Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Musically Inclined's Top Albums of the Decade

Several weeks ago, every music publication and their mother('s publication?) started putting out "best of the decade" lists. Of course, until that moment I hadn't actually thought about the fact that the decade was ending until Bob Boilen was waxing nostalgic about OutKast or whatever.

That said, if everybody's doing it (always solid justification to do anything), TMI would be remiss not to throw together a completely subjective list of albums from this first decade of the millennium, in the effort to celebrate (and to impress the reader-- more solid justification) the finer points of the past ten years.

Criteria: Must own album.

Note: I got 99 albums and Jay-Z ain't on one. Or Bon Iver. Or any White Stripes before 2006. Never bought the Arctic Monkeys album. Refused to buy anything by Arcade Fire. No, Wilco is not on this list either.

So here, not truly grounded in anything but my mood this afternoon, are The Musically Inclined's Top Albums of the Decade.

Send your eye-rolling grievances to

Much love,


Greetings from Michigan : Sufjan Stevens : 2003

Everyone always raves about Come on Feel the Illinoise, but Greetings from Michigan was the album TMI was interested in. It was partly due to my undying love for states that look like articles of clothing, but mostly it was because when I heard it, I knew Stevens hit Michigan on the head. Things have been rough up there, but there's a lot of natural beauty when you get past the economically depressed cities. Stevens managed to balance some of the grim realities of Michigan, with a sound that matched icicles on tree branches and the gorgeousness that is the Upper Peninsula. Plus, TMI first heard "For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti" on The O.C. in the Spring of '06. It felt significant.

Tranatlanticism : Death Cab for Cutie : 2003

Still the best Death Cab for Cutie album to date. More refined than their way early sound on Something About Airplanes, yet these were the edgier days before computers took over on Plans. Transatlanticism is Death Cab for Cutie at its best. Of course, this is not to say that TMI wasn't crazy about Plans... in fact, TMI would probably buy a box set of the band tuning their guitars, but really. Just about every song on Transatlanticism is a winner - "The Sound of Settling," "Expo '86," "Title and Registration," "Passenger Seat"-- this is the place to start if you haven't already.

Home : Dixie Chicks : 2003

Random country album? Maybe. Back in the day before The Dixie Chicks wrote mildly bitter songs about being wronged, they decided to go acoustic on their (in their current line up) third album, Home. It was ridiculously good-- a reprieve form that glitzy glossy commercial crap that passes for country these days. It was a little bit rootsy, a little bit folksy, but mostly just really solid. From "Long Time Gone," to the cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," to "Lil' Jack Slade," to the super powerful "Top of the World," The Dixie Chicks laid down the direction that country music should have gone in-- "More Love," less Miley.

American Idiot : Green Day : 2004

It was like those angsty kids in middle school grew up a (little) bit and made a somewhat serious statement. Who knew? Between "Give Me Novacaine," "Tales of a Broken Home," and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," we started to get a grim picture of a generation raised by the media and popular culture. Or you could just sing along and pretend like you're angry. That's fun too.

Continuum : John Mayer : 2006

Room for Squares was an album for lusty teenage girls. Heavier Things spoke of potential. Continuum was the product of not a teen heart throb or one more drippy, sensitive singer, but of a highly talented guitarist and lyricist. Continuum was bluesy and soulful in a manner we didn't think Mayer was capable of, and it put him on track for "guitar great" status. Continuum is so rich, I only like to listen to it on occasion-- don't want to take it for granted. I also treat mangoes that way, but that's a separate issue.

In Rainbows : Radiohead : 2007

Maybe it's that I'd never listened to Radiohead seriously before. Maybe it's their avant garde marketing strategy. Maybe it's the way "15 Steps" is some strange breed of entrancing and infectious. "Videotape," "House of Cards"-- being classified as "un-radio friendly" never sounded so appealing.

Wincing the Night Away : The Shins : 2007

I bought this album after hearing the Garden State soundtrack for the first time a few years back (and who didn't?!). "Australia" is my most-played song on iTunes-- which is funny because I can never remember specific times when I've listened to this album. It's like an unconscious instinct pulls me back to Wincing the Night Away and I gladly follow. Cryptic, catchy, lightly sprinkled with 60's Brit pop, TMI eagerly awaits whatever James Mercer (and whomever he's wrangled for the line up) releases next.

Boxer : The National : 2007

Describing The National as "orchestral pop" does not do the band justice. Sophisticated sounds back the uncertainty of drifting into an oblivion of adulthood. Beautiful, often poignant imagery almost makes you want to be 30, if only for the drama and doomed romance of blue blazers, swanky apartment parties, and friends you can barely recognize anymore. Also, there seems to be a critical consensus that front man Matt Berninger's voice sounds like a variety of liquors. How could they go wrong?

Which albums made your list?

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