Archive for October, 2009

Top 20 Albums of the 2000s!

October 16, 2009

Now I come back with the 2nd part of my “Top Music of the Decade” lists: my top 20 albums.  As I had mentioned previously, I wasn’t a very big music fan until about the time that I graduated college in 2007.  As a result, over half of the ensuing list comes from the years from 2007-2009.  I did my best though to try and incorporate music that I was listening to earlier in the decade.

In preparing to make this list I re-listened to about 60 candidate albums in their entirety in order to assign them a score that took into account both their quality and the emotions surrounding them.  Every album was assigned a “goodness” score from 0.0 to 10.0 and certain albums were given emotional bonus points from 0.0 to 1.0, for a maximum value of 11.0.  I realize that it is impossible to separate emotions from the quality score, so the bonus points are only given in instances where I had a good concert experience or have particular fond memories of an album.  I also at times throw bonus points around willy-nilly if I feel that the goodness score doesn’t reflect an album’s importance to me.  On the assumption that everyone else enjoys numbers as much as I do, I will display my scoring tally for each album on the list so that you can see exactly how it made it onto the list.  As an example of how it will be displayed, the album Everything All The Time by Band of Horses was one of a few to narrowly miss the list.  The scoring for this album would be presented thusly 8.7 (8.5+0.2).  It received a 8.5 on the quality scale and it got 0.2 bonus points for reasons associated with “The Funeral” that I mentioned in my Top 20 Songs of the Decade list and also because the music video for “The Great Salt Lake” reminds me of hanging out at Greenlake.  Alright, now that you know how things will work, ON WITH THE LIST!

Narrowly Missed the Cut

Live 2000 by Built to Spill 9.0 (8.9+0.1): A terrific live album that includes two epic twenty-minute long jamming songs.  It scored well enough to make the list, but in the end I decided to disqualify it because while it came out in 2000, pretty much all of the songs originated in the previous decade.

Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? by Of Montreal 8.7 (8.6+0.1): I wanted to include this album on the list because more than any other album from the decade, I think that it tells a story from beginning to end and feels like an album instead of a collection of songs.

Spiderman of the Rings by Dan Deacon 8.7: When compiling my list of my top 20 songs, I was very tempted to include “Wham City”, a catchy twelve minute track about a world where all the humans are gone and there is a big castle where a bear has a band with a bunch of ghosts and cats and pigs and bats.  Needless to say, my kind of song.  In the end I decided to not include it on the list but made Dan Deacon a compromise that I would include his album on my top 20 list.  But now I have to say that I am turning my back on that promise and Spiderman of the Rings missed the list, but I thought I would at least give it a shout out.

Get Rich or Die Tryin’ by 50 Cent 8.4 (8.1+0.3): This is a very difficult album to listen to all the way through, in fact the first time I ever did it was this past week when I was trying to score all of my candidates.  There is only so much of 50’s swagger that I can handle before it gets annoying.  While the album is flawed, there are a ton of great tracks from it including “If I Can’t”, “In Da Club”, “P.I.M.P.”, “21 Questions”, and my favorite “Patiently Waiting” with Eminem.  I thought I should give this album an honorable mention because of how these songs remind me of my early college years.  I’m not sure how many times freshman year I went to Terrell Owens’ (NFL player) website just so I could hear “If I can’t….do it……it caaaaaaaaaan’t be done” playing in the background.

Nellyville by Nelly (duh!) 8.4 (8.0+0.4): I have a lot of fond memories of this album from the summer of 2002.  I spent so much time that summer driving around with my friends James, Missy and Korbi having impromptu dance parties with Nellyville playing.  “Hot in Herre” was obviously the dance party star, but there were plenty of other terrific songs on the album like “Pimp Juice”, “Air Force Ones” and “Country Grammar (CG) 2”.  That was a time in my life when I wasn’t worried about the future or asking myself what I was going to do with my life, but rather “Why are cups outlawed in Nellyville?”

Top 20 Albums of the Decade

20. Kid A by Radiohead 8.8: The album that was #1 on Pitchfork and plenty of other peoples decade album list, but it just has never sounded THAT good to me.  I think that I am missing a lot of the appeal because it came out in 2000, but I didn’t listen to the entire album until 2008.  I think that Kid A is a great album, but it is only included on this list based on the strength of “Idioteque”, “The National Anthem”, and “Everything in its Right Place” (and “Optimistic” to a lesser extent).

