Archive for February, 2010

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 90 – 81

February 7, 2010

To prep for this list I re-re-re-listened to all of these albums, some all the way, some just skipping through to reacquaint myself with the music. I could have done this forever and reordered this list into oblivion. But you have to stop yourself at some point at admit when you’re beat. Plus, this list would look really stupid if I posted it in June.

Albums 100 – 91

90.  Slipknot – Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004)

Slipknot by definition are dumb. Heavy metal guys in ridiculous horror show masks trying to scare your parents. This is not something I will fight or debate. But those first two albums showed hints of promise. A singer who could actually sing, a tendency to write hooks and hey, they kinda rocked in spite of all the theatrics. Rick Rubin turned out to be the guy who could rein these maniacs in and say “Let’s focus on good songs, you guys. You don’t need to get graphic, let’s focus on just rocking faces, let in a little subtlety, it might be fun.” I’m guessing that’s what Rubin said. Whatever that dude did, it worked. Clean, crisp production so you can hear every note and instrument, songs and subject matter that’s a touch more nuanced than “THE PAIN THE PAIN YOUR PAIN!”, and hey, still rocks faces. Good job, Rick Rubin. (This will be Rick Rubin’s last good work as of press time. Dude is responsible for this, this, and THIS.)

89.  Eagles of Death Metal – Peace Love and Death Metal (2004)

Funny story: While re-listening to this album for this list, Rachel deemed herself OVER Eagles of Death Metal and she never wanted to hear them ever again. She got over it, but it still cracked me up. Peace Love and Death Metal is riff city, population sleazy come-on’s. Jesse Hughes was just figuring out how to do this rock n roll thing on this one, but he was a quick learner. The production is a bit thin at times but the tunes are never less than solid and honest to the rock ethos of ladies, ladies, ladies.

88.  The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)

My old roommate McCarty played “Seven Nation Army” for me the first time, screaming “Bass! This song has bass!”, the whole time. He played it on a loop right up until the release of Elephant, which didn’t change the world with additional “Bass!” but had more great songs from The White Stripes. I can’t emphasize how important this record seemed at the time of its release. I feel like it means less than a lot of people wanted it to mean. I just hear a great rock record, which I guess is all someone should hope for from these guys.

87.  The Rapture – Echoes (2003)

I wrote a review of Echoes for my college newspaper upon its time of release. I gave it 3 stars(out of 4) saying that I wished that it had more songs like “House of Jealous Lovers“. I mean, it has other great songs on it, but can you blame me? I was so young. In my old age I’ve come to appreciate “Olio” and “I Need Your Love” for the classics they are. But “House of Jealous Lovers” is still the shit.

86.  Lillix – Inside The Hollow (2006)

If you head to my Last.Fm page, you’ll see that Lillix is my sixth most listened to band. This is because of this album, which I could not stop listening to. I listened to it when I would work out, I listened to it before I went to bed, I listened to it so much yet I never got sick of it. Clearly. Inside The Hollow is a pop rock record, a little angsty and hung up on girl issues like bad boyfriends and that is fine. The songs are irresistible. It sounds like the kind of pop rock that Max Martin is going for when he crafts a “Since You’ve Been Gone”, but for a whole album. Shockingly, this never received an American release. Our loss(well not mine, I’ve heard it. Obviously).

85.  Passion Pit – Manners (2009)

Happy songs about sad things. That is Manners in a nutshell. Sometimes I can’t tell if Passion Pit are being optimistic or just putting on a brave face, but the enthusiasm is contagious. Also, they’ve clearly taken Justice’s lead on the whole child choir thing. Never thought that would be a source of quality music, but what do I know?

84.  Radiohead – Amnesiac (2001)

Remember when people dismissed this album as Kid A b-sides? Silly people. Get this: Amnesiac is awesome. “Pyramid Song“, “Knives Out“, “I Might Be Wrong“; this a Radiohead Hit Parade, people! What is also crazy is how listenable all those “experimental” tracks sound these days, turns out they are great too. Don’t sleep on Amnesiac.

83.  The Icarus Line – Penance Soiree (2004)

Listening to Penance Soiree, I cannot tell if these slithery bass-lines and screaming guitars are come-on’s or threats. On the one hand, when Joe Cardamone is asking you to “take off all your clothes”, that appears to be self-explanatory. And song titles like “Virgin Velcro” carry their sordid message right out the gate. But you consider opener “Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers“, which stutters awake like some long slumbering creature hungry for your soul, fear appears to be the logical option. So, let’s agree be frightened but a little aroused at the same time.

