I have a great and lasting fondness for compiling these lists, making these mixes, and writing these posts. In years past, I spent nearly 16 hours doing a simple ten track list+mix+post, and then quietly resolved to never spend that much time again, but chances are I won’t be all that far from it once this particular effort is done. Fact is, this is a painful process, but still something I find much joy in doing.
↓ Download all 20 songs I had no intention of compiling such a lengthy retrospective on the music of the naughties, but once I saw that others were doing it, and then combed through my list, I found a bunch of albums that deserved recognition. However small and insignificant my words may be, these 20 songs from my favorite 20 albums of the 2000s meant so much to me.
So here they are, mixed to perfection. Enjoy!
Jamie Lidell · “Yougotmeup” · Multiply · 2005
I bought this album the moment it came out — without bothering to preview it or read the reviews — even though his previous efforts left me scratching my head as often as waggin’ my booty. “Yougotmeup” is completely out of this world, and not only sets the tone for the rest of the album, it set me on a five year journey to see him live as many times as I could. No one else even comes close to the creativity and ingenuity of Jamie Lidell, especially in front of a crowd.
Vampire Weekend · “A-Punk” · Vampire Weekend · 2008
Had my friend Maroney not passed along this album, and had Abby not fallen in love with it, I doubt I would have ever listened to it. I’m not even sure it belongs on this list — I have seen countless arguments for The Strokes over anyone else of their type — but there’s something so pure and simple about Vampire Weekend. On top of that, this album speaks to me much like the Violent Femmes self-titled debut did some 27 years ago. No small feat there.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah · “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth” · Clap Your Hands Say Yeah · 2005
This song and this album (really, everything about CYHSY) just scream New York City for me. I even lost $300 trying to see them play on NYE in NYC (and I always thought I was street-smart) but eventually saw them twice. I credit them with bringing the feel of a dj set to the typical rock show, stringing each and every song together with some sort of whimsical musical transition. Now (almost) everyone does it, but they were the first.
Radiohead · “Bodysnatchers” · In Rainbows · 2007
I was waaay late to the game with Radiohead, so much so that the first album I purchased was Hail to the Thief. Sure, I complained about the 160kbps thing when they first released In Rainbows, but paid for it anyway and then paid again when the cd version came out so I could have higher fidelity copies. I raved about Bodysnatchers in my list of favorites from 2007, so please go read about it there if you care. Chances are you already feel the same way about this song, it’s an absolute masterpiece.
Thom Yorke · “Black Swan” · The Eraser · 2006
It’s quirky and downright weird at times, but songs like this one are so completely infectious that I can’t stop listening to them over and over again. There’s that innocence again, and a rawness that runs counter to the polish of Radiohead. This is a definite favorite of 2006.
I still find myself drawn to this album, and finding new twists and turns with each and every listen. It seems wholly unfair that one man should have such impeccable taste and immense talent, but at least Thom Yorke sees fit to share his gifts with the rest of us.
Plaid · “Masato Shuffle” · Heaven’s Door · 2008
Whereas most of the more traditional bands on this list have an electronic(a) edge, Plaid is the purest expression of that sound. I spent all of 2009 anticipating their still unreleased album entitled Scintilli, and almost slept on Heaven’s Door (the soundtrack for a Japanese film) in the process, but I am eternally grateful I found it. I have no fewer than seven favorites on this album, but “Masato Shuffle” is at the top of my list. It’s the most exquisitely delicate song, so seemingly effortless you might be tempted to ignore it. Take a minute or two and let it pull you in — I can and have listened to this song on repeat for hours on end — you’ll soon go back for more.
Ulrich Schnauss · “Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn” · Far Away Trains Passing By · 2001
Many, many moons ago, I coined a phrase to describe music not at all unlike Ulrich’s: “a motion with emotion.” Far Away Trains Passing By first appeared to me in the form of what seemed to be hundreds of messages on the idm list-serv I once followed, all of which raved about his enchantingly melodic and indelibly rhapsodic sound. Still to this day I remain in awe that so many loops can be so perfectly placed, never crowded, always balanced. “Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn” — roughly translates to “flower meadow beside the freeway” — is the most pristine gem on an album full of them, one I can’t recommend enough.
