Thursday, October 29, 2009

Decade in Review: Top 100 Albums of 2000 - 2009: #20 - 11

#20. Radiohead - In Rainbows (2008) If anyone would have told me Radiohead's In Rainbows would slowly become my favorite of their albums back when I received the Deluxe Box Set back in December of '07, I would have laughed in your face. But it's funny how as time goes by, certain albums just change and grow and reveal themselves to you. I still listen to this more than any other Radiohead record since I first got it. The album is a sort of return to their OK Computer sound but the darkness of Kid A and forth still heavily prevails over in some form. Jilted love songs like "Nude" and "All I Need" are punctuated by the paranoid tracks like "15 Step" and "Bodysnatchers." The two stand-outs that really are breathtaking is the woozy "House of Cards" and the devastating and jarring "Videotape." Yorke laments on "House of Cards" about a baseless relationship and on "Videotape," not only is Yorke's trembling voice mournful but the music slowly sounds like it's falling a part at the seams. Radiohead seems to be able to do nothing short of great and on In Rainbows, the band have all come together to bring something beautiful and well composed.

#19. The Postal Service - Give Up (2003) A combination of two brilliant forms came together to create The Postal Service's only album (and most likely to stay that way.) Give Up is both musically challenging and emotional lyrically. Jimmy Tamborello's electro orchestrations paired up with Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard's timid voice and honest lyrics was a perfect combo. The big hits like "Such Great Heights" and "We Will Become Silhouettes" showed just how sensible the duo's pop prowess but attention to artistic detail was still important. Even tracks like the duet "Nothing Better" or the romantic "Clark Gable" ooze with the same beauty. It's a heartbreaking work for a distant age. The synths sound less like a new wave throwback and more like a futuristic romanticism that just has the listener begging for more. Sadly the possibility of another Postal Service record seems less and less likely every year, but that might make Give Up that much more special.

#18. The Fever - Red Bedroom (2004) The best way I can describe the sadly defunct New York band The Fever is Halloweencore. Their songs are deeply seeded in both dance and punk rock music with swirling synths, super fast and bone crushing disco drums and jangly guitar theatrics prevail over strange lyrics about androids and diamonds and other eerie but fun imagery. Red Bedroom is their magnum opus. Only two albums and an EP worth of tracks available, The Fever blasted through Red Bedroom with some of the best songs I've heard. "Gray Ghost" was the albums stellar single but songs like "Artificial Heart" and "Put It On You" are stand out rockers. The more subtle tracks like "Dream Machine" and "Diamond Days" will take you for a loop after all the fast paced dancey punk has treated you to a dance party of epic proportions. Either way, whether it's the more fast paced tracks or the dreamy, ethereal ones, The Fever wrote one of the catchiest records of the decade that went virtually unnoticed.

#17. Autolux - Future Perfect (2004) It's strange to think that Autolux's first and only album (luckily this time there will be another one) was way back in 2004. A band as knife-edge sharp and precise as Autolux, it comes as no surprise. But the matter at hand is how amazing Future Perfect is. What it comes down to is pure atmosphere. A prevailing doom hangs over songs like "Turnstile Blues" or "Subzero Fun" have their traditional rock elements, but taking a page out of Sonic Youth's catalog are filled with all kinds of fuzz and haze. "Sugarless" is my personal favorite track with dual vocals between drummer Carla Azar and bassist Eugene Goreshter and a sound that is complex and compelling, it takes the listener on a sonic journey. The album takes shape over it's tracks as one of those stand out indie rockers that is filled with enough haze and fog of noise as it does melodies and catchy hooks.

#16. Secret Machines - Now Here Is Nowhere (2004) After a fantastic EP, Secret Machines came rolling in like war heroes on Now Here is Nowhere. The power of the band increased quite a bit from the brooding space epic of September 000. They wanted to become bonafied arena space rockers. And they could have if enough ears gave themselves up to the power of this record. "First Wave Intact" is by far one of the best album openers I've heard in ages, maybe since "Devil's Haircut" off of Beck's Odelay. It kicks in with Josh Garza's insanely loud drums, Brandon Curtis' thumping bass and Benjamin Curtis' howling single note. This sound can be seen on all songs, especially the singles "Sad and Lonely", "Nowhere Again" and "The Road Leads Where It's Led." The band puts so much power and fury into these riffs and leave plenty of room for space travelling heights. "The Pharaoh's Daughter" is the perfect manifestation of Pink Floydian spaciness in their sound but with a touch of their own. It's one of the rock albums from the 00's that will skate along without proper recognition for it's fantastic selections.

