Archive for the ‘Favorite Albums of the 2000's’ Category

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 10 – 1

December 2, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

Albums 40 – 31

Albums 30 – 21

Albums 20 – 11

10.  Primal Scream – XTRMNTR (2000)

XTRMNTR is awesome for a bunch of reasons, the main reason being that it is fucking bad ass. Primal Scream aren’t inherently bad ass but they pulled it off here. If you didn’t know anything about their other work(which I did not at the time of release) you would have figured them to be screaming revolutionaries with a big plan to burn it all down and start anew. Actually, they’re hippies(self loathing hippies). ANYWAY, XTRMNTR is generally angry, loud, and funky. So many great bass lines, or the same bass line on a different song. I know Kevin Shields was involved in this record but all my props go to the guy who wrote the bass lines. They rule. Bobby Gillespie’s atonal singing sounds positively amoral. Has anyone referred to this album as a giant boot to the face?

9.    Ghostface Killah – The Pretty Toney Album (2004)

Dude is incredible. Ghostface Killah is one of the greatest rappers to ever do it and he has an amazing ear for beats. No one, NO ONE, has as many consistently great rap records as him. The Pretty Toney Album finds Ghostface more soulful than usual, of course more soulful for Ghostface still means more references to “pussy” than one might expect. “Run” is another in the long list of great Ghostface crime songs and “Beat The Clock” is Ghostface arguing with himself to rap as fast as he can about anything at all AND WINNING. Well, his mind promises vengeance one day.

8.    The Strokes – Is This It (2001)

My favorite song on Is This It is “Alone, Together”. It contains my favorite Strokes lyric coincidentally: “Life is unreal/can we go back to your place”. Is there a better representation of being a young shallow guy? Nope. There is a striking honesty in that line that I’m sure plenty of critics caught on to that caused them to christen The Strokes as rock’s saviors. Every stupid(also not stupid) rock song is about getting girls, but The Strokes had a sly sense of humor about it. If only they’d stayed funny forever. Is This It is a quintessential “first record”, showing off a band who have honed themselves to their peak abilities and can only be harmed by all the rewards their success will bring.

7.    Ghostface Killah – Fishscale (2006)

Ghostface hones his craft. So many classics it’s surreal: “Shakey Dog”, “The Champ”, “Be Easy”, “Whip You With Strap”, “Big Girl”, “Kilo”. Ghost does every kind of track on this record and it is murder.  Ghostface is an emotional rapper and performer and he never traffics in anything but the truth. When Ghost raps to the girls doing cocaine on “Big Girl”, he may have supplied them with the coke but he isn’t blind to their lost potential. Ghostface thrives on the details, be it the brief history of a tenement denizen he passes on the stairs on “Shakey Dog” or the explicit ways in which he has dissed you on “Be Easy”(fucked your sister and given you urine to drink). Fishscale may not have reignited his career but it is a star-affirming work all the same.

6.    Fall Out Boy – Infinity On High (2007)

Infinity On High is Fall Out Boy’s “we are not a fluke” album. “The Take over, The Breaks Over” is the kind of punchy pop rock that no one does better than FOB. And “I Have All This Ringing in my Ears and None on my Fingers” is, title aside, Fall Out Boy at their finest. This is also the record that everyone realized that Pete Wentz’s lyrics are actually funny, sorta witty and way more interesting than about 95% of the lyrics in rock music today. Listen, I know most people don’t get or understand my love of this band. It’s admittedly tough to explain, but let me try. Catchy songs, great singer, genuine emotion; these are all the things I hear when I listen to Fall Out Boy. Pete Wentz is someone who loves a turn of phrase and Patrick Stump is the only guy who can take these lyrics and make them anthems. (Seriously, no one else can deliver these lyrics). The rest of the band developed in one album from a shaggy group to a tight unit who couldn’t just play their instruments well, but with skill and style. Great band, great album.

