Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Best Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009

Top 50 Albums from 2000-2009

1.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
2.  Radiohead – Amnesiac
3.  Radiohead – Kid A
4.  Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun
5.   Joanna Newsom – Ys
6.   Sufjan Stevens – Come on, Feel the Illionoise!
7.   The White Stripes – Elephant
8.   The Microphones – The Glow, Pt. 2
9.   The Books – Lost and Safe
10. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
11. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place
12. The Arcade Fire – Funeral
13. The Antlers – Hospice
14. Sigur Ros – ( )
15. Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
16. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
17. Eluvium – Copia
18. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
19. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
20. The Mountain Goats – Tallahassee
21. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
22. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
23. Destroyer – Rubies
24. Sufjan Stevens – Greetings From Michigan!
25. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker
26. The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
27. Grizzly Bear – Yellow House
28. Broken Social Scene – Broken Social Scene
29. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
30. Deerhoof – Friend Opportunity
31. Andrew Bird – Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs
32. The National – Boxer
33. Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
34. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
35. Animal Collective – Feels
36. Radiohead – In Rainbows
37. Joanna Newsom – The Milk-Eyed Mender
38. A Silver Mt. Zion – Horses in the Sky
39. Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont
40. tUnE-YaRdS – BiRd-BrAiNs
41. LCD Soundsytem –Sound of Silver
42. Neko Case and Her Boyfriends – Furnace Room Lullaby
43. Four Tet – Rounds
44. St. Vincent – Marry Me
45. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
46. No Age – Nouns
47. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!
48. Beck – Sea Change
49. Iron and Wine – Our Endless Numbered Days
50. The Strokes – Is This It?

    Honorable Mentions:
    Dan Deacon – Bromst
    The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
    Headphones – Headphones
    The Hold Steady – Separation Sunday
    M. Ward – Post-War
    Pedro the Lion – Control
    The Postal Service – Give Up
    Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Best Albums of 2009

    I know I'm a bit late with this, but I wanted to wait until I felt at least marginally confident I had heard the "big records" from 2009.  Without further ado:

    (5 stars) Albums You Really Have to Own

    1.  The Antlers -- Hospice
    2.  Phoenix -- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
    3.  Dirty Projectors -- Bitte Orca
    4.  tUnE-YaRdS -- BiRd-BrAiNs
    5. Various Artists -- Dark Was the Night (A Red Hot Compilation)
    6.  Dan Deacon -- Bromst

    (4 stars) Albums You Really Ought to Listen To

    7.  The Mountain Goats -- The Life of the World to Come
    8.  Karen O and the Kids -- Where the Wild Things Are (OST)
    9.  Bowerbirds -- Upper Air
    10. Woods -- Songs of Shame
    11. Grizzly Bear -- Veckatimest
    12. Mount Eerie -- Wind's Poem
    13. Bill Callahan -- Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle
    14. Cass McCombs -- Catacombs
    15. Andrew Bird -- Noble Beast
    16. Girls -- Album
    17. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart -- S/T
    18. Japandroids -- Post-Nothing
    19. St. Vincent -- Actor
    20. Sun 0))) -- Monoliths and Dimensions
    21. The Big Pink -- A Brief History of Love
    22. White Denim -- Fits

    (3 stars) Fine Albums, If You Like the Artist/Genre

    23. Sufjan Stevens -- The BQE
    24.  The XX -- S/T
    25. Atlas Sound -- Logos
    26. Fuck Buttons -- Tarot Sport
    27. Vetiver -- Tight Knit
    28. Beirut -- March of the Zapotec
    29. Cymbals Eat Guitars -- Why There Are Mountains
    30. Sunset Rubdown -- Dragonslayer

