Best Music of the Decade: The Albums That Missed the Cut
After voting as a staff on the greatest albums of the past decade a couple weeks ago, a few staff writers felt that some deserving albums had placed too low on the list, or even worse, received no mention at all. To remedy this, we put together a brief listing of albums that may not have made the Bullet’s official top ten, but were important musical works, nonetheless.
12. “Alligator” by the National
Sleep is for the weak and The National’s “Alligator” has carried me through many long nights. I remember deserted parking lots and smoky road trips that stretched out like an incandescent horizon; “Alligator” set the tone. Dark, hypnotic and saturated with an aura of psychosis, lyricist and singer Matt Berninger walks a twisted path laced with paranoia, obsession and cryptic metaphor.
“Alligator” features impeccable instrumentation: a churning sea of thick noise punctuated by irregular drum beats, melodic guitar leads and gorgeous string arrangements; the perfect vehicle for Berninger’s baritone musings. It isn’t just good music; it’s awesome, maddeningly good music.
Though songs like “All the Wine,” “Abel” and “Secret Meeting” are instant classics, each of “Alligator’s” thirteen offerings approach perfection, providing one of the most satisfying listening experiences the 2000s could muster.
Even perceived low points (“Friend of Mine”) are still poignant and well worth repeat listens. So why then, does this album finish 12th? With no rational explanation for this disturbing incongruence, I have no more reasonable choice than to reject this reality and declare “Alligator” as having finished in a deadlock for 1st with “Is This It.” Now go out and celebrate! –Alex Ricart
“Relationship of Command” by At The Drive-In
Emo was practically dead by 2000. If not because the forefathers of the genre were breathing their last breath (Sunny Day Real Estate) or on the verge of selling out (Jimmy Eat World), then because At The Drive-In nailed the coffin shut by recording the most positively feral record to ever bear the label “emo” in any way, shape or form.
Before standard emo protocol included singing like your testicles had been removed and recycling power chord progressions, it was considered an emotional derivative of punk music. ATDI spent the ’90s touring relentlessly and honing their craft, and by the time the new millennium rolled around, they had melodic, yet terrifying vocal lines and jagged guitar riffs down to a science. On “Relationship of Command,” their final album, they turned their boring El Paso upbringing into an angry sonic attack on conformity.
What emo is considered to be now bears almost no resemblance to what is was when it started. ATDI released the most impressive album in the canon and then imploded just before countless bands this decade would try to emulate what they did. –Jeremy Flax
“Person Pitch” by Panda Bear
Perhaps the most divisive band of the decade, Animal Collective (who is noticeably absent from our list) spent most of the decade deconstructing the defined boundaries of pop music. In the wake of this musical wasteland, Panda Bear—one of AC’s principal songwriters—went solo, putting the pieces back together in one transcendent, shimmering, drugged-out pop opus.
“Person Pitch” is essentially a Girl-Talk-style pastiche of the last couple decades of music, mashing up the atmosphere of My Bloody Valentine with the angelic vocal melodies of Brian Wilson and the over-the-top ambition of indie rock in the last decade. But “Person Pitch” is more than just the sum of some tastefully chosen musical touchstones; rather, the album possesses that rare, magical feel of instant nostalgia, taking the listener back to a primordial state they didn’t know they had forgotten.
I think music critics have a better way of describing this feeling. It’s called a classic. –Ryan Marr