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Love and Theft

It feels a little foolhardy to even attempt to sum up the decade just past in a few paragraphs. For us, if the '00s were 3,653 days long (remember those leap years), that means hundreds — probably thousands — of live shows, thousands of performers, just as many albums and a kajillion songs. Work or play, literally anywhere Noise has been in the past ten years, we were listening to music. Constantly.

In January 2000, Noise was about the only music writer at The Austin Chronicle even halfway interested in rap, so that became one of our earliest niches. (Seriously...we listened to quite a bit of it in the '90s.) Today, with the exception of our buddy Lonesome Onry and Mean, there's not a music writer at the Houston Press who's less interested in it. Go figure.

There's still a lot of things about the rhythms and production of contemporary hip-hop we are interested in, but the more the lyrics became a never-ending stream of bitches, bling and slinging blow, the more Noise tuned out. Instead, we listened to a lot of rock — new, old, classic, modern, indie, Brit, Southern — almost none of which ever made much of a dent in Houston's airwaves. Not our problem.

As the decade wore on, we also gravitated toward country of all types and vintages, blues, R&B, soul, folk, jazz, funk, reggae, classical, Latin, dance, electro, techno and even back to hip-hop every now and then. It was a long ten years. The records we kept coming back to tended to draw on a few, or even several, of those genres at once.

At home, especially after Noise got satellite radio (three whole years before we discovered the iPod), it wasn't unusual for us to go for weeks or even months at a stretch without stumbling over a new band or singer we really loved. Today, we generally prefer the channels that balance new and not-so-new music, like Alt Nation or Outlaw Country.

Even so, we've spent the past few days going back over the '00s — nobody ever did figure out what to call them, and now they're gone; we always liked the Naughts — and had no trouble making a list of artists who emerged in the past ten years (though some had more of a head start than others) who are now part of our permanent playlist.

There are many, many others (see the lists below), but as best we can figure, these are the nine artists that made the biggest impression on us. They're listed in alphabetical order because it's really the only way we could rank them.

Arcade Fire: Although they started the unfortunate trend of indie-rock bands seemingly drafting people at random to use anything they could get their hands on as percussion instruments — including, on their 2007 Austin City Limits appearance, each other — these Montreal musicians crafted melodies that consistently transcended the clamor. Over only two albums, Woodlands-born Win Butler and crew found the fantasy in everyday fears, tested the bonds binding families both real and adopted, and obliterated the boundaries between dreams and waking life.

Album: Funeral (Merge, 2004)
Song: "Rebellion (Lies)" (Funeral)
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Drive-By Truckers: If their band didn't rock so ferociously, Drive-By Truckers front men Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley would still be front-rank Southern poets worthy of the Oxford American journal. First abetted by Jason Isbell and then Isbell's ex-wife Shonna Tucker (how Southern is that?), the Truckers charted a countrified course through an economically devastated, historically fraught modern-day Dixie that rang truer (and louder) with each successive riff.

Album: Southern Rock Opera (Lost Highway, 2002)
Song: "Carl Perkins' ­Cadillac" (The DirtySouth, 2004)
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Interpol: Outlasting all their early-'00s NYC brethren save the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (who moved to L.A.), bespoke-suited Interpol made a convincing case for never going outdoors during daylight hours. Submerging a subversive sense of humor in jagged guitars and icy-Goth lyrics, their songs were picture-perfect postcards of a 5 a.m. after-afterparty written by the guy who can't wait to get home.

Album: Turn on the Bright Lights (Matador, 2002)
Song: "Roland" (Bright Lights)
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The Killers: Emerging as post-punk Oscar Wildes with hooks and beats to burn on left-field debut Hot Fuss, Las Vegas's least showy show band next battled classic-rock titans like Bruce Springsteen to at least a draw on follow-up Sam's Town. They lost the plot a little on most recent album Day & Age, but Brandon Flowers and company have already shown they have both the hubris and wherewithal to bounce back.

Album: Hot Fuss (Island, 2004)
Song: "When You Were Young" (Sam's Town, 2006)
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M.I.A.: Even though she is, calling Maya Arulpragasam a "revolutionary" feels like a cop-out. Her polyglot, post-everything songs were mini-insurrections where change begins on the dance floor and spreads like bird flu. By the time the Clash-sampling "Paper Planes" hopped the Pineapple Express to the Top 40, its shotgun blasts had long since blown holes in modern music a mile wide.

