Artists of the Decade

Looking back ten years, this decade has produced some of the coolest music. Here are my "hits" and "misses":


Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and U2 did not rest on their laurels, stayed productive in the studio, toured endlessly with real fire, and ended the decade on top of their game.
Not a bad album in the bunch. Not bad for a bunch of geezers whose collective musical experience rests at 130 years.

The Animal Collective, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and a dozen other young bands went their own way and proved that indie music, produced on small labels, is the sound for today. Quirky yes; boring no. Made me forget the 1960s,1970s,1980s, 1990s, and actually live in the moment.

Radiohead put a bullet in the heads of every major music label by offering their music up at any price. They could get away with this because of the brilliance of the music. Name a better band that so effortlessly put out work as diverse as Kid A and In Rainbows. The new Beatles? You bet.

Hats off to Timbaland and Kanye West for taking Hip Hop to new places. Hard not to admire the ear candy that diverse artists like Missy Elliott routinely served up. And to M.I.A., who made it global, without borders, mixing in sounds at will like a chef adds spices.

And kudos to Apple, whose creative energy designed a device called the iPod and software called iTunes that brought convenience and portability to hundreds of millions of end consumers.


Watching talented individuals like Ryan Adams and Elliot Smith self destruct.

Having America buy into the herd mentality of American Idol.

The vinyl revolution. Way too much hype for a medium that failed three decades ago. 2 million units actually shipped; yet thousands of Audiogon posts waxing estatic. Nobody actually talks about the dead wax they own and the wide range of quality problems. I pity the suckers who bought into the 180 versus 200 gram hype.
Radiohead without a doubt. Rolling Stone agrees.

Ironic, in that I think their masterpiece (OK Computer) dates from 1997 I think.
Agree totally with you about some things. Really enjoyed many indie artists from last decade; Cat Power, Fleet Foxes, Shins, Black Keys, among others. Not sure if Radiohead's unique marketing & stature really "puts a bullet" in a dying business model. The music labels themselves along with a public that largely expects music for free was way ahead of Radiohead in pulling the trigger. Personally, Kanye West's music does nothing for me, irrespective of his business talents. Missy Elliot is a very inventive, interesting artist though (to my middle aged ears.) Vinyl Revolution hype is the result of an industry frantically searching for some, any, good news at all. Saying vinyl "failed" is a pejorative way of taking note of the fact means of communication evolved. It didn't fail any more than film processed in the darkroom "failed" because most people use digital imaging now.

Wilco (Had best album of this decade, IMHO)
Flaming Lips
Death Cab for Cutie
The many projects of Jack White (Stripes, Raconteurs, etc.)
Radiohead (Undeniable, though not my bag)


As with any decade, too many to list here. But I have to agree that the "starmaking machine" that is American Idol and it's many offshoots is particularly repulsive.

Dylan, Springsteen, and U2 are most definitely the artists of the 60's, 70's, and 80's, respectively. Not this decade, however. Although it is true that their work was largely very good. (I think Bruce ended this decade with a thud.)

Maybe Brendan Benson with 3 excellent solo records and 2 (pretty decent if less excellent) records with The Raconteurs.

Lindsey Buckingham had 3 terrific solo records, a spectacular live CD/DVD and many first rate contributions to Fleetwood Mac's "Say You Will".

Neither of these is exactly The Beatles in the '60s or, for that matter, maybe not even Credence in 1969. I guess it was not such a steallar decade for pop music.

Tord Gustavsen Trio is my choice. Their three albums have all been in this decade and are all spectacular.
I cannot understand how otherwise seemingly intelligent people could say anything positive whatsoever about 'rap'. I remain so thoroughly unconvinced that even my objections are objecting. To my ears, it is the glorification of the most base animal aspects of the human condition.

Regarding that "glorification of the most base animal aspects" thing. That was once the precise argument against rock 'n roll music. I admit that I also find rap offputting - but maybe that's just me (and maybe you) getting older.

Every decade should produce music that pisses off the older generation. That is why punk and hip-hop will never die.
And it will morph into something new.

I agree with Jack White. What a talented player and producer. One of a kind.

I think the next decade will define the Kings of Leon. Everything clicked on the last album--let's see if they can take it up a notch.
'Micachu and the Shapes', a band that I think will be up there
in the artists' of the decade, a very exciting new group who have been given their own genre called 'junk shop punk'. Maybe a bit to radical for some (or a lot).I think they are excellent and a musical breath of fresh air.
Tfkaudio, are you referring Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco? I spent months trying to like it and it never sunk in. Just now I put it on and all the songs sound familiar, as you might guess, but they still miss. I still don't get them.
One more candidate: Eels

Started in 200 with "Daisies of the Galaxy" IMHO a flat out great record.