19. Funeral by The Arcade Fire 8.8: A couple of weeks ago I listened to this album and gave it a 8.1, relistened and gave it a 8.3, listened once more and 8.5, one more time and it was 8.7, and a final listen gave it 8.8, but it might have kept climbing higher if I just listened to it a few times.  This was an album that I loved in college when it came out, but I had forgotten about it for a while and stopped listening, but I am glad that I brought it back out to make this list.  So far my list is the same as Pitchfork.com’s only in reverse order, does that mean that next is Daft Punk’s Discovery?

Nope!

18. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! 8.8: Another album that I stopped listening to after its college phase, but it is very solid all the way through.  “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” is still probably my favorite song from the album.

17. Kala by M.I.A. 8.9 (8.8+0.1): This is an album that I loved a lot of songs from for a while, but I didn’t appreciate it as a whole album until the past couple of weeks.  Even though my obsession for “Paper Planes” has long past, there are a ton of great tracks like “Boyz”, “Jimmy”, and my favorite at the moment “Come Around” with Timbaland.  The only weak link in the album is the song that Mayme really likes, “Bird Flu”.  I’m just kidding, its an OK song.  The album gets a bonus point from M.I.A.’s performance at Sasquatch! that initially made me a fan.

16. Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles 8.9 (8.7+0.2): I have always had pretty mixed feelings about this album.  At first I felt that it was comprised of half catchy dance tracks, half seizure-inducing Japanese video game music.  After a number of dance parties and hearing part of their set at Sasquatch!, I have gotten over a lot of the mixed feelings and now I love the entire album with the exception of “Xxzxcuzx Me” which is impossible to listen to and has to be skipped at once.

15. Made in the Dark by Hot Chip 8.9 (8.7+0.2): If I had been listening to music for the entire decade this album definitely would not have made the list, but as it is, it gets a huge boost from being at the forefront of the music aficionado phase of my life.  I said plenty about Hot Chip during my top songs list, I like them a lot but their albums always consist of terrific dance tracks peppered with slow ballads that screw up the flow.  Made in the Dark ultimately makes the list because Hot Chip may have been my second favorite concert of all-time.

14. Tenacious D by Tenacious D 9.0 (8.6+0.4): I didn’t really want to include this album, but I couldn’t deny the memories tied to it.  Late in high school James and I used to drive around to this album so much that I learned the entire thing by heart and can still recite pretty much all of the words when I listen to it.  My favorite lyric from the album is probably the part in “Fuck Her Gently” that goes “What’s your favorite dish?  I’m not gonna cook it but I’ll order it from ZANZIBAR!!!”  I originally thought that Zanzibar was some imaginary  wizard’s realm, then I found out that it was an island off of Tanzania, and I just recently found out they are talking about an actual restaurant in NY.  Doesn’t  matter, it’s funny regardless.

13. Parc Avenue by Plants and Animals 9.0 (8.9+0.1): I love their diversity of sound not just between different songs on the album, but even during the course of a single song they can go from sounding like a classic rock group to electronic rock.  I was turned on to Plants and Animals by a KEXP Live Performances Podcast which to this day I think sounds better than the album, which is proof that I need to go see them live sometime in the near future.

12. Merriweather Post Pavillion by Animal Collective 9.0: The only music from 2009 on this list or my top songs list, but I will be coming out with a best of 2009 list in a couple of months so no worries.  Before this album I had been a nominal Animal Collective fan more than an actual fan, but that changed with MPP.  Everything from the melodies to the rhythms to the layers of sound on the album sounds terrific.  Unfortunately none of that transferred over very well to their performance at the Gorge, but I think it would be a different story in a smaller, enclosed venue.  

11. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco 9.0 (8.9+0.1): It is unfortunate when you get turned on to a band by an ex-girlfriend, because then for a while after you are reminded of them every time that you listen.  That phase is over for me now so I can listen to Wilco unfettered and it actually probably adds to my overall appreciation of the album now.  

10. The Power Out by Electrelane 9.0 (8.5+0.5): My first year at Sasquatch!, during Electrelane’s performance  I had a special brownie-fueled dance freak-out that I did not know my body was capable of.  When I got home from the trip I bought a couple of Electrelane CDs and while I couldn’t remember the music from the concert whatsoever, I had plenty of personal dance-off-with-my-pants-off kinds of moments listening with my headphones.  Unfortunately for that particular Sasquatch! trip, I ate a second brownie, passed out in a porta-potty for a while, and then proceeded to sleep in the food court through The Arcade Fire.  Otherwise I might have had a few more memorable music moments like Electrelane from the trip.

