Sunday, January 10, 2010
MY TOP 40 ALBUMS OF THE DECADE
Well it took awhile but I finally managed to get my Top 40 Albums Of The Last Decade finished. It was an interesting voyage to take mainly because I hadn’t listened to some of these albums in a year or more while some I listened to just this last week. I was also surprised how hard it was to come up with 40 (I wanted to keep the pretentious Top 40 irony alive) albums within these last ten years. It’s been a bit of a dry decade for music folks, we need to do better.
One thing I must remind you are that these are my Top 40 albums, the ones that moved me and gave me purpose to get out of bed when the world felt like kicking me in the nuts. I have a different take on music and so when I looked around at other top lists I found myself at odds with them. For instance I don’t think Radiohead has done anything that worthwhile since OK Computer and I’m just not somebody who finds The White Stripes to be anything other than a cute gimmicky rock band. I’m sure people will disagree with my list to and that’s just fine, debate is part of music appreciation. I just wanted to make sure nobody thought I was trying to be counter to popular opinion or anything like that. Okay, so, on with my list of The Top 40 Albums Of The Last Decade (1999-2009).
40. The Dogs: Fed Up (2000)
Yeah okay, technically this combination of live material and recorded work hails from the late 60s/early 70s but I don’t care at all. The Dogs had that street harsh garage sound that’s so often laid at the feet of only The Stooges or The MC5. This incredibly raw and stripped down album is pure fistfight rock n roll that’s both powerful and a little sleazy.
39. Tragedy: Vengeance (2006)
Erupting from the ashes of His Hero Is Gone, Tragedy is a prime example of the direction punk should have taken instead of the one it has. Vengeance is a brutal album, savage in both structure and delivery as well as peppered with grind and crust punk ideals. Not for the faint of heart or those dying to hear false British accent or poppy pop punk, Tragedy are a band who you believe would actually burn it all down if they got the chance.
38. Slipknot: Iowa (2001)
Yeah, yeah, I put Slipknot on my list and if you don’t like it kick my ass. Iowa is a great slice of thrash and death metal that never loses the idea that groove is a good thing. I don’t much care about the masks or the 35 members or whatever else people bitch about, Slipknot is a great band and Iowa is their best album in my opinion.
37. Queens Of The Stone Age: Songs For The Deaf (2002)
Take big power rock riffs and then add Dave Grohl on drums, how can you go wrong. Songs For The Deaf is QOTSA at its finest mainly because they aren’t as preoccupied with trying to sound experimental as they were with Rated R. This is the kind of prog/power rock combination that made bands like Can or Cactus so fucking good, an ability to wrap odd bits and pieces of guitar work around super solid hook driven riffs. It’s also great driving music.
36. The Streets: A Grand Don’t Come For Free (2004)
I never cared about this British rappers stuff previous to this record and I have no idea what’s happened to him since but holy shit on a highway is this a kick ass album. The Streets manages to make hip hop clever, bizarre and emotional again. His delivery is completely off center as are the beats he’s chosen to rhyme over. The best part is that he takes from true human experiences like being dumped or meeting a girl who think she’s too pretty. This is one of the few albums of the last decade that gave me hope for hip-hop.
35. Lovage: Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By (2001)
I’ve always dug Dan The Automater and his ability to make beat driven DJ music more interesting than most. This album feels like a soundtrack to futuristic porn, both mellow and relaxed but also kind of dirty, as if you’re listening to a nudey magazine instead of seeing it. Toss in some Mike Patton and you’ve got a new way to get your over worked and stressed lady friend to ease back and recline those seats allll the way. Now just add liquor and watch out!!
34. Fantomas: Amenaza El Mundo (1999)
Another Mike Patton bit of genius is Fantomas. Granted the band (also featuring members of Slayer & The Melvins) continues to expand and grow with each record but this was the one that first smashed me in the face. I spit out broken teeth while becoming obsessed with this record. Take noise, electronics, metal, and a bit of chaos then make the songs about bizarre sci-fi Spanish comics? Yep, sign me right the fuck up.