5.    Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)

The greatest album by the world’s greatest rapper. Reasonable Doubt might be more consistent but The Black Album is Jay-Z at his career peak. “P.S.A.”, “99 Problems”, “What More Can I Say?”, hell, what more can I say? The Black Album is the ultimate Jay-Z primer for anyone who’s ever asked, “Hey, why is that Jay-Z guy so popular?” Because he spits insane fire all over this album, son! Jay-Z is at his best when he has something to prove, and with TBA he had to prove that there are none greater and that he cannot be topped. So he grabs up a murderer’s row of producers (Just Blaze, Kanye, Rick Rubin, Timbaland) and just kills it over their beats. Their best work produced Jay’s best work. The film Fade To Black is a nice addendum to The Black Album as it follows Jay-Z through the recording of the album and shows his process. His process: killing it. For a the best summation of my thoughts on The Black Album, see the the guy’s face at 2:33 in this clip.

4.    Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

Kid A is a bit of an obvious choice, but obvious because it is so obviously great. I’ve easily listened to it more times than any other Radiohead record. I recall at the time of it’s release people talking about Kid A in fearful, hushed tones. “Kid A is too quiet.” “The sound on it is so cold and distant.” “What happened to the guitars?” Then and now, I haven’t a clue what these people were talking about. Kid A is easily Radiohead’s best and warmest record because it was such a dynamic change for the band. Kid A is exciting precisely because Radiohead weren’t doing an easy record, they were experimenting and trying out new ideas and larks. I’ve heard a million songs and albums with guitars. There are so many other instruments in the world and Radiohead know how to play them! Let them.

3.    Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)

The joy inherent in the first 5 tracks on Discovery are the basis for Daft Punk’s career thus far. They were certainly genius’s on Homework but Discovery is the dance party that everyone truly rallied around. When people get excited about Daft Punk, it’s because of “One More Time”, or the guitar solo on “Digital Love”. Daft Punk seem on track to never top Discovery but asking them to do that is a pretty tall order. Like I said, have you heard this fucking thing? I’m surprised they can still get out of bed in the morning and consider putting out any other music.

2.    Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine (2004)

Sebastien Grainger goes through plenty of emotions(passionately) on You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. He vacillates between slick lover man and impassioned angry jerk from track to track, so one moment’s rough embrace is followed by a track of screamed recrimination. Which is all to say that Grainger is complicated guy with issues and Jesse Keeler wrote some fucking monster riffs. These guys were made for each other which is why they can’t stand each other anymore and dissolved the band. Reverse soulmates. I’ve actually met them both briefly, and from those encounters I found that Sebastien came across like someone with somewhere else to be and lacking in patience while Jesse was  thoughtful and genuine. Polar opposites really. That these guys were able to hash it out long enough to make this masterpiece is both a mystery and gift.

1.    Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R (2000)

Just one of the greatest albums of all time. This record came along in the summer of 2000 and changed my life. This was the album that explained to me that music is wide and varied, that the rules do not apply because there are no rules. Rated R is eleven tracks of “Fuck the rules. Who made the rules, anyway? Fuck them too.” Drug songs of course but also in-jokes, eight minutes of manic horns to close out the record, and RIFFS. The guitars crunch out every riff and they’re some of the greatest riffs ever too. Josh and Nick were just starting their too brief partnership of awesomeness and much like Jesse and Sebastien, they utilized their differences to great effect. This is why all great bands end. Too many great ideas and powerful egos in one room, eventually something has to give. But before the implosion, they gave us Rated R.


Favorite Albums of the 2000′s: 20 – 11

October 9, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

Albums 40 – 31

Albums 30 – 21

20. The Strokes – Room On Fire (2003)

This is how you make a second album. A whole lot like the first one, but faster. I’ve met people who love Is This It but hate Room On Fire. Those people are ridiculous. Every band should follow The Strokes’ lead. “Reptilia” and “Under Control” are insta-classics. We should be so lucky to live in a world where The Strokes nailed it on their second record. The third one still sucks.

19. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (2005)

Kele Okereke is a great singer with a penchant for heartfelt delivery and writing angular guitar lines. I don’t think he likes doing the latter so much anymore but on Silent Alarm he made a strong case for being the king of that shit. Backed by the amazing Matt Tong on drums, Silent Alarm is straight dance rock murder.