#15. Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond (2007) There were many comebacks in the 00's. But my favorite was breaking Dinosaur Jr.s' original line-up from their amber casings to unleash everything they did so well back on the listeners who missed the sound of good hard grunge. Beyond was what they bestowed upon us after waiting so long and it was not disappointing on any level whatsoever. "Almost Ready" is a great first track and shows the the listener may think they are ready but they are only slightly there. The riffs keep coming and coming. "Pick Me Up" is a fantastic epic building over different movements and ending with one of J Mascis best guitar solos. Lou Barlow brings his A game on "Back To Your Heart." It's pounding riff is intoxicating and his poetic lyrics stand out among many tracks. It's a rock album in the old tradition and Dinosaur Jr. may have topped themselves, even after close to 20 years of absence from playing together. Impressive that their chemistry could live up to there past greatness. And I'd safely say surpasses it.

#14. The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (2003) - The Shins have appeared before with their debut Oh, Inverted World. What that album did was show that a band could do a lot with a little. They polished their sound and got out into the studio for their sophomore release Chutes Too Narrow and they showed that they could improve upon their pop sensibilities. "Kissing the Lipless" starts off with some hand claps before it begins it's subtle strum. It then goes further and picks up the pace making it one of the happiest little pop songs I've heard. "Turn a Square" is a classic catchy riff with some of my favorite Shins lyrics. "Gone For Good (A Call To Apathy)" is one of my personal favorite kiss off songs as anyone who has had a relationship turn into a listing ship can relate to. The fast peppy tracks are mirrored with "Those To Come" or the acoustic wonder "Young Pilgrims" giving the album depth and worthy reason for repeat listens. The Shins may not "change your life" but they will certainly make a dull day brighter with some of the best pop music around.

#13. Mastodon - Crack the Skye (2009) In what is easily one of the best prog-metal albums I have ever heard, Mastodon went beyond their usual thrash and burn to create Crack the Skye, a personal album of sorts even if it's still brutally hard rocking. A tribute to Brann Dailor's late sister Skye, the album takes on a strange twist of a story that would take to long to describe. Astral travel, golden umbilical chords, Rasputin and all sorts of intense themes come into the lyrical qualities. "Oblivion" launches us into space immediately before the surf rock banjo intro on "Diviniations" launches us back into an ancient ritual. The soloing on this track is fast and loud and unlike anything else Mastodon has done up to this point. The two epics, "The Czar" and "The Last Baron" are both fitfully brilliant with changes a plenty. Especially in "The Last Baron," we see Mastodon not holding anything back. Riff after riff comes over the 13 minute stretch and the listeners ears will not be spared. Over it's course, many new sounds come forth making Crack the Skye a leap forward and in a different direction of sorts for Mastodon. Some old fans may miss the straight up thrashing, but new fans will come along on this spacey magnum opus.

#12. Yo La Tengo - I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass (2006) Yo La Tengo surprisingly didn't make this list very often. I believe only one other album hit the charts. It's hard being Yo La Tengo. They have lasted longer than many of their late 80's indie rockers and they tend to do what they want. And on I Am Not Afraid Of You... they tend to jump from genre to genre. And that can sometimes mean a disjointed album. However, the bookended by guitar epics disc is enhanced by this variety. "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind" is a pulsating guitar scorcher that leads directly into the horns driven pop of "Beenbag Chair." The two tracks couldn't be more not alike, but yet they sound great next to each other. That's because the quality of effort that Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley and James McNew shines. "Black Flowers" is a McNew composition that oozes with sentiment and beautiful strings, "The Room Got Heavy" is a trippy bongo infused island hop and "Watch Out For Me Ronnie" is a garage rock throwback scorcher. "Mr. Tough" may be the single best track on the record with it's falsetto sing-a-long structure and copious horns. But with so many to choose from, it's decidedly hard to pick one stand out. With the variety, every listen can be different.

#11. Justice - - (2007) Ripping the page out of Daft Punk's playbook, translating it into space age rock and roll and then back into their native French, Justice turned the French dance music scene and dipped it in a vat of hard rock and roll. So for those who decided to write off Justice as a hipster dance group with no value should go back and listen to how gritty yet lushly produced and danceable their debut album "Cross" would turn out to be. Album opener "Genesis" sounds like the kind of music that would come along with opening an ancient tomb and expecting something epic to be found behind the doors. What we find laying in wait is a dance party of epic proportions that doesn't stop from after that doorway is opened. "D.A.N.C.E." is now even more poignant as it is a song about the late legend Michael Jackson. Both "Phantom"s are fantastic disco infused rockers and the bludgeoning "Waters of Nazareth" and "Stress" take so much distortion that the dance beats fall second place only to crunchy guitar sounding effects. So there is much more to Justice than some hipster moniker. It's a dance record that has roots in extremely heavy and distorted rhythms.

