Top 50 albums of the decade

It seems that everyone has been compiling not just year-in-review but decade-in-review lists lately, and I’ve never seen a bandwagon I didn’t eagerly jump on. So, without further ado (after all, why spend any time in careful reflection upon a full ten years of life?), here we go.

The challenge: sum up, in my opinion, the past decade in (semi-)popular music, in 50 albums, 5 per year. The result: the following list, presented in alphabetical order (since ranking them seemed even more arbitrary and superfluous than listing them in the first place). Enjoy.

Beck: Sea Change (2002)
One-sentence review: Beck gets serious.
Beck: Guero (2005)
One-sentence review: Beck proves he’s still Beck.
Benoît Charest: The Triplets of Belleville (2004)
One-sentence review: It’s as charming, brilliant and unexpected as the film it accompanies.
The Bird and the Bee: The Bird and the Bee (2007)
One-sentence review: The ’60s meet the ’00s at a lounge in the ’70s.
The Bird and the Bee: Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (2009)
One-sentence review: It offers more sweet lounge-electronica delights, this time with more David Lee Roth references.
Coldplay: X&Y (2005)
One-sentence review: The Coldplay album that takes the longest to grow on you also leaves the most lasting impression.
Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs (2008)
One-sentence review: I finally realized I should have been listening to that band with the stupid name for the entire past decade.
The Decemberists: Castaways and Cutouts (2003)
One-sentence review: I dreamt I was an architect.
The Decemberists: The Crane Wife (2006)
One-sentence review: Victorian prog meets indie rock.
The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love (2009)
One-sentence review: Victorian prog consumes indie rock.
Field Music: Field Music (2006)
One-sentence review: Here’s what Gentle Giant would sound like in the indie rock era.
The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)
One-sentence review: Perhaps it’s the album of the decade; definitely the era’s answer to both Pet Sounds and Dark Side of the Moon.
Flight of the Conchords: I Told You I Was Freaky (2009)
One-sentence review: I got hurt feelings.
Fujiya & Miyagi: Lightbulbs (2008)
One-sentence review: Knickerbocker glory is an ice cream sundae.
Peter Gabriel: Up (2002)
One-sentence review: If this proves to be his last album, it’s a brilliant farewell.
Green Day: American Idiot (2004)
One-sentence review: I never knew they had it in ’em, but I’m glad they did.
Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest (2009)
One-sentence review: As inscrutible as its title, it’s worth trying to figure out.
Keane: Under the Iron Sea (2006)
One-sentence review: Who knew another band would write a song called “Crystal Ball” that I would inexplicably love?
King Crimson: The ConstruKction of Light (2000)
One-sentence review: It’s the album that should have been a brilliant farewell.
Kraftwerk: Tour de France Soundtracks (2003)
One-sentence review: It’s like Electric Cafe and The Mix never happened.
M83: Saturdays = Youth (2008)
One-sentence review: M83 = brilliant.
The Mars Volta: Frances the Mute (2005)
One-sentence review: Excessive noodling is offset by brilliant prog riffing.
John Mayer: Heavier Things (2003)
One-sentence review: It’s probably all you need to hear from John Mayer, except…
John Mayer Trio: Try! (2005)
One-sentence review: This.
Minus the Bear: Planet of Ice (2007)
One-sentence review: I’d like this band more if it weren’t for the stalled adolescence of some of their lyrics (and their name).
The Most Serene Republic: Population (2007)
One-sentence review: There’s nothing serene about this republic. (And that’s how you write a one-line review. Rolling Stone, I await your job offer.)
My Morning Jacket: Z (2005)
One-sentence review: You won’t be catching any Z’s with this one. (Attn. Rolling Stone: Still waiting.)
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges (2008)
One-sentence review: Though many site Z as the band’s masterpiece, this is the one that speaks to me most.
Phoenix: United (2003)
One-sentence review: Any band that can release a nearly 10-minute track called “Funky Squaredance,” and it’s good… is worth your attention.
Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)
One-sentence review: Bigger than Mozart.
Porcupine Tree: In Absentia (2002)
One-sentence review: The venerable prog band’s almost-breakthrough.
Radiohead: Kid A (2000)
One-sentence review: Radiohead managed, in a single album, to encapsulate the entire decade… before it happened.
Radiohead: Amnesiac (2001)
One-sentence review: In case you forgot, Radiohead defined the music of the decade. (Come on, RS.)
Radiohead: Hail to the Thief (2003)
One-sentence review: A minor success in Radiohead’s catalog is a crowning achievement for almost any other band.
Radiohead: In Rainbows (2007)
One-sentence review: The band of the decade delivers its best work yet.
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Stadium Arcadium (2006)
One-sentence review: Not only do RHCP have some life left in them, they still might have their best left in them.
Steely Dan: Two Against Nature (2000)
One-sentence review: The Grammy was an apology, but it’s still a pretty damn good album.
Tenacious D: Tenacious D (2001)
One-sentence review: Though this album shouldn’t be tenacious, plenty of its lyrics have become household staples around here.
Tool: Lateralus (2001)
One-sentence review: It’s the masterpiece of latter-day metal.
Tortoise: Standards (2001)
One-sentence review: If you only buy (or hear) one post-rock album, this is it.
TV on the Radio: Dear Science (2008)
One-sentence review: Consider this the “most slighted album” in my previous years’ top 5 lists.
U2: All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000)
One-sentence review: One of the all-time greats by one of the all-time greats.
Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
One-sentence review: A strange introduction (for me) to this band, it’s still one of their best.
Wilco: A Ghost Is Born (2004)
One-sentence review: Though more straightforward than its predecessor, it’s a mellow masterpiece.
Wilco: Sky Blue Sky (2007)
One-sentence review: Even more back to basics, it’s their best yet, and near the top of my list for the decade.
Brian Wilson: SMiLe (2004)
One-sentence review: Better 33 years late than never.
Wolfmother: Wolfmother (2006)
One-sentence review: A brilliant, visceral throwback to classic hard rock.
XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (2000)
One-sentence review: If Skylarking is XTC’s Aja, this is their Two Against Nature, though comparing XTC and Steely Dan may be somewhat oblique.
Zero 7: Simple Things (2001)
One-sentence review: Simply brilliant.
Zero 7: When It Falls (2004)
One-sentence review: If I could produce an album like this, I would happily retire from music therafter.

And, since it just seems necessary, here are my top 5 albums of the decade, hastily and subjectively compiled, and subject to rapid and frequent change:

5. Tortoise: Standards
4. Tool: Lateralus
3. Radiohead: Kid A
2. The Decemberists: The Crane Wife
1. The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots