The Best of the ’00s Part 4: #70-61

Away we go …

70 Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) (left) – It has always amazed me that this band went from “She Don’t Use Jelly” to this – a prog rock epic for the 21st century. Yet, oddly, I have trouble of thinking of a lot of things to say about the album beyond the fact that I like hearing the music.

69 Hot Chip – The Warning (2006) – They started off a little more electrosynth than they have become, but no less fascinating. “And I Was a Boy from School” is a minor epic in synthpop, up there with “Blue Monday” and “It’s a Sin”.

68 Patrick Wolf – The Magic Position (2007) – If Patrick Wolf doesn’t have one of the longest careers of anyone on this list, I would be surprised. Then again, he might also never release another album, that is the way of the musical prodigies like Wolf. This album is so richly textured but it is really the utter brilliance of the the title track that has me returning to The Magic Position.

67 Various Artists – Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (2006) – Should I admit I’ve never actually watched the movie from which this soundtrack is culled? No matter, the music is what really matters, with some excellent live performances from Dead Prez, Black Star and a show-stopped by the Roots with Erykah Badu. This would put to rest any argument that hip hop artists aren’t musicians.

66 Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008) – I suppose the Fleet Foxes are sort of the logical progression from Appalachian folk rock into the realms of alternative rock. Fleet Foxes might be considered Palace Music re-envisioned in a pop music world.

65 Konono No. 1 – Congotronics Vol. 1 (2005) (right) – It is hard to ignore an album made by a bunch of musicians who made most of their instruments from scrap cars on the streets of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The music ends up emerging into an almost trancelike universe showing a sort of parallel evolution of sound.

64 Mclusky – Do Dallas (2002) – It must be fun to be a bunch of badasses like Mclusky? I mean, they have the balls to play sounds like “The World Loves Us and Is Our Bitch” or “Fuck this Band”. They were severely underappreciated during their brief, two album, existence, sort of a Welsh version of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.

63 The Black Keys – Thickfreakness (2003) – I’ve always felt a little sorry for the Black Keys. I mean, fundamentally, are they that much different than the White Stripes, musically speaking? Both borrow heavily from guitar-centric blues, both rose out of the indie rock ranks, yet only one became international superstars … and it wasn’t the Black Keys. Did the right band become famous? Maybe … maybe not.

62 Bright Eyes – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning (2005) – When Bright Eyes released their dual album I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, I was one of the few who liked the electro-pop Digital Urn better than It’s Morning but ah, tastes do change I suppose (although I still think “Easy/Lucky/Free” from Digital Urn is one of Bright Eye’s best songs and videos). I’m not sure I care for the track that Conor Oberst’s career has gone since, but I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning has staying power.

61 The Pipettes – We are the Pipettes (2006) (left) – OK, so maybe The Pipettes are one of those bands that gets a lot of credit because it was constructed of three attractive British female singers. It might have helped a lot. That being said, this sort of soul revival was a very nice welcome in the midst of a very moody decade – this is why I still love my real pop music, no matter what the hipsters try to tell us.

Here is the iTunes iMix for 70-61.

If you’ve missed the rest of the best, here are 80-71, 90-81 and 100-91.

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The Best of the ’00s Part 3: #80-71

Off we go!

80 The Breeders – Title TK (2002) (left) – I’ve forgiven Kim Deal for the bodily injury inflicted on me in 1994. I have also forgiven her for taking her time between Breeders albums. I think many people were disappointed with Title TK as it had no “Cannonball” and felt more like a home demo than an album 8 years in the making (well, it might not have been in the making for all those years).

79 Amon Tobin – Supermodified (2000) – I remember having a conversation with someone in 2000 about how electronic wasn’t just a flash in the pan but it was hear to stay. Sadly, looking back on that, it was sort of like Homer claiming that the height of rock and roll was Grand Funk Railroad. It doesn’t mean that the decade was bereft of excellent electronic, it just means that it quickly receded into the background (or hybridized effectively).

78 Passion Pit – Manners (2009) – Speaking of which, this might be a prime example of the electro-hybridization. There is a level of uncomfortableness in the album, maybe with the forced falsetto vocals or children yelling the chorus, but really, that is what made it so fascinating. Or maybe I just like music that makes me feel a little uneasy, much like …

77 Xiu Xiu – Fabulous Muscles (2004) – I give a lot of people a hard time for listening to bands that I consider, well, unlistenable because all they seem to do is f&%k around with instruments and suddenly get praised for their genius. Then I think that I might not have an appendage on which to stand because of my undying love for Xiu Xiu. Too bad, I’m going to go on living with this inconsistency.

76 The Faint – Danse Macabre (2001) – My friend Melissa, who seems to have vanished into oblivion, introduced me to the Faint in a record store somewhere in Cambridge. I probably spent a good part of the next year listening to this album.

75 New Pornographers – Mass Romantic (2001) (right) – I checked both Mass Romantic and Electric Version out from the Corvallis Public Library (nice job on the part of the music purchasers there), not really knowing what to expect beyond the fact that I had read “hey, the New Pornographers are good.” The last thing I expected was a pile of power pop that was like a lo-fi revival of the Cars (but better).

74 Hot Chip – Made in the Dark (2008) – Sometimes I think that Hot Chip will slowly climb into the top 10 of my favorite bands – sort of like a Pet Shop Boys 2.0. Made in the Dark did nothing to dispel that notion.

