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.

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