Posted by: Jeff | December 24, 2009

Top 20: Most Prolific Artists of the 00’s (10-1)

Previously: 20-11.

Continuing my highly objective countdown of the Top 20 most prolific musical artists of the decade, here are 10-1:

10. LCD Soundsystem

James Murphy is known foremost for his role in co-founding DFA Records in 2001, a label that sponsored bands bridging the gap between the American punk and alternative genre and Europe’s more dance-oriented club scene.  The label originally existed largely as a venue for these dance-punk disco outfits to organize marketing in the New York City area, but soon expanded to include both a national and trans-Atlantic reach.

The immediate success of its first signed band, The Rapture, led to an agreement with EMI for DFA to market and distribute dance-punk acts outside the US.  Over time, the label has incorporated more and more domestic responsibilities for its signees, and now produces and releases records independently for a variety of nationally successful acts that include Hercules and Love Affair, Hot Chip, The Juan MacLean, The Rapture, YACHT, Holy Ghost!, and Murphy’s own LCD Soundsystem.

LCD Soundsystem has only released two albums, largely the result of being a one-man band in the recording studio.  Murphy meticulously crafts each album, and when touring brings label-mates from bands like The Juan MacLean and Hot Chip on the road.  2005’s self-titled double disc release gained widespread acclaim, and the obvious influence of legendary acts like Blondie and New Order attracted an audience of young club-goers and older survivors of the disco and new wave generations alike.  Lead single “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” earned two Grammy nominations, and is considered the marquee track of the dance-punk genre.  Murphy’s catchy hooks and liberal use of cowbell make for an addictive sound.  And with lyrics that demonstrate a tongue planted firmly in cheek (“Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house / I’ll show you the ropes kid, show you the ropes / I bought 15 cases for my house, my house /All the furniture is in the garage”), LCD has serious fun.

The second album, 2007’s Sound of Silver, refines the disco flavor with well-produced soundscapes and ironic playful lyrics.  The album is a perfect blend of reptitious hooks underlaying both ambivalent nihilism and lapses into emotional vulnerability.  Though Murphy often boistorously rumbles through disco fever, tracks like “All My Friends” display the underlying human realities true for all.  As Time magazine writes in its review of the track:

“The straightforward repetition of the same guitar, keyboard and bass lines, combined with lyrics about life without regret, and life with all kinds of regrets pays off with a punch about what we lose as we get older.”

The track is an immediate classic (rated #2 of the decade by Pitchfork), and reveals that even disco can have depth.  For jump-starting a genre, inspiring numerous rising bands, and giving us one of the greatest tracks of the decade, James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem are a deserving member of any prolific artist list.

See the rest below the fold:

9. Beyonce

Some of these picks need justification, as their appeal and influence are associated with niche genres that may not have been proliferated all over radio airwaves and television commercials nationwide.  Then there are artists like Beyonce, who you wouldn’t have been able to get away from had you wanted to – and we all know you didn’t.

She started the decade as the force behind Destiny’s Child – a “group” in name only, as it was clear from the start that this was simply a vehicle for taking Beyonce to the top.  And to the top she went.  The group spawned four albums (two in the 00’s), four #1 singles (three in the 00’s), and 50 million album sales worldwide (mostly in the 00’s).

In the first years of the decade Beyonce began exploring a solo career, releasing singles for movie soundtracks (including Austin Powers: Goldmember, in which she also starred).  These initial collaborations netted her a Grammy award for Best R & B Song by Duo or Group for a duet with Luther Vandross.  By 2003, when Beyonce’s Dangerously in Love came out, she was a bonafide star.

The first single on Dangerously in Love, “Crazy in Love” cemented her status as a successful solo artist, and the album went on to sell over four million copies in the United States alone.  The album featured a number of collaborations, none more fruitful than that with Jay-Z, the self-proclaimed godfather of hip-hop.  Beyonce wedded herself to his Rockefeller empire (literally and figuratively), and her star continued to rise with the receipt of 5 Grammy awards in 2004.

2006’s B’Day gave  her two more #1 singles and one more Grammy award, and 2008’s I Am… Sasha Fierce has been critically acclaimed as a musical leap forward.  The album’s second single, the indefatiguable “Single Ladies” has become a staple at prom dances and wedding receptions alike, and spawned a video that some have claimed is the best of ALL TIME.

Beyonce quickly eclipsed her diva contemporaries (Jennifer Lopez, Amerie, Ashanti, etc.), and though Rihanna’s popularity in the latter half of the decade has approached Beyonce’s, her reliance on borrowed 80’s new wave instrumentation bolsters the view that she’s merely reaching to achieve what Beyonce already has.  Aren’t we all.

