Friday, June 25, 2010

Top 100 Albums of the 2000s: 50-41

Older posts: Honorable Mentions, 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61, 60-51

50. Frog Eyes - Tears of the Valedictorian

Frog Eyes are the toughest band in the modern Canadian music scene to get into. Once you're through The New Pornographers, Handsome Furs, Sunset Rubdown and Destroyer, it's time to tackle Carey Mercer's 55-octave wailing amid a flash flood of Spencer Krug's Rakhmaninovian keyboarding. Tears of the Valedictorian is their best album, bookended by two songs of over seven minutes, keeping the pace very speedy -- I would say, in a frenzy. This whole album is like going through Space Camp. "Caravan Breakers, They Prey on the Weak and the Old" is three magnificent songs in one. "Bushels" is even better, arguably the greatest in Mercer's songwriting career. Get ready to feel like the guy in the chair in the old Maxwell ads.

49. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog

Sam Beam's intimate bearded songwriting has sustained him through much of the decade. He appeals to the Elliot Smith crowd, maybe even, dare I say it, the Jack Johnson crowd. His music is likable and inoffensive enough that "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" was featured on the soundtrack to Twilight. But, there's an edge to Iron & Wine that J. Johnson certainly couldn't match. His lyrics are often biting, and his voice often drops to that breathy whisper -- something unsettling is certainly afoot. The only reason The Shepherd's Dog appears over other Iron & Wine's two other much-loved albums is because I simply return to these songs the most. "Boy With A Coin," "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car" and "Peace Beneath The City" are remarkably enjoyable after multiple listens. The 2005 EP Woman King is also definitely worth a purchase.

48. Beck - Sea Change

Most of us actually thought Sea Change was a joke at first. It was so distant from the ramshackle country-funk of Odelay and light years from the energized dance of Midnite Vultures, that it could have been a fake disc. It turned out though that Beck had settled down, or settled in, at age 32, to a blurry haze of acoustic and bass driven tunes. These songs build and prove Beck's versatility. It's hard to compare to other Beck albums: 1) it sounds so different and 2) I still consider Odelay the greatest album of the 1990s. How can I even try to compare a great album like Sea Change to a masterpiece of that magnitude? Still, this is Beck's greatest achievement since the 1990s, and despite the underrated Modern Guilt and The Information, may stand as his last great album, depending on if/when he can still bring the funk.

47. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

The edge of late has gone to Middle Cyclone, but I still believe that this is Case's greatest achievement, a collection of 12 breezy songs about relationships (both platonic and romantic), inhibitions and cat fights. The spacey "Star Witness" and follower "Hold On, Hold On" are perfect for her voice, and the cast of musicians on this album suit her ambling sound even better than on Middle Cyclone or the superb Blacklisted.

46. Battles - Mirrored

My iTunes lists the "Genre" of Battles as "noodly math rock." Exactly. This is art rock with the prog turned up to 11. Scattershot vocals over relentless drum beats and sharp electric guitar make Mirrored like the Speed Racer movie, except good. One of the most enjoyable of the decade's abstract, experimental releases. I hope they're more prolific this decade, though Battles is essentially a side project for all participating parties.

45. Songs: Ohia - The Magnolia Electric Company

The names can get a bit confusing. Jason Molina was Songs: Ohia. Then he wanted to call his band The Magnolia Electric Company. The label knew that Songs: Ohia was more recognizable, so they made him keep that title as the band name. The follow-up to this album, What Comes After The Blues, is credited to The Magnolia Electric Company. No matter. This is Molina's finest album -- a twangy, dark mix of country and gothic rock. Opening track "Farewell Transmission" is a masterpiece. In an album full of secrets and ghosts, "Farewell Transmission" strikes the first and most defining chord: I will resurrect it, I'll have a good go at it / I'll streak his blood across my beak and dust my feathers with his ashes / I can feel his ghost breathing down my back. The last words in the song may give the most apropos of Magnolia Electric's mood: "Long, dark blues."

44. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

This is the album that got most of the Animal Collective-haters on the bandwagon. Panda Bear's Beach Boys dreaminess won people over, and primed them for the full band's explosive, giddy pop songs. Noah Lennox has had, pretty unquestionably, the most successful AC-solo career. His first album, Young Prayer, was released to some acclaim, but Person Pitch elevated him to the status of indie pop icon. The album is out there, but accessible enough to bring everyone into the pool party. "Bros" is a frolicking bit of song craftsmanship: it concludes with irresistible, bouncing percussion work, much like Animal Collective's own "The Purple Bottle." Person Pitch just makes you smile, as Brian Wilson songs always intended.

