Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Decade Of Decadence: Mike's Fave Albums of The Noughties

Alright, so B. Dawg over at Dogdoguwar proposed that we team up and take on the greatest albums of the past decade. The problem is that I think he and I have listened to far too many records between us this decade. His recent post on the matter is put far more eloquently than mine, regarding the lack of zeitgeist-defining records... it's been a pretty scattered decade. I mean, 9/11 people. Never forget. To floss.

So, to get started at least, I've just started compiling a big list of records that were favorites of mine over the past 10 years, that I could honestly see on my end-of-the-decade list. Some of which are completely unoriginal, but just super-solid records, some are surprises even to me, because even though I've grown to love them,
I actively disliked them for maybe even the majority of the decade (Queens Of The Stone Age, I'm looking at you!). I have, however, tried to be a LITTLE careful in my choices, picking things that are notable on a medium-larger scale... I loved that first Varsity Drag record and a later Cheater Slicks album, two of my absolute favorites for the past few years, and even though I've listened to them more than other things on this list, they just don't feel right to put down, you know?

So without further ado, here's a list of a bunch of records I ended up thinking might make the list at the end of the year (and decade), in, I can't stress this enough, no particular order.

The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
Not even my favorite of their first three, but so tight, varied, and end-to-end listenable that it edges out even Elephant as their best so far for me.

The Dirtbombs - Dangerous Magical Noise
This album revels in the fact that it could have been made before OR after the so-called "garage rock revolution". Mick Collins is a god.

Queens Of The Stone Age - Songs For The Deaf
Written off by myself as nu-metal when it came out, I was turned by the tightness of the rock and the looseness of the groove. It absolutely slays.

Gorillaz - Demon Days
Paranoid, multi-genre hip-pop by a bunch of depressed cartoons. Perfectly post-millenial pop music.

Danger Mouse - The Grey Album
Not only culturally critical, but totally a great listen. If you could find it.

Madlib - Shades Of Blue
"Smart" hip hop has often leaned on jazz tropes... this actually samples from the Blue Note Vaults, and combines the mind expansion of classic jazz with the soul expansion of hip-hop.

Asobi Seksu - Citrus
Do you like guitars with effects? They do. They also love soundscapes behind lovely pop songs, like skipping through a good dream about good dreams, and when you wake up, you're still humming the tune.

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots
The sweet, hopeful flipside to the Gorillaz, no matter the weight of the message, they make you feel like they're right there with you. Neo-prog psychedelia meets bubblegum pop. Wonderful and life-affirming.

Primal Scream - XTRMNTR
More than any of the late-90s acts that tried to marry aggressive rock and electronica, this album melds the two like they were the same thing. Not even my favorite Primal Scream album by a long shot, but certainly one of the best.

Fountains Of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers
Not revelatory in the least, but a wonderful pop record about life in the midfield. Office workers, hormonal teenagers, broken-hearted sad-sacks and wistful New Jersey denizens collected in a Kinks-like catalog of fully fleshed characters, each more relatable than the last.

Guided By Voices - Isolation Drills
I was very, very surprised to see this on Brent's list as well, since I always had him pegged as more of an Earthquake Weather kind of guy. This will most likely not make my Big Ol' Final List, but it's a damn fine rock record. Just looking at the songs ("Chasing Heather Crazy", "Glad Girls", most of the other songs), makes me wish I was listening to it, and if "Teenage FBI" were on this, I'd have no bones about putting it on the list. Probably the finest "pop" record Pollard & Co. made after 1999.

Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around
Probably not the best of the American Recordings series that so defined Johnny Cash in many people's minds, it had a sense of finality to it, as though Cash knew it would be his last, turning out harrowing performances of his own and others' songs as though it were the last time any of them would ever be sung. And it is the last time any of these will be sung like this again.

Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere
To my ear, modern soul and R&B albums sound indebted to the past, no matter how good they are. Maxwell and D'Angelo are wonderful performers, but they're part of a tradition that leads back to Sam Cooke and further. On this album, Cee-Lo's fractured testifying meets Danger Mouse's bouncing production resulting in something approaching soul music in a completely new way. And the second side is the weirdest, most psychedelic album moment of the decade to hit the top forty.

Postal Service - Give Up
My memory of this album is walking the 3 miles from the record store to my recently rented, unfurished apartment to eat leftover chinese food alone while sitting on the floor in the middle of summer. But somehow, this record, summed up by my friend Kevin as "emotronica" at the time, made that situation OK. Hopeful, wistful, sad, optimistic, it was fresh in a way that pop electronic music hadn't been in years.

Luna - Romantica
I'd say it seems a little generic to make a list like this, but nobody else is making records like this. Mature pop, interesting without being inapproachable, subtle without being boring, it's the kind of music I imagined I'd listen to if I grew up to become a classy grown-up. Jury's still out on that one, but the record is wonderful.

Malory - Not Here, Not Now
Not entirely innovative, but probably the prettiest album I've heard in the past ten years. Just beautiful sounds.

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