The next CD, "Shootenany" was terrific and was followed by "Souljacker" which was interesting but not particularly special.

The double CD "Blinking Lights" was (along with "Daisies") IMHO on the short list for Best of the Decade.

The most recent "Hombre Lobo" didn't do much for me.

Overall, this band (basically Mark Everett) probably produced more music in the last ten years that I found memorable than any other.

Didn't come to mind at first because the latest release was the weakest.

I agree with you Marty, the Eels (Mark Everett) has released some of my favorite albums of the last decade. Hombre Loco was a pretty big disappointment to me though, a real loss of artistic momentum.
To all you defenders of 'rap': How low do we have to get as a culture before you guys admit that there has been serious deterioration? Outright glorification of criminality is not enough for you? It is not like rock-n-roll in the 50's at all. Elvis did not advocate gratuitous violence. Neither is it generational. I am sure if you played rap (and explained it) to a group of ancient greeks they would agree something is wrong here.
"How low do we have to get as a culture before you guys admit that there has been serious deterioration?"

I guess we're going to find out!

BTW I am ambvilant to most rap/hip hop but I do believe it has a rightful place in modern culture. It is a modern day equivalent of what rock and roll was back in the 50's....we've just come a long way since back then, for better or for worse. Personally, I blame Howard Stern!

I agree that there is a lot wrong but music is typically just a response to the times, not a cause of it.

Both good rap and classic rock and roll makes for good workout music. I put together a workout CD including music from Chuck Berry, The BEAtles, Dick Dale, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Flo Rida. It is awesome!

Mapman: 50's R&R advocated a rather bland good time attitude, not criminality. When did Carl Perkins ever slap around hoes with the butt of his mac-10 before he sodomized them?
Yes, I refer to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Of all the new release albums I bought this decade, it's the one I would keep if I could only have one.
As you don't get Wilco, so I don't get Radiohead. No one is wrong or right. I'm just glad a few records sunk in really deep for me this decade. It sure wasn't the 60's. And there are some who would say "Thank goodness for that!".
It's mysterious, and that's a part of why we love music.
Remember Felix Mendelssohn's dad ragging on him about "You and your endless Beethoven!"?
The more things change...



'50s/'60s rock 'n' roll was about sex - not an innocent good time by the standards of the day. Race music was said to cater to the "primitive" instincts of the Negroes. It's easy to dismiss the idea today, but "Satisfaction" drove some parents to hide the women and children. Over time, people like David Bowie, Madonna, and even Adam Lambert have continued to offend people with their attitudes toward sex (and religion).

I'm not defending rap overall - your comments on the associated culture of violence are IMHO impossible to refute. I also find the incessant posturing tedious in the extreme. OTOH, there is some worthwhile stuff - a fair bit of Grandmaster Flash's music works for me and the occasional "Fear of A Black Planet" or "Handlebars" (by Flobots) strikes me as serious political commentary. For the most part, though, I can live without it.


BTW - The life story of Jerry Lee Lewis might make a few rap stars blush.
Chasmal, I'm not a "defender" of rap, I dislike the majority of it. But you're painting the genre with too broad a brush. Not every hip-hop or rap artist postures like a thug or a sexual miscreant. I've worked with a hip-hop artist who has a degree in Fine Art from a great college, reads like a philosophy major, and abhors the elements of popular culture you decry as much as you do. Missy Elliott works pretty regularly with several charities, she really doesn't fit my definition of a debaser of culture. It's fine to take issue with an individual artist's work, but damning a whole genre because of the worst attributes of some artists is resorting to stereotypes. In any event, we risk hijacking the thread. Maybe a new thread on this subject?
Count me in as a defender of rap music.
Lots of it is very good, and nearly all is cleverly done.
Should I dispel The Rolling Stones as sh1t just because
I do not particularly care for most of their music?
Of course not.
It is a tough issue for me to discuss rationally because rap/hip-hop is really the only music that I actually 'hate'. I ordinarily would not want to hate any music at all, but...I really do hate it. Absolutely nothing makes me cringe like that thumpity-thump rhythm with monotone a-melodic gutter slang on top. I hear it passing by out of car windows and it makes me long for the days when the worst thing you would hear might be 'Freddy and the Dreamers'.
Hey, he is kind of funny....
I wouldn't listen to it intently late at night for relaxation in place of Beethoven, Mahler, Ellington, or even The Beatles, but "Right Round" by Flo Rida (about a chick on a pole in a strip club I believe) is a great tune to press a bar or squeeze out some abdominal crunches to. Very catchy tune! Good R&R and danceable pop works also, but the others do not.

