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10 x 10: A decade in review

April 10, 2010

Yep. It’s April. Oh, shut the hell up.

Either I’m way too lazy or just dangerously over-thoughtful, but I can’t crank out any kind of best-of until far after the ides have past.

I usually need several weeks to sort out 12 months worth of life-shaping sound. A decade? It takes several months to figure out what the hell just happened.

In 2000, I was a freshman in college. In 2000, a five-gig hard drive was kind of like a big deal. In 2000, the Strokes hadn’t been invented yet.

A lot has changed in 10 years and a decade has passed way too quickly. Of course, by now you’ve read that several hundred times in several dozen other blogs and magazines from the mouths of fellow kinda-old and ancient fogies alike.

I promise, I’m a different kind of fogy. This guy (two thumbs to my chest) had a few extra months to pore over a tumultuous and victorious decade that starts with me sitting in a dank, smoky dorm room and ends enjoying a cigar on the back deck of my very own abode … in a wonderful city … with an incredible wife … and a cache of CD’s that has essentially been rendered worthless by technology.

You get the idea. I promise this was the most important decade of music I will ever experience: the love, the loathing, the time I spent cherishing each and every one of these releases.

Presented in alphabetical order are the last 10 years of my life. Thanks for listening:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

This is a masterpiece of modern music. Concept albums are cute, but this story wraps itself around you with each flawless tune, each organ riff that crawls its way into your head. Funeral was a fine introduction, but the Arcade Fire solidified themselves as legend with equal parts melancholy and victorious rock.

Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

The voice will haunt you throughout the confession. It’s not an adventure or lesson or concept. It’s one voice carrying you through a meditation on man and nature, content and form. Fantastic.

Girl Talk – Feed the Animals

Nothing embodies the decade of “shuffle” better than Girl Talk. Gregg Gillis is more than a mashup artist, though. This is the ultimate mixtape, the Rosetta Stone of using borrowed sound to make a statement. Hip hop used to do that. Girl Talk helps those of us old enough to remember the excitement of hip hop’s heyday to come correct and kick out the jams by any and all means necessary.

Radiohead – Kid A

It’s the favorite on any decent decade list you’ve read, and for good reason. Kid A will convince you that sound is bigger than life, bigger than you. The sound washes over and cleanses the dark corners of your mind that you would otherwise not bother to explore. That’s a powerful thing. And it’s a trip I can take anytime I want to drop the needle.


Ratatat – Classics

Imagine sitting on the banks of a river at the end of the world. Take the last sip from your tall boy and light the last smoke in your pack. Watch the water. Listen. If I could bottle heaven into a single 16 oz. serving, this would be it.

The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow

One of the best pop albums ever. Yes, that includes Pet Sounds. Chutes fits my No. 1 criterion for judging a great album: There’s not one song that sucks. It’s fun and they’re really good.

Slum Village – Fantastic Vol. 2

On the surface, it looks like my token hip hop pick, I know. It’s not.

Slum Village is on this list because I couldn’t let it just slip through the cracks and be forgotten forever. It’s too important to me to become a J Dilla footnote. Fantastic Vol. 2 was just that – dope beats; fun, occasionally insightful lyrics; and good old-fashioned Detroit pride.

Jay Dee had a gift for pulling together the most incongruent samples and making them sing. Every time I slip on a pair of headphones or roll down my windows with this record, I become a much brasher, 18-year-old version of myself and I’m reminded how transformative music can be. Thank you, Dilla.

Sufjan Stevens – Greetings from Michigan

If you are indeed from Michigan, this should make you weep like only a little Mitten boy could. Honestly, I teared up within just a few of the first heavenly chords I heard, but not just because I’m forever homesick. This is a songwriter who knows how to speak to the human experience like few, if any, others can. Light a candle, a cigarette if you’re so inclined, and listen up for an hour or so. You’ll be a better person on the flipside.

The Thermals – More Parts Per Million

The second I heard the Thermals in 2003, I knew I was going to remember them in 2010. The Thermals are all my favorite bands playing at once in the neighbor’s garage. I always pictured them playing my apartment and I extend the open invitation to play my house today. The Thermals light up every bar of my stereo’s equalizer and curl the corners of my lips – the same way they did seven years ago.

The Wrens – The Meadowlands
It guided me through a breakup and new love. She ended up becoming my wife – the new love, not the breakup — and that pretty much qualifies it for a best-of-the-decade list. Basically, there is not a bad song here and the backstory of the hard-luck band almost not making this indie pop masterpiece makes it all the more compelling.

— Shane M. Liebler

The way we was -- liebs ca. 2000

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Lori permalink
    April 12, 2010 9:52 pm

    I commend you for even trying to break down a decade of your life into albums. Not an easy task at all. If I had to do it, it would never get done. Well done!

    • April 13, 2010 6:53 pm

      Thanks, Lori! Really, it took me for-ev-er. Should have started in August rather than September. I started with more than 200 albums.
      Got me curious — what were some of your absolute personal faves?

  2. Lori permalink
    April 13, 2010 8:29 pm

    Neon Bible is on my list too. Along with Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album and Gorillaz’s Demon Days. But the rest of the list will take some thought. Expect a complete list by 2012.

    • April 16, 2010 6:13 am

      2012? That’s also when I hope to post my best of 2009 list. Ha!
      A lot of listers opted for Funeral as the superior work. Both are excellent albums, but I feel like the band really nailed it with Bible. I’m not necessarily anti-Vampire, but I can honestly say I don’t get it. As far as the Gorillaz go, any band who is down with Del Tha Funky Homosapien is down with me. Thanks for reading!

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