33. System Of A Down: Toxicity (2001)
People can front on this album all they want but it can’t be denied. This was the record where System figured out their sound and unleashed it on the world. Part thrash, part world and some good old fashioned melodrama make this an anthemic record for ADD kids disillusioned with the world around them. Did I mention the killer grooves and kick ass vocals? Yeah, Toxicity pretty much has it all.
32. Black Anvil: Time Insults The Mind (2008)
I love when albums like this drop on my skull because they come from out of nowhere and morph into unhealthy obsessions. I don’t care that this is a first album from a band not too many people know, it’s still one of the best records of the last ten years. Black Metal with an abundance of old hardcore and Motorhead added is simply face rippingly awesome. With their recent signing to Relapse Records I expect big things from these guys in the future.
31. The Mooney Suzuki: Electric Sweat (2003)
During the early part of the decade there was a rebirth of Nuggets style garage rock. The Hives, The Vines, The Strokes, and the rest of the “The” bands popped up like crying girls after prom. The sad part was that the Mooney Suzuki, who were languishing in obscurity, had the best album of the bunch. The Electric Sweat has low-fi jangly guitars, high end grooves, energy that puts any band to shame as well as vocals that make you want to buy a Chevy Impala and get drunk. This is the most kick ass album of all those bands. Since then the band has drifted from the formula and put out less-than-steller work but Electric Sweat still stands up as a fantastic record.
30. Cursed: Cursed I (2003)
Ever wonder what would happen if violence, bitterness and disillusionment decided to start a menacing punk rock band that was writing the theme music to the apocalypse? If so then Cursed I is exactly the ticket for you. There hasn’t been a band that more captures what punk can be and should better than Cursed in a long while. Sadly the band is no more but this and their other two albums will long stand as testament to how good they are.
29. The Coral: The Coral (2003)
This was a sleeper record for sure, one not that many people knew about then or now. It’s too bad because this debut from The Coral is one of the best poppy rock records to be unleashed since the first Jellyfish album. Great hooks, lush melodies and keyboards all wrapped up in an almost laser precision ability the band has to write great songs. Their later records didn’t do much for me but this first album is a classic, riddled with perfect pop/garage rock gems.
28. Sleep: Dopesmoker (2003)
Easily one of the greatest bands to ever plug in instruments and this was their magnum opus. A seventy-three minute song that pissed off everybody from their label on up and resulted in a bootlegged edited release and eventually the end of the band. When Tee Pee Records finally released the actual album it pretty much blew everybody out of the water. This is an epic that belongs alongside things like Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Rush’s 2112. Dopesmoker can’t be broken down by “riffs” or “parts” because it’s one huge slab of music that became the final testimonial of a band that become legends in their own time.
27. Sigur Ross: Agetis Byrjun (2001)
I’ll admit it, I got into this album because of the song on the Life Aquatic soundtrack but what I discovered was so much more. Replacing their early more ambient work with lush orchestrations and guitars this album is a multi-layered record with such depth it commands more than one listen almost as soon as you’re done hearing it. Beautiful, haunting, and completely engrossing this is an album the lifts you up and carries you someplace else.
26. Enslaved: Mardraum – Beyond The Within (2000)
It’s not that Enslaved didn’t kick ass before this album but with Mardraum they really kicked their abilities into high gear. Taking their Black Metal roots and applying a newfound interest in progressive metal Mardraum doesn’t just play it erupts out of your speakers. This album compliments the harsh brutality of Black Metal with new and much more interesting aspects. This is one of the albums that pushed Black Metal to become more expressive, creative and ultimately musical.
25. Rwake: If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die (2004)
When they claimed the south would rise again they must’ve been talking about musically. Besides Eyehategod and Soilent Green the area below the Mason Dixon line has handed the world Rwake. This album is a sludgy, monolith of sound that can only be listened to as one long piece of music. Think of If You Walk as a classical piece that just happens to shred your face when you hear it. Easily one of best bands out right now and this album is a testament as to why.
