Archive for March, 2010

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 70 – 61

March 28, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

70.  Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002)

When I put this on in the car a month ago Rachel remarked, “Oh, this takes me back.” Indeed. It takes me back to a time before Coldplay was COLDPLAY and A Rush of Blood to the Head was merely the followup to Parachutes. To a time before Coldplay missed becoming the next Radiohead and became the new U2 instead. I’ve always liked Chris Martin’s voice and I quite simply find this album undeniable. “God Put a Smile On Your Face” and “Clocks” are still just as great as the first time I heard them and “Amsterdam” is as good a closing track as ever. Are Coldplay sentimental? Sure, but never insincere.

69.  Be Your Own Pet –  Be Your Own Pet (2006)

I joked the other day with a co-worker about a group of teenagers going into a store with no money, mocking the merchandise while making lame jokes and then leaving. To an adult with responsibilities and bills and car trouble this kind of behavior is either irritating or infuriating. But are we to ask the sun not to shine, the snow not to melt, and teenagers to not waste time and be idle nuisances? Be Your Own Pet is time wasting teenage behavior set to glorious thrashy punk rock. Topics include going on adventures(“Adventure“), riding bikes and hassling people(“Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle“), and threats, idle and otherwise(every other song). Can I tell you my favorite moment? That would be when lead singer Jemina Pearl gets in an argument with her boyfriend and kills him in a bog(“Bog“).

68.  Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004)

Never confuse “effortless” with “lazy”. I never realized how effortless this album is until I heard Franz Ferdinand actually try really hard(You Could Have It So Much Better) and then phone it in (about half of Tonight). Every track of Franz Ferdinand is simply this band being this band. Endlessly catchy dance rock that twists and turns, smirks and flirts. I knew Franz Ferdinand were truly special when a jocky douche at a concert lost his shit to the opening lines of “Michael“.

67.  The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2000)

Does it make me a dope for not really noticing the often sad lyrical content of these songs? I’m not sorry for missing those details as I was too busy rocking the fuck out. A.C. Newman is a hook writing machine and his powers are at full strength on Mass Romantic. While everyone calls Neko Case some sort of secret weapon in The New Pornographers, these songs would be knockouts if your mother sang them. Listen to the “The Body Says No” to hear musical perfection. When the band joins together on the “Anymore than/I needed her to” line I have to stop myself from calling Newman a songwriting genius. Oops, too late.

66.  Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary (2005)

Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner are the co-frontmen for Wolf Parade and together they make wonderful music. Apart, I can’t stand ’em. I’ve read plenty of rave reviews for their solo and side projects but every single one, EVERY SINGLE ONE, is shit. Sorry. But put these guys in a room together and it is goddamn magic. When I get asked what type of music I listen to, I can’t respond with a genre anymore because genres overall suck. If I just say “rock”, well that encompasses all the garbage under the “rock” umbrella. If I say “indie”, same problem. Wolf Parade are indie but with a taut sound and clear voice(s). Wolf Parade are what most indie bands try to sound like but fail.

65.  Blur – Think Tank (2003)

“…an album so disjointed that it seems to artfully fall apart as it plays.”- Barry Walters for Rolling Stone

Hard to believe that Rolling Stone could be right about anything. Think Tank is the best Blur album and it is a mess and yes Graham Coxon’s guitar work is a huge part of Blur’s sound. Think Tank is that kind of contradictory album. Blur’s big hits in England are happy, upbeat songs about issues and stories and I cannot get into any of it. When Blur does sad, restless, yearning music it is essential and vital. “On My Way To The Club” and “Out of Time” are spare, midtempo songs about love lost, steeped in emotion that Damon Albarn can’t fake. If he is faking, he is the world’s greatest actor. The real reason Blur haven’t followed this up is that they can never top it.

64.  Down – Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow (2002)

When I last listened to Down II: A Bustle In Your Hedgerow I actually took notes and wrote down some of my favorite lyrics and adlibs.

