Culture Bully’s Best of the Decade Guest Posts
Published in Blog, Culture Bully. Tags: Interviews, Lists, Music, Twin Cities.
To close out the decade, Culture Bully solicited contributions from artists sharing their favorite albums of the 2000s.
14KT: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere
2. Kanye West The College Dropout
3. Slum Village Fantastic Vol. 2
4. Erykah Badu Mama’s Gun
5. Radiohead In Rainbows / Jill Scott Words & Sounds Vol. 1 (tie)
[Reigning from Ypsilanti, Michigan, 14KT has been associated with the Athletic Mic League, the production collective known as the Lab Techs, and has worked with a vast array of pivotal artists in the Michigan’s hip hop scene.]
Alexei Moon Casselle of Roma di Luna: Favorite Albums of the Decade
1) Ghostface Killah Supreme Clientele: This record established Ghostface Killah as not only Wu Tang’ new leader but as one of the brightest and most promising voices in rap music. Combining more raw, spontaneous energy, vivid, street-crime storytelling, humor, swagger and just plain skill on this record than most artists can hope for in a career, this was the perfect soundtrack to usher in a new millennium of hip hop.
2) Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Wilco took some major risks with this album and they all paid off immensely. Jeff Tweedy’s songwriting mixed with a perfect balance of experimental and deconstructed soundscapes and the rock/alt-country sound the band had become known for all blend together seamlessly. There are no signs that Wilco won’t continue making great records but I doubt they’ll make another one as beloved and heartfelt as this one.
3) Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago: This record sounded classic to me the first time I listened to it. Rarely does an album or artist with as much hype as there was surrounding this record live up to it. However, Justin Vernon created that perfect concoction of “familiar and feel-good” while exploring new terrain and establishing a sound all his own.
4) Gillian Welch Time, The Revelator: Keeping true to her country and folk influences, Gillian Welch stands by her simplicity as one of her many strengths and this album is a perfect example of it. With no more than a couple stringed instruments per song, air tight vocal harmonies and a beautiful country drawl, Welch masterfully walks the line of carrying on the craft and tradition of folk music while simultaneously breathing new life into it.
5) Radiohead Kid A: One of the great rock bands of our time completely reinvented themselves at the peak of their career, alienating fans and music critics alike. But Radiohead wanted to make something different, so eventually we pulled up a chair and really gave this thing a listen (despite the fact that it had more in common sonically with Pink Floyd than with OK Computer). It took a while to sink in but this is a pivotal moment of transition and creative genius caught on record, of one of the most important bands we’ve seen so far.
Benny Caine of Cocaine: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Here are my five favorite albums after the year 2000 (no particular order).
Airbourne Runnin’ Wild: This album really fuckin’ rocks, start to finish. You could label it another AC/DC knockoff, but these guys have the right attitude. I’ve seen them live and that’s really what did it for me. The front man is like Bon Scott and Angus Young rolled into one person. Songs like “Cheap Wine, Cheaper Woman” just really seem to hit close to home.
Motorhead Inferno: There’s not really much to say about this one except, how does Lemmy keep putting every young “tough” metal band to shame. Songs like “Smilin’ Like a Killer” and “Life’s a Bitch” show that this band is as good as they ever were! They even break it down acoustic on “Whorehouse Blues” and prove you can be a badass with an acoustic and a harmonica.
Tom Petty Highway Companion: Tom Petty’s solo album released in 2006. It stands up to it’s name, possibly one of the best road trip albums to come out. The song “Saving Grace” might be my favorite Tom Petty song ever recorded. With its bluesy vibe and django slide guitars it really stand apart from the other more folky songs.
L.A. Guns Tales From the Strip: This is one that probably not too many of you know about. I picked it because the L.A. Guns have stayed true to their style since the ’80s, not trying to evolve and change for a younger crowd. I’m lucky enough to be good friends with these guys, and I can tell you they LOVE rock n’ roll.
Black Keys Attack and Release: These guys have done pretty good for a two-piece blues rock group. The singer is bluesy as shit and I love the production on all these guys albums, stripped down, very live sounding. “I Got Mine” stands out with some heavy riffing and hard hitting drums.
So that’s a couple albums I like released after 2000. It wasn’t too easy seeing as I don’t listen to much music recorded after 1983, but I proved to myself that there is still hope for rock n’ roll, if you dig deep enough you can always find something good. So do yourself a favor and turn off 93x and check some of these disks out.
Big Cats!: Favorite Albums of the Decade
These albums aren’t necessarily what I consider to be the best five albums of the decade, because that’s damn near impossible to figure out. I’ve just come up with the five records that hit me the hardest over the last 10 years, which in my case, takes me back to age 13, and covers most of my music listening career. There are many great, influential albums that I had to leave off that I’ll list at the end.
Kid Koala Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Kid Koala, and this record in particular, was one of the main reasons I wanted to get into DJing. Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to make it as a scratch DJ, I started making beats. Aside from being really personally influential, this is a dope record. Kid Koala can scratch with the best of ‘em, but his records are about more than that. At a time when most scratch DJs were making records about outer space and scratching the same three noises, Kid Koala took it in a totally different direction. This record is funny, melodic and oddly down to earth.
Non-Prophets Hope: After Sage (Francis) got Personal Journals out of the way, he made a straight up rap record. A “kick you in the face, I can rap better than any of you without even trying” rap record. Joe Beats produced the whole thing, and it bangs. 1990s style filtered loops and drum breaks banging, but banging nonetheless. This is the only Sage release that doesn’t get too weird for me. Or maybe it does, and I can just ignore it because of the more straight forward production. Full of wordplay, rap references and flexing, this record still gets better the more I listen to it.
Deltron 3030 Deltron 3030: This album made my list, and I don’t even like Del. Haha, that’s how much Dan The Automator brought it. Plus you have Kid Koala on the cuts? Dang. The production on this record is just out of this world, especially considering it came out nearly 10 years ago. Del gets old at times, as do the interludes, but you can’t aruge with beats like “3030,” “Mastermind,” “Madness,” “Time Keeps On Slipping,” and “Memory Loss.” Time hasn’t been very kind to Del on this album, but the beats have held up amazingly well as they age.
D-Styles Phantazmagorea: This album alone pulled scratch DJing out of the past and created new, incredibly lofty standards for DJ records. No programming, no live instruments, even the drums are scratched. D-Styles brings it funky and musical as hell for an hour plus. I catch myself listening to it now and thinking, “Damn, that bassline is nice,” or “I wonder who played keys on this,” before I remember that it’s only D, a turntable, and a mixer. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around just how good this album is. It’s one of my goals in life to collaborate with this dude.
J Dilla Donuts: This album gets a lot of love, and I know some people think it’s overrated, but this record deserves every bit of that love. This record is the exact opposite of a record like Phantazmagorea or 3030 in that most of the music is very simple. The record is basically a beat tape, but as a producer, 31 vocal free Dilla beats makes it on my “best of the decade” list, haha. On the surface, there are plenty of dope, head nodding beats on here. At the same time though, I’ve learned a lot as a producer just from listening to how Dilla put everything together.
Narrowly Missed: Jel 10 Seconds, Elliott Smith Figure 8, Oddjobs Drums, DJ Shadow The Private Press, Sage Francis Personal Journals, El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere, Rage Against The Machine The Battle Of Los Angeles, Guante and Big Cats! An Unwelcome Guest.
Black Blondie: Favorite Albums of the Decade
1) Meshell Ndegeocello Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape
#2) Outkast/Andre 3000 The Love Below
#3) Erykah Badu Mama’s Gun
#4) Taraf de Haïdouk Band of Gypsies
#5) P.O.S. Ipecac Neat
#6) Bright Eyes I‘m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
#7) K’naan The Dusty Foot Philosopher
#8) Clipse Lord Willin’
#9) The Paper Chase Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know
#10) Black Blondie Do You Remember Who You Wanted To Be
(Can’t help but mention our first record that we are so proud of!)
Daughters of the Sun: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Alright dudes, we’ve thought heavily about this shit and listened to a ton of nutso jams but check this out (in no particular order really…):
Kites Peace Trials: Insane mix of homemade synth electronics/psych-jams from one of the most intense minds of today. Ripz!
