So I’ve been all over the magazines and blogosphere lately, scrounging for the best of the best of the best lists. Not only is it the end of the year, it’s the end of a decade, the first of the new millennium. This is huge for us living through it. So as music journalists go, we must analyze, catagor-ize, figure out where the pieces of music fit in a grander scheme. Who started trends, who broke the molds, who went for it and got there, no sweat?
The differences in some of the lists are astonishing. I’ve yet to figure out what my personal favorites have been, but I’m pretty sure it aligns with Rolling Stone’s from what I’ve seen so far — no doubt Kid A as their #1 pick speaks to that. As for Paste, who chose Sufjan Steven’s Illinois album, I see where they’re coming from because it is so unbelievably musical, but I doubt the effect he had is nearly as reaching as Radiohead’s. Whatever that means. Additionally, many albums that personally changed my musical life were heard by a handful of die hard fans, like Lovedrug or Copeland or Circa Survive.
Also, from 2000-2009, I grew up from 11 to 21, most of the music I ingested WASN’T of the times. Zeppelin is still my gold standard of rock ‘n’ roll, and Bob Dylan is still a poet — this is music that is not OF the times, but still greatly affected me, a product of the generation. We can’t consider the times to be the only means that shape us — what comes before is just as relevant as what’s happening now in terms of music, at least. It is timeless. Such is the state of many of the records chosen by publications in their valiant listing efforts — timeless pieces of music that sum up a generational attitude, signify a shift in musical priorities and woo their audiences through a blend of new sound and honest surrender.
But we must give any of the list makers credit where credit is due. At a time when music kind of exploded into a billion little markets, it’s not easy to compare the works of seasoned artists against indie newcomers, wordsmithing rappers with guitar strumming folksters. Yet, they try, because how could we not take a look back?
Long live rock ‘n’ roll, so they once said. Freak folk, I’ve yet to see how long you’re gonna last, but it’s clear from these lists you made your mark. Emo, you came and went and your influence will be forever immortalized in MySpace mockery and swoopy haircuts. Bruce Springsteen, you still have not gone away, and that’s just fine with me.
Death Cab for Cutie, you rocked my world, and everyone else’s. “Plans” is the soundtrack of my decade, I’m pretty sure if I had to make a list it would be my number once choice. No album fits any mood better, no album reads my thoughts better, no album elicits as much personal imagery and emotion than that one. Given to me by my mother on my 17th birthday, which feels like so, so long ago, but wasn’t at all. I was wearing a peach-pink prom dress and a tiara, hadn’t even learned to play piano yet, and still longed to learn the opening notes of “What Sarah Said.” A year later that song would mean much more to me than I could know, and four years later “Marching Bands of Manhattan” rang in my ears as I slinked along, broke and alone the subways. “I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is an acoustic gift, “Summer Skin” fits every fall afternoon. I love “Plans,” and while “Transatlanticism” hooked me onto Death Cab in the first place, “Plans” has a more mature, thorough sound, and a different take on the thoughtful musing all musicians are prone to expose in the events of their life.
Rolling Stone: 100 Best Albums of the Decade
Paste Magazine: The 50 Best Albums of the Decade
Pitchfork: The Decade in Music (enough material here for weeks of thoughtfulness)
NME: The Top 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade
Billboard: Artist picks of the decade video
Also, I am pretty much on board with Tom Morello’s picks, lots of good ones in there.
Click around and stroll down memory lane…..we’ve come a long way from 2000, and I can only imagine what sounds the next decade will come up with. Like TV, there’s bound to be the best of the best and the worst of the worst, depending on what channels you tune into. Depending who you talk to, and depending on your tastes. The past year, and the best-of-the-decade wrap-ups allude to the fact that the deep insight and musical mastery of Radiohead, Sufjan and their counterparts sings to the generation and its critics alike. That’s a positive sign, folks — no, auto-tune has not taken over good music, no, hook-y choruses and overproduced nonsense will not kill of the passionate pleas of musicians trying to say their piece. That will always make for the best of the best lists, those who take their craft as seriously as a carpenter takes their staircase. It must be aligned, it must be logical, it must have direction, and it must take you from one place to another. Such music will always, always prevail.