The ’00s, the aughts – whatever you want to call this decade, it’s coming to a close.
Musically speaking, it’s been an interesting era, to say the least. Without further ado, here are the albums of the decade according to Medleyville staffers.
JOE BELOCK’S PICKS
1. Dual Mono (2002, Telstar) — The Greenhornes.
While these Cincinnati garage-rockers are probably best known for the roles in various Jack White projects (Loretta Lynn, Dead Weather, The Raconteurs), their third (and, sadly, to date, last) album finds them hitting their stride all on their own.
2. Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005, Capitol) — Paul McCartney.
This album does not contain Sir Paul’s best song of the decade (2007’s “Only Mama Knows”), but producer Nigel Godrich pushes the legend the way no one has since John Lennon. Godrich fired Macca’s touring band and rejected dozens of songs, leaving McCartney with an intimate, introspective and ultimately rewarding complete work.
3. Wheels in Motion (2007, Pravda) — Glenn Mercer.
The one (and only) negative aspect of the 2008 Feelies reunion is that it derailed Mercer’s belated solo career. There is only a little dose of the Feelies’ perpetual nervousness to be found here, with most tracks leaning toward the layered acoustic sound of the band’s classic 1986 album, The Good Earth.
4. Chrome Dreams II (2007, Reprise) — Neil Young.
Only Mr. Young could make such a patchwork album into a seamless classic, blending the loud and soft, the short and long. Take an 18-minute track from 20 years ago, add in a new 18-minute track, re-record a few unreleased ’80s songs and name it as a sequel to an unreleased, infamous bootleg.
5. Time Bomb High School (2002, In the Red) — Reigning Sound.
After launching his new band with the subdued Break Up Break Down the previous year, Greg Cartwright (ex-Oblivians, Compulsive Gamblers) unleashes a loud and loose classic. From great originals like the Columbine-inspired title track to covers made their own (like The Gentrys‘ “Brown Paper Sack”), the band blends the varied influences of its Memphis, Tenn. hometown into an original mix.
6. Here Come the Miracles (2001, Innerstate) — Steve Wynn.
Wynn kicks off a prolific decade with a sprawling 19-track double CD. Wynn turns up the distortion and intensity like never before, propelling him to christen an ace new backing band, The Miracle 3, reunite with Dan Stuart as Danny and Dusty and form The Baseball Project.
7. De Stijl (2000, Sympathy for the Record Industry) — White Stripes.
Naming an album after a Dutch artistic movement doesn’t seem like the way to launch an American rock revival, but it worked for this Detroit duo, which pounds out the blues-rock as a lo-fi response to Led Zeppelin to set the stage for the band to earn its Stripes with a commercial breakthrough a year later, White Blood Cells.
8. Veni Vidi Vicious (2000, Burning Heart/Epitaph) — The Hives.
Fagersta, Sweden, may be a long way from Detroit, but The Hives kick out the jams in fitting homage to the Motor City’s Stooges and MC5.
9. Ultraglide in Black (2001, In the Red) — The Dirtbombs.
After an uneven debut, Mick Collins (ex-Gories) gets his unconventional lineup (two drummers, two basses, one guitar) rolling with an album of covers (save for one song) that proves that 21st-century rock and ’60s soul classics (from Barry White, Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone and others) can coexist on one album.
10. Easy Listening (2003, Muscle Tone) — Cobra Verde.
If there is such a thing as indie glam rock, this Cleveland outfit has invented and then perfected it.
1. Heels ‘n’ Wheels (2005, Get Hip) — High School Sweethearts.
2. Ragged But Right (2003, Telstar) — The Woggles.
3. Get Something Going (2000, Estrus) — The Insomniacs.
4. New Seasons (2007, Yep Roc) — The Sadies.
5. Tick, Tick, Tick (2006, Down There) — Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3.
MICHAEL CORBY’S PICKS
1. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002, Capitol) — Coldplay.
This is the album that made Chris Martin and the rest of Coldplay superstars. Unfortunately, it also made them huge with the soccer moms of the world, too. Coldplay had the perfect blend of Radiohead‘s sense of musical imagery and U2‘s pop-appealing lyrics. Even the harshest musical critic couldn’t resist them.
