(#1-10) – The 50 Best Rock Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009

Originally posted 2010-01-03 12:30:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for…  The unveiling of the Weekend Review’s picks for the top ten rock albums of the 2000’s.  For anyone who loves music — who loves albums — as much as I do, the artists and album titles that follow are among the best offerings in the past ten years.  Even in a decade that saw a marked decline in physical album sales and an increasing number of rock fans suggesting that good music hasn’t been made for ten, twenty, or more years, these albums are proof positive of the opposite.

Good and, occasionally, great music continues to be made each year.

As you read the final segment of this top fifty list, consider which albums you’ve heard and consider picking up those that you haven’t.  I encourage you to share your own thoughts below, if you feel so inclined.  I spent countless hours thinking, discussing, compiling, arranging, and rearranging this list, so I’ll be the first to tell you it is the imperfect work of an imperfect human being, albeit one who has approached this task with the seriousness of a full-time job.  I hope it gives you some food for thought, and that you enjoy it!

1) Red Letter Days (2002) – The Wallflowers: Their finest work and the overall best rock album of the decade for so many reasons.  Click HERE for my full review.

2) Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – Wilco: The album that singlehandedly catapulted Wilco out of the “alt-country” caverns and into the full light of day as one of the decade’s foremost alternative rock bands.  Click HERE for my full review.

3) Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001) – Ben Folds: This is Ben Folds at his finest, pounding the piano relentlessly and lyrically tracing the outline of what it means to face loneliness in a modern world.  Click HERE for my full review.

4) Figure 8 (2000) – Elliott Smith: His fifth and final studio album before his death three years later, Figure 8 is Elliott Smith’s masterpiece.  Each of his albums — Either/Or and XO most dramatically — just kept getting better, and this is no exception.  Click HERE for my full review.

5) Maroon (2000) – Barenaked Ladies: From front to back, this is the quintessential Barenaked Ladies album, demonstrating their knack for humor, keen eye for expressing serious issues and emotions poetically, and, as per usual, their considerable instrumental talents.  Click HERE for my full review.

6) In Between Dreams (2005) – Jack Johnson: In many ways, Jack Johnson has been the spokesperson for albums this decade as, more and more, consumers seem less and less interested in them as an art form.  Johnson not only made a name for himself entirely within this decade, but did so by releasing hit records without any significant hit singles.  And there is no better example of Johnson’s prowess than In Between Dreams. From beginning to end, the acoustic guitars are crisp and clear in the mix, and Johnson cleverly balances the cheesy and the serious — even politically charged — aspects of his lyrics better than he has before or since.  It’s a wonderful album, and it’s always my first choice for a hot summer day — perfect for any top-down drive, car wash, or beach trip!

7) Brainwashed (2002) – George Harrison: Posthumously released, George Harrison’s Brainwashed is an album created out of the most pure sense of an urgent mission at hand with which a human can be faced — imminent mortality.  Having been diagnosed with cancer, Harrison did what he knew best — returned to the studio to record the album of a lifetime.  And this is not said lightly, considering the catalog that he produced over a lifetime.  Far from rusty for his fifteen years outside the studio, Harrison is at his lyrical, vocal, and instrumental best on this record.  Completed with care by producer and friend Jeff Lynne with Harrison’s son Dhani, Brainwashed is perhaps THE post-Beatles studio album.  It deals with all the classic topics — religion, politics, mortality, and love to name a few — with such ease and expertise that it almost makes up for the absence of new George Harrison records after Cloud Nine.  It’s just that good.

8 ) Extraordinary Machine (2005) – Fiona Apple: As unstable as she might be in her personal life, Fiona Apple’s modus operandi concerning studio albums has consistently been defined by a measured approach at self-improvement.  With each album, she has only gotten better, and Extraordinary Machine is her masterwork.  Oozing with a sharp cynicism and a guarded smirk always lurking just beneath the surface, Apple’s album cleverly orchestrates a number of instruments around her piano which, characteristically, leads each song.  Combining this with her inimitable vocals setting the mood for each track, this is one of the best albums of the decade.  Rock music fans everywhere, just pray that she can put together another one (or two?) next decade!

9) Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (2008) – Counting Crows: Not since Recovering the Satellites have Adam Duritz and his band produced such a brilliant, enjoyable album — the best album of 2008 and one of the best of the decade.  Click HERE for my full review.