J Dilla Donuts: Best beats ever. Dude died three days after this shit came out that’s how heavy these hits are. A swan song above all.
Dead Meadow Feathers: Sweet dudes. Rad no-bullshit blues riffs with not a crap note played vibe. By far the best album of the decade to get busy with.
Jakob Olausson Moonlight Farm: No doubt one of the best folk albums. Total happy/loner songs from Sweden with on-point psych moves throughout, amazing.
Black Dice Beaches & Canyons: Eternal electronic bliss from way back in the day, this shit started a lot of gears in our domes when it came out and still does.
Buff1: Favorite Albums of the Decade
1. Outkast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below(both albums!)
2. Ghostface Killah Supreme Clientele
3. Common Like Water For Chocolate
4. Slum Village Fantastic Vol. 2
5. Bilal 1st Born Second or Love For Sale (unreleased)
Chris Besinger of STNNNG: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Whittling 10 years of albums down to a measly five was a brutal task and I could have easily picked another 30 (and I, in fact did, sorry Country Teasers, Nina Nastasia, Jandek, Signal To Trust, Jemeel Moondoc, A Frames, etc., etc.). But here’s a list of five basically decent albums from the aughts.
Silkworm Italian Platinum
You can have it all, great songs, a seriously hot shit guitarist (“The Hebrew Hendrix” no kidding), a thundering rhythm section and two singers who make it nearly impossible to pick a favorite and still be resigned to “cult” status. The album’s title is a wry comment on the amount of records they’d sold up to that point, because for whatever reason Silkworm never seemed find the audience they deserved. But, whatever, that doesn’t really matter, what does is this record. Their third for Touch and Go and though its predecessor, Lifestyle, is a bit more accessible, Italian Platinum with its sort of lumpy and cryptic first side is the record I find myself reaching for the most. Singer/guitarist Andy Cohen lyrics are almost as stinging as his solos, “There are kike jokes and then there are street mimes/In times like these no one seems to mind” and “Tobacco’s a help because is clears the mind/But like all your friends it is vilified.” But it’s Tim Midgett’s heartbreaking “Bourbon Beard,” a duet with drummer Michael Dahlquist, one of the best boozer anthems of, like, all-time, where every note and every word is absolutely perfect-that’s the heart of the record. It’s a record that’s sweet and mean in equal measure. And if you ever figure out what the hell “The Ram” is about, let me know.
US Maple Acre Thrills
Al Johnson gets more mileage out of a few constricted gasps than most singers get out of the entire English language. While he creepy-crawls the whole scene cooing right into your ear about rice, the guitars rat-a-tat-tat away like dung beetles jockeying for position on the shit pile over an occasional bomb blast of frantic drumming only to have the entire song pull back and drift off into the ether. Plenty of albums get hyped as “weird” and “experimental,” but US Maple’s dogged pursuit of their own eccentric vision of rock-like-it-actually-means-something pissed everyone off, at least everyone who mattered. Acre Thrills was their high point, the most focused, the best sounding, the one that best laid out their thing. You could spend a lifetime decoding the ping-ponging riffs, the backwards drumming and still never get your head around all those “yeah, yeah”s. Favorite moment: “Open a Rose” where the band locks into a recognizable groove for a couple a minutes as if to prove they could be rocking like that all the time, if they really wanted.
The Thing Garage
This is probably the only album from this decade that features covers of both the Sonics and Peter Brotzmann. Wild Scandinavian jazz men playing free jazz with punk fury, this is the real crossover, the best mind-meld of rock and jazz since Funhouse. Covers of the White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren’t wink and nudge muso affairs; they’re platforms for gut-bucket wailing of the best sort, hot and raw.
Getachew Mekuria and the Ex & Guests Moa Anbessa
There’s been a flood of incredible underground music from Africa recently, Konono No.1 to Group Doueh to countless archival albums but this record, featuring Getachew Mekuria, an 80-year old Ethiopian saxophonist hooking up with long running Dutch punks the Ex is a definite highlight. The Ex (who have long championed great African music) prove to be flexible collaborators for such a distinctive player. Mekuria who translated Ethiopian battle cries into a sort of proto-free jazz in the 1950s is definitely the star of the show. Some of the music is atavistic, like a pre-rock-n-roll form and some it doesn’t even really have a name yet. A killer party record, trust me.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Matt Sweeney Superwolf
I had sort of lost track of Will Oldham a couple years before this album come out, the first time I heard it was in a record store and I had to go up to the front to ask what it was. Some of the tunes remind me of the mellow moments on the second half of Physical Graffiti with Oldham as the jolly pervert as usual. Sweeney supposedly wrote the songs to Oldham’s words, whatever the case it works perfectly. “I have often said/I would like to be dead/In a shark’s mouth.” The whole rides a kind of sweet/sad, lonely/horny axis, giving the music a sense of longing and ache that’s more affecting than most of Oldham’s work from this decade. If you’re going to be up until four in the morning listening to records toward the very end this will be the record you’re going to want to hear. Superwolf also spawned a ’70s hard rock-damaged double live record, which you should probably go get as well.
Condominium: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Cold Sweat Blinded: Best live band of the decade, hands down. Raging without being “retro” in any sense. If the terms “modern” or “contemporary” hardcore were not already applied to Modern Life is War or Bane, it would appropriate here. Untouched in style.
Tragedy Vengeance: Able to barely edge out Self-Titled. Biggest, loudest record, including the super thick cardboard cover. This record sounds even better now that there aren’t a bunch of third-rate bands trying to ape this style.
Billy Bao Fuck Seperation 10″: This Basque band feels very much like a complete package. Their combination of heavy punk and conceptual noise creates some great unique sounds, and they are one of the only bands in recent memory who manage to be outspokenly political in a way that seems relevant and intellectually rigorous.
Mitch Hedberg Strategic Grill Locations: St. Paul represent. RIP.
Disclose/Framtid split 7″: Absolutely crushing. More “face-melting” than any crap grind record. This is the high water mark for all Japanese dis-bones raw punk of the decade.
Dessa’s Favorite Albums of the Decade
Andre 3000 The Love Below
Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
Jeff Buckley Grace (Legacy reissue)
Rodrigo y Gabriella Rodrigo y Gabriella
TV on the Radio Young Liars
[Dessa Darling is a solo emcee and spoken word artist as well as a member of the Minneapolis-based Doomtree crew.]
DJ Soviet Panda: Favorite Albums of the Decade
My top five Queens of the Stone Age albums from the 2000s:
#5) Over the Years and Through the Woods (2005): Seeing Queens of the Stone Age live is generally better than listening to their albums, usually because any dud songs can be cut from a setlist. Unfortunately, the 2005 London shows that make up this album heavily feature songs from Lullabies to Paralyze (and virtually nothing from the following Era Vulgaris), and don’t fully translate the experience of seeing Queens in person. Thankfully, some of these versions, in particular “Regular John,” give a worthwhile insight into the way Queens rework their songs live, twisting riffs in and out of time, with new build-ups and breakdowns, like a DJ set. And while the line-up here may not include Dave Grohl, Mark Lannegan, or Nick Oliveri, it does feature the frequently over-looked talents of guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and drummer Joey Castillo.
#4) Lullabies to Paralyze (2005): Lullabies was Queens’ first release after band leader Josh Homme kicked out Nick Oliveri, the band’s bassist, part-time vocalist, and until that point, only other full-time member. Some expected the album to be much softer in tone as a result, and while some of the band’s harder metal flashes and sicker bouts of humor are missing, it doesn’t sound all that different. Nevertheless, Homme unfortunately seemed to compensate by going overboard with one of his usual production gimmicks, the creepy background oooh’s and aaaah’s. In fact, I think the concept behind this album is “more ghost vocals.” A lot of the songs here just don’t hold up to repeat listens, including the jam out with one of the ZZ Top dudes, “Burn the Witch.” There is still some great standard Queens stuff here though, especially the woodblock-driven lead single, “Little Sister.”