    (2 stars) Albums That Downright Disappointed

    31. The Flaming Lips -- Embryonic
    32. Neko Case -- Middle Cyclone
    33. The Decemberists -- The Hazards of Love
    34. A Place to Bury Strangers -- Exploding Head
    35. Dan Auerbach -- Keep It Hid
    36. The Dodos -- Time To Die
    37. Deer Tick -- Born on Flag Day
    38. David Bazan -- Curse Your Branches
    39. Wilco -- Wilco
    40. A.C. Newman -- Get Guilty
    41. The Black Heart Procession -- Six

    Special Awards

    Most Impressive Debut:  tUnE-YaRdS -- BiRd-BrAiNs

    Album That Most Opened My Eyes to Another Genre:  Dan Deacon -- Bromst

    Album That Could Have Most Benefitted From 6 More Months of Development:  Beirut -- March of the Zapotec

    Worst Follow-Up To A Good Record:  The Black Heart Procession -- Six

    Worst Follow-Up To A Mediocre Record:  Wilco -- Wilco

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    ...Working Towards a Top 100 Movies of the 2000s List

    So, three of us have put together lists of our respective top 50 films of the decade, and here's the rundown of what movies made our respective lists and how many votes each movie received. We're hoping for a few more contributors on the top-50 project, and then we'll begin weeding this down.

    Here we go:

    Kenny's List (in order)

    1.                   The Lord of the Rings
    2.                   There Will Be Blood
    3.                   Kill Bill
    4.                   United 93
    5.                   Traffic
    6.                   Munich
    7.                   A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
    8.                   Inglourious Basterds
    9.                   The Royal Tenenbaums
    10.               The New World
    11.               Children of Men
    12.               Requiem for a Dream
    13.               Million Dollar Baby
    14.               The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    15.               No Country for Old Men
    16.               Man on Wire
    17.               City of God
    18.               Memento
    19.               Amores Perros
    20.               Zodiac
    21.               Mulholland Drive
    22.               Best in Show
    23.               Brokeback Mountain
    24.               Where the Wild Things Are
    25.               Pan’s Labyrinth
    26.               The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    27.               Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    28.               The Dark Knight
    29.               Spirited Away
    30.               The Passion of the Christ
    31.               Waltz with Bashir
    32.               The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
    33.               Adaptation
    34.               Gosford Park
    35.               Finding Nemo
    36.               Letters from Iwo Jima
    37.               King Kong
    38.               The Pianist
    39.               In the Bedroom
    40.               Y Tu Mama Tambien
    41.               I’m Not There
    42.               Catch Me If You Can
    43.               The Man Who Wasn’t There
    44.               District 9
    45.               Borat
    46.               Apocalypto
    47.               O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    48.               21 Grams
    49.               Finding Neverland
    50.               Let the Right One In

    Jonathan's List (no partcicular order)

    Royal Tenenbaums
    25th Hour
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    Kill Bill Vol. 1
    Kill Bill Vol. 2
    Inglorious Basterds
    Assassination of Jesse James
    The Dark Knight
    Road to Perdition
    The King of Kong
    Casino Royale
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    About Schmidt
    The Incredibles
    Half Nelson
    Amores Perros
    Inland Empire
    The Class
    Me, You, and Everyone We Know
    Best in Show
    New World
    Walk Hard
    The Departed
    Lost in Translation
    No Country for Old Men
    The Pianist
    Mulholland Drive
    There ill Be Blood
    I'm Not There
    Ghost World
    Before Sunset
    The Wrestler
    Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Sin City
    History of Violence
    Russian Ark
    Y tu Mama Tambien
    Pan's Labyrinth
    Brokeback Mountain
    Talk to Her
    Team America

    Joe's List (not in order)

