Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sunless Shortlist: Best of 2000's (10-6)

10. Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

I really didn't care for the Flaming Lips suddenly crowd-pleasing tendencies this decade, and I should probably blame this album for that. However, there is way too much to love about this album that I can't help but love it. It's a perfect follow-up to their masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. It's not at all understated or apologetic, and it's "the world is ending, but that's okay" themes make for the most melancholy party of the decade. It's brilliant, and the Flaming Lips are a brilliant band.

9. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha (2007)

This is the one I forgot. I still don't know how I forgot it because this album really overtook my life for a long period. And even now, it overtakes me when I hear it. It's a complete album. The first thing you'll take notice of is the great upbeat songs that dominate the first half of the album. However, with repeated listens, you'll notice just how remarkable the slower second half of the album is too. Musical perfection.

8. Joanna Newsom - Ys (2006)

As soft as this album is, it is probably the ballsiest album of the decade. Sure it's gorgeous. It's overwhelming at times in its sweeping beauty. However, realize that Joanna Newsom plays a harp, has an extremely unique voice, and wrote a massive album with five nine-plus minute songs (including one at seventeen minutes). That's ballsy.

7. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam (2007)

There have been plenty of freakout bands that broke out the latter half of the decade, but nobody has been a big as Animal Collective. This album (combined with Panda Bear's Person Pitch) helped usher this band in as the godfathers of the freakout scene. It wasn't their first popular album, but it was their most accessible. Sure it's still weird stuff, but it's a less difficult album to listen to every time you hear it.

6. Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)

The Arcade Fire has been this decade’s most important band with only two albums. Impressive. They are like this decade’s Neutral Milk Hotel, but they don’t seem destined to prematurely dissolve. You can probably make the argument that the Arcade Fire did more for indie music than any other band. This decade might be the decade of the backlash, and the Arcade Fire is a major victim of backlash. It’s all very unfortunate however because the Arcade Fire is a near-perfect band.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunless Shortlist: Best of 2000's (15-11)

15. Broken Social Scene - s/t (2005)

While You Forgot it in People was a quiet and understated album, their self-titled follow-up was like an explosion. I guess that could count in more ways than one. The band was less of a secret after this album. Feist found huge success solo. Broken Social Scene became less of a band and more of a brand, but still have always kept their indie cred... because they are still an indie band after all.

14. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! (2008)

In this new world, everybody can be a guru. Some artists stand out from the bloggers (James Murphy?). But amongst the congestion we can still find the older-aged gurus like Tom Waits and Nick Cave going strong. The biggest difference between these two is that Tom Waits is fine as he is, and Nick Cave will never settle. On this album Nick Cave sounds like a reverend wanting to party as the world ends. Sounds fun.

13. Superchunk - Here's to Shutting Up (2001)

This album really stands out in the Superchunk discography for two reasons. First of all, it sounds completely different than any other release they have. The sound textures they had been toying with in the previous decade are much more prevalent here. It works beautifully too. And it’s mature. It’s the most mature Superchunk album. Secondly, this is the last proper Superchunk album. They are still together, and just started releasing new material, but this is the last album they put out. Hopefully they will put out a new album soon because this album left me wanting much, much more.

12. Spoon - Kill the Moonlight (2002)

When you talk about the most important bands of the decade, Spoon has to be considered. Album after album their allegance keeps growing. Everybody has a favorite Spoon album, and nobody would be wrong with their choice. This just happens to be my favorite Spoon album.

11. Wilco - A Ghost is Born (2004)

Jim O’Rourke’s partnership with Wilco was arguably the best and most important producer-artist relationship of the decade. While Yankee Hotel Foxtrot featured O’Rourke, that was a Wilco album. On A Ghost is Born, however, the partnership is much more prevalent. “Hell is Chrome” would be a perfect fit on any of O’Rourke’s Drag City releases. Okay, so this album is great. Everything about it is great. It’s a little pretentious at times, but it’s art. The songs are so strong that they are pure art on record, and some of the best music I heard live this year. In fact, it took hearing these songs live to truly understand this album.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sunless Shortlist: Best of 2000's (20-16)

20. Beulah - Yoko (2003)

This is the last Beulah album. And listening to this album, you know that it's the last Beulah album. It's unfortunate that Beulah is no more, but at least they went out with the highest note they had as a band.

19. James - Pleased to Meet You (2001)

Ah memories. I don't know what else I can say about this album without just defending it. It's not like this album is well-known, even among James fans. But I just love this album, and that's all I can say. The return of Brian Eno is exactly what James needed, and they killed it on this album. It's may be James' most underrated album, and it deserves more attention than it has received.

18. The National - Boxer (2007)

The most cozy album of the decade. Something about this album just makes me very comfortable. Everything will be okay while you listen to this album. This is the sound of summer Friday nights. It's all romantic. It's all sweet. Just thinking about how beautiful this album is will change your day.

17. Bright Eyes - Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002)

I know I give Conor Oberst plenty of shit, but I cannot deny how excellent he was in Bright Eyes' prime. This album is nearly perfect, and maybe that's why I can't stand Conor now. This was his peak. The self-destruction was so genuine on this album. It was beautiful to hear. So many bands this decade wanted to flaunt how self-destructive they were, but there was no flaunting on this album. It just was, and it was great.

16. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer (2008)

Quite possibly the most underrated album of the decade. While their debut got plenty of attention in 2005, this album barely caused a blip last year. It's unfortunate because this is one truly amazing album. There is no way you cannot get into a song like "California Dreamer." And "Kissing the Beehive" closing the album is by and far one of the best songs in years. It's a crime that this album isn't defended more, and it gets better every time I listen to it.


Monday, October 05, 2009

Sunless Shortlist: Best of 2000's (25, again)

I made a very serious error while compiling this list. I completely forgot about one of my favorite albums. Not just any favorite albums, but like one of my favs ever! In fact, when I was just thinking about this list I was thinking about where to put this album. It's just that I completely didn't think when I was pulling albums out of my shelves to work on this.

Now because of this (and indecision), I've reordered things slightly. The only album so far this affects is Yo La Tengo's I Am Not Afraid of You and Will Beat Your Ass. That album now comes in at 26. So I guess I can make this my favorite 26 albums of the decade.

As I said before, this whole list was extremely difficult to put together. There were quite a few albums that were close, but not quite there (Gold, Twin Cinema, A Rush of Blood to the Head to name a few). Actually some of these were originally on this list but I was less thrilled listening to them for the first time in years.

So anyways, let me get things straightened out again for the last time. This album, by the way, was not the album I forgot...

25. Guided By Voices - Isolation Drills (2001)

GBV went through a very short-lived phase at the turn of the century while they were on TVT Records: They sounded like an actual band. It worked too. It's not necessarily the best era of their career, but it really sounded great. This phase also rang in the final era of GBV. Oh lord, not the end of Robert Pollard's songwriting career though. However, the last truly great thing he put together was this album. It's not necessarily a great GBV album, but it's just a great album.