Swear I'm not Paul: List: Best Albums of the Decade 80-71

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

List: Best Albums of the Decade 80-71

Part Four of my countdown of the top 110 albums of the decade. You can find 110-101 here, 100-91 here, and 90-81 here. But for now, here's 80-71...

80. Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
'Hurt' had that video, one of the best music videos ever. But Johnny Cash's fourth Rick Rubin production contained a hell of a lot more than that Nine Inch Nails cover. His covers again were inspired, from the Eagles' 'Desperado' to the Beatles' 'In My Life', but it was the title track that reminded us of what Cash could really do. 'The Man Comes Around' was the best thing the man in black had written in decades.

79. Bruce Springsteen - The Rising (2002)
This may well be the best response to the horrors of 9/11. That was the defining moment of this decade, setting everything else in motion. It also gave Bruce Springsteen the inspiration for his best album since Born in the USA, almost twenty years earlier. But The Rising wasn't a bleak, downtrodden record. Instead it was a celebration of what we still had, a message in how we could conquer our fears, how the whole world could be reborn.

78. Robert Plant & Allison Krauss - Raising Sand (2007)
There would be no proper Led Zeppelin reunion this decade, when they did get back together it was for a one-off show at London's O2. Even if they wanted to play more gigs, they couldn't, as Robert Plant was touring this excellent album with the bluegrass sensation Allison Krauss. It provided some incredible harmonies, and was the best duets record of the decade. As good as anything Gaye and Tyrell ever did.

77. Lily Allen - Alright, Still (2006)
MySpace didn't quite change music the way many had hoped. It had far more failures than successes. There were also a lot of people who had one-off singles such as the horrible Sandi Thom. But then there was Lily Allen. She had the ability. Regardless of how she got to the top, she was always going to get there eventually. With songs as good as 'LDN', 'Smile', and 'Everything's Just Wonderful', her acerbic wit shone through and worked wonderfully with the brass and ska music, which hadn't been heard on radio in a long, long time.

76. Kanye West - Late Registration (2005)
Before Late Registration, Kanye West was just another hip-hop producer. After it, he became one of the biggest egos in the world. He may be an asshole, but he sure does make great music, than can be liked by anyone. Even people who never ever listen to hip-hop or R&B. A massive crossover success on both sides of the Atlantic, this, his second album showed that his debut was no fluke. Co-produced by Jon Brion, it features the best ever sample of a song by a Welsh Dame.

75. Nickel Creek - Nickel Creek (2000)
Nickel Creek had been on the go for many a year before this album, but whereas their previous two albums were made by wide-eyed youngsters, this was their first proper adult record. Featuring a wonderful mix of new and traditional tunes, this is where Chris Thile first really shone. One of the best musicians of the decade in any genre, he showed that he could also be a fantastic songwriter as well as mandolin player. Their covers of our own Sinead Lohan's 'Out of the Woods' and Scottish poet Robert Burn's 'Sweet Afton' are glorious, but the highlight is the incredibly catchy folk song 'The Fox'.

74. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
An album so good that their label refused to publish it, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of those records which could have been lost due to legal wrangling. Thankfully they were picked up by Nonesuch after the album's success via online streaming. It is still Tweedy's best work, with fantastic songs like the engrossing 'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart' and 'War on War'. It's Tweedy and Jay Bennett's fourth Wilco album, but on it, Tweedy outdid even his finest hours with Uncle Tupelo. Bennett left the band after this album, losing the fabulous interplay the two had developed. Sadly, Bennett died in May of this year but released a number of solo albums this decade. None matched this highpoint though.

73. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine (2003 version)
Similarly to Wilco's fourth, Fiona Apple's third album could easily have been lost due to record company incompetence. Jon Brion had produced the album and provided a bleak instrumental platform for Apple. Epic Records, her label was not at all happy with this, and the album's release was cancelled. It was leaked to the internet and a "Free Fiona" campaign was started, which sent fruit to the label's offices. This version was never officially released, instead the songs were re-recorded with producer Mike Elizondo. The second, re-recorded version is a good album itself, but the original leaked copy is the one to own. Brion is a genius, and he really highlights the finest parts of Apple's enchanting voice.

72. Brendan Benson - Lapalco (2002)
Better known now for his work with Jack White and the Raconteurs, Benson's solo career stands on its own merits. His 1999 debut One Mississippi is a beautiful album filled with fun lyrics, such as the splendid 'Tea'. Like the debut, each of the songs here is a lesson in powerpop. Just check our single 'Metarie'. Another of the album's many hits, 'Good to Me', was covered by Jack White's main band (as the B-Side to the massive-selling 'Seven Nation Army'), but the original is the best version. Forget the Raconteurs, it's by himself that Benson does his best work.

71. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)
Face it, Radiohead are never going to make The Bends or OK Computer again. Instead, they change direction with each and every album. Their first album of this decade, and the follow-up to their masterpiece, this divided the opinions of listeners and critics. I know many people who disregard this album totally from the Radiohead canon, but instead of merely rejecting it, it should be listened to. Intently. Again and again. It's one of those albums that is filled with beautiful intricacies and fantastic musicianship, it defies you at every opportunity, but you can't stop yourself listening. Gorgeously addictive but damned unsettling at the same time. You'll never see Coldplay making an album like this.

The Countdown continues tomorrow...

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