    LOTR Trilogy
    Gosford Park
    Monster's Ball
    Mulholland Drive
    Royal Tenebaums
    The Pianist
    Minority Report
    Catch Me if You Can
    Spirited Away
    Kill Bill
    Lost in Translation
    City of God
    Finding Nemo
    Million Dollar Baby
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    The Passion
    Sin City   
    Match Point   
    King Kong   
    Brokeback Mountain
    United 93   
    Children of Men   
    Pan's Labyrinth   
    The Departed   
    Letters from Iwo Jima   
    The Lives of Others
    No Country for Old Men   
    There Will Be Blood   
    I'm Not There   
    The Assassination of Jesse James   
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    Slumdog Millionaire   
    Let the Right One In   
    The Dark Knight   
    Man on Wire   
    The Fall   
    The Wrestler
    Inglourious Basterds   
    O Brother Where Art Thou
    Requiem for a Dream
    Artificial Intelligence

    Combined List, w/ Votes

    The Lord of the Rings (3)
    Mulholland Drive (3)
    The Royal Tenenbaums (3)
    The Pianist (3)
    Kill Bill (3)
    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (3)
    Brokeback Mountain (3)
    Pan’s Labyrinth (3)
    No Country for Old Men (3)
    There Will Be Blood (3)
    I’m Not There (3)
    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (3)
    The Dark Knight (3)
    Inglourious Basterds (3)
    Traffic (3)
    Memento (2)
    Amelie (2)
    Gosford Park (2)
    Catch Me If You Can (2)
    Spirited Away (2)
    Lost in Translation (2)
    City of God (2)
    Finding Nemo (2)
    Million Dollar Baby (2)
    The Passion of the Christ (2)
    Sin City (2)
    Munich (2)
    King Kong (2)
    United 93 (2)
    Children of Men (2)
    The Departed (2)
    Apocalypto (2)
    Letters from Iwo Jima (2)
    Let the Right One In (2)
    Man on Wire (2)
    The Wrestler (2)
    O Brother Where Art Thou? (2)
    Requiem for a Dream (2)
    A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2)
    Borat (2)
    The New World (2)
    Amores Perros (2)
    Zodiac (2)
    Best in Show (2)
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2)
    Waltz with Bashir (2)
    Y Tu Mama Tambien (2)
    Where the Wild Things Are
    The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
    In the Bedroom
    Monster’s Ball
    Minority Report
    The Fall
    Match Point
    The Man Who Wasn’t There
    District 9
    21 Grams
    Finding Neverland
    25th Hour
    Road to Perdition
    The Lives of Others
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
    Slumdog Millionaire
    The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
    Casino Royale
    About Schmidt
    The Incredibles
    Half Nelson
    Inland Empire
    The Class
    Me, You, and Everyone We Know
    Walk Hard
    Ghost World
    Before Sunset
    A History of Violence
    Russian Ark
    Talk to Her
    Team America: World Police

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    5 More Songs from the 2000s

    La de da de dee...

    Joanna Newsom "Monkey & Bear"
    I downloaded a leaked copy of this album, so it felt like I had been listening to it at least a month before it came out. Of all the songs on Ys, this is the one that struck me the quickest and has stayed with me. Like most great albums, I have been obsessed with other tracks ("Cosmia" and "Sawdust and Diamonds") for periods of time, but this is really the track I listen to most. Quite simply, I think Joanna Newsom is the best lyricist in pop music. She keeps rolling over rhymes that slant against each other and vary in rhythm and line length:
    My heart is a furnace
    Full of love that's just, and earnest
    Now; you know that we must unlearn this
    Allegiance to a life of service
    And no longer answer to that heartless
    Hay-monger, nor be his accomplice
    "Hay-monger" cracks me up because it shows she has humor too. "But still...they had got to pay the bills...hadn't they...that is what the monkey'd say" which is such a delightful turn and reveal on perspective. I saw her perform the entire album live with the Atlanta Symphony and the finale with its descending melody and long couplets was mesmerizing. Did I mention Van Dyke Park's arrangements? Subtle and effective on this track. I think this song works as an allegory for Newsom's own relationship to art (Newsom as bear possibly?), especially given this album's antiquated references, long songs, and general weirdness/lack of crossover potential.

