Here’s the long awaited second installment of my favorite albums of the decade. It’s hard to see from the above picture, but I was fortunate enough to get 7 out of these 9 albums autographed (the two exceptions are Radiohead and MGMT), and I saw all of these bands/singers live on the tours promoting these albums. Thanks universe! Again, these are not in order because I love them all. Read more after the jump.
Yes by Pet Shop Boys (2009). The Pet Shop Boys have been around for an amazing 25 years. They released a handful of uneven albums in the 2000s (Release, Fundamental, Disco 4), but this album is a return to perfection. Every track on this album is fantastic. They capture a perfect mix of dance music and gorgeous ballads with brilliant lyrics. I dare you not to throw yourself a 4-minute dance party on the thumping “More Than A Dream.” “King of Rome,” a slower song, represents isolation in musical form with the lyric “If I were the King of Rome, I couldn’t be more tragic.” “Building a Wall,” is an uptempo track that “is not so much to keep you out, but more to keep me in.” “Love Etc,” the opener with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, talks about the things you don’t need if you have love. The finale “Legacy,” is one of the greatest tracks the Boys have ever made and when I met them backstage at one of their concerts, I professed my love for this song, and singer Neil Tennant agreed that it’s his favorite song off the record.
Van Hunt by Van Hunt (2004). The R&B singer Van Hunt had already been a successful producer, when he decided to release his first record, the self titled album Van Hunt. His music is a mix of Lenny Kravitz, Prince, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. His manager is Randy Jackson (from American Idol) and why Jackson did not make Van Hunt a household name instead of karaoke i-dulls, is beyond my comprehension. Tracks such as “Down Here In Hell (With You),” and “Dust” will make you love the neo-soul sound of Van Hunt. Other standout tracks include “Out of the Sky,” and “Hold My Hand.”
Life In Cartoon Motion by Mika (2007). If Elton John and Freddie Mercury had a baby, it would be Mika. His debut album starts off with “Grace Kelly,” which gives a nod to Freddie. Fun tracks such as “Lollipop” and “Billy Brown,” penetrate the album. My favorite track is “Love Today,” a song that will make you want to shower total strangers with love. His live shows are as colorful as his music. When his second record “The Boy Who Knew Too Much” was released in 2009, I was so excited to see what this musical prodigy would come up with. Unfortunately, to me, it sounds as if he took his first album and re-recorded it with different lyrics, but I am not counting him out just yet.
Back To Black by Amy Winehouse (2007). When this album was released, I played it over and over and over again. Amy Winehouse’s album sounds like it was recorded in the 60s with producer Phil Spector and was lost for decades. Tracks such as the infectious “Rehab,” had the world singing the chrous “No, No, No.” The track “Me And Mr. Jones” introduced the world to the brilliant word “fuckery,” and tracks such as “Back To Black,” and “Wake Up Alone,” have so much isolation in them, you can picture the feeling of being hung over while you find out your lover has been cheating on you. Her life has been a mess since the release of this album and I hope and pray that she is strong enough to make another album as good as this one.
Everybody Loves A Happy Ending by Tears For Fears (2004). When Tears For Fears reunited in 2004, I saw their first show at Los Angeles’ Tower Records (RIP). They looked so uncomfortable, I thought they’d break up before the show was over, but they pulled it together and recorded their first and only album of the 2000s. When their last album was released (1990’s The Seeds of Love), they had broken away from being pop darlings who released accessible tracks such as “Shout” and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” and instead had started experimenting in the studio with luscious tracks such as the Beatles-esque “Sowing The Seeds of Love.” “Everybody Loves A Happy Ending” begins where “The Seeds of Love” left off. “Who Killed Tangerine,” and “Secret World,” are underappreciated anthems and the title track and “Killing With Kindness” are the best tracks the Beatles never got around to recording.
Scissor Sisters by Scissor Sisters (2004). America showed how homophobic it really is when Scissor Sisters released their debut album in 2004. This is such a fun dance and pop record. The rest of the world caught on quickly as Scissor Sisters sell out arenas all over the world, yet in their home country, they are reduced to playing medium sized venues. Lead singer Jake Shears is not only sexy-as-hell, but his falsetto voice that recalls Mick Jagger on Stones classics such as “Emotional Rescue,” will have you swinging your hips like a drag queen in 2 seconds flat. Tracks such as “Take Your Mama” make you think that Elton John is back from the dead and releasing classic tracks again. The opener “Laura” and “Filthy/Gorgeous,” are romping dance numbers (that are extra fun when you see the Sisters in concert). I will probably always remain on the fence about their cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” The original version is nothing short of perfection, with one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The Sisters cover sounds as if Abba decided to record this classic. Aside from the lyrics being the same, the track has nothing recognizable from the original version. While that is a pretty amazing transformation, there are certain songs that should never be messed with.
In Rainbows by Radiohead (2008). A lot of people disagree with me, but I think this is the best concept record since Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. From start to finish, this album is perfection. Towards the end of the album, there are a trio of tracks that make a brilliant album even better. “Reckoner” is filled with sadness and isolation. The lyrics and music of the song will make you close your eyes and imagine that the world is ending. Next is “House of Cards,” which sounds like you’ve opened your eyes and what you see is rock-bottom. Again, beautiful lyrics and a sad melody. The finale of this trio is “Jigsaw Falling Into Place,” that is a song of hope and rebuilding (after you’ve lost everything). Not only did Radiohead make a brilliant album, but they perhaps changed the ever-changing face of music by releasing this album for free on their website. Eventually, they offered a physical package release and a deluxe edition, but they were so confident with this record, they let their fans have a free test-drive. This freaked out the music industry, and you know me… I love it when people are uncomfortable. It mixes it up.
Songs of Mass Destruction by Annie Lennox (2007). The diva from Eurythmics made my favorite solo album to date with Songs Of Mass Destruction. There are her usual gorgeous ballads, but often on her solo work, she forgets that she is a dance floor diva too. She realizes that on this album with tracks such as “Love Is Blind,” and “Ghosts in my Machine.” The track “Sing,” employs an odd mix of guest vocalists from Madonna to Celine Dion (but it was a charity track, so she’s forgiven). The best track on this record is “Coloured Bedspread,” that not only sounds like one of the best tracks Eurythmics never recorded, but the sexy vocals and beats might make you want to get horizontal.
Oracular Spectacular by MGMT (2008). The boys from Brooklyn are boring-as-hell live, but in the studio, they can hang with the best of them. Their debut album Oracular Spectacular employs the Mick Jagger-esque falsetto voice that earned him lots of enemies in the 70s, but it works with MGMT. The opening track “Time To Pretend,” is pure pop heaven. “Kids” and “Electric Feel” became hits in the trendy kids community instantly. I read that their next album will have “no radio friendly singles” and will be reminiscent of their live shows. That might mean they are about to release a career-killing dull record, but only time will tell what the next decade will bring for MGMT.
What were your favorite albums of the decade? Freedom of speech is one of the last things we have left, so let your voices be heard!!