The 50 Most Important Recordings Of The Decade: O-S

All Songs Considered's list of the 50 most important recordings of the decade continues, from OutKast through Sigur Ros.

The 50 Most Important Recordings Of The Decade: O-S

Cover for Stankonia

Stankonia

  • Artist: OutKast
  • Song: Ms. Jackson
  • From: Stankonia

Once and future kings, OutKast's Big Boi and Andre 3000 have been recording together for 16 years, all the while producing some of the world's most thoughtful and engaging rap music. Stankonia is a monumental achievement in both confessional pop-music lyricism and production -- mostly courtesy of Big Boi, Andre 3000 and Mr. D.J., with assists from Organized Noize. Which, in turn, is why Stankonia is on this list and not "Hey Ya" (from Speakerboxxx/The Love Below). Though Andre 3000's smash reached many more people than heard "So Fresh So Clean" or even "Ms. Jackson," it's OutKast as a duo which continues to inspire and influence acts as disparate as Radiohead and Kanye West. -- Frannie Kelley

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Song
Ms. Jackson
Album
Stankonia
Artist
OutKast
Label
Arista
Released
2009

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5th Gear

  • Artist: Brad Paisley
  • Song: Ticks
  • From: 5th Gear

Country music generally gets cleaved into two camps: the slick, Nashville-based pop-country that gets played on the radio, and the roughed-up roots music that gets cited as its "authentic" alternative. But just as a lot of alternative country can be boring or affected, a lot of Nashville country can be witty, empathetic, catchy and performed with great subtlety and skill. Brad Paisley isn't immune to the genre's pitfalls or tropes, but he's also sold millions of records while telling relatable, nuanced stories of American life. His best album, 5th Gear, finds him mixing remarkable guitar work with good-natured storytelling. "I'd like to walk you through a field of wildflowers," he sings at one point, adding, "And I'd like to check you for ticks." Few singers in any genre are so mindful of the pitfalls of mixing love and Lyme disease. -- Stephen Thompson

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See Brad Paisley perform "Ticks" via YouTube.

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Song
Ticks
Album
5th Gear
Artist
Brad Paisley
Label
Arista
Released
2007

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Person Pitch

  • Artist: Panda Bear
  • Song: Bros
  • From: Person Pitch

In the same way that hip-hop introduced the sample as a means to a beat or a hook, Panda Bear's 2007 classic Person Pitch makes listeners rethink the sample's possibilities as a truly expansive songwriting tool. Given time and responsible music-makers, this could well be the future of music. -- Lars Gotrich

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Song
Bros
Album
Person Pitch
Artist
Panda Bear
Label
Paw Tracks
Released
2007

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Cover for Raising Sand

Raising Sand

  • Artist: Robert Plant/Alison Krauss
  • Song: Please Read the Letter
  • From: Raising Sand

The pairing of a bona fide rock god with a Grammy-hoarding bluegrass darling raised eyebrows, not sand. But Robert Plant's love of deep blues and Krauss' roots-music credibility are well-matched on this 2007 collection of moody Americana. Producer T-Bone Burnett is the catalyst, choosing the material and the players. His snaky sonic stamp gives Raising Sand its vibe, while Plant's subdued classic-rock caterwaul fits perfectly under and over Krauss' honey-sweet vocals. -- Meredith Ochs

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Song
Please Read the Letter
Album
Raising Sand
Artist
Robert Plant/Alison Krauss
Label
Rounder
Released
2007

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Cover for Give Up

Give Up

  • Artist: The Postal Service
  • Song: The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
  • From: Give Up

By the end of the decade, intricate electro-pop and interstate collaborations were nothing new. But both were still a relative novelty in 2003, when Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello produced Give Up. They called themselves The Postal Service, as a nod to the way their album was produced: Tamborello wrote and recorded instrumental tracks, then sent the tapes to Gibbard, through the mail, to add vocal parts. The album and its multi-state production method spawned countless imitators, and left eager fans anxiously awaiting a Postal Service follow-up. Seven years later, everyone's still waiting, but in the meantime, Give Up remains the most inspired, influential and memorable album of its kind. -- Robin Hilton