#3) Songs for the Deaf (2002): Songs for the Deaf was the band’s breakthrough album, and is considered by many to be their best. Leading up to its release, reviewers were sincerely hailing it as the best rock album of the decade, in spite of the “rock revivialism” popularized by the White Stripes and the Strokes at the time. Needless to say, it’s not the best rock album of the decade. Nevermind the forced album concept of flipping through radio stationsâ€”what really gets old is the hyper-compressed, volume-constant production. Outside of those qualms, the album is excellent, with relentless, gigantic songs, backed by Dave Grohl’s enormous kick drum. It’s just not my favorite.
#2) Rated R (2000): Rated R, the band’s second album, found the Queens transitioning from the heavy drone of their first album into the more accessible rock sounds that would follow. As such, it gives off a kind of experimental vibe, as sounds shift between heavy pop, screaming metal, hazy psychedlcs, coked-up glam, and other touchstones. Thanks to Homme’s oversight, it all coalesces into a really fantastic listen. Plus “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” should’ve been much bigger than “No One Knows.”
#1) Era Vulgaris (2007): Queens of the Stone Age have been active during the entire decade, driven by Josh Homme, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, mainly works within a few of his own well-worn song-writing formulas. QOTSA albums all follow similar ebbs and flows, showcasing a number of signature Homme riffs, flourishes, scales, solos, and the like, alternately giving in to and subverting those expectations. What ultimately differentiates the albums, besides a quantifiable amount of track sucesses and failures, is the overarching theme or tone that eventually seeps through the production and song-writing. Era Vulgaris is a bright, sickly neon pink. It’s robotic, growling, druggy but not dazed, and serves as Homme’s lackidasically viscious skewering of this decade’s pursuit of willfull desensitization and information overload. It has some of the band’s least memorable songs, but also conatins most of their best: the brutally precise “Misfit Love,” the burning “3′s and 7′s,” and “Sick, Sick, Sick,” Queens’ best single, and their most singular execution of their entire concept. When it comes down to it, it’s my favorite. (Also worth seeking out is the b-side cover of Brian Eno’s “Needles in the Camel’s Eye.”)
Dom Davis of Dearling Physique: Favorite Albums of the Decade
The Knife Silent Shout: Silent Shout revealed so many creative corridors within that I had yet to walk down. Everything from the alien and androgynous sounding vocal treatment to the sleek and intricate electronic arrangements. It was unlike anything I had heard before.
Blonde Redhead Misery Is A Butterfly: Utterly beautiful and consistent. Blonde Redhead couldn’t have possibly selected a more fitting title for this album. It is the quintessential soundtrack to many of my days.
Radiohead Kid A: I had not been an avid follower of Radiohead prior to hearing Kid A. That being said, I did not have the pleasure of experiencing Kid A as the dynamic shift in musical direction coming out of the already flawless OK Computer. Regardless, Kid A always stood out to me as something very special. It speaks my language, and I’ve formed a deep connection with absolutely everything it so colorfully is.
Portishead Third: Third has the effect of consoling both sides of my emotional spectrum.
Animal Collective Feels: I was introduced to Animal Collective with Feels, and it remains to this day my favorite of their work. Playful and packed full of this uncorrupted wonder.
Erica Krumm of Sharp Teeth: Favorite Records of the Decade
Cat Power You Are Free: One of the most beautiful albums of the past 10 years, You Are Free tells poetic stories that leave room for interpretation. This record sounds best driving through fall leaves and is one of the few records out there that lends itself to be listened to all the way through. (My favorite album cover of all time.)
The Kills Keep On Your Mean Side: Dirty and raw, the Kills get away with writing songs about feeling the pain without sounding fake or pretentious. With a dark and desperate mood, each song creates a vivid picture of living in the moment, as well as self destruction. The fuzzed out guitar mixed with drum machine beats make perfectly crafted rock songs. Seeing these guys at 7th St. when this record came out was an incredibly memorable experience.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever To Tell: An amazing combination of dance beats and unruly rock. The songs are written with huge attitude contrasting perfectly with a quieter, honesty. Saw these guys play on some late night show one night when the album was first released. I was 20 years old, playing drums in a band, and I remember feeling really excited and rejuvenated in that moment about what was happening in music. This album has love and sex, power and playfulness all wrapped up.
Modest Mouse The Moon and Antarctica: Writing that wrecks you. A rough storytelling feel of soft and delicate material. With beautiful guitar parts and a huge overall sound, this record was my main soundtrack to being 17 years old, crazy in love, and going to visit my boyfriend in the dorms.
The Black Angels Directions to See a Ghost: Psychedelic rock for the future. Each song’s distorted and hauntingly pretty instrumentation kills. This whole album clicks as a new take on an old sound. One of the sexiest records ever.
Estate: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Daft Punk Discovery
2. Röyksopp Melody A.M.
3. Avalanches Since I Left You
4. Chromeo She’s In Control
5. Bonobo Dial “M” For Monkey
Gospel Gossip: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Broadcast Ha Ha Sound: “Pendulum” has to be one of the best songs ever: it’s so uninhibited by convention, yet it’s got this addictive groove that you just want to listen to over and over again. On top of that, the album pushes their obsession with space-pop and The United States of America to the extreme. Definitely way ahead (or behind?) its time.
Air The Virgin Suicides Soundtrack: Probably the strangest album we fell in love with. Came across it one way or another a long time ago. It wasn’t until it came up during practice and we’re like, “Remember that album? Used to listen to it all the time.” Much of its charm is how the songs were intended to be background music for the film. So that provided for a unique mix of early ’70s production, angular jams, and messed up electronica. Still a good listen.
Deerhunter Cryoptograms: We were floored when this album came out, Cryptograms was unlike anything else at the time, in fact I remember lots of people hating it because it didn’t seem to make up its mind about whether or not to be experimental, and if it went one way or another, it was an embarrassing hack job. To us, it was one of those milestones like Psychocandy or Ramones that blended the push and pull of noise and pop and ushered in a new era of music.
Yo La Tengo And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out: This is actually the first Yo La Tengo album we listened to when it came out, so it’s got a special place in our hearts. Turns out, it’s fantastic and totally unlike anything they’ve ever done. Actually, its pretty weird: very lethargic and ambient; a mix of long brooding songs, and adultish pop. But stuff like “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” and “You Could Have It All” are absolute gems.
Panda Bear Person Pitch
Cat Power You Are Free
Electrelane No Shouts, No Calls… we all love this record to death. It’s very minimal with an icy-cold production, which highlights the songwriting and the mood—something that didn’t really happen much on albums this decade. The drums are really creative, the singing and guitars way catch. It’s a shame they are inactive right now.
Guzzlemug: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Here are our picks. We actually ended up doing two a piece, because we’re stupid like that. Here goes:
(Tom Kelly’s picks)
Califone Roomsound: One of the most underrated indie albums of all time. I experienced this album at a young age, and it proceeded to define a lot of characteristics that I identify with in creative, experimental rock ‘n roll. Tim Rutili writes some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard, and more people need to pay attention to this band.
Mastodon Leviathan: This band blew the fuck up, and for good reason. Although I will never be able to experience this band in an intimate setting again, I feel their work is amazingly important in the watered-down metal scene. I choose this particular album based on its aggressive songwriting, and understanding of “the riff.” Combined with the production value and selection of guest performers, it is my go-to Mastodon album.
(Shane Prendiville’s picks)
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Of Natural History: This for me is the most important band to arrive in the 2000s. Some could argue that their debut album Grand Opening and Closing would be the most important, but I think Of Natural History is their best release of their three studio albums. I remember where I was when I heard the first two tracks off this beast; there aren’t that many albums we can say that about. Sleepytime is not a band you throw on at a party, it’s for really listening to like classical or any other intricate, demanding music. They create a world of their own borrowing from Henry Cow, Art Bears, Metal, and even Bowie (vocals). This album will leave you satisfied, if not overwhelmed. There is everything you need: dynamic intervals, harsh to delicate passages musically & vocally, technical tricks everywhere (that are used to better the song, not hotdogging), and amazing vocals from Nils & Carla. One of my all time favorite bands, and they bring the beast to their live show as well. You must see them!
