Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Top Albums of the 2000s: 19-10

19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

Though the impact of this album has worn off slightly over time, it's still one of the most powerful albums in terms of dynamics. Labeled post rock by most, I'd describe this as classical music with a rock influence, replacing melody with sheer force and volume. It could be music for the apocylipse.

18. Thrice - Vhiessu

I thought I'd largely written off post hardcore a long time ago as a generally adolescent genre full of petty anger and immature frustration, but this is one of the few exceptions. The power in this album is in its maturity, thoughtfulness, and illusions to Christian theology.

17. Joanna Newsom - Ys

This album is just pure fun to get lost in. It's classic Van Dyke Parks storytelling combined with a shrill female vocalist and a harp with orchestration around it all. Sound intriguing? Probably not. But you'd be the fool for not giving it a chance.

16. Radiohead - In Rainbows

This was a nice surprise after the really disappointing Hail to the Thief. For once, it almost seems as if Thom as become a little less gloomy, and though the music is hardly lighthearted, it is more relaxed and settled in. It doesn't stray too far from the electronic-rock they've been doing this decade, but it's just done really well with great songwriting. Nothing is done for show or for expiramentation, like I felt was the case for the aforementioned album. "All I Need" is their best song since 2000.

15. Elliott Smith - New Moon

Although these songs weren't recorded in the year of its release, let alone this decade, it still was released this decade so I'm counting it. These songs, supposed "throwaways" from his golden Either/Or period, are little less amazing than his album material. And a full two discs worth at that.

14. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods

I think I've heard these gals labeled as the girl version of Fugazi. It's a pretty apt comparison. They share the same aesthetic of punk combined with straight out rock, progressive arrangements, and a powerful lead singer. I haven't heard many Sleater-Kinney albums, but if this isn't their peak I'd be highly surprised.

13. Antony & the Johnsons - I Am a Bird Now

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined loving music by a homosexual, operatic chamber-music type male singer. Stunning, I know. But the songs are so heartfelt, and his voice is so sincere, and the arrangements are so gorgeous, it would almost be more shameful to admit that you didn't have the heart to love this music.

12. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass

Besides having basically the coolest album title of all time, the reason this has turned into my favorite Yo La Tengo album is because of how great all the songs are despite being so diverse and the sheer quantity of them. From the raukus guitar jam opener, to the guiet ballads, to the garage-y rockers, to the nearly doo-wop-esque pop, they seem to do it all, but they do it all so well. This band is so incredibly underrated.

11. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

I was ultimately disappionted with Strawberry Jam. I could appreciate the direction they were going, but it didn't hold much for staying power. Their fun side seemed to have been replaced with maniacal craziness, which is fun for only so long. So I was surprised when this, their next album, had much more of a pop influence. And it works perfectly for who they are as musicians - carefree, fun, and unhibited. It was only natural for them to translate that into a largely pop album, and it makes for a really addictive set of songs.

10. PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea

For some reason maturity is the golden word for this list, and it fits here, too. PJ used to be a raw, rough-edged rocker, but here she's a slightly more polished, sophisticated woman playing rock music. Even the album cover denotes such, with her looking so urban with her shades and handbag walking across a busy street. But her songwriting has matured as well, into some of the best songs she's ever written.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Top Albums of the 2000s: 29-20

29. Teenage Fanclub - Howdy!

Although the so-called "highs" of this album aren't quite as high as other TF albums, this is probably their most consistent outside of Songs From Northern Britain. There's a lot more maturity and subtlety to their songwriting, and it tends to be more of a grower for that reason. But the reward is there for those who stay with it.

28. Elliott Smith - Figure 8

Lots of people were turned off when Elliott discovered what a music studio was, but I think those complaints are largely overhyped. His songwriting is just as strong and the added production and instrumentation allowed for a lot more range in his music.

27. Radiohead - Amnesiac

At first I threw this album off, as many did, as a Kid A throwaway disc. While that's still maybe partly true, that doesn't prevent this from having its own merits. It's even more alienating, more submersive, and a very involved listening experience.

26. The Notwist - Neon Golden

I still think this album is ten times better than Give Up by the Postal Service. I don't know why I always compare the two in my mind, other than both are mostly electronic and pop in nature. This is much less a sunny album, while still having some really catchy melodies to go along with its atmospheric parts.

25. Fugazi - The Argument

Still not their best album (that title will forever belong to Repeater), this is a much more mature Fugazi. This is the sound of a very confident band, making a very confident record.

24. Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling

This is the biggest surprise for me in this list. Mogwai dropped off the map as far as I was concerned and I didn't pay much attention to them. By chance I gave this one a listen and it became my favorite of theirs. They rely less on the post-rock cliche of building crescendos and more on nuances and layers and variety.

23. Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse

Rarely do bands put out such an incredible record so late in their career. They meld noise, pop, and rock so seemlessly it's almost as if they can do this in their sleep. They are able to expand ideas throughout the album without being overbearing or boring.

22. Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out

This is such a hushed album it takes some patience and time to let it unfold and become interesting. It's an album no 17 year old would ever "get." It's about marriage, pain, patience, dancing, and all around growing up. Very much best listened to in the late evening in the dark.

21. Spoon - Kill the Moonlight

The best explanation I've seen or heard about this album, is that it's as if the band members were playing jenga with these songs, seeing how much they could take out while still keeping everything in tact. Almost like the Young Marble Giants, they take pop, simplify it as much as possible, and make some really addicting music.

20. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs

Unlike anything I'd ever heard before it, this album - and particularly one of my top 5 songs of the decade, the opener "Leaf House" - was an album that made me rethink things about music and what was possible. It's so weird to the average person, they'd think you were on crack for liking it. But it makes me feel so unhibited, and so free and happy because of the very fact that I not only can like it, and even love it, but that I very sincerely DO.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Top Albums of the 2000s - Albums 39-30

39. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

"It's going to be a beautiful day" is one of the lines sung over an almost triumphant chorus on "One Day Like This." Those familiar with Elbow's general aesthetic may find that line surprising, but their generally melancholy music finds some light on this album. Not enough to blind you, just enough to help you see your way through.

38. Scott Walker - The Drift

What a freaking creepy album this is. But that's the fun of it, to experience extreme emotions without any of the consequences of life experiences that would be required to duplicate these kinds of feelings.

37. Thom Yorke - The Eraser

I usually don't like when a singer or someone else from a group goes solo, but it works well here as Thom is able to show that he really is the creative force of Radiohead.

36. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

It's difficult to figure out where all of their influences have come from, but it's a unique combination. They put them all together as best as they have on this album.

35. Band of Horses - Everything All the Time

This album seemed pretty simple and like nothing special until I heard it a few times and instead of being bored with it, I became entranced in it.

34. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

The guy's got ambition. Not that he's actually going to make an album about all 50 states, but that his music is anything but simplified and stripped down. "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." is one of the best songs of the decade.

33. Spoon - Gimme Fiction

Spoon didn't hit their creative peak here, but it wasn't much of a letdown, either. I don't think these guys are capable of putting out a bad album.

32. Wilco - A Ghost is Born

My attitutude about this album has shifted more times than I can count, but I've finally settled into thinking it's very underrated. It has variety, it has the pop gems, it has krautrock, and it has mystique.

31. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

This is the only Bad Seeds album I've ever been able to get into. There's a definite overtone of gospel influence, which would normally turn me off of anything, but not this.

30. Wilco - Yankee Foxtrot Hotel

Like the Arcade Fire, I don't give these guys as much credit as most other people, but once the album settles in it really does have one of the best middle runs of any album of the decade.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Top albums of the 2000s: Albums 50-40

This list will surely evolve as I hear more albums from this decade, but as of now this is what I've come up with.

This decade was an interesting decade - a decade where indie became mainstream, Justin Timberlake evolved from a boy-band pretty boy to critically acclaimed pop artist, and American Idol did a great job of killing everything that's good about music.

50. Iron & Wine - The Creek Drank the Cradle

Before Sam Beam made the transition further and further away from his homegrown, 4-track, low key approach to making music, he made this excellent collection of quiet acoustic folk. His voice is almost whispered, and you can hear every guitar screech and every breath. An extremely relaxing, calming, and reassuring album.

49. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm

J. Mascis loves his guitar. It's always been by far the most prominant feature of his band, and nothing changes here. But here, he manages a feat that isn't easy - he grabs me with his guitar solos. I've never been one that's huge for guitar solos. And the songs are all solid. Kudos to these guys.

48. Caribou - Andorra

The first thing that caught me about this album was the cover. One of the best of the decade. But the music inside is great, too. A really great summery record of hazy pop.

47. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow

A record with songs so extremely catchy they make it seem a little too easy. It makes you wonder why you couldn't just wake up one day and write a record full of great songs.

46. The Jayhawks - Rainy Day Music

Over time I've become more and more open to country influenced music. This is further down the path but is full of addictive and uplifting songs.

45. Sunny Day Real Estate - The Rising Tide

The last and best album from this group.

44. Spoon - Girls Can Tell

I can still remember the excitement I felt as I discovered these guys virtually on my own and pressed play after buying the album with little expectation. It immediately brought a smile to my face and was exactly what I wanted at the time.

43. Massive Attack - 100th Window

A very underrated album, this is much more subversive than their prior albums. There's a sense of tranquility I get from these nearly hypnotic songs.

42. Reigning Sound - Too Much Guitar

Garage rock like it's the 1960's again. Some of the best throwback rock music of the decade.

41. Arcade Fire - Funeral

I never grasped onto this album as much as nearly everyone around me, but it is a solid album nonetheless.

40. The Shins - Oh, Inverted World

Just a great, warm sounding summery album. Every song is top notch and it flows extremely well as a cohesive unit. Did this album change YOUR life?

Friday, October 9, 2009

New list coming soon...

I'm working on a top albums of the 2000's list, look for the first installment to come in the next few days...

I'm so excited!!! And I hope you are too!!!