Top 50 Albums of ’00s (20-11)

And the beat goes on…and the beat goes on…

(For those who need to catch up: #50-41, #40-31, & #30-21.)

20. The Stage Names – Okkervil River

Being an actor isn’t all glitz and glamor, or at least so says Okkervil River. Over the course of nine tracks Will Scheff and company use their linguistic brand of indie rock to spin stories of the terror of the spotlight (“A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene”), the hollowness of womanizing (“A Girl In Port”), and the loneliness of forced attention (“Plus Ones”). All the while the poetic lyrics are carried by rock orchestrations that match the mood of each tune to a T. The Stage Names feels like a novel masquerading as an album and even though the last chapter ends triumphantly on “John Allyn Smith Sails,” you’re left wanting more. Luckily this is one story that can be heard again and again without ever growing sick of it.

(Full review here.)

19. Makers – Rocky Votolato

The tradition of singer-songwriters has always thrived off deep ties to regions and their natural essence. Countless albums have been distilled the heart of the deep south, northeast, and the mid-western plains, but the northwest has often gone largely overlooked. Rocky Votolato’s Makers fills this gap in the American tapestry, proving the region is more than just the stereotypical coffee drinking indie grungers. “White Daisy Passing” captures the serene delicacy of the majestic pines surrounding calm, cool Pacific streams, while many others (like “Where We Left Off”) capture the powerful beauty in the ominous darkness of rain clouds. All the while Volotato’s soothing croon takes the listener away from whatever reality they are at and transports them, even if only for a few short tunes, to his world.

18. The Artist In The Ambulance – Thrice

There is nothing light about Thrice’s The Artist In The Ambulance. It is the absolute antithesis of heavy melodicism. The music has a gravitas about it, coming on thick and unrelenting, yet everything still manages to have a hook. Considering these two world are often dichotomous, Thrice really achieves something by achieving the perfect balance. But beyond the album’s instrumental fortitude, lie lyrics that don’t pull punches while discussing political climates, American greed, and the complete loss of hope. “Cold Cash And Colder Hearts” is a scathing rebuke of the lifestyle of the United States and the neglect of the Third World. Even in it’s brightest moments, like on “Stare At The Sun” and “The Artist In The Ambulance,” Thrice drives home an underlying message of wasted moments that could have be spent doing something meaningful. The Artist In The Ambulance can kick your ass, get stuck in your head, and make you think. It’s not everyday that trio works in synergy.

17. Funeral – Arcade Fire

Music doesn’t get more joyous than Funeral. While the lyrical picture the album paints is certainly bleak, it holds the feeling of a soulful and lively congregation singing their hearts out to the rafters. Mixing together a cornucopia of sounds, song after song on Funeral carries an anthemic weight. What starts with the uplifting “Neighborhood 1 – Tunnels” carries through to soaring “Wake Up” and gradeous epic “Rebellion (Lies).” It is music that makes people smile through their tears. Raise you’re hands to the sky, rejoice, and sing along.

16. Turn On The Bright Lights – Interpol

With a foreboding instrumental atmosphere and Paul Banks’s monotone drawl, Turn On The Bright Lights gives a voice to a New York City night’s underbelly. The songs aren’t sung as much as coldly emitted, droning on about subways, sex fiends, and senses of separation. There are just enough hints of pep and lyrical slyness to make each song’s distant core engaging. Turn On The Bright Lights makes you wish you never had to go out in natural light again.

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10 Best Songs of 2009


10. “Satellite Heart” – Anya Marina

Almost whispered, this delicate tune is enough to make anyone’s mind float lightly away, swooning the entire time.

9. “A Little Bit of Red” – Serena Ryder

Okay, so technically this came out in 2008, but wasn’t released stateside until ’09. Regardless, Serena Ryder’s pipes on this little country-twinged number are breathtaking in the powerful emotionality.

8. “Hell” – Tegan and Sara

This toe-stomping rocker feels part Tegan and Sara, part post-From Here To Infirmary Alkaline Trio, and brims with sneered-lip attitude.

7. “From the Hips” – Cursive

Cursive’s fierce ode to the inability of us all to overcome our primal sexual impulses fires from the hip and hits the mark dead center.

6. “The Strangers” – St. Vincent

The introduction to Actor is like a shiny poison apple. It’s gorgeous and delicious but there’s an unnoticed darkness lurking inside the glistening skin. Good luck resisting the urge to take a bite.
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