Khanate Capture & Release: I witnessed Khanate live once in San Francisco, I didn’t drink or do any drugs (beforehand) and when they were finished I felt sedated and somewhat like I was on psychedelics. They take you on a journey of something terrible, but real… and make you stare at it for a very, very long time. James Plotkin and Alan Dubin are from OLD and Atom/Phantomsmasher, Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O)), and Tim Wyskida from Blind Idiot God. When I first got this album, I listened to it in a loop which can detrimental to your well-being, but so good as well. I especially like the second track, Release. This album and band in general is not something you would listen to everyday while doing the dishes, they are very, very potent. Unfortunately, they are now disbanded.
(Charlie Werber’s picks)
The Mars Volta Frances The Mute: Bold, massive in scope, and perfectly executed.
Hella The Devil Isn’t Red: The union of two twitchy mutants connected at the brain yields an incendiary barrage of awkward karate chops to your genital area.
Heath Rave of Wolvhammer: Most Important Records of the Decade
The other day, one of the nicest dudes I know in Minneapolis asked to me write about what I would consider the five most important records of the ’00s to be. What a tough assignment. Important music. That is much harder than picking favorites, as it’s easy to love something without it being important. William Shatner’s last solo record is one of my faves of the ’00s, but I definitely could never categorize that record as important. It’s just 50 min. or so of feel good irony, produced by the wonderful Ben Folds. Important would have to be influential, genre defining if you will. So as I’ve stewed on this a few days, I now have for you my five most important records of the first decade of the new millenia, in a complete and totally biased opinion in no particular order.
Converge Jane Doe
I know that this is going to end up on at least a couple other people’s, but that’s because you can’t deny the brutal intensity and sheer balls to experiment with such a limiting genre as hardcore. Yeah, its a metal record, but Converge is a fucking hardcore punk band, hand’s down, and they made one the most brutal metallic hardcore records of all time. From the iconic cover art to the unbelievably too loud recording this record created a thousand photoshop layout lookalikes and I can only hope made a few scenester pussies grow a pair. A pure classic.
Ghostface Killah Fishscale
I’m gonna tell you all that I don’t know shit about hip hop, nor do I give a damn about it as whole. I still prefer to call it rap music, as I think hip hop is probably one of the most saccharine terms I’ve ever heard coined and I fucking loved Run DMC and that shit was rap dude. But like I said, I don’t know shit about it, but what I do know is that other than the RZA as Bobby Digital in Stereo this one of the few Wu solo records that comes anything close to classic 36 Chambers. Great programming, great guests, and tons of songs about coke, this is the quality that urban music should strive to achieve.
Darkthrone The Cult Is Alive
Oh man, hope this one pisses off all the “troo” and “kvlts.” Darkthrone has always had a punk influence, in fact real black metal in general usually does. And how much more punk or black metal can you get than by sticking a gargantuan Norwegian sized middle finger in the face of the genre that you helped create. No blast beats. No corpse paint photos. No ad-hoc satanism. Fuck you, we’re gonna write a denim and leather fucking heavy fucking metal record that sounds like its goddamned 1984 and we don’t fucking care because we fucking love Black Flag and Venom and we do whatever the fuck we want. Now that’s what black metal is.
Neurosis A Sun That Never Sets
I’ve seen this band nine times in 15 some odd years. This was my favorite band when most of the kids that love this stuff now were still in elementary school. I wouldn’t consider this their best, but, when I hear all the kids worshiping at the altar of whatever they’re calling it this week, “metalgaze,” “post-metal,” “ambient doom,” this is the record that I think gave the blueprint for all the watering down of slower paced heavy music that has flooded the market in the last decade. The loud/quiet dynamics and super long building of songs really started to show on this record as their older stuff was quite a bit more abrasive, and along with Isis who were the first to rip this band off, have created burgeoning genre of low rent slow heavy metal that I can’t even tell the difference between nowadays. If you can create a bunch of imitators, then you are definitely important.
Jesu s/t and Killing Joke s/t
I just couldn’t decide between the two. Justin Broadrick of Godflesh fame picks up guitar again and gets all My Bloody Valentine on your ass. Eight massive songs that reek of what I think Justin had always wanted to do with Godflesh but was too obsessed with dub and hip hop at the time to pull off. Then the sorely overlooked Killing Joke taps Dave Grohl play to drums for them, and pulls out a ripping sci-fi industrial metal masterpiece that pounds and stomps track after track including an amazingly reworked version of “Wardance.” Both important records from extremely influential artists.
[Wolvhammer is a Minneapolis-based band that is offering its Dawn Of The 4th EP for free.]
Holly Newsom of Zoo Animal: Favorite Albums of the Decade
I believe these albums were catalysts for cultural, musical or personal shifts. Because of that, I think they are some of the “Best Albums of the Decade.” In no particular order…
Drukqs by Aphex Twin: Though this may not have been widely appreciated commercially, I think this album was very influential in a lot of musicians creative lives, not just electronic musicians either. When I first heard this I was flabbergasted. The way he shifts from frailty to aggression is mind-blowing. You can find one of my favorite songs on this album, “Avril 14th,” a slow, mesmerizing piano piece sandwiched between electronic and spastic compositions. Not always an album I put on to enjoy in the background, but I learned a lot about composition from listening to this through headphones, attentive to nothing else. I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
Hail to the Thief by Radiohead: I mentioned this to some folks and they couldn’t believe of all the Radiohead albums in the last decade, that I would choose this one. The reason I did is because I think it displays the art of the song articulately. Though Kid A sliced through cliches like a knife, this record was like a thousand pound weight. I like the obvious guitar, piano, and drums heard on this record. It inspires me to make good with what I have.
Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens: What musician wasn’t inspired to be more elegant and musical after listening to this? I also think it widened perspective for many listeners. This may be the closest thing to “classical” music in many hipsters libraries.
The Hours Soundtrack by Philip Glass: Glass influences musicians, and makes people feel. I think this soundtrack brought him to a broader audience. Everyone should listen to this.
You Are Free by Cat Power: I learned to communicate with emotion by listening to this record. I distinctly remember being in my mother’s basement having a profound feeling I was “known” while listening to this record. You probably had a similar experience.
Jason Powers of Slapping Purses: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Dr. Dre 2001: I think this one kind of speaks for itself. If you don’t know Dre, you are lost and alone in the world. I consider this the best hip hop album since the Chronic and probably will be until he finally drops Detox.
Missy Elliott Under Construction: This album is packed with party jams. This is dance hip hop. Looking back at groups like Run DMC, JJ Fad, MC Lyte and electro influences she digs into some of my favorite material.
M.I.A. Kala: The beats on this album make me want to puke with joy. When the beat in “Bamboo Banga” finally drops, that might be my current favorite musical moment.
Gary Wilson Mary Had Brown Hair: Gary Wilson gets freaky. I love that this album sounds like it could have been something he recorded in the ’80s. I mean “6.4 = Make Out”? That is gold.
Quad Muth Selfsleeving Driftlimb: The first time I heard Quad Muth I was really upset because they were breaking up, and they were playing music I thought had only existed in my mind. Their disjointed garble of “bleaummghelhg eeakk ahkkkko okkk okkk mareug” that is totally danceable set up the framework of a Minneapolis music culture that would understand that noisy doesn’t equal boring.
Kristian Melom of Minor Kingdom: Favorite Albums of the Decade
1) Radiohead Kid A: This record pretty much changed the way I thought about recorded music. The textures and nuances that hit your ear, especially when wearing headphones, were incomparable to anything that I ever heard before.
2) Yo La Tengo And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out: One of the best records to put on during a fall/winter afternoon. These guys can do no wrong in my mind.
3) Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: Jim O’Rourke, who produced this record, pretty much made this one happen for me. He used some pretty non-conventional production that really separated this band from its previous efforts.
4) Sufjan Stevens Seven Swans: Emo in its best form. Once I realized how influenced his words were by his religious views it became a little eerie but beautiful none the less.