Different forms of music invoke different emotions serve different purposes. I do not mind music that reflects the dark side of society at any particular time, however I do object when it is misrepresented and fed to kids and others by the record companies as something more innocent than it in fact is. Record companies have been doing that with various genres since R&R first broke back in the 50's and became popular.
There is the dark side, and there is the dark side. Artistic merit ultimately doesn't distinguish light or dark; it just has to be good. I like my dark side same as the next man, but it has to transcend the common denominator of the ordinary...that's what makes it art. You can't get any darker than Mimoroglu, Balcom, the Velvet Underground, or Luigi Nono, and I love that!
Hey wait, did not the Velvets promote drugs (I am waiting for my man) and S&M/bondage (Venus in Furs)?

There is a lot of relevant "rap". I love the work by Common, the Roots, a Tribe called Quest, De La Soul, LL Cool J, Missy Elliott, etc....All real positive and uplifting.
Bongoman, you weren't reading me right. I like degenerate stuff! BUT IT HAS TO BE GOOD. I have never heard rap that wasn't simpleminded and ignorant. To me it sounds like the backwash of the tech age. Those 'performers' don't reject melody, they are incapable of it. Let's see one of them try a Motown style vocal harmony.
"I like degenerate stuff! BUT IT HAS TO BE GOOD. "

Good is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. The only objective measure is record sales. If a lot of people buy it, there is probably something good about it I have found.

"Those 'performers' don't reject melody, they are incapable of it. "

What % of rap is this true about compared to other forms of pop music I wonder?

"Let's see one of them try a Motown style vocal harmony."

That's old hat. Others have been there and done that. These guys/girls do something different for a different target audience.
'Good' is based on opinion, but to a point there is a greater cultural standard. Who determines that? Not the consumer, IMO. Thus:

"The only objective measure is record sales"

I am surprised Mapman, I usually end up agreeing with you. I think you might have your scenario reversed. Popularity with the masses seems to generally mean profound mediocrity, with certain rare exceptions. Doesn't the lowest common denominator usually win out in popular circles? Is this even in dispute anymore?

My comments about rap have nothing to do with either morality or a past vs present argument. I am just sick of that monotonous beat with an ignoran perspective on life droning on top of it. It seems unimaginative in the extreme.
>>"The only objective measure is record sales"<<


Boyz 2 Men
Sheryl Crow
Michael Bolton
Kenny G
Britney Spears
Jonas Brothers
Hannah Montana
Any rap "artist" (performer is a better word; artist connotes some semblance of talent)

Wanna rethink that statement?
"'Good' is based on opinion, but to a point there is a greater cultural standard."

One would hope so.

I'm just saying that high record sales is an objective indicator that a lot of people like something. High international record sales is an indicator that different cultures in different countries like something.

When a lot of people like something, there is usually something good about it, like talent, sex appeal or a catchy tune, to account for that. Of course some good marketing doesn't hurt either. But marketing alone cannot sustain an act with no talent, at least not for long, IMHO.

That doesn't mean that everything good is popular . There are many great recordings with poor sales, but at that point it is more of a subjective thing that cannot be measured.

I suppose things that remain somewhat popular over extended periods of time (after the marketing and hype is gone) and are not forgotten can be deemed objectively good due to longetivity, which is the ultimate measure.

BAch, Beethoven, and other classical composers are good examples. OTher more modern artists, like Ellington, Armstrong, Elvis, the Beatles and others that are no longer around but still have a following are other likely candidates (though The BEatles admittedly still have a substantial marketing machine in play).

In the end though, the only goodness that matters to each of us in the eye of the beholder/listener, I suppose.
Here's my list of non-electronic albums for me for the decade. I didn't let any one artist have more than one entry.

