Radiohead’s Kid A, and it’s not necessarily the album I would have picked as the decade’s best, but, reading Mark Richardson’s rationale made me think twice about my initial reaction.
Radiohead were not only among the first bands to figure out how to use the Internet, but to make their music sound like it, and they kicked off this ridiculously retro decade with the rare album that didn’t seem retro. Kid A— with its gorgeously crafted electronics, sparkling production, and uneasy stance toward the technology it embraces completely– feels like the Big Album of the online age.
Who else is making modern sounding music in the modern age? For better or worse, the current landscape where listeners are fragmented into smaller and smaller groups via the internet, the big label machines are all but dead, and the traditional tastemakers (Radio, MTV, and print magazines) are all but irrelevant, is one where artists are largely free of outside influences. It’s now possible for independent artists to truly blaze their own trail. Yet, all too often, blazing your own trail equaled doing what had already been done. There were the “The” bands (The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Hives, The Vines) who were dominant early in the decade playing garage rock which could have been produced during any decade between the ’60s and today. There was Interpol and all their moody, post-punk followers who only discovered Joy Division in 2001. There was Doom metal, lo-fi, alt-country, Hall and Oates lovin’ indie pop, Northwest folk, and a Daft Punk led disco revival — All of these diverse trends and all of them looked backwards for inspiration. For that reason alone, Radiohead deserve their spot near the top of the list, if not the very top.
Other observations from Pitchfork’s Top 200 albums of the 2000s.
* Included in the fine print was this statement, “In the interest of keeping the list broad, we capped the number of albums for any given artist at three.” I like to refer to this as the Animal Collective rule. Animal Collective placed three albums in the top 200 (Feels at 55, Sung Tongs at 27, and Merriweather Post Pavilion at 14) and Animal Collective member, Panda Bear had his solo album, Person Pitch, slotted in the number nine position. We know how much Pichfork loves Animal Collective, well, at least how much certain reviewers at Pitchfork love Animal Collective, and the cynic in me says they would have placed the other four full-length albums Animal Collective released in the 2000s in their top 200 had that rule not been in place. Clipse, Ghostface Killah, Kanye West, M.I.A, Radiohead, and Spoon also placed three albums in Pitchfork’s list.
* Picks which made me cringe: Joanna Newsom at 47 for The Milk Eyed Mender and at 83 for Ys (Just thinking about Newsom’s “voice” makes me cringe and I had to think about it twice), Sufjan Stevens at 16 for Illinoise and 70 for Greetings from Michigan (The hyper-literate indie-pop revolution is over Mr. Stevens, and you lost), Fleet Foxes at 32 (Yes, it’s pretty and folksy and even I listen to it, but isn’t 32 a bit high?) every mention of Animal Collective (So overrated) and every mention of Grizzly Bear (See last comment).
* Picks which gave me reason to smile: Jay Reatard’s Blood Visions at 200, Boris’ Akuma No Uta at 198, Primal Scream’s XTRMNTR at 142, The Exploding Hearts’ Guitar Romantic at 60, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists’ Hearts of Oak at 59, Vampire Weekend’s debut at 51 (I’ll defend that album to my death), The White Stripes at 12 for White Blood Cells, Strokes at 7 for their debut album, Is This It, and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot at 4.
* Picks which deserved better: Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It In People at 23, The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots at 67, Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary at 89, Mclusky’s Mclusky Do Dallas at 94, …Trail of Dead’s Source Tag and Codes at 100, Queens of the Stone Age for Songs for the Deaf at 134, and XTRMNTR at 142.
* Were there really only two heavy albums worthy of being rated among the decade’s best? Boris and Mastadon are the sole shredders on the list.
* The top performing label, and it wasn’t even close, was Sub Pop, with 11 albums in the top 200. There were two albums by The Shins, and one each by The Postal Service, Sleater-Kinney, Wolf Parade, Iron and Wine, Band of Horses, The Thermals, No Age, The Contantines, and Fleet Foxes. Not bad for a label who at one point struggled to find their footing after the passing of the Seattle sludge and grunge scene.
Pitchfork’s Top 10 Albums of the 2000s:
1. Radiohead – Kid A
2. Arcade Fire – Funeral
3. Daft Punk – Discovery
4. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
5. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
6. Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
7. The Strokes- Is This It
8. Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun
9. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
10. The Avalanches – Since I Met You
Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s (20-1)
Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s (50-21)
Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s (100-51)
Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s (150-101)
Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s (200-151)
Pitchfork’s Top 200 Albums of the 2000s in Spreadsheet Form Sorted and Subtotaled for Your Convenience