EDITORS NOTE: Sorry for the massive text. Blogger has decided they want it to make Justice's article in huge font.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Decade in Review: Top 100 Albums of 2009: #30 - 21

#30. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) - Following in the footsteps of the likes of The Band, Wilco has cut themselves a delightful place in one of the best rock bands around with talent in every aspect of the group. Their albums prior to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had moments leading to this place in their career, but only moments. An album as intense as YHF comes along only once every so often. Filled to the brim with the most interesting alternative rock songs around, Wilco breaks free of their alt-country tag completely with a batch of next to impossible to describe songs. "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" drips with sound and has one of the most interesting drum backbones of any Wilco song. "Reservations" and "Ashes of American Flags" will still bring a tear to my eye with their post 9/11 melancholy and uncertainty. Rockers "Heavy Metal Drummer" and "I'm The Man Who Loves You" bring you out of those dark passages to see the light beyond.

#29. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (2008) - Eno and Byrne's return to recording together did not result in the same tribal third world futuristic opus that their record My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts turned out to be. Instead we were given the "electro-gospel" of Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. The times have changed for the eccentric duo. Talking Heads were long gone and Eno's venture into ambient music left him turning away from more traditional music. So when Eno had some conventional music written, he sent it to Byrne to work the lyrics and a magnificently simple yet elegant record came forth. The titular gospel sing along is an ethereal beauty bridging the best of what Eno does with sound and the best of Byrne's lyrical output. "Life is Long" and "The River" are adult versions of "Once in a Lifetime." No longer paranoid, but not complacent, Byrne comes off as an elder statesmen who still knows how to mystify and keep us guessing with lyrics. And it all comes down to the fabulous "Strange Overtones" which comes smack in the middle of the record like a beacon of pop music delight. Gone are the wild days of experiment, but I welcome the pop goodness with open arms.

#28. The White Stripes - Elephant (2003) Jack White gets a lot of shit for all the praise he gets, but come on naysayers. He's our generations Eric Clapton! Anyway, the bluesy goodness that drips from Elephant is beyond great. It's superb. The riffs rock hard and White's languished vocals just ooze with blues expression. Jack White may not be the world's greatest guitarist, but what he does with tone is just mesmerizing. "Seven Nation Army" is a simple track until you listen to what sounds Jack gets out of that red and white guitar. "The Hardest Button to Button" is a rhythm song that just pummels as it trudges along. It's a blazing record that doesn't let the listener off the hook. Whether it's the fast paced rocking of "Hypnotize" or the love ballad "I Want To Be The Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart," the White Stripes held nothing back on Elephant. Even if you think Jack White isn't as great as he's made out to be. Which, of course, would be a fools game to say. Can you write songs that catchy?

#27. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Howl (2005) Although Black Rebel Motorcycle Club seemed to be written off as another roots rock group during the early 00's, they proved themselves on their 2005 disc Howl that there is much more to rocking then just woozy vocals and a driving guitar riff. Instead they retreated into the worlds of Dylan, Young and The Band to pull together an Americana disc of epic proportions. Giving way to more acoustic guitars and harmonicas, the stomping beat of these songs is less about power and more about soul. It's also the stomping of feet during songs like "Ain't No Easy Way" or "Shuffle Your Feet" that we get this acoustic jam goodness. "Howl" brings in organs and is a ballad with country soul to it. The directional shift may have been for just one record as Baby 81 reverted back to more rocking tunes, but even on that record you can't deny the influence of Howl on the bands sound.

#26. Radiohead - Kid A (2000) It may be the most important record of the decade, but that doesn't always make it the best. Kid A turned pop music conventions onto it's head. Radiohead, whose music was wildly popular from their single "Creep" to their magnum rock opus of OK Computer, but fame may have scared them a bit. So Radiohead creates Kid A, a sonic opus that is all at once beautiful and harrowing. "Everything In It's Right Place" is one of the most ominously catchy tunes one will ever hear while "The National Anthem" is a straight up rocker that decends into chaos. The melancholy "How To Disappear Completely" is devastating and leads into the silent Eno infused "Treefingers." One would hope for some light at the end of "How To Disappear..." but instead we are launched into an ambient and moody sound scape. "Ideoteque" stands as one of the most intense tracks of their catalog with it's psycho trance sound and Yorke's shattered voice carrying it somehow on his broken back. It was a sign of the times and it's a beautiful record that defined an era of darkness of sorts in a lot of the music to follow Kid A.