82.  Ben Folds – Rockin’ The Suburbs (2001)

Rockin’ The Suburbs is enjoyable simply because when you cut through his bullshit, Ben Folds can write some doozys. Rockin’ has more than its share; “Annie Waits“, “Zak and Sara“, “Fired“, “Not The Same“; classics all. He should make another album like this. One that is short on the bitterness and long on the fun.

81.  Mastodon – Leviathan (2004)

Mastodon crush. They craft these technical, intricate songs that are just metal massacres. Y’know when someone says, “These guys are the real deal”? Mastodon are the guys, and Leviathan is the real deal. Not to mention it is inspired by Moby Dick. Looks like we got ourselves some readers.

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Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 100 – 91

February 5, 2010

When Pitchfork first announced their intention to rank the best singles and albums of the last decade I expressed admiration towards their efforts to attempt to complete such a herculean task. When they actually posted the lists, I realized that I just had to do one of my own because I couldn’t believe how low they ranked The Black Album. It took me awhile and I almost gave up a few times, but nobody likes a quitter. Embarking on my own journey through the last ten years of songs and full lengths, memories and stories flooded back. I’m not saying every album has a story attached to it that I’m going to tell you about, but more than a few gave me the ol’ warm fuzzies. I started with a list of around 150 albums and just snipped and prodded it down to a still massive 100. 100 albums that shaped me or just made me happy. Albums I sought to share with others and others shared with me.

100.Phoenix – United (2000)

“Too Young” was my going out Jam with a capital J in the winter and spring of 2004. First discovering it via the Lost In Translation soundtrack, I was thrown by the unbridled joy and that chorus where “…everybody’s dancing'”. The rest of United is just as joyful, where even the sad songs are actually fun, Thomas Mars barely able to keep a smile off his face. For a debut United isn’t tied down to a singular sound as Phoenix take dips in faster guitar rock(“Party Time”) and whatever the heck “Funky Squaredance” is. While I agree that they’ve expanded their sound on later records, United is so much more than a rough draft. It is a declaration of fun to come.

99.  Hot Hot Heat – Make Up The Breakdown (2002)

When I worked in at my college radio station, we were deluged with literal mountains of promo CDs. This is not surprising or unique. What was surprising and unique were the rare times a randomly grabbed CD (literally) pulled from the bottom of a teetering stack of jewel cases would not only catch your ear but have you grabbing people aside to play it for them. Make Up The Breakdown was discovered just like that, a random choice from a random pile of categorized albums that would later either be tossed or lazily marked “Alternative”. Catchy is the first word that comes to mind when talking about MUTB, jam-packed with hooks, sharp riffs and angular guitars back when people liked that sort of thing. Moving at a quick clip (31.9 minutes according to iTunes) Hot Hot Heat don’t waste any time, moving breathlessly from dance anthem to dance rocker and back again. The lead singer has one of those “Is this annoying? I’m not sure yet” voices that actually could be annoying but the music is so good you never really care if it is or not. I think the later albums affirm that it is annoying, but those albums suck so there you go.

98.  Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero (2007)

I can fully attest that for about two years I would swear up and down that this album wasn’t very good. I liked a couple songs but “something feels off”. I used to blame the drum sound, but I’d always head back and realize that that wasn’t the case. The drum sound is actually pretty awesome. But I always came back, threw it on again trying to figure out why it wasn’t clicking with me. When I began making this list I didn’t initially consider it because, well, I had already officially told people I didn’t like it. But why was I listening to it so much, even more than records I actually attested to like, such as those last couple Morrissey albums? I mean, Morrissey is arguably as big if not a bigger downer than Trent Reznor. Well, when I was giving this a listen a few weeks ago, not even considering it for this list the fucker cracked me in half. Right then I understood it all and Year Zero understood me. We were one and the universe moved in sync with our movements. Then I went to bed without writing anything down and here it is at #98.

