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Best of the aughts: Zeroing in on music

Musicians find freedom with new technology

POSTED: December 31, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Sure, Elvis' crooning and hip shaking forever changed the trajectory of rock music in the 1950s. But a little college project that caught hold among music lovers in 1999 completely blew the lid off the entire genre.

Yes, we're supposed to be talking about things that happened in music, movies and other parts of pop culture between 2000 and 20009 in this special edition of Get Out. But I have to mention Napster because that file sharing program, invented in 1999, but which caught on in 2000 changed the entire record industry. And that single computer program set the stage for the entire decade of musical rebellion.

Because suddenly, the consumer really was in control. Forget the Billboard charts; instead, people were soon gobbling up MP3s for their iPods and burning CDs of their favorite artists for their friends. Finally, people could network online and share their music. Soon after, MySpace allowed bands to interact directly with their fans and post their own music, all without having to hire a webmaster. And with a simple PayPal button on a Web site, any band with a following - take Gainesville native Allison Weiss, for example - can collect contributions and produce an album sans record company.

And what did all this do to the music of the last 10 years? It allowed bands to get more creative, follow their own muse and worry more about their fans and less about what kind of deadline the record company has put on them. It allowed them to record their own EPs and full-length albums, selling them directly to fans at shows set up via Web networking.

The result? Rock music doesn't exist anymore. Today we have post-rock, Americana and electronic-indie forms of music.

Don't know what those are? Don't worry; that's half the fun of it.

Behold, 25 of the best albums of the last decade (in no particular order):

Radiohead: The entire body of work, from "Kid A" to "In Rainbows"

Radiohead has always been a band on the cutting edge, but "In Rainbows" was the icing on the cake for this decade since the band produced and sold the album directly from its Web site — at whatever price you wanted to pay for it.

Interpol: "Turn on the Bright Lights"

True, I saw these guys in a warehouse in Miami right before this album hit it big, but that has no influence here. It's as if Joy Division reincarnated itself as 20-something hipsters about to change the world.

The Postal Service: "Give Up"

A perfect example of how you can make beautiful music while living far from your bandmate. Ben Gibbard penned smart lyrics, recorded them and sent them to Jimmy Tamborello for some music. You could almost say the U.S. Postal Service really was the third bandmate.

Outkast: "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"

I dare you to keep from dancing when you listen to "Hey Ya!" There was a point where you couldn't go to a public event and not hear that song.

The Shins: "Chutes Too Narrow"

While everyone clamors about this band's first album, "Oh, Inverted World," I'm going to lend my props to their second full-length release. It's brighter, poppier and really fun to listen to.

The White Stripes: "White Blood Cells"

Among the garage rock bands of the early 2000s, this one catches The White Stripes just before they were too cool for school. It's also a great example of fun, campy, catchy tunes.

The Decemberists: "Picaresque"

It takes a lot of chutzpah to form a band that creates a sound reminiscent of 18th century Russia (at least, that's the mental image I get when listening to this band), but it works really, really well.

Wilco: "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"

Finally, Americana music goes mainstream. And there's not a bad song on the album.

Fleet Foxes: "Fleet Foxes"

It's subtle yet sweet and manages to take Americana music into an entirely new direction.

Coldplay: "A Rush of Blood to the Head"

Sweeping melodies and smart song writing, but always tinged with sadness.

Green Day: "American Idiot"

I have a soft spot for Green Day because "Dookie" coincides with my freshman year in college. But you gotta give this band props for not only continuing to ROCK all these years and not die of a drug overdose, but also bringing back the rock protest album.

Eminem: "The Marshall Mathers LP"

Don't think that because this album is on my list I own it or am a fan of Eminem. But you can't deny the influence this album had on at least the first half of this decade, not to mention the addition of "slim shady" into our lexicon.

Death Cab for Cutie: "Plans"

Note, however, that this is a near tossup with "Transatlanticism," but edged ahead of it because of the sweetest, most endearing song that is track five on the CD. If you don't have it yet, get it and hear what I'm talking about.

The National: "Boxer"

Rich, dreamy, melancholy and mature.

Of Montreal: "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?"

I'm really, really glad I'm not this guy's ex-wife. But a relationship fraught with anger sure does make for a great album. Plus, you gotta give the Athens kids some props, too.

The Strokes: "Is This It"

These guys, along with Interpol, helped usher in the wave of garage rock that crashed onto the music scene in the early part of the decade. And they're pretty darn catchy, too.

Amy Winehouse: "Back to Black"

Rehab jokes aside, this girl can sing. And no matter how many times you listen to this album, the songs never get tired. And her strength (or, for that matter, weakness) keeps shining through.

Justin Timberlake: "Justified"

Whaaaa? (sound of whiplash-inducing head turning). Yes, Justin Timberlake is among this list of indie bands. But you know what? This album proved what many people already knew: The boy's got talent. Well, that and the fact that we can still embrace a pop album.

Bright Eyes: "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning"

Yes, Conor Oberst of the Omaha, Neb., cadre that sing mopey songs. But gosh darn it, the chicks dig it.

Elliott Smith: "Figure 8"

I wish I knew about this guy before he died. Fantastic songwriter who balances melancholy and upbeat with a catchy piano beat.

Sigur Ros: "()"

How's this for the ultimate band of the aughts, going against all convention: They sing songs in a made-up language! But I promise, if you give this album a listen, you'll be swept away by its melodic wonder.

Yo La Tengo: "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out"

Only recently, this band has started to get the mainstream recognition it deserves. This album catches them as they're about to start their slow but steady upswing.

Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"

Along with being home to one of the best singles ever written ("Do You Realize?"), how can you not love an album dedicated to helping a Japanese girl battle evil-natured robots?

Arcade Fire: "Funeral"

A stunning mix of dramatic vocals, piano and good old-fashioned grinding guitar.



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