For most of the year 2000, I was thirteen years old. That is so young! Just-turned-a-teenager-me liked many different things than current me. I just started playing guitar and my band was really putting together a great rendition of Papa Roach’s “Last Resort.” There were a lot of different notes in that song. Also, we did not have a drummer. So that complicated things. I was so young!
Now, I am young but not as young as when I was thirteen (obvi). That’s part of the reason I can’t get totally behind the idea of “Best of Decade” lists.
Theses lists confuse me which is weird since I love year-end lists. LOVE. EM. All is full of year end list love. Maybe I have been conditioned to make musical sequences out of years because of this. I could probably tell you my favorite album for a given year. However, if asked for my favorite album of this decade, I would not know how to respond.
Years fit pop music. The Grammy’s seem strange to me mostly because they happen in February and cover a weird, not-exactly-annual time interval. For me, at least, the discussion about the year’s best music ends in December when people have had their say and make big sweeping generalizations about the year.
It is harder to make big sweeping generalizations about a decade. The beginning is tied to the previous decade for a bit, the middle comes into its own, and the end is filled with a sense of nostalgia. At the end of the decade, a collective question of “What just happened and how can we make sense of it?” is asked. The answers seem rushed and do not satisfy everyone. So, the decade is carried over for a little bit to the next decade, just to figure things out.
A lot of things change over ten years, especially personal taste. For a large part of the 2000’s I could not stomach bands or artists that did not use distortion or overdrive. The slow, quiet songs I could bear seemed like intermissions between power chords. For a while, I said the White Album was the best more for “Yer Blues” than the album as a whole. When I first heard some of my (now) favorite albums, I waited for the loud. When the loud never came, I scratched my head. During college, there was a running joke that I hated certain bands because they used distortion. The way things change!
It’s also interesting to note what parts of my tastes stayed the same. When I was listening to (a lot more) Brand New and Saves the Day, I loved how honest the lyrics seemed. There was a release in hearing the bands sing things that admitted weakness, obsession, fear, anger, and longing. The heart-on-the-sleeve approach still gets me these days.
The Best of Decade list is also complicated by discovering things out of order. Some of the strongest feelings I have had towards albums this decade came from hearing albums five, ten, or twenty years after they were first released. I started listening to Elvis Costello in high school. I connect certain emotional aspects from those songs with parts of my life instead of the years his albums were first released.
I never thought about this with things like Best of the 1990’s or Best of the 1980’s. When I saw lists about those decades, I accepted them based on the credentials of people who lived through the times. They were a part of those times. The 2000’s feel like the first decade of which I was a part. It makes it hard to try and sever my emotional connection with the decade to make a purely critical list of music.
I might try to name some albums that are my favorites of the decade. I don’t think I’ll be able to say whether Know By Heart is better than Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I don’t think I can choose Hold On Now, Youngster. . . over Apologies to the Queen Mary. Some of my favorite albums of the decade are my favorite because they blew my fucking mind. Others are my favorite because I listened to them driving to high school.
Would thirteen year old me like the same things I do now? I can not know (until time travel). However, I do know one thing about thirteen year old me; He would be amazed that I can play “Last Resort” now (barely).