10) The Last DJ (2002) – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: It’s never been as much fun to openly despise the state of the modern music industry, particularly the system by which most corporate-run radio stations choose and broadcast music.  The undertone throughout The Last DJ is sarcastic, most brilliantly on “Joe” and the title track.  In between trips to his soapbox, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers also find time to create some of the most beautiful (“Dreamville,” “Can’t Stop the Sun”) and most rocking (“When a Kid Goes Bad,” “Have Love Will Travel”) music of their career.  The only Heartbreakers album of the decade, The Last DJ can only serve to stir up more desire for at least one more go-round in the next.

(#11-20) – The 50 Best Rock Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009

Originally posted 2010-01-02 22:30:49. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

I’m glad you’ve decided to tune in once again for what is the penultimate segment of the Weekend Review’s list of “The 50 Best Rock Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009.”  As we draw nearer and nearer to the top picks of the past ten years, I’ve found myself returning to not only the music on this list, but also to the all-time great albums in rock music history.  I just wrapped up a rotation of the Beach Boys’ 1971 classic Surf’s Up, and I continue to stand in awe of the variety, the flow, and the conceptual focus of this record.  Decades have passed, but the excellence of this album has not.

As I’ve compiled this list, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, specifically wondering which albums that I love now will be the ones that I will dial up in years to come.  Which albums will I play ten, twenty, thirty years from now and still experience the same emotions as I listen?  For that matter, which albums will offer up new insights and feelings, even after double or triple digits worth of plays?

With all this in mind, I present to you my #11-20 albums of the 2000’s.  Don’t forget to hurry back tomorrow for not only the top ten list, but also the full Weekend Review article about the Number One Best Rock Album of the Decade.

11) Room For Squares (2001) – John Mayer: John Mayer didn’t develop the respect of the critics until after this record, specifically after going through a blues phase wherein he jammed with a number of highly authentic and credible singers and guitarists.  What seemed out of place to me was the order of events — shouldn’t the roots apprenticeship come before an artist develops his own unique and entertaining style?  Well, in this case, Room For Squares established Mayer as a writer of catchy pop music that had a backbone.  It’s all in the subtle details here, the guitar stylings and the recurring lines that repeat across multiple songs.  The packaging further suggests that this was a well thought out and executed album, one of the best of the decade.

12) Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005) – Paul McCartney: As he did with his great 1997 album Flaming Pie, McCartney took on nearly all of the instrumental duties for this record, and the result is another excellent addition to his catalog.  And, if we’re being entirely honest, McCartney is known for his tremendous success post-Beatles, if perhaps not so much for his outstanding albums.  And yet, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard is one of the two McCartney works to make this list.  It’s simple, really: great acoustic fingerpicking, great drums, and overall great songs make for a great album.

13) Mind If We Make Love To You (2002) – The Wondermints: Better known as the core of Brian Wilson’s talented backing band throughout this decade, the Wondermints deserve as much, if not more, appreciation for their own work.  They somehow managed to be strongly influenced by the Beach Boys while avoiding being entirely derivative, instead carving out their own beautiful, upbeat brand of power pop.  Mind If We Make Love To You is truly their masterpiece; it is catchy without being annoying, and it manages just the right balance between a classic and a contemporary sound.  Not as easy to find as a Brian Wilson or Beach Boys album on the shelf, but well worth the extra effort.

14) Love and Theft (2001) – Bob Dylan: Released on September 11, 2001, this album was immediately read as an apocalyptic sequence of songs that felt like the soundtrack — some sort of oddly real-time soundtrack — for the greatest national tragedy of the decade.  I’ll admit that there were some lyrics that were difficult to ignore, especially the reference to twins falling down — but the context is all off, as the twins are the bumbling Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, not buildings.  Still, Love & Theft came on the heels of Dylan’s 1997 “comeback” album and, with the easy “comeback” tag no longer available, critics were likely looking for a lens through which to view this album.  Nearly a decade later, forget the 9/11 lens, and you are left with an outstanding album, easily one of Dylan’s best.  And this is saying quite a bit if you consider even his sixties albums alone.  Some of his last true rock and roll is documented on this record, and even the more folky, dated sounding styles shine in all their glory, tight instrumentals and raw vocals driving all the pieces together.  Listen to “Mississippi” and try not to be hooked.  Even better, try “Honest with Me.”  If you can resist loving these tracks, you should probably recalibrate your tastes in great rock music.

