All the Young Punks’ best albums of the decade
Whatever that last decade was called it was a good one for music. There are dozens of bands and albums worthy of best something. Best bloody-face album cover: Andrew W.K. Best band with an unprintable name: F****d Up.
It’s a challenge to narrow a list to only 10 but here goes.
10. Okkervil River – The Stage Names: This was a real breakthrough album for these guys. Initially lumped in with the hordes of alt-country bands that dotted the landscape (a label the band loathed), these guys made a pop gem in Stage Names.
9. The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible: Funeral was a brilliant first album but Neon Bible was bigger and more exciting. Chugging rhythms and almost 20 instruments create a sound that actually complements Win Butler’s sometimes whiny voice.
8. M.I.A. – Kala: Why does success have to screw everything up? I really liked Paper Planes until it became a ubiquitous jingle and M.I.A. became a superstar. Nonetheless, this album deserves the attention. And there are plenty of other good songs on it.
7. The Strokes – Is This It: With its updated edgy New York sound, the Strokes first album was such a good, tight debut that the band couldn’t live up to the hype on subsequent releases.
6. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells: Guitar and drums. Stripped-down, raw rock and blues. Those Jack White side projects have never been as good or as fun as early White Stripes.
5. Queens of the Stone Age – Songs For the Deaf: Josh Homme and Dave Grohl formed Them Crooked Vultures with the mighty John Paul Jones this past year but they still couldn’t match what Queens did on one of the best rock albums of the decade.
4. LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem: This indie rock-meets-disco act wasn’t meant to be anything more than a side project for producer James Murphy. His production skills are evident on this album and the equally great Sound of Silver but it’s the heart and personality that makes LCD so good.
3. The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday: Drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll but mostly drugs. One of my favorite songwriters and story tellers, Craig Finn channels his hometown hero Paul Westerberg with backing of a band that sounds like Springsteen’s E. Street Band merged with Thin Lizzy.
2. The National – Alligator: Thirteen songs about despair, self loathing and regret. I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders, Matt Berninger sings on Mr. November. Few singers wear hearts on their sleeves like Berninger. Like Finn, Berninger tells great stories about misfits.
1. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Jeff Tweedy kept reinventing Wilco but Yankee was the most experimental and adventurous change yet. (The band’s record company refused to release it, forcing Wilco to find a new label.) With the help of producer Jim O’Rourke and former cohort Jay Bennett, Tweedy made an album for the ages. With all the fuss about the experimental sound, the song writing makes the album a classic. Yankee is a pop masterpieces that will resonate decades from now.