8. Daft Punk

Everyone’s favorite robots did what nobody thought possible – they brought French electro to America and made it stick.  Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo attended high school together and formed a band with Laurent Brancowitz, a future member of the French band Phoenix.  They were apparently not very good, as one critic dubbed a live performance “just a bunch of daft punk.”  Well, the band disbanded but the label stuck, and soon Bangalter and de Homem-Christo were at the forefront of the French house scene after the release of “Da Funk” in 1995.

1997’s Homework release showed a lot of promise, but it was with Discovery in 2001 that Daft Punk made their mark.  The liberal use of 70’s funk samples and elements of 90’s rave cemented Daft Punk’s status as innovators, and singles like “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” became standards not only in the dance scene but also on mainstream pop radio.  Unlike previous electronic acts in the United States that gained momentary popularity through kitsch and over-the-top production, Daft Punk’s sound was slick, melodic, glitchy and gritty.  But this duo has depth too – later singles like “Digital Love” and “Face to Face” show that even robots can overload with emotion.

For their third album (and second of the 00’s), Daft Punk too a grittier approach to 2005’s Human After All.  Tracks like “Robot Rock“, “Television (Rules the Nation)“, and “Human After All” ironically showcase the melodic glitch and robotic guitar of French electro, largely abandoning the melodic synthpop of Discovery in favor of rougher stop and go melodies.  Human After All also largely abandoned the use of singing on record in favor of vocoded spoken lyrics, paving the way for other genres (hip-hop) to borrow this technique ad infinitum in the second half of the decade.

With two widely popular and influential albums under their belt, the robots of Daft Punk went on an anticipated world tour that featured a state of the art live show as well as live remixes of previously released tracks in new fashion.  The show represented a completely new Daft Punk experience, as captured on this video from their Brooklyn performance, pieced together from over 250 cell phone cameras:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Daft Punk gained crossover appeal in 2007 when Kanye West used “Harder Better Faster Stronger” as the backbone for his #1 single, “Stronger“.  Looking ahead, rumors are swirling of a 2010 Daft Punk release and a possible renewed world tour.  On top of that, is there any soundtrack anticipated more fervently than the upcoming 2010 Tron Legacy release?

Daft Punk is prolific not only for their own contributions, but also for their influence on other bands that fuse rock, funk and electronic music – like Justice, Cut Copy, Friendly Fires, and yes, even Lady Gaga.

7. Justin Timberlake

Is there any success less likely than Justin Timberlake’s?  Maybe not – the guy is an obvious talent and had a pretty good head start in the 90’s (Disney Channel + NSYNC will do that for you).  But name one other former member of a boy band that went on to widespread success as a solo act.  George Michael maybe, but we know how that ended.  And don’t say Nick Lachey – a widely maligned reality tv show doesn’t count as a successful career.

Yes, Justin Timberlake has made it.  And though he only released two albums in the 00’s, he was simply everywhere.  His initial album – Justified – sold over 7 million copies and did the impossible, winning Timberlake fans among even reluctant males skeptical of the fervor over his boy band success.  In the interest of full disclosure – yes, I was among this group.

With production help from The Neptunes (see #13, Pharrell), lead single “Like I Love You” served as a statement that Timberlake’s musical ability ranged far from sweet vocal harmonies.  The boy had edge, and he had soul.  Not since Prince had male falsetto sounded so good.  Follow up tracks like “Cry Me A River” and “Rock Your Body“, each demonstrating a different facet of Timberlake’s talent.

Despite how solid Justified was as an album and the obvious talent of Timberlake, the announcement that he would be parting with The Neptunes in order to work exclusively with Timbaland on his second album.  Yet even this worked, as 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds featured three #1 hits – “SexyBack“, “My Love“, and “What Goes Around… Comes Around“.  The second album was heavier, more club-ready, and less wistful than the first.  But it showed an evolution into a very serious artist.

Though Timberlake has not yet released a third album, he has remained active.  Timberlake has been featured in a number of collaborations with other artists including T.I., Sergio Mendes, and the Black Eyed Peas.  He has also had a significant role in the revitalization of the stagnant Saturday Night Live franchise through his work on digital shorts with Andy Samberg and recurring sketches that are among the show’s only funny moments in the past few years.  This alone would earn him a spot on the list – but the solid nature of his two albums and the widespread appeal of his work solidify him as an important artist in the 00’s.