    Rogue Wave "Publish My Love"
    Once the cool kids got off the Shins bandwagon, they smartly started liking Rogue Wave. This is the song I heard on WUSC that caused me to pick up the phone and find out who this band was. A rather simple alternative rock song with a terrific bridge and verse rather than a soaring chorus.

    Midlake "Roscoe"
    I think of Midlake as the indie version of Fleetwood Mac, and this song just bubbles with pathos and heartache. But it's all covered in this 70s shagginess that I really take to. I liked one other song from this album, so this song happens to be an anomaly. That's sad, because if they don't have a Rumours in them, they might have a Tusk.

    Vampire Weekend "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
    Perfect little guitar riff with really exquisite percussion/drums (love the sound of the ride symbol hit with the snare during the second verse). This song reminds of the beach and summers and songs with choruses that won't get out of your head and your feeling that that's perfectly ok because it's a great chorus.

    Sun Kil Moon "Carry Me Ohio"
    It's the glockenspiel that comes in at the song's end that seals the musical deal here. Kozelek can conjure up romantic pathos with the best of them, and this was my jam when I first heard the song in 2003 before the album came out. In between the almost kitschy reminiscences of the acoustic "Glenn Tipton" and the Neil Young/Crazy Horse fueled "Salvador Sanchez", this song mixed distorted guitars with Koz's penchant for memory-conjuring. The quintessential Kozelek line: "Can't count to all the lovers I've burned through / So why do I still burn for you...I can't say." Such articulation in a line that claims an inability to articulate. Love it.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    5 more songs from the 2000s

    And the beat goes on...

    M83 "Don't Save Us From the Flames"
    I heard this song first in a car commercial that ran during the Texas/USC Rose Bowl in 2006. Apt, as this is the BEST car driving song of the decade. I love the sound of M83's drums and the two single note guitar lines that keep crossing against each other in Interpol-esque ways. And the vocals. Well, I can't really understand much of anything the frontman's saying, but that only means I get to falsetto my brains out with whatever comes to mind during the insane rush of the chorus.

    Feist "I Feel it All"
    I know. "1, 2, 3, 4." Well, that song is great, but it didn't grab me. The two songs I listened to 30 times each when I first got this album was "My Moon, My Man" (the drums in the middle eight and the vocal harmonies that immediately follow it) and this song. Again, it's about the musical touches. The first chorus: "I love you more" and you have this great little trilly piano line. And THEN after "I don't know what I knew before" you have the same line, but in a two note harmony form. I LOVE that. That's the song for me.

    White Denim "I Can Tell"
    White Denim is the 60s one hit rockers Nuggets project rolled into one band. The drums on this song just swing (More cowbell!), and the bassist remains the hidden ingredient of this band's success. That stacatto roll he goes on during the riff is great. Love the tiny touch of keyboard as well. "Did you forget to take your medicine, honey?"

    Team America "America, Fuck Yeah"
    The companion piece to Frank Stallone's "Peace in our Life" EXCEPT it's hilarious as all get out AND manages to distill every bad patriotic song of the last decade into a high-octane call and response frenzy. And if you don't like it, well, lick my butt and suck on my balls.

    Ryan Adams "Carolina Rain"
    This is the best story song that Adams has ever written. It has a great opening guitar line and earns its vocal and musical climax. As anyone who has heard "The End" knows, he's always eating eggs. "One night at the diner over eggs...over easy she showed me the length of her legs." And the next couplet is the kicker: "But that gold plated cross on her neck it was real / And you don't get that kind of money from pushing a meal." And the fantastic blending of Caroline and Carolina. "29" is one of those albums that I instinctively say I like even though I only listen to three or four of the songs just because those 3 or 4 songs (this one, "29", "Nightbirds", "Elizabeth, you were born to play the part") are SO good.

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Five More Songs of the 2000s

    The list continues...

