Unlike a lot of other sites, here at O&T I’ve actually decided to wait until after the 2000s have finished to post up my lists of best albums and best films of the decade. There has been an absolute wealth of both, but hopefully the lists you find here will deliver as no others do. Here in Tucson the top 20 will be counted down in reverse order (to increase suspense) every other day, with the alternating days holding the countdown of films over in Odessa. Make sense? If not, hard cheese.
In the interests of equality and quality, no two albums by the same act are allowed on this list so that it’s fair game all round. Anyway, without further ado, here are the top 20 albums of the awfully-dubbed ‘noughties’. The links in the album heading are for their listings on Spotify for your listening pleasure.
20. Silent Alarm – Bloc Party (2005)
We kick things off with arguably the best of the indie crop in the last decade. Kele Okereke and the boys from London crafted a brilliant record, full of edgy guitars and pounding drums, with a few hits that would enter the consciousness of the mainstream public. ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Banquet’ are now club standards, but there are other absolute delights on this album which don’t receive the respect that they deserve, most notably ‘This Modern Love’, which features some soaring riffs and Okereke’s vocals at their finest. It may be all jagged edges and homestyled production, but Silent Alarm remains a smooth listen which flows from track to track and powers ahead of all other indie albums in the last 10 years.
Sickest tracks: ‘This Modern Love’, ‘Like Eating Glass’, ‘Helicopter’
19. Relationship of Command – At the Drive-In (2000)
The brainchild of double-barrelled dynamos Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, At the Drive-In are one of the most influential and powerful bands of a decade. Their final album, Relationship of Command, is their best and features all the hallmarks of At-Di’s best work, with all the fire and political power of ten Rage Against the Machines, with marginally fewer dollops of angst. Cedric’s lyrics and embittered voice drive the band on, underscored with Lopez’s cutting riffs and churning chords. The sheer force of Relationship of Command makes it unforgettable, and alternative music owes a lot to this landmark.
Sickest tracks: ‘One-Armed Scissor’, ‘Pattern Against User’, ‘Rolodex Propaganda’.
18. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco (2002)
This album, regular readers will know, has already been the subject of a blog on O&T, and it fully deserves its place in this Top 20. A combination of perky tunes, maudlin lyrics and general infectiousness make Yankee Hotel Foxtrot an utter joy to listen to. Frontman Jeff Tweedy gives the band not only an extremely capable songsmith, but a quirky lead vocal without Kate-Nash-esque accent fakery. Unafraid to experiment with post-rock and electronica, Wilco here offer their best work, an amalgamation of styles that gels into a fantastic whole that’ll charm the socks off even the most determined cynic.
Sickest tracks: ‘Heavy Metal Drummer’, ‘Jesus, Etc.’, ‘Reservations’.
17. Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven – Godspeed You! Black Emperor (2000)
The sadly now-extinct post-rock gods that are Godspeed You! Black Emperor are criminally unknown – to the point where this album isn’t even on Spotify. Despite this lack of recognition, they are quite possibly the kings of their genre. This 4-track album clocks in at just shy of 1 1/2 hours, each song about 20 minutes in length as it careens from gentle intros to bursting crescendos to fade outs of devastating craft and intuitiveness. The long tracks hint at pretension, but the album offers none of it; Lift Your Skinny Fists… is almost classical in its construction, each song like a movement full of ebbing and flowing passages. Hinting at a dissatisfaction with modern life ( the “welcome to A&O Mini Mart” section from ‘Storm’), GY!BE’s tracks reach sonic peaks and troughs unlikely to be matched by any band. And their cojones might not be matched either.
Sickest tracks: Well, all of them, there’s only 4: ‘Storm’, ‘Static’, ‘Sleep’, ‘Antennas to Heaven’.
16. Heavier Things – John Mayer (2003)
John Mayer’s been much-maligned by critics. Some say he’s a poor bluesman, some an egotistical noodler. Whilst I can vouch that as a person he might come across as, well, a bit of a twat, his musical gifts are undeniable. I was hard-pressed to choose between this record and the similarly excellent Continuum for this countdown, but I went with the 2003 cut, at the end of the day, for its superior songwriting. ‘Daughters’ has been played to death in many places, but retains a passion uncommon in mainstream music, and the feel that Mayer can give songs like ‘Something’s Missing’ and ‘Clarity’ is equalled only by his ability to take it down a lot of notches for the album’s lovely acoustic closer ‘Wheel’. Mayer is Eric Clapton’s protégé, but on Heavier Things he did what many fail to do: he stepped out from the shadow of his mentor, and did it all guns blazing (even despite his extremely questionable sartorial choices on the album’s cover).
Sickest tracks: ‘Clarity’, ‘Something’s Missing’, ‘Come Back to Bed’, ‘Daughters’, ‘Wheel’.
That’s your lot for now, tune back in on Wednesday for the next 5 albums, and tomorrow over in Odessa for the commencement of the film countdown.