Alright, so to not contradict Andy, I decided my (neglected) personal blog would be the best place to put my top ten, since I disagreed with him on many fronts. My goal is to identify, through my favorite albums of the decade, those movements in rock n’ roll that really define what this decade was.
In no particular order…
The Killers – Hot Fuss
Back when The Killers put out Hot Fuss, there was no precedent for describing this band (that has lately changed, unfortunately). The Vegas-based band was ironically signed by a British label and swept America with a sexy, glittery, lights-and-sound rock that had just the right balance of indie rock swagger and dance beats to make it both a mainstream and underground classic. Hell, even 2007’s Sawdust, which was basically a compilation of B-Sides from Hot Fuss and, to a lesser extent, Sam’s Town, was as good, if not better than most albums that have hit the market. What these four gentlemen spawned was the idea that rock n’ roll could have the dance and shine that Vegas normally reserved for pop music, and, quite frankly, rock takes the Vegas sleaze to a delicious new level in these guys’ hands. Er, it did, anyway.
Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances
A more recent album, Titus Andronicus’ 2008 The Airing of Grievances gave rise to the best compromise between indie rock and Jersey punk the world has seen in a long time. With the titular “Titus Andronicus” making use of some catchy-as-hell riffs, amazing arrangement, and the most punk lyrics this side of 1977, this album took off, and really made a statement for garage punk in the late 2000’s.
Firewater – Psychopharmacology
Firewater basically made a concept album in the early 2000’s that really took songwriting to an interesting level. Maintaining a Nine Inch Nails-esque/Industrial vocal and arrangement style, coupled with rock injected with pseudo-folk, we had an album that was captivating on the surface listening, but once you listen to the meaning of each track and the intricate layers of each one, you can really begin to appreciate the songwriting. For an album that’s basically about someone battling depression and the drugs he’s on both prescriptionally (and not), the songs do a fantastic job of really exposing the mind of the basket case, down to the slight cracks in his voice when he says “I could be a comedian/If I wasn’t such a joke.”
Minus the Bear – Highly Refined Pirates
Highly Refined Pirates was the first album to really take the incentive to make a true indie-electronic album. While the dancier parts didn’t show up till 2005’s Menos El Oso, Minus the Bear’s debut set the stage for doing really neat things with guitars using modern technology. This album really worked out the concept, Menos El Oso worked it out with the dance vibes, and 2007’s Planet of Ice blew both of them away on both fronts. Highly Refined Pirates makes this list, though, because of its instigational role in the electro-rock scene, coupled with some awesome track titles (“Monkey!!!Knife!!!Fight!!!” is still one of my favorite songs).
Bear Vs. Shark – Right Now, You’re in the Best of Hands
What happens when you take Husker Du and make them really, really punk? You get the best-named band ever, Bear Vs. Shark. The 2004 Right Now, You’re in the Best of Hands was rough, it was tough, and it had breakdowns everywhere. The skill was there, the jam was there, and it would blow someone over if you played it on a big enough sound system. It has been near impossible to emulate (the only thing I’ve seen that really matches it is the German band Mikrokosmos), and as such it stays near and dear to my heart. It didn’t get too big exposure, though, just due to the sheer size of the riffage; without a certain skin thickness, this album will just confuse the hell out of you, but if you can take it, it’s one of the best albums you’ll hear.
Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
If Minus the Bear started electro-rock (arguable), then Metric started dance rock (arguable). Metric’s 2003 Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? made a large step toward the unison of pop and indie rock, using the traditional rock band formula to make dance-y, female-fronted rock music. The effort was somewhat overlooked by the greater population in 2003, but 2009 has exploded with Metric look-alikes trying to use the formula to ride the coattails of big acts (including Metric’s most recent release, Fantasies, to be honest; the albums are all good, but they’re definitely becoming too common and formulaic).
The Hives – Veni Vidi Vicious
The Hives revived garage rock in the early 2000’s with Veni Vidi Vicious. Coming off the late ’90’s Radiohead- and Third Eye Blind-powered Alt Rock scene (both bands I love, but you have to admit, their work spawned so much terrible music), the music scene was half ambient, chamber rock, and half the failures that ended up in the Nickelback crowd. Then, enter The Hives: hard-rocking, relentless garage punk. These guys sound like they’re beating the shit out of their instruments and having a damn good time doing it. This album is all about fun, and it really is just a blast to listen to, because these guys are a tight band, and it shows in every song.
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
This is the disc that gave us “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.” If that’s not enough said, watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7dt1li5SyY . This album was the most fun I’ve had; another tight group of musicians that takes the solid rhythm and rock guitars and spits out a catchy-ass album. Every track is classic rock n’ roll for the modern day, fusing The Kinks’ zest for driving rock with a ’90’s alt-rock/garage sense for flair and performance. Also, it’s the only band where the English accent showing up in the song is actually okay.
The Depreciation Guild – In Her Gentle Jaws
This disc took the electro-rock to a new level; composed primarily with Gameboys, every song was an anthem, overlaid with chunky, raw guitars that really tie the experience up into something truly beautiful. It has both amazing horizontal and vertical songwriting, and it all becomes an auditory experience.
Passion Pit – Manners
If I need to tell you why this album is so good, you clearly haven’t heard it. Go buy it. NOW.