The Best of the ’00s Part 8: #30-21

Almost there!

30 Die Fantastischen Vier – Fornika (2007) (left) – Yes, I did include a German hip-hop album on the list … and in the top 30 no less. And sure I maybe understand 4 words in the whole album, but Die Fantastischen Vier (the Fantastic Four) might have stumbled into the best “aging hip hop stars” album this side of The Black Album.

29 The Rapture – Echoes (2003) – Funny how a little DFA magic can take a good band and turn them into a great band. The opening half of the album is as epic as they come.

28 Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlanticism (2003) – And on the flipside, the opening three tracks of Transatlanticism might be some of the bleakest of the decade. I really wasn’t an obsessive Death Cab fan like many of the rest of my friends, but it gnawed at me for months – all it needed was a good breakup to take over.

27 Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever to Tell (2003) – There were an awful lot of “hype bands” over the decade – thank you NME – and lots didn’t come close to living up to it. However, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs might be one of the biggest exceptions. Any attempt to compile the best songs of the decade necessitates having “Maps” near the very top.

26 The Strokes – Is This It? (2001) – It is hard to remember now, but when Is This It? came out back in 2001, it was stunning. Music had become so bloated and pretentious that this album sounded like a game-changer (and it more or less was). You could almost believe that the album was recorded in a few days – a perfect pop record for a music scene in need of one.

25 LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem (2005) (right) – It was only the beginning – and between James Murphy and Kanye West, Daft Punk has become more popular than ever.

24 TV on the Radio – Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (2004) – Right about now, many people are wondering how this list made it so far without any TV on the Radio. It is not that I don’t like the other TV on the Radio albums – I do – but they never really stuck with me like Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes did. Is it unfair to compare about the ouvre of the band? Yes. Does it happen anyway? Sure.

23 Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone (2004) – It is a little hard to come up with words for this short-lived band and this album: a fantastical indie rock epic into the land of wind and ghosts? That might be close enough.

22 Radiohead – Kid A (2000) – A lot of people didn’t like it when Radiohead decided to ditch the guitars for a while and become a synth/goth band, but I wasn’t one of them. Kid A is the most twisted album in the Radiohead lexicon, and that says something.

21 Islands – Return to the Sea (2006) (left) – After the Unicorns came the Islands, and Return to the Sea was so devilishly entertaining (and catchy) that you’d wish that they’d bothered to not get lost ever since. That and Islands introduced me to Busdriver.

Here is your iMix for #30-21.

And a recap: And if you missed them, here are #100-9190-8180-7170-6160-5150-41, 30-41.

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The Best of the ’00s Part 2: #90-81

Well, I meant to post 90-81 earlier this week, but hey, I was busy … but here it is now. Enjoy!

90 The Anniversary – Your Majesty (2001) – In the same group as Papas Fritas, the Anniversary’s followup to Designing a Nervous Breakdown was much more in the 70s power pop spectrum than the post-punk emo of their debut. It also happened to be their swansong, but for half of 2001, it was all I listened to.

89 Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (2008) – Much like my best of 2008 list, I feel a little ambivalence towards putting something like Girl Talk on a list of best albums – it is more of a collage of sound that anything. However, that is postmodernism for you, where patische is just as legitimate as anything – and boy, Girl Talk is a blast.

88 Andrew WK – I Get Wet (2002) – Speaking of album that are merely fun, Andrew WK exists in that netherworld where it is hard to tell if its the album or the concept you like. There isn’t really anything that serious on I Get Wet but the amount of energy released by Andrew WK during the course of the album is enough to grab and keep your attention.

87 Beck – Sea Change (2002) – On the flipside, Sea Change was about as subtle an album that Beck has ever recorded – almost like Beck-meets-Nick Drake in its balladry. You might be concerned that such of metamorphosis might not work out, but somehow Beck’s voice works out beautiful in the stripped-down setting.

86 Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008) – Sure, they’re another hype band, but kind of like Jens Lekman’s Paul Simon revival, Vampire Weekend borrowed heavily from that Graceland sound – and it ended up working out just fine. The band lived up to a lot of the hype.

85 Jose Gonzalez – Veneer (2005) – You have to love the scandatino, part-Argentine, part-Swedish, Jose Gonzalez channeled his inner Nick Drake to record a heartbreaking set of guitar ballads. Of course, the high points were his genius covers of the Knife’s “Heartbeats” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (and a little less impressive cover of Kylie).