5) Sigur Rós Takk: This band instantly puts me in mood where I want to create, or travel, or climb a mountain in Iceland! They are not afraid to use space in their music and it has been one of their most powerful tools.
Lazerbeak of Doomtree: Favorite Albums of the Decade
1) Jay-Z The Blueprint / The Black Album: I know that this is technically cheating with two albums, but I just couldn’t decide. Jay was absolutely untouchable on both of these records. The greatest of all time.
#2) Cannibal Ox The Cold Vein: This came out around the time I had just started making beats, and it completely blew my mind from both a production and lyrical stand point. An absolute classic. I’m almost glad they never made another record.
#3) The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots: For some reason I just keep listening to this one to this day. Makes me feel really awesome.
#4) Hockey Night Keep Guessin’: I have no idea how this record somehow creeped into my top five, but I cannot fight it. One of my all time favorite bands to ever come out of the Twin Cities. The few shows that TPC! got to play with these guys were an absolute joy to be a part of. It is an eternal travesty that they had to part ways.
#5) The Killers Day & Age: Yikes! I know, terrible. One of my guiltiest pleasures. Oh well, I love the Killers and I can’t really explain why, which makes it hard when trying to convince people that they are actually good. They are a great American rock band though, and there are some pretty ridiculous saxophone lines and bongo parts all over this thing.
Freeway Philadelphia Freeway
The Hold Steady Separation Sunday
T.I. Trap Muzik
Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Randy Newman Harps and Angels
Scarface The Fix
Al Green Lay It Down
Daft Punk Discovery
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Lucy Michelle: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings 100 Days, 100 Nights: I saw Sharon Jones two nights in a row at the Fair, she is one of the most talented performers I have ever seen. Her and her band actually engage with the audience which is something most bands don’t ever do! And 100 Days, 100 Nights makes me think about my dad’s sweet dance moves.
Dark Dark Dark The Snow Magic: Dark Dark Dark is a magical band. I think that pretty much sums it up. When I listen to that record I think about love, but not in a cheesy way…
Andrew Bird Mysterious Production of Eggs: Mysterious Production of Eggs was unlike any Andrew Bird release I have heard. You can play that album over and over and never get sick of it. Not only is Bird an amazing musician, his lyrics are outstanding, strange, unique and charming and the arrangements are unexpected and thoughtful.
Dr. Dog Fate: Dr. Dog really pulled out the stops with Fate, they had so many catchy tunes on that release and it’s one that will sometimes give me goosebumps when I listen to it. Can’t explain why, Dark Dark Dark will do that too with the song “Benefit of the Doubt” (my favorite song on that record).
Mirah Advisory Committee
Julie Doiron Woke Myself Up: Julie Doiron, I discovered her when I was room mates with Geoff (our drummer). He brought home Goodnight Nobody, her 2004 release and I listened to that CD over and over until it got scratched and sadly couldn’t listen to it anymore. So I searched for more and found Woke Myself Up. It was so much brighter, it made me happier just listening to it and I believed that album as well as goodnight nobody inspired a lot of my own music.
In fact all of these albums are inspiring and each one creates a different memory. That’s my favorite part.
[Lucy Michelle is the lead vocalist of Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles. The Minneapolis-based band’s most recent album, Special Party Time For Everybody, was released in September.]
Marshall LaCount of Dark Dark Dark: Favorite Albums of the Decade
What a difficult project! At best I have a top 15. In no particular order, here are five:
Blonde Redhead Misery is a Butterfly
This album came out after Blonde Redhead’s popularity had quieted a bit. I disregarded it for a couple years, until I accidentally heard it in a quiet place, and on nice speakers. The arrangements and orchestration are surprising, sexy, and gorgeous, just like the band always was.
Glover Gill with the Tosca Tango Orchestra Waking Life Soundtrack
Way back at this time, I think this soundtrack, and the one from Amelie, by Yann Tiersen, had a huge secret influence on the punks. It became just as reasonable to say “I’m learning the violin” as it was to learn three chords on a guitar. For the sake of being brash, I’ll also credit these records with being the gateway into a whole international music interest that has devoured Klezmer and Eastern European music, and is currently working its way through India, Africa, and all sorts of islands with great musical traditions. I’m trying to refrain from mentioning Nick Cave’s Proposition soundtrack, and Philip Glass’ Fog of War soundtrack, but I can’t.
TV on the Radio Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
One of the dirtier productions we have from this band, and one that should blow most anyone’s mind, unless they hate fun, sex, dancing, innovation, soul, or anything else that makes up real life. Interesting in its ability to cross over to pop critics and audiences and eventually lead the band into being HUGE.
Antony and the Johnsons The Crying Light
Tough choice on which one to pick; I like things that demand very special quiet attention, and Antony’s legacy is a great one of hard work, persistence, and vision. When things like this become critically acclaimed and popular, there is still hope in the world.
Nico Muhly Mothertongues
Totally pretentious, gorgeous, and brilliant. Also requires headphones or nice speakers. Contains three movements of deconstructions and reconstructions. Informed by the important work of minimal composers in a time where Philip Glass could potentially get stuck making the same soundtrack over and over, and a fresh contribution.
Mike Watton of Haunted House: Favorite Albums of the Decade
These are my first, second, third, fourth and sixth favorite albums of the decade. Radiohead’s Amnesiacwould rate ahead of Broadcast for me, but you can read people’s thoughts on Radiohead any number of other places. So, Broadcast it is.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti The Doldrums: My favorite album of the decade, and close to my favorite album of any decade. This guy graduating from Beverly Hill High School and making these songs was one glorious climax to the post-WWII years of the American 20th century. David Berman once said that the best art in this country will always come from the suburbs before Greenwich Village or San Francisco. Case in point: The Doldrums. It’s very easy to give this the label of outsider art. And it probably is as coherent of an illustration of what it’s like to be an outsider in middle-to-upper class America as there is using sound. But it’s a bit more all-encompassing than just that. One of my favorite experiences with this album came at about three in the morning at a rather affluent home in Des Moines. I was practicing my putting on a home-putting device, with a glass of whiskey. When “Young Pilot Astray” played, it felt like the most perfect intersection of time, place, activity and music that I could recall ever having. It truly is an album to experience wealth to. A year later, I rode in a packed car down a highway in rural North Carolina as the sun set, “Among Dreams” playing. Everyone sang along deliriously for the entirety of the song, without the slightest bit of self consciousness. It was about the most euphoric young punk experience one can have over five minutes. So while it is an album for rich people, it truly is an album to experience poor young arthood to at the same time. It’s an album that could’ve been playing in the background at anytime, anywhere I’ve ever been in this country, and it would’ve been perfect.
Madlib Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: Dil Cosby & Dil Withers Suite: The best Madlib production of the decade came on Beat Konducta Vol. 1-2: Movie Scenes. It’s called “The Comeup (The Come Down),” and it’s beautiful. Maybe even more so than Ariel Pink, it’s the perfect embodiment of the romantic dream version of what Southern California wishes it could be. Or maybe what I imagine it to be. Either way, it’s absolutely ghostly and depressingly hallucinatory. Sounds like I want the afterlife to feel like. You should find the time someday to get stuck in Santa Barbara traffic with it playing on repeat. Vol 5-6 of the series, released together and made as a tribute to J Dilla, take all that and stretch it out over an hour. Earns the name “soul” as much as any album ever made, and made me believe that more than any other genre, soul works best as a blast of sound with no beginning and no end, just a big mass with no real structure.
J Dilla Donuts: This is a bit of a heavy one. It got released a few days before Dilla died and he spent the last of his energy getting this finished, at least partly while in the hospital. And everyone should be damn happy that he did. This is what American music is all about. It should make you want to steal a Ford Mustang and head into the sunset, staying in dingy hotel rooms with dingy hotel room light the whole way out to the coast. Lots of chain smoking and eerie restaurants along the way. It’s got a lot of the same qualities as the Madlib stuff I talked about, though the sound is a bit harder to pin down. Some of it borders on experimental. Still, one to fall asleep in the palm trees to. “Time: Donut Of The Heart” is one of the decade’s most beautiful songs. But it’s kind of silly to pick certain tracks when it’s really the album as a whole that’s so perfect.
