Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best of the 2000s

Best of the 2000s

I promised in my review of 2009 to be brief, and didn’t really succeed, so I’ll try and make this one short, really more a series of lists, than any big analysis. Who the hell remembers the early part of the decade anyway?! – I know time flies when you get older, but my memory ain’t what it used to be..
The lists are perhaps in some semblance of order of preference. Looking forward to arguments, contradictions, fallings out, etc..

As I mainly review albums, films and concerts on my blog, I’m going to mainly stick to those three for the purposes of my 2000s review. I have written about plays, art exhibitions and plays in the past, so feel free to scroll back.

But, to cover them briefly –

Plays - I saw lots of great plays at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, (the likes of Friel, Pinter, Chekov, Wilde etc) but if I had to pick out two others, I’d go for Shadowlands (with Charles Dance) in London a few years ago or All My Sons at the Abbey about ten years ago.

TV – somewhat hit and miss, but the good stuff was very good including The Sopranos, The West Wing, Bleak House (BBC 2006), Sense & Sensibility (BBC 2007), Jane Eyre (BBC 2007), The Office, Peep Show etc. Plus some good documentaries. There’s a theory that the higher quality of TV drama is down to not just HBO but much of the talent moving into television that in the past would have worked in film.

Sadly, the dross is still out there. Reality TV is a depressing concept – is this the best people can come up with? And it’s hard to know whether to feel sorry for people who watch X Factor or not. If they just enjoy the excitement of the format and the personalities, maybe that’s ok. But are people not being deluded if they think this is anything innovative or original from a musical point of view? Such a lot of fuss over what is essentially a karaoke show, with nothing but bland covers of old songs. Maybe the Rage Against the Machine Christmas No 1 victory will shake up a few kids out there to maybe think about forming a band, or writing a song of their own. And to think that Louis Walsh is Irish, my God are we partly to blame for the boyband / X Factor phenomenon (?!) – and to think Ireland used to be known for great bands, great songwriters and quality traditional Irish music! Anyway end of rant..

Books - as usual, I’ve been reading way too much about music, and a lot of old fiction, and recent non-fiction. But, if I had to pick three recent novels I’d go for; Never Let Me Go, Birdsong and Atonement. And still, nobody makes me laugh like P.G. Wodehouse.

Album wise, it turns out to have been not a bad decade. And this, despite the supposed demise of the album, and despite a large proportion of my favourite artists being dead or retired! (Grateful Dead, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Lennon, etc to name but a few).

It was a typically productive decade for Bob Dylan, by any standards – 3 very good albums, a major outtakes box set of recent material plus more older outtakes/live sets too, a Christmas album, over 1000 concerts, 100 radio shows, a major documentary, a self penned feature film, major art galleries all around the world exhibiting his art, plus lots of odds and ends, tv appearances, film soundtrack songs, tribute album songs, etc etc. Not a man who (now nearly 69) will have to rely on a state pension!
Wilco hit a peak with 3 incredible studio albums. Gillian Welch seems to have slowed down, but released 2 good ‘uns.
McCartney released about 4 albums; one great (Chaos), one very good (Flaming Pie), one not bad (Memory Almost Full) and one mediocre (Driving Rain).
Ditto Springsteen, who was busy too, with a decade choc full of tours and albums, mixing it up with both the E Street Band and his amazing 17 piece Sessions Band, plus some solo stuff.
The return of Leonard Cohen to live duty was a contender for highlight of the decade, but I’ve covered that already in earlier posts.
Jack White and Ryan Adams both had prolific decades. Two artists I like, but quality control not always their top priority.
We saw very good swansong albums from George Harrison and Johnny Cash, certainly the two biggest musical losses of the decade from my point of view.
There were also excellent albums and concerts from the likes of Tom Waits, Neil Young, Radiohead, but in terms of newer artists, I was glad to make the acquaintance of The Waifs, Blitzen Trapper, Richmond Fontaine, Foals, Fleet Foxes and Sufjan Stevens.
So, maybe the future is in ok hands.

Hard to pick a favourite live concert of the decade, so I’ve cheated a bit and just done a list of my favourite live artists of the decade (with some selected shows).

Film wise, I think the 2000s continued on from the 1990s with a good smattering of decent films every year amidst a lot of dross. But things have continued improving since the 1980s, a decade which was a bit of a low watermark for cinema. If I had to choose one film from the decade I’d go for Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.