1-The Decemberists-Picaresque
2-Built To Spill-Ancient Melodies Of The Future
3-Phosphorescent-Aw Come Aw Wry
4-Rilo Kiley-The Execution Of All Things
5-M. Ward-Post-War
6-The Arcade Fire-Funeral
7-Panda Bear-Person Pitch
8-Cat Power-You Are Free
9-Neko Case-Blacklisted
10-The Avalanches-Since I Left You
11-Bon Iver-For Emma, Forever Ago
12-Iron & Wine-Our Endless Numbered Days
13-Japancakes-The Sleepy Strange
14-Thao With The Get Down Stay Down-We Brave Bee Stings And All
15-Sleater-Kinney-All Hands On The Bad One
16-J Dilla-Donuts
17-Sufjan Stevens-Illinois
18-Band Of Horses-Everything All The Time
19-Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Fever To Tell
20-Stars Of The Lid-And Their Refinement Of The Decline
22-The Microphones-The Glow Pt. 2
23-Ry Cooder & Manuel Galban-Mambo Sinuendo
24-The Flaming Lips-Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1
25-Blonde Redhead-23
26-Tord Gustavsen Trio-Being There
27-Steven Wilson-Insurgentes
28-Bill Frisell-Good Dog, Happy Man
29-Fleet Foxes-Fleet Foxes
30-My Morning Jacket-Z
31-Steve Tibbetts-A Man About A Horse
32-Bohren & Der Club Of Gore-Dolores
33-The White Stripes-White Blood Cells
34-The Beatles-Love
35-Sunn O)))-Black One
36-The New Pornographers-Electric Version
37-A.C. Newman-Get Guilty
38-Wilco-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
40-Rainer Maria-A Better Version Of Me
41-Black Mountain-In The Future
42-The Gutter Twins-Saturnalia
43-Brian Wilson-Smile
44-Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter-Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls Of The Soul
45-The Black Keys-Chulahoma
46-Pelican-What We All Come To Need
47-Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions-Bavarian Fruit Bread
48-Earth-Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method
49-Mogwai-Happy Songs For Happy People
50-Nik Bartsch's Ronin-Holon
">>"The only objective measure is record sales"<<"

Also longevity, as I pointed out.

We won't know how current artists that are popular today stack up against the greats for sure until somewhere way down the road.

PErsonally, I would not bet on any of those making it but that is just my subjective opinion. Record sales today say those acts have something going for them, even if not necessarily my cup of tea.

Then again, I saw The Wiggles live once with my family when the kids were younger and we all thought they were quite good, so what do I know? Maybe The Wiggles should be artist of the decade?

Cool list. I missed a couple of those. Thanks for the great post. I like many of your artists. Some of my faves not included in your list:

Dave Mathews Band: Big Whiskey and the GrooGux King
El Guincho: Alegranza
Calexico: Feist of Wire
Maria Taylor: LadyLuck
Neko Case: Middle Cyclone
The Vines: Melodia
Arctic Monkeys: Who the fuck are the Arctic Monkeys
Coldplay: LeftRightLeft
Hot Chip: The Warning
Lily Allen: Smile
M.I.A.: Kala
The xx: XX
Tokyo Police Club: A Lesson in Crime
Ry Cooder: Chavez Ravine
Burial: Untrue
The Throwdowns: Don't slow down
Missy Elliott: Under Construction
Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
Keren Ann: Keren Ann
Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
Cold War Kids: Robbers and Cowards
Alicia Keys: The Diary
Silversun Pickups: Carnavas
Chashmal: Based on your three criteria, you must have an epic Beyonce collection.
Steely Dan - Two Against Nature
Great release to kick off the decade for me, although equally as good was getting hold of the Sony Studio bootlegs - very tight live sets. Fagen's Morph the Cat, entertaining as well.

Allman Brothers - Hittin' The Note
Was thrilled with this release! Excellent tour - totally blown away with Derek Trucks. Started following him more after seeing him live - perhaps my artist of the decade.

Lucinda Williams - West
Wasn't really a fan until I heard this release. Wow.

The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath
This band! A rare nod to the Grammy judges for giving this band "Best Hard Rock Performance" this year.

Misses (quite literally):
Pretty much a decade devoid of Floyd. David Gilmore made an attempt at an original release that I mostly slept through. Roger Waters - Ça Ira (French for "That'll do", translated as There is Hope)???? Wake me from this coma.

Christopher Becker Whitley (August 31, 1960 – November 20, 2005)
An acquired taste for some, however I enjoyed this artist immensely - he will be sorely missed.
Another consideration for The Wiggles as artist of the decade:

They do not sing or rap about anything mean or nasty like a lot of those other well respected acts mentioned.

"Fruit Salad....yummy, yummy"!
Great topic!

My artist of the decade would go to Zero 7. No other band has spawned more successful solo careers and had such an impact on Lounge, or Downbeat music. Incredible.