Andrew WK I Get Wet: This album was the anthem of the period immediately following 9/11 for a lot of people, and it was damn exciting. It came out a couple weeks after I saw him in DC. I thought it was strange that he was playing a larger venue like the 9:30 Club, because I had been under the impression that he was still a very unknown guy who played his music on a tape player and ran around. Instead he came out with a metal band and I had no clue what to think. When I picked this up I was still confused, so much so that I bought it the day it came out because I couldn’t stop thinking about that DC show and how bizarre it was. I figured out quickly that it’s pretty simple and nothing to over think. And it was still difficult to wrap my head around. Basically, you’ve got hundreds of overdubbed keyboard and guitar tracks with lines like “Your life is over now/Your life is running out/When your time is at an end/Then it’s time to kill again” howled over it all for a half hour. And its effect is extreme, whatever you might think of it. His show at the Quest in Minneapolis shortly after this release was the most euphoric show I’ve ever been to, by far. Just so damn fun. I was laying on the ground by the end of it and felt high for weeks after it. So many people think this album is just boneheaded and stupid, and they’re right, but they’re still over thinking it in dismissing it that way. Also, they’re missing a lot. It’s an album of simplicity that is so grandiose and multi-layered that, as much as any of the often-named creative masterpieces from Forever Changes to Kid A, it earns the right to be called a work of art. It’s a house of mirrors inside this guy’s imagination, no doubt about it.
Broadcast The Noise Made By People: Somehow, this was released in the US on Tommy Boy, home to Naughty By Nature, Queen Latifah and the Jock Jams series. Maybe it doesn’t matter what happened to it in this country, the music on this album is about as quintessentially English as it gets. And I mean that in a very complimentary way. If you’ve ever been to England, outside of London, this is the soundtrack to it. So it’s kind of like a Gap Christmas ad gone medieval. It’s always grey outside, the streets are all ancient and are lined with beautiful stone architecture. The pubs all have dark carpet and fireplaces. Basically, it’s cozy. The whole thing makes you want to buy a sweater. That’s this album. I’m not sure you can find an album more evocative of the landscape it came from than this one. It’s not warm, but it’s extremely comfortable. The musicianship relies largely on Moogs and the like, but in no way is it gimmicky. The songwriting and composition is very advanced. The vocals are among the most beautiful you’ll ever hear. And the band is famous for coming up with great drummers. If you ever find yourself in Cambridge late at night and your girlfriend has to save you from a 30 year old woman and 12 boy who are attempting to mug you, this record won’t give you your manhood back, but it will make you feel like you’re right at home, at one with Bubonic Plague-era buildings and uninterested in whether your balls are still in your pants.
No Bird Sing: Favorite Albums of the Decade
One Day as a Lion One Day as a Lion EP: This new group, consisting of ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore and ex-RATM front-man Zach de la Rocha, made the hardest-hitting rock slash hip-hop album of the decade. This one would make my list for the production alone. Mixed by Mario C. (Paul’s Boutique, other Beastie’s stuff), I believe they captured the spirit of the John Bonham drum sound, one of Theodore’s biggest influences. Also interesting about this record is there’s no guitar, all the distorted leads and chords are played on a rhodes by de la Rocha. This album is an exercise in simplicity and tone, and takes distorted rhodes and drum room mics to a new level. (Graham O’Brien)
The Mars Volta Deloused in the Comatorium: Another album with Jon Theodore on drums. I heard this album before really knowing about Cedric and Omar’s earlier stuff and since I have always thought this album is their crowning achievement, maybe in part because this one was produced by Rick Rubin. Deloused is a record that sounds like a modern-day combination of Zeppelin and Mahavishnu Orchestra and drummer Jon Theodore’s sound and feel makes that happen. This is one of my favorites, not necessarily completely for the songwriting, but for the grooves and feel within the songs (and in particular the drums)—they’re an inspiration in their dynamic range and precision. (Graham O’Brien)
El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead: Easily the best hip-hop album of the decade for me, this is also the one that’s still in my car stereo all the time. This project is impressive because of its scope and continuity, it plays like one cohesive piece of music and sound design. To me, no other hip hop album has had such a strong continuity. One of the huge accomplishments of this album is its value in repeated listens. The layering, detail and propulsive energy is definitely one reason for that, but it’s also in the lyrics. They are difficult to hear (actually mixed pretty low a lot of the time) and also understand sometimes, but that’s his plan: in “Smithereens,” I think, he says “I keep my meaning tucked deep so all you creepers give me some privacy.” Plus it’s really a dark album, sonic and otherwise. Dark is good. (Graham O’Brien)
The Black Keys Attack and Release: This record is an onslaught of loose, raw, fat grooves, huge, wide drum sounds, and dark, catchy melodies. In particular I love how loose the grooves are. C’mon, if you’ve seen the Black Keys live you have to admire the way they walk the line between train wreck and rock band. Attack and Release helped push our collective ears away from over-polished expectations and let them fall back in love with the the grit of great music. (Graham O’Brien/Eric Blair)
Radiohead Kid A: It’s not exactly easy to come up with a short-list of the best albums of the decade. As it is, between Graham and I, our short list became sort of a medium list. But the one quick consensus was Radiohead’s Kid A. I only really got the context of Kid A well after its 2000 release. Call it a function of age, or of listening to nothing but gangsta rap throughout high school. But shame on me. Radiohead transcended from just another ’90s alt-rock band to arguably the greatest band of our generation. And Kid A was the jump off. Thom Yorke is such a unique songwriter, and the expanded use of crazy obscure instruments both electronic and acoustic means everyone who made an album after Kid A was somehow bathing in its adventurous shadow. (Eric Blair)
Kill the Vultures The Careless Flame: The general criticism surrounding The Careless Flame is the sheer amount patience required to listen to it. That… and it’s “weird.” But in the conveyor belt mediocrity of our post turn of the century world, those qualities make Careless Flame a shining beacon in the wasteland. Who cares if Flame takes a bit of work to get to? Anyone brave enough to explore the masterfully fragmented, McCarthy-esque, world of producer Anatomy and vocalist Crescent Moon will find their definition of the word “weird” wonderfully and irrevocably changed. (Eric Blair)
Halloween, Alaska Halloween, Alaska: The first few words of an album are like pick-up lines. If they’re boring or uninspired, the record gets a few polite nods but little else. If they’re really bad or even offensive, the record spends the night wiping appletini off its face. But James Diers’ honestly delivered “Well hello little hellion/Make yourself at home” has earned Halloween, Alaska’s now classic debut album more than a few snuggle partners. Dave King’s drum work is mind-bending in its balance of complexity and reserve. The music is impressively patient, waiting until the last possible instant to break into inescapable refrains and choruses. Case in point, Des Moines starts its refrain at 4:19, long after most songs would have ended. But go to any hipster bar in the tri-state area and start singing “Twenty times around the block/Twice in every speed I got” and enjoy the sing-a-long that ensues. (Eric Blair)
Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago: Long before Justin Vernon became famous, it was common practice in Eau Claire to sit around complaining about how his brilliance would forever go unnoticed because he was far from either coast. I personally just saw For Emma, Forever Ago as a way to mourn the loss of Deyarmond Edison as yet another Amateur Love (read: the best band you’ve probably never heard of). Emma was released with 500 or so screen printed eco-friendly cardboard packages and a well-attended show at the House of Rock. A few years and shit ton of records later, Vernon has restored our collective faith in the power of authentic music triumphing over big industry. For Emma was not only a brilliant record, but an important one. (Eric Blair)
Pete Biasi of Double Bird: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Madvillain Madvillainy: I love everything about this record; an aurally dense and intense piece of music, and a document of two well-practiced craftsmen operating at the top of their game. This album will blow minds forever.
Hot Snakes Automatic Midnight: Here’s how you make a record that I will still trip about in 10 years: have John Reis write 10 no-shit, pure fucking rock and roll jams, make Rick Froberg sing over them, and sprinkle mind-bogglingly low bass drops throughout the songs. Done and done.
