Ghostly's 110

Our Favorite Albums of the Decade

January 2010 not only marks the emergence of a new year and a new decade—it's also a bookend on the first ten years of Ghostly International. Naturally, we're feeling a little reflective.

Since our humble beginnings, Ghostly has become much more than a label (or labels), and while the sky's the limit for our ambitions, music remains at the core of our being. As a tribute to the brilliant artists who have inspired us during Ghostly's lifetime, we present Ghostly's 110: Our Favorite Albums of the Decade.

Ghostly's 110 represents a combination of our staff's individual favorites and an eclectic assortment of albums that have been instrumental (pun intended) in forging the path Ghostly has tread. The list sticks to artist albums (no compilations) and non-Ghostly/Spectral releases (we love our artists, but you knew that anyway), and it's presented in semi-alphabetical order by artist for your reading convenience.

From this project's beginnings, we had many a heated argument on the nature of lists and the functions they serve. In the end, Ghostly's 110 is not an attempt to assign distinction, to single out winners and losers—it's just another way for us to share our passion for music.

For a collective of obsessives, whittling this down was a painstaking labor of love. We hope it inspires you to make new discoveries and unearth some old favorites of your own.

(Ersatz Audio) 2001
Talkie Walkie
(Astralwerks/Source) 2004
The Album Leaf
In a Safe Place
(Sub Pop/City Slang) 2004
Angels of Light
We Are Him
(Young God) 2007
My Way
(Force Inc.) 2002
Talk of My Way always—and fairly—starts with Akufen's sampling fussiness and radio-snippet sourcing, but the real story is how damn hard it swings, bringing house to the "micro-" discussion like nothing before or since.
Animal Collective
Sung Tongs
(FatCat) 2004
Aphex Twin
(Warp) 2001
Beach House
(Carpark) 2008
Sea Change
(Geffen) 2002
(Shitkatapult) 2007
If Apparat's frequent collaborator Ellen Allien largely defined the sound of their shared home on Berlinette, Apparat's crowning achievement, Walls, looks farther afield. The soulful melodicism of Walls skirts obvious Teutonic signifiers, brazenly passing through dream pop, spacey shoegaze, and blissful funk, while never losing its bearings.
Gulag Orkestar
(Ba Da Bing!) 2006
October Language
(Carpark) 2006
(City Center Offices) 2003
Uwe Zahn's Tides, a rhapsodic take on breaks-and-keys, still ranks among the most haunting and perfect albums from the classy City Centre Offices label. Four years later, Zahn retired from music, stating he was "currently very much into motorbikes." It's a shame, but at least we'll always be very much into Tides.
Benoît Pioulard
(Kranky) 2006
(Touch) 2000
Blonde Redhead
Misery Is a Butterfly
(4AD) 2004
Boards of Canada
(Warp) 2002
The Books
Thought for Food
(Tomlab) 2002
The Books' debut is an unlikely classic. The gorgeous interplay of strings, voice, guitar, and banjo with (seemingly) carefree sampling may be novel, but repeat listens reveal a shocking humanity at work. Thought for Food deftly navigates ceaseless musical and conceptual left turns, arriving with humility, humor, and heart.
Boards Of Canada
The Campfire Headphase
(Warp) 2005
(Skam) 2002
Bon Iver
For Emma, Forever Ago
(Jagjaguwar) 2008
Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Master and Everyone
(Drag City) 2003
Tender Buttons
(Warp) 2005
It's rare that an already-great band drops a member and gets even better, but Broadcast did just that. Tender Buttons sucked the reverb out of the former trio's dark, Spector-y pop and sharpened the focus down to the micron. The results are their most artful, abrasive, and ultimately accessible work.
Broken Social Scene
You Forgot It in People
(Arts & Crafts) 2003
Cannibal Ox
The Cold Vein
(Def Jux) 2001
Caribou (Manitoba)
Up in Flames
(Leaf/Domino) 2006
Casino Versus Japan
Whole Numbers Play the Basics
(Carpark) 2002
(Hyperdub) 2006
Dubstep didn't know it needed a hero, but it found one in 2006 when a (then-)unknown bedroom producer emerged with a self-titled album that embodied everything exciting about the UK breakbeat continuum. Never mind that the skittering percussion, de-emphasis on bassweight, and profound, pervasive sadness would keep Burial's tracks out of the scene-reliant clubs—its haunting beauty and mystery found untold converts to the dark, ever-evolving sound.
Closer Musik
After Love
(Kompakt) 2002
The pairing of Matias Aguayo's South American coo and Dirk Leyers' doomy beats was just too perfect to last forever. While Closer Musik's lone album, After Love, was certainly a stylistic forbear to Junior Boys, theirs was a more seductive and creeping brand of techno-pop, like a lover who is dangerous and irresistible in equal measure.
Body Riddle
(Warp) 2006
(Output) 2004
Like Water for Chocolate