9. Give Up by The Postal Service 9.0 (8.7+0.3): The only album that I have continued to be a fan of through high school, college, and still today.  I’m not as big a fan as I once was, but it is still a great album to put on as background music for many occasions.

8. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver 9.0 (8.9+0.1): There is a very limited amount of music that I can’t listen to while reading and not be distracted, most of it being classical Vivaldi, Philip Glass, Mozart, etc.  Bon Iver’s music is one modern exception, the music is so peaceful and relaxing that it tends to enhance my reading.  Unfortunately, while 37 minutes long, the album always feels like it ends when I just started playing it.

7. In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy 9.1 (8.9+0.2): I am a sucker for transitions between songs and In Ghost Colours has some of the best.  Cut Copy sounds like a newer version of some older bands (especially New Order) that I was too young to ever be a fan of before, so Cut Copy has served as a musical gateway for me into bands like New Order and Joy Division.  Plus the Cut Copy concert was a blast so it deserves a spot high up on this list.

6. Writer’s Block by Peter, Bjorn, and John 9.1 (8.9+0.2): Just about every song on this album is terrific, and I think that it has some of the best bonus tracks (“Ancient Curse”, “Self Pity”, “Sitar Folks”) from any album of the decade.  This is one album where no song has remained my #1 for very long.  “Objects of My Affection”, “Young Folks”, “Up Against the Wall”, “Chills”, and “Let’s Call It Off” have all been my favorite song from the album at one point or another.

5. Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes 9.1 (9.0+0.1): My top album of 2008 and still sounding terrific today.  I still need to find some way to commission these guys for my personal meadow concert.

4. Person Pitch by Panda Bear 9.2 (9.1+0.1): Sounding better than any Animal Collective album in my opinion is Panda Bear’s solo album Person Pitch.  Just seven tracks long, but anchored by two vast twelve minute tracks “Bros.” and my favorite “Good Girl/Carrots” which sounds more like three songs in one.  In the same vein as the Bon Iver album, this is a lovely and relaxing album that makes me think of beach parties, sunshine, and good times.

3. The Moon and Antarctica by Modest Mouse 9.3: The grand opus from Modest Mouse’s catalog and one which they are never likely to surpass based upon their musical style since.  This album comes from a time when Isaac Brock’s lyrical writing was at its best and before his sounded so Tom Waits-like harsh on most tracks.  The flow and tone of the album really make it feel like a singular work of art, as if nothing could be added or taken away which wouldn’t diminish the whole.  

2. Alive 2007 by Daft Punk 9.4 (8.8+0.6): As I went into great detail on in my Top Songs of the Decade list, the concert that this album comes from was really fucking awesome.  While the lights and sounds that made this night so memorable were definitely enhanced by special brownies at the time, my memories of them today are even more remarkable and vivid.  Looking back at my Daft Punk concert experience in July 2007, I see it as a transformative moment in my life.  At the beginning of that day I was a recent college grad but still in college student mode, but after this concert I had entered into the phase of “real world adult” and with it began my current phase of musical appreciation.  

1. Sound of Silver by LCD Soundsystem 9.4: Well, here we are at my #1 album of the entire decade.  I have never been to an LCD Soundsystem concert.  I don’t have any fond high school or college memories of them (other than Mark used to play “Daft Punk is Playing at My House”, but that is off an earlier album).  I simply think that this is the best made and especially best produced album of the decade.  James Murphy (singer on LCD Soundsystem songs) and the rest of the DFA production team are truly the producers of the decade in my opinion.  A number of my top songs from the decade are made truly great by DFA’s work (“House of Jealous Lovers”, “Over and Over”, “Ready for the Floor”, “Blind”, and my favorite from Sound of Silver “All My Friends”).  Nowhere is this more prevalent than on LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver.  Murphy manages to transform his average everyday musings and ramblings into an amazing mixture of dance and rock music.  Every song on the album feels like a classic to me now.   I have even gotten over my dislike of how Murphy sounds like he has a cold on “North American Scum” and the goofy lyric “We can’t have parties like in Spain where they go all night…Or like Berlin where they go another night, ALRIGHT!”  There is such a diversity of styles on Sound of Silver that there is something that everyone could like, although for all its diversity the album feels like a single album at the same time.  I could keep rambling about various things that I like about Sound of Silver or you could just go listen to it.  Murphy makes rambling sound so much better than I do.

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Top 20 Songs of the Decade-2000s!