T Wehrle Howler: This album contains of some of the most beautiful, haunting, and catchy songs I’ve ever heard. If even one person checks it out because I put it on this list, then I have changed someone’s life for the better. Isn’t that what online magazine favorite-records-of-the-decade lists are all about?
Tragedy Vengeance: This album, much like this decade, will always be synonymous in my mind with a sense of impending doom and a loss of faith in mankind’s ability to not destroy itself. It is a brutal, bleak, heavy piece of work, born out of a brutal, bleak, and heavy state of affairs.
Clipse Hell Hath No Fury: I enjoy the Neptunes’ beats. I enjoy well-spun tales of selling drugs and partying on yachts and trying to find the “bluest” shoes to buy with your giant piles of drug money. I think we’re done here.
Power of 2: Favorite Albums of the Decade
We had to do separate lists because, while we do share many influences, we have fairly differing opinions on our top five records of the decade. Here they are in no order:
Do Make Say Think Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn: This is the one album I make sure I have enough time to listen to without stopping. I specifically save this one for long drives. As far as songwriting influence goes, this tops my list.
Brian Wilson SMiLE: This album has history. It’s one thing to have a fully dynamic and
seamless album, but that can only take an album so far. This album has had time to age like a fine wine on the shelf, only to be opened and ingested decades later.
Fog Ditherer: A recent discovery. I tried not to prematurely include this on my list
so I made myself listen to it so much I’d get sick of it. Well that hasn’t happened yet, so here it is. By the way, never trust Pitchfork, they’re schemers.
Radiohead Amnesiac: I don’t understand why this album is so overshadowed by Kid A. It’s the most interesting album to me because every element that makes Radiohead a great band is evenly dispersed into it.
Amnesiac: Electronic, Raw, Human, Guitars, Sad, Funny, Weird, Potent, Frightening.
Kid A: Electronic, Sleepy.
mewithoutYou Catch for Us the Foxes: Just a personal favorite that defines a very specific time in my life. The memory is so potent when hearing it I can even remember specific foods and smells and locations. I don’t know, it’s weird, just go listen to it.
Deftones White Pony: This album really showed me that “heavy” music doesn’t all have to be the same. When I started listening to Deftones, I was also listening to all the generic metal crap that you would hear on the radio. Like all Deftones albums (except maybe Adrenaline), White Pony stands out from the rest of the genre by exploring all aspects and ranges of the band’s musical abilities and by experimenting with their sounds, structures and mood.
Enon High Society: Usually when an album is as schizophrenic as High Society, it comes off as inconsistent, pretentious or experimental, but this album goes so far beyond genre hopping, each song seems to come from a different band. High Societychanges pace and mood to tell a story. Definitely an album that can be listened to no matter how you’re feeling, or what you’re currently in to.
Guided By Voices Human Amusements at Hourly Rates: This one is kind of a cheater. This epic, 32 track album was released in the past decade, but it’s a compilation of earlier songs. Lo-fi, high-fi, pop, punk, melodramatic, this album has all the greatest Guided By Voices songs. Even at 32 tracks, you won’t get sick of it if you listen all the way through, there’s so much going on, and so much passion.
Modest Mouse Building Nothing Out of Something: Again, another cheater here. This album is a compilation of rarities and B-Sides from Modest Mouse’s first few albums but was released in early 2000. This is my favorite Modest Mouse album, and it’s interesting how these are the songs that either didn’t make the cut for a different album, or were somehow considered to be not as good, but when all of these songs are put together on one disc, they create an amazing and surprisingly cohesive album.
Sigur Rós ( ): This album had a huge impact on me. I hadn’t heard any Sigur Rós before when a friend lent me the album. The packaging is brilliant; besides the band’s name it is completely wordless and contains a book of nearly blank pages for the listener to write down their own interpretations of the lyrics. The only images are vague tree shapes that span the pages. The album and songs are all untitled and the words are sung in a made up language. The album is hauntingly beautiful, nightmarish and hopeful. As a whole, this album is truly a piece of art.
Sir Gregory Fuck Knight of Fuck Knights: Favorite Albums of the Decade
1) Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Mirror Man (Recorded 1967, reissued 2009 on Buddah Records): Why’s Trout Mask get all the accolades when this is such a perfect blend of “out-garage” and “avant-roll”?
#2) Velvet Underground Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes (Recorded 1969, released 2001 on Polydor Records): A Cale-less VU figuring out where to head next. The obvious contrarian answer? Pop. White Light/White Heat tunes performed live in a tentatively groovy Loaded manner.
#3) The Stooges 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions(Recorded 1970, reissued 2005 on Rhino Records): Every precious second of each of these seven shimmering discs totaling seven infallible hours and 52 immaculate minutes? Absolutely, unquestionably essential.
#4) The Damned Machine Gun Etiquette (Recorded 1979, reissued 2007 on Ace Records): First-wave punk’s equivalent to Dylan “going electric.”
#5) The Fall Grotesque (After the Gramme) (Recorded 1980, reissued 2005 on Earmark Records): Brit-filtered Hell-a-billy art-skronk easily obliterating critic-jiz-inducing Hex Enduction Hour in depth, listenability, and wittiness.
Sean McPherson of Heiruspecs: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Cannibal Ox The Cold Vein: This record reminded me that the world I was trying to make my way in, underground rap, had some real masters and my best bet would be to shut the fuck up and admire.
Why? Elephant Eyelash
Jay-Z The Blueprint: I listened to this record at a redhead from St. Paul named Chelsea’s house for the first time. At the time it was weird to have a Jay-Z record on because we thought that independent rap was all that mattered. That was before this record. Thanks Chelsea.
Low The Great Destroyer: Heiruspecs had the same manager as Low and when Vickie gave us this record I cried my little eyes out. On a way up to a show in Duluth my good friend Kevin Hunt said, “They should really get a bass drum.” Low is incredible and everyone knows it. Plus it would be some hater-ish shit to not have some localness on the list. Atmosphere and Love-cars are both real close to making this list. But Love-cars’ best record was in the 1990s, and actually so was Atmosphere’s.
Tegan and Sara So Jealous: Fuck it. This is fantastic pop. But, if I had seen my brother’s list before I submitted mine I would’ve put D’Angelo’s Voodoo on this list instead. Tegan and Sara make me feel young and excited.
Steve McPherson of Big Trouble: Favorite Albums of the Decade
Radiohead Kid A: Coming on the heels of the world-destroying OK Computer, Kid A appeared, at the time, to be at the very least a timid backing away from what Radiohead had already accomplished, and at best a moody, introverted sidelight, but time has shown otherwise. Kid A is arguably every bit the record that OK Computer was and more: it’s a deeply felt take on the humanistic flaws at the heart of technology and has possibly been more influential than its vaunted predecessor. Sort of the White Album to OK Computer’s Sgt. Pepper’s, except Kid A is better than the White Album. Yup, I said it.
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: The album largely responsible for noisying up the milder side of the rock underground (viz. Death Cab’s Transatlanticism, Blitzen Trapper, Dr. Dog) was billed as the sound of Wilco ripping apart at the seams, but really, like the At the Drive-In’s last record, it’s compelling evidence for the power of tension within a band. Tweedy’s abstract wordplay collided with Jay Bennett’s ragged rock traditionalism in ways that forced compromise. The result was a record that captured as well as any the doubt and tentative hope that came along with being an American in the 21st century.
At the Drive-In Relationship of Command: On first listen, Relationship of Command is still shockingly aggressive and angular nearly a decade after its release. But repeated listens reveal something even stranger: the lovechild of U2 and Fugazi, raised by Rage Against the Machine and Sunny Day Real Estate, maybe. Cedric and Omar would go on to get weirder (and less rewarding) in the Mars Volta while Jim and Tony would go on to straight emo territory in Sparta. Nothing was as good as the original.
Madvillain Madvillainy: Here’s all you really need to know about Madvillainy: it’s a rap album from 2004 without a single chorus. Without hooks to pen him in or slow him down, MF Doom was free to write some of his most compellingly unhinged verses ever, and Madlib’s jazzy production fit him perfectly. That rarest of rare things: a flawlessly cohesive hip-hop record.