24. MF Doom: Madvillainy (2004)
I’m not a big fan of the new age of “underground” hip-hop mainly because it usually sounds like people trying desperately to imitate Kool Keith or the music is so “cutting edge” it forgets to be any good. Not so with MF Doom and I’m assuming that’s because the man formerly know as Zev Love X has been kicking around for many years. Rising from the ashes of tragedy MF Doom consistently puts out great music and this collaboration with Madlib is no different. Weird off-time jazzy beats, short songs, bizarre lyrics all of which seemed to purposely go against anything even remotely radio friendly. The result is easily on of the best hip-hop albums to come out in the last ten years, maybe more.
23. The Killers: Hot Fuss (2004)
I really, really wanted to hate this record because of its hipster appeal but I just couldn’t, not after hearing it. Each song on Hot Fuss is nearly perfect with insane melodies; choruses so catchy it oughta be a crime and enough eighties pop nostalgia to make anybody happy. This is great pop music you can dance to and Brandon Flowers voice is the cherry on top. I don’t care how many hipsters like this album or how bad their subsequent albums are, Hot Fuss is a classic album, period, end of story.
22. Anaal Nathrakh: When Fire Rains Down From The Sky Mankind Will Reap What It Has Sewn (2003)
This was one of the real turning points for Black Metal in that Anaal Nathrakh jump started a wave of well produced, high end albums from bands looking to reinvent the genre. Fire Rains Down is pure adrenaline, fast, brutal and really complex especially seeing that it came from the minds of just two guys. This album should be a learning tool for all extreme metal bands in how to do it right.
21. O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack (2000)
I don’t usually include soundtracks mainly because they don’t usually amount to more than songs tossed together to move units. O Brother Where Art Thou is a completely different animal. The songs here are all old American folk tunes (though modern recordings) and they were as much part of the film as the actors. This is a flawless soundtrack, perfect from end to end, and it makes you long for a time when music was this honest and this magical.
20. Iron & Wine: The Creek Drank The Cradle (2002)
This is an album that proves without question that less is more. Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) armed with only an acoustic guitar, a haunting gorgeous voice, powerfully melancholy songs and a four track delivered an album better than anything bands with money and studio time could even approach. This record grabs you by the heart and slams you around for the entire run. If you’ve ever felt loss on any level then The Creek Drank The Cradle will resonate with you. It’s a very personal album yet Beam manages to make it universal. I get choked up just thinking about it.
19. M.O.P.: Warriorz (2000)
This is like Black Metal for hip-hop. Brutal, stripped down and so unflinchingly honest you start looking at other tough guy rappers like they wear pink tutus and giggle over appletinis. The beats are gritty and tough, the delivery from both members is perfect and what’s more you believe them. These aren’t made up mafia dreams of gangsterism this is the real deal from two guys who struggle everyday to survive.
18. Corrupted: Se Hace Por Los Suenos Asesinos
Japanese based Corrupted are what I like to refer to as the next logical step in doom metal. It’s not doom as we know it, it’s darker and with a richer sound, plus way more experimental. However it is steeped in doom and so it feels more like the next level for the genre than anything else It was hard to find one album to list here because each Corrupted album feels like a piece of a greater tale they’re trying to tell. This was the first one I heard and the first one that made me realize how brilliant they are. Se Hace Por Los Suenos Asesinos is made up of three songs and clocks in at around 35 minutes making it another album that was created to be heard as one piece of music.
17. High On Fire: The Art Of Self Defense (2002)
Born from the ashes of Sleep, High On Fire makes what I like to call metal for adults. These guys have long left behind the silliness that comes with most metal and replaced it with huge riffs and basic animal grooves. Most will claim that their later albums were better than this debut but not for me, I’ll always remember where I was when I heard this album and how the song Blood From Zion still kicks the shit out me. In the world of extreme music it doesn’t get much better than High On Fire.
16. Death: For The Whole World To See (2009)
Nope not the death metal band but another act that was making the same kind of music the Stooges & MC5 were but years before. This Detroit band created a raging slab of rock genius that was snuffed out before it had the chance to see the light of day. The re-release in 2008 gave the world a real gift, one made up of heavy hitting rhythms, power riffs and a feeling of danger that so many bands lack in modern rock n roll. I’ll always be a Stooges & MC5 fan but all of us should give Death their due.
