10) Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs - Andrew Bird (2005)
Andrew Bird has been quoted in interviews, saying that there are always hundreds of different melodies swirling around in his head. Music is what he does. All. The. Time. Classically trained in violin performance from Northwestern University (no, that didn't influence my decision), Bird is also proficient at guitar, mandolin, and, as his name implies, whistling. Though Bird has a back-up band (with Martin Dosh playing drums), The Mysterious Production of Eggs is all Bird's creation, utilizing loop pedals to create layers upon layers of beautifully orchestrated music. As for lyrics, Bird's words have a musical, poetic quality, which is only appropriate, considering Bird's musical mind. While Armchair Apocrypha and Noble Beast, were fantastic releases as well, The Mysterious Production of Eggs stands out as a folk album that brings the genre to a whole new level of well-planned orchestration and musical brilliance.
Andrew Bird - Fake Pallindromes
9) For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver (2008)
At a first glance, Justin Vernon with his mountain-man beard and acoustic guitar looks like he could stand in for Iron & Wine's Sam Beam or any member of Fleet Foxes. Similarly, when listening to some of the tracks off of Bon Iver's album, his falsetto voice heard over relatively simple chord progressions lends comparisson to plenty of other folk acts nowadays. Make no mistake. For Emma, Forever Ago was created with precise intention, overflowing with the kind of emotion that only a winter of isolation in the woods could provide. If you pay close attention, there is something new to discover on every listen: a subtle twang of a banjo, a quick hammer-on of a guitar, or a high-pitched howl, each of which can be heartbreaking. Justin Vernon is a very talented musician, but there is nothing showy about this album. The sounds he creates are subtle and hushed, creating a tension that remains until moments like the end of "The Wolves (Act I and II)" when he loudly lets everything come out. With For Emma, Forever Ago, each song has its own dramatic arc like this, allowing listeners to follow along with Vernon through this beautifully sad album
Bon Iver - Lump Sum
8) At War With the Mystics - The Flaming Lips (2006)
This album is under-rated. I know that Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots is widely considered to be The Flaming Lips' triumph of the decade, but At War With The Mystics takes the successful elements of Yoshimi and brings a somewhat darker, even more existential element to it. Yoshimi was a beautiful record. The sound was great, and it celebrated being silly, while still containing very serious moments about life, love, and loss. At War... is sonically equally as interesting, but is a little bolder. There is no comfortingly silly image of Pink Robots on this album, only real questions from Wayne Coyne about corruption, existence of the supernatural, and our minuscule roles in a much grander universe. The album is still fun, and contains very funny lyrics, but it is a little more unsettling than any of their previous works, causing listeners to think about life more critically than ever before.
The Flaming Lips - Vein of Stars
7) Sound of Silver - LCD Soundsystem (2007)
James Murphy makes great dance music, often with a jaded, "who cares" attitude to his songs that make them all the more fun to jam along with. As shown by the first LCD Soundsystem release, he is excellent at poking fun at other artists, but with Sound of Silver, Murphy turned his focus inwards, becoming alarmingly vulternable in his songs. Sound of Silver shows a man who has had fun making dance music in his life, but is now beginning to contemplate all the issues that come with growing older (losing friends, mid-life crisis, death). And how does he contemplate these things? By making one of the best pop/dance music albums of the decade. This album is fun and sarcastic, but also angry and chillingly vulnerable. This kind of real emotion is most often lost in good dance bands, but LCD Soundsystem get it spot on.
LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great
6) Funeral - Arcade Fire (2004)
Funeral may have been the most buzzed-about indie album of this decade. With good reason. Not a single track disappoints. From "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" to "In the Backseat", the album provides big anthems that have artistic depth as well, not an easy feat. Funeral is the album you can jump and scream along with or sit in bed and contemplate with. A rock band combined with big percussion, bells. accordion, and a full string section, the Arcade Fire are instrumentally unique and they blend together incredibly well. And because so much has been said about Funeral already, I will not keep going on. It rightfully deserves this place in the top 10.
Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)