Im a skeptic when it comes to lists.
Yes, theyre nice and cute and tie everything up in a neat little bow, but what do I care about some guys opinion blurbed across the centre spread of an overpriced magazine? For that matter, why does every publication insist on their own definitive lists that, by the way, are often significantly different from their competitors? Is there even a best album? If there was, could we tell?
The answer to that, as well as countless other questions, is taste.
Taste is unique. Taste is sharp. And most importantly, taste is brash. You can tell immediately when you dont like something. I still remember how sick I felt after being introduced to BrokeNCYDEs debut album last year. It was terrible. But also eye-opening.
I couldnt understand how, but I knew that somewhere in the world, at the exact moment the screamo-crunk mess was pulsing through my speakers, someone was enjoying BrokeNCYDE. And not merely enjoying them—they were postering their room with photos of the group, memorizing lyrics from their debut album, and, most frighteningly, dressing like their new-found idols.
Is that wrong? Most would be quick to agree. I mean, isnt it obvious how bad the music is?
To tell you the truth, Im still unsure. But I am sure that if you asked the BrokeNCYDE fan whether their album had as much musical integrity as say, OutKasts Stankonia (which is also crunk at heart, and #3 on our list), you would receive an entirely different response, one far from the expected no, but its just like, my opinion, man. Most likely, you would receive a resounding no. Hell, BrokeNCYDE themselves would have to be incomparably arrogant to make any other claim.
Its at this point that we compare and define music. Sure, you can like whatever you want, but it is important to separate what you like from what is noteworthy. For instance, I personally do not like MIAs Kala (also on our list). In fact, I find its a bit of a nuisance, apart from a few cuts. But I do think it represented an important stream of music in the past ten years, and contributed more than most other albums did in the same period of time. Which is why I voted for it on my personal list.
But I wasnt the only one who acted in such a way when preparing my list to be counted towards this collective one. Over forty other people contributed towards making this Best of the Decade extravaganza a success. There were students, both music freaks and casual listeners, there were industry professionals, and there were even musicians and performers. A balanced set of voters no doubt, in order to weed out any irregularities or outliers.
To all those who helped by sending in their lists, I say thanks, not just for getting back to me over the December holidays, but for your time spent distilling your favorite albums down to a list of ten (an arduous task I can bear witness to).
To those who went further and sent in personal paragraphs of the winning albums of their choice, I think the article speaks for itself.
So it is with my pleasure we present to you The Mediums Top 10 Albums of the Decade (2000-10); the culmination of weeks of searching and the opinions of dozens of people. Have a good read.
– Michael Di Leo
The first time I had ever heard, or seen, The Strokes was on a wall of about 100 televisions at a Future Shop. It was 2001 and Is This It? had just been released. The Strokes music video for Last Nite was playing on every single television in the store, and I was mesmerized.
At a time when the Top 40 was flooded with suburban favorites like Britney Spears, N*Sync, and the travesty known as SisqÃ³, The Strokes came out with an album that defined the sound of the city. Not just New York, but any major city centre in the world. The album is loud, fast, aggressive, and rude in a way that only a metropolis can be. It ushered in a new wave of Rock nRoll for the 21st century.
Is This It? came out of nowhere and helped to define what was objectively cool in the music industry. Whether lead singer Julian Casablancas was screaming on New York City Cops or crooning on the title track, Is This It? dripped with an attitude and originality that was sorely needed (see SisqÃ³ reference above). – Ayman Saab
It seems like only yesterday that Ms. Jackson was number one on the Billboard Charts, instantly recognizable to the general public. Therein lies the great strength of OutKast and Stankonia specifically. That Big Boi and Andre 3000 were able to write an album that achieved commercial crossover success in the mainstream but never veered too far from the smoother funkier roots of their older albums.
Personally, Stankonia was a real discovery for me at an age when I wasnt sure what the limits to music were. In my own insular little world I didnt know that you could have an album that sounded like Parliament/Funkadelic one track, only to sound like drum n bass on the next track and Prince on the one after that. Id like to think that Im smarter now, but that remains one of OutKasts greatest qualities—that they can combine all those ingredients into an album that keeps you coming back to it again and again. – James Murray
It was 2004 when The Killers burst onto the crime scene with their debut album, Hot Fuss. So what was all the fuss about? Fuelled by Brandon Flowers keyboard synths, the record is defined by a new wave sound that draws on the likes of David Bowie and New Order, yet has a certain forbidden allure that only Las Vegas could influence. The bands infectious first single, Somebody Told Me, spread across club dance floors before anyone had a chance to ask who these guys were, and as if overnight, The Killers were topping the UK Indie Charts and selling out concerts around the world.