#25. Sufjan Stevens - Come On Feel the Illinoise! (2005) Sufjan Stevens may have to eat his words promising us listeners with a folk album about all 50 states in the Union. Luckily he bottomed out only on his second state and gave us the breathtaking Illinois. A folk album centered around a States history is an interesting endeavour but what Stevens put together goes beyond folk and brings in a baroque sensibility. The big tracks off of it, namely "Chicago", "Jacksonville" and "Come One! Feel the Illinoise!" are all your standard baroque pop tracks chock full of swirling melodies, strings and Sufjan's banjo twang. For me, the somber moments are really the home runs of the disc. "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." paints a very sad portrait of a serial killer and "Casimir Pulaski Day" may be the saddest tribute song to a departed friend I've ever heard. I would love to see Sufjan tackle my fair state of New Jersey with songs about Molly Pitcher, Thomas Edison, towns like Freehold and Atlantic City, but it doesn't look likely unless Sufjan Stevens finds the fountain of youth and stays young forever to do all the states. In the meantime, I will pop on Illinois and enjoy it's lush beauty.

#24. Gorillaz - Demon Days (2005) -What do you get when Damon Albarn, MF Doom, Roots Manuva, Shaun Ryder and Dennis Hopper come together in the studio? One would think some weird ass cult of sorts but instead we got the Gorillaz second album Demon Days. The Gorillaz are enough of an enigma of sorts, but their brand of party trip-hop was one of the brightest spots in the record industry in the past few years. Whether it's the dance-floor ready stomp of "DARE" or the more funky "Feel Good, Inc.", there was no escaping the Gorrilaz grasp at house parties and dance mixes. It was an inevitability that you would groove along to the children's gang vocals on "Dirty Harry" or recite along with the lunatic ramblings of Dennis Hopper on "Fire Coming Out of the Monkeys Head." For my dime this is Albarn's shining moment in his entire career and that includes all of Blur and the strange super group The Good, The Bad and The Queen. What it comes down to is a collaborative ensemble of an album with hooks as sharp as any. It's sad to see the Gorillaz stop, but whose to say the mysterious monkeys won't come back with something equally nuts in the future?

#23. Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm A Machine (2004) This still goes as the best album I ever stole. No I didn't download it off of Napster or Soulseek, I took the CD from my college radio station. I needed it. Death From Above 1979 was my first venture into noise rock, although they really aren't noise rock. There is way more melody in between the fuzz of the bass and the bashing of the drums then on other noise groups. The duo created a sound unlike anything I heard, especially for two guys. "Turn It Out" kicks the album into overdrive and rarely do the wheels stop spinning. "Romantic Rights" stands as the hardest party anthem I've heard and "Sexy Results" oozes with lust and passion. To take a bass and a drummer with howling vocals and to fuzz them out to disco beats may sound like every pretentious hipsters dream band, but at least the songwriting rules and the punk infused dance party will ensue. It's less about noise and more about rhythm from Death From Above 1979. Best stolen disc ever.

#22. Electric Six - Senor Smoke (2005) One step forward from Fire, Senor Smoke at first seems like just a nostalgic pick, but in truth it's an album of amazing song writing and fantastic hooks. Electric Six write party music. It's no bones about it fun. A song like "Dance-A-Thon 2005" shouldn't be taken completely seriously. But when you hear the slowed down four-to-the-floor disco rocking, you get more than just a joke band. "Dance Epidemic" stands as easily the party anthem for my group of friends and I bet once you hear it you will incorporate it into your next party mix. "Devil Nights" brings more synths into the picture where "Rock and Roll Evacuation" is true to the power chord, cock rock roots of E6's first record. And at the end of the disc, as per usual with most E6 records, we get the poignant "The Future is In The Future," a song with a great message and a danceable hook. E6 may come off as goofs, but packed within these tasty grooves can be a beautiful moment or two. And if not, just have fun.

