Top Ten Albums 2000-2009
Like the recent best of 2009 list, this top ten does not claim to be definitive. It’s not just that the whole thing is highly subjective, it’s mainly that this list has been compiled by someone with a really, really terrible memory. Doubtless, something utterly indispensable has been wantonly omitted.
Once again, the desire to spuriously identify broad, overarching trends has been resisted, for the most part. But one trend does assert itself rather forcefully: As many bloggers and crtitics have already noted, it seems clear that the first half of the decade produced much better music than the second.
Let’s get this over and done with then, shall we? Taking it from the top…
1. Fennesz – Endless Summer (2001)
Most of the very few truly new opportunities presented to musical artists in the noughties stemmed from the astonishing things that could suddenly be done with real-time digital signal processing. No album took advantage of these opportunities with more emotively musical aplomb than Endless Summer.
2. Antipop Consortium – Arrhythmia (2002)
It’s not a fashionable opinion but one could easily argue that indie rap produced a great deal of the decade’s most original music. Arrhythmia is the sound of a sub-genre at its delirious creative peak. Every single second of every single track is still breathtakingly exciting. Fashion be damned.
3. Burial – Untrue (2007)
Nobody captured the decade’s anhedonic zeitgeist better than Burial. Untrue recycles elements of ’90s underground dance music and contemporary R&B into an immediately recognizable signature sound. Mournful, delicious and still definitively contemporary.
4. Tujiko Noriko – Make Me Hard (2003)
Noriko was simultaneously one of the decade’s best digital electronica artists and one of its most intriguing songwriters. Her song’s aren’t particularly memorable though – they’re all texture and flux, drifting by like clouds. Make Me Hard is the most ambitious and well-realised of her many albums.
5. Scott Walker – The Drift (2006)
With The Drift, Scott Walker finally managed to boil his music down to its core essence. The result was a stark, nightmarish collection of fractured narratives, with Scott intoning cryptic fragments of song over monumental, unforgiving blocks of sound. Totally compelling.
6. Sonic Youth – Murray Street (2002)
Those of you who believe Sonic Youth haven’t produced anything worthwhile since Daydream Nation need to hear Murray Street and eat your words. Honestly, this album is something of a perfect storm – an ecstatic culmination of years of research into the power of rock noise.
7. Joanna Newsom – Ys (2006)
With the long, wordy songs all sung in Newsom’s impossibly kooky squeak and garnished with Van Dyke Parks‘ garish, relentlessly melodic string arrangements, Ys should be awful. But the sheer quality of this material and the conviction of its delivery win out. The results are utterly affecting.
8. Alva Noto – Prototypes (2000)
For some of us, the early noughties were all about the glitch – the disruption of precise digital sound into something gritty and abstract. On Prototypes, Carsten Nicolai – aka Alva Noto – refined the digital glitch, making it ornate and reintegrating it into a minimalist simulacrum of pop’s 4/4 rhythmic grid.
9. The Fall – The Unutterable (2000)
It was either The Unutterable or Tromatic Relexxions, Mark E Smith’s tragically underrated collaboration with Mouse on Mars, under the guise of Von Sudenfed. Together, these albums represent the perfection of a dance-rock hybrid Smith developed in the 90s and mostly abandoned in the noughties.
10. Gas – Pop (2000)
If Prototypes took glitch into the white-walled spaces of contemporary art, Pop dragged it semi-conscious into the depths of the woods and buried it under a thick layer of moss and peat. Lush and sinister in equal measure, this is a magnificent testament to the meditative properties of hiss and static.