(This post is part of Frequency’s coverage of the best music of the past decade. You can see all of that coverage in one place by clicking here. And be sure to tune in Dec. 18, when I’ll post “Near/Far,” our annual, downloadable MP3 compilation of the best music of 2009, to go along with our year-in-review package in that day’s GO! Magazine.)
Renee Heister helps a customer at Ranch Records in Bend. Photo by Dean Guernsey
It’s guest post time again! Today we have a fun one. As we all know, record store clerks have better taste and know more about music than anyone else on Earth. So I stopped in Bend’s independent record store, Ranch Records, and asked the friendly staffers there if they’d be willing to reveal their favorite albums of the past decade on Frequency. Not surprisingly, they agreed. They’re music nerds. They cannot resist.
So here are each Rancher’s picks for the top 5 albums of the 21st century so far, in no particular order. And that line up there about record store clerks having great taste and knowing more about music than anyone else? It sounded like sarcasm, but it wasn’t. Most record store clerks rule. So next time you need some knowledgeable guidance in your music-purchasing endeavors from someone whose job revolves solely around music, and not around cell phones and TVs and other stuff, drop into Ranch Records.
Destroyer, “Destroyer’s Rubies” (2006) — Canadian Dan Bejar’s songs are crowded with beautiful poetic gestures and references to everything from modern painters to Albert Camus and everything in between.
The Clientele, “Suburban Light” (2000) — The Clientele create shadowy, reverb-drenched music that is perfect for rainy afternoons and late-night walks. These
songs have painted more of my nights this decade than any other.
Animal Collective, “Strawberry Jam” (2007) — “Strawberry Jam” is one of the most colorful and joyous expressions of music that has ever been recorded.
Portishead, “Third” (2008) — After a 10-year hiatus, Portishead return with a modern masterpiece full of texture, mood and overwhelming authority.
Califone, “Heron King Blues” (2004) — If there ever was an album that needed to be heard through headphones, it is “Heron King Blues.” Every inch of Califone’s swampy folk record is drenched with so much sound that it results in one of the most rewarding listens of the decade.
Kings of Leon, “Youth & Young Manhood” (2003)
The Strokes, “Is this It” (2001)
Once, “Soundtrack” (2007)
The Shins, “Wincing the Night Away” (2007)
Spoon, “Gimme Fiction” (2005)
Grizzly Bear, “Veckatimest” (2009)
Wilco, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (2001)
Radiohead, “Kid A” (2000)
Dirty Projectors, “Bitte Orca” (2009)
The Strokes, “Is this It” (2001)
Bright Eyes, “Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground” (2002) — Hope amidst uncertainty, guilt and struggle between altruism and egoism.
Weakerthans, “Left and Leaving” (2000) — Highly literate wimp-punk-pop-rock observations.
Bjork, “Vespertine” (2001) — Sexy pagan poetry with Matmos on beats.
Low, “Things we lost in the Fire” (2001) — Beautiful music with an existential darkness.
Bonnie Prince Billy, “Ease Down the Road” (2001) — Makes one feel less hideously about chivalrous carnality.
Elliot Smith, “Figure 8” (2000) — A poet’s last attempt at happiness. He drops the acoustic, low-fi sound to weave beautiful melody and heavy instrumentation through each song.
Kings of Leon, “Ah Ha Shake Heartbreak” (2005) — I’m a sucker for childish pop music. A coming of age album really. I’ve listened to it on repeat while walking the University of Oregon campus.
Arcade Fire, “Funeral” (2004) — Powerful album of love, lust and… Truly captivating, especially live.
The Walkmen, “100 Miles Off” (2006) — The singer has a Dylan croon to his voice, almost undecipherable at times. The band complements this with piano, surf sounds one minute, then heavy, messy punk-noise the next. A soundtrack to any summer.
Dungen, “Tio Bitar” (2007) — Pronounced DOON-YEN. This Swedish psych-style, prog-rock band are obviously jazz influenced as well. You don’t have to understand what they say to appreciate their sound. All you need is a bike and a good pair of headphones.
Talib Kweli & Hi Tek, “Reflection Eternal” (2002)
Pinback, “Summer in Abaddon” (2004)
Califone, “Roomsound” (2006)
Yo La Tengo, “I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass” (2006)
Ween, “Quebec” (2003)