(MCA) 2000
Daft Punk
(Virgin) 2001
Cut Copy
Bright Like Neon Love
(Modular) 2004
Sure, Cut Copy's debut sounded like something we'd heard before—but if Bright Like Neon Love played a formula, we were hitting the repeat button. Brimming with unabashed optimism, the dance/rock hybrid's slamming beats, swirling synths, jangly guitars, and rhythmic chorus lines yielded a near-unhealthy quantity of hooks.
Deaf Center
The Pale Ravine
(Type) 2005
(Kranky/4AD) 2008
(Virgin) 2000
We haven't heard from him since, but D'Angelo created an honest-to-god masterpiece in 2000, and that's all that really matters. While Voodoo's behind-the-beat drums and spidery guitarwork gracefully frame D's intimate vocal performances, it's the mood of the whole thing that really transcends—an elusive quality that some call soul.
Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca
(Domino) 2009
Donnacha Costello
Together Is the New Alone
(Mille Plateaux) 2001
Life Is Full of Possibilities
(Plug Research) 2001
Pairing spritely beats with a rotating cast of sensitive male vocalists, Jimmy Tamborello helped invent a sound that would echo throughout the 2000s. As Dntel, Tamborello struck a fragile and peculiar balance that might only been bettered by his more famous Postal Service project.
Erlend Øye
(Astralwerks) 2003
The Faint
Danse Macabre
(Saddle Creek) 2001
Ellen Allien
(Bpitch Control) 2003
The last decade saw electronic music grow—surprising, considering the deserved backlash from the '90s marketing-led "electronica" push—and if Berlin was at the forefront, Ellen Allien's ode to her home, Berlinette, is the decade's ultimate stylistic document. With glitch, songy melodies, vocals, raved-up bombast, and steely sound design in play, Berlinette unselfconsciously skirted the minimalist/maximalist divide and stands as one of techno's finest albums.
(Klang Elektronik) 2002
Flying Lotus
Los Angeles
(Warp) 2008
Endless Summer
(Mego) 2001
At a time when "clicks & cuts" was running amok and so many were worshiping the glitch, Fennesz offered a reminder that beauty should always trump cleverness. Endless Summer's titular Beach Boys reference was wholly appropriate for the wash of warm, digitally abstracted guitar instrumentals found therein. And not for nothing, but "Caecilia" is one of the finest tearjerkers on record.
Four Tet
(Domino) 2003
(Mille Plateaux) 2001
Godspeed You Black Emperor
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
(Kranky) 2000
Flashlight Seasons
(Warp) 2004
Ghostface Killah
Supreme Clientele
(Razorsharp/Epic) 2000
Ghostface sparked up the new millennium with an unimpeachable collection of breathless, street-fluent joke raps over boombap soul. By then, hip-hop was already moving in different directions than Ghost, but the timeless formula he perfected on Supreme Clientele will remain among hip-hop's—let alone the Wu's—greatest legacies.
Grizzly Bear
(Warp) 2009
Grizzly Bear
Yellow House
(Warp) 2006
Cold House
(Aesthetics/Domino) 2001
Turn on the Bright Lights
(Matador) 2002
Iron & Wine
The Shepherd's Dog
(Sub Pop) 2007
Jay Dee aka J Dilla
Welcome 2 Detroit
(BBE) 2001
We Are Monster
(Playhouse) 2005
Rajko Müller's dance tracks aren't tracks, per se—they have as much in common with classical composition as they do with techno—and they're not even necessarily for the dancefloor, although they work there just fine. On We Are Monster, Müller throws convention to the wind and writes an album of idiosyncratic, melodic techno "songs" and, lo and behold, it works.
Jens Lekman
Oh You're So Silent, Jens
(Secretly Canadian) 2005
Jim O'Rourke
(Drag City) 2001
Jay Dee aka J Dilla
(Stones Throw) 2006
For a record in which most of the songs clock in under two minutes, you wouldn't expect to have such a strong attachment to each, or feel such personal emotion emanating from such fractured, vocal-free beats. But Donuts has it all, and somehow J Dilla made one of most enjoyable records of the decade and broke the hip-hop mold forever.
Kanye West
The College Dropout
(Roc-A-Fella) 2004
Kings of Convenience
Riot on an Empty Street
(Astralwerks) 2004
Junior Boys
So This Is Goodbye
(Domino) 2006
Lush sequencing, darkly sensual beats, and Jeremy Greenspan's feathery voice conspired to make the Junior Boys' second offering an instant classic. From driving electro-house numbers to melancholic lullabies, So This Is Goodbye was destined for twilight drives and nocturnal dances. Few contemporary albums ooze greater per-track sex appeal.
The Knife
Silent Shout
(Rapid/Mute) 2006
LCD Soundsystem
Sound of Silver
(DFA/Capitol) 2007
Lali Puna
Scary World Theory
(Morr Music) 2001
Lali Puna dispelled fears of a sophomore slump with Scary World Theory, an ambiguously nostalgia-inducing album from the first listen. Valérie Trebeljahr's breathy, deadpan timbre found a perfect instrumental blanket in Marcus Acher's marching synth-pop perfection.