“In this pool of piss I’m laying!”
The power of the riff compels me
“Fuck ’em up” (right before the solo in “The Man That Follows Hell“)
New Orleans is a dying whore/naked she sleeps on my floor

Not to be at all willfully contrarian, but Down II is the best Down album. It’s sloppy and angry and sad and hard and wistful and contemplative and delirious and it has SO. MANY. FUCKING. RIFFS. Great riffs. The story as I understand it is that the band spent a month in a barn in Louisiana writing riffs. And after that month was over, they picked the best riffs and made them songs and put them on this album. If Down II were a state, it would have the most riffs per square mile.

63.  Sloan – Never Hear The End Of It (2006)

Hey, Sloan! The best band ever. I know, how does the best band ever only get up to #63? Well, they put out 5 classic records between 1992 and 1999 so the rest of their recorded output is gravy quite frankly. They could put out the absolute worst album tomorrow morning, but they’ll still be the guys who wrote Between The Bridges. Never Hear The End of It just happens to be their best album since Bridges, nearly eighty minutes and 30 songs of Sloan at their Sloaniest. The guys do some rockers, they do some funny songs about getting old, they do songs about neighbors chainsawing in the wee morning hours. If there is a drawback to this album, it is that after eighty minutes you might be a little overwhelmed and need a nap. Fair enough. We are all getting older.

62.  Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)

A few years ago, don’t ask me exactly when, Thom Yorke did a sit down interview with a bunch of contest winners who all professed to be Huge Radiohead Fans. The only memorable part of this event was one of the winners asking Thom Yorke, to his fucking face, why Radiohead has never recorded a proper followup to The Bends(or something along those lines. I am sorry, I cannot cite my sources). I do not know what Yorke’s response to this query was, but it should have been something like this: “Fuck you. Ok Computer. Kid A. Amnesiac. Hail to the Thief. We are dropping fucking gold in your lap, pushing ourselves creatively, trying out new sounds and ideas, and all you want is a retread of our second album of generally good but undeniably ungroundbreaking guitar alt-rock. You make me fucking sick. Well, tell you what. Me and the guys are going to record a new album, it’s going to be 80% midtempo and slow songs about loss and sadness. It is going to be heartbreakingly beautiful. I hope you choke on it.” Yeah, he should have said something like that.

61.  Phoenix – It’s Never Been Like That (2006)

I have always assumed that that the “It’s” in the title refers to Phoenix’s sound and how they’d never rocked like this before. Because they hadn’t. Their previous record was nearly a Hall and Oates tribute album. It’s Never Been Like That has always sounded like the third Strokes album The Strokes forgot to make. It gallops right out the gate with “Napoleon Says” and never stops. What the songs are about is, as always, hard to parse since Thomas Mars will always sound like he translated his lyrics from French to English using Babelfish. Thankfully, it still rhymes.

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Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 80 – 71

March 6, 2010

Sorry for the long delay in posting this. Life and laziness can slow down a guy.

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

80.  M.I.A. – Kala (2007)

M.I.A. actually has a whole lot in common with most rappers. She talks about how awesome she is (“Nobody on the corner got swagger like us”) whenever she isn’t espousing on the ills of her misbegotten home. In this case home is the World and it’s going to shit, slowly and surely. Obviously, dance party. M.I.A. front loads the bangers (“Boys”, “Bird Flu”) and leaves the spacey brilliance for the second half. “Paper Planes” you know, I know, everybody knows. But the best track is “$20”. The Pixies reference is great but that beat is goddamn goddamn.

79.  Girl Talk – Night Ripper (2006)

The first listen is mainly gasps and giggles. Subsequent listens range from “how’d he do it?” to “He fucking did it, son.” It’s almost best not to think about it too clinically. The man was/is able to take all your favorite songs, least favorite songs, and songs you just generally recognize and swirl them together into a mindmelting, smile inducing mix of sound. Everyone has a favorite moment; mine is the “Tiny Dancer”/”Juicy” mash. Or is it the Ying Yang Twins/”Regulate” mash? It’s like Sophie’s Choice only awesome.