With headbanging anthems such as All These Things That Ive Done, hard-hitting love ballads like Mr. Brightside, and songs about murder mysteries, go-go dancers, and boyfriends who look like girlfriends, Hot Fuss is not only one of the best albums to come out of Sin City, but also remains one of the decades top records. – Nives Hajdin
You Forgot It In People is the sophomore album from the wildly popular Canadian indie group Broken Social Scene. This 13-track breakthrough album was released in October of 2002, and immediately became many people’s album to look out for in the following year. In 2003 Broken Social Scene took home the Juno Award for Alternative Album of the Year. Only a few years after the album’s release, it was alongside other artists such as like Neil Young, Sloan and Joni Mitchell as one of the greatest Canadian albums ever made.
Broken Social Scene has been dubbed a “supergroup”—it consists of a large and varied number of artists and guests (and therefore instruments) from across the Canadian music scene. Which goes to show why this album was immediately popular. Out of the thirteen varied tracks, four have music videos and two have taken top song honors. And the album is on this list. – Rose Mustard
When your music makes up the soundtrack of an Academy-Award-busting blockbuster, you automatically get a place in the hearts and minds of all those who saw it (which comes out to around everyone anyways). Remember that flash-forward scene in Slumdog where the kids grow up riding on trains around India, stealing food from bourgeois passengers? Remember how good it felt watching that? I did some market research, and 62% of that happiness was a result of Paper Planes playing in the background. 62%.
Just like that scene, Kala, while heavily produced, retains a sense of intrigue and impending excitement. It feels natural and organic, free of restrictions. With this album, M.I.A. became a household name, a famous Tamil advocate and stylistic influence on the current generation.
At the same time, Kala can be repetitive. It might even make your brain sore. But you will be too overjoyed to notice. – Michael Di Leo
I first heard this album on a very late night of drinking tea and smoking too many cigarettes with a friend. He said he had something to show me, so he put on his vinyl copy of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and we didn’t speak for a very long time.
It’s a good-for-everything album. From sending a song to a crush, to being that idiot singing at the top of their lungs alone in their car—this 11-track “career-ender” (according to AOL Time Warner) is a repeat-player, uncompromising, and what the fuck, their best-selling album to date. Wilco will love you baby. – Trae RMC
I remember visiting a friend of mine at his new apartment two summers ago. He had moved in about a week prior and the night before held a celebratory bash in honor of his new digs. Somehow the guys from Interpol (minus the drummer) showed up after playing a concert earlier that evening.
Apart from a few brief trips to an adjoining washroom, they spent the entire night in a small living-type room in the back. I ventured back there to see what mementos I could find, but was instead met with darkness. The lightbulbs had all been unscrewed from their lamps and were lying on the ground, smashed. There were tiny shards of broken mirror strewn across the black coffee table and three neatly rolled American twenty-dollar bills on the seat of the couch.
Then I heard something. A girl was waking up on the ground beside the couch. I hadnt noticed her at first, but when she got up, I saw her clearly. Her darkened eyes, torn black t-shirt and bare feet are all a result of excess. Is the guitar player still here? she asked. But he was long gone. – Michael Di Leo
Ghostface Killa is a bulldozer with a wrecking ball attached. Hes also the most hyperactive lyricist in the Wu Tang Clan. On Fishscale, he seamlessly merged heavy hitting punch lines with off-the-wall Tony Starkisms. But it didnt sound like 90s Ghost doing this. This was fresh, hungry and youthful hip hop. Considering this was 2006, this is no small feat—Ghost was pushing his late 30’s. Huge synthesizers and the south were on the rise, but this album is out of its time. The beats range from Pete Rocks threadbare but propulsive Dogs of War to Just Blazes dense
The Champ. Throughout, the hooks are right up front, the choruses are smooth and Ghost weaves in and out of it all without a pause.
Fishscale is an organic and soulful record. Its classicist to be sure —barring the gross-out perv skit Heart Street Directions —but it doesnt sound like a throwback. This is 2000s hip-hop. Its slick and tightly produced, and far removed from the grimy beats that Ghost came up on. But Ghost and guests still kill it like only they can. By sounding classic but not dated, Fishscale ultimately sounds timeless. – Paul Castrodale
Even if you don’t dream of hitting some of that sweet, sweet Thom Yorke ass, In Rainbows is undeniably Radioheads sexiest album. Its cozy production, coruscant guitars and honeyed vocals are both intoxicating and seductive.
The albums intimacy is a result of using cerebral electronic experimentation purely as decoration for the melodies. Greenwoodisms that, a decade ago, might have devolved into a cacophonous paean to the guitarists new Moog are reined in and rendered delicate as lace trim, as in the subdued atmospherics of All I Need.
On the fan favourite Nude, the band has graduated from the adolescent self-hatred of Creep to a more sophisticated pining. Cascading strings shimmer like the neural net of a droid in love, and the song builds to a lush, woozy climax as Yorke swoons, Youll go to Hell for what your dirty mind is thinking. Its still signature Radiohead—paranoid, obsessive, self-reflexive—but its probably the closest theyll get to a slow jam.
A 1,000 years from now, robots will turn on In Rainbows, pour themselves some synthehol, and make little robot babies together, wondering who or what was a radio-head. Somehow, I dont think Thom would mind. – Melissa Horn