Monday, November 30, 2009
The Decade in Music - Part 1
10 years ago, I was making $22,000 a year as a small-town newspaper reporter while living alone in a studio apartment. In the intervening 10 years I got a job in the NBA, moved with that team to Memphis, got married, had a kid, moved to Portland, bought a house, and became an extraordinary Wii Mario Kart player.
Now that’s a decade.
With the aughts coming to an end, it’s time to look back, specifically to the music. In my triumphant return to sporadic blogging, I will spend the next few weeks counting down the 20 best artists of the decade, in increments of five at a time.
A few caveats: there will be no rap or country on this list. I don’t like either genre and I’m not throwing in Jay-Z or Keith Urban just to make it look like I have a wide array of music tastes. Also, there was a time I was much more invested in music, knew all the up-and-coming indie bands and moaned years later when they got big. But now I’m not really in a position to stay up until 3 a.m. listening to five new CDs, while dissecting the lyrics and liner notes. So this won’t exactly be the hippest list, but that’s what happens when you become old and lame.
With that out of the way, on to the list:
These bands were in the running for this prestigious list, but ultimately got squeezed out: Weezer, Josh Ritter, U2 (only for All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and nothing since), The Decemberists, Phoenix (It took a while, but 1901 really grew on me, and Lisztomania is also very good. Nice breakout performance), Franz Ferdinand (their eponymous debut is terrific, everything since has been a desperate attempt to recapture that magic), the Shout Out Louds and Modest Mouse.
There weren’t many songs that were more fun in the decade than Time to Pretend. A hopelessly catchy danceable song skewering celebrities who become train wrecks since they have the world at their feet and don’t know what to do with it. Also, my bet is that Lindsay Lohan has no idea the song is meant to be ironic.
#19: …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
I’d caught on to these guys after hearing Relative Ways off their Source Tags and Codes album, and eagerly bought their follow up, Worlds Apart. It was a decent album with a few standouts, including a song called The Rest Will Follow. It was an enjoyable enough album, then a few weeks after its release they were on Letterman, and did The Rest Will Follow live.
And they blew the fucking roof off.
To this day this remains my favorite late night performance of all-time, especially when punctuated with Paul Shaffer's "Whoa!" at the end of the performance. And more importantly, the strength of that performance, along with their song Source Tags and Codes being used in a tremendous Friday Night Lights scene, gets them #19 on my list.
#18: Explosions in the Sky
Hey, speaking of Friday Night Lights…The preferred band of the best television show of the decade (that’s right) gets in at #18.
In 1999, when I still liked Limp Bizkit (I don’t want to talk about it), if you’d told me in 10 years I’d be digging a band doing sweeping 12-minute songs with no singing, I would have told you that’d be as likely as a pro sports team moving to Memphis.
But here they are. And really, is it even possible not to like these guys? A lot of bands write songs that are anthemic, but how many write songs that are epic? This is epic music. Every time I hear it, I feel like I can lift the nearest car. This is big music, this is music they should be using in the climactic scenes of movies. So how is it that only the producers of the Friday Night Lights movie and tv show have figured this out?
You know what, I don’t care. Check out The Birth and Death of the Day and tell me you don’t get a chill:
#17: Green Day
Talk about a career progression. They went from writing snarky two-minute punk/pop songs to writing the anthemic (there’s that word again) American Idiot album. And that was a hell of an album, especially when you consider the best song is a sprawling multi-part, nine-minute opus that encapsulates modern disaffected teenagers. So yeah, they came a long way from All By Myself.
#16: Bloc Party
They’d be much higher on this list had they not completely botched their second album. Still, you can’t take away the greatness of Silent Alarm. That album jumps from anger to outrage to fun to earnest and rarely hits a false note.
I don’t know what it says about me that my favorite song is a straight forward love song that contains exactly 59 words, but here you go (and Here We Are):