2. The Rising (2002, Columbia Records) — Bruce Springsteen.
This is the most important album Springsteen has ever made. It’s easy to understand how significant Born to Run or Born in the USA was in his career, but the songs on The Rising were a genuine attempt to help a nation heal after a very dark time in its history.
3. musicforthemorningafter (2001, Sony Music) — Pete Yorn.
A killer combination of gruff singer/songwriter voice blended with an ’80s new wave musical landscape. They say it’s hard to improve on your first, and three albums later, that holds true for Yorn.
4. Elephant (2003, Third Man Records) — The White Stripes.
Here is the album that destroyed the potential novelty act tag placed on The White Stripes and propelled Jack White to his respected status in music. It’s a shame that Jack and Meg White have yet to recapture the magic made on this album.
5. Wolfmother (2006, Modular Recordings) — Wolfmother.
Wolfmother is the result of the recent rebirth of riff rock sparked by the Guitar Hero/Rock Band video game hysteria — amen. With Black Sabbath hooks and Led Zeppelin imagery, Wolfmother’s brand of retro somehow manages to be refreshing.
6. De Nova (2005, Capital Records) — The Redwalls.
At first listen, you might think you stumbled across some lost tapes from the Fab Four. De Nova is loaded with John Lennon-type hooks, sounds and attitude.
7. In Your Honor (2005, Roswell Records) — The Foo Fighters.
This two-disc release is a display of both sides of Dave Grohl and company’s musical talents. Disc one contains the hard, fast-paced style that has made the band an FM rock staple for almost a decade. Disc two shows a lighter side, with Grohl reaching back to recapture the mood of Nirvana‘s MTV unplugged performance.
8. Final Straw (2004, Polydor) — Snow Patrol.
These Scotts were a refreshing sound when this mid-tempo, David Bowie-ish album was released in 2004. Then their music became the backdrop for every melodramatic TV show. If there was a heart-wrenching breakup or life-changing surgery on the small screen, you can bet there was a Snow Patrol tune playing in the background.
9. Consolers of the Lonely (2008, Third Man Records) — Raconteurs.
This might be the best supergroup/side project album to be released since the first Traveling Wilburys record.
10. In Between Dreams (2005, Brushfire Records) — Jack Johnson.
Johnson is to surfing and peaceful rides as Jimmy Buffett is to beach drinking and silly hats. There is a surfboard in paradise, and Johnson is inviting you to take a ride on this musical trip through a surfer’s head.
1. Pearl Jam (2006, J Records) — Pearl Jam.
2. Both Sides of the Gun (2006, Virgin Records) — Ben Harper.
3. Plans (2005, Atlantic Recording) — Death Cab for Cutie.
4. Unclassified (2003, Warner Bros. Records) — Robert Randolph & The Family Band.
5. My Favorite Evolution (2005, Flagship Recordings) — Eugene Edwards.
DONALD GAVRON’S PICKS:
1. Kid A (2000, Capitol) — Radiohead.
From the opening notes, the listener is dragged through the looking glass into an ethereal realm from which he may not return (nor may he/she want to). Thom Yorke‘s gift is in making angst seem palatable.
2. Heathen (2002, Sony) — David Bowie.
Bowie’s journey through the cosmos continues. The farther his reach, the stranger and more insightful he gets about life on this green orb. There is some muddled synchronicity concerning Uncle Floyd going on here, but it may only be Bowie finding the universal in the mundane.
3. Sea Change (2002, Interscope) — Beck.
Beck’s most linear collection of country-tinged music is an examination of despondency as we pass from one malaise-filled millennium into another. Questions abound. See change?
4. Everything Must Go (2003, Reprise) — Steely Dan. Flying under the radar of immature rap feuds and hip-hop shallowness is this quiet masterpiece of busted relationships and ordinary people thwarted by fate but still managing to hang on by their fingernails.
5. Illumination (2003, Yep Roc Records) — Paul Weller. Here are soulful tales of alienation and a search for redemption in 16 tracks woven together by a master craftsman.
6. Hail to the Thief (2003, Capitol) — Radiohead.
An edgy call to action by a band on the throes of the abyss looking down as the hourglass empties itself of sand.
