Best of the decade: 41-50


Band: Wale
Album: The Mixtape About Nothing

In making the list, I said I wasn’t going to put any mixtapes on this list — Lil Wayne would’ve been a bigger presence, for sure — but I just couldn’t put a list of great music of the 2000s without this record. Living here in DC, Wale is a big fucking deal. He’s really talented and is a huge part of the DC hip-hop scene, whatever that is. He calls himself Wale Ovechkin, echoing the city’s one great athlete.

I know I keep saying that I don’t feel comfortable with some of the positions on this list and I’m sorry about repeating that. I really put this thing together in a short amount of time and any list of 100 is going to have regrettable placements.

I’m not sure I’m so uncomfortable with this placement, but something keeps eating at me. Mostly that Seinfeld is among my favorite TV shows and to have Wale produce a record that revolves around that… I mean, come on.

The album is great. It follows the show’s convention of using the article “The” before every song, with “The Cliche Lil Wayne Feature (It’s the Remix Baby!)” using Wale’s “Nike Boots” track as the basis for an outstanding pairing (one that most certainly cost Wale a lot of money). On the record, Wale is introspective and grownup — indeed, “The Grown Up” samples the “We’re not men!” speech from the show as a backdrop for Wale’s personality crises. “The Kramer” examines racism, both in and out of hip hop, while “The Bmore Club Slam” uses that genre to craft an excellent track. “The Artistic Integrity” has Wale examining his our muse and his ability to get the message that he wants out clearly.

And so it goes. Wale is a tortured artist, on some level, and by using the great “show about nothing” to work out something about himself.


Band: Okkervil River
Album: The Stand Ins

I’ve covered this ground already, but Okkervil River’s second album about fame is dark, smart and catchy. “Lost Coastlines” is among the best songs of 2008, if not the best.


Band: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Album: Shake the Sheets

Another record I’ve covered, but Shake the Sheets is a really great record with tons of energy. It’s Leo’s best record and his subsequent records have been pretty crappy.


Band: Arcade Fire
Album: Funeral

Universally, Funeral is acclaimed. Its metacritic score (90) is ridiclously high and just about everyone has the record near the top of their lists, both of the decade and of 2004.

But, it’s more than just the things that make critics enjoy it. It’s finely assembled, beginning with the lovely string arrangement that stars in album opener “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels).” “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” is layered, vocally, with a quick pace and a lovely guitar.

Lyrically, it dances around, all with themes strong enough to hold attention. “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)” has the ability to fully grasp a suicidal depression with which many of us are all too familiar. “Crown of Love” is forlorn while “Rebellion (Lies)” is plangry (angry and pleading), a combination emotion that few bands can pull off. “Une Annee Sans Lumiere” describes band home Montreal. “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” even strikes the tone of a band looking toward adulthood.

At times, it’s more impressive intellectually than it is in practice. As in, I don’t listen to it as much as I do the albums ahead of it on the list. Still, every time I listen to Funeral, I enjoy it.


Band: Mastodon
Album: Blood Mountain

No question, Mastodon’s one of my favorite bands. Blood Mountain is the most uneven of the three Mastodon records I have on the list, with several forgettable songs, though none are bad, per se.

Of course, it remains on this list (and midway through it, too) because of a few great tracks. “Colony of Birchmen” is certainly in the “best Mastodon track” conversation, as is “The Wolf is Loose.”

I wrote about it here and I don’t disagree with most of that review. Crack the Skye and Leviathan are far better.


Band: Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s
Album: The Dust of Retreat

Though not necessarily special, there’s something very warm about The Dust of Retreat. It’s not challenging and it’s not boring, but rather something in the middle. It is nearly flawless in presentation and content (that stupid kitten song notwithstanding). It is, in many ways, the apex of the sensitive guy indie rock form.


Band: Neko Case
Album: Middle Cyclone

I really thought more people would respond to what I wrote surrounding (I don’t say “about” because the piece isn’t really about the record) Middle Cyclone, but they didn’t. So it goes, I guess.

Anyway, the album is really quite striking and since its spring release, was touted as the best of 2009. I do love the album, though I’ve not picked it up since I saw her in the spring touring the record.


Band: Pedro the Lion
Album: Winners Never Quit

David Bazan’s fire and brimstone sprirituality comes through on this 2000 album, as he constructs a plotline to an album decrying politics, its world and the temptations therein. As he said in an interview after the record was released:

This record is a complete, connected narrative from the first to last song. There was a theme I wanted to communicate: Damnation for the arrogant, judgment for the judgmental.

Bazan has a clear view of right and wrong (I think he’s since been unborn or whatever it is when you’re no longer a born-again) and the record provides that. Moreover, the record sounds great, like a Red House Painters album narrated by Damien Jurado. Bazan’s baritone is sparse when it needs to be, warbly when he gets angry and desperate when needed. “Bad Things to Such Good People” is probably his best song, with “A Mind of Her Own” a close second.

Despite its mediocre reviews, I continue to love this album.

As I found myself listening to this album (and, honestly, Funeral), it just reminded me as to how hard putting together this list was. I sped through it and probably put a lot of records in the wrong order. Here’s the thing, though: Anything in the top 50 or so is a really good album and anything in the top 25 is a near-perfect track. I love every single one of these records. Funeral is at 47 because I don’t listen to it as much as I probably should and Winners Never Quit is one I don’t enjoy as much as I used to, largely due to age (both mine and the age of the record).

So, that’s to say that I love all these records.


Band: The Raconteurs
Album: Broken Boy Soldiers

There was a period in my life, I shit you not, in which I would’ve put this album at no. 1. No joke. There was, probably, a six-month time wherein I listened to this album every day. I loved this record and continue to think it is the best thing Jack White’s done.

Now? I love the record and every time I listen to it, I enjoy it. That’s pretty high praise, no doubt, but I don’t know that it’s anything other than a really fun rock and roll record. That’s great, sure, but it’s nothing to write home about. I probably should’ve put, say, Funeral higher.

Still, it’s melodic and fun. White’s simplistic songwriting is augmented well by Brendan Benson’s tinkering from all sides. Their back and forth vocals make “Level” so great and “Yellow Sun” so chipper. “Store Bought Bones” is the best garage rock song to be released post-1969. The title track is whiny and fanastic and lead single “Steady as She Goes” breaks no barriors, but rules nonetheless.


Band: Sleater-Kinney
Album: The Woods

With One Beat, Sleater-Kinney evolved and on the band’s final album, they were complete. Incorporating a production style more reminiscient of Hendrix than Bikini Kill, the band’s only Sub Pop release is furious and full. Really, who would’ve thought that S-K could’ve put out an 11-minute song?

Corinn Tucker’s voice is at its best on “Night Light,” as good an album ender as existed in the decade. “The Fox” shows her scream as well, with “Roller Coaster” showing all the angular guitar-y-ness of Modest Mouse. What a record and what away to go out.

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  • By Funeral | Albums That I Own on August 5, 2011 at 8:57 am

    […] ranked it decidedly low on my best of the decade list last year at 47. It should have been 30 spots […]

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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