By Ryan

This is my list of my personal favorite albums, which means that these aren’t necessarily what I think the 100 “best” albums of the decade were, though there’s obviously some overlap, because I have great taste.

20. Panda Bear– Person Pitch

The Beach Boys were a major touching point for many bands this decade, foremost amongst them Animal Collective, the regular gig of Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox.  Lennox can go toe-to-toe with Brian Wilson when it comes to melody, but Wilson was never the musical innovator that Lennox is.  The loops and samples are really what makes these songs complete.

19. Radiohead – Kid A

Kid A is an album that has inspired books, and it’s not hard to see why: the abstract lyrics, the jazz-influenced electronics, and a complete reworking of the recording process are all fascinating things to read about.  Though Yorke would deny that the album was the band’s attempt at making “art,” it nonetheless would stand as just that, and is still probably the most challenging record to ever be commercially successful.

18. The Strokes – Is This It

Listening to The Strokes in the early 2000s was like listening to Bob Dylan in the late 60s; sure, people will still love it in the future, but you really had to be there to get how culturally important it really was.  Is This It revived the New York music scene, hipster style, and maybe even indie rock itself.

17. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots

Chris Martin once said that his goal for Coldplay was “music that makes you feel while you’re moving your legs.”  He could have been describing The Flaming Lips.  “Fight Test” can make me cry, sing along, or dance, depending on the day.  Everyone talks about the emotional power of “Do You Realize??,” and rightly so, but the next track, “All We Have Is Now” is nearly as moving.  The fact that they can inhabit the same world as the mid-record musings on the talented Yoshimi underscores how magnificently brilliant The Flaming Lips are.

16. TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

Few albums are as sonically cohesive as Return to Cookie Mountain.  From the opening samples on “I Was A Lover” to the dying drone of “Wash the Day,” everything feels so in place.  The mood is smoky, gritty, and dirty, and the attitude reverberates through every song, no matter if it’s an a cappella piece (“A Method”), a blues stomp (“Let the Devil In”), or a hard-charging rock anthem (“Wolf Like Me”).

15. The National – Alligator

The quiet, sad, dark songs were never quieter, sadder, or darker than on Alligator, and, likewise, the same could be said for the intense, hard, and forceful songs.  No matter which way they played, The National never played it better than on this album.

14. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

After Whiskeytown and his personal life fell apart, Adams wrote the second-best breakup album of the decade.  In some ways, everything he’s done since has been measured in comparison to Heartbreaker, a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm of a young talent breaking out, breaking up, and busting heads at exactly the right time.

13. Sunset Rubdown – Random Spirit Lover

I guess it’s the prog-rock album of the decade.  Inexplicably overlooked by many, Random Spirit Lover plays like one long track in defined movements.  It starts amazingly strong, slows down and threatens to drag, then picks back up with “For the Pier (and Dead Shimmering),” probably the best non-“I’ll Believe In Anything” song that Spencer Krug has ever written.

12. The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic

Every New Pornos mastermind—A.C. Newman, Neko Case, and Dan Bejar—was in raw but excellent form on the most-fun debut of the decade.  This is also the most like a true band they’ve ever sounded—when you score Case and Bejar to do backing vocals, you’ve done something very well.

11. The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan

Get Behind Me Satan is the album that Jack White needed to make for many reasons, but the one that most critics latch onto goes like this: this album was the logical conclusion of everything that could be accomplished within the self-imposed boundaries of The Stripes, and, by painting himself into a corner, Jack was free to work on other projects and only revisit his primary act when divine inspiration struck.  It’s a decent theory, but I feel like those critics never saw the band perform these songs live.  I think this was the most free Jack ever felt on a Stripes record: he used a ton of new instrumentation, recorded it in his house, and did most of it in just a few takes, using analog tape and making manual cut-edits.  I think this is exactly the album Jack and Meg wanted to make, and, by the way, it’s really damn good.

10. LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

James Murphy had long been a critical darling, but it was surprising to see the widespread appeal of Sound of Silver.  The fact that it’s a fun, danceable electronic record centered on a sad song about growing into adult life and missing your friends made it all the better.

9. The Arcade Fire – Funeral

Listening to Funeral in the 2000s was akin to listening to Slanted and Enchanted in the 90s, or The Smiths in the 80s: once you’ve heard this new band, everything that you used to listen to seems boring, stale, and downright unimportant by comparison.  Furthermore, The Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade were the last bands to go big before the age of online backlash started in earnest, so it really does feel both acts were beloved by everyone and entirely critical to the direction that music went in the latter half of the decade.

8. Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary

For a band that started as a lie, opened for The Arcade Fire just as they were taking off, and worked closely with Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock on their debut, Wolf Parade did a pretty impressive job of meeting expectations on Apologies.  While both Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug have matured as Boeckner’s dystopia (“Modern World,” “We Built Another World,” “It’s A Curse”) played beautifully with Krug’s stories of personal failure (“You Are A Runner and I Am My Father’s Son,” “Grounds for Divorce,” and “I’ll Believe In Anything”).  Taken together, it feels like an album about everything we worried about as twentysomethings this decade.

7. Beck – Sea Change

Part of Sea Change’s charm is that it took a disaffected slacker to make the most gorgeous breakup album of the decade.  A moping Beck shows off a voice suited surprisingly well to sad songs, and he and producer Nigel Godrich create an atmosphere of melancholy.  Most Beck fans I know find their favorite Beck song on this album, a wonder considering the work the man’s done elsewhere.

6. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Though the story has been vastly overstated, everyone knows what Wilco went through to make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.  Even without the background, the album is Wilco’s best, and probably contains four or five songs that are among the band’s top ten ever.  It moves concisely between moods and speeds, but always feels like the same album: the perfect balance of alt-country, pop, and slowcore, from a band who could make a living doing any one of the three.

5. Destroyer – Destroyer’s Rubies

Rubies was as close as Destroyer ever got to mass acceptance, and it’s easy to see why: the album showcases everything Bejar does at its absolute best without sacrificing the poetic and artistic notions that normally make him a bit hard to swallow.  It’s every band’s dream to have a statement as profound as Rubies get taken so seriously, but my guess is that the notoriously fickle Bejar barely noticed, much less cared.

4. The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday

A loose concept album, Separation Sunday is The Hold Steady jamming about their favorite subjects: religion, parties, and the Twin Cities.  There are some huge riffs, some intimidating bass lines, and lots of driving drums; in short, it’s a really, really good rock album.  But it gets taken to another level by the famed stories of Craig Finn, woven into some of the best hooks you’ll ever hear.

3. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells

The leap from De Stijl to here is phenomenal.  White Blood Cells is where the band got big, but it’s not exactly a crowd-pleasing effort: “Little Room” is nearly a minute of Jack’s random doo-dahing, “The Union Forever” is almost entirely composed of Citizen Kane quotes, and “Aluminum” is mostly an instrumental.  In short, you could be forgiven for remembering this album for “Fell In Love with A Girl” and “We’re Going To Be Friends,” but you’d be missing out on a whole hell of a lot.

2. Modest Mouse – The Moon & Antarctica

If OK Computer is about paranoia in the digital age, than The Moon & Antarctica is a reminder that life sucked pretty bad before the robots, too.  This expansive collection highlights all of Modest Mouse’s talents, but always keeps an eye on “the eye in the sky that can’t be stopped.”  On their major-label debut, the band didn’t stop experimenting; they just found all the answers.

1. Destroyer – This Night

This Night sounds like a drunken poet’s most beautiful ramblings that one tries so hard to keep up with.  Bejar is all over the place, but every song has its moment, and the album as a whole never tries to be anything more than the sum of its parts: even the cover simply lists the tracks.  I could defend any song on This Night as genius, but, ultimately, I could never explain to you the way it makes me feel, which is precisely the magic that makes it my favorite album of the decade.

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