The 50 Most Important Recordings Of The Decade: A-C

All Songs Considered's list of the 50 most important recordings of the decade begins with composer John Adams and runs through Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

The 50 Most Important Recordings: A-C

Cover for On the Transmigration of Souls

On the Transmigration of Souls

  • Artist: John Adams
  • Album: On the Transmigration of Souls
  • Song: On the Transmigration of Souls

This vigorous musical response to Sept. 11, 2001, was commissioned to mark the first anniversary of the attacks. John Adams mimics the chaos and tragedy of that day by layering seemingly incongruous sounds: recitations by loved ones of the victims' names and cell-phone calls, taped and live choral singing, a thorough shaking in the orchestra and, out of the din, a lonely solo trumpet. -- Tom Huizenga

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "On the Transmigration of Souls"
  • Album: On the Transmigration of Souls
  • Artist: John Adams
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • Released: 2004
 
Cover for Funeral

Funeral

  • Artist: Arcade Fire
  • Album: Funeral
  • Song: Wake Up

An album that never wore out its welcome, 2004's Funeral has everything a classic record needs: great lyrics ("My family tree's losing all its leaves"), beautiful and contagious melodies, and songs that start in one place and take listeners somewhere else. Along the way, there's sadness and hope -- and, of course, it rocks. Funeral isn't just important; it's also one of the decade's very best. -- Bob Boilen

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Wake Up"
  • Album: Funeral
  • Artist: Arcade Fire
  • Label: Merge
  • Released: 2008
 
Animal Collective

Merriweather Post Pavillion

  • Artist: Animal Collective
  • Song:

In a decade marked by musical experimentation and deconstruction, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion seems to reveal where the band has been heading all along. While each previous effort eschewed acoustic instruments in favor of piercing synthesizer loops, samples and computerized beats, MPP remains true to Animal Collective's identity. And yet the band's sonic landscapes and pulsing dance grooves challenge listeners to alter their perceptions of what makes a song. Songs like "Summertime Clothes" and "Brothersport" sound like a culmination of the band's history, and seem to provide a glimpse into the next decade's most forward-looking music. -- Mike Katzif

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Merriweather Post Pavillion"
  • Album: Merriweather Post Pavillion
  • Artist: Animal Collective
  • Label: Domino
  • Released: 2009
 
Cover for These Are the Vistas

These Are the Vistas

  • Artist: The Bad Plus
  • Album: These Are the Vistas
  • Song: Smells Like Teen Spirit

The fact that most everybody in the stratified jazz world was talking about this record in 2003 is evidence enough of its importance. But the real coup lies in the fact that it got people outside jazz to listen. That'll happen when you play covers of Nirvana, Aphex Twin and Blondie as an acoustic piano trio. But there's far more than novelty appeal at work here: The Bad Plus' Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson and Dave King reverently used the tunes as frameworks for distinct, original improvisation, aided by knottily textured originals, nutso percussion and bass that would challenge a car's Alpine subwoofer. Love it or hate it, it was impossible to ignore -- and the musical ideas had staying power, too. -- Patrick Jarenwattananon

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
  • Album: These Are the Vistas
  • Artist: The Bad Plus
  • Label: Columbia
  • Released: 2009
 
cover for beyonce

Dangerously in Love

  • Artist: BeyoncĂ©
  • Album: Dangerously in Love
  • Song: Crazy in Love

Once upon a time in 2003, three young women from the successful pop group Destiny's Child were exploring their separate musical paths. Michele Williams released a successful gospel album, Kelly Rowland was at the top of the charts with "Dilemma" (a duet with Nelly) and Beyonce Knowles... well, everyone knows what happens next in this story: an explosive Chi-Lites horn sample and a commandingly coquettish vocal spouting, "Uh oh uh oh uh oh." The introduction to "Crazy in Love," the lead single from Dangerously in Love, provides one of the greatest 30-second bites of music this decade, and announces a standout artist. Whereas Destiny's Child's songs were about poised and sensible women, this was Beyonce's opportunity to explore emotional messiness. Dangerously in Love doesn't go too far; Beyonce is simultaneously transgressive and traditional in her sound and lyrics. But it was a hell of a start, and she didn't stop there. -- Amy Schriefer

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Crazy in Love"
  • Album: Dangerously in Love
  • Artist: Beyonce
  • Label: Col
  • Released: 2003
 
cover for bon iver

For Emma, Forever Ago

  • Artist: Bon Iver
  • Album: For Emma, Forever Ago
  • Song: Skinny Love

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon isn't the first heartsick singer-songwriter to chuck it all, disappear into the woods and pour his pain into songs. But Vernon poured his pain into incredible songs -- they're mysterious, evocative, beautiful and surprisingly catchy -- and demonstrated that humble and idiosyncratic bedroom recordings can more than hold their own against the slickest rock ringers. Both influential and great, 2008's For Emma, Forever Ago doesn't seem to age, either, so it's likely to endure long after the next decade ends. -- Stephen Thompson

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Skinny Love"
  • Album: For Emma, Forever Ago
  • Artist: Bon Iver
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

  • Artist: Bright Eyes
  • Album: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
  • Song: We Are Nowhere and It's Now

One of two very different recordings Bright Eyes released in early 2005, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning was a poetic and personal record that helped put Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst on the map as one of the best lyricists making music in the 21st century. Amid great storytelling and social commentary are a lot of heartfelt performances, including guest appearances by Emmylou Harris, Maria Taylor and My Morning Jacket's Jim James. It's everything you could want from a folk-rock record, and a refreshing breakthrough for an important artist. -- Bob Boilen

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "We Are Nowhere and It's Now"
  • Album: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
  • Artist: Bright Eyes
  • Label: Saddle Creek
  • Released: 2005
 
cover for burial

Untrue

  • Artist: Burial
  • Album: Untrue
  • Song: Archangel

Dubstep has been arguably the most forward-thinking musical movement of the last decade, mixing the clicking beats of 2-step with U.K. grime. But there's something universal about Burial's 2007 album Untrue; it taps into our sorrowful psyche, burrowing into unknown moods that feel unconventionally comfortable. -- Lars Gotrich

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Archangel"
  • Album: Untrue
  • Artist: Burial
  • Label: Hyperdub
  • Released: 2007
 
Cover for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

  • Artist: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • Album: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • Song: Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood

In 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah showed just how far and wide a band could be heard without much airplay or promotional support. The group sold more than 125,000 copies of its self-released, self-titled debut -- not only because its music struck a chord, but also because those who loved it were able to spread the word in ways that seemed unimaginable a few years earlier. It's one of the Internet's biggest individual success stories in music, but Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is important for more than just its viral appeal; it's also a damn good record. -- Bob Boilen

close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood"
  • Album: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • Artist: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • Label: Wichita Recordings
  • Released: 2005
 

Default Title

  • Artist: Animal Collective
  • Album: Merriweather Post Pavillion
  • Song:
close

Purchase Featured Music

  • "Merriweather Post Pavillion"
  • Album: Merriweather Post Pavillion
  • Artist: Animal Collective
  • Label: Domino
  • Released: 2009
 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.