15) Everything To Everyone (2003) – Barenaked Ladies: Even the tracks that make you shake your head when you really think about them are fun and add to the feel of this excellent album.  That is perhaps the best, most true statement I can make for Everything to Everyone, an album that manages to hit on all the major types of songs — happy songs, sad songs, protest songs (of sorts), love songs, post-breakup songs, and more.  The aforementioned “Another Postcard” and “Shopping” are the standout tracks that demonstrate the Barenaked Ladies’ singular ability to successfully walk the line between ridiculous and outstanding.  The true standouts are songs like “Celebrity” and “War on Drugs” for those that like serious, thoughtful lyrics, “For You” for those who love beautiful acoustic numbers, or perhaps “Testing 1, 2, 3” and “Second Best” for those that prefer downright fun rock music.  The sound is unsurpassed on any of their albums, before or since, and I can’t fully describe how much it feels like home to return to this album and let it play through time and again.

16) Welcome Interstate Managers (2003) – Fountains of Wayne: Rarely has a band produced one album with so wide a variety of styles represented and yet still maintained form and focus.  From the eighties pop-rock of “Stacy’s Mom” to the hard rock of “Bought For a Song” and back to the straight up country stylings of “Hung Up on You,” Fountains of Wayne have created their masterpiece — at least for now — in this album.  Preceded by solid if somewhat pedestrian records and followed by a lame attempt at either humor or conceptual continuity, Welcome Interstate Managers is one of those albums that feels like a greatest hits collection in that each track begins with a catchy, memorable part that keeps your interest.  And, by the time the pretty yet somber “Yours and Mine” fades out, it is the rare occasion when I can control the urge to crank the volume up further for “Mexican Wine” again.  This is one of my favorite albums of the decade, and I’m truly indebted to the friend who turned me on to it so many years ago.

17) Accelerate (2008) – R.E.M.: My purchase of Accelerate last year set me off on a quest to find other great R.E.M. albums.  I’ve steadily, if randomly, been acquiring their studio albums (as well as a really quirky B-sides and rareties collection) and my reaction has been the same with each: it’s not Accelerate.  This is an album that finds Michael Stipe at the top of his lyrical game, putting his gritty vocal chords to perfect use on these wonderfully subversive songs.  Track after track, this is one of the most underrated rock albums of the decade and, thus far, my pick for the best overall album in the R.E.M. catalog.

18) Memory Almost Full (2007) – Paul McCartney: The second of McCartney’s two excellent albums this decade.  Two years after Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, McCartney had returned to the studio with more energy and electricity than he had brought on perhaps any previous record.  One listen to “Mr. Bellamy” will demonstrate just how willing he was to experiment with more modern forms of rock music as well.  Speaking as a big fan of Paul McCartney’s work throughout his career — yes, even including Wings! — this was a stronger, more fun and rocking album than I could ever have hoped for.  Even if you don’t like his music, it’s worth buying this album just to play with the multi-layered packaging…

19) SMiLE (2004) – Brian Wilson: Nearly four decades after the SMiLE sessions crumbled around Brian Wilson’s mental decline, he returned with a final sequencing of songs that, as a whole, added up to much of the not inconsiderable hype and legend surrounding this album.  Click HERE for my full review.

20) Maladroit (2002) – Weezer: Crunchy guitars and catchy vocals drive the most tightly composed music in the Weezer catalog.  And, in many ways, Maladroit is the pinnacle of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo as a guitarist and as a songwriter.  It caused a great deal of debate among fans, and I think it is apparent where I fall in — strongly on the side of reading this album as one of the best, not only of the band but of the decade.

The Top Ten Rock Albums of 2009 – The Weekend Review

By Chris Moore:

Welcome to The Weekend Review in a different time slot, as the first part of a Chris Moore Monday two-fer.  This week, I took a look – and a listen – back at all of the great and, well, not so great rock music of 2009.  While I plan to release many mini-articles and lists over the next couple weeks, this seemed like a topic of enough substance for a full Weekend Review report.  So, without further ado, here are the top ten rock albums of 2009…

Honorable Mention:

My Old, Familiar Friend – Brendan Benson:

Better known this decade as “the other singer/guitarist” in the Raconteurs, Brendan Benson released a power pop gem this year in My Old, Familiar Friend.  Track after track, this album harkens back to some of the best, Byrds-iest sounds of the sixties.  This is not to say that it is overly derivative, but it is certainly a throw-back and will be a blast for any fan of tight, poppy classic rock songs.  And “A Whole Lot Better” is a nod to “Feel A Whole Lot Better,” right?