#21. Cursive - The Ugly Organ (2003) I still can't put my finger on what Cursive's whole goal was in creating The Ugly Organ. It's a loose concept album of the "Ugly Organist's" depraved life through heartless and meaningless lust. That's hard to discern at times, but what we have is an album that is electric and filled with those passions and the harsh emptiness behind them. The guitar rings out with searing distortion and the accents of cello make it an even more eerie and delightful record. "Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand" is the mission statement for the record represented as a side show act of the Ugly Organist telling his tale of despair. "A Gentleman Caller" and "Bloody Murderer" feature some of Tim Kasher's most intense vocals on the record. Overall the album has an atmosphere unlike anything else I've heard in quite a bit and it stands as a testament as one of the best indie records out there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Decade in Review: Top 100 Albums: #40 - 31

#40. The Sword - Age of Winters (2006) When it comes down to it, The Sword just know how to do classic metal right. It may just sound like another Black Sabbath tribute band, but something about the heavy swooping riffs that bash your face in on Age of Winters that really grab me more so than say some thrash metal. It's less about proficiency and speed as much as general rocking that I enjoy in my metal. The Sword do it right and when they bring these songs out live, you see just how gargantuan they can be. Guitar Hero paved the way to my love of the band with the track "Freya" but after repeat listens to this album, it songs like the thrashing "Iron Swan" or "Winter's Wolves" that get things going. The viking rockers from Austin bring images of war glory and battle via their hard and heavy hitting riffs that are catchy as they are doomy.

#39. The Rapture - Echoes (2003) When it comes down to it, two compilations were responsible for a lot of the music you see on this list. The first of these two was Yes New York which I bought solely because it had a live version of "New York City Cops" by The Strokes. Little did I know it would be a treasure trove of goodness. The Fever, Ted Leo and this band, The Rapture, all made appearances as well as many others. The song "Olio" which would become the leading track off of Echoes was the first I heard an in it's eerie psuedo dance pulse came one of the best tracks and different songs I had heard. The album then takes Dance Punk to all new levels on fast rockers like "Heaven" and jangle fest "House Of Jealous Lovers." Their are moments of space travelling, especially on the hazy "I Need Your Love" or the melancholy piano ballad "Open Up Your Heart." The Rapture turned out to be one of the decades best finds.

#38. Electric Six - Fire (2003) No other band in this decade has brought me as much joy and fun as Electric Six. Three of their now six albums made this top 100. Flashy ringing in at #92 and another one to come soon. I've seen the band either nine or 10 times in a span of six years. Fire was my introduction to the band. What can be said is that E6 has this way of writing great pop songs even if they sound like jokes. They are less jokes and more about partying, having a good time and less bogged down with details like politics and self-centered agendas. That would come later in some tongue and cheek tracks on future albums. Fire is where it all began. "Danger! High Voltage" and "Gay Bar" being the most recognized classics of the catalog and tracks like "Synthesizer" and "I'm The Bomb" being fan favorites. Dick Valentine's libido and ego are dripping from these songs, but luckily his libido and ego comes from a hilarious place whilst being extremely catchy and danceable.

#37. Islands - Return to the Sea (2006) What Islands did was take the schizophrenia of their previous group The Unicorns and infuses it with a tad more structure. The sugary pop sensibilities are still intact, but the jumping from genre to genre throughout the album is much more intriguing than anything Islands has done since. With a phenomenal lead-off single in "Rough Gem", it's hard to not wonder what else the band has up their sleeve. Indie Prog epic "Swans (Life After Death)" kicks the album with it's swooping epic tale before giving way to the calypso rhythms of "Jogging Gorgeous Summer" or the white boy rap of "Where There's A Wish There's A Whalebone." Luckily Islands can pull of doing such genre shifts. The album still holds up as a cohesive piece of pop music greatness and has yet to get old. A truly fantastic record.

#36. Beck - Guero (2005) - Beck returned to his Odelay roots in a way on Guero but a lot had changed for Beck since then. He had to get over the hurtle of the brilliant flop of Midnite Vultures as well as past the heartbreak and abandon of the beautiful Sea Change. So there are touches of these two records on Guero. It's also his return to work with The Dust Brothers who helped make Odelay such a brilliant record. Pop tracks like "Girl" bubble with darkness when you turn to the lyrics and the island rhythm's of "Earthquake Weather" and "Missing" bring some of the albums nicest moments. Even the straight up white boy hip hop of "Hell Yes" still feels fresh and fun. All in all the scope and grandeur of the album is less schizophrenic and high strung then Odelay, but I guess this is Beck's way of showing us that he can be wacky in the studio still, but he's grown up and gone through a lot.

#35. Mastodon - Leviathan (2004) Metal music has always thrived on the grandiose and the other worldly. Atlanta's finest Mastodon turned to the epic American novel Moby Dick for inspiration and what they came up with is an epic album that tackles the ideas of ambition and revenge in the fantastically thrilling album Leviathan. As far as heady topics in metal, not many come close to the intensity and thrilling nature that this disc has. From the insanely catchy and brutal opener "Blood and Thunder" we see exactly what kind of guitar theatrics and we get a taste of Brann Dailor's insane drumming. "Iron Tusk" is the albums hard hitting anthem and Mastodon treads into proggy ground with tracks like "Seabeast" and the long player "Hearts Alive." It's a fantastic second outing and as Mastodon has proved with Blood Mountain and Crack the Skye that they have much a territory to tread to find different themes and sounds that make them easily the band that is most anxious to try new things in metal music.