18. Fall Out Boy – Folie à Deux (2008)

If you’ve ever watched the Pantera episode of Behind The Music(the best episode of Behind The Music) you might recall the part where Phil Anselmo expresses regret for his estrangement from Vinnie Paul and says, (paraphrasing) “I need Vinnie Paul in my life, and Vinnie Paul needs me in his.” This same bit of narcissistic attachment can be applied to the relationship between Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz. These guys need each other. Bad. Fall Out Boy only succeeded because of that strange alchemy of Stumps vocals and songwriting mixed with Wentz’s twisting, punny lyrics of self-deprecation/revenge fantasies. Folie a Deux is a triumph, and of course the only way to follow up this victory is to implode. I pour a drink.

17. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (2005)

What is it like to write a classic? Better yet, when does one realize they’ve written a classic? Do the band members nod and smile during playback of the demos or is it earlier? Maybe during the recording faze, when a member lays down a particularly ripping guitar lead. I’m curious if any of the member’s of Sleater-Kinney could answer this question for me, since THE WOODS is classic from front to back. “The Fox” starts out by burning your face off and the rest of the album turns you into kindling.

16. Interpol – Antics (2004)

Antics rules. I like to equate it to Carlos D actually pulling a gun out of that holster and shooting someone. “Not Even Jail” is a monster, a bulldozer. I didn’t think these guys had it in them. Front to back sleek menace on top of riffs and the usual Paul Banks “that could be construed as either good or bad lyrics” lyrics.

15. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires (2008)

One of the greatest debut records of all time. Oh, that was fun to write. Friendly Fires arrived fully formed, strutting and confident with songs, son. I could list a couple here but then I would have to list them all. I will mention that about half these songs are about heartbreak and regret yet they sound like the fun distilled into music. “Lovesick” is the most enjoyment you’ll ever have dancing to a song about leaving some coldhearted shrew.

14. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)

Spoon are always tough to describe. They make stripped down indie rock(by definition) what never sounds generic or obvious. Certainly those words can’t be used to describe “The Ghost of You Lingers”. Or “Black Like Me”. Whenever I hear of a band sounding “Spoon-like” I know they’ll have some angular guitars but none of Britt Daniel’s screechy passion and honesty.

13. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)

Jay-Z is just great you guys. On The Blueprint Hov lets you know why he is great. He’s great because he dealt drugs so you don’t have to. He’s great because he’s not looking at you dudes he’s looking past you. He’s great because you don’t know. Now get your damn hands up.

12. Local H – Here Comes The Zoo (2002)

One of the greatest rock records of all time.  Seriously, one of the greatest rock records of all time. “5th Avenue Crazy” is about getting beat up by some crazed drug addled chick who just wants your money for cocaine. “Rock and Roll Professionals” is a bitter attack on more popular rock bands that “sell out” but it doesn’t matter because it rocks faces. “Half Life” has the line, “You’re born with nothing better make it enough/Half life a kick in the teeth/the alcohol will be your only relief”. One of the greatest rock records of all time.

11. Spoon – Kill The Moonlight (2002)

Britt Daniel can do soulful. He can do screechy. He can make his guitar feedback, or he can strum it with care and concern. Britt Daniel can do anything.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 30 – 21

September 8, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

Albums 40 – 31

30.  Kanye West – Late Registration (2005)

Late Registration is Kanye West’s best album so far. Minus the skits it kills from front to back. Every track has a genius moment whether it is the Curtis Mayfield sample on “Touch The Sky”, actually making Adam Levine useful on “Heard ‘Em Say”, Nas’ verse on “We Major”, and especially Jay-Z’s guest spot on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”. Straight fire, that one. Everyone involved brings their A-game because the A-game is the only way Kanye operates. Every song is meticulous and the beats are varied and wonderful. He could have released every song off here as a single.

29.  Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)

I’m not a Modest Mouse superfan for the simple fact that everything previous to this record sounds to me like screeching crazy talk or boring mumblecore. Good News is a lark, a bitter pop record that just happened to resonate with a large group of listeners at just the right time. Every song on here is wonderful, even the bad ones. A fun thing to do with this album is test people and see how many can tolerate “Dance Hall”. On repeat.