43. Richard Buckner - The Hill

One of a few albums in the top 50 that most probably won't recognize, The Hill is one of the greatest works from one of the most prolific songwriters of the last 15 years. Buckner is usually alone with his acoustic guitar singing of love lost (nearly every song on his 1997 masterpiece Devotion and Doubt lamented his recent divorce). On The Hill, his lyrics are lifted from poets and his backing band is subtle but everpresent. There are many songs but they all live on one track. You should listen to it from beginning to end with no breaks. My friend Bryan once said, "If God had a voice, it would sound like Richard Buckner." It sounds like it on The Hill.

42. Kanye West - Graduation

Okay, Canibus, ima let you finish, but Kanye West made one of the most self-glorifying rap albums of all time! Every song on Graduation proves that Kanye can interrupt any acceptance speech and say whatever he wants on television. The award show is cheapened if you don't let him do this. In fact, just let him host the show with no script. It will be more entertaining and elevate him to deity status. Here's how Kanye transcends rap culture: the original video for "Can't Tell Me Nothing" featured Zach Galifianakis and Will Oldham riding on a tractor, "Flashing Lights" had an avant-garde car-in-the-desert video with Rita G stripping off a fur coat. For a guy so seemingly-obsessed with himself, he appears in neither of these iconic videos. Kanye is more than a rapper. He's an idea. Graduation may be remembered as the album that defined Yeezy even more than his two breakthroughs.

41. Bob Dylan - Modern Times

Dylan completed his latter-day trilogy in 2006 with Modern Times, an album full of blues but without the despair. Much of 1997's brilliant Time Out Of Mind was spent lamenting his age, as if his career was winding down. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there, summed it up. On Modern Times, Dylan admits he's older, but isn't ready to throw in the towel. You think I'm over the hill, think I'm past my prime / Let me see what you got, we can have a whopping good time, he says on "Spirit of the Water," with more than a little innuendo. The old bastard is having fun here. Shortly after this album's release, he said he thought his career was just beginning. If you've been world famous for 45 years and then you drop this gem, I'm inclined to believe that you've got a few decades left in the tank.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Top 100 Albums of the 2000s: 60-51

Older posts: Honorable Mentions, 100-91, 90-81, 80-71, 70-61

60. TIE: Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump

Yes, another tie. Don't worry. Only one or two more of these. I have to cheat a little bit.

Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga made the Austin band (almost) mainstream. Seeing them perform these songs was almost like what it may have been like to see Oasis in 1994. Fans were attached to these songs, singing along, rocking out when frontman Britt Daniel goes on a guitar tear. "Don't Make Me A Target" and "The Underdog" are rousing power-songs and "Don't You Evah" and "Rhythm and Soul" finger-snapping grooves. Just another in a steady stream of great rock albums from Spoon.

When Grandaddy's The Sophtware Slump was released in 2000, word around the campfire was that it was a masterpiece that would be #1 on every publication's top ten list that year. Of course, Kid A had not yet come out (oh...Kid A hasn't appeared on this list yet? how can that be). Still, it's a bit surprising how this album has been strangely forgotten over time, considering its number of virtues. Opener "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot," is a nine-minute piano composition. Its varying moods and levels set the stage for a work full of such changes. We have melancholy ballads like "Jed The Humanoid" and punk-lite songs like the Nirvana-esque "Chartsengrafs." Despite a decade full of sonic changes, let's not forget Jason Lytle's masterpiece, and an album that certainly would have been at least somewhere in any top ten list of 2000.

59. Calexico - Feast of Wire

My favorite Calexico album, I once considered writing a screenplay for a Western while listening. It's a perfect blend of country and Mexican sones (if I'm in fact using the term correctly). Feast of Wire is also their most fun release in a long line of successful, if underappreciated, tex-mex outings. Named after the Arizona border town, Calexico's music might not sound that odd in an updated version of Touch of Evil. Listen to opener "Sunken Waltz" and you'll be right into the sounds without any transition from whatever bland indie rock you had playing before.

