The Top 100 Albums of the Decade (part 2)

RCA Records

The Strokes—Is This It

Julian Casablancas has said that he learned how to “sing cool” from Lou Reed. There is definitely a ton of that New York, Velvet Underground-style swagger to the music of The Strokes, but never was it more immediate and more purposeful than on their debut. Let’s face it—sometimes it takes years or a few albums to achieve your ultimate moment, but sometimes it happens right away, without even really planning on it. Sure, The Strokes had a ton of money and rich-kid notoriety to push them even further into the limelight, but that just made it even more surprising to most of the music world (who wanted to hate them so) when they turned out to actually have some great songs. The singles from this album (the initial breakthrough “Last Night”, “Hard To Explain”, and “Someday”) don’t really ever get old, and a couple of the songs (like “The Modern Age”) are even better than those. It’s just really good, really straightforward-yet-clever rock music that manages to evoke extremely catchy melodies without any sense of cheesiness whatsoever. If this is it, there should be no complaints—it’s fun, it’s hard-hitting, it’s timeless. (Note: This album has already been named Album of the Decade by NME, which is tough to comprehend, since the decade isn’t over yet. It seems they assumed it impossible that another record would make such an impact in a month’s time, which is understandable).

Nonesuch Records

Wilco—Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

This was the last Wilco album to feature multi-instrumentalist and sound-tweaker Jay Bennett, who died in early 2009 while in the beginning stages of a royalty battle with his ex-group. Not coincidentally, it is also the last Wilco album to feel like a truly original, classic piece of work. Granted, the band’s 2009 offering Wilco (The Album) is the closest they have come to this since Bennett’s departure, but it still lacks that other-worldliness that Bennett’s experimentalism gave Wilco. On Yankee, the disorientating sound collages that make up “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” or the creturesque wah-moog that lurks through “War on War” are some of the more memorable examples of this. Bennett’s sonic genius was one of the main factors that drove Wilco from its original alt-country upbringings into the territory we know them to tread in today, and though the peak of this era is actually 1999’s Summerteeth, Yankee was the album that had the tunes and the mythology to match (the fact that the band’s original label refused to put it out, and after finding a label, it ended up being one of the biggest records of the year). Thus, it will be the album for which they are most remembered.

Capitol Records

Radiohead—Amnesiac

This is the best Radiohead album. It may be arguable, since the band has gone through so many shifts in style over their career, therefore varying the opinions of the fan base as to which era best represents the band. Even Thom Yorke dismisses Pablo Honey and has said it “doesn’t even feel like us when I hear it”. Most long-time fans would probably opt for The Bends, since it captures the band in that early middle-ground between rock band and experimentalists. OK Computer, which might be their most widely admired album, captures that late middle-ground. Kid A was a surprise to the music world—it was adored by critics and accepted by most fans, though it did alienate some of the band’s older audience. Kid A acted as the initial shock to the system so reaction would not be as muddled when Amnesiac hit. While Kid A is made up of more traditionally arranged songs, Amnesiac acts as kind of an album-length side two of Abbey Road—everything runs together to make up one big song, or at least one big idea. It begs to be listened to all the way through, and once the listener warms up to the idea, it’s surprisingly easy to do. Plus, “Pyramid Song” is one of the most beautiful things ever recorded. For those who were hoping for Rainbows, no apologies here—that album has great songs, but as a cohesive work, Amnesiac trumps it.

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