7. Reality (2003, Columbia) — David Bowie.
A maelstrom of fractured rock weirdness by the incomparable Bowie. This is on par with his best recordings as he walks a fine line between being pretentious and insightful.
8. On the Transmigration Of Souls (2004, Nonesuch) — John Adams.
Adams’s 25-minute meditation on the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, is nothing less than stunning, drawing comparisons to the experimental “Revolution 9” by The Beatles. This haunting composition won the Pulitzer Prize.
9. Ca Ira (There Is Hope) (2005, Sony) — Roger Waters. Ambition is too weak a word for this opera in three acts adapted by ex-Pink Floyd bassist Waters. Though not a complete success, this tale of the French Revolution is meant to draw parallels to the current world situation and gets high marks for what it does achieve. Not for lightweights.
10. Prairie Wind (2005, Reprise Records) — Neil Young. This is Young’s best record in years and one of his most heartfelt. During the making of the album, Young was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm, and the specter of mortality hangs over the production but never interferes with its lyric beauty.
1. The Information (2006, Interscope) — Beck.
2. In Rainbows (2008, ATO Records/Red) — Radiohead.
3. Global A Go-Go (2001, Hellcat Records) — Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros.
4. The ConstruKction of Light (2000, Virgin Records) — King Crimson.
5. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002, Capitol) — Coldplay.
GEORGE HENN’S PICKS:
1. Kids in Philly (2000, Artemis/E-Squared) — Marah.
Spotty material and an ever-revolving lineup would mark the rest of the decade for the Bielanko brothers, but at the turn of the millennium, their sophomore disc found the roots-rock outfit sounding much like that other young Philly upstart, Rocky Balboa (who is name-checked here): full of street-smart swagger and seemingly poised for a shot at the big prize. As such, it stands as a reminder that they coulda been contenders.
2. Satellite Rides (2001, Elektra) — Old 97’s.
Sure, the alt-country tag stuck with these guys for a reason — the ease with which they deliver their George Jones-style aching, tear-in-your-beer ballads is scary — but the Texas quartet’s gift for melody tends to get overlooked. That’s not possible here, as the 97’s bare their pop sensibilities on an album that was so immediate and catchy that, naturally, it flopped and their major label dropped them.
3. In the Valley of Dying Stars (2000, Arena Rock Recording Co.) — Superdrag.
“I can’t concentrate on melody, waiting for some kinda tragedy,” sings John Davis, but Superdrag’s career says otherwise, and never more so than on their third full-length. Superdrag perfected the art of melding dark lyrical musings (a la The Pixies) with soaring harmonies, and this is their masterpiece.
4. Boys and Girls in America (2006, Vagrant) — The Hold Steady.
One of the definitive albums of the decade sounds a lot like the years themselves — chaotic, tension-filled, unsettling — and the Brooklyn band accomplishes this not through ripped-from-the-headlines storytelling, but via powerfully rendered vignettes that center on America’s youth getting wasted. Genius stuff.
5. My Favorite Revolution (2005, Flagship Recordings) — Eugene Edwards.
Bursting with hooks and power pop smarts, this might as well be a lost album from Squeeze or Elvis Costello‘s prime. And if it were released three decades earlier, this disc might have gone down as a power-pop touchstone instead of one of the genre’s hidden gems.
6. People Gonna Talk (2006, Rounder Select) — James Hunter.
Hunter so convincingly pulls off his retro-sounding brand of soul, you could be mistaken for thinking this is one of the top albums from the ’60s, and not this decade.
7. Rainy Day Music (2003, Lost Highway) — The Jayhawks.
If 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall is the definitive Jayhawks record for many fans, this release — 11 years and a few lineup changes later — is the best showcase of Gary Louris and Co.’s knack for jangly harmonies.
8. Life’ll Kill Ya (2000, Artemis) — Warren Zevon.
One of rock’s great defeatists was in rare form on this disc, which, as the title track indicates, found him touching on themes of mortality and fading health. A worthy album on its own merits, sadly it was also a case of morbid foreshadowing, as Zevon was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2002 and died the next year.
9. Stereo/Mono (2002, Vagrant) — Paul Westerberg.
Following a couple of uninspired and little-noticed efforts, the legendary ex-Replacements frontman sounded recharged on this bare-bones double disc: the mellow, introspective Stereo and the one-man garage-band ruckus of Mono (released under Westerberg’s alter ego, Grandpaboy).