73 YACHT – I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real (2007) – I think this album is a fine example of what happens when a band that spent too much time dithering around on previous albums trying to be “experimental” sits down and tries to write pop songs. And yes, it works like a charm. Note to many bands: being catchy and succinct isn’t a sin.

72 Ratatat – Remixes Vol. 1 and 2 (2004/2007) – Maybe I cheated a little bit by including these unreleased (well, released briefly for free on the internet) remix albums on this list, but very few ‘mix tape’ adventures had as much of an impact on my listening habits as Ratatat’s. I eagerly await Vol. 3.

71 Tilly & the Wall – Wild Like Children (2004) (left) – I am a sucker for charming bands and Tilly & the Wall turned the charm dial up to 11. Tap dance percussion? Check. Mixed male-female vocals? Check. Songs about love? Check. They might be a little gimmicky, but you know, sometimes that AOK.

Here is your iTunes iMix for 80-71, which sadly lacks any of the Ratatat remixes and oddly, the Breeders (go figure, iTunes lacks Title TK). Thankfully you can find Ratatat’s remix of Allure on Youtube (audio only) and the Breeders’ “Huffer” (on Conan) as well.

Best of the ’00s Part 1: 100-91

Best of the ’00s Part 2: 90-81

Best Albums of 2008 – #10-1

Here is the rest of my best albums of 2008!

#10 Deerhunter: Microcastle – Another late entry in the top 20, this one landed all the way into the top 10. I, like many people, just didn’t get Cryptograms, Deerhunter’s previous album, but Microcastle is packed with pop gems – almost like Sebadoh for the 21st century.

#9 Hot Chip: Made in the Dark – The odd thing about Made in the Dark is how uneven it is. When it is great, it is great. When it is not, it is downright boring. However, the mass balance of greatness versus boredom leans heavily towards the greatness side of the equation, so Made in the Dark is at home at #9.

#8 Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend – Although this album was released all the way back in January, I found myself returning to it throughout the year. That is usually a good sign for a band and even though most of the cool kids think they are way too cool for Vampire Weekend, it is worth your while not to be.

#7 Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes – Another self-titled debut on the top 20, the Fleet Foxes are #1 on many folks’ “best of” lists. I love the harmonies, the production and the “familiar-yet-exotic” feel of the album. If anything, the Fleet Foxes will age the best of any album of the list.

#6 Girl Talk: Feed the Animals – You know, when it comes down to it, putting a Girl Talk album this high is a real testament to how weak 2008 was for music. Heck, Girl Talk is really just a ‘oos version of Jive Bunny & the Mastermixers, but its OK because Girl Talk uses graphic hip-hop rather than ’50s pop songs. That all being said, I listened to this album probably more than any other in 2008, but some of that might just have been the “music nerd” factor of identifying all the snippets.

#5 TV on the Radio: Dear Science. – This album helped revive my interest in music for the year. It might be the most straightforward and accessible TV on the Radio album thus far.

#4 Hercules & Love Affair: Hercules & Love Affair – Another debut … that might be the legacy of 2008: so many great new bands. I suppose Hercules & Love Affair isn’t totally news, but they are yet another piece of the DFA “Midas Touch” and the fact that Antony (of Antony & the Johnsons) should be a dance diva.

#3 Los Campesinos!: We are Beautiful, We are Doomed; Hold On Now, Youngster … – Los Campesinos! were by far the most prolific excellent band of the year. Two wonderful albums within the space of 12 months leaves us with more than enough sloppy pop songs to digest. I agree with the general listening public that We are Beautiful, We are Doomed is better than Hold On Now, Youngster, which means that Los Campesinos! might have skipped over the sophomore slump by recording until their fingers bled.

#2 Portishead: Third – Well worth the wait. Dark, sinister and surprisingly refreshing for the band that only took a decade to record a new disc.

and now …

#1 The Walkmen: You & Me – Surprise! You know, this one snuck up on me. When I first listened to You & Me, I knew it was much better than the last few by the Walkmen, but little did I know how much it would grow on me. How it did! The album is dark and dusty, yet not melodramatic. The production matches the mood to a tee, weaving the songs into haunting and echoing tales. Yet, it has this overarching good-feeling that is easy to miss unless you really sit down with the album. Most people likely missed this album altogether, the Walkmen, to an extent, are a post-hype band, but You & Me  shows that the band is hitting their stride head on.

 

Try it out: “In the New Year”

See #20-11

Oh yeah, music and such

I haven’t written much about music in ages. Not entirely sure why beyond the fact that it seems that 2008 has been a pretty uninspiring year for me, new music-wise. Yes, there have been a few great albums – Portishead, Fleet Foxes, Shearwater, Vampire Weekend – but nothing has really grabbed my attention and kept it. Ah well.

On that note, I will post my latest Top 10 from my iPod, for your amusement. Maybe visiting Amoeba in Berkeley this weekend will help alleviate my malaise.

  1. “Rubicon” by the Blistering Suns
  2. “Like This” by Girl Talk
  3. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” by Vampire Weekend
  4. “Holle” by K.I.Z.
  5. “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon
  6. “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
  7. “Ready for the Floor” by Hot Chip
  8. “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat” by the Silver Jews
  9. “Mumtaz Khan” by Ratatat
  10. “Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo” by Jens Lekman
And for the fun of it, a song that might make the top 10 soon … and it is in German!
“Du Much Auch” by Die Fantastischen Vier