84 The Walkmen – You & Me (2008) – Sure, it didn’t have a standout like “The Rat” (see #99), but the overall experience of You & Me was much more solid – it was both accessible and interesting. It had that dusty, echoing sound that is a signature of the Walkmen (and the predecessor Jonathan Fire Eater) but didn’t get bogged down with Dylanesque meanderings.

83 Yeah Yeah Yeah – Its Blitz (2009) – Like a lot of bands, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had a lot to live up to after their debut Fever to Tell and they sounded like they were crushed by the weight with their ponderous sophomore album. Luckily, after that misfire, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were able to cut loose and have some fun. Its Blitz was more new wave than punk rock, but somehow Karen O just seems like a natural for it – sadly, few others like the album as much as I did.

82 Sigur Ros – ( ) (2002) – I got this album out of a free CD bin in my days at KBVR … I’m still at a loss why they didn’t think it was good enough for use on the station. I actually had no idea what to make of it when I popped it in my CD player (it was 2002), but the near-ambient Radiohead-on-tranquilizers sound combined with the bizarre made-up language was mesmerizing. Of course, I’m still amused when I shocked a friend of mine in 2007 when I informed him that the lead singer was, in fact, a guy.

81 M.I.A. – Arular (2005) – There is definitely something undeniably charming about a Sri Lankan female singer/rapper mixing it up with thick synth beats. Sometimes it was hard to follow M.I.A. and her rambunctious nature, but you had to admit that once you did, it was too much fun to avoid.

Here is the iTunes iMix for #90-81.

And check out #100-91 of my favorite albums of the ’00s.

Best Albums of 2009

I’ve been struggling with this for a few days – with all the work I’ve done (well, its not like its work as such, but you get the idea) on the Best Albums of the ’00s. Should I post my “Best of 2009” when its only December 2? It seems so early, but really, how much will my list change (or does it matter … probably not). I have to admit, with the move to Ohio, first-year facultying, volcano blogging, house buying and everything else, I didn’t pay as much attention to music as I have in the last few years. I suppose my boredom with music in 2008 didn’t help either.

Anyway, considering the Best of the ’00s is somewhat contingent on the albums of 2009, I might as well go ahead and post my list now. Again, bear in mind that this represents albums I (a) actually heard and (b) liked – by no means am I trying to assess the “best”(tm) music of the year. You may like my list, you may hate it. Enjoy.

Best of 2009

Honorable Mention: N.A.S.A.: Spirit of Apollo; Balky Mule: The Length of Rail; Rainbow Arabia: Kabukimono; Rakes: Klang!

20. Volcano Choir – Unmap
19. Various – Score! 20 Years of Merge Records
18. Metric – Fantasies
17. Decemberists – Hazards of Love
16. Nosaj Thing – Drift
15. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
14. Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor
13. Beirut – March of the Zapotec
12. Tiki – Past, Present, Future
11. Built to Spill – There is No Enemy

10. Morrissey – Years of Refusal If anything, Moz still knows how to make a good album cover.
9. Mos Def – The Ecstatic Mos Def’s last outing was pretty mediocre, but with the help of a lot more interesting production, The Ecstatic is up there with Black on Both Sides.
8. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm You have to love the second wind of Dino Jr. … Its almost as satisfying as the Mission of Burma comeback years.
7. Busdriver – Jhelli Beam The ups are very up and the downs are, well, down, but if you take the average, it is quite a ride.
6. Franz Ferdinand – Tonight They actually sounded like they had fun with Tonight, unlike their last album that was weighed down under the pressure of following up their gem of a debut.
5. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest You know, I couldn’t get into some of the early Grizzly Bear albums, but this one really clicked with me.
4. Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications Jarvis all rough and rowdy … good times!
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Its Blitz And on the flipside, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs go all synthpop on us … much like Franz Ferdinand, the third album far outweighs the second.
2. Passion Pit – Manners I really didn’t think I would like this album as much as I did, but sure enough its like the Pet Shop Boys for the 21st century.
1. Horrors – Primary Colours (left) OK, if I picked a band that I would have thought would be the least likely to end up on top based on their prior work, the Horrors might have been near the top. Yet, here we are. They ditched the goth/garage persona and instead decided to channel Joy Division, with the help of the likes of Chris Cunningham. It is a perfect blend of melody, darkness and depth – they might be a latter day Radiohead.