Assessing Decade's 50 Important Recordings Music critic Tom Moon discusses NPR Music's list of "The Decade's 50 Most Important Recordings" — a roundup of the albums that changed the musical landscape in the last 10 years. Moon is the author of 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die.
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Assessing Decade's 50 Important Recordings

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Assessing Decade's 50 Important Recordings

Assessing Decade's 50 Important Recordings

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As we head into the holiday season, and our attention turns to the end of the year, the NPR Music team is getting a jump on the end of the decade. They have been listening back to music from the last 10 years and have put together a list of what they call The Decade's 50 Most Important Recordings, albums that the NPR Music folks consider game-changers, that signaled some sort of shift in the way music is made or sounds or that were especially influential.


EMINEM: (Rapping) 'Cuz I'm Slim Shady, yes, I'm the real Shady. All you other Slim Shadys are just imitating.

BLOCK: Eminem is on the list with the "Marshall Mathers LP" from 2000, and so is Yo-Yo Ma with his "Silk Road Journeys" from 2002.


BLOCK: Music critic and ALL THINGS CONSIDERED contributor Tom Moon helped compile the list. He joins me now to talk about a few more of the selections.

Hey, Tom.


BLOCK: And we're going to start with the only band that has two entries on this list. That's the British group Radiohead.


MOON: This is a song called "Everything in Its Right Place" from "Kid A" which came out in the year 2000. They, in a sense, owned the decade in terms of sort of the cutting edge of rock music and the blending of rock music and electronica and the notion of how to orchestrate and sort of get away from this guitar, bass, drums.

I think a lot of people who are making pop music today are really paying attention to what Radiohead does.


RADIOHEAD: (Singing) Everything, everything, everything, in its right place.

BLOCK: Let's talk now, Tom, about an album that opened up a whole new genre to listeners, and that is the soundtrack to the movie from 2000, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"


SOGGY BOTTOM BOYS: (Singing) In constant sorrow all through his days.

MOON: What an amazing thing this was. Bluegrass music has been around a long, long time, and you couldn't have anticipated that it would have woven its way into popular culture in the year 2000 and beyond as a result of a movie soundtrack.

BLOCK: And T-Bone Burnett, the producer on this, right?

MOON: Yes, T-Bone, and this is one of these records that really shows what the art of a producer can bring to a recording because some of the people that he's working with are old-timers. The great Ralph Stanley, who is one of the pioneers of bluegrass, had not been really well-recorded for a while. And when you hear Ralph Stanley on this record, his voice is just amazing. It's like larger than life.


RALPH STANLEY: (Singing) O, Death. Won't you spare me over til another year. Well what is this that I can't see with ice cold hands takin' hold of me. Well I am death, none can excel, I'll open the door to heaven or hell.

BLOCK: Okay, Tom, keeping in mind that the framework here, the rubric, is game- changing music of the last decade for this list. Explain to me how the Britney Spears album "In the Zone" from 2003 made the cut here.

MOON: Well, first of all, the idea was to represent a huge range of music, and let's face it, there has been great popular music, great, like, sort of radio songs in this decade. And on this Britney Spears record, there is a song called "Toxic," which is another one of these, sort of, singles that just bust the door down. And even if you hate Britney Spears, you have to admit this is a really exciting three-minute ride.


BRITNEY SPEARS: (Singing) Baby, can't you see I'm calling? A guy like you should wear a warning. It's dangerous, I'm falling.

BLOCK: Okay, Tom, I'm enjoying that three-minute ride, but I'm not sure it's a game-changer.

MOON: Oh, come on. First of all, there's some cowboy acoustic guitar underneath everything. Then you have those strings that we heard at the beginning. It's sort of a Bollywood send-up, and then you have this hook.

You know, okay, Britney, not a great singer, but listen to what she's doing with this. It sounds like she's really enthralled by this person. Listen to this.


SPEARS: (Singing) With a taste of your lips, I'm on a ride. You're toxic. I'm slipping under. With a taste of a poison paradise, I'm addicted to you. Don't you know that you're toxic?

BLOCK: The last album, Tom, that we're going to talk about here from this list of the Decade's 50 Most Important Recordings, as decreed by NPR Music, is from an artist that you like a whole lot, the jazz pianist Jason Moran.

MOON: You know, we haven't had a charismatic jazz thinker in a long time, and Jason Moran is that.


MOON: This is called "Skitter In," and it's one of his originals. You know, there's a real cerebral thing that happens with a lot of jazz players today, but what I love is that there's so much excitement in it, and his mind is going crazy. He's got six hands on the piano at the same time, and everything is crackling.


BLOCK: Pianist Jason Moran from his album "Black Stars" from 2001, which made the list of The Decade's 50 Most Important Recordings from NPR Music.

Tom Moon, thanks a lot for talking to us.

MOON: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Tom Moon is the author of the book "1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die." He was one of the voices weighing in on that NPR list. You can find the list and the explanations at



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