28.  Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours (2008)

In a way, Cut Copy are too subtle. In Ghost Colours is the jam, no doubt, but the first couple listens aren’t immediately obvious because unlike music that is popularly associated with dancing, it don’t bludgeon you into submission. The guys in Cut Copy lend a soft, airy sound to their tracks, which they then lay their synths and hooks on top of. “Polite” isn’t quite the right word, “courtesy” might be better. After a couple listens though you realize that every track kills, is the jam, is your favorite song ever.

27.  Liars – Liars (2007)

Liars are a infuriating band. Their first album is fire, their second album is an abortion, and their third is offensive in the worst way: it’s fucking boring. That said, Liars is a return to the straight fire of the album #1 with touches of the better elements of their otherwise shit records. It rocks, it howls, it has actual riffs! It might be the only time that Liars decided to be awesome and not give up halfway through and just moan into the microphone for 45 minutes.

26.  Justin Timberlake – Justified (2002)

Michael Jackson made this album by passing on these beats. Oh Michael. In packaging and design Justified looks like any other solo record from a former boy bander, but thanks to those beats and a natural swagger and confidence Justin Timberlake was able to free himself of that past, to the point where I’ve actually heard people say, “Which group was he in again?” Remarkable.

25.  Tenacious D – Tenacious D (2001)

This might be the single most hilarious comedy album of all time(True). I have every line of it memorized(also true). Along with being very very funny it also has great songs. I heard someone lament that the idea of a fully produced rock record misses the point of Tenacious D. I would argue that the appeal of the D was that they were actually really great all along and that this record is a fluke of genius that answers the question: “What would Tenacious D(the fictional band in this scenario) actually write about on a full length album?” Doubling teaming and cock pushups, that’s what.

24.   Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

Paul Banks has a great voice. His lyrics are weird but never particularly awful. Turn On The Bright Lights is a sad ode to New York City. You could view it as a reaction to 9/11, or just a piece on grief and change in general. Banks’ lyrics lend themselves to your own interpretation. The production is grand and because it rocks for most of it’s runtime there isn’t an overbearing cloud of melancholy. The bright lights of the title might mean “Time to stop sitting in the dark and get back out there!”

23.  Jay-Z – Jay-Z: Unplugged (2001)

Greatest Unplugged ever. The Roots play Jay-Z’s songs, Jay-Z raps half of them, lets the audience handle the other half and basically it’s the best party ever. Fresh off the release of The Blueprint, Hov is smooth, confident and hilarious. But of course he is. Hits for days and days and days.

22.  Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree (2005)

Did you know that Fall Out Boy were(Were? Oh. Damn.) one the great pop bands of this glorious decade? True story. From Under The Cork Tree was the first indication of their skills as hook men. All great songs, energy to spare and enthusiasm. Can’t say that enough. They might have sucked live but the recorded work is what will live on. You know who else sucked live? The Beatles. Just sayin’.

21.  Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)

Queens of the Stone Age make an album mocking the lameness and homogenization of rock radio and end up getting played on rock radio. Songs for the Deaf is Queens heaviest record and the last to feature Josh collaborating with Nick. And Dave Grohl drums. Oh does he drum. I read some interviews around the time of Lullabies release that the making of Songs was a tough process with “certain people” around that Josh didn’t want around. I’ve always figured it was producer Eric Valentine, whose other production credits include a Good Charlotte album and the first Third Eye Blind record. What kind of advice and guidance could he possibly give Josh? My guess is that they threw Valentine’s name on the credit list but didn’t listen to a thing he said, like Sloan did on Twice Removed. The radio skits on Songs were derided at the time of release but hold up as the glue that keeps the record cohesive and flowing instead of mishmash of ideas.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 40 – 31

August 19, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

40.  !!! – Myth Takes (2007)

Every great album should have a song that makes people scream and freak out, sending them running down hallways, grabbing random passersby and telling, nay, demanding they listen to this song! “Heart of Hearts” is that song and my friend Lauren ran down a short hallway in order to grab me and make sure I heard it. The pulsing funk beat of “Heart” is !!! at their finest and Myth Takes is their finest work to date, eschewing the jammier moments of their previous records and generating some good old fashion tension and release. Nic Offer’s “perv in the corner of the club” vocals hang just fine though any attempts at sincerity don’t work. Who cares? DANCING!