58. Guided By Voices - Earthquake Glue

Earthquake Glue was GBV's best album since their mid-90s masterpieces Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand. I once read an interview from a producer or musician who said that if those two albums hadn't ever been released, and Earthquake Glue was a debut from an unheard-of band, it would have been hailed a landmark release of the time. I'm not sure that's quite true, but EG certainly stands tall as the greatest achievement of Robert Pollard's 2000s career. "Useless Inventions" and "The Best of Jill Hives" are wonderfully catchy, and seeing "Jill Hives" performed live on the DVD of GBV's last ever show, you'd think the song was released a decade before. Pollard is so prolific and his current releases so hit-or-miss, it's hard to tell if he'll have another Earthquake Glue in the current decade. But, if he produces 15-20 albums in that time, the chances are not that bad.

57. Sonic Youth - Murray Street

If this album is #57, you know we're getting to the point where every album from here on out is essentially perfect. Murray Street is SY's best album since, wow, maybe Goo. It put the best of them on display -- they're getting older but are far from adult contemporary. I saw Sonic Youth a year or so after the release of Murray Street, and they were still shredding their guitars against the speakers, some ten-minute noise jams coming at the end of inspiring songs like "Karen Revisited." Now that Kim Gordon is 57, and likely only a few years away from being a full-blown Gilf, it's time to hold off their Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame induction for another 20 years. They're far from done.

56. The Decemberists - Picuresque

If Bob Dylan and Joanna Newsom had a child, it would probably sound like Colin Meloy. I can understand why his voice annoys so many. It's got this weird, vibrating whine at the end of each word. It sounds like a sound you'd make if you were saying a word and a fly flew in your mouth. Having said that, would you really want to hear a song as perfectly paced and melodic as "Engine Driver" any other way? When it comes right down to it, I only like two Decemberists albums: Picuresque and The Crane Wife. Both cut through the pretension and fill their 40-50 with nothing but great tunes.

55. Antony and the Johnsons - I Am A Bird Now

As we get higher up on the list, you'll definitely get a sense of the acts that had the most powerful impression on me. If this were a straight up Top 100 list from a major publication, I Am A Bird Now would almost certainly be in the top 20. This is one of the best albums of the decade. Very much its own genre, Antony bucked all of the current trends in music, to produce something sad, beautiful and unique. Many of the songs succeed due to its minimalism, nothing more than a piano and Antony's voice. "Fistfull of Love," however, is a full-bodied, painful ode. It is the grandest song here, using horns and building drums to powerful effect. The 2009 effort The Crying Light is a worthy follow-up, if a bit of a retread.

54. Wolf Parade - Apologies To The Queen Mary

Just five years ago, I'd never heard of a guy named Spencer Krug. Now, he's released, by my last count, 143 albums. The first where he appeared front and center was Wolf Parade's spectacular debut. A 50-50 collaboration between Krug and Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs, Wolf Parade was poised for success right from the beginning. There was considerable buzz behind this release, largely due to its producer, Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock. The songs go back-and-forth between songs by Krug and Boeckner, but nothing seems out of place. Both songwriters have highlights, though Krug may win out in a popularity duel for his anthemic "I'll Believe in Anything" and the zippo-lighting "Dinner Bells." Boeckner's contributions are not to be ignored, though. "Modern World" and "Shine A Light" are emotive foot-tapping rock jams. Wolf Parade wins out on this list over Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown (Krug's other outfit) because, simply, every song on this album is just what it should be.

53. MF Doom as Viktor Vaughn - Vaudeville Villain

V. Vaughn, the traveling Vaudeville Villain
Who don't give a flying fuck who ain't not feeling him
Watch what ya' dealing him: ace, king, death card
Strong-arm the wrong man, pardon the left, god
Get money and earn it, then everything you touch turn shit
Got much to learn kid, light it up burn shit
Light it up like the Dutch when the hash melt
Only time they see him is when they need him with the cash belt

52. TV On The Radio - Dear Science

I was never as gaga about TOTR as the mainstream music community until Dear Science. The accolades for Return To Cookie Mountain were well-earned, but the love-fest with TOTR through the middle part of the decade were, I thought, a bit premature. Dear Science proved me wrong. This is a group at the top of its form, blending modern indie pop with some African beats, some drum machine, some dope percussion, and putting out their tightest, most accomplished work yet.

51. Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway

In a decade filled with explosions of sonic creativity, synth revivals, endless mixing and sampling, and perhaps even the death of rock, Mark Kozelek continues to make quiet music, songs that live on their melodies, guitars and lyrics. Ghosts of the Great Highway is his first album under the Sun Kil Moon moniker, and Kozelek's voice comes through clearer and his songs are more focused than in most of his Red House Painters work. Lead-off track "Glenn Tipton" is vaguely about a serial killer, and the title comes from a series of disputes about guitarists, boxers and singers: Cassius Clay was hated more than Sonny Liston. Some like KK Downing more than Glenn Tipton. Some like Jim Nabors, some Bobby Vinton. I like 'em all... "Salvador Sanchez" continues to be a fan favorite at shows (it features an electric guitar and may actually be the hardest of all Kozelek's work...hard as in rocking hard).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Top Albums of the 2000s: 70-61

Older posts: Honorable Mentions, 100-91, 90-81, 80-71

70. TIE: Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover and YACHT - See Mystery Lights

Two reasons for the tie. First off, I screwed up and had 101 on the list. Rather than go back and changing everything, I'm giving these two wonderful albums the same rank. That's about all they have in common. Random Spirit Lover is currently Spencer Krug's greatest singular work, an album with very few gaps between songs that highlights his structural eccentricities while displaying some of his greatest songs ("Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days," "Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot!").

YACHT's breakthrough, See Mystery Lights, is one of the decade's funnest, most danceable albums. Seeing these songs performed in a live setting is a treat. Jona Bechtolt extends his limbs always in perfect harmony with the beats, dressed in his white suit (with white jeans when the slacks get dirty). Claire Evans is all in black, the yang of the groups, with stirring vocals that provide a stirring balance during "Psychic City (Voodoo City)" and "I'm In Love With The Ripper." A fantastic album.

69. Burial - Untrue

One of the greatest entries in the emerging dubstep genre, Untrue is dark, subtly melodic, and gripping throughout. Upon its release, Burial's true identity was unknown. It was only about a year later that he was revealed to be William Bevan, a South London producer and Soundforge artist. Keeping this in mind, and knowing that the opening untitled track contains a sample from David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE, you can imagine just how mysterious and forboding is the music.

68. Blitzen Trapper - Furr

There's no "Country Caravan" on here, to be sure, but Furr is Blitzen Trapper's greatest complete musical experience. More cohesive and genre-specific than almost-as-good predecessor Wild Mountain Nation, Furr drifts into the realm of alt-country, while not being pinned down or losing any of their fun. "Black River Killer" is a country murder ballad worthy of Dylan or Cash.

67. My Morning Jacket - At Dawn

My first experience with My Morning Jacket was when my freshman roommate in college played "Strangulation" for me. It comes at you quickly, those first harsh chords before the bass comes in. But, it's not a rousing rock ballad. It's a dark and melancholy song whose first lyrics sound spoken by a man alone at the bottom of a well, far away from everyone. "Strangulation / I don't wanna feel a thing / When your hands close tight around my neck / And force the air that I breathe / I don't wanna feel a thing." Of course, when you listen to At Dawn beginning to end, by the time "Strangulation" rolls around an hour later, you know the voice is that of Jim James, warm and comforting, folksy but rooted in rock. At Dawn contains some of My Morning Jacket's best and most understated songs.

66. The Twilight Singers - Blackberry Belle

Greg Dulli's post-Afghan Whigs project has its best release here, with its slightly off-kilter take on 90s alt-rock. Too brooding to be radio-friendly but still not quite anti-mainstream. The songs on here aren't afraid to show feeling; "Decatur St." could almost be on Pearl Jam's Yield. It's closer "Number Nine," however, with guest vocals by current Gutter Twins bandmate Mark Lanegan, that moves this album out of the ordinary, even past follow-up Powder Burns, into classic status.

65. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity

Deerhoof has always been a polarizing band, and rightfully so. Their jigsaw puzzle songs and the shrill squeaky voice of Satomi Matsuzaki are too much for many to enjoy. My girlfriend of several years ago saw them with me at the Echo on Sunset Blvd, out of pure kindness, and promptly sat in the corner with head in hands to keep from getting a headache. That was before Friend Opportunity, and I'm convinced that if she gave it a listen (not gonna happen), she'd at least love "+81," one of the most pop-accessible songs of their career. In fact, I'm convinced that "+81" and a handful of other tracks on Deerhoof's eighth full length would play just fine on the radio. Perhaps that's just my reaction after so many albums of brilliantly jumbled horn/guitar mishmash. This is Deerhoof's pop album, and even if "The Perfect Me" or "Matchbook Seeks Maniac" couldn't fit in between The Killers and Muse, it's a hell of a fun 37 minutes and one of Deerhoof's second best album to date (#1 coming up in the teens, hint hint).

64. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

One of the best moments of Coachella 2010 was watching Dirty Projectors perform "Stillness Is The Move," the best song in their discography and Amber Coffman's vocal tour-de-force. The song is the centerpiece of an album full of memorable guitar riffs and stops-and-starts. One of only a few albums on this list from 2009, Bitte Orca is instantly memorable and you can surprisingly sing along after only a few listens.

63. Deerhunter - Microcastle

Microcastle is Deerhunter's most accessible album and also their best. Bradford Cox's ambient art rock project has more straight-up songs than their sophomore album, Cryptograms, and the ones that stand out really stand out. "Never Stops" and "Nothing Ever Happened" see Deerhunter emerge from their shoegazing shell and play songs that, performed live, could genuinely rock -- even if that isn't their bag. The album also came with a bonus disc of original songs, Weird Era, Cont., which is really a fantastic piece of work in its own right.

62. The New Pornographers - Mass Romantic

The debut of the original indie rock Canadian supergroup. Before there was Swan Lake, there were The New Pornographers, with Tweedy-esque pop songwriting guru A.C. Newman, emotional core Dan Bejar and angel-voiced Neko Case. They've had a whole bunch of great albums, but this was their best. Even years later, I still can't listen to "Letter From An Occupant" without posting a big smile.

61. Jay-Z - The Blueprint

This album is probably too low on the list. In fact, it's probably a crime that this is the only Jay-Z album on the list. Often regarded as the greatest hip hop album of the modern era, it deserves all the accolades it gets. This was the height of HOVA's cigar-smoking, best-rapper-alive persona. "Girls, Girls, Girls" and "Jigga That Nigga" headline a string of classic tracks. While not my favorite hip hop album of the decade, I could not argue with anyone who praises it as such. The Blueprint is, in a historical sense, the seminal rap album of our time.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Top 100 Albums of the 2000s: 80-71

Older posts: Honorable Mentions, 100-91, 90-81

80. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

By this time, I should have learned that you can never predict the sound of a Flaming Lips album. Embryonic not only thwarted the predictable, but pretty much went off the charts of current scientific theory....if that makes sense (if not, whatever, it's the Flaming Lips). Embryonic is not a subdued Lips album, despite lacking the sugar-pop highlights of The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots; this is a heavy, paranoid experience. Opener "Convinced of the Hex" sets a pretty ominous tone; it's the Lips equivalent of "Tomorrow Never Knows." "Powerless" is the best song they've done in years, a song you really must listen to with headphones. On one side is the four-note baseline and the other is the -- I don't know what to describe them -- exploding cymbals? Then at about 2:00, the psychedelic guitar comes in. It's near perfect.

79. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

You wouldn't think a band as pleasant and bubbly would be perhaps the most polarizing act of the decade. Derided by many as obnoxious and low-on-substance, my theory is that they're all just jealous. Even if you're embarrassed to tell people you like it, Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut is a dizzyingly fun 11 songs on teenage love, educational inquiries, and African dancing...kind of. "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" sums it up. Imagine watching one of those nonprofit promotional videos from Ghana. The ones where all the kids and workers are dancing together, because they're all happy. Also, Peter Gabriel covered the song because he's referenced in it. Awesome.

78. Outkast - Stankonia

Most certainly the hip-hop album of its year, Stankonia saw the collaboration of Andre 3000 and Big Boi at its most electric, before they started to work on their own projects. Like most listeners, I first heard Stankonia on the radio, through singles "So Fresh, So Clean" and "Ms. Jackson." "B.O.B." is just too much for the radio, but it's the album's centerpiece and holds up as the definitive musical statement from this essential hip-hop duo.

77. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

In case you don't know, here's the quick version. Justin Vernon broke up his band, moved into the woods in Wisconsin and recorded an album. He didn't think anyone would ever hear it (which is pretty much the only similarity For Emma, Forever Ago shares with my screenplays), but when indie label Jagjaguar heard it, well, that was it. It helps to know the story, because you want to be in the woods when you're listening, contemplating loneliness, loss, misty morning air, and the like.