Animal Collective · “Graze” · Fall Be Kind · 2009
Animal Collective and its many permutations so thoroughly dominated the latter half of my musical decade that I have no choice but to dedicate 20% of these songs to them, and I easily could have added more. Fall Be Kind is the only EP on the list, but more than holds its own, even more so as it comes on the heels of the esteemed Merriweather Post Pavilion (found below). All five songs on FBK are instant classics, and light years beyond anything else out there, including MPP. I don’t know how they do it but I hope they never stop.
Grizzly Bear · “Southern Point” · Veckatimest · 2009
Were it not for two back-to-back Animal Collective shows, including the one in the Big Sur fog with only 299 other lucky souls, Grizzly Bear would have been the show of the year for me, and “Southern Point” its absolute highlight. While the album comes across as soft and even somewhat delicate at times, their presence onstage was anything but and their sound was big, Big, BIG. This was the song they opened with, featuring Daniel Rossen on lead vocals and Ed Droste as his primary backup, and it instantly brought an already revved up Fillmore crowd to a fever pitch. I have a feeling this band is just hitting its stride, and will be back bigger and better than ever with their next album.
Battles · “Atlas” · Mirrored · 2007
Battles delivered one of the most unexpected and absolutely epic albums of the decade, and two of the most spectacular videos too. I still get chills when I think about the show they played in San Francisco, and remember being somewhat disappointed that they looked like such normal guys — I half expected robots. Tortoise, aka TRTS, might be the only other band that can play as tightly through a subtle change in pace and as frenetically for such lengths of time as BTTLS. I always want to call John Stanier, John Stamos. Not even close.
!!! · “Me and Guiliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)” · Louden Up Now · 2004
Those ungoogleable bastards, !!!, completely won me over with 2004′s brilliant Louden Up Now, and then sealed the deal with their tour in support of 2007′s Myth Takes. Imagine a high school pep rally gone awry, with a bit of Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies, some New York punk, and late 90′s rave culture thrown in for good measure. Oh, and some killer lyrics too:
People always ask me, “What’s so fucking great about dancing?”
How the fuck should I know? Yeah, even I can barely understand it
But when the music takes over, the music takes control
“Me and Guiliani” was one of my Songs of the Day in 2008, and I’m quite fond of that post if you’re interested in reading more. I love !!! and can’t wait to hear what they do next.
Hudson Mohawke · “No One Could Ever” · Butter · 2009
Thus far, my list feels fairly conventional, even to me. Sure, there’s a handful of outliers, but nothing quite like Butter. In fact, I think it sticks out like a sore thumb, whatever that means, and “No One Could Ever” is the biggest red blister of all, pulsing with an insatiable beat and ridiculously hyperactive drums. I love, love, love everything on this album, and anything else I have heard from HudMo. To be sure, not all of his music sounds like chipmunks on crack, but his best stuff certainly does.
Squarepusher · “Tetra Sync” · Ultravisitor · 2004
I can’t say that I ever really fell for Ultravisitor top to bottom quite like the way I fell for Hello Everything and Just a Souvenir, but every time I come back to it I find another gem. Squarepusher is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorites, top five in fact (on the active list at least), and “Tetra Sync” is one of his finest efforts. Tom Jenkinson has a way of making music that in which everything sounds like a remix of one or more of his earlier tracks, but this one sounds like his entire career rolled up in one. I can barely wrap my mind around what a killer track this is, and more often than not am reduced to dropping f-bombs to describe it — it’s *that* good. I have seven other songs posted if you want more: Love Will Tear Us Apart, Star Time 2, Port Rhombus, Iambic 5 Poetry, Iambic 9 Poetry, A Real Woman, and Star Time 1. All every bit as epic.
Animal Collective · “Daily Routine” · Merriweather Post Pavilion · 2009
As I wrote about “Daily Routine” earlier this year:
Normally, I play a SOTD over and over while I write these posts. Not so with this amazing new song from Animal Collective, in fact I can’t do anything beyond marvel at its absolute perfection: so sparse yet so full, so chaotic yet so incredibly peaceful. And that bass, those drums, the claps, the carnivalesque keys, and that seemingly endless outro, I defy you to find a more spectacular song, at least one that isn’t on the very same album!