39.  Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)

If you ever see Justin Timberlake on TV, in interviews, walking down the street, you’ll notice that he is stylishly dressed and pretty pleased with himself. If you made FutureSex/LoveSounds you would also have a sunny attitude and the money in which to buy stylish clothing. While what the songs are about is nothing new(Love found, love lost, love solidified, the return of Sexy), their delivery and presentation are(or were) innovative and mindblowing. “My Love” was that shit, is that shit, shall always be that shit. FutureSex/LoveSounds is so good that can’t even ruin it with the worst rap in the world.

38.  Nada Surf – Let Go (2002)

I was having the greatest day when I first heard Let Go. I remember picking it out of a pile of promo discs at my college radio station and proclaiming, “My day is going so great, I’m going to give the new Nada Surf album a try. I didn’t even know they still existed, and it might suck, but I’m feeling charitable.” I’m paraphrasing myself but it was something like that. Let Go extended my good mood by being a fantastic album. Nada Surf sounded confident and assured with sharp production and good tunes. While Let Go is a sad record for the most part, it’s a sincere melancholy that is earned and not at all garish. But enough about the sad stuff. This record has Nada Surf’s most rocking material: “Fruit Fly”, “Hi-Speed Soul”, and “Treading Water”, highlights all. “Inside of Love” is the standout and the blueprint Nada Surf have structured everything they’ve done since. Not a bad choice.

37.  LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem (2005)

James Murphy has this rep as being a curmudgeon which is fitting since he is a bit of a comedian. “Losing My Edge” and “Beat Connection” are funny, funny songs that you just also happen to be able to dance to. “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” has the joke right in the title, and has the common courtesy to actually address this occurrence in the song. I’m just saying, plenty of songs have titles that don’t actually pay off lyrically.

36.  Queens of the Stone Age – Lullabies to Paralyze (2005)

After three great albums Josh Homme decided to make a fourth great album. Lullabies can sorta be thought of as a break up album, seeing as it was made after Josh booted Nick Oliveri from the band. But the lyrical themes remain the same and the riffs just as heavy. Plus, when I picked it as my favorite album of 2005 I jokingly photographed myself post-coitus with the CD for a livejournal post. Youthful indiscretions.

35.  Say Anything – …Is A Real Boy (2004)

Emo music tends to be the worst kind of music for the simple fact that the emotions on display never evoke any emotion from me. It is plenty of handwringing and yelping while still managing to be boring as hell. If you’re going to make such introverted music then at the very least keep my attention. …Is A Real Boy is an album that keeps my attention. Max Bemis writes personal songs about how he wrote a personal song about a girl and she heard it and now she won’t fuck him anymore so you better hit up the merch table. Hilarious! Seriously. Say Anything are a pretty great band with chops, hooks, and a just a touch of charm under all that bile. If you’re going to say things like “I want to do you right where you are standing”, at least put that line in a song with a great bait and switch open.

34.  Justice – † (2007)

“Waters of Nazareth” is for parties where you burn down the house at the end, “DVNO” is for your inner diva, and “D.A.N.C.E.” is good with the kids. French people continue to be great.

33.  Kanye West – The College Dropout (2004)

Kanye West’s funniest album. It is so eager to please you’d think someone told him he’d never get to make another one. The skits suck and the last track is something no one ever makes it through but the guy clearly had it from the start. “Slow Jamz”, “We Don’t Care”, “Spaceship”: fire, son. Hate him all you want, but hits for days.

32.  At The Drive In – Relationship of Command (2000)

The Mars Volta are too wanky and Sparta are a goddamn bore. Yet if you put them together their differences temper the others weaknesses and you get Relationship of Command, which quite simply rules. The lyrics are still gibberish as in Volta but the songs are precise jams. Powerful, speaker blowing freakouts.