10. The Minus Five (2006, Yep Roc) — The Minus Five.
This is a kooky, compelling and catchy set that is passionately performed by Scott McCaughey and his cast of more-than-able friends that includes members of Wilco and R.E.M.
1. …tick …tick …tick (2006, Down There) — Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3.
2. From the End of Your Leash (2004, Bloodshot) — Bobby Bare Jr.’s Criminal Starvation League.
3. Walking in a Straight Line (2002, Yep Roc) — The Mayflies USA.
4. Love and Theft (2001, Columbia) — Bob Dylan.
5. Fear Not the Obvious (2001, Bloodshot) — The Yayhoos.
MIKE MADDEN’S PICKS:
1. Slippage (2002, New West Records) — Slobberbone.
The Denton, Texas, band’s fourth offering was its best and final work. What makes this album the best of the decade is the blend of loud riffs, frenzied drums and bittersweet lyrics. Obviously, it’s not the most original concept, but it’s still relatable and incredibly passionate.
2. Kids in Philly (2000, Artemis/E-Squared) — Marah.
This album is the sound of a roomful of talented people picking up every instrument and taking a genre walk. On this, the band’s best album, Marah was compared to a modern-day E Street Band. Bruce Springsteen and his troupe keep chugging along, but Kids in Philly is still a great comparison to them.
3. Separation Sunday (2005, Frenchkiss Records) — The Hold Steady.
Here’s an album written from the perspective of a fidgety party-goer. Singer/songwriter Craig Finn meanders from story to story with vivid descriptions and surrounded by the muscular swagger of his band takes control of the very scene he seems to be unsure about.
4. Elephant (2003, V2 Records) — The White Stripes.
The most evenly produced piece of the White Stripes musical puzzle. Elephant took the Detroit duo from buzzed about avant garde act to household name avant garde powerhouse.
5. Evil Urges (2008, ATO Records) — My Morning Jacket.
Tons of touring with a wide range of peers and legendary stories of all night jams earned My Morning Jacket an ever-growing fan base throughout the decade.Evil Urges is its thank you to those who shared the ride with the band. It took the best parts of their stellar previous albums It Still Moves and Z, rolled them together and passed it around.
6. Heartbreaker (2000, Bloodshot Records) — Ryan Adams.
Say what you will about Adams’ public persona or childish ways, this is one thought out album. It’s an achievement in introspection that wasn’t as forced as the emo revolution of mid decade. It’s a CD-length sigh.
7. Fight Dirty (2002, Yep Roc Records) — The Forty-Fives.
Soul, garage, blues and boogie are the main ingredients in this Southern stew. The musical frenzy almost makes you sweat while you listen to it.
8. What Doesn’t Kill Us (2008, Barsuk Records) — What Made Milwaukee Famous.
Indie rock became its own genre in the ’00s, but that was just a clever code name for alternative rock anyway.What Doesn’t Kill Us is the album 1996 forgot about. Quirky, clever and sincere, it fits nicely in the playlist world.
9. Cherry Marmalade (2002, Zoe-Rounder Records) — Kay Hanley.
The former Letters to Cleo frontwoman and future Miley Cyrus backer produced a mighty fine set of power pop of her own. Lots of jangle and some leftover riot girl rage mark this surprisingly pleasant effort.
10. Ultragilde in Black (2001, In the Red Records) — The Dirtbombs.
I have to admit: I’m a sucker for a good covers album, and although this isn’t a complete set of covers, the reinterpretations are what sold me, as the album features thunderous and proud renditions of past nuggets by artists as diverse as Stevie Wonder to Thin Lizzy. It’s all delivered in a sloppy, bottom-heavy groove that demands you to get up on your feet.
1. The War of Women (2003, Atlantic Records) — Joe Firstman.
2. The Blueprint (2001, Def Jam Records) — Jay-Z.
3. Red Letter Days (2002, Interscope Records) — The Wallflowers.
4. Virginia Creeper (2004, Zoe-Rounder Records) — Grant-Lee Phillips.
5. Southern Rock Opera (2001, Soul Dump Records) — Drive-By Truckers.