Hudson's Best of the 00's (Part Three)

30. Built to Spill, There Is No Enemy (2009). After a couple of albums that were considered disappointing, Built to Spill rebounded this year with this album that marked a return to the sprawling, yet elegant, guitar wizardry of their 90’s heyday. Besides his incendiary guitar work, leader Doug Martsch’s songs are among his best ever.

29. Cursive, The Ugly Organ (2003). Bright Eyes may have brought attention to Omaha, but Cursive deserves as much acclaim. The Ugly Organ, a concept album exploring not only love and casual sex, but also the ongoing fight every indie act has between creating art and commercially appealing recordings. “Keep turning out those hits! Till it's all the same old shit!"

28. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (2007). After a stunning debut that made them the darlings of the Pitchfork set, the pressure was on for Canada’s favorite sons and daughters. Recorded in an abandoned church, Neon Bible was certainly more grandiose and layered than Funeral, but didn’t quite match the overall strength of its predecessor.

27. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow (2003). The Shins’ debut album, Oh Inverted World, may have made Natalie Portman to proclaim “this band will change your life”, but it was this follow-up that cemented their place as indie’s biggest pop stars. Elements of Neutral Milk Hotel and Village Green-era Kinks remain the major influences, coupled with intriguing song structures and more expansive production.

26. Paul Westerberg, 49:00 (2008). Radiohead and NIN may have made headlines with their groundbreaking online distribution, but Paul Westerberg went one step farther. With no fanfare other than a post on a message board devoted to his work, Westerberg released this 49-minute mishmash of completed songs, fragments, covers, and “Revolution #9”-ish interludes as a forty-nine cent download. Since its release, he’s continued to surprise his fans with periodic EP’s with virtually no notice.

25. Guided By Voices, Isolation Drills (2001). Renowned for creating the “lo-fi” movement of the 90’s (along with Sebadoh and Pavement), GBV began integrating some polished studio recordings on their last few albums of that decade. On this album, not only did they finally utilize a “real” studio for the entire album but also enlisted big-time producer Rob Schnapps (Beck, Foo Fighters) for arguably the most consistent album of their career.

24. Bob Dylan, Together Through Life (2009). There’s no doubt that the comeback of the decade belongs to the greatest songwriter of the last couple of generations. Dylan’s latest release continues in the old-style, minstrel-ish style of his last few albums, but is highlighted by Tex Mex-ish accordion provided by Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo. It’s also the most relaxed Dylan album in quite some time, and many songs reveal a rarely exhibited sense of humor.

23. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (2008). There’s admittedly not a lot of difference between the four Hold Steady albums. Leader Craig Finn’s half spoken/half sung tales of love, drinking, and the road are pushed forward by arguably the quintessential bar band of our time, but why even attempt to modify a formula that works so well?

22. The White Stripes, Elephant (2003). On their giant commercial breakthrough, Jack and Meg White continued to refine the bare-bones bluesy garage rock while adding other interesting elements and instrumentation. Piano, bass lines (albeit played on guitar), more refined acoustic tunes, and even a vocal spot by Meg culminated in one of the most interesting albums to sit near the top of the charts.

21. The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love (2009). Green Day wasn’t the only band to release a rock opera in the last few years. Unlike American Idiot, though, The Hazards of Love actually told a coherent story, which probably shouldn’t be surprising as Decemberists leader Colin Meloy is more of a traditional storyteller than Billie Joe Armstrong. That’s not to say this isn’t a challenging album, especially since few individual songs stand out, but is a rewarding listen if you can handle an elaborate story centered around a woman who is ravaged by her “shape-shifting lover“.


The Goddess said…
Hells yeah! Now we're getting to the good stuff. The Ugly Organ is the only album I've not heard (though your blurb is quite intriguing!). Dylan's album is amazing. I can't say enough about how much I love Arcade Fire, though I've only just recently discovered them. White Stripes and GBV were just waiting for the right moment to arrive on your list...much like Paul, whom I suspect will be more than well-represented in the top twenty.

Of course, despite a couple of GREAT songs, like "Ask Her For Adderall," I still think that the Hold Steady sounds a little too much like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for me to love them, but they're respectable nevertheless.

Very much looking forward to the next installations, Mr. Hudson!
MrVilhauer said…
@The Goddess - Ugly Organ's the only one from this list you haven't heard? Pity - it's easily the best of this group.

Do yourself a favor and buy the three Cursive albums from Domestica to The Ugly Organ. You'll thank me.

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