Here we go! It’s time to find out some of the best music of the decade and, in the process, decide the ultimate blogger of all time. Well, almost. To sound off, let us know who you’re rolling with in the comments, along with any other suggestions, exhortations, and bad advice you might have to offer. What time is it? GAME TIME. Pick your poison.
#1 Seed, Female Bracket: Emma, the Hasidic Hammer
D’Angelo “Devil’s Pie” Voodoo 2000 – It was the killer bass line that drew me into this song, the sweet harmonies and the laundry list of sins kept it on my discman. Plus I’ll always have a soft spot for D’Angelo, I definitely had a sexual awakening watching his “Untitled [How does it feel?]” video. Hetro-ladies and gay dudes, etc., you know what I’m talking about.
The Soggy Bottom Boys “Man of Constant Sorrow” Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000 This album was fantastic the whole way through and introduced me my favorite contemporary bluesmen, Chris Thomas King. This is the standout track for me on the best album of the year, in which we all learned a thing or two about American roots music. Banjos rock!
Tool “Parabol/Parabola” Lateralus 2001 – Later in the decade, rock would go the way of soft, comforting, and earnest folk tunes sung by non-threatening bearded guys. But back in the early ‘aughts’ (00’s) we still had haunting, crunching distortion, complex time changes, and howling vocals. This album is my favorite of Tool’s in that the music brings all of the prog metal we’ve come to expect from the band, plus emotionally and metaphysically complex lyrics. This song (really two tracks with opposite takes on the same song) begins as a whisper and ends in deathly distortion. Pretty much got me through high school.
Ben Folds “Zak and Sara” Rockin’ the Suburbs 2001 – I’ll be flashing my ‘nerd’ card early and often. I am a Ben Folds fan, and I wore this damn album out. “Zak and Sara” has the manic piano riffs that characterize Folds’ songs, Beach Boys style backing vocals, and one of my all-time favorite lyrics: “Visions of pills that put you in a loving trance/ that make it possible for all white boys to dance.”
The Flaming Lips “Do You Realize??” Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots 2002 – Upon first listen to what is a great complete album, “Realize” is the standout with it’s soaring lyrics and string arrangements. Other Yoshimi songs are more musically experimental, some explore topics like time travel and the emotional awakening of a robot. This one is somehow life-affirming while reminding us that “everyone you know someday will die”.
Beyoncé “Crazy in Love” Dangerously in Love 2003 – This song is crazy good. And I think by now everyone on the planet has heard it.
Amadou & Mariam “Coulibaly” Dimanche à Bamako 2004 – I still listen to this song on a daily basis and Amadou and Mariam are kind of like my imaginary friends at this point. This couple from Mali, who met as students in a school for the blind, are a powerhouse of west-African blues. Lively guitar riffs, funky sirens, and rattling percussion keep me dancing. I cannot think of another album so wonderfully joyful.
The Decemberists “The Tain (I-IV)” The Tain EP 2004 – Nerd card again! I went through a phase where I read a bunch of epic poems, from Gilgamesh to Beowulf, so when I found out that The Decemberists had composed a song cycle based on the 12th century Irish epic The Tain I was all in. The 18 minute song is a badass combination of metal riffs, haunting carnival music, and macabre lyrics. Us nerds wanna thrash too.
Sleater-Kinney “The Fox” The Woods 2005 – Sleater Kinney was formed towards the end of the feminist ‘riot grrrl’ movement. I’ll admit I came late to the scene but these ladies definitely taught me a thing or two about overthrowing the Patriarchy. Everything about this song is Loud, the guitars, massive drum sounds and wailing vocals.
Fred “Imbécile Heureux” Sauter du Nid 2005
I picked up this album randomly at a FNAC in Paris and immediately became obsessed with it. It’s still one of my top favorite albums, a clever mix of French guitar music, American blues, and North African beats. I would like to include it because I have never been able to find more music by Fred; does anyone out there know where he went?
TV on the Radio “A Method” Return to Cookie Mountain 2006 – Another difficult choice to pick a favorite song from a favorite album, one that explores atmosphere and sentimentality without ever being soft or cliché. The song begins with man-made sounds, hand claps, singing, and whistling, some cymbal tapping begins while the audience is lulled into the vocal hook. All of the sudden the percussion bursts in like a sucker punch to the face.
Andrew Bird “Scythian Empires” Armchair Apocrypha 2007 – I love everything about this song: The intricate, overlapping, interlocking violin parts, the subtle protest of the Bush administration, the invocation of ancient empires, and the whistling. Oh, the whistling!
Atmosphere “The Waitress“ If Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold 2008 – Atmosphere manages to embody everyday characters in a convincing way, and this song gets us into the head of an old homeless man with regrets, in love with a diner waitress who “treats me like some type of common vagrant”. Bonus: Best flute hook since Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”.
Taken by Trees “Anna” East of Eden 2009 – Cool Nordic vocal delivery mixed with warm Sufi devotional music recorded in Pakistan. I get lost in this song, I dissect all the parts and think about why I love them, and then I fall back into the complete song.
Blakroc “Ain’t Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)” Blakroc 2009
This album is set to drop on November 27 (Two days before my birthday! Mark your calendars for both events. For serious.) The Black Keys + Mos Def + Jim Jones + Q-Tip = This is gonna be epic. The Keys lay down the some guttural blues riffs, Mos Def brings the vocals and Jim Jones drops the rhymes on this first single.