Number Ten:

Keep It Hid – Dan Auerbach:

Even though I initially rated this as a “Maybe Not” in my one-sentence review back in February, I have found this album to have a lot of staying power.  I remember thinking that this album might not wear well, that it would lose its initial luster upon too many listens.  And yet I’ve found just the opposite to be true.  Although Auerbach may be working solidly within a certain genre and sound, he stretches a considerable amount within that classification, incorporating a range of instruments – most notably acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and keyboards.  The songs range from gritty blues to soothing acoustic ballads to scorching rock numbers and back again several times before the album is over.  “Trouble Weighs a Ton” and “Goin’ Home” are fitting bookends for an album that deals largely in the distortion-drenched currency of the rock guitar soloist.  “My Last Mistake” channels the Jimi Hendrix Experience.  “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” and “Mean Monsoon” make you wish you could play like this.  In the end, this is only Auerbach’s first solo effort, and it certainly doesn’t show.

Number Nine:

Working on a Dream – Bruce Springsteen:

I will be the first to admit that Bruce Springsteen is an over-hyped artist, particularly by such popular rags as Rolling Stone, and yet the man can still produce an album.  Or, rather, Springsteen and his band.  You know, the E Street Band.  You may have heard of them.  Working on a Dream is thematically and sonically interwoven from start to finish and offers up some very interesting tracks to balance out the more formulaic ones.  “Queen of the Supermarket” is a classic story in song, written and sung as only Springsteen ever could.  “Outlaw Pete” provides an unusual but fitting opening for the album.  “What Love Can Do” is the track that would have attracted the interest of rock music fans back in the days when rock ruled the radio waves.  “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Life Itself” are as beautiful as “The Last Carnival” and bonus track “The Wrestler” are bittersweet.  This provides proof positive that even this far into the game, the Boss is still progressing, maturing, and making great music.

Number Eight:

Horehound – The Dead Weather:

Better known to many as Jack White’s second side project, the Dead Weather have found a niche all their own, experimenting with the odd, the abstract, and the obscure.  If the Raconteurs provide a channel for White’s more mainstream rock leanings, then the Dead Weather more than satisfy the other end of that spectrum of musical desire.  From start to finish, you can’t quite be certain what they will throw at you next – “they,” of course, meaning lead singer Alison Mosshart, guitarist Dean Fertita, bassist Jack Lawrence, and drummer (that’s right, drummer!) Jack White.  “I Cut Like a Buffalo” is great metaphor and great rock.  Others, like “Hang You From the Heavens” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” are best described as infectious.  “New Pony” is the musical equivalent of finding a decimated muscle car in a junk yard, rotting away, and rebuilding it to shine with the best of the modern sports cars.  The first half of this album is admittedly stronger than the second half, but this is a debut effort, after all.

Number Seven:

Secret, Profane, & Sugarcane – Elvis Costello:

There couldn’t be an album more out of touch with the sounds and textures of modern music, and yet so inherently attuned to the emotions and undertones of that same aforementioned modern music.  As I mentioned earlier this year, these tracks sound like they could have come straight off of American folk music figure Harry Smith’s shelf.  Finally, I repeat, this is an acoustic album that sounds original and truly acoustic.  So many acoustic records of late have been helmed by otherwise successful rock artists looking for a way to stir up their recording process.  This feels more authentic than that.  “Sulphur to Sugarcane” is wonderfully humorous, less subtle than it is chauvinistic.  “Hidden Shame” and “Complicated Shadows” are so fun that you’ll quickly forget that they’re scaled-back numbers, while there is no ignoring the stark sadness in “I Dreamed of My Old Lover,” “How Deep is the Red,” and “Red Cotton.” 

Number Six:

Wilco (the album) – Wilco:

Few bands could pull off a song like “Wilco (the song),” but Wilco are not like other bands.  They’ve been everywhere – alt-country, folk rock, experimental music, alternative rock, jam-mentality work – and now they’ve arrived at a wonderfully entertaining conglomeration of many of their styles from the past fifteen years.  The aforementioned track is sincere and explores the true power and potential for healing that music provides.  “Country Disappeared” takes a bleaker view of things, while “Solitaire,” “I’ll Fight, and “You Never Know” take a more positive angle.  And, of course, “Deeper Down” and “Bull Black Nova” hint at the experimental possibilities that await us on future Wilco recordings…

Number Five:

Humbug – The Arctic Monkeys:

Humbug, for me, is one of the best albums of the year by a band that has stirred up much controversy over their excellence or lack thereof, depending on who you ask.  This should be a breakout album, a set of songs with the potential to unite – if only fleetingly – the sensibilities of fans of classic rock, punk rock, and more modern rock.  I was certainly surprised at how much I enjoyed this release, and it’s so wonderfully sequenced with sounds layered in all the right ways to keep you coming back to the individual tracks as well as the album as a whole.  “My Propeller” sets the tone for the record wonderfully.  “Cornerstone” is, well, the cornerstone for this release – it’s a witty, subversive little track that I can’t get enough of.  “Crying Lightning” and “Dance Little Liar” are driving, quirky, and catchy gems.  “Fire and The Thud” is a highpoint at the midpoint.  Although I would never have guessed it before this year, I will now be awaiting the next Arctic Monkeys release with excitement.

