decade that demanded only A+++ (see also: TV on the Radio). And so a hype machine was born. Each of their major albums, Feels, Strawberry Jam and 2009’s triumphant Merriweather Post Pavillion, has its merits and flaws, but it’s 2003’s Sung Tongs — the album that made them Big Panda Bears on Campuses — that remains their most daring, successful piece of work. Toying with folktronica production styles over nonsense chants and mangled chords that belied the album’s complexity, the well-titled Sung Tongs was a bracing, blinding assault on folk music, too violently unpredictable to ignore. (Like Nevermind and Loveless before it, it also launched 1,000 awful imitators. Dodos = Staind? Discuss.)
>> “Who Could Win A Rabbit”: mp3
72. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
Young alt-country crooner Ryan Adams never sounded older, or wiser, than he did on his post-Whiskeytown solo debut. In a sense, it was the album that ruined the rest of his career — he would never really return to the raw, heartfelt country-folk present here, and was wrongly burned at the stake by critics and more than a few fans over it. It’s his Harvest; he had to make his Tonight’s The Night (we’ll get to that). That said, it’s an album of fantastic craft and beauty, especially on unstoppable cuts such as “Come Pick Me Up.”
71. Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye
This one took a while. At first, the album seemed too empty, too cool — Steve Aoki’s refrigerator. But “Like a Child” caught my ear, as did the mournful cover of Sinatra’s “No One Cares,” and so began my latter-decade romance with beats, synthesizers and breathy, chill-out grooves. (A New Order infatuation came next. Due credit also to Lost in Translation.) Less a dance floor banger than a bedroom classic, Goodbye bulks up like an angry Hulk on the right headphones — and you will like him.
>> “In The Morning”: mp3
70. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief
In high school, Radiohead was my favorite band; I spent a good month of my senior year listening solely to their b-sides. Hail to the Thief leaked weeks before I graduated, and by the end of the summer, I was all but burnt out on the group. So it’s hard to rank this record, which hasn’t earned as many spins as its processors over the years but still holds a place close to my heart. (The same goes for In Rainbows, an album that just missed the final draft of this list.) But even now, songs like “2+2=5” and “There There” still smoke, as does “Wolf at the Door,” a rare Jonny Greenwood gem — and “Scatterbrain” aside, HTTT has no obvious misfires from the band I’d still call the best in rock.
>> “Wolf at the Door” (unmastered leak): mp3
69. Leona Naess – Thirteens
This feels awkward next to the monolith of a Radiohead record, but welcome to list-making — let’s have a couple drinks and move along. On her fourth album, Leona — Ryan Adams’ ex-fiancee, I just learned — comes into her own with a set of low-key folk-pop. The songs are filled to bursting with keen and cutting observations on the triumphs and tragedies of young adulthood, a theme that resonates sympathetically with 24-year-old me. (See also: Ryan Adams.)
68. Fiery Furnaces – Bitter Tea
What a strange odyssey this band’s been through. They emerged as a psychedelic, real-life brother-sister duo and garnered White Stripes comparisons; they made an art record and became Internet heartthrobs; they made an album with their grandma and fell from grace. Bitter Tea came next, and captured them at arguably their best, most overlooked moment — one finally tempering rampant experimentalism with sugary pop warmth. “Benton Harbor Blues” is as good as a song can be.
>> “Benton Harbor Blues (Again)”: mp3
67. Dylan Mondegreen – While I Walk You Home
Another after-the-fact discovery, Home is a breezy, blissful pop record that never met a jangle it didn’t like or an ex-girlfriend it didn’t hate. Like some forthcoming albums on this list, it’d be easy to throw in the Belle & Sebastian bin and forget — don’t.
>> “Wishing Well”: mp3
66. Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of the Bewilderbeast
In the early 2000s, in-the-know pop fans were anticipating a new renaissance thanks to ubiquitous genius Jon Brion and his handiwork in the records of Elliott Smith, Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright and Badly Drawn Boy, among others. Though Jon’s so-called “unpopular pop” never quite caught fire, the albums of the era still stand tall. Bewilderbeast came before Badly Drawn Boy’s also-worthy About a Boy soundtrack and his collabs with JB, but it offers his best songwriting — “Magic in the Air” remains one of the decade’s best love songs — buried in an absent-minded professor’s charming murk of segues and half-remembered folk scribblings.
65. Trashcan Sinatras – Weightlifting
The criminally underrated Sinatras took over a decade to arrive at a perfect Britpop album, but, well, here it is, Oasis! I can think of few albums as celebratory of the splendid pairing of guitars and soaring songs as this one — a complete pleasure.
>> “Freetime”: mp3
64. Okkervil River – Black Sheep Boy
At the time, I called this album a “minor classic,” and so it remains, a loose concept record (and yes, a “literate” one) full of doomed, Gothic protagonists and cathartic, scorched-earth folk-rock.
>> “For Real”: mp3
63. Ryan Adams – Love Is Hell EPs
Ah — here’s his Tonight’s the Night. Adrift in New York, immersed in Smiths albums and seething with frustration at his label, Lost Highway, who depending on who you believe, screwed him on Demolition (a stopgap collection compiled from three full-length sessions) and turned the first version of this album down, Ryan revealed a previously unseen range. Forget the lack of alt-country accents for a minute and listen to his vocals warble on “This House is Not For Sale” or “My Blue Manhattan” — this is not the same husky-voiced guy who recorded Heartbreaker just a few years earlier. Like all of Ryan’s mid-period records, the production and arrangements are note-perfect, but the songs are just undeniable. (For the record, his other 2003 release, the much-maligned Rock N Roll, didn’t make the list so other bands could have a fighting chance. Go get it, it’s awesome.)
>> Ryan Adams – “I See Monsters” (live): mp3
62. Modest Mouse – The Moon And Antarctica
If the Internet did anything to bands in the last few years, it made them lazy. The album’s far from dead, but with singles-driven iTunes an easy excuse, few full-length albums in recent years have received the intensity of focus and craft that The Moon and Antarctica or its brother-from-another-mother, Kid A, obviously showcase. The sequencing alone deserves a medal, and the narrative arc of the album is as moving and powerful a story as any classic rock concept. Moon is a journey into the coldest ends of the universe in search of the meaning of life. If that sounds like heavy stuff, wait until you hear Isaac Brock sing.
61. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
After the early-decade success of more traditional folkies — on the pop side, Elliott Smith or Aimee Mann, and on the rootsier one, Will Oldham and his brethren — the freak-folk movement opened the door for more experimental players. Not that this record has anything to do with Devendra Banhart’s self-satisfied bong-huffing. Instead, it’s a glimpse into a haunted mansion, songs filtered through cobwebs, dark passages and otherworldly harmonies — Brian Wilson and John Fahey’s beautiful, abandoned baby.
>> “On A Neck, On A Spit”: mp3
The Rawking Refuses To Stop!’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade:
100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1