Best of the Decade: Music (48/47)


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The countdown (which started here) continues with the first indie-rock entry and an unintentional "Lil" theme on the singles list:


Album: Neon Bible — Arcade Fire (Merge, 2007):

From my 2007 year-end piece:

I never fully connected with the drama on Arcade Fire's beloved-in-some-quarters 2004 debut, Funeral, but on Neon Bible this Canadian band of ex-pat Americans take their previously private agonies and anxieties public by naming what they fear: "holy war," inherited debt, salesmen at the door, a rising tide that could drown us all. Musically, this sweeping, mournful lament is more stirring than engaging, in a manner that I've rejected in other bands. But this music is more intimate, more ragged, more organic. I think the range of voices — male and female — helps considerably. I've also decided that, rather than an indie-rock U2, they're more a middle-class Mekons. Clincher: "The Well and the Lighthouse," a subtle parable about cultural (read: indie-rock) isolation in which the band chooses the lighthouse and the responsibility that comes with it.

Song sample: "Windowsill"

Single: "A Milli" — Lil Wayne (2008)

Just a strong, stream-of-consciousness flow over a stark beat, this is certainly not the decade's most accessible hip-hop hit. But it is the decade's most distinctive great MC in his purest form. The official video:


Album: Party Music — The Coup (75 Ark, 2001)

From my 2001 year-end piece:

The best political rap crew since Public Enemy, sure, but where Chuck D. needed Flavor Flav to cut his blustery bullshit with comic relief, a key to Oakland activist Boots Riley's triumph is that he effortlessly connects the personal to the political and never comes off as just another programmatic sourpuss. And so Party Music's leftist agitprop is never less than human, the militant drive of "Everythang" balanced by the righteous delicacy of "Wear Clean Draws," the Molotov-cocktail sloganeering of "Ghetto Manifesto" by the profound compassion of "Nowalaters," the wicked wit of "5 Million Ways To Kill a C.E.O." by the way Riley posits the anti-religion "Heven Tonite" as one of the year's truest love songs. And DJ Pam the Funktress always manages to scratch you where it itches.

Song Sample: "Wear Clean Draws"

Single: "The Way We Ball" — Lil Flip (2002)

This pre-dates the Houston rap explosion by a few years, but to my ears it's the smoothest and funniest single to come out of that scene. The official video:


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