Number Four:

The Ruminant Band – The Fruit Bats:

The Fruit Bats put out a little disc called Spelled in Bones a few years ago.  I had it recommended to me, so I listened and even liked several of the songs.  After a few listens, though, I got tired of it.  It faded.  But there was something about the sound of the Fruit Bats that I found fantastic, and I felt like I saw more potential in them than they had managed to make good on.  I expected the same here, but what I found in The Ruminant Band was a quirky, catchy, lyrically provocative, and instrumentally exciting record.  I can find no better way to say it: this is one of absolute favorite little albums of the year!  The title track is straightforward, but fun.  “Tegucigalpa” is less straightforward and more heartfelt.  “Singing Joy to the World” is the best acoustic song to be released in a good long time.  “Primitive Man” is one of those great songs that you can entirely lose yourself in as you listen.  This is a home run for the Fruit Bats, one I didn’t see coming and yet couldn’t be more excited about.

Number Three:

Backspacer – Pearl Jam:

Let me start off by noting that this is simply not Pearl Jam’s best material.  Moving past that, let me continue by saying this is one of Pearl Jam’s most cohesive efforts since their debut Ten.  Track after track, this is a Vedder-led attack of tight, finely chiseled rock songs with some real gems.  As the title implies, the thematic common-ground throughout the record is that of assessing the issues at hand and erasing obstacles, bad blood, and just about everything that stands in the path to peace, independence, and self-confidence.  “Got Some” is one of their best efforts ever, which is really saying something.  “The Fixer” and “Supersonic” are perfect tours-de-force and redefine what great Pearl Jam tracks may sound like in the coming years.  “Just Breathe” is the closest they’ve gotten to a love song, as Vedder put it in an interview.  At every turn, Backspacer pleases and at just about a half hour in length, this is an album, that can be played over and over again. 

Number Two:

21st Century Breakdown – Green Day:

Up until the number one band on this list released their masterpiece, I thought that this would be the top album of the year for sure.  Instead, it suffers a minor bump down to the second position.  Regardless, Green Day has followed up American Idiot – which was hailed as their masterpiece – with an even better album.  They have really stretched out for this record, painting no less interesting a story than they did on their previous album.  The packaging is like a storybook, and the disc follows suit.  From beginning to end, 21st Century Breakdown tears it up and lays it out slowly in equal measure – and sometimes in the same song.  By the end of the album, the tone-setting title track has been followed up by what is one of the best concept albums in perhaps a decade.  “East Jesus Nowhere” and “Horseshoes and Handgrenades” are driving, unstoppably angry scorchers.  “21 Guns” and “Restless Heart Syndrome” are more subtle, beautiful tracks.  “21st Century Breakdown,” “Peacemaker,” “American Eulogy,” “See the Light,” and just about every other track on the album contributes in a similar but significant way to the overall theme of the whole.  Then there is “Know Your Enemy;” the decision to promote this is proof positive that boneheaded rock really does still sell.

Number One:

Forget and Not Slow Down – Relient K:

This has been a year of unexpected releases, not the least of which were noted below in Elvis Costello’s acoustic release, the Arctic Monkeys’ masterful album, and the Fruit Bats’ brilliant record.  It is fitting, then, that Relient K should score the number one album of the year with a release – not unlike The Ruminant Band – that I expected to like, not love.  And yet I love this album.  Forget and Not Slow Down is one of the most entertaining, energetic, and thoughtful post-breakup albums that I’ve had the pleasure to hear.  In many ways – and this is practically sacrilege – I would place this album in the company of Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full, to name a couple.  It is certainly more focused as an artistic expression than an album like Ben Folds’ Way to Normal could ever be.  Matthew Thiessen isolated himself from society to work on this album, and the result is clear: the best Relient K album to date.  To be fair, I wasn’t a fan from the start, but it appears that I’ve become a huge fan just as the band has faded into the background, this outstanding record being ignored by just about all critics this year.  What have they missed?  They’ve missed “Part of It,” a somber and catchy song at the same time – a difficult combination to pull off.  They’ve missed “Therapy,” a song that I wish I could have available on many a similar drive through the country.  They’ve missed the beauty of “Savannah” and the bitter, bile-fueled “Sahara,” the blending of the tracks made possible by the intros and the outros, and a powerful pairing in the final two tracks.  Simply put, this is the year’s best album.