The Beatles – Remastered box sets
Bob Dylan – Modern Times
Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
Bob Dylan – Tell Tale Signs
Bob Dylan – Love & Theft
Bob Dylan – Together Through Life
Paul McCartney – Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
Gillian Welch – Soul Journey
Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Wilco – A Ghost is Born
George Harrison - Brainwashed
R.E.M. – Accelerate
Johnny Cash – American III
Tom Waits – Alice
Tom Waits – Blood Money
Sufjan Stevens – Come on Feel the Illinoise
Bruce Springsteen – The Rising
Neil Young – Prairie Wind
Fleet Foxes
Ryan Adams – Gold
Paul McCartney – Flaming Pie
Bruce Springsteen – Magic
Gosford Park soundtrack
Radiohead – Kid A
The Waifs – Up All Night
Bruce Springsteen – The Seeger Sessions
Welcome to the Welcome Wagon
Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
Tom Waits – Mule Variations
The Rolling Stones – A Bigger Bang
Madness – The Liberty of Norton Folgate
The Waifs – Sundirtwater
Sufjan Stevens – Michigan
The Fireman
Blitzen Trapper – Furr
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am
Johnny Cash – American IV
Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake I’m Dreaming
Iron Maiden – A Matter of Life and Death
Levon Helm – Electric Dirt
Solomon Burke – Don’t Give Up On Me
Richmond Fontaine – Post to Wire
Brian Wilson – Smile
Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers
Lambchop – Nixon
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose
Merle Haggard – Roots Vol 3
Aimee Mann – Smilers
Foals – Antidotes
PJ Harvey – Stories from the City
Duckworth Lewis Method

Live Artists

Bob Dylan (some of my favourites were; Barrowlands 04, Wiltern LA 02, Portland 01, Hammersmith or Shepherds Bush 03, or anything from 2000, 2nd Boston 06, 2nd NYC 09)

Leonard Cohen
Bruce Springsteen
Paul McCartney
Gillian Welch
The Waterboys (surprised how much I’ve come to enjoy these guys)
Tom Waits
The Rolling Stones
Solomon Burke (contender for gig of the decade actually, Vicar St a few years ago)
Patti Smith
Camille O’Sullivan (not just a cabaret type artist, but a great song interpreter too)
Ray Davies
John Prine
Aimee Mann
Iron Maiden
Merle Haggard
Classical - various performances, mainly at Dublin’s National Concert Hall – two that spring to mind were a version of Mahler’s Symphony of 1000 and an Arvo Part festival.


Pan’s Labyrinth
Gosford Park
The Lives of Others
An Education
White Ribbon
Gran Torino
The Wrestler
The Orphanage (El Orfanato)
Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers
No Country for Old Men
Slumdog Millionnaire
Glorious 39
Master & Commander (The Far Side of the World)
There Will Be Blood
The Aviator
Million Dollar Baby
Dean Spanley
The Reader
The Departed
28 Days Later
Casino Royale
The Painted Veil
The Dark Knight
Sherlock Holmes
Inglorious Basterds
Joyeux Noel
The Pianist
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Bourne Supremacy
The Hangover
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
City of God
Being John Malkovich
Eastern Promises
Walk the Line
The Young Victoria
The Other Boleyn Girl


  1. Good list!

    Mine would be
    1. The Beatles – Remastered Stereo Box Set
    2. Bob Dylan – Love & Theft
    3. Live in London - Leonard Cohen
    4. Unearthed - Johnny Cash
    5. Paul McCartney – Chaos and Creation in the Backyard
    6. When I Was Cruel - Elvis Costello
    7. Essence - Lucinda Williams
    8. Modern Times - Bob Dylan
    9. Ectacy - Lou Reed
    10. Greendale - Neil Young
    11. Devils & Dust - Bruce Springsteen
    12. My Name is Buddy - Ry Cooder
    13. Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
    14. Shine A Light – The Rolling Stones
    15. The Wind - Warren Zevon
    16. All I Intented to Be - Emmylou Harris
    17. Don't Give Up On Me - Solomon Burke
    18. You Are The Quarry – Morrissey
    19. Trampin’ – Patti Smith
    20. Tropical Brainstorm – Kirsty MacColl

  2. Thanks for that. Yeah, I should have had Greendale on my list as well. A very underappreciated Neil album! Lucinda's albums have been good too. Nothing quite as good as Car Wheels, but Essense and World Without Tears both vg. Ken

  3. I really like you list however, the Foo Fighters were missing from each of those lists. Their album "In Your Honor" belonged on the best albums, and they sure deserve to be on best live artists, especially their live at Wembley Stadium, that was in my opinion the best concert of this decade.

  4. Must give the Foos another listne..

  5. Thank you for giving them a chance, please tell me what you think