6. Arcade Fire

When I heard my first Arcade Fire track – “Neighborhood #1” off 2004’s Funeral – I stopped what I was doing halfway through and just sat, stunned.  I don’t think I’d ever heard a band put every iota of its emotional being into a track like that before.  I imagined the band collapsing at the end of the song, exhausted and spent of all mental and creative energy.  Little did I know that this is what it feels like listening to any Arcade Fire track.  The earnestness with which they give their all on every track is both refreshing and breath-taking.

Albums like this don’t come along very often, and Arcade Fire managed to create two in the 00’s.  I read a review (that I now can’t find) that described Arcade Fire as a pack of earnest indie urchins, and that’s about as apt a description as one can think of.  They dress the part – looking more Amish than modern – and rove the stage like a band of eager children diving wholeheartedly into their craft.  The depth of the sound is reflected in the sheer number of musicians in the collective, and the approach to music is wholly organic, utilizing harps, organs, violins and tambourines to lay a backdrop for Win Butler and his wife Regine Chassagne to sing over.  And when the whole gang joins the chorus they commit to it – try singing along to Funeral‘s “Wake Up” with the same passion as they do and see if you still have your voice at the end.  Same goes for “Rebellion (Lies)“.  Pitchfork named Funeral the #2 album of the decade, which, given their #1, is pretty darn good.

2007’s Neon Bible offered much of the same style, with added production value from being largely recorded in a single venue – a church near the band’s hometown of Montreal.  The pronounced organ on “Intervention” only increases the emotional depth of a song designed as a hymn to fallen soldiers.  The emotion is more restrained here, releasing before reaching the inexorable tipping point common on Funeral.  However, with this restraint comes balance, and many of the tracks on the second album are more refined songs as a result.  From the pulsing “No Cars Go” to the balladry of “(Antichrist Television Blues)” that recalls Bruce Springsteen at his very best, this album further develops Arcade Fire’s sound and demonstrates that even earnestness, when partially restrained, can yield great pop songs.

This is the band that launched a thousand hipster ships, and is partially responsible for the resurgance in popularity enjoyed by music festivals and the indie scene today.  Preliminary news that a new album (and subsequent tour?) is due for 2010 already has music sites atwitter, with anticipation that Arcade Fire could be just as prolific in the 10’s as the 00’s.

5. Kanye West

I’mma let you finish, but Kanye West is the most prolific artist of all time.  ALL TIME.  It’s unfortunate perhaps that this may be Kanye’s most meme-orable legacy in the 00’s, because he was also a very prolific influence on the music scene during the decade.  He entered the scene as a producer on Jay-Z’s 2001 The Blueprint, including principal song-writing credits for the #1 hit “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)“.

West was hit by a car in late 2002, which necessitated his jaw being wired shut.  Against the odds, Kanye used this setback as motivation for his first single, “Through the Wire“, released on 2004’s The College Dropout.  The album was met by critical acclaim, and would go on to sell over 3.5 million copies in the United States and win two Grammy awards.  The album also showcased West’s unique style in the hip-hop world, abandoning gangster tough-guy posturing in favor of a preppy look and songs about hope, perseverence, and faith.

His next two albums, Late Registration (2005) and Graduation (2007) continued Kanye’s massive success, garnering a combined 7 million record sales and three #1 singles.  Late Registration received an impressive 9.5 rating from Pitchfork and demonstrated the range of Kanye’s influences and musical tastes.  Citing the British trip-hop group Portishead as a primary influence, West used symphonic arrangements over reverbery percussion to create emotional meaning to his instrumentations, giving the album a significant amount of depth as compared to his hip-hop peers.  For Graduation, West looked to stadium rock groups like U2 and Coldplay, citing a desire to create anthemic hip-hop capable of moving large audiences.  In addition to the collaboration with Daft Punk (#8 above), tracks like “Flashing Lights” demonstrated synergy between organic strings and synthetic beats, adding a degree of sophistication to his production.

However, success soon yielded to personal tragedy.  On top of the world, West’s world began to unravel.  Burdened with the loss of his mother and subsequent breakup with his fiance, West released the criminally underrated 808’s and Heartbreak in 2008.  This is West at his most vulnerable, a rare glimpse into the personal psyche of a rapper at the top of his game.  Choosing to rely less on rhymes and more on the raw emotion of singing (yes, with auto-tune), West bears his soul on each track, openly dealing with pain and disappointment.  This was a huge risk for West, and perhaps his greatest achievement.  Self-indulgent?  Maybe.  But for someone who lives his life in public, it was a public cleansing.

