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My 50 Favourite Albums (And EPs) Of The Decade

Well all the cool kids are doing it. So, looking back on the decade that was, here are my top 50 recordings from 2000-2009.

Regular Pluck readers will notice that there are some inconsistencies with my Best Albums Of 2009, this is because when looking back on a decade, I am thinking of albums that either have stayed with me for many years or I think have the potential to stay with me for many years, rather than how much I enjoyed them when they were released. I have also rediscovered some albums released in 2009 over the last few weeks.

These are the albums I can very realistically imagine listening to for the rest of my life.

Also note that this is my personal list of the recordings that I have enjoyed the most (hence the name). I am by no means claiming that these are the best albums of the decade, a word which, when used in this context, I associate with the contribution of some idea or concept to music on a bigger scale.

This is just the music I love.

50. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

49. Pearl Jam – Backspacer

48. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell

47. Muse – Absolution

Falling Away With You is one of my all time favourite songs. The rest of the album is pretty great as well.

46. The Swell Season – Once

One of my favourite movie soundtracks. Glen Hansard’s impassioned singing brings the songs to life, even in acoustic form. The remakes of original The Frames songs are brilliant of course, but so are the quirky original songs, such as Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy. A very deserving Oscar winner for Falling Slowly.

45. Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer

44. Okkervil River – Overboard And Down (EP)

“If you’ve ever lived through a day where the littlest things,
in the littlest ways made you feel you were blessed.
And if you died right then, well you know you’d be missed,
But there’s no better state to cease to exist.
And you wouldn’t feel sad, and you wouldn’t resist,
Cause you knew what you had, and were thankful for it.”

Just sublime songwriting. A live version of Westfall doesn’t hurt either.

43. Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That

42. Explosions In The Sky – All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone

41. Tunng – Good Arrows

40. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup

39. The Killers – Hot Fuss

38. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

37. The New Pornographers – Challengers

The song Challengers is absolutely gorgeous, and although I get the feeling that the entire album is structured around it, the rest of it is awesome as well.

36. The National – Alligator

35. Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position

The first four songs are brilliant, and although the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to them, very little could.

34. John Frusciante – The Will To Death

Part of Frusciante’s insane CD-releasing rampage which saw him release four albums in 2004. All under-produced, natural feeling albums, with this the pick of the bunch.

33. Radiohead – Kid A

Yeah, here it is. I’ve never been a big fan of Radiohead, but this is a dam good album.

32. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights

31. Maxïmo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures

30. Yves Klein Blue – Ragged And Ecstatic

“There will come a time when we finally look forward instead of always behind
I hope I live to see that day.”

I love virtually every song.

29. Okkervil River – The Stage Names

28. Red Hot Chili Peppers – By The Way

It may no longer be socially acceptable to like the Chilis, but I will never stop loving this album. It is one of the rare cases where every song could be a single, but when combined they come to something entirely more. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, which makes for a great album when the parts are this good.

27. Damien Rice – 9

26. Eddie Vedder – Into The Wild

My favourite ever movie soundtrack. Eddie Vedder (with help from others such as Kaki King) perfectly captures the emotion and attitude of the classic movie of the same name, and creates a soundtrack memorable not only as part of a movie but as a standalone album as well.

25. Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More

24. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

23. The Middle East – The Recordings Of The Middle East (EP)

It’s an EP not an album, dam it. Oh yeah, it has Blood on it. And The Darkest Side is pretty rad as well.

22. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!

After having seen the Yeah Yeah Yeahs live I have rediscovered this album. I regret not having it in my top albums of 2009, because it is absolutely fantastic, and I love it more with every listen.

21. Muse – Black Holes And Revelations

20. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

19. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

18. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife

17. Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News

There has to be a Modest Mouse album on here, but it was kind of hard to choose which one: they are such a consistent band. I opted with the album that packs the best double-punch: Float On followed by Ocean Breathes Salty makes for one of the most memorable seven minutes of music I can imagine. Plus I have a soft spot for Horn Intro, in all of its ten second glory.

16. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

“Isn’t life under the sun just a crazy, crazy, crazy dream?
Isn’t life just a mirage of the world before the world?”

Everything that Dirty Projectors ever did was leading up to this album. It was the album they were always capable of making; always threatened to make, but never really did, until 2009. It is accessible without losing any of the beauty of Dirty Projectors, and that is a tremendous accomplishment.

15.Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

14. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar

I am not ashamed to admit that I’m in love with Zach Condon. This, his debut album as Beirut, is simply phenomenal; genuine and unique.

13. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene

12. The Frames – The Cost

The most under-appreciated band in the world. A classic album.

11. Sigur Rós – Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust

Damned if I know how to pronounce any of the song names, but this is one of my all time favourite albums. It takes Sigur Rós in a very new direction, and despite loving their more ethereal music I also love this more pop and upbeat sound.

10. Harlem Shakes – Technicolor Health

One of the few hooks-based pop albums I can imagine never getting sick of. A classic in its own way. It isn’t grand and it isn’t thought-provoking, yet it’s catchy as hell and has a real sense of humour about it, and, for that, you have to love it. Will you reform if I say please?

9. Powderfinger – Odyssey Number Five

An album full of Australian anthems and classic tunes. My Happiness, These Days, and Waiting For The Sun get all the attention, however deeper cuts such as Thrilloilogy and We Should Be Together Now are just as brilliant. Powderfinger are often criticised for having no depth, but this album shows plenty of it, and a maturity of songwriting is evident in These Days that surpasses that of any mere pub-rock band, as some refer to Powderfinger.

8. Beirut – Lon Gisland (EP)

“When I feel alive,
I try to imagine a careless life.
A scenic world,
Where the sunsets are all
Breathtaking.”

This release redefined what was possible in an EP. I hesitate to say that I inexplicably love it, because there are certainly many things to be admired in it, from Zach Condon’s amazing vocals and songwriting to the intricate arrangements. However I have always felt some strange, indescribable attraction towards it. Elephant Gun is one of my favourite ever songs, and the remake of Beirut’s own Scenic World will forever be associated with carefree summer days. At only 15 minutes it is short, even for an EP, but yet I have no reservations at all in calling it one of my favourite recordings of the decade.

7. Various – Dark Was The Night

With a lineup encompassing virtually every major indie band in the world, and with every artist contributing original (or at least remade) tracks, this is my favourite compilation album of all time. Dirty Projectors and David Byrne join forces to produce the magnificent Knotty Pine, while The National, who spearheaded the production of the album, offer the exceptional So Far Around The Bend. Oh yeah and there’s other artists like Arcade Fire, Spoon, Beirut, Bright Eyes, Bon Iver, Yeasayer, The New Pornographers, and Andrew Bird.

6. Muse – Origin Of Symmetry

‘Origin Of Symmetry’, Muse’s finest album, is about as close to perfection as a band can get. New Born opens the record with that immediately recognisable piano riff, Bliss is utterly hypnotic, Feeling Good is one of the best covers of all time, Citizen Erased is epic, and Plug In Baby is Plug In Baby. This album signalled the true arrival of Muse onto the music scene, and the band have never looked back. And to think Muse’s original record label wanted the band to entirely remove Matt Bellamy’s falsetto from the album because they thought it made the record less radio friendly. Too few of these songs find their way regularly into Muse setlists nowadays, but we will always have this album.

5. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

There’s very little I can say about this album that hasn’t already been said. It is simply remarkable that so many emotions, people, and places, can be captured so thoroughly in nine songs. This is an album of sorrow and heartbreak; of winter and the woods; of solitude and peace. It is a direct extension of the heart and mind of the man who wrote it, Justin Vernon. It is at once majestic and impossibly, impossibly intimate. Music really doesn’t come much better, or much more complete, than this.

