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.

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