31.  …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Source Tags and Codes (2002)

Hey, these guys were never able to top this record either. Starts loud and stays loud, Source Tags and Codes instantly solidified Trail of Dead as some bad-ass motherfuckers. The riff on “Another Morning Stoner” is effortlessly tossed out as if to say, “We do this shit all the time.” Subsequent records would prove this untrue but for Source Tags and Codes‘ 45 minute run time these guys are making it sound easy.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 50 – 41

May 20, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

50.  My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge (2004)

I’m pretty sure Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge will be the last time me and “the kids” see eye to eye on anything. My Chemical Romance tapped into the goth kids and the cool kids by having lyrics about death and teen angst while not forgetting the importance of riffs and hooks. Too many times I hear bands for the kids and think, “Imagine what they’d sound like with some hooks.” Three Cheers has hooks aplenty and a singer who can wail. “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” is the kind of song that works on two levels: for the guy in his 20’s it is a hilarious parody of teen angst set to classic rock staples(the solo is divine). For the kid in their teens it is an accurate and honest representation of teen angst and experience as they know and live it everyday. Hell, my sister broke her foot jumping off the second story, so it’ll always be resonant. “The Ghost of You” is MCR’s serious song, slightly midtempo with a more histrionic vocal and it is about as perfect as My Chemical Romance will ever sound. The kids picked a good one here.

49.  Rival Schools – United By Fate (2001)

Walter Schreifels has a voice that sounds like it belongs to some roughneck bruiser but actually comes out of this. The relationships detailed on United By Fate are ironically enough about to fall apart, strained by fights(“The Switch“) and distance (“My Echo”, “Travel by Telephone“). A song like “Good Things” shows that everything isn’t sadness and disappointment in Schreifels’ world but it is immediately followed by “Used For Glue“, and well, you get the idea. Ian Love’s guitar work is equal parts raw and shiny, a perfect compliment to Schreifels’ lyrics of pained disillusionment. Yet every song ends with Walter getting the upper hand, legitimately or otherwise, and moving on with his life. We should all have that kind of momentum.

48.  The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema (2005)

I feel a little jerky rating Twin Cinema higher than Mass Romantic on the basis of Maturity. But what is done is done and it’s not like Twin Cinema isn’t a great record, just maybe not as fun as MR. The New Pornographers don’t negate their jaunty rave ups on Twin Cinema(for that, see Challengers) but they shine brightest on slower tracks like “The Bones of an Idol“, which builds to a big close that sounds deeper and more resonant than it might actually be. I can’t say I’ve ever thought hard about what most of these songs are about, but they sure sound deep and touching.

47.  LCD Soundsystem – Sounds of Silver (2007)

I love when I revisit an album and songs I’d previously dismissed I find myself suddenly in thrall to. That is what I found with “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down“, a song I would often skip over because it was too slow or damn it, it brought me down when I didn’t want to be brought down. Now, with three years to absorb and consider it, of course it is great and the perfect closing track for Sounds of Silver. For a record that acknowledges the loss of important people in our lives(“Someone Great“, duh) and that we’re going to keep losing people in our lives to death and distance, “New York I Love You…” acts, for me, as a wonderful explication to keep living and make your own happiness.

46.  M.I.A. – Arular (2005)

I think this one is back loaded with bangers, not to say that the first half isn’t good. “Galang” and “10 Dollar” just kill, aight? I’ve never paid enough attention to M.I.A.’s politics to say how they impact my views on her music. Honestly and vacuously, I just dig the beats a whole lot. And the swagger too.

45.  Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll (2005)

I think it was a Pitchfork review that said “Art Brut stay losing”. Perfect. Art Brut’s entire persona is a nerdy rock band who sing songs about failed dalliances, sexual inadequacy, and pipe dreams.  It is what they do and they do it well. Art Brut staying losing is Art Brut winning. I would not want to hear an Art Brut album where everything is just coming up roses of Eddie Argos. I’d much rather he keep on keeping on about his limp dick(“Rusted Guns of Milan“) and his hopes to be reunited with a girl that doesn’t even remember him(“Emily Kane“). Argos is a prime example of a Rock God who is frighteningly human.