4. Sigur Rós – ()

I was faced once with the task of describing the music of Sigur Rós to someone who had never heard them before. After trying in vein to illustrate how they are an Icelandic band who sing either in their native tongue or a language they themselves invented, and tend to play guitar with cello bows, I gave up. The reality is that it can’t be done. In order to understand Sigur Rós, you must listen to Sigur Rós. Music like this just doesn’t exist anywhere else.

The Brackets album is the magnum opus of Sigur Rós. Sung entirely in Hopelandic, the language invented by the band, it is the most ethereal and atmospheric record I have ever heard. It features eight untitled tracks, and any attempt to describe individual tracks would be pointless, just as whenever I decide which of them is my favourite I change my mind a few days later. You couldn’t pay me to stop listening to this record.

3. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois

“All things go.”

I should begin by saying that Chicago is my favourite song of all time, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon, if ever. Probably the acoustic version, but that’s a story for another day. When Sufjan Stevens said that he was going to record one album for every state of America, not many people took him seriously. But after ‘Illinois’… well, still nobody took him seriously, but everybody realised that whether or not he ever finished, it would be a great ride while it lasted.

The ‘Illinois’ song titles read like novels, and there are 22 of them in total. This is a truly all-encompassing, enthralling, and immersive album. Sufjan’s voice is just magnificent, and the whole album seems ridiculously effortless. That is part of the record’s charm, however: it feels like it was written in a daydream. Plus I’ve always loved banjos in indie music. Superb, gorgeous, and inescapably beautiful music.

2. The National – Boxer

“We’re half-awake, in a fake empire.”

How to describe one of your favourite all-time records without sounding like a fan-boy? Eh screw it, I love this album. It is a coming of age for The National after several promising releases, and what I love most about it is how it can be so restrained but yet so grand. Matt Berninger’s distinctively deep vocals contribute to this, but it is also the over-arching style of the album. Previous The National efforts always had that moment of sheer release, such as screaming “I won’t fuck us over” in Mr. November, or the indistinguishable cacophony of sound in Murder Me Rachel. ‘Boxer’ is unique precisely because it builds up that tension in the listener, that need for a release, but yet never gives it to you.

Fake Empire is one of the most instantly mesmerising songs ever, Slow Show is excruciatingly honest (“You know I dreamed about you, for twenty-nine years before I saw you… I missed you, for twenty-nine years”), and Green Gloves is as beautiful as any sound I have ever heard in its own way (“Falling out of touch with all my, friends are somewhere getting wasted, hope they’re staying glued together, I have arms for them”). I love every song individually, but like every truly great album, it is how they combine and define themselves based on one another that makes this record so very special.

1. Arcade Fire – Funeral

“And the power’s out in the heart of man,
take it from your heart put it in your hand.”

Yeah, this is pretty much the perfect album. And it is perfect in every possible way. It is perfect in ways I didn’t know existed. The euphoric, majestic, sweeping choruses. The indescribable ecstasy of that impossibly light Tunnels opening piano riff. The childish yearning of Wake Up. The happy doomsday song that is Power Out. The audacity to name four songs as numbers in a Neighbourhood series, then separate them by a song with a title in French. Magical doesn’t begin to describe the result when these elements are combined into an album.

It is such a powerful, life-affirming, emotional, and grand album. The worst song off this album would easily be the best song on most albums. But yet it is entirely impossible to pick a worst song, because every single second of every single track forms a strand that contributes to the tapestry of the album. And when you think that a song as good as Brazil was left off the album… wow. Just. Wow.

For all the Arcade Fire rip-off bands we have seen in the latter half of this decade, there will never, ever, be another album like this.

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2 Responses to “My 50 Favourite Albums (And EPs) Of The Decade”

  1. Some very good albums here. The National are brilliant, and Boxer is such a great album.

  2. would of had radiohead in top 10
    n i agree with arcade fire at no.1 prob the best album in the last few decades

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