It’s a shame that West’s decade ended in ignominy.  Musically he’s in a class of his own as a producer and an artist, and it is unfortunate that his personal difficulty with loss and the perils of fame have been so awkward.  The Taylor Swift moment is a definite low, and the announcement that his 2009-2010 is indefinitely suspended is worrisome.  But the man is a tremendous talent, and there is no doubt that he will continue to influence well into the next decade.  Here’s hoping that there will be more Grammy wins to follow the 12 he’s already earned.

4. Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather)

Jack White emerged on the scene with his wife/sister(?)/ex-wife Meg White (the relationship was shrouded in mystery, but they really were married and then divorced and definitely not siblings) as The White Stripes, a garage rock duo from Detroit that melded punk with the blues.  Their records were lo-fi and raucous, with raw and powerful energy that hurtled through spare rhythm sections and distorted guitar but maintained a foundation in blues and country folk.  The genre-defying set list of their first mainstream album, 2002’s White Blood Cells, is a roller coaster of short bursts of music, with the longest track running a mere three and a half minutes.  This album catapulted The White Stripes to fame in large part due to the unique video for single “Fell in Love with a Girl” that played on repeat on MTV and VH1 (back when those channels actually played music).

The rising profile of the White Stripes led many to herald their return to the bluesy roots of rock and roll.  In fact, this reintroduction of Detroit-based blues did revolutionize the rock music of the decade, with artists from Kings of Leon to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Hives all adopting a blues-oriented approach to post-punk alternative.  Along with The Strokes, no other band had quite the prolific influence on the rock genre in the 00’s – and Jack White out-lasted his Brooklyn counterparts by releasing more than one phenomenal album with more than one phenomenal band.

The White Stripes went on to release three more albums in the 00’s – each nominated for Best Rock Album at the Grammys.  2003’s Elephant took the back to basics approach literally – recorded with a 1960’s tape deck and instruments that pre-dated even The Beatles.  “Seven Nation Army” launched the band to worldwide fame (the bassline still forms the basis of soccer chants in 2009), and earned two Grammy wins to boot.

2005’s Get Behind Me Satan continued the band’s evolution, marked by the addition of piano and wider percussion range to the guitar-driven style evident in previous albums.  This is a more subdued album, with a focus on song-writing and acoustic sounds rather than the rock romps that made the band famous.

2007’s Icky Thump is a return to the slide guitar and blues foundation, but adds a number of experimental elements – most notably the Univox synthesizer evident in the title track.  Recorded in analogue, this album has more in common with early Stripes releases, with the garage rock influence at the forefront.

These four albums and their influence on a whole range of modern bands would warrant a place on this list.  However, Jack White wasn’t finished.  In 2005, White joined with other blues-oriented musicians from Detroit to form The Raconteurs, a guitar-driven outfit that grounds its blues more in folk than in punk.  By 2006, lead single “Steady As She Goes” off Broken Boy Soldiers had become a mainstay on the radio, and earned the group two Grammy nominations.  The band followed with 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely, which garnered two nominations and a win at the 2009 Grammy Awards.

And yet still White wasn’t finished with the 00’s.  In 2009, he and Raconteurs bandmate Jack Lawrence joined with Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stoneage and Alison Mossheart from White Stripes protege The Kills, forming a supergroup known as The Dead Weather.  Their debut album, Horehound, was released to much critical acclaim in the summer of 2009, and is a return to the drums for White, who entered the underground music scene in Detroit as a drummer.  The Dead Weather is more raw than The Raconteurs or even The White Stripes were, fusing the blues with a harder rock mentality and a nod to more beat-heavy genres like hip-hop or trip-hop.  In a year where super groups were common (see: Them Crooked Vultures), White managed to meld high-profile musicians and personalities better than any other, and Horehound is deservedly on many year-end best of lists.

Yes, it’s been a busy decade for White and the legion of musicians he’s influenced.  A #4 spot on the list of most prolific artists of the 00’s is well deserved.

3. TV on the Radio

When TV on the Radio released their Young Liars EP in 2003, Pitchfork seemed caught completely by surprise:

Critics have to understand and express with seemingly imagined words like “luminous” what listeners will often simply feel in terms more like “awesome.” We’re not immune to the “awesome” bug, though, and we still discover certain records that not only disarm our battery of well-honed defenses, but raze them to the ground. For TV on the Radio, all it took was Tunde Adebimpe’s sterling, gospel-blues croon, a solitary voice multi-tracked into a gorgeous three-part harmony containing multitudes […]  Without hyperbole, the effect is electrifyingly direct, nearly mesmerizing, and nothing quite like anything else I can recall.

