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.

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