D’Angelo Voodoo: Like rap albums, R&B albums in the ’80s and ’90s mostly refused to take up the mantle of the true album, ending up as either collections of singles or sprawling overfull monsters adorned with skits and meaningless filler. Not Voodoo, which is the spiritual successor to great R&B and funk records like Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, and Sly & The Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Honestly, it’s one of the only R&B albums made since the ’70s that absolutely everyone should give a damn about.
6. Spoon Kill the Moonlight
7. The National Alligator
8. Grizzly Bear Yellow House
9. The Knife Silent Shout
10. Coldplay A Rush of Blood to the Head (That’s right: I’m saying it. A Rush of Blood to the Head. It’s an amazing record.)
Travis Bos of Chibalo: Favorite Albums of the Decade
My top five list for this decade was a hard one. A couple were no brainers, but to sit and think about what made the most impact on me in the last 10 years was quite the task. For one, this had to have been my least favorite decade for music listening. Some may agree, many will disagree with my picks. In no order:
Boredoms Vision Creation Newsun
I’ve enjoyed the Boredoms since Pop Tatari era. At that time, their silly, spastic and quirky songs were fun, but nothing compared to what they were about to embark on. This album showed that even when you lose members, you still march forward with a new and refreshing sound. This release stands the test of time, even when many performers/groups have bit their sound from this period. A must have for any music nerd/fanatic.
Boards Of Canada Geogaddi
This record was perfect for me when I was experiencing jet lag from the second European tour I did. I would find myself waking up at 4:00 A.M. browsing the internet while listening to this release. It was perfect. Surreal, creepy and very psychedelic. I would love to see the movie that would have this album as its soundtrack.
Slayer God Hates Us All
If there’s one thing you should know about me it’s my love for metal. When I say metal, I mean true metal. Not metal core, nu metal, rap/yo metal. REAL METAL. During Jr. High, I would listen to the likes of the “mighty four” as if it were my religion. Of course I’m referring to Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth. After the grunge era ruined my favorite metal bands sound, Slayer still seemed to do its best. Granted, they had a few releases that were mediocre, but all that was made up for on this record. It was the perfect release to purchase on 9/11. The ultimate middle finger to those who thought that metal was done for. Not fucking likely.
Super Furry Animals Rings Around The World
I haven’t stopped listening to this record since I first heard it in 2001. Gruffs Rhys vocals are just mind blowing and the musicianship is equal to it. So many times I find myself with a track from this album in my head and it puts me in a great mood. Also, how many groups can you think of releases a DVD with a video for every track on the LP plus loads of remixes? If I recall, they were the first group to do just that. The best release by far from this Welsh group.
Einstürzende Neubauten Supporter Album #1/Perpetuum Mobile
In 2002, Neubauten started working on their next release without the support of a label. Rather opting for the “supporter” or patronage system. Fans who donated to the cause were able to watch Neubauten streamed online during rehearsal. The fans were then encouraged to give feedback to the band and in return, would use their ideas/opinions in helping shape the songs. The live shows of this tour were recorded by the band’s sound engineers, then burned on CD-Rs with individual pictures of each show and sold directly after the concerts to the visitors; numerous “official” live albums were created during this tour as a result. Still one of the most ambitious and important musical groups of our time. This release further cemented my love for the band and gave me respect and hope for new music.
Will Markwardt of the Absent Arch: Favorite Albums of the Decade
It seems as though making a top five of the decade list may be similar to taking a starving child out to dinner. Everything looks good, but damn kid, we’re not made of money! He will spend two hours drinking his chocolate milk until he finally decides on the macaroni and cheese, unfortunately not sure if that’s what he really wants. Gotta decide eventually though, happy hour for the grow-ups ends in 10 minutes. How ’bout if he finishes his plate, he gets dessert? Let’s eat!
Drinks – The Acorn Glory Hope Mountain: Have you ever listened to an album so unbelievably much that you braced yourself for the moment when you got so burnt out on it, it didn’t even seem like music anymore and you were just bored? Thought so, happens to us all. Funny thing about this album though, that never happened: I listened and listened, waiting for the day it would spoil and it never did. Rolf Klausener is such a smooth writer there is never a single moment on this record that makes you cringe, say “eh” or break the flow of head bobbing. The things they do with percussion are so subtle but add more to this album than anything else. His brilliant lyrics somehow fit themselves around melodies so smoothly it never sounds forced. Them Canadians know how to make ‘em.
Free bread – World’s End Girlfriend Dreams End Come True: I once almost spent the Japanese equivalent of $60 plus an enormous amount for shipping and handling on this album. My hesitations set in when not only was this the only site I could find this album for sale, but it was in Japanese and I spent half my time there closing pop-up adds. Highly questionable. I would later find it for much cheaper, on an English website, with no pop-ups within clicking distance.
World’s End Girlfriend is the one-man project of Katsuhiko Maeda. Armed with only a guitar and some ridiculous noise creating mechanisms and pedals, this guy will blow your face off and then put it back together again over the course of any of his six 25 minute epics. Dreams End Come True is the perfect example of what Maeda is capable of. It’s coordinated chaos amidst some of the coolest rhythmic decisions I’ve heard in quite a while. Ear piercing noise sharing a space with beautiful arrangements. I think the only album of his that ever made it to the states was a split record he did with Mono (Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain) which is average to say the least. Yet, Dreams End Come True is worth any amount of money you can throw at it, if it still exists for purchase on the interweb.
[Note: If anybody is going to Japan anytime soon, snag me a copy. Mine is pretty beat up.]
Appetizer – Sigur Rós ( ): I mean, c’mon! How do they do it? The “light at the end of the tunnel” album for my college years. This album continues to give me goose bumps and most likely always will. Nothing can come close to seeing Sigur Rós live and no show will ever top seeing them on tour supporting this album. ( ) is an experience everyone should have. Take some time out to sit down with a drink, lay back and throw this one on. Although I’m sure many of you have already. I will say no more.
First course – Sun Kil Moon Ghosts of the Great Highway: So many stories to go along with this album. Road trips, tragedies, relationships, break-ups, fuck ups, inspiration, motivation, restoration, life… as it goes. I had a daily ritual for years. A ritual that involved listening to this album every single day of my life. Whether it be at work, at home, in bed, driving, walking, drinking, reading, thinking, sneezing. It’s a cyclical album with a cyclical story for the cyclical life of anyone who’s willing to give it a chance. Absolute beauty in music form. One of the most relaxing and powerful albums I’ve ever heard. I called it the greatest album of all time, until I heard my final choice for top five albums of the decade.
Main course – Elephant Micah Hindu Windmills: Joe O’Connell is the greatest songwriter of our generation, period. No questions asked. Give the man his trophy. An underrated and generally unknown genius who resides from Indiana. An idol of mine for years and one who I can humbly say with a giddy stutter in my voice, have met and played a few shows with.
The first time I met Joe we did a show together at Augsburg College back in 2006. Which because of him, was the reason I would meet my now great friend and musical companion Will Garrison of Spirits of the Red City. Not only did that night secure what would become a great friendship and, in turn, the reason I’m still playing music, but it was also the night I would purchase the greatest album to ever grace my ears.
Hindu Windmills had just come out and I was lucky enough to get one of the last hand-made vinyl copies. The effortlessness in his voice, a sort of soft swoon that can float just above any instrument you throw at it, with a range that anyone would be envious of. His guitar arrangements that will leave you in awe. Meticulous alternate tunings and half-step drops. The way he twists his words around chords. Everything. Everything.
I’ve spent years trying to figure out how one man can write as perfect as he does. I could replace this album for any number of his others but this one definitely stands above the rest. The fact that he isn’t selling out theaters across the world is a sin.
Dessert (’cause I know the meal is over but I just need to tack on a few more pounds [honorable mentions]):
Super Furry Animals Rings Around the World
Rhys Chatham A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars)
Guided By Voices Isolation Drills
Lucero That Much Further West
Elephant Micah And the Agrarian Malaise
Duo 505 Late
[These posts were first published by Culture Bully.]