Things We Lost in the Fire
(Kranky) 2001
(Force Tracks/Huume) 2000
(Mute) 2008
(Stones Throw) 2004
Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts
(Gooom Disques/Mute) 2003
The post-rock crescendo mafia had a hell of a run there. But of all the bands who traded in the long, tortured, emotional build, none demonstrated the clarity of vision and merciless execution of M83 on their debut. Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts's martial drum machines and analog-synth tsunamis are tempered with just enough grace to keep the whole affair in that elusive sweet spot of uplifting desperation.
(Morr Music) 2002
Wir Sind Hier
(Karaoke Kalk) 2004
Max Richter
The Blue Notebooks
(FatCat) 2004
Max Tundra
Mastered by Guy at the Exchange
(Tigerbeat6) 2004
Memory Tapes
Seek Magic
(Acephale/SIC) 2009
Metro Area
Metro Area
(Environ/Source) 2002
The Trials of Van Occupanther
(Bella Union) 2006
Midlake refashioned the best parts of soft rock in the mid-late-'70s (sepia-toned harmonies, tightly woven song structures, an air of gentle, autumnal resignation) into a paradoxically unassuming concept album about Americana and the alienation of modern life. Catchy tunes, too.
You Make Me Feel
(Plug Research) 2004
Mike Milosh's freshman effort ushered in a new breed of candlelight listening. You Make Me Feel's intimate, languorous tunes are stitched together by soulful vocals and a steady feed of soft, pulsing beats and fuzzy snaps. Combining elements of old-school R&B and latter-day experimental, Milosh repackaged the familiar love song into something alien and exciting.
Finally We Are No One
(FatCat) 2002
(Leaf) 2004
The Notwist
Neon Golden
(Domino/City Slang) 2002
Six albums into a meandering career and the German duo of Markus and Micha Archer finally cracked the code, abandoning their heavy-metal roots in favor of painstakingly arranged, melancholy electro-pop. It may be the album that launched a thousand Postal Service clones, but with songs like these, Neon Golden'll outlive them all.
(LaFace/Arista) 2000
Out Hud
Let Us Never Speak of It Again
(Kranky) 2005
Panda Bear
Person Pitch
(Paw Tracks) 2007
Pantha Du Prince
This Bliss
(Dial) 2007
Peter Broderick
(Type) 2008
(Astralwerks) 2000
The Postal Service
Give Up
(Sub Pop) 2003
Prefuse 73
Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives
(Warp) 2001
Kid A
(Capitol) 2000
Rhythm & Sound
Rhythm & Sound
(Rhythm & Sound) 2001
Slum Village
Fantastic Vol. 2
(Goodvibe/Barak) 2000
With the first national release from Detroit trio Slum Village, the specter of J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) stepped out from behind the boards for the Pharcyde and De La Soul to invent a loose, loping sound and inspire a generation of future-funk producers.
Ricardo Villalobos
(Playhouse) 2003
Girls Can Tell
(Merge) 2001
Sun Kil Moon
Ghosts of the Great Highway
(Caldo Verde) 2003
Just as Mark Kozelek's Red House Painters project was slowing down, Sun Kil Moon sprang to life, reinvigorating a prolific and perennially underrepresented career. Invoking a lost America and its folklore, Ghosts is a stunning second act if there ever was one.
The Strokes
Is This It
(Rough Trade/RCA) 2001
Sufjan Stevens
(Asthmatic Kitty) 2003
Telefon Tel Aviv
Immolate Yourself
(Bpitch Control) 2009
After two albums that helped both define and interrogate their respective scenes, Telefon Tel Aviv released their magnum opus: an intensely personal, shouted veil of rock and experimental techno that brimmed with dogged resolve. Immolate Yourself would launch the duo past their supposed peers, while forging a sound all its own.
Susumu Yokota
(Lo) 2005
Telefon Tel Aviv
Fahrenheit Fair Enough
(Hefty) 2007
Thom Yorke
The Eraser
(XL Recordings) 2006
Critics of Thom Yorke's first solo album fixated on the record's needling, claustrophobic anxiety. And yet, underneath all that, The Eraser was an album of heartrending honesty and unmistakable beauty. Never before had we heard Yorke's vocals so fragile, so haunting. Amid The Eraser's digital flourishes, we feel a very human cry.
Tim Hecker
Radio Amor
(Mille Plateaux/Alien8) 2007
TV On The Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain
(4AD/Interscope) 2006
William Basinski
The Disintegration Loops
(2062) 2002
Avant-garde composer William Basinski recorded a suite of ambient tape loops in the early '80s. Upon transferring the analog tape to digital 20 years later—on September 11th, 2001, no less—he found that his beloved recordings were literally disintegrating. The result: four discs of some of the simplest, most heartbreaking sounds ever documented. Beautiful decay, indeed.
Ulrich Schnauss
A Strangely Isolated Place
(City Centre Offices) 2003
Vincent Gallo
(Warp) 2001
The Wrens
The Meadowlands
(Absolutely Kosher) 2003
All Hour Cymbals
(We Are Free) 2007

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