October 5, 2009

Over the past few months I have slowly been performing the difficult task of compiling my lists of my favorite songs and albums for the entire decade.  The year 2000 found me just a couple of months into my freshman year of high school, and then the decade spanned the length of the rest of my high school and college years, as well as these past couple of years as a post-college “adult”.  Over that time my taste in music has changed almost as much as I have as a whole, going from listening to bands like Korn, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit to the vast array that I am a fan of these days (a list that no longer includes Korn, I am proud to say).  So of the thousands of songs that I have enjoyed this decade, how does one choose the top 20?  There are a number of factors to consider about a song: newer songs have a feeling of freshness and are less likely to be ruined by radio overplay, whereas older songs offer familiarity and a sense of nostalgia.  Many songs for me are the ultimate zeitgeist, vividly recalling memories of dorm-life in college or my wacky high school phases.  Other songs feel timeless, as if I have always loved them and always will.  Some songs are special to me because they changed the way I thought about music or even life in general, whereas a large number from my top 20 list are included just because they make me want to fucking DANCE!  There may be some worthy songs that I have forgotten about over the course of ten years, and there are plenty of worthy songs that I am aware I have left off my list, but this is to the best of my knowledge my top 20 (actually kind of 25) songs of the 2000s.

Just missed the top 20:

Hustler-Simian Mobile Disco: I have heard a lot of remixes and various cuts of this songs, but my favorite is just the original off of “Attack Decay Sustain Release”.  A good dancey song and one of my favorite push-the-pace running songs.

Stronger-Kanye West: Not my favorite Kanye song, but he rode Daft Punk very mainstream which I enjoyed.

Boy From School (version from Live at KEXP vol. 3)-Hot Chip: I really love this song, but Hot Chip is already well represented up ahead, so there was no room in the top 20.

Hard to Concentrate-Red Hot Chili Peppers: Kind of a cheesy love song, but I have always really enjoyed it.  I feel like there is so much emotion behind Anthony Kiedis’ voice in this one.

The Past is a Grotesque Animal-Of Montreal: A full-blown emotional purge with an infectious background rhythm and UFO-like synths near the end.  It always feels so much shorter than 12 minutes.

20. Goin’ Against Your Mind-Built to Spill: This was probably my primary party anthem of summer 2006.  My two fondest memories of this song (1)Listening to this song with Mark and Nate while trying to pack up our stuff before going in to a Gorge concert, but being too drunk and excited and riled up by the music so we keep falling down and running into one another, and (2) Going with Nate out to Woodenville or someplace to hang out with some girls, but I had to leave early, so I tried to drive out of the apartment complex but got really lost in the parking lot and spend the entire 8:41 length of this song trying to escape the parking lot. (you would have to be there to understand, it was a very complicated apartment complex)  My main reason for putting this song #20 is because when I listen to this list later in descending order, I really want the drums at the start of this song to kick it off.

19. Float On-Modest Mouse: Not my favorite Modest Mouse song, hell, probably not one of my top 10 favorite Modest Mouse songs, but it is the song that made me a fan of the band so I need to give it some props.

18. The Funeral-Band of Horses: First time I ever heard this song was the same Gorge trip I mentioned at #20, Mark timed his playing of it so that the guitars kicked in right as we were getting on the freeway and it sounded pretty awesome and I think gave us good luck the rest of the trip.  Then on the way back he managed to time that same part so that the guitars kicked in just as a sunny Seattle came into view and we were heading on to the floating (520? 405? I never drive…) bridge.  We tried to recreate similar moments later on with this song, but they always ended in failure, but I think two epically memorable moments with one song is pretty darn good.

17. Hips Don’t Lie-Shakira (ft. Wyclef Jean): Because Enrique’s Bailamos narrowly misses out on the window of this countdown, I had to put something on the list with that latin dance flavor.  This song always gets me pumped up for partying.

16. House of Jealous Lovers-The Rapture: I love the cowbell!  Probably my favorite cowbell song of all-time.  

15. Lose Yourself-Eminem: Whether for a school presentation, a race, or even just an average day: the greatest “pump-up/time to get serious” song ever in my opinion.

14. Fireworks-Animal Collective: I think Mayme summed up pretty well why I really enjoy this song: it just makes me think of hanging around a campfire with a group of friends on a warm summer night.

13. Ms. Jackson-Outkast: I forgot about this song for a long time, but I love it.  I liked the music video with that singing owl, I love singing along to it, and it contains one my most memorable hip-hop lyrics, “You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather…”

12. I Will Follow You Into the Dark-Death Cab For Cutie: The first time I ever heard this song was at a wedding and the couple chose this song as their “first dance” or whatever it is called.  I was very touched by the song and that moment, then they followed up that song with Johnny Cash’s cover of the the Beatles “In My Life”.  It all wraps up together as just one big beautiful night in my mind and so this song has always had a special place in my hard even though it sounds kind of cheesy now.