76. The National - Alligator

Now here's one that took me by surprise. At a time when the straight-up slack pop of The Postal Service and its variants were dying out and attention turned to the synth and drum beats of Daft Punk's descendants, The National came along with music that defied everything modern, by creating something remarkably simple and beautiful. Though The National have recently released another masterpiece in High Violet, Alligator will always be their breakthrough. When Matt Berninger's deep, affecting voice comes through in the opening seconds of "Secret Meeting," it's as if something very familiar, very comforting but sad, has emerged from a room in your house that's always been there, even if you didn't know it.

75. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - No More Shall We Part

In a decade that saw Nick Cave become a more active film composer and screenwriter, his 2001 album No More Shall We Part is a beautiful collection of vaguely-religious odes to love and illness. Though No More Shall We Part is technically the follow-up to 1997's equally awesome The Boatman's Call, the two couldn't be more stylistically and thematically different (in between the two albums, Cave fought heroin and alcohol addiction). The album has Cave at his grungiest ("Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow") and the Bad Seeds at their most wonderfully restrained ("Gates of the Garden"). Warren Ellis definitely gets his chance to shine, though (most notably on "Hallelujah," which he co-wrote).

74. Animal Collective - Here Comes The Indian

To call Here Comes The Indian a lesser Animal Collective album is like calling Let It Be a lesser Beatles album. These days, nobody will think Here Comes The Indian at first mention of Animal Collective, the band that took pop music and turned it on its head. This was them before "Fireworks" and "My Girls," before even "Leaf House," when they were still just a confused band of wanderers, banging on bamboo drums out in the forest. This is tribal music, with the songs hidden within. If you're in the right mode, that is...if you're able to transform your dark room into the enclosed circle of the woods where Twin Peaks' red room becomes visible, listen to "Infant Dressing Table" and feel the trees come alive. This is genius that would soon give birth to even greater genius.

73. Radiohead - In Rainbows

When I first bought In Rainbows (for $5, or £3.38?) I didn't know what to make of it. I was initially underwhelmed -- I even thought the beautiful songs (like "Nude") were just retreads of other, more potent songs (like "How to Disappear Completely"). I still think that they made a mistake including "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" on the album, probably their most boring song since Pablo Honey. Now that that's out of the way, I was totally wrong. In Rainbows is the work of a band that's found its second footing after years of analysis and counter-analysis. It's a solid and composed work, with as many perfect moments as Amnesiac, and more than Hail to the Thief. The second half surpasses the first. "Faust Arp" brings back the unsettling paranoia of "In Limbo," and "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" and "Videotape" are as confident closers as they've ever done. This is still a band that may have some of their best work ahead of them, and In Rainbows shows that they're far from done.

72. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

I kind of hate Zach Condon in a way. He's a rich white kid who got to travel around the world and absorb all manner of eastern European traditional sounds. Oh, and he's a musical prodigy. Condon is now just 24 (he was 19 when he recorded this, which is why I hate him). The music, however, is undeniably beautiful. "Postcards from Italy" is an uplifting, danceable dune with ukelele (or something like it) and horn. You don't need to be in Budapest to love this stuff.

71. Mark Lanegan - Field Songs

I had to put at least one or two albums on this list that my mom might like even more. That should tell you everything you need to know. Lanegan's voice is bluesy, coarse, pained. "One Way Street" opens with haunting night sounds -- backward-played guitars make it sound like ghosts are in the air. Lanegan's voice comes through: "The stars and the moon aren't where they're supposed to be / for the strange electric light it falls so close to me." Lanegan was an original member of the grunge band Screaming Trees, he did heroin with Kurt Cobain. He now does blues-rock, but his origins are clear in his whiskey-gargle voice. This is his best solo album since Whiskey For The Holy Ghost (hmm...whiskey and strange I thought of that independently).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Top 100 Albums of the 2000s: 90-81

Older posts: Honorable Mentions, 100-91

90. No Age - Weirdo Rippers

Despite living within a few miles of No Age during their emergence, I never saw them at The Smell when they were mainstays at the Downtown L.A. venue. Weirdo Rippers was my introduction to these modern noise rockers, and it's an assured debut reminiscent of Sonic Youth's Evol. It's a breakthrough that introduces them as a force in rock that's both fuzzed out and stripped down.

