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Albums of the decade - The Ex-Communicator

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April 9th, 2009


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11:14 am - Albums of the decade
My son and I were discussing what would be the 'albums of the decade' when we look back at the past ten years. I personally find it difficult to identify recent albums with the stature and staying power of albums of previous decades - such as Blue Train by John Coltrane, Revolver by the Beatles, Hunky Dory, Tupelo Honey, Hejira, Never Mind the Bollocks, The Queen is Dead, OK Computer and so on.

This may just be because I am out of touch with modern music - you may find when you are my age you feel the same, and you'll be surprised how fine you feel about it.

Or it may be that the 'album' paradigm is dead, and that music is more diverse and fragmented than that now. Perhaps the 'big album' survived from 'Songs for Swinging Lovers' to 'OK Computer' and is gone now.

Or perhaps it is that the noughties, like the eighties, just aren't that good for music. I mean, I was in my twenties in the eighties, I went out every night and had a great time. Live comedy was fantastic in those days, but music was pretty moribund. Perhaps we are in a slow patch just now.

But even given those possibilities, what might be the albums we will look back on from the future, as great and memorable albums of this decade? I am thinking 'The Marshall Mathers LP' by eminem, 'Back to Black' by Amy Winehouse, something by Kanye West? 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'? Something by Queens of the Stone Age or the White Stripes? One of my favourite albums of the last ten years has been the first Franz Ferdinand LP.

These are just off the top of my head - what do you think?

(24 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:hano
Date:April 9th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)
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There's some great stuff out there, it's just not as mainstream. Oddly enough most of the stuff I can think of comes from Canada, check out records from
Godspeed You Black Emperor
Broken Social Scene
The Constantines (esp the 'Shine A Light' LP)
Explosions In The Sky
Mogwai
Asian Dub Foundation
16 Horsepower
At The Drive In
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From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
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I'm not doubting that good obscure music exists - it existed in the eighties too - I've even heard of most of those acts you mention. Well my kids are 17 and 20 now.

But my question is - are there any big albums of the noughties which we will look back on as having great stature? Classics if you like.
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From:andrewducker
Date:April 9th, 2009 10:50 am (UTC)
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Looking through the metacritic reviews from 2001 onwards is largely turning up a bunch of "meh". Which may well mean I'm old, or just out of tune with popular music.
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From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 10:55 am (UTC)
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I am pretty sure that even my mum had heard of The Beatles and Pink Floyd, and neither you nor I could be quite as out of touch as she is.
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From:andrewducker
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:02 am (UTC)
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True. And I own good albums by The Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, Linkin Park, Lemon Jelly and Muse, for instance. I don't think any of those are as groundbreaking, but that may well be because (a) there don't seem to be any entirely new genres popping up in the same way they used to be and (b) I've heard lots of music that was similar in the past, so some of the impact will be lost on me.

Actually, I think I'll go listen to Black Holes and Revelations again. That was a great album.
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From:ninebelow
Date:April 9th, 2009 12:12 pm (UTC)
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I've just had a look at Metacritic and here are some from their list that I think will last:

Illinois by Sufjan Stevens
Funeral by The Arcade Fire
The Blueprint by Jay-Z
Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea by PJ Harvey
Ágætis Byrjun by Sigur Rós

From just before that period (1998) Music Has the Right to Children by Boards Of Canada is already viewed as a classic.
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From:andrewducker
Date:April 9th, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)
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I'll be having a listen on Spotify over the next while :->
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From:lamentables
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
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It's my opinion that this is a terrific time for good music. I've never been aware of so much good music around, so many bands I'd like to see live. I've never bought as much music as I have in the last 5 years. (And whilst he'll have different opinions about specific bands/albums, I'll bet that abrinsky would say the same thing.) But, given that Godspeed, Broken Social Scene and Explosions would all be on my list of great bands of the time, I expect you'd classify my entire list as obscure.
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From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:38 am (UTC)
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But do you think people in 40 years time will still be talking about those albums, and recognise them from just the name (like 'Revolver') and all the tracks? Perhaps so. I don't rule out that I am like some person of the 1960s all 'who is this beatles that all the youngsters are talkin about?'
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From:lamentables
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:59 am (UTC)
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I think the people that are talking about them now will quite probably be talking about them in 40 years. I doubt that the people who are not interested in them now will suddenly and belatedly develop an interest. Classic to me, not to you.

I have never talked about Blue Train by John Coltrane and have no reason to suppose that will change in the next 40 years. Classic to you, not to me.