I remember this one more than any other song that they played at both of my shows earlier this summer, especially since they extended the doodling at the beginning and let Panda take the outro even further. Merriweather Post Pavilion may very well be the album of the decade, and this song is a big reason why. Is is still sacrilegious to say that Animal Collective is my generation’s Beatles?
o9 · “Terminal Silver” · Church of the Ghetto PC · 2004
Much like Ultravisitor, I initially found a couple of songs I instantly loved, and more or less stopped listening to the rest of Church of the Ghetto PC. I don’t know what prompted another listen in the past year or so, but ever since then I have been hooked on o9. As best I can tell he dropped off the face of the earth, so if you’re out there, Jesse Legg, and still making music, I want to hear it! If nothing else, please see to it that some 45rpm mp3s of No Delay for Days are added, I can’t stand it so slow.
Burial · “Ghost Hardware” · Untrue · 2007
It never really mattered whether it was called dubstep, grime, or wonky, I simply didn’t care for it. The entire genre always felt too contrived, too of the moment without any regard for the one prior or post. Somehow Burial came out of the very same movement, only to rise above all else with an album so perfectly situated not in the present, past, or future, but simultaneously in all three. Abby put it best when she said:
It sounds like Jamie Lidell meets Boyz II Men meets Autechre.
Flying Lotus · “Roberta Flack (feat Dolly)” · Los Angeles · 2008
[B]ut for me the one that truly stands above and beyond all others is “RobertaFlack (feat. Dolly).” The sparsely spaced rhythm track shines on its own, but that gives Ellison plenty of room to add Dolly’s beautiful voice for color and depth. And then he tops it off with the most unexpected breakdown at the end, so ridiculously sultry and seductive I could listen to those last 52 seconds on repeat for the rest of my life and die a very happy man
It’s totally and completely unfair to call it easy listening, but whenever I need to find a groove to get something done, I always reach for Los Angeles. The entire album flows so well, and the music itself is neither in my face nor so distant that I don’t notice it. It’s full of songs as eloquent as “Roberta Flack,” one masterpiece after the next.
Panda Bear · “Take Pills” · Person Pitch · 2007
Person Pitch was my first Animal Collective experience, and at the time it seemed like I was the last to find out about it or them, but it didn’t take me long to want much more. From there I jumped into Strawberry Jam and my first show at The Fillmore, then a deep dive into their back catalog. There’s something so raw and immature about this solo effort from Noah Lennox, it’s such a scattered amalgamation of sounds and themes, but there’s a knowing wisdom about it too, like this is the way music is meant to be. I always imagined that the creatures on the cover lent the music its eclecticism, especially that gigantic sea lion. I bet he plays a mean bass.
Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan · “Lay Lay Off Faselam” · Pullhair Rubeye · 2007
Believe it or not, this is the only album on my list that I did not personally pay for, and as far as I know it’s not even commercially available in its reversed form. My brother Kevin sent this to me, and it instantly became one of my most cherished possessions, for lack of a better word. The music is flimsy and gauzy, Kria Brekkan’s voice is dainty and wispy, and the lyrics are dreamy and distant. What it lacks in mass is more than made up in mettle, for this is a deeply heartfelt album, one-of-a-kind, and not likely to be duplicated ever again.
Bjork · “I See Who You Are” · Volta · 2007
Speaking of the heart, I can think of no greater love song than “I See Who You Are” from Bjork and Mark Bell. This is such an intensely beautiful piece — the underlying music itself is perfectly restrained whereas Bjork’s voice is anything but — and each element embodies the message so well:
Let’s celebrate now all this flesh on our bones
Let me push you up against me tightly
And enjoy every bit of you
Do not miss that crescendo at the end with the horns and the pipa (a traditional Chinese string instrument, much like a sitar) played by Min Xiao-Fen. It all adds up to one phenomenal track, and a perfect end to this mix and post.
If you made it this far, I thank you for reading and listening. I am truly honored.
I would love to hear which ones resonated with you, and please let me know about anything I might have missed from your best of the decade list.
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed making it. Happy new year!