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    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    For the record #1

    For this new feature, in which I'll pose the same question to five different bloggers, I thought it'd be interesting to kick off with a look back. With 2006's listmaking season upon us in its full frenzy, I wanted to go back even further to see which albums have resonated the most over the last seven years. Which select works have withstood the test of hundreds of listens, the temptation of thousands of other CDs? I invited some of my favorite bloggers—Jeff, Taylor, Justin, Paul and Dave—to tell me about their three favorite albums of the 2000s, yielding some pretty interesting responses. Here's what they came up with...

    Jeff from The Passion of The Weiss writes:

    Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming
    Shut Up I Am Dreaming is Spencer Krug’s symphony for the damned, a tour through a dystopian universe populated with collapsing buildings, late-night graveyard rambles, venomous snakes placed in ovens, wild beasts and fiery four horsemen visions. Pure apocalypse. Forget Wolf Parade for a second. That’s the stuff for the masses. Sunset Rubdown is high art, 10 haunting lo-fi dirges, stuffed with sinister organs, possessed piano licks and Krug’s eerie off-kilter bray that sounds perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The energy builds until the finale: the 7-minute-plus miracle of “Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings.” It’s the soundtrack for anyone coming of age in a world ringed by disappointment, regret and war. For those who weren’t convinced by Apologies to the Queen Mary, this song is the proof. Spencer Krug has Arrived.
    * MP3: "The Men Are Called Horsemen There" - Sunset Rubdown from Shut Up I Am Dreaming [Buy it]

    Aesop Rock - Labor Days
    I have a habit of making outlandish generalizations that lead to instant arguments, but when I tell some people that Aesop Rock is the finest lyricist since Bob Dylan, people tend not to argue. Instead they roll their eyes and refuse to so much as debate the point. But I’ll stand by my argument any day. At least in my mind, because Labor Days was my soundtrack to those first gray years of the decade, in a way that only Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 or Blonde on Blonde could’ve parsed the strange geometry of the 1960s. It wasn’t just me. Every one of my friends became obsessed.

    It wasn’t necessarily a rap thing. Everybody from hip-hop heads to hippies connected with Labor Days’ baroque poetry and in the way in which it expressed our fear of working at jobs that we hated for the rest of their lives. Maybe it was our melodramatic Generation X/Y neuroses. Or maybe it did feel a little like Ethan Hawke’s character in Reality Bites making a rap album. But sometimes, someone makes the right album at the right time. For me and my friends, this was it. The soundtrack to a million dorm room bong rips, trips to the corner store and treks across town to attend shows. But the irony is that as much as I liked it then, I hadn’t even worked a 9-5. Finally, graduation finally hit and with it, the foray into the cubicle world. It was only then when the whole thing really made sense.
    * MP3: "Daylight" - Aesop Rock from Labor Days [Buy it]

    The White Stripes - White Blood Cells
    I was late to the White Stripes bandwagon. For various reasons, I’d never heard the White Stripes before this album was released. But I distinctly remember seeing them for the first time on the MTV Video Music Awards of all places, wearing those red-and-white uniforms and delivering an electrifying performance of “Fell In Love With A Girl.“ Needless to say, I think it’s the best song to be played on an MTV awards show in the last decade.

    It wasn’t until I saw the Stripes deliver a brilliant set at Coachella the following spring when I finally got around to buying the album. The moment I heard it, they became my new favorite band. It’s tough to pick whether or not this is better than Elephant. They’re about equal in my mind. But if I had to choose, I’d take White Blood Cells, if for nothing else but that moment on the “Union Forever” when Jack White sneers, “I’m sorry but I’m not interested in gold mines, oil wells, shipping, or real estate/ What would I liked to have been?/Everything you hate.” For me, it might be the top lyric of the decade.
    * MP3: "Fell In Love With A Girl" - The White Stripes from White Blood Cells [Buy it]

    Taylor from Music For Kids Who Can't Read Good writes:

    I picked Illinois, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and Black Out because they not only provided with months of musical listening pleasure but they shaped the way I listen to music and live my life.

    The Good Life - Black Out
    The Good Life's Black Out was recommended to me by a friend as the best album ever, which is a hard claim to live up to but one that it did live up to. The album opened doors in my mind that I didn't know I had, probably because it was more experimental than anything I was listening to at the time. I couldn't get over the amazing flow and balance of the album, but also the themes and emotion of it. Listen to the one-two punch of "Don't Make Love So Hard" and then "Off The Beaten Path" and try to think of a more emotional and grand musical experience. Black Out should be considered a classic but it's been overlooked for years. This album was a bridge for me getting into many different styles of music.
    * MP3: "Off The Beaten Path" - The Good Life from Black Out [Buy it]

    Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
    The next album is one that isn't overlooked at all; in fact, pretty much everyone in the world loves it, and yet it still seems that it's one of the most personal and intimate albums that I've ever heard. I remember the first time listening to it. I was a counselor at a summer camp and I put the album on with headphones and put the covers over my head. From the opening piano notes of "Concerning the UFO Sighting...," I had chills running up and down me and when "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." came on, I actually began to get dizzy because the experience moved me in such a way. I laughed at the rhyming scheme in "Decatur...," I cried at "Casmir Pulaski Day," and I rocked out to "The Man of Metropolis..." Then I got to "The Predatory Wasp..." and was completely awestruck. Could an album possibly get any better? At that moment, I thought no, and a part of me still agrees with that sentiment.
    * MP3: "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." - Sufjan Stevens from Illinois [Buy it]

    Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    Yankee Hotel Foxtrot I got into a lot later than I should have and I regret that deeply because it's a fantastic album. I'm picking it because I consider it one of the true classics of the 2000s and among the most classic albums of all time, certainly in the indie genre. I love the warm overtones, ringing guitars (heard especially in "Ashes of American Flags") and the beautiful pop melodies that are heard throughout the album. Personally, the album opened the door to alt-country for me, which is a genre that I now fully enjoy. I still can't believe that Wilco's label didn't see anything in this album, one of the greatest blunders in music history.
    * MP3: "Ashes of American Flags" - Wilco from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Buy it]

    Justin from An Aquarium Drunkard writes:

    Off the top of my head, here are my favorite albums of the '00s thus far:

    Whiskeytown - Pneumonia
    Recorded in the late '90s and shelved until 2001, this final Whiskeytown album works as both the final testament to the band as well as a sign of things to come from bandleader Ryan Adams. While retaining the alt-countryish leanings of the first two LPs, Pneumonia branches out into Adams' love of both orchestrated dream pop and pop-rock. Quite possibly my favorite of Adams' albums as a whole.
    * MP3: "Sit And Listen To The Rain" - Whiskeytown from Pneumonia [Buy it]

    Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
    While the making of the LP, the ongoing label issues/disputes, and personnel shakeups are now the stuff of legend, at its core, YHF is the sound of Wilco at the peak of their creative powers. None of the surrounding hype was unwarranted as it's clearly one of the finest albums of the '00s.

    * MP3: "War On War" - Wilco from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Buy it]

    The National - Alligator
    An album I do not tire of. Alligator, while not flashy, exudes a quiet confidence and sophistication that leave me wanting more every time the album comes to a close.
    * MP3: "Secret Meeting" (Live) - The National from Black Sessions, 4-29-05 [Buy Alligator]

    Paul from The Yellow Stereo writes:

    This was probably one of the most thought-wrenching lists I have ever had to come up with. I pretty much based it on what albums that I still listen to right now. Almost everything I thought of happened to come out in 2003 for me. It was a banner year for album releases, and it's what really opened to my eyes to the discovery of such wonderful and unique bands. I was still listening to mostly Britpop in previous years, but 2003 marked a change for me into what I look for and listen to now.