I guess I'm questioning the concept of a 'classic' album. When I hear/read bands talking about influences and albums that are important to them, that's something I find interesting or meaningful. The '1,001 albums to hear before you die' idea turns me off completely. When you say 'what might be the albums we will look back on from the future, as great and memorable albums of this decade', who that 'we' denotes makes all the difference to what they consider classic and whether or not I care about their opinion. (Not that I'm asking for a definition of 'we', I'm just saying 'it all depends'.)
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 9th, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)
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who that 'we' denotes makes all the difference to what they consider classic

Absolutely. Generally in popular music criticism, "we" means "people who write for / used to write for NME". I never much cared abut their opinions at the time, and I see no reason to do so retrospectively.
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 9th, 2009 12:43 pm (UTC)
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And indeed "why don't these youngsters appreciate the great skiffle classics?"

I do get a sense of "Arr, get off my lawn" when I light upon the Kerrang channel. Heavy rock/metal is such thin gruel these days compared to when I was drinking illegally in dingy clubs.

By contrast, pop music by female singers or all-female groups seems much richer, more interesting and, for want of a better word, ballsier than it was 10-20 years ago. If this is indeed more than just my subjective impression, I wonder if it's because more women are involved in the songwriting and producing than was previously the case. I'd look into it more rigorously, if I could be arsed.
From:egretplume
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
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I don't listen to as much music as I used to.
But in the past ten years, I have really enjoyed albums by Antony & the Johnsons, Keane, and OutKast. I know Keane is kinda lightweight but I just find them lovely.
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From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC)
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Actually I have got Keane on my i-Pod. My kids are like 'Mum! Keane!'
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:24 am (UTC)
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I think the single has once again become pre-eminent over the album, driven by the mp3/iTunes single track purchase model. This has either led to, or simply coincides with, many of the best contemporary songwriters and producers concentrating on the single track form: I'd say chart pop music is a hell of a lot better in this decade than it was in the nineties.

As far as whether a given time period is good for music or not, that very much depends on what sort of music you're talking about. If you were into thrash/alternative metal, for example, then the period 1986-1992 is something of a golden age, starting with the release of some of the classic albums of the genre (Metallica's Master of Puppets and Slayer's Reign in Blood), passing through the high point of that musical tradition, and ending with a flowering of more diverse and surprising albums (Suicidal Tendencies' The Art of Rebellion, Faith No More's Angel Dust, Rollins Band's The End of Silence), before the genre slides into creative exhaustion. A similar sort of story could be told of many musical genres which are generally given short shrift in mainstream music criticism.
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From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:50 am (UTC)
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Thrash metal is not part of the solution, it's part of the problem! By which, apart from a gratuitous dig at the music, I mean it's an example of fragmentation. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
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From:iainjcoleman
Date:April 9th, 2009 01:02 pm (UTC)
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In which case, you have to decouple the fragmentation from the apparent demise of the album paradigm: these are all classic albums that I've cited.

Indeed, I'd be tempted to push the fragmentation back to sometime around the mid-seventies, which is when I think popular music genres solidify and split off into silos.
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From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
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Yes, that's two uses of fragmentation. Though I do think technology makes it easier for a consumer to specialise (like last year I bought a lot of Swing Revival - I could never have done that without amazon and downloading) and that helps fragment taste, like it has with the telly.
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From:ninebelow
Date:April 9th, 2009 12:45 pm (UTC)
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I'd say chart pop music is a hell of a lot better in this decade than it was in the nineties.

Yes. I just had a think now and easily came up with a dozen classic albums for the Nineties but struggled for the Noughties. Partially this is simply because I am listening to less albums but I think a lot of it was to do with prioritising singles.
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From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 01:37 pm (UTC)
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I think there is a tendency to fragment consumption into tracks rather than albums, because of changes in technology.
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From:storme
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:30 am (UTC)
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There are quite a few albums from 2000 onwards in the '1001 albums you must hear before you die' book - all of the ones you've mentioned, for a start, plus things like the Gorillaz and Rufus Wainwright and The Flaming Lips.

I actually quite like the music of the noughties, I think.

[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 9th, 2009 11:34 am (UTC)
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Gorillaz is definitely a good call, and surely an album that will be remembered.

ETA - I've just had a chance to look through it, and there are some good choices I forgot - Flaming Lips I should have mentioned, and the Zutons, The Streets and the Scissor Sisters

Edited at 2009-04-09 01:42 pm (UTC)
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From:steverogerson
Date:April 9th, 2009 12:59 pm (UTC)
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The 2000s list was interesting in that even though I have bought albums that have come out in the 2000s (I am probably buying more music than I did in the 1990s) I only have one in that 2000s list, and that is Norah Jones Come Away With Me.
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From:andrewducker
Date:April 9th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
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It has Violator, Floodland and The Downward Spiral, I'm happy :->

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