44.  The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free (2004)

The Streets name is apt since you cannot get more street level and inclusive than on A Grand Don’t Come For Free. As Mike Skinner narrates his day of searching for money, getting high, breaking up with his girlfriend and finding money, you are there. The beats are ingenious and the observations always keen and off-kilter. Too bad he had to follow up with a mundane “Fame is killing me” album.

43.  Boris – Pink (2006)

I like to think the titular pink is what your face looks like after Boris sears off the flesh with their riffs. Seriously, Pink will cut off your arms and sear your soul. One of the only albums I’ve ever heard that is loud no matter how you have your volume set on your stereo. Pink was recorded, mixed and mastered at 11 AFTER they made 10 louder.  Boris once abruptly ending a show with the drummer leaving the stage yelling “More power! More Power!” He was probably right.

42.  Sleater-Kinney – One Beat (2002)

As anti-Bush screeds go, One Beat is the one to beat. While plenty of songs against Bush have been written few are worth a damn or due repeat listens. You know, like American Idiot. Sleater-Kinney beat Green Day to it two years earlier and with more gut and ingenuity. Plus, One Beat rocks so hard. “Light Rail Coyote” and “Step Aside” have guitar heroics to spare.

41.  Kanye West – Graduation (2007)

Kanye West is a loud mouthed braggart. He is also a great producer and a half decent rapper with a penchant for snappy punchlines. Graduation has been called one of Kanye’s less substantive releases, but since it is the album that features “Flashing Lights” and “Good Life” this kind of criticism doesn’t matter at all. Kanye West can actually use the “hits for days” line and not even be kidding. He does asshole moves all the time but if you’ve ever heard any of his songs you know that he knows this and yeah, who cares? As long as he keeps making songs like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” I will allow him to continue taking awards away from Taylor Swift every year(Missed you at the Grammys, Kanye!).

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 60 – 51

April 28, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

60.  Rhett Miller – The Instigator (2002)

Rachel says that when you read a bad review for a Rhett Miller album it might not mean the songs are bad but that the reviewer finds the idea of Rhett Miller singing songs like “Come Around” insulting. Rhett Miller will certainly not be “…lonely for the rest of (his) life”; he’s a handsome rock star with deep baby blues. That said, I’ve loved The Instigator from the very first moment I heard it. Crisp, spare Jon Brion production of great songs about love lost. I’d be foolish not to mention my favorite song on the album, “The EL“, where a self-absorbed guy and a self-absorbed girl meet and fall in love only to end “breaking up all over the EL”. Miller is never less than charming and open and if it feels like a pose, well, that’s your problem.

59.  Pete Yorn – musicforthemorningafter (2001)

14 songs. Some are upbeat, some are slow. I really liked this in 2001 when I wasn’t getting laid and I still like it now. Subsequent albums have experienced diminished returns. Pete Yorn is a bit like a grittier John Mayer, and by gritty I mean he could use a shave and shower.

58.  Clipse – Lord Willin’ (2002)

Lord Willin’ is simply badass. Neptunes deliver career best beats, Clipse deliver career best rhymes, and then the second track starts. Rinse, repeat. Pusha T and Malice take time to make a song for the ladies and still end up talking about guns. IMPORTANT: “Gangsta Lean” is one of the greatest songs in the history of songs. Front to back, this album is unfuckwithable. The only thing you’ll get tired of is tipping your head back and exclaiming “Haha! Goddamn!” during every song.

57.  N.E.R.D. – In Search Of… (2002)

Hey, it’s the Neptunes again! Man, these guys were great for a while. This first N.E.R.D. album is a fluky bit of genius. The lyrics are bad/funny and smart/dumb, and it rocks. Actually truthfully rocks. Having an actual band play on the record was a very smart move. When it isn’t rocking In Search Of… has stupid swagger, which is pulls off(even now when Pharrell has considerably less cultural cache). Just forget about everything else with the N.E.R.D. name attached to it. Beware, actually.

