Sharing Music And Opinions Because Its Fun

Post your thoughts!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Top 20 Albums of 2000-2009 (#10-6)

10) Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production of Eggs - Andrew Bird (2005)

Andrew Bird has been quoted in interviews, saying that there are always hundreds of different melodies swirling around in his head. Music is what he does. All. The. Time. Classically trained in violin performance from Northwestern University (no, that didn't influence my decision), Bird is also proficient at guitar, mandolin, and, as his name implies, whistling. Though Bird has a back-up band (with Martin Dosh playing drums), The Mysterious Production of Eggs is all Bird's creation, utilizing loop pedals to create layers upon layers of beautifully orchestrated music. As for lyrics, Bird's words have a musical, poetic quality, which is only appropriate, considering Bird's musical mind. While Armchair Apocrypha and Noble Beast, were fantastic releases as well, The Mysterious Production of Eggs stands out as a folk album that brings the genre to a whole new level of well-planned orchestration and musical brilliance.
Andrew Bird - Fake Pallindromes

9) For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver (2008)

At a first glance, Justin Vernon with his mountain-man beard and acoustic guitar looks like he could stand in for Iron & Wine's Sam Beam or any member of Fleet Foxes. Similarly, when listening to some of the tracks off of Bon Iver's album, his falsetto voice heard over relatively simple chord progressions lends comparisson to plenty of other folk acts nowadays. Make no mistake. For Emma, Forever Ago was created with precise intention, overflowing with the kind of emotion that only a winter of isolation in the woods could provide. If you pay close attention, there is something new to discover on every listen: a subtle twang of a banjo, a quick hammer-on of a guitar, or a high-pitched howl, each of which can be heartbreaking. Justin Vernon is a very talented musician, but there is nothing showy about this album. The sounds he creates are subtle and hushed, creating a tension that remains until moments like the end of "The Wolves (Act I and II)" when he loudly lets everything come out. With For Emma, Forever Ago, each song has its own dramatic arc like this, allowing listeners to follow along with Vernon through this beautifully sad album

Bon Iver - Lump Sum

8) At War With the Mystics - The Flaming Lips (2006)

This album is under-rated. I know that Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots is widely considered to be The Flaming Lips' triumph of the decade, but At War With The Mystics takes the successful elements of Yoshimi and brings a somewhat darker, even more existential element to it. Yoshimi was a beautiful record. The sound was great, and it celebrated being silly, while still containing very serious moments about life, love, and loss. At War... is sonically equally as interesting, but is a little bolder. There is no comfortingly silly image of Pink Robots on this album, only real questions from Wayne Coyne about corruption, existence of the supernatural, and our minuscule roles in a much grander universe. The album is still fun, and contains very funny lyrics, but it is a little more unsettling than any of their previous works, causing listeners to think about life more critically than ever before.
The Flaming Lips - Vein of Stars

7) Sound of Silver - LCD Soundsystem (2007)

James Murphy makes great dance music, often with a jaded, "who cares" attitude to his songs that make them all the more fun to jam along with. As shown by the first LCD Soundsystem release, he is excellent at poking fun at other artists, but with Sound of Silver, Murphy turned his focus inwards, becoming alarmingly vulternable in his songs. Sound of Silver shows a man who has had fun making dance music in his life, but is now beginning to contemplate all the issues that come with growing older (losing friends, mid-life crisis, death). And how does he contemplate these things? By making one of the best pop/dance music albums of the decade. This album is fun and sarcastic, but also angry and chillingly vulnerable. This kind of real emotion is most often lost in good dance bands, but LCD Soundsystem get it spot on.
LCD Soundsystem - Someone Great

6) Funeral - Arcade Fire (2004)

Funeral may have been the most buzzed-about indie album of this decade. With good reason. Not a single track disappoints. From "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" to "In the Backseat", the album provides big anthems that have artistic depth as well, not an easy feat. Funeral is the album you can jump and scream along with or sit in bed and contemplate with. A rock band combined with big percussion, bells. accordion, and a full string section, the Arcade Fire are instrumentally unique and they blend together incredibly well. And because so much has been said about Funeral already, I will not keep going on. It rightfully deserves this place in the top 10.

Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Top 20 Albums of the 2000s (#15-11)

15) You Forgot It In People - Broken Social Scene (2002)
We can agree that "indie" music dominated this decade. There were many different areas putting out great music in this genre (San Francisco, London, New York, LA) but the Montreal/Toronto tagteam in Canada gave us some of the best--Arcade Fire, Islands, Final Fantasy, Stars, Metric, and Feist, to name a few. Emerging from strong friendships between members of some of these acts, Broken Social Scene is the super-est of indie supergroups, currently comprised of 19 contributing members. Each member brings their own contribution to the BSS sound, resulting in an album like You Forgot It In People that is lyrically and musically diverse and never gets old. The album is clearly a collaberative work of some talented songwriters, with lyrics and orchestrations that are "artsy" but still accessible. One would guess that a band with this reputation would be disconnected from the world of us less "super" artists, but somehow You Forgot It In People invites you in on every song. Broken Social Scene is immense, yet surprisingly intimate, capturing the loud and soft, the pissed off and the romantic side of the human experience. And they love to share their thoughts with you in a way that is beautiful and humble. You Forgot It In People is an extraordinary achievement

14) And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out - Yo La Tengo (2003)
Before And Then Nothing... came out, Yo La Tengo had earned its rep by being a group that jumped from genre to genre writing some pretty loud and rocking songs about love. This album was radical in that, for the most part, it stuck to one genre: slow-paced love songs. The husband-and-wife duo really know how to pull at heartstrings, at with And Then Nothing... they write songs that alternate from joyful to heartbreaking. All the fast-paced energy from their previous albums is not lost here, but rather more focused on a simpler settling, really delving into what the process of love can be like. It is true that not every song hits on this album, but that isn't how And Then Nothing... operates. When it works, it REALLY works.

13) Bitte Orca- Dirty Projectors (2009)
You will notice that two pretty big names are missing from my list, Animal Collective and Grizzly Bear. I do not mean to group the two in the same category--they are very different artists--but they were both hailed as champions of the experimental music genre. I will admit, I do not like Animal Collective. Yes, I said it. As for Grizzly Bear, I enjoy their music very much, but, in my mind, the experimental-indie album of the decade goes to the Dirty Projectors with Bitte Orca. The album is crafted masterfully and artistically, using the voice as an instrument and layering it in as part of a much grander sound. The album is sometimes an R&B record and sometimes an indie record, but it is recorded with technical precision and complicated rhythms that are uncharacteristic of both those genres. Lyrically it is also a success. Although some may count this against the Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca is an experimental album that can be enjoyed by more than just a small dedicated fan base.

12) Return To Cookie Mountain - TV on the Radio (2006)
Return To Cookie Mountain was a bit of a mind-blower. Crazy percussion, the mix of low, grumbling voices with high falsettos, whistling, and ocassional brass and saxophones combined to make one of the most interesting instrumentations on any rock/indie album of the decade. This great sound was combined with chilling songs written about being completely disenchanted with the Bush administration and the problems of our times. The rage behind "Wolf Like Me" and the anti-war message of "I Was A Lover" made for anthemic songs that were great to rock to as well. Works for me.

11) Manners - Passion Pit (2009)
The 2000s saw electronic music explode again--especially in the latter half of the decade--from Timbaland and Lady Gaga, to Justice and Daft Punk. (Even Beirut got in the mix!) With it being so popular, It got to a point where it seemed like anybody with a home synthesizer and a drum machine could get a single on the air. By 2009, however, Passion Pit had the time to take in all of the most fun elements of electronic pop, mix it with Michael Angelakos' screaming falsetto and well-composed songwriting, showing what electronic music can be at its very best. Manners is the summer album that you can dance your heart out to, but has the emotional depth to carry you through the dark winter as well. Everyone can agree that "Sleepyhead" and "The Reeling" were some epic singles, but tracks like "Eyes as Candles" and "Swimming In The Flood," are shockingly emotionally mature--while still being dance-able. I can't get enough of it.