    Death Cab for Cutie "For What Reason"
    In the fall of 2001, I studied abroad. I brought three albums with me, and two of them were awful. As a result, I was eagerly eating up anything anyone gave me, and a fellow MSU student gave me this album by Death Cab (their second) in exchange for Jeff Buckley's Grace. Great picked riff and a soaring chorus. But it was the words in the verse/chorus transition: "so slick with that sarcastic slough." Ben Gibbard never bested this album's lyrics.

    Mindy Smith "Come to Jesus"
    If Christian music were more like this, I would listen to it. I saw the video for this song on CMT, and I immediately loved it. The production isn't too slick and Mindy doesn't blow out her pipes. Understated, soulful, and far more moving than anything the CCM market generated this decade.

    Of Montreal "Lysergic Bliss"
    The night I found out that the pastor of the church I was attending commited suicide, I decided to go to an Of Montreal show. It was a great show, when they were still making rock music and not trying to recreate Berlin-era Bowie glam. Lysergic Bliss hit me and still does with its use of the word "vertiginous", three-part structure, and accordingly conflicted thoughts on love: "somehow inside hopeful and sad." The coda is pure Steely Dan keyboard circa "You'll go back, Jack" with killer harmonies draped over the top. Alright, children. Remember your breathing.

    Strokes "Barely Legal"
    "Aw Mama running out of luck / and like my sister, don't give a fuck." I came to this party six years after the room had cleared. There was still something left for the late crowd though, like...a string of terrific bass lines, for instance. But this particular track stuck because of its two-note guitar lead in between verse and chorus. The bass takes over the melody in the chorus, and when I listened to it, I hear a week spent in St. Louis during Summer 2007.

    Omarion/Mylo Mash-up "Drop the Icebox Pressure"
    I discovered the mash-up a couple of years ago, a wonderful musical concoction where two songs become one in ways both beneficial and horrifying. Underrated? The Sexual Healing/High and Dry Gaye/Radiohead mash-up. But this my favorite. Its canvas is two run of the mill songs; in fact, I can't stand the Omarion song in its original form. But the result is better than any other R and B song this decade (excepting Amerie's One Thing...more on this later).

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Fave Songs of the 2000s

    Laudable post by T. Azimuth. I'm not going to compete with his in-depth analysis. Over the the next couple of weeks, I want to get out my list, but I'm not going to cap it. I'm going to try to do five tracks at a time and add some commentary. The order of these songs does indicate some preferential treatment. They're the ones I remembered first.

    Andrew Bird - "Weather Systems"
    The exact moment Bird stopped being a frontman and became a chamber-pop maestro. Love the whistling at the track's end. Search out the Blogoteque version of this song with him walking down the streets of Paris with just his violin.

    Deerhoof - "The Galaxist"
    I really loved two songs off the Friend Opportunity album: this one and "Believe E.S.P." Both have fantastic breakdowns. I chose this one because of its internal variety; it's a two minute forty second mini-suite with compressed dynamics/pop sensibility/crazy uncanny drum figures/killer three note guitar lick in the breakdown.

    Mates of State - "Ha ha"
    It's in the song's first minute. The drums cut, and the keyboard plays the repeating riff over a changing bass line. The the drums come back in on fire. The day I got this album, I probably listened to that part alone ten consecutive times. Really fantastic live song too.

    LCD Soundsystem - "Us v. Them"
    Starts taking off about three minutes in when the hi-hat tightens up and starts getting pelted with sixteenth notes. Great bass line in that middle section too. Didn't like this song initially until they led off with it when I saw them at Virgin Music Fest in 07. Then I couldn't get enough. Terrific running song/slow burn/dance groove with intricate percussion.

    My Brightest Diamond - "Golden Star"
    If you don't like the last minute of this song, you don't like MBD. Her dead on female Buckley impersonation reaches a peak on the album's second track. LOVED this entire album, but would always give people this song first because her strengths are so crystallized here.