97.  John Mayer – Room For Squares (2001)

John Mayer isn’t very likable now. On Room For Squares however, Mayer is empathetic and self-deprecating; witty and wistful.  The subject matter of awkward dates, childhood nostalgia, and the pressure of going out into the world as an adult and proving yourself are all topics that in the right hands can’t be anything less than appealing. I’ve been struggling to think of how to describe the music. Spare for the right moments and never overproduced, Room For Squares tends toward a sound I’ll call attractive and familiar. Plenty of tracks have an old familiarity to them, sounding less like original works and more like old standards passed down. The most important feature of the album is that John Mayer comes across as a guy still figuring it all out, making mistakes and trying to just be a better person. Jeez, how did that turn out?

96.  Cody ChestnuTT – The Headphone Masterpiece (2002)

Cody ChestnuTT is a guy who can do anything. That appears to be the main subject of The Headphone Masterpiece. ChestnuTT jumping from style to style, genre to genre proving not only that he can do r&b/rock/soul, he can do it well. At two discs, The Headphone Masterpiece is bloated; bloated with ideas, jokes, riffs, garbage, misogyny, apologies, family, and more than few mentions to ChestnuTT’s sexual prowess. It’s also very funny, catchy and frankly a goddamn masterpiece. All of ChestnuTT’s contradictions just make him more appealing and his decision to record the whole thing on a 4-track sounds like a dare that he won.

95.  Deftones – Deftones (2003)

The culmination of their career at that point, Deftones’ self-titled album is the band at the peak of their abilities, finally achieving what previous efforts had only hinted at. The ambient tracks that Chino always forces the band to put on their albums tend to be the weak moments(see Saturday Night Wrist) but on Deftones those tracks shine. Of course, no one who listens to Deftones is there for those slow moments, they want the throat scorching fury. “When Girls Telephone Boys” might be Deftones most blazing moment on record, while “Bloody Cape” possesses their most indelible riff and shrillest finale. A compliment. Considering their tendency to be heaped into the nu-metal category, Deftones is a defiant embrace of hard rock, metal and punk influences. Definitely a good look.

94.  Spank Rock – Yoyoyoyoyo (2006)

The beats make the difference between a wack track and a banger. You could be the dopest, freshest, wittiest, most energetic MC in the game, but if your beats suck, you suck. You could also be a pretty mediocre rapper and ride out to fame on some hot tracks. Those are just facts. The rhymes on Yoyoyoyoyo are largely focused on the familiar hiphop tropes of women and fame, but they hang over such innovative musical beds. Producer XXXChange isn’t exactly a genius but he’s certainly a master of making the best of a small budget(so I’ve read of this album’s creation). XXXChange doesn’t take any shortcuts to repeat himself so every track is a new idea. Be it the funk guitar and 60’s girl group vocals evoked on “Sweet Talk” or the video game sfx on “Rick Rubin”, XXXChange is seemingly a master of all styles. The mind reels of what he could do with a Kanye budget.

93.  Love Is All – Nine Times That Same Song (2005)

I just love these bands full of energy and enthusiasm, writing songs about songs, and also songs about keeping people’s bodies in freezers. Is it bad that I’ve listened to this album a ton of times, know it’s songs extremely well but only can tell you it’s peppy, fun, and catchy?

92.  Clipse – We Got It 4 Cheap, Volume 2 (2005)

Pretty much the greatest mixtape ever. If you’ve heard better, don’t shame me, educate me. In the meantime, goddamn. The Clipse have a swagger and attitude that is the epitome of cockiness. While their sales might not echo it, Clipse are kinda the best, so this attitude makes sense. On this mixtape they rap over plenty of top shelf beats including “Daytona 500” and “Hate It Or Love It” and murder it all over the goddamn place. It’s seriously disgusting how good they are, and criminal how ignored they’ve become commercially.

91.  The Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle (2003)

Greg Dulli is a indie rock god. He wrote Gentleman, he wrote “Uptown Again”; his legacy is written. Yet Blackberry Belle is arguably one of his finest works. A tribute to deceased friend Ted Demme, Blackberry Belle is as dark as any mid career Afghan Whigs album, but often quieter and more somber than the Whigs ever were. When Dulli suggests we “black out the windows/it’s party time” we know we’re in for some melancholy vibes. Yet tracks like “Teenage Wristband” evoke a sense of rebellion and nostalgia that is one could almost confuse with “fun”. Easily the least obvious eulogy for the creator of Yo! MTV Raps.