I don’t really know where to start when trying to draw up a list of songs or albums that sum up the last 10 years. 2000 was a long time ago (10 years, in fact), and I’m not sure I can be truly objective when comparing things I’m listening to now and records that I remember being at least as important at various other points in the last 10 years. I love the new Flaming Lips album, but is it really better than Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots? Is In Rainbows better than Kid A, or was it just released more recently? And is it really possible to sum up a decade in a list of records?
My gut instinct is that no record released this year should make the list. Just because I’ve not had time to assess their importance. But at the same time I don’t think that’s fair to an album like The Hazards of Love, which I reckon I’ll still be listening to in 2019.
So without further ado, a first stab at a list of records from the last 10 years that I think people should own, and that in some way sum up the decade for me.
Radiohead – Kid A (2000) – To me this record redefined what a big selling record could sound like, and did a great job of sounding like everything I was currently listening to at the time (Tortoise, Jim O’Rourke, Miles Davies and a few even more esoteric things). Everything they released this decade would get into my top 100, but this is where they laid down the blueprint for what was to come. I bought this album the day I had my first interview to work at the University, and to me it perfectly sums up 2000.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) – The album that introduced me to Wilco, and that marked them out as something more than just an alternative country band. It was also the first album (I think) that was streamed to listeners before it was released, and marked the first of four consecutive great albums they released between 2002-09. It was hard choosing between this, A Ghost is Born and Wilco (the album), but I think YHF just shades it, and is the one I’d recommend people start with.
The Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004) – They seemed to come out of nowhere, and to be critically acclaimed without ever being fashionable. This album was the one that really introduced me to them, and made me realise that there was something coming out of Canada that wasn’t 24 minute instrumental masterpieces or trite pop songs. I played this album to death in 2004, and still dip into it every now and again, and it is something I would recommend to anyone who likes music.
The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday (2005) – I didn’t discover this band until their 4th album (Stay Positive), but soon fell in love with their second effort from 2005. They are described as a bar band, but I see them as the 21st century version of Jack Kerouac and the best storytelling band ever. The music is loud and simple, the lyrics are narrative and hilarious, and the fact that something made in 2005 topped my listening charts for this year just goes to show it is something special.
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid (2008) – Last year’s album of the year by a mile, and something I keep going back to when I want to be reminded of 2008 (which was generally a good year). I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while, but this is the first album where I would recommend every single song.