#34. Stephen Malkmus - Face The Truth (2005) Malkmus is easily one of the most important and, for my dime, most interesting songwriters of my generation. Pavement was a beast all it's own but even Malkmus' intriguing and shifting solo career has been exciting. Whether the breezy pop of his self titled debut or the brooding jams of Real Emotional Trash, he's kept it real in the 00's. That said, his second best record came int he form of Face the Truth. Kicking in with a Wowee Zoweeesque freak rocker "Pencil Rot" and ending in the acoustic strum-along track "Malediction", the record is chock full of a taste of everything Malkmus does best. A jam like "No More Shoes" could venture into territory of bloated and overly long, but it turns out to be hist best yet. "Freeze The Saints" and "Post Paint Boy" keep in line with the breezy pop of his first album and "Kindling For the Master" still holds up as one of the weirdest moments in post Pavement Malkmus. A delightful record from start to finish.

#33. Air - Talkie Walkie (2004) - The French duo Air have this amazing dynamic of having one foot firmly in the organic and another somewhere in the realm of the future. Synthetic sounds and organic sounds come together on Talkie Walkie to create one of the most ethereal records of the last ten years. Singles "Cherry Blossom Girl" and "Surfin' on a Rocket" are two exercises in this digital/analog duality. "Run" stands out in the elements of futurism with it's chimes and bells and shuffling sounds. The vocals are even deeply embedded into other worldly sounds with them being pumped through a synthesizer. The record is a testament of space traveling through music. Star gazing or night driving is made better in tandem with Talkie Walkie. It's a dreamy record to soothe the soul. Air captured something breathtaking on Talkie Walkie and it stands as one of the most beautiful records of the decade.

#32. Muse - Absolution (2003) Muse to me isn't exactly any form of high art and their music doesn't strike me as something that should evolve much from what it is. That sounds like a dis but here they are at #32 with their monumentally epic album Absolution. So what makes Muse worth listening to then? This album has a presence. It has an aura all it's own that is bright are heavy and kick ass. A song like "Hysteria" demands you to pump your fists and bang your head. "Stockholm Syndrome" is leg breathtakingly fantastic with it's fitfully fast guitar riffing and intense rhythm section. "Blackout" is a swaying ballad that drips with pretty melodies. If Muse knows one thing, they know how to write a kick ass rock record that never disappoints. They even bring the energy the record has to the stage in epic fashion.

#31. M83 - Saturdays=Youth (2008) An ode to growing up, Saturdays = Youth may be one of the most hauntingly beautiful pop records I have ever heard. A dash of classic 4AD era greatness and a touch of inspiration from the late great John Hughes, Anthony Gonzalez's M83 hits a home run. The album is all at once nostalgic and futuristic. Swelling synthesizers and waves of melody envelope every inch of the music on this record. "Kim & Jessie" is the best shoegaze song since the early 90's with it's swirling vocals and upbeat but still hazy. "We Own the Sky" follows suit in a less poppy form with it's darker shades and vocalist Morgan Kibby shines on the albums highest moment "Skin of the Night." For anyone who enjoys the best things in music, M83 is the kind of band you need to listen to. Headphones show you the layers that are present on the record and their are emotional moments throughout the record.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Decade in Review: Top 100 Albums - #50 - 41

#50. Danava (2006)- From the first howlingly spacey chord on the opening track "By the Mark" to the last notes of "Maudie Shook", Portland's own Danava brings you aboard their space prog spaceship and around the universe on a trippy, hard rocking adventure. Dusty Sparkles voice wails over a wall of sound and fury. "By the Mark" is a transcendent stoner rock anthem. It quickly dissolves into "Eyes in Disguise" which is a slow build 12 minute epic. It churns and builds up energy and explodes at the end. The second half of the album has three shorter tracks, but all still over 6 minutes in length. It's a prog album for the new millennium that rocks as hard as it mystifies. A trippy live show filled with all sorts of guitar trickery, Danava is a treat and definitely one of the best prog bands of the past ten years. Yet another gem in the Kemado Records library.