Such praise for an emerging act sets a very high expectation for subsequent releases.  And I think it is safe to say without hyperbole that TV on the Radio has exceeded them.

Blending jazz with shoegazer, electro, and post-punk rock, TV on the Radio has created a wholly original sound.  2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes sounds like the soundtrack of a futuristic dystopia, with fuzz guitars laying static distortion behind lyrics attempting to seek meaning in a post-industrial modern wasteland.  There is one repeat from Young Liars – the taut and tense “Staring at the Sun” – one of the best and most original tracks of the first half of the decade.  The rest of the album is hit or miss – noteworthy most for Tunde Adebimpe’s deft lyricism and the introduction of Kyp Malone as co-lead on several tracks, lending his falsetto to counter the rich timbre of Adebimpe.  “Dreams” is one such track, and is simply haunting with droning guitars incessant behind Malone and Adebimpe’s harmonic admission: “I know your heart can’t grieve / What your eyes won’t see / But you were my favorite moment / Of our dead century.”

2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain was nearly perfection.  “Wolf Like Me” is a declaration that the band has come of age, realized its full potential, and exceeded all expectations:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The rest of the album is incredible as well, from the off-kilter R & B styling of “I Was A Lover” to the dizzy “Dirtywhirl” and the frenzied and fantastic “Blues From Down Here“, a glimpse into what music might sound like in the future.

2008’s Dear Science is far more polished than previous offerings, and though this more refined production has taken the edge off, the soul of Adebimpe and Malone’s lyrical earnestness still shines through.  The addition of synths adds a dimension to their music, and the contrast between the deeply human lyrics of songs like “Shout” and “Crying” and the electronic frenzy in their breakdown is an interesting exercise in juxtaposition.  When was the last time you jammed out to the 8 bit sounds of a funky Nintendo system?  And I dare anyone alone in a car to try listening to “Love Dog” without making a failed attempt at singing along (never have borderline unintelligible lyrics been so catchy).

Yes, each of these albums is incredible – Return to Cookie Mountain received Album of the Year honors from SPIN and was named #2 and #4 by Pitchfork and Rolling Stone.  Dear Science won Album of the Year from SPIN, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Entertainment Weekly.  Clearly TV on the Radio is a critic pick for most prolific of the decade.

This is a band that sounds great on record, but also needs to be heard live – the energetic abandon of Adebimpe’s inspired performances is a sight to behold, and standards like “Young Liars” and “Staring at the Sun” become uptempo stompers that have the audience yelling incoherently – and unintentionally – along.

2. Coldplay

The most amazing thing about this band is that they never should have found success.  In fact, the whole endeavor started off as something of a lark, a group of college classmates forming a band for the hell of it.  Their original name was Pectoralz – think about that the next time you listen to “Yellow” with the speakers at 11.

Yet, despite that dubious beginning, there is no denying that Coldplay has turned out to be a very prolific band.  Prolific to the tune of 50 million albums sold this decade.  Which is pretty amazing, considering their four albums have pretty much all been released in the Napster era.

Parachutes (2000) is a melodic turn at the melancholic guitar and piano ballads perfected by Radiohead in the mid-nineties.  Coldplay never professed much in the way of originality (see: Viva la Vida) but they did find a knack for transforming old territory into stadium-ready anthems through the emotive pleading of Chris Martin’s vocals (“Shiver”), the rise and fall of pianos (“Trouble”), and the echoed piercing of subdued guitars (“Don’t Panic”).  Despite the re-treading of terrain most thoroughly covered by Radiohead with 1995’s The Bends, Coldplay catapulted to platinum status and a 2002 Grammy for Best Alternative Album.

It’s no surprise, then, that 2002’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head followed the same formula.  All of the same elements were present on the second release – the pianos (“Clocks”), the pleading (“The Scientist”), and the hauntingly simple guitar work (“In My Place”).  Yes, Coldplay’s second album sounded almost identical to their first – which was a dead ringer for a distant Radiohead album.  And yet, hardly anybody cared because it was just so perfect.  If you’re going to make formulaic music, you might as well take a lesson from Coldplay and do it earnestly and beautifully.

A Rush of Blood to the Head earned two Grammy wins and sold over eleven million copies.  “Clocks” has become one of the most widely popular songs of the decade, and the album as a whole remains a highly enjoyable listening experience featuring tight song-writing and earnest musicianship.

