Like the previous set, the albums ranked 40-31 in this decade overview are bit unstable. Even after I started writing these entries, I was still shuffling albums around. The list gets more stable with the next set.
By the way, I’m linking to each previous and next entry, regardless of their publication status. If I don’t include the links now, I won’t remember to add them later.
UPDATE, 12/15/2009, 10:03 a.m.: I realized Onitsuka Chihiro’s Insomnia didn’t make it on this list, and NUMBER GIRL’s NUM-HEAVYMETALLIC had a pretty precarious spot on it anyway. So I bumped NUMBER GIRL off to make way for Onitsuka. Sorry, Mukai.
Vespertine and Medulla were far more experimental albums, but Volta was the one I liked the best, mainly because the dance beats — if you can call them that — which drove her ’90s-era albums made a comeback on this one. Plus, Antony Hegerty is far better foil for Björk’s enigmatic singing than Thom Yorke ever could be.
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Code & Tags
I really, really dug this album when it first came out, but I’m not sure if time has been kind to it. Some recent spins reveal some dead spots I didn’t detect before. But for sheer force of sturm und drang, this album has few rivals.
Zoobombs, love is funky
For what would turn out to be Zoobombs’ final album for a major label, the band makes one last effort for mainstream appeal by tuning back the grit and turning up the hooks. A few Zoobombs classics get made over — "Mo’ Funky", "Jumbo" — and new ones are created — "Funky movin’". If this album doesn’t get your butt on the dancefloor, well …
Res, How I Do
Back at the start of the decade, there was a lot of talk about black female artists who weren’t afraid to rock. Res was shoe-horned in with the likes of Erykah Badu, Macy Gray and India.Arie, although all of them sounded distinct enough to make such categorization tenuous. Res rocked out hardest, paying little mind to genre on her major label swan song, How I Do. She got dropped by her label, released her second album for free and formed a band with Talib Kweli called Idle Warship.
Kicell, Mado ni Chikyuu
Compared to the likes of TORTOISE and the Sea and Cake, Kicell’s richly-orchestrated, slow-paced indie rock can be simultaneously dense and spare. Mado ni Chikyuu is the album that most effectively married strong songwriting with shimmering production.
Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be
Harris’ self-described "weird album" album, Wrecking Ball, gave one of the premier interpreters of country music the fortitude to write songs for herself, a task she hadn’t tackled since 1985. All I Intended to Be brings Harris backs to her roots as an interpreter, reuniting her with early producer Brian Ahrens. But she doesn’t totally turn back on her recent past, filling out the album with mix of originals and covers. The results are, as usual, outstanding.
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, World World World
ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION is a fairly reliable band, painting well within the lines of its catchy post-punk pop. You hear one album, and that will you do you for the rest. Except for World World World. AKFG get ambitious on this album, and it pays off — perhaps there’s more to this band than what those lines allows.
LEO Imai, LASER RAIN
This album delivers on the promise show on Imai’s major label debut, FIX NEON. Imai’s writing gets catchier, and the rhythms get funkier, dipping a bit further back in time than the ’80s sheen would indicate.
The Magnetic Fields, Distortion
Yes, Mr. Merritt, you have indeed created an album that is more Jesus and Mary Chain than the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Onitsuka Chihiro, Insomnia
I can’t explain my fascination with Onitsuka Chihiro. Her pop balladry draws a direct line of descent from Carole King, and her attempts at big rock gestures find her stretching. But Onitsuka has a burnished voice that speaks more with emotion than with technique. Insomnia doesn’t stray outside its rigid pop lines, but somehow, Onitsuka manages to make it feel incredibly personal.