And so, without any fanfare, let me introduce to you my favorite (non-Indian) music of the past decade:
St. Apollonia by Beirut
St. Apollonia by Beirut is probably my favorite song of the decade. Beirut began as Zach Condon’s solo project, combining Eastern European and Balkan folk with pop (in Condons bedroom). The second album, The Flying Club Cup, is a true masterpiece and contains St. Apollonia– the mournful, soulful song with the haunting lyrics that I can’t figure out. My song of the decade.
I’ve already a couple of love letters to The Strokes on this blog, so let me quote from my last one, where I named their Is This It? as my album of the decade:
On the 28th of January, 2002 I attended a concert by The Strokes. […] At the time I thought they were great live, with good songs, but nothing beyond that. But I bought their t-shirt on the way out. And I bought their album soon after. Their music lodged itself in my brain, and hasn’t left since. The soundtrack to my post-2001 life, my post-college life, my post-India life.
Their next two albums, First Impressions of Earth and Room on Fire, were also great. And since I’ve already waxed poetic about their debut album, here is Under Control from their third album:
- True Love Waits: This is the first Radiohead song that I fell in love with and is still my favorite of them all. I’m not living, I’m just killing time.
- Like Spinning Plates (I Might Be Wrong Live version): Some day I want to write a song like this. This haunting piano ballad feels so simple, but it’s insidious. While you make pretty speeches, I’m being cut to shreds.
- Jigsaw Falling in to Place: From their latest album, In Rainbows, this song just makes me happy while driving. And sometimes that’s enough.
Radiohead performing Like Spinning Plates live at Bonnaroo:
Man by Mamer
This is probably my favorite song of 2009. It’s an Uighur song, part of what is supposed to be a new “chinagrass” (think bluegrass) music movement. Yes, this was probably the year of I noticed Uighurs: Guantanamo Uighurs being released to Palau, Uighurs uprising against the Chinese government, and this song.
Paper Planes by M.I.A.
Man, those gun shots are catchy.
All I wanna do is *bang* *bang* *bang*
and *ka-ching* take your money.
And so is the rest of the song.
O Brother Where Art Thou?
There isn’t a misstep in this soundtrack album (or in this movie, for that matter). It’s the album that brought about a revival of American roots music, and one of the few in recent times that I could play from start to finish without a single skipped track. I’m especially a sucker for Allison Krauss’ Down to the River to Pray and the various versions of I am a Man of Constant Sorrow.
Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP, 8 Mile and The Eminem Show
You may not agree with me, but Eminem is a modern (if angry) poet first, and a musician second. He has a great sense for musical rhythm and riffs, but an even better one for lyrical rhythm. His more recent albums haven’t impressed as much because, to quote David Wooderson, I grow older and Eminem stays the same.
For a glimpse in to what Eminem is and what Brittany Murphy could have been:
Shipping Up to Boston by Dropkick Murphys
These Boston boys spend more energy in a 2 minute song than I do in a year. Here there are live at the St. Patrick’s Day parade here in Boston.
I’m a sailor peg
And I lost my leg
I climbed up the topsails
I lost my leg
I’m shipping up to Boston
Colin Meloy/The Decemberists
I’ve already named The Decemberists’ The Hazards of Love my album of the year, and that’s where you’ll find The Rake’s Song. It’s a nasty song about a rake who kills his children after his wife dies. It was written by Colin Meloy, who also wrote Wonder, which is beautiful song about his newborn child. You will not find two more different songs in sentiment written by the same person. Meloy plays characters in each of his songs (although, who is he playing in Dracula’s Daughter?) and this makes his songs more like parts of a musical, or an opera, that never existed.
A tumblin’ in Dublin and the next thing you know
A weird and a wonderful show.
The Blower’s Daughter by Damien Rice
This song opened and closed Mike Nichols’ movie Closer. Both times it is focused on Natalie Portman walking alone in a crowd.
And so it is
Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
Clocks by Coldplay
Coldplay is great, but most of their stuff wouldn’t fit on this list. Except for that intro to Clocks:
Of course, if you like that go give Politik, Yellow, and Viva la Vida a listen. And the entire album Rush of Cold Blood to the Head.
Kill Bill Soundtrack
This is actually two soundtracks: Volume 1 and Volume 2. And I don’t think they would be your favorites without having seen the films. But if you have– from the opening titles set to My Baby Shot Me Down to the exuberant credits set to the $1 version of Malaguena Salerosa– you know the music can’t be separated from the film. And if it’s a movie that you would love to be watching all the time but can’t, then the next best thing is the soundtrack.
Here’s Y Tu Mira:
This music was compiled through my iTunes smart playlists, and this has only been possible because of diligent tagging of meta-data in my digital library. I’ve described part of my system here a few weeks ago. I will do another one on Hindi music soon (only possible because I tag every Hindi song as Genre=Bollywood in my iTunes library).