#49. Goldfrapp - Supernature (2005) Goldfrapp is an artist who I luckily discovered through a mutual friend. Her recommendation is greatly appreciated. Supernature is the kind of glam rock/synth pop record that just begs to be played at every party. It's signature tracks "Oh La La" and "Ride a White Horse" drip with dance floor vibes and sugary sweet hooks. Somewhere between sytnh pop, disco and glam rock, Goldfrapp weaves these themes with very little help from anything besides her beautiful work on the synthesizer. The real gem comes in the form of a reincarnation of a T.Rex song. "Satin Chic" is so reminiscent of the style Marc Bolan made possible with his sexy and swaggering glam rock tracks. The track is a wondrous event. Supernature is less gloomy and noirish like Black Cherry and Felt Mountain but a transition to dance music, Alison Goldfrapp did it right.

#48. Built to Spill - You In Reverse (2006) It's hard to follow up a masterpiece, but luckily Built to Spill is good enough that even their albums weaker then their the obvious two masterpiece's in Perfect From Now On and Keep It Like a Secret are still awesome. You In Reverse is a sprawling that touches on many of Built to Spill's finest moments. Sprawling opener "Goin' Against Your Mind" is a rock epic that instantly captivates. It segways into the spacey and rocking "Traces" that has an element of darkness to it. "Conventional Wisdom" starts off as a normal BTS guitar pop song but has a bridge that breaks down into a guitar jam that only Doug Martsch and Co. could be responsible for. It's a great little album that doesn't really change much in the way of what Built to Spill has done in the past, but sometimes even just playing it straight ends up to be so good.

#47. The Earlies - The Enemy Chorus (2007) - The Earlies are a bit of an anomoly. I have yet to see if they ever toured the Unites States, yet half of their band hail from Texas. They have released to records, the first one falling short of making this list, and their follow-up, the beyond stellar Enemy Chorus. What might be a leading factor into the low brow nature of this band's whereabouts is in the sense of their own musical nonclassification. The album goes in many different directions but to me that is what makes it so great. Standouts like the mellow track "The Ground We Walk On" are juxtaposed with the fanfare of "Foundation and Earth." Tracks like "No Love In Your Heart" or "Breaking Point" hearken back to the overstuffed and brilliantly produced tunes of Electric Light Orchestra bringing in tones of sounds to keep things lofty. It's a psychedlic rock opera of sorts, not in the sense that the album has a theme throughout, but that the music reaches for the heavens.

#46. The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust (2008) - Some old LP's used to have the words "Must Be Played Loud" on the jacket. At this point in their career, it came as common knowledge that The Raveonettes demand to be played loud. No other record of theirs asks more from the listeners ear drums than Lust Lust Lust. The beauty of this album lies in the shreiking of guitar feedback. A song like "Dead Sound" is only beautiful when you can actually hear the nuiasnces of Sune Rose Wagner's guitar. "Hallucinations" will give you just what it says it will when blasted and the track "Aly, Walk With Me" will take over your entire well being in guitar haze. It's interesting because where some noise rock can just sound like noise, Lust Lust Lust really does something special with the drone of a guitar. It might be those sugary sweet two part harmonies?

#45. Franz Ferdinand (2005) - Easily the best band to write infectious singles of the past ten years, Franz Ferdinand's titular is chock full of riffs and catchy hooks. From start to finish, this album will take you on an 11 song catchy fest. "Take Me Out" (featured on this blogs "Rock of Ages" songs) is easily the best song from this album being a smash hit and being worthy of it's epic rotation. It's hard pressed to find a pop song this delightful, but then Franz Ferdinand drops tracks like "Darts of Pleasure" or "The Dark of the Matinee" into your lap. A mroe brooding synth pop disco ballad comes in the form of "Auf Asche." It's easily one of the best pop rock recordings and Franz Ferdinand has yet to come up as big in one shot. They've matched with singles "Do You Wanna?" and "Ulysses" but the whole of Franz Ferdinand wows on every track.

#44. Death Cab For Cutie - Transatlanticism (2003) Death Cab for Cutie are quintessential indie rock. The label "indie rock" is obviously a misnomer, but what genre is actually 100% accurate. What I think of when I think indie rock is dreamy, woozy pop songs that wouldn't usually land most alt. rock radio rotations, btu are still centered in the wolrd of pop. When Death Cab finally reached out and touched the hearts of the mainstream, it came in the form of this album. Tracks like "Title and Registration" mix the whistful elegance of a champer pop song with an intriguing building beat based around a synth drum and a very intricate yet simple guitar line. Ben Gibbard's gentle voice adds a level of melancholy on tracks like "A Lack of Color" and "Tiny Vessels." It's the most polished album before they took the major label leap one album later, but Death Cab For Cutie doesn't get much better than in Transatlanticism.

