Was it only five years ago when I couldn't stream a damn thing onto my TV? Was it only five years ago when I had my gall bladder? Was it only five years ago when these records came out? I believe I received most of them as CDs and not as downloadable files. How strange!
Yes, the means of communicating and transmitting things have become more revolutionary than the things being communicated and transmitted. But then I'm not sure what would be considered an innovation in music. People yelling in 11/8 time with the sounds of rainfall forever looped while synthetic horses are whipped? (No actual horses were harmed in the making of this music.)
Song is still song, however. A good one makes you stand up and be counted. No matter what year was "better," we have improved dentistry, cheaper air-conditioning and a government that...well, let's quit while we're even.
Let's look back and sing!
25) Joanna Newsom - Ys: With the help of Van Dyke Parks, anything is possible. Had you told me, say, in 1987 that Steve Albini would be involved in recording an album by a female singer and harpist, and that indie-rock fans would embrace it, I would tell you I had a copy of Roy Harper's Stormcock album to sell you.
24) Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions: Is this the album with "The Farmer In the Dell"? I keep forgetting.
23) Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways: Rick Rubin saw to it that the man in black would still be releasing recordings after his death. Cash could sing anything - and did. Rod McKuen, Hank Williams, Gordon Lightfoot and even Traditional got covered this time around.
22) Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped: I lost track of them when they added another guy. But back down to a fab four, SY sounded pretty good, almost like they wanted to write one final hit before going back to indie labels.
21) The Decemberists - The Crane Wife: Grad school does strange things to people.
20) Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country: By the title, you'd think they lived in New Jersey. But they're from Scotland. Which is an improvement over Wales, no? Someone please inform.
19) Liars - Drum's Not Dead: The band began in Los Angeles and then in order to get out of the sunshine they headed to Brooklyn, NY where their abrasive music finally had an excuse.
18) Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas: The Sonny and Cher of the sad café set? Or maybe the Mick Jagger and Tina Turner of the "We Don't Leave Our Room" committee? In any case, they're like chocolate and peanut butter together. Awesome and there's never enough.
17) Morrissey - Ringleaders of the Tormentors: Rule #38: 'Any album that should include songs with titles such as "You Have Killed Me," "The Youngest Was the Most Loved," "The Father Who Must Be Killed" and "To Me You Are A Work of Art" will be considered automatically great without hearing a note.'
16) Flaming Lips - At War With the Mystics: You may have been dazzled by this album the first time you heard it in a Budweiser commercial, but I was totally stoked when I heard it supporting Dell computers. I can totally see why admen would push Flaming Lips music. Because when I think of moneyed consumers, I think of Flaming Lips fans.
14) Ghostface Killah - Fishscale: As a member of hip-hop's most crowded band, the Wu-Tang Clan, ol' Ghostface wracked up a huge critical hit with Fishscale, receiving an A+ for his effort, despite only attending half the classes.
13) Scott Walker - The Drift: If this album doesn't make you sacrifice your sibling, nothing will. Not to be confused with the doofus in Wisconsin.
12) Pearl Jam - Pearl Jam: Alterna-grunge gods from the 1990s finally get around to naming an album after themselves. Such modesty!
11) Cat Power - The Greatest: Named The Greatest because she was afraid no one would buy the album if it were called The Mediocre.
9) The Go-Betweens - That Striped Sunlight Sound: While it was also released as a DVD to better see the group in action, the CD allows you to listen without crashing your car. It's like a Greatest Hits album but with new versions of each song. Either you own it or it owns you!
8) Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings The Flood: The indie-rock world is always starved for women. It often resembles a YMCA. Case is a valiant warrior. We need more. Can we set up a kiosk at the mall?
7) TV On the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain: Named Album of the Year by SPIN magazine and ranking quite high on the Village Voice Critics' Poll - along with Bob Dylan's Modern Times - Cookie Mountain is a return to complicated music. Math-rockers wait in the wings plotting their takeover for when their time arrives.
6) The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls In America: Singer Craig Finn is a loudmouth with a lot of music critics for friends. He likes Jack Kerouac and rambles like he's the U.S. equivalent to Mark E. Smith, meaning he isn't allergic to sunshine and even exposes his heart.
5) My Morning Jacket - Okonokos: If you're going to play classic rock 21st Century-style, you still need to release a double-live album. Everyone knows that.
4) Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit: Whimsy doesn't much play in the U.S. where people like it hard and heavy so they can feel cool blasting it from their trucks. That's what happens when you have too much land. Over in Europe everyone's jammed in tight and gets the same rain.
3) Black Stone Cherry - Black Stone Cherry: I thought I was the only person in the world who likes these guys, but I just found out my friend's mother has great taste, too. C'mon, people. Get with it. Let's make it three!
2) Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere: With the first single ("Crazy") to reach #1 on the UK charts based on downloads, Gnarls Barkley represent the future of mankind. But then they also released their album on vinyl, so maybe they're hedging their bets in case the future isn't what we expect it to be.
1) Amy Winehouse - Back to Black: Poor Amy is another rock star who read the manual backwards. Being a drug addict comes after you are rich and famous for a few years. If you start out that way, you have nowhere to go but down. Really, it's a bad career move unless you're Keith Richards and can live to tell about it. Everyone else gets screwed.