Gold Medal: Figure 8 by Elliott Smith
Elliott’s name has popped up on this blog many times as he is one of the artists that I adore like few others. And even after showing up on just about every era post he qualifies for, Elliott’s Figure 8 album may be my favorite album of his. Taking the jump from lo-fi to hi-fi, the music here is bigger and bolder than his previous albums, though it’s still got some acoustic gems as well. Every note is precise in creating a totally uplifting album centered around extremely depressing themes. That may be hard to understand, but once you’ve listened to this, you’ll know what I mean.
Silver Medal: Parachutes by Coldplay
In my eyes, Coldplay’s career trajectory ran the opposite direction to the quality of their music. As the group grew more and more popular throughout the 2000s, their music became less interesting. And before they were mega rock stars, Coldplay was busy working on this album, which is simply superb. Parachutes is Coldplay making anthemic choruses before it got old. These tracks are just well-crafted songs, with tinges of mystery and splashes of clarity. Tracks 2-7 all have one-word titles, which is appropriate, as here Coldplay was at its most understated and hence, at its best.
Bronze Medal: Kid A by Radiohead
Here it is. Pitchfork’s Number One album of the decade. Since Radiohead is my favorite modern artist, this may be a surprise down at #3. But honestly, Kid A hasn’t shaken me the way some of the bands other work has. Nonetheless, it’s brilliant and revolutionary. “Everything In It’s Right Place” is one of the great openers of all time and a great foretaste of the delicious electronic textures Radiohead would create on this album and many more to come. The album is inseparable from its album art, which gives us a view of the bleak, frigid environment where Radiohead was coming from at this time.