#3 Seed, Female Bracket: Mache, the Grand Duckess
Gorillaz “Clint Eastwood” 2001
This was a big release of creativity. I remember that between I listen to Gorillaz the first time and the moment I found out who they were exactlly, I enjoyed a lot the mistery and the fantasy of understanding this was the first virtual band I was seeing and listening too. I loved the album, and this one the first single, the music, the style, the videos, the concept, and I still do. Gorillaz was to be respected since their first moment of existence, they were well thought and developed since the beginning. “Clint Eastwood” it’s great from the very oooo-ho-hu of the beginning.
Daft Punk “One More Time” 2001
The second album by this plastic headed duo was Discovery. “One more time” is the magic spell that gave life to the album, and the one that possibly keeps it radiant until now. The album is a great collage of danceable sounds, including bells and riffs coming from who knows what kind of machines. Also the album had a movie made for it, Interestella 5555, and I don’t know about you, but I love this mix of music and images, the dream of becoming blue and famous in a high tech world. Pretty pretty sweet. And “One More Time” is still rocking on playlists all around the world.
Mercedes Sosa with Julieta Venegas “Sabiendose de los descalzos” 2009
This is the one I choose on my list for Latin America. Mercedes Sosa’s last album, she died short after it was released. This is one immediate classic, Mercedes singing at her 70s with the some of the greatest voices coming from those lands. One of these songs is with great Mexican pop and rock singer Julieta Venegas. Their two voices are mixed with perfection, the arrangement of this song is wonderful, full of emotion.
Soild and Pimp Sessions “Mars” 2008
Once someone asked me if jazz didn’t sound too North American to me, I said no, to me sounds totally Asian, since it was in these lands were I friended with jazz finally. So, I’m proud to list here these Japanese guys, they were an amazing break through on Japan. They brought jazz to parties and party to jazz, and they are conquering the world from there since their beginning on 2004. This album feels like the closest we can get to be in one of their shows without being there really.”Mars” is a not the craziest they can get, but it’s just a perfect tune for me.
Mars Volta “Inertiatic ESP” 2003
I still remember the first time I listen this music. It was on tv actually, the video, I had to run for a paper to write the name of this band, and look for it later. I was knocked out with this sound, rock coming back to life again, dark, epic, gigantic, and deep. What else can I say, Mars Volta has already built a whole world since those days. Omar Lopez Rodriguez has become one of the most creative spirits of rock in these days, this year the release of his triptych, and the release of the new album of the band “Ochtaedrum” are proof of this. But still, De-Loused in the Comatorium, and this track “Inertiatic ESP” is the most important to me, it added so much sound to rock.
Franz Ferdinand “Lucid Dreams” 2009
Pointy shoes rock. For a second I doubted and I thought maybe The Killers, but no. Franz Ferdinand, I like their style better, I totally dig Kaprano’s voice, and I have fun listening to them, over and over again. The sound of the new Britpop-rock, after being tested with five years of dangerous success, came out with a solid and precise reflection of their experience and a confirmation of their skills. Actually pointy shoes do not affect the cleaverness to create good art, “Lucid Dreams” I’ll rock with this song for long long time, it’s a great mix of sounds and the grooves are nice nice nice …and the pointy shoes, of course.
Nosaj Thing “Fog” 2009
So, beatmakers. I have to thank to Free the Wax again for this, they brought these sounds to me. Dorian Concept was a sweet discovering for my ears. And then Nosaj Thing – sighs are coming out here now. This music is awesome, I’d choose the whole album from the first minute to the last one, but this is about tracks. The atmosphere breaths around when the first beats of “Fog”, this is a trip on the most classic electronic landscape you could imagine. The construction is perfect, it’s deep, it’s soft, and it’s spacial. If Mozart would have had the equipment that Chung has, then his music could have sound like this. The vast universe of sounds is expanding through the ears of Nosaj Thing, listen to “Fog” and say I’m wrong.
Curumin “Mistereo Stereo” 2008
I discovered some years ago this musical romance that Japan has with Brazil, and I have a musica romance with Japan, Curumin is the spot where all this colide in harmony. Jazz, funk, samba, bossa, hip hop, and machines, Brazilian, and Japanese sang together. If Salvador do Bahia would be right by Tokyo this is how it would sound. “Mistereo Stereo” one of the most beautiful songs I’ve listen in a while. Beautiful in all its ways.
Re-Tros “Surrender” 2009
So this was the decade for me to discover Chinese rock, and Chinese music in general. To choose one of them, I choose “Surrender” which is not the usual punk crazy messy songs mostly all around Chinese rock, but this is a deep-heavy-coming-from-behind song. I like the arrangement, the drums, the voices, the whole thing.
J Dilla “Lightworks” 2006
Released three days before he succumbed to lupus, the album “Donuts” is considered the magnum opus from legendary hip hop producer J Dilla. 31 beats, “Donuts,” seemlessly crafted from well dug records, and “Lightworks” is an impressive exhibition of talent in a very short time. Hip hop is not really my thing yet, until very recently, so in my decade’s list I have to add hip hop specially, because this is the time I am getting into it. One of my hip hop masters told me that ?uestlove, the drummer and producer of The Roots, said he had agents on multiple continents looking for the records used in this album, and the samples that he did have he couldn’t figure out how Dilla chopped them. I believe that’s an interesting part of the album too. This song is beginning as a commercial and then goes to strange tone in less than a blink, while bubbles float on the back. And then it’s the jingle for Lightworks. The name of the game. I wonder what’s going on their headz.