15. Brian Wilson: Smile (2004)
Billed as a teenage symphony to God this 37 years in the making project from Beach Boy Brian Wilson was clearly worth the wait. Smile is what the words “Concept Album” were invented for and Brian Wilson pushes it to the hilt. With three suites covering several themes Smile almost feels like a stage play turned into music. It’s a record you don’t really hear as much as you experience. Calling the harmonies merely lush is akin to calling the sun warm. This is an album created by a crazed genius, one of the few we have left.
14. Beck: Sea Change (2002)
I’m not a Beck fan, at all. I find most of his work to be pretentious and riddled with the problem of trying to hard. Except for Sea Change, which is one of the most powerful and beautiful records I’ve ever heard. Born from the pain of a break up Beck loses all of his wacky bullshit and just bleeds onto tape for all of us to hear. This record has more heart than any Beck release before or since mainly because of how honest it is. The songs themselves are melancholy coming more from a Serge Gainsburg and Nick Drake angle than the usual sample heavy technical stuff Beck’s made his career on. Sea Change is easily Beck’s best album before or since.
13. Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
Before all the controversy and all the bullshit there was simply a rapper with an incredible gift for lyrics backed by one of the best producers in the genre. The Marshall Mathers LP is important not just because it kicks ass, not just because it showed one of the greatest talents in hip-hop at the top of his game but also because how personal it was. Eminem was one of the first rappers to rhyme about personal issues as opposed to the “check out my chain, boat, cars and money” which was dominating rap at the time. The songs were hooky and fun to dance to but never overshadowed just how good Eminem is at weaving a dense tapestry of lyrical gold.
12. Tool: Lateralus (2001)
Not nearly as good as Aenima but not nearly as awful as 10,000Days Lateralus was the album where Tool was still trying to grow with each new release. Complex in structure and graced with frontman Maynard Keenan’s impossibly good lyrics Lateralus does more than entertain it takes the listener on a journey of self-discovery. This is an album that makes you expect more from the music you listen to just because you know how good it can be. Even though this album may be flawed compared to other Tool records compared to everything else it’s pretty much perfect.
11. Godspeedyoublackemperor: Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven (2000)
This is one of the records where even a know it all like me is hard pressed to come up with words to describe it. Much more of a symphony than a conventional rock album Lift Your Skinny Fists traffics in internal movements that bleed in and out of each other and involves vocals only through odd samples. GSYBE does more than defy convention here they actually re-shuffle the deck. This is where music transcends what it is and becomes pure art, transforming into an energy that touches everyone around it. Think of it as music you’d hear as you tried to find the end of the universe.
10. M.I.A.: Arular (2005)
While the rest of the world conforms pop and dance music into easily forgettable pre-packaged crap M.I.A. comes along and bitch slaps the entire world. This is a dance album that’s not really a dance album and pop record that’s not really a pop record; to be honest it’s confusing as hell and just as entertaining. M.I.A. has an offbeat delivery to be sure but her voice can’t be denied. Combine that with this confusing blend of different musical styles and you get an album every damn pop, R&B, Soul and funk artist should use to measure how good their albums actually are.
09. Morrissey: You Are The Quarry (2004)
It’s Mozzer, it’s catchy, it has lines like “You have never been in loved until you’ve seen the sun rise behind the home for the blind” and every song is a perfect pop gem. ‘Nuff said.
08. Mastodon: Remission (2002)
Though I haven’t been a fan of anything Mastodon has done since Remission I would be a fool not to see this album as the genre defining record it was. Nothing like Mastodon had ever been seen when they arrived with this epic, crushing album. Remission is an album that sounds as if everybody on it is playing whatever they want as complex or basic as they need to. Nothing here should work but it all does and does with such purity as to almost be beautiful. Mastodon changed heavy metal with this album and left everybody scrambling to catch up.
