21st Century Breakdown: Jim Washington’s Best Albums of the 2000s

As I compiled my list of the best music of the decade (a much, much longer list than you see here) one inescapable conclusion reared its shaggy head: the last 10 years pretty much belonged to Jack White.

How many other artists produced five stellar albums in the aughts, not to mention a couple of killer side projects and (that old rock critic standby) incendiary live shows?

No one, that’s who.

So, the best album of the decade really came down to which White Stripes album did you like more, White Blood Cells or Elephant.

Thankfully there’s no wrong answer. I first became enamored of “Fell in Love With a Girl,” totally fell for “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” became quite close to “We Are Going to Be Friends” and spent a lot of time in “Hotel Yorba” and “Little Room.”

On the other hand, Elephant had “Seven Nation Army.”

“Seven Nation Army,” motherfuckers. How could a song released in 2003 sound like it invented the bass line? Not just that bass line, but the whole concept of bass lines.

So as we recap our favorites of the decade, rock lives on into the new century in various forms, from low down and dirty to high and arty to pulsating and poppy, while what was once the cutting-edge hip-hop has devolved into auto-tuned disco synth. No doubt something new will emerge in the next decade to take our minds off it.

1. The White Stripes: White Blood Cells (or Elephant)
2. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
3. Outkast: Stankonia (or Speakerboxx/The Love Below)
4. Green Day: American Idiot
5. The New Pornographers: Electric Version (or maybe Mass Romantic)
6. The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
7. LCD SoundsystemL Sounds of Silver
8. TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain
9. Jay-Z: The Blueprint
10. The Strokes: Is This It?

Just a few of the runner-ups:

Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf, Rated R
Belle & Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Drive By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera, Dirty South
Sufjan Stevens: Come On Feel the Illinoise
Arcade Fire: Funeral
Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand
Decemberists: Picaresque, Crane Wife
Radiohead: In Rainbows
Ben Folds: Rockin’ the Suburbs
Missy Elliott: Miss E…So Addictive
The Roots: Phrenology

  

Datarock: Red

Our first impression of Red, the new album by Norwegian electro rockers Datarock, was that we just found the next Soulwax, swiping the guitar line from “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and the vocal intro to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” for a galloping, dialogue-driven song “The Blog.” What follows is more in line with LCD Soundsystem which, blogosphere fanatics be damned, is not a good thing. Jumpy drum tracks, cascading synth lines, fey vocals, angular guitar fills…you’ve heard everything here before, by two different generations of bands. “True Stories” is one giant Talking Heads slurpfest, from the lyrics – which are nothing but Talking Heads song titles – to the music, which sounds like the Heads crossed with their spinoff band the Tom Tom Club. “Molly,” God love ’em, is a love letter to Molly Ringwald. (“Sixteen Candles! The Breakfast Club!”) There are some strong musical ideas here; the instrumental “In the Red” is a keeper, and the down-tempo album closer “New Days Dawn” suggests that the band’s true strengths are more in line with the Pernice Brothers and Richard Hawley than with Shiny Toy Guns. The lyrics, however, are so desperate for attention – look at us, we’re talking about the ’80s! – that the urge to dance is quickly repressed by the urge to punch something. Ditch the data, guys, and set yourselves free.
(Nettwerk 2009)

  

Freeland: Cope

DJ Adam Freeland, recording under his last name alone, has finally released his second full-length album, CopeTM. Teaming up with Kurt Baumann for vocals and guitar work, Freeland stays well within his breakbeat roots while taking a romp through the many permutations of electronica and pop. With a full coterie of guest musicians, he creates an intriguing collection of songs that are more rock than dance, more driving than grooving. Influences abound: “Under Control” sounds like a perfect LCD Soundsystem track, “Rock On” is oh so Beck-ish, and “Silent Speaking” could be off of any number of Delerium discs… but all of this is a good thing. Freeland and Baumann tie it all together with distorted guitar synths and a constant energy that demands a fast car with a booming stereo and windows down, especially on “Only a Fool (Can Die),” which teams them up with Jerry Casale of Devo fame. At over six minutes, it is the longest and flat-out best song on the album. If there is any real weakness on CopeTM, it is the opening track, “Do You?” The listener has to get through this rather repetitive, non-melodic, simplistic opener to get to the good stuff, and this is unfortunate. It would be a shame to dismiss this very solid collection because one never got past the first song. Marine Parade 2009

Freeland MySpace page

  

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