Album: Kala (Interscope, 2007)
Song: "Galang" (Arular, 2005)
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Rilo Kiley: The L.A. band's transition from the wide-eyed naifs of The Execution of All Things (see "Spectacular Views") to the showbiz-weary cynics of Under the Blacklight was relatively swift, but a little deceptive considering anchors Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett's mutual child-acting pasts. But whether indie-rock, alt-country or Fleetwood Mac 2.0, Rilo Kiley's songs never lost that small kernel of hope, so it was good to hear them loosen up and shake a leg on "Close Call" and "Smoke Detector."

Album: Under the Blacklight (Warner Bros., 2007)
Song: "Portions for Foxes" (More Adventurous, 2004)
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Spoon: An indie-rocker who always sounded more comfortable wearing his forefathers' clothing ("Fitted Shirt"), Spoon's Britt Daniel squeezed classic songwriting into today's cut-and-paste digi-music world. Whether examining the tiniest minutiae ("My Little Japanese Cigarette Case") or dealing with the deepest loneliness ("Anything You Want"), Spoon made even the smallest stakes sound not so small at all.

Album: Gimme Fiction (Merge, 2005)
Song: "The Underdog" (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, 2007)
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White Stripes/Raconteurs/The Dead Weather: Not everything Jack White touched this decade turned to garage-rock gold, but enough did that his OCD-like need to keep starting new bands was more endearing than annoying. The gale-force guitar blasts of "Ball and Biscuit," "Black Math" and Son House's "Death Letter" proved he was a true son of Detroit, but softer moments like "We're Going to Be Friends" made him a Nashville-worthy songwriter. Still, as much as we enjoyed the Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely and The Dead Weather's Horehound, it's just not the same without Meg wailing away behind him.

Album: Elephant (White Stripes, Third Man/V2,2003)
Song: "Death Letter" (White Stripes, De Stijl, 2000)
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Wilco: And so here we are at the band that, front to back, soundtracked Noise's decade more than any other. Putting their alt-country past to bed on the star-crossed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Jeff Tweedy and mates cast a critical yet sentimental eye on America's post­millennial vertigo both in the headlines ("Ashes of American Flags") and at home ("At Least That's What You Said"). And they still love rock and roll, especially once amp-abusing guitarist Nels Cline came aboard. Even after Tweedy kicked prescription painkillers and cozied up to family life, songs like "Hate It Here" and "I'll Fight" were hardly the sounds of someone settling down.

Album: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch, 2002)
Song: "The Late Greats" (A Ghost Is Born, 2004)
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BECAUSE OF THE TIMES
Ten album titles that sum up the past ten years.

2000: We Have the Facts and We're ­Voting Yes

(Death Cab for Cutie)

2001: Know Your Enemy (Manic Street Preachers)

2002: The Illusion of Safety (Thrice)

2003: Get Rich or Die Tryin' (50 Cent)

2004: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

(TV on the Radio)

2005: Lullabies to Paralyze (Queens of the

Stone Age)

2006: Taking the Long Way (Dixie Chicks)

2007: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

(Modest Mouse)

2008: Some People Have Real Problems (Sia)

2009: Hot Mess (Cobra Starship)
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OLD SALTS
Ten albums from artists a long way from out to pasture.

2000: U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind

2001: Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft"

2002: David Bowie, Heathen

2003: Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros, Streetcore

2004: Prince, Musicology

2005: Depeche Mode, Playing the Angel

2006: Tom Petty, Highway Companion

2007: John Fogerty, Revival

2008: Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal

2009: Little Joe Washington, Texas Fire Line
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YOUNG TURKS
Ten auspicious debuts (or near-debuts) from the 2000s.

2000: Coldplay, Parachutes

2001: The Shins, Oh, Inverted World

2002: ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Source Tags & Codes

2003: Kings of Leon, Youth & Young Manhood

2004: Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand

2005: Miranda Lambert, Kerosene

2006: Band of Horses, Everything All the Time

2007: St. Vincent, Marry Me

2008: Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

2009: White Lies, To Lose My Life...
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FEVER TO TELL
Ten more albums we really, really liked.

2000: PJ Harvey, Stories From the City,

Stories From the Sea

2001: Guided by Voices, Isolation Drills

2002: Beck, Sea Change

2003: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell

2004: Green Day, American Idiot

2005: New Pornographers, Twin Cinema

2006: Amy Winehouse, Back to Black

2007: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand

2008: MGMT, Oracular Spectacular

2009: Decemberists, The Hazards of Love

chris.gray@houstonpress.com


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