Monday, January 04, 2010

Favorite Music of the Aughts, Overall Top 10

I listed my top five albums from each year of the decade affectionately known as the aughts, but it's another animal to come up with my overall top 10 of the decade. This has been an arduous, yet enlightening endeavor. And now...on to the sonic sustenance.

10. Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love, Audible Sigh (2000)

As the decade began, I was listening to ska and punk rock almost exclusively. I would never have guessed that by 2002 I would be drawn in by this album. But Marcie and I saw Bill Mallonee play a solo show with Derek Webb and the Normals, and I absolutely fell in love with these songs. It is a nearly perfect country/folk/americana gem. This album taught me the meaning of the word 'resplendent.' Twice.

9. U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)
I am one of the few stubborn people who think that Pop and Zooropa were actually pretty good albums, but this is the album that put U2 back on top, and made them my favorite band for the first half of the decade. Sure, I've heard "Beautiful Day" a few too many times over the past ten years, but I won't hold that against them. This is both a collection of great singles, and a great album. It also gets points for being one of the albums that my wife also loved this decade. Leave it behind...

8. The Decemberists, The Crane Wife (2006)

Curious fact about The Crane Wife: it was not my favorite album based on a Japanese Folk Tale released in 2006. More on that later. As much as I wanted to, I was unable to give the Decemberists the top spot in any given year. If one would, this would be it. It embodies everything I love about the Decemberists: old-time colloquialisms, an epic three-part suite, great melodies and cautionary tales, all capped off by a beautiful folk sing-along that could be (and is) appreciated even by the legendary Pete Seeger. Hear all the bombs fade away...

7. Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
"The Man Comes Around" might be the best song Johnny Cash wrote in his illustrious career. What Rick Rubin did for the legendary Cash's career was and continues to be a gift to the world, and this was the best of the bunch. Cash breathed new life into songs like "Hurt" (also the best music video of the decade), "Personal Jesus," and "Desperado." The man Johnny Cash is larger than life, and on American IV the music is stripped down to its barest elements, leaving the singularly authoritative yet comforting voice of Johnny Cash to shine. We'll meet again...

6. The White Stripes, Elephant (2003)
If you are able to somehow resist "Seven Nation Army," check your pulse. The blues/rock duo explosion that is The White Stripes hit full stride (they were always 'in stride') on this album. This album is chock full of great songs, from the whimsical to the profound, with guitar riffs that just won't quit. It's hard to describe what makes The White Stripes so exceptional as a band. Maybe that's precisely why they're so exceptional. I got a fever, and the only prescription is Jack and Meg. Oh girl, you have no faith in medicine...

5. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
It is a testament to the significance of albums 1-4 that this one is not higher than 5. As I think of YHF, my mind is flooded with some of my favorite lines, lyrics and melodies of all time. I'm the man who loves you. I am trying to break your heart. You gotta learn how to die if you wanna wanna be alive. The combination of layered noise and ridiculously catchy hooks makes for pure sonic bliss. This was my first Wilco album, and it has led to the purchase of all the others. I've got reservations about so many things, but not about you...

4. Radiohead, Kid A (2000)
My decade was forever changed by Kid A. In some sense, it ruined me. I was unable to enjoy some of the music I once loved after Kid A. I began expecting more from the music I listened to. When I first started dating Marcie, I would drive from Chicago to West Michigan fairly frequently, and I would listen to this album and question existence as I knew it, Thom Yorke's voice singing "I'm not here. This isn't happening." Was he serious? Have I been in the car too long? I am still unpacking the riches of this album. And I steal its opening lyric for my sermons with regularity. Everything in its right place...

3. Anathallo, Floating World (2006)
This is my favorite album released in 2006 based on a Japanese folktale (see #8). If I hadn't bought Kid A in 2000, I probably would have no interest in Anathallo. Too complex, too difficult too follow, not immediately catchy enough. But sometimes I sense that this is the album I had been searching for ever since hearing Kid A. The beauty that flows from this album is almost too much, beginning with the intricately designed arwork. I'm a decent drummer, but even after 3-4 years, I am still baffled by many of this album's syncopations. I want to skip like a stone from a stronger arm...

2. Sufjan Stevens, Come On Feel the Illinoise! (2005)
The singular genius of Sufjan Stevens is stunning to me. Fans like me suffer from a fear that he will never record another proper studio album, but even if he doesn't, this one will stand the test of time. I never knew the state I grew up in could inspire such songs of beauty and bewilderment. Sufjan weaves personal, geographical and spiritual stories into this album which has become itself a new mythology. It is at once frail and triumphant, simple and endlessly complex, stripped down and layered, distant and personal. I fell in love again. All things go...

1. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (2007)
Right up until about two weeks ago, I thought Illinois would be #1. But then I realized something. For me, listening to Neon Bible is an event that consumes me. Unlike Illinois, I cannot use this as background music. It demands my full attention at each listen, and with each listen, such attention is rewarded. Almost everyone considers Funeral to be the superior Arcade Fire album, and "everyone" might be right, but Neon Bible connects deep to my spirit in a way that no other album does. "Intervention" has left me in tears on more than one occasion. "The Well and the Lighthouse" gives me chills. I can't avoid using the term prophetic to describe this album drenched in skepticism, truth, life and hope. The lions and the lambs ain't sleeping yet...

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At 4:57 PM EDT , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Neon Bible Study

Arcade Fire:
Sermon by John Van Sloten (New Hope Church, Calgary, Alberta)

Jesus at The Arcade Fire concert

Tuesday August 3, 2010
Jian's interview with Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire's Parodic Bible


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