56.  Garbage – Beautifulgarbage (2001)

When Garbage finally makes a record where they truly jump skillfully from style to style and finally living up to their namesake of mashing up different styles of music all at once, their fanbase moves on. I blame Shirley Manson’s unfortunate hair designs during this album cycle. Beautifulgarbage is Garbage’s masterwork, making good on all the promises of their first two albums. Everything was a tease before Beautifulgarbage. “Can’t Cry These Tears” is a great 60’s throwback while “Breaking Up The Girl” and “Parade” glow and vamp in ways that the band merely hinted at before(IMPORTANT NOTE: “Parade” is the best song Garbage has ever recorded). It would be a shame to overlook the guitar hook in “Androgyny“, because it is fucking awesome.

55.  Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)

“Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious, Dociousaliexpifragalisticcalisuper, Cancun, catch me in the room, eatin grouper..” – Ghostface Killah

I’m frequently shocked by any so-called listing of the greatest rappers of all time that doesn’t feature Ghostface prominently. The man spits hot fire every time he gets on the mic. EVERY. TIME. Supreme Clientele was Ghost’s entrance as a true solo artist and force to be reckoned with. Front to back great beats, insane(really. Insane.) rhymes, a couple great RZA verses; Supreme Clientele set the stage for all the even greater Ghostface albums to come.(Also Bulletproof Wallets, which is better than you’ve heard.) But on the topic of beats, the beats on Supreme Clientele are great. Of course they are, it’s a Ghostface Killah album. “Mighty Healthy“, “Apollo Kids“; there is a reason Ghost can say he has hits for days. One of those days could be spent just playing Supreme Clientele. We must not forget the classic skit “Who Would You Fuck?“, wherein Ghostface and his colleagues discuss which famous women they would like to engage in sexual intercourse. After much debate and disagreement the group concludes that they would all equally like to fuck Halle Berry. Congrats, Halle!

54.  Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)

Great indie rock songs sung by a guy who can’t sing but either didn’t know or didn’t care. About his singing ability. I’m certain he knew the songs were great. I always feel underserved by the majority of “indie” bands with reedy voices and three guitar players. On Clap Your Hands Say Yeah just about every track has that special moment that hooks into your brain, like the repeated “Gimme some salt” in “Gimme Some Salt” or when the guitar comes in at the beginning of “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth“. Alec Ounsworth’s vocals go from abrasive to welcome in about two seconds flat and by the time you reach the end you can’t imagine a “better” singer improving these songs an iota.

53.  The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)

White Blood Cells is that record. The one everybody had, the one even people who didn’t know shit about shit had in their cars, in their dorm rooms. And why not? It is as straight forward as The White Stripes had ever been and will (probably) ever be. “Fell In Love With A Girl” is so obvious and wonderful only a hateful, terrible person could deny it, and “Little Room” is about as profound a 50 seconds as any on this whole list. This album is so good that Jack White gets people to buy other albums of other bands he is in that aren’t even any good. Because you never know.

52.  Groove Armada – Lovebox (2002)

The key sounds on Lovebox are the piano stabs during “Easy“. So simple, so fantastic. They elevate a pretty good song into greatness. They even repeat this trick on their new album and of course it works. While not as much of a dance record as I remember, Lovebox is still a party that occasionally raves out of control. “Madder” was the track that McCarty and I used to crank in student housing before a night out. Because we were so fucking cool. Interesting tidbit: McCarty bought me this album for my 21st birthday and presented it to me with an accompanying card that inquired whether he could keep the album if I died that night. What a great friend.

51.  Doves – The Last Broadcast (2002)

McCarty and I got our first taste of The Last Broadcast in the spring of 2002 with the arrival of an mp3 of “There Goes The Fear” recorded off British radio. The DJ gushed about the great minds and ideas going on that would make such a great song and man was that guy ever right. For awhile I was strange to listen to the album and not hear that DJ’s voice at the end of the track. The Last Broadcast is stacked solid with “…Fear”, “Pounding“, and “Caught By The River“. Doves traffic in the melancholy of their other island contemporaries but tend to rock harder (“Words“, “N.Y.“) and lend a tone of hopefulness that is welcome and unexpected. I still like Doves quite a bit, but they’ve never been more exciting or vibrant.

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.

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.

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.

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.