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The Escapist

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The Decade's 50 Most Important Recordings


November 16, 2009 - It seemed like an impossible task, but that didn't stop us from trying. With the first decade of the new millennium coming to a close, we decided to compile a list of the 50 most important recordings of the past 10 years — a list that covers a wide range of styles and genres, with indelible songs and albums that challenge, inspire and captivate. These are the game-changers: records that signaled some sort of shift in the way music is made or sounds, or ones that were especially influential or historically significant.


Favorite records don't necessarily qualify. A lot of people, including nearly everyone at NPR Music, love Fleet Foxes' debut album, but was it one of the decade's most important? (You can tell us what you think in the comments section below.) The 50 recordings that appear here are listed alphabetically. We've included artists and bands from a number of musical worlds, from dubstep and hip-hop to Top 40 pop, classical, jazz, world, beardy folk, metal and hard rock. There's some country, too, but admittedly no grindcore or goa trance. (Again, you can tell us what you think in the comments section below.)


A lot of people, including All Songs Considered listeners, helped put this list together. As we culled through the nominees, tears were shed and arguments were had. But one thing we all agreed on: This was one of the best decades yet for music. We can't wait to hear what comes next.




A Rush of Blood to the Head: Coldplay


Song: God Put a Smile Upon Your Face


Before it became fashionable to bash Coldplay as a stand-in for all that is stately and milquetoast in pop music, the band made a couple of enormously successful, culturally ubiquitous and extremely well-received records. From 2002, A Rush of Blood to the Head was shaping up to be an undisputed classic at the time -- it's as artistically ambitious as it is catchy, which is saying a lot -- yet it's lost much of its critical cachet since then. Still, it's impossible to ignore its reverberations in the successful likes of Keane, Snow Patrol and other likeminded bands that ruled the charts in the '00s, and presumably beyond. For an album so widely heralded in 2002, it feels funny to say that A Rush of Blood to the Head is underrated; today, it's underrated. -- Stephen Thompson




John Adams: On The Transmigration Of Souls

Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion

Arcade Fire: Funeral

The Bad Plus: These Are The Vistas

Beyonce: Dangerously In Love

Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago

Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Burial: Untrue

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah: S/T

Kelly Clarkson: Breakaway

Coldplay: A Rush Of Blood To The Head

Danger Mouse: The Grey Album

Death Cab For Cutie: Transatlanticism

The Decemberists: The Crane Wife

Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP

The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

Osvaldo Golijov: La Pasion Segun San Marcos (Saint Mark's Passion)

Green Day: American Idiot

Iron And Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days

Jay-Z: The Blueprint

Norah Jones: Come Away With Me

Juanes: Fijate Bien

LCD Soundsystem: Sound Of Silver

Lil' Wayne: Tha Carter III

Little Brother: The Listening

Yo-Yo Ma: Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet

Mastodon: Leviathan

M.I.A.: Kala

Jason Moran: Black Stars

OutKast: Stankonia

Brad Paisley: 5th Gear

Panda Bear: Person Pitch

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Raising Sand

The Postal Service: Give Up

Radiohead: In Rainbows

Radiohead: Kid A

Shakira: Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1

Sigur Ros: ( )

Britney Spears: In The Zone

Sufjan Stevens: Illinois

The Strokes: Is This It

The Swell Season: Once Soundtrack

Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate: In The Heart of the Moon

TV On The Radio: Return To Cookie Mountain

Various: Garden State Soundtrack

Various: O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack

Kanye West: The College Dropout

The White Stripes: White Blood Cells

Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Amy Winehouse: Back To Black



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