#43. Hercules and Love Affair (2008) - Who said disco is dead? It's not dead as much as has different names, but there is no doubt that Hercules and Love Affair's self titled release is in fact a disco revival. The true revelation here is the usage of Antony Hagerty. His voice lends a trembling beauty to the hippest and most addictive dance songs I've heard in ages. "Blind" and "Time Will" are great songs in their own right, but it isn't until Hagerty's haunting voice kicks in that these songs really stand out on their own. "Hercules Theme" is a standout as it's more of a funk vibe with lot's of horns and minimal vocals that sound like they should be gang vocals instead of the singular female, but the gang will kick in on the dancefloor to the woozy beat. If anything, Hercules and Love Affair is nothing else but a party record that will get feet moving and hearts pounding.

#42. The Strokes - Is This It? (2001) - It's hard to believe that The Strokes Is This It? is now 8 years old. When it came out, it ushered in an era of garage and New York based rock that changed the landscape of the 00's. Is This It? isn't really that transcendent when you look at it, but in a sense and given the contextual landscape of pop music in the early 2000's, it kind of was. Rather than the overproduced hip hop and bubblegum boy band stuff being released, The Strokes released an uncompromisingly simple rock album that had catchy track after catchy track with enough swagger to make the guys want to be in the band and the girls to be with them. "Last Nite" and "Someday" are easy pop rock greats. Tracks like "Hard to Explain" and "Trying Your Luck" go a little more in depth with some interesting structures, but more or less every track is rifftastic and ladled with Julian Casablancas' swagger. Excellent rock music and equally fun live concerts made The Strokes one of the best bands that seemed to stall a tad after one extrordinary debut.

#41. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell (2003) Speaking of bands that had extraordinary debuts and weaker follow-up's (a constant in 2000's bands), the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Fever to Tell is a phenomenal rock record that spits fire and thrashes riffs with acid. Karen O's sexual howl is the most notable thing here as well as the insane amount of rhythm coming from guitar and drums. "Maps" will remain one of the decades most importnat ballads, but it was on searing rockers like "Black Tongue" or "Date With The Night" that really make my gears move. It's a great album, especially when you look at the fact that they get such a rich sound from a three piece, something I always find intriguing and noteworthy. It's a record that defined the early 00's and it still holds up well. Fever to Tell is proof positive that New York was the place for great rock in the early 00's.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Decade in Review: Top 100 Albums of 2000 - 2009: #100 - 51

In order to keep this from spiraling into a long ass list that takes months to finish, I will start this countdown with the first 50, then spend time with the top 50 with more in depth reviewing. So here is a sweet list with pictures and whatnot.

100. Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain (2000)

99. School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms (2008)

98. Cursive - Happy Hollow (2006)

97. Eels - Shootenanny! (2003)

96. Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (2007)

95. Fleet Foxes (2008)

94. M.I.A. - Kala (2007)

93. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak (2003)

92. Electric Six - Flashy (2008)

91. Beck - Modern Guilt (2008)

90. The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? (2003)

89. Neil Young - Prairie Wind (2006)

88. The Decemberists - Picaresque (2005)

87. The Rapture - Pieces of the People We Love (2006)

86. Danava - Unonou (2008)

85. Saviours - Crucifire (2006)

84. Pelican - City of Echoes (2007)

83. Warren Zevon - The Wind (2003)

82. The Sword - Gods of the Earth (2008)

81. Badly Drawn Boy - Have You Fed The Fish? (2002)

80. The Hives - Veni Vidi Viscious (2000)

79. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away (2007)

78. Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins (2005)

77. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros - Streetcore (2003)

76. The Knife - Silent Shout (2006)

75. The Jet Age - What Did You Do During the War, Daddy? (2008)

74. Foo Fighters - One by One (2002)

73. Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops (2006)

72. Ratatat - LP3 (2008)

71. The Raveonettes - Chain Gang of Love (2003)

70. TV On the Radio - Dear Science (2008)

69. Metric - Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003)

68. Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)

67. Death Cab For Cutie - The Photo Album (2001)

66. The Lemonheads (2006)

65. Muse - Black Holes & Revelations (2006)

64. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009)

63. The Shins - Oh, Inverted World (2001)

62. Black Mountain (2005)

61. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped (2006)

60. Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light (2009)

59. Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55

58. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (2007)

57. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2008)

56. Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - Knives Don't Have Your Back (2006)

55. My Morning Jacket - Z (2005)

54. Grandaddy - Sumday (2003)

53. System of a Down - Toxicity (2001)

52. Badly Drawn Boy - Hour of the Bewilderbeast (2000)

51. Yo La Tengo - And Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out (2000)

#50 - 49 is next. ENJOY!