07. Scissorfight: New Hampshire (1999)
You simply won’t find a better heavy rock record than New Hampshire; it’s really that simple. Every song on this album is a groove masterpiece, the stuff you drink and fight to. Imagine Van Halen on steroids or Black Sabbath if they had hailed from the deep woods in survivalist country. Scissorfight play music as if they’re fighting for their lives. Quick bursts of power, stomping rhythms and a vocalist who is both scary and hysterical. Drawing on anything and everything for lyrical content Scissorfight were the future of heavy rock before they vanished. Whatever became of them New Hampshire is an album that will be rocking people’s faces off for generations.
06. Outkast: Stankonia (2000)
What can you say about this album that hasn’t been said? Genius, brilliant, on a completely other level, it all works but doesn’t do the record justice. Stankonia is like a huge pot of gumbo in that it’s filled with hundreds of styles, mixed together with all kinds of lyrical and sampled spices then brazed nicely with vocals by Andre 2000 and Big Boi. Outkast proved that creativity and experimentation were not only possible in hip-hop but also vital. From the bullet-fast pace of the song B.O.B. to the smooth funk drawl of So Fresh & So Clean, no stone in music goes unexplored by Outkast and the proof is in an album that may be one of the most important in the history of the genre.
05. Tom Waits: Alice (2002)
Tom Waits really can’t do any wrong; the man hasn’t made a misstep in thirty odd years of recording. Alice is no different and it’s vintage Tom Waits through and through. Creepy, sad, weird, experimental and all of it with a human touch only Waits seems to bring to the table. Waits got his inspiration here from a play written about the forbidden love between author Lewis Carol and Alice Liddell (for whom he wrote Alice In Wonderland). Not as off the wall as Bone Machine and more human than Blood Money (released at the same time) Alice is a perfect slice of what makes Tom Waits the consummate singer/songwriter of the last thirty years.
04. Killing Joke: Killing Joke (2003)
Why are all Killing Joke records brilliant? Why is Jaz Coleman’s voice a thing of horror and beauty? Why are they the sexiest soundtrack to the apocalypse you’ve ever heard? Who the fuck cares, just be happy they are. This album is another tour de force, another high-end triumph for a band that has yet to fail. Songs like Asteroid, Blood On Your Hands, The Death And Resurrection show, must I go on? Throw in production from one of the members of Gang Of Four and drums by Dave Grohl and you have the best heavy album of that year and easily one of the best of the decade. Holy shit I love this fucking record!!
03. The Beastie Boys: To The 5 Boroughs (2004)
To me this album was Paul’s Boutique part two. Not nearly as interesting as Paul’s Boutique but a little less familiar than Ill Communication. With 5 Boroughs the Beasties went back to rapping over purely beats and samples, less of their instrumental work (which I do love). The result is an album that adds to their legend and shows again why they are the best at what they do. Nobody puts words and phrases together like The Beastie Boys and on this album they’ve really outdone themselves. There’s not one filler track on the whole album, which is saying something in the world of hip-hop.
02. Johnny Cash: American IV When The Man Comes Around (2002)
I know this album is mostly covers but who the fuck cares, it’s Johnny Cash and it’s a monster of an album. Not only is the title track one of the best songs Cash has written in years he also managed to seal Hurt away from Trent Reznor. Much like when Hendrix performed Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower, Hurt no longer belongs to Reznor or NIN, it’s Cash’s song now. This album is so haunting, so filled with remorse and sadness you feel connected to Cash’s voice even when they’re not his words. As his final studio album before passing away American IV is the final statement from a man who has said more than most ever could.
01. Antony & The Johnsons: The Crying Light (2009)
Ever had a record walk up and punch you in the stomach? Well The Crying Light did that to me, just knocked all the wind out of my sails and left me speechless. For the first time in my life I can actually say I’ve heard a voice that sounds like no other. Antony not only grabs your soul the moment he opens his mouth, the lyrics he writes connect to you on a completely instinctual level. I felt as though he was singing to me, about me and for me. The music behind is orchestrated with such a delicate touch it isn’t until several listens later that you understand the depth. This is an album made by someone who has suffered but made to show all of us that there is a light at the end of the darkness. Nothing has touched me or made me so instantly a fan in a long time. An easy pick for the best album of the decade.
Okay, that's it. time to start figuring out the next ten years!!