78.  Les Savy Fav – Inches (2004)

Do Les Savy Fav even make sense on record? The difference between the recorded work of the Fav and their live performances cannot be further apart. Imagine a group of a practiced gentlemen led by a nude maniac. That is Les Savy Fav live. Inches justifies the existence of Les Savy Fav by running front to back great songs. They might be about something, they might not. Even without Tim Harrington entering your home dressed as Sherlock Holmes in a diaper, these are all great songs.

77.  Clipse – Hell Hath No Fury (2006)

Y’know, the beats on Hell Hath No Fury bang. They’re wicked and awkward and strange yet they still bang and stomp while the Clipse spit gold all over them. Listen to “Momma I’m So Sorry“. It’s like the descent into The Rectum in Irreversible with Miami Vice references. “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)” combines a swaggering monster beat with Clipse’s most braggidocious lines to become one of rap’s greatest songs while “Mr. Me Too” has one of Pharrell’s best bad/great raps- “Just last week I was out in Aspen/Me and Puff hopping off the plane/Both us laughin”. The sheer gall of two multi-millionaires laughing at their private joke while walking off a private plane (in Aspen!) is hip hop audaciousness at its best.

76.  Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Decay Sustain Release (2007)

Hustler” is “Hustler”. Sexy and sublime, it is one of the best songs ever. This is just a fact and I am merely restating it. Attack Decay Sustain Release has other songs on it that are not “Hustler” and they are just as good. Great, even. But at the end of the day everyone will only remember “Hustler”. Which is fine, but the other songs, really good.

75.  Fountains of Wayne – Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)

Your mileage regarding Fountains of Wayne will vary depending on whether you think they’re clever or stupid. It is a fine line. Welcome Interstate Managers sounds sincere and these guys can write some hooks. I think calling out FOW for not actually being middle class salesmen and for writing a concept record about living middle class is like calling out Led Zeppelin for not actually being from Middle Earth. You can’t have it both ways. Well, sure you can. Songs like “Hackensack” and “Valley Winter Song” are achingly sincere and devoid of irony and cynicism. I had to have one record on here like that.

74.  A.C. Newman – The Slow Wonder (2004)

A.C. Newman writes most of the music for The New Pornographers, who are great. Is it any surprise that his first solo album would also be great? Of course not, no surprise at all. Perfect indie pop songs, every single one of ’em. I’m sure that whoever Newman is shaming on “The Town Halo” probably agrees with the harsh take-down but is thrilled to have inspired such a great song.

73.  Basement Jaxx – Kish Kash (2003)

Kish Kash is Basement Jaxx’s creative peak. “Good Luck” is hall of fame, best of all time, MVP shit. “Plug It In” makes the idea of a J.C. Chavesz solo career seem plausible and “Lucky Star” is still the craziest track to ever feature Dizzee Rascal. The second half, yes, is more subdued and relaxed than the first half. It’s called having range.

72.  Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)

Arcade Fire have been grouped in with the other Canadian collectives like Broken Social Scene and Stars. The notable difference is that Arcade Fire songs all don’t sound the same. Funeral is aching yet wistful, an album about overcoming grief and moving on and up. It is never anything less than transcendent. That they acquired such a devoted following from the result of this album is not surprising but inevitable.

71.  The Shins – Chutes Too Narrow (2003)

Chutes Too Narrow is the high benchmark for sensitive indie albums. Every other album in this category will forever be dismissed as “Not Chutes“. Sorry. The Shins drop ten perfect songs here and make that shit sound effortless. When this album came out I bought it at F.Y.E. for $18 dollars and thought I had overpaid. Hardly. It is priceless. On the album after this one you can hear The Shins practically give up as they realize they cannot equal Chutes. After listening to this album you also realize that Conor Oberst is trying Waaaay too hard.