Coldplay strayed from their comfort zone somewhat for X & Y (2005), a mostly uninspired foray into new genres that yielded a fantastic first track (“Square One”), one good single (“Talk“), a poorer repeat of “Clocks” (“Speed of Sound“), and a bunch of filler.  Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008) and the companion Prospekt’s March EP (2008) are an improvement, merging the more ambitious musical stylines of the greater tracks from A Rush and X & Y with the tight song-writing evident on Parachutes to form a more coherent set of superior songs.  While there isn’t anything overwhelmingly creative here, it does represent an improvement over the one-dimensional offerings on previous albums.

Despite the prolific album sales, Coldplay’s difficulty in creating a unique sound distinct from its influences – in particular, Radiohead – means that they weren’t quite the most prolific artist of the decade.  But that significant influence was:

1. Radiohead

From the first notes of the leadoff track – “Everything In Its Right Place” – off 2000’s Kid A, was there any doubt that this decade belonged to Radiohead?  Hailed by Pitchfork and Rolling Stone as the best album of the decade, Kid A was an immediate statement that the oo’s would defy genre labels.  Fusing alternative rock with ambient electronic music, jazz, and even classical elements, Kid A was a challenging listen with widespread appeal, and introduced the mass public to a whole host of underground influences on the band’s recording process (most notably: Autechre, Charles Mingus, and Krautrock).  When asked about the band’s departure from 1997’s guitar-driven OK Computer, guitarist Jonny Greenwood explained:

I don’t remember much time playing keyboards. It was more an obsession with sound, speakers, the whole artifice of recording. I see it like this: a voice into a microphone onto a tape, onto your CD, through your speakers is all as illusory and fake as any synthesizer – it doesn’t put Thom [Yorke] in your front room – but one is perceived as ‘real’ the other, somehow ‘unreal’… It was just freeing to discard the notion of acoustic sounds being truer.

Kid A was different than anything else previously released to commercial appeal.  And its influence would shape the contributions of many of the decade’s other most prolific artists, from TV on the Radio to The Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective.

Yet this was only the beginning of the decade for Radiohead, who would go on to release 3 more full length albums, a set of B-Sides, and a few scattered EPs.  2001’s Amnesiac was filled largely with Kid A‘s leftovers – ambient post-rock meanderings that felt a bit more experimental and challenging than the previously released material.  But still quite good.

2003’s Hail to the Thief strode the middle ground between continued experimentation (i.e. The Gloaming) with electronic sounds and alternative rock (i.e. There, There).  Implicitly political, Hail to the Thief is also a more accessible album filled with a more traditional format that includes radio-ready singles.  The album is less tense than Kid A or Amnesiac, but maintains the edge and melancholy that marked those releases.

2007’s In Rainbows, on the other hand, is filled with more organic sounds and lighter moods.  From the gorgeous “Reckoner” to the haunting “House of Cards“, stirring “All I Need“, and rocking “Bodysnatchers“, In Rainbows is a stellar album that demonstrates the full range and depth of Radiohead’s abilities.   In Rainbows is also a significant record because Radiohead chose to release it independently, making it available online for whatever fans chose to pay.  This move was viewed with widespread interest, as it signifies a potential alternative model to more traditional studio-driven marketing strategies.

Amidst all of this, both vocalist Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood have found time to pursue side projects.  Yorke’s 2006 solo album, The Eraser, was met with critical acclaim and nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Alternative Album category.  Yorke’s album represented a more direct exploration of electronic sounds, and the title track was put in heavy rotation on the DJ circuit in addition to forming the backdrop of a prolific collaboration between Pharrell, Lupe Fiasco, and Kanye West (together as Child Rebel Soldiers).

Jonny Greenwood has explored his training in musical theory, composing music for the BBC and the major motion picture There Will Be Blood, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

All in all, Radiohead’s contribution to the decade has indeed been staggering.  But their influence is also impressive and widespread.  The 00’s were a prolific decade in music, during which genres were bent and new frontiers of marketing, social media, and sound were explored.  No artist was as prolific at the forefront of the industry as Radiohead.



  1. […] probably recognize many of these artists from my list of the most prolific in the past decade and best albums of the past year.  With the exception of Massive Attack (seven […]

  2. […] weeks, and the slow unveiling of work produced by the collaboration between The Shins frontman James Mercer and Danger Mouse (of Gorillaz and Gnarls Barkley fame) is now underway.  Two advance singles have been released on […]

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