11. 12:51-The Strokes: I really love this song!  I think I like it more today than I ever did in the past.  It completely reminds me of my freshman year of college, which remains probably the most wild and fun year of my life, especially the line “We could go and get 40s, fuck going to that party”.  I love the handclaps, the early nintendo-esque background rhythm, and just the feeling of youth that comes with this song.

10. Ready for the Floor-Hot Chip: My #1 tune of 2008, and still rocking me steady in 2009.

9. Over and Over-Hot Chip: There is so much going on this song, from the wind-chimes at the beginning, to the non-Sesame Street-approved counting throughout, and the angry-bee-like noise in the background.  My favorite part though is the climax after the first counting session when the angry bee goes buzzing all over the place.  I have a fond memory of Mark and I driving around the beaches of his hometown in Laguna Beach doing all sorts of crazy goon-ball dancing with the windows down when the music hit the climax.

8. Ignition (Remix)-R. Kelly: Hot Damn!  What can I say about this song?  It is ridiculous but I absolutely love it.  If I had a nickel for every time in the past 7 years I have done a group sing-a-long to this song I would have at least…oh…maybe $1.40?

7. While You Were Sleeping-Elvis Perkins: One of my favorite songs I have ever seen performed live.  Elvis Perkins was opening for My Morning Jacket and they started off the set with this song.  Elvis started out on stage alone singing and playing his guitar surrounded by a variety of other instruments, and then about every minute a different member of the band would come on stage and start playing drums, bass, trombone, piano, etc.  It was pretty awesome and flowed very well.  This song also has some of my favorite lyrics ever.  

6. B.O.B.-Outkast: I have never been very good about learning song lyrics, but in high school there are three songs that I went to painstaking lengths to make sure that knew every single word: Colors of the Wind (from Pocohontas), Under the Sea (from the Little Mermaid) and B.O.B.  Let’s see how well I still remember it…”1,2,1,2,3 YEAH!  In-slum-national, underground, thunder pounds when I stomp the ground, WHOOP, like a million elephants with silver-backed oragutans, you can’t stop the train, who wants some, don’t come un-pre-pared, but when I leave there, better be a household name, weatherman tellin’ us it ain’t gonna rain…”   Believe me, I could go all the way through but I won’t bore you.  

5. Wolf Like Me-TV on the Radio: I love how fast this song moves, it always makes me want to dance or run fast or simply live my life to its fullest.

4. All My Friends-LCD Soundsystem: This song does two big things for me, it reminds me of traveling around Europe and it reminds me, whenever I get too serious about a career, or school, or the future to simply take a little time to enjoy youth and my life now.

3. Human After All/Together/One More Time (reprise)/Music Sounds Better With You (Alive 2007 encore)-Daft Punk: Wow…I don’t think I can ever properly explain what this song means to me.  The night of this concert, and especially the climax of this song, are some of the greatest moments of my life.  Imagine a night of special-brownie influenced dancing and hi-jinks leading up to this finale.  The lights go completely out so you can’t see anything except for the occasional camera flash or cell-phone light, and the expectation of the song is building and continuing to build, “TOGETHER………TOGETHER….TOGETHER”, you know something is coming but you aren’t entirely sure what, the pressure wells up inside of you, and then the climax hits with the “BUH NUH NUH NUH BA NA NA NUH” just before “One more time”, and a bright red outline lights up the suits of the two Daft Punk guys in their pyramid with a bright red “Daft Punk” behind them, and all of your expectation an curiosity is let out at once in a single burst of pure joy.  I still don’t think you really understand what it was like, but it is the closest thing that music can ever be to terrific sex, and was very likely even better than terrific sex.

2. Idioteque-Radiohead: The song that made me a fan of Radiohead back when I thought that I hated them.  Idioteque has possibly shaped my ability to appreciate various types of music more than any other single song in history.  It opened the door for me to begin to like more types of electronic music and helped shape me into the music fan that I am today.

1. Blind-Hercules and Love Affair: Everything about this song is so perfect to me, the lyrics and the trumpets and how well Antony’s voice is suited to the disco-like sound of Hercules and Love Affair’s music.  This is my #1 go to song.  It’s my sunshine on a cloudy day.  If I just want to mope around the house alone, Blind makes me want to go out and party.  If I’m not really in the mood to be running, I can’t help but run a 6-minute mile during the length of this song.  Blind is a song that makes me live my life at the fastest speed possible.