We have now reached part four of our journey through the best albums of the past ten years. This is where things become more familiar.
Honestly, when push comes to shove, any of my top twenty albums could have been number one, depending on the day and the mood I was in. There is actually little rhyme or reason for their order placement, other than I was feeling like more of a Brian Wilson fan the day I was putting it together than I was a Stars fan. Lists like this are arbitrary. I use them to champion bands I think are ignored and to praise favorites that people might have forgotten over time. But mostly, I use them to tell my friends what music they should be listening to because I love them and I want them to start listening to the music I think can change their lives.
And now, numbers twenty through eleven.
20. For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver (2008)
Every once in a while, I buy an album by an artist on whim and discover something great. I bought this because I have a daughter named Emma and I collect albums that use the names of my children. That album count is one. This is a low-fi collection of acoustic love songs written by a heartbroken man in a wintery Wisconsin cabin. I just lucked out that the album was amazingly beautiful and sad. Emma is never going to steal this away.
Download: " Skinny Love," "For Emma," "Creature Fear," "Blindsided"
19. Let It Die, Fiest (2004)
This is the real classic of Leslie Feist's career. Don't let the fact that "1234" isn't on it scare you or anger you. A mix of sunny sounding jazzy-folk originals and diverse covers from the likes of the Bee Gees and Ron Sexsmith, it's the album that brought her to an international audience who needed to be reminded that Canadian female singers don't always have amazing soprano voices that reach thirty different octaves and sing schlock. They sometimes write their own simple songs and sing in their own wistful ways.
Download: "Mushaboom," " Inside and Out," "One Evening," "Gatekeeper"
18. American Idiot, Green Day (2004)
You can't look at this as being a pop-punk album- its meat and potatoes rock with varying influences. Mostly, Green Day shakes off the Clash and Stiff Little Fingers cobwebs and infuse their politics with the Who and Zeppelin. What you end up with may not be perfect, but damn if it doesn't make me want to change the world every single time I hear it? This took them from a dying, middling 90s band to international superstars that aspire to be the atheistic version of U2.
Download: "Jesus of Suburbia," " Boulevard of Broken Dreams," " Wake Me Up When September Ends," "American Idiot"
17. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon (2007)
I had honestly let Spoon slip under my radar for years due to some unknown reason that I can't come up with ( I think it has to do with young children and their music leaving me little time to get into what was happening in Texas at the time musically- or maybe I kept getting Spoon mixed up in my head with 90s Detroit grunge rejects Sponge). But when I came across "Don't Make Me a Target," I went crazy on iTunes. A solid indie rock band delivers and album full of interesting rhythms and obscure lyrics.
Download: " Don't Make Me a Target," "Don't You Evah," "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," " The Underdog"
16. Only By The Night, Kings Of Leon (2008)
The Followill boys made a huge impact in England early on in their careers, but this, their fourth album, was the one that hit commercially. They still are bigger over there than here, although we all finally got it. ( I must admit, I was a fan of 2007's Because of the Times, but found their first two albums lacking in focus). If you are looking for a grimy southern sound full of sex and promise, this is the album you should own.
Download: " Use Somebody," "Sex On Fire," "Notion," "Crawl"
15. Mass Romantic, The New Pornographers (2000)
The New Pornographers was one of those bands I ended up having to listen to backwards, as I fully didn't appreciate them until I heard Twin Cinema and I somehow completely forgot about their existence for a few years. But of all their albums, the one that remains the most fun is their first, a symphonic blend of lyrical melodrama and indie guitars.
Download: " Letter From An Occupant," " Breakin' the Law," "Mass Romantic," "The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism"
14. Rabbit Fur Coat, Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins (2006)
Jenny Lewis for the longest time was that red-headed girl who kissed Fred Savage in that really awful video game movie. Thankfully, she grew up and started Rilo Kiley and all is pretty much forgiven. Her solo debut is a masterpiece of alt country- indie rock fusion with Lewis's amazing and subtle voice reigning supreme.
Download: " Handle With Care," "Born Secular," "Rise Up With Fists," "You Are What You Love"
13. Set Yourself on Fire, Stars (2004)
Haunting pianos, harps, violins, brass bands- this doesn't scream simplistic beauty or an efficiency of style and sound, but that's what you get. Nothing on this album is extraneous. It's orchestral on a shoestring and thrilling in its mandate. An amazing record that everyone should own.
Download: " Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," "Ageless Beauty," "Reunion," "What I'm Trying to Say"
12. "Love And Theft", Bob Dylan (2001)
I recently listened to Dylan's new Christmas album, where profits go to charity, and decided that one of Dylan's best albums opened the decade, and he was closing out with one of his worst. This, the best he had released in decades, is steeped in the American South, where the American musical styles are all born and nurtured before being corrupted. An amazing piece of work from an artist that just cannot escape the expectations of his fans.
Download: "Mississippi," "Sugar Baby," "High Water (for Charley Patton)," "Honest With Me"
11. Smile, Brian Wilson (2004)
I am a die-hard Beach Boys fan who laments the loss of the brilliance of Brian Wilson for that long dark period of American music where no one could craft a perfect pop song because he was high and crazy. That's when we get things like "Kokomo," people. Glad to have Wilson's ideas that were rejected in the sixties used to such amazing ends.
Download: "Good Vibrations," "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," "Heroes and Villains," "Wonderful"