89. At The Drive-In - Relationship Of Command

Throughout the early part of the decade, you were either an At The Drive-In fan or a closet At The Drive-In fan. Very few of us in those days weren't turning up the volume on "One-Armed Scissor," even if we'd never do so in public. Relationship Of Command is the post-hardcore band's best album, and pretty much superior than anything Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala have done with The Mars Volta.

88. Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock And Roll

An antimeta-meta rock album, Art Brut went out of their way on their first album to let you know that they were very cool without being your idea of cool. Eddie Argos sings on opener "Formed A Band," And yes, this is my real voice, it's not irony. But is it? Either way, these are 12 high-powered songs, only three clocking in at over three minutes. "Modern Art" may be my favorite, as it certainly "makes me want to rock out."

87. Beach House - Devotion

Beach House's wonderful second album showcases Victoria Legrand's voice as one of the greatest assets in modern pop. Add that to dreamy songs like "Turtle Island" and "Heart of Chambers" and you've got a beautiful 44-minute lullaby that works just as well alone in your room as it does driving up the PCH.

86. Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies

Dan Bejar had a busy decade. He added a deft and complex songcrafting style to The New Pornographers and Swan Lake, but his style is on display full time under his Destroyer moniker. Destroyer's Rubies is the best of these albums. It's bookended with "Rubies" and "Sick Priest Learns To Last Forever," the former a 9-minute mish-mash of everything Destroyer, while "Sick Priest" opens with a more familiar classic rock jam. It's a complete album, ordered just as it should be.

85. Cam'ron - Purple Haze

One of the most misogynistic albums ever made, Purple Haze piles on the guests, the skits, the samples, and ends up with a giddy, overwhelming 70 minutes of hip-hop. I'm not sure if anybody's counted, but it must have more "niggas" and "bitches" per minute than any other album. Cam'ron introduces himself (Killa!) at the beginning of each song. He wants you to know exactly who's responsible.

84. The Deadly Snakes - Ode To Joy

When you title your album "Ode To Joy," you better have something impressive in store. While The Deadly Snakes produced something perhaps not quite as instantly memorable as Beethoven's ____, their third album is a hell of a fun trip back to 60s energy-rock. Think The Monks and Bob Dylan circa 1966 mixed together. In fact, "Everybody Seems to Think (You've Got Some Kind of Hold on Me)" could have fit right on Dylan's infamous Manchester setlist. A fantastic album that far exceeded the more popular Vines/Hives sound of 2003.

83. Black Mountain - In The Future

One thing the 2000s had a lot less of than the 1970s was drug-addled hard rock. Oh sure, 1967 had plenty of psychedelia, re-energized in this past decade by Black Moth Super Rainbow and the like, but Black Mountain make the drug-fueled sounds of old, classic rock-style jams enhanced by Stephen McBean's subtle latter-day hippieishness. Interestingly enough, several members of the band volunteer for an organization that helps provide the needs of drug addicts and the homeless. On In The Future, their second album, Black Mountain explore more complex, drawn out songs, but they're at their best at their most simple. "Angels," would have topped the charts in 1971 and loses none of its punch over time.

82. Califone - Heron King Blues

Califone's 2004 concept album about a weird druid man-bird contains some of Tim Rutili's most brooding and even "groovy" sounds. "2 Sisters Drunk On Each Other" and "Sawtooth Sung A Cheater's Song" are as close as Califone gets to danceable. Heron King Blues and its mysterious tone flow beautifully. The title track and a curious "Outro" take up 17 minutes and close out what may be Califone's finest moment.

81. Peter Gabriel - Up

This one really came out of nowhere. Gabriel's first proper studio album since 1992's Us was dark and demented, but in a far less radio-friendly way than "Shock The Monkey." His most experimental work since the 1970s, Up sees Gabriel lamenting the watch-anything media in between the major themes of birth and death. The album begins with "Darkness," the album's scariest song (after all, coming into this world is scary), and ends with the soft and touching "The Drop." Though it seems perfectly in place on the album, it's interesting to note that "Signal To Noise" is played during the opening fight sequence of Gangs of New York. Up is Peter Gabriel at his most outlandish, proggy best, and he's still able to mix it up and make it mainstream nearly 20 years after "Sledgehammer."