Beck has continued to pour out a slew of great records and is as relevant today as he was in the late 90's.

Robert Pollard has once again been prolific this decade, whether it's writing and performing with Guided By Voices, or working as a solo artist. I love his work, a true Indie God.

Maynard James Keenan has been instrumental in making some truly amazing hard rock music this decade with his various bands including Tool, Perfect Circle and Puscifer.

Breakthrough Music Device of the Decade: The winner goes to iPod. No other device has had more of a dramatic impact over the last 20 years. Compressed music has been taken to a whole new level with the iPod. I have around 7,000 songs on mine.

Best Music Delivery Platform of the Decade: The winner goes to Internet radio and specifically Absolutely phenonimal personalized Internet Radio platform.
Anyone who does not like Britney Spears, has no taste in music, or they do, BAD!
I realize there's a limited audience for electronic music on this forum but I thought I'd share my Top 50 Electronic Music in addition to my Top 50 Rock:

3-Yagya-Will I Dream During The Process?
5-Susumu Yokota-Sakura
6-Ulrich Schnauss-A Strangely Isolated Place
8-Distance-My Demons
10-Julien Neto-Le Fumeur De Ciel
11-Shpongle-Nothing Lasts...But Nothing Is Lost
12-Kettel-My Dogan
14-Michael Stearns-The Storm
15-Scion-Arrange And Process Basic Channel Tracks
16-Boards Of Canada-Geogaddi
17-Tetsu Inoue-Inland
18-Pete Namlook & Klaus Schulze-The Dark Side Of The Moog X
19-Tim Hecker-An Imaginary Country
20-Rhythm & Sound-The Versions
21-Deepchord-Echospace: The Coldest Season
22-Scuba-A Mutual Antipathy
23-Vir Unis-Aeonian Glow
25-The Field-From Here We Go Sublime
26-Skull Disco-Sound Punishments
27-Luke Vibert & BJ Cole-Stop The Panic
29-Marsen Jules-Herbstlaub
30-Lindstrom-Where You Go I Go Too
31-Deaf Center-Pale Ravine
32-Rod Modell-Incense & Blacklight
33-The Orb-Okie Dokie It's The Orb On Kompakt
34-Brock Van Wey-White Clouds Drift On And On
35-Coil-Time Machines
37-Moritz Von Oswald-Trio-Vertical Ascent
38-Steve Roach-Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces
39-Goldmund-Corduroy Road
40-Jon Hopkins-Insides
42-Luke Hess-Light In The Dark
43-Detroit Escalator Company-Black Buildings
44-Fennesz-Black Sea
45-Casino Versus Japan-Go Hawaii
46-Ryan Teague-Coins & Crosses
47-Harmonic 33-Music For Television, Film & Radio Vol. 1
48-Deadbeat-Something Borrowed, Something Blue
49-Max Richter-The Blue Notebooks
Love that music. Great list. Love Burial and the Boards of Canada. Also love this decades releases by Alias, Basement Jaxx, Clutchy Hopkins, Frou Frou, Groove Armada, Hercules and Love Affair,Jesse Rose, DJ Kevin McKay, Late Night Alummni, Nitin Sawhney, Peaches, Phoenix, Royksopp, Skyscraper Frontier, Thievery Corporation, and Zero 7.
Synthfreek, you're on your game buddy. You and I have very similar tastes. The Ulrich Schnauss - A Strangely Isolated Place is one heck of a selection. I'm also a fan of Boards of Canada! If you haven't checked out General Midi, I think you'd like them. Your list will make an excellent reference source.

A few eletronica that I have on vinyl that for a time was my every day play going back loads of years, so far back I can't think/remember what I have tucked away in storage,

*Tangerine Dream- Rubycon!
Edgar Froese/Schulze*
Jean Michele Jarre,

Have checked out some of the recommendations, good stuff!
The Vinyl revolution? falure? WOW! it always amazes me that those who do not get it knock it! Vinyl, I predict, as i lisien to OWL CITY's "ocean eyes" a new pressing on VINYL, VINYL will be here long after we are dead. The only thing you got right with out question, Springsteen is the music artist of the decade(3 out of the last 4 decades). 2 great albums(the rising and magic), non stop sold out tours in front of massive crowds, supper bowl, kennedy center honors, rock and roll hall of fame honors, political acomplishments(including but not limited to turning down Chris Christie), glastonbury headliner, springsteen syposium, the boss, the savior of rock and roll, finaly seen for what he truly is, the best there is and probably the best there will ever be.