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Song
The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Album
Give Up
Artist
The Postal Service
Label
Sub Pop
Released
2009

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In Rainbows [Special Edition]

  • Artist: Radiohead
  • Song: Nude
  • From: In Rainbows [Special Edition]

Already, the buzz about the "tip jar" digital-payment method that drove the advance publicity for In Rainbows seems like an afterthought. That's as it should be, because there's so much richness embedded inside Radiohead's seventh album, from the fearful bent of the lyrics to the correspondingly terrifying density of the music. Released digitally in 2007 and on CD in 2008, In Rainbows will probably get dissected for as long as people care about rock, and it rewards the effort. It's one of those tightly packed gems that inspires fresh awe every time one of its tracks -- the futuristic "Faust Arp," the plaintive "Nude," the dizzy atmospherics of "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" -- is placed under the microscope. -- Tom Moon

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Song
Nude
Album
In Rainbows [Special Edition]
Artist
Radiohead
Label
MapleMusic/Fontana
Released
2008

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Kid A

  • Artist: Radiohead
  • Song: Everything in Its Right Place
  • From: Kid A

With 2000's Kid A, Radiohead sloughed off the popular music of the 1990s (including its own great records) with a electronic virtual reality that makes Phil Spector's wall of sound feel like a shoji-screen room divider. Chock full of the paranoid hypercritical, and famously leaked online, Kid A belongs to the Internet in every way. The album may reflect the twisted binary and hexidecimal coil that we're shuffling on, but above all, it's compellingly original music. Many of today's modern jazz musicians, a persnickety monastic order, have embraced Radiohead's cleverly arranged chord progressions and hypnotic orchestral warp as emblematic of the best popular music to repurpose into improvisation. -- Josh Jackson

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Song
Everything in Its Right Place
Album
Kid A
Artist
Radiohead
Label
Capitol
Released
2008

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Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 [DualDisc]

  • Artist: Shakira
  • Song: Tortura
  • From: Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 [DualDisc]

Shakira's 2001 English-language album Laundry Service was a global success and made her an international star. For her follow-up, the Colombian pop artist released 2005's Fajicion Oral, Vol. 1, a Spanish-language tour-de-force of traditional cumbia, reggaeton beats and lyrics in which Shakira got psychoanalytical. The release signaled boldly that chasing American success wasn't Shakira's top priority, but she got it anyway. With the highest chart debut ever for a Spanish-language album in the U.S., the album spawned the fantastic single "La Tortura," which in turn spawned one of the first Spanish-language videos to receive heavy rotation on MTV and VH1 in the U.S. Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, the album's English-language companion, was released five months later and featured the ubiquitous "Hips Don't Lie," which would go on to become the decade's top-selling single worldwide. -- Amy Schriefer

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Song
Tortura
Album
Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1 [DualDisc]
Artist
Shakira
Label
Epic
Released
2005

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Cover for  Garden State Soundtrack

Garden State Soundtrack

  • Artist: The Shins
  • Song: New Slang
  • From: Garden State Soundtrack

Few albums did more to blur the lines between so-called "indie" music and the mainstream than 2004's Garden State soundtrack, on which the past (Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel) co-existed beautifully with the present and future (songs by Coldplay, The Shins, Cary Brothers, Iron & Wine and others). In the process, filmmaker Zach Braff offered parents a gateway into the music of their kids -- and vice versa. -- Felix Contreras

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Song
New Slang
Album
Garden State Soundtrack
Artist
The Shins
Label
Sony
Released
2004

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( )

  • Artist: Sigur Rós
  • Song: [Untitled Track 1]
  • From: ( )

Great records often come from unexpected places and sources: 2002's () is the unforgettable work of Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band playing slow instrumental music when it's not singing in a made-up language, performing songs and an album with no pronounceable titles. Cinematic and beautiful, every song captures a spirit of hope and sorrow, inexorably intertwined. -- Bob Boilen

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Song
[Untitled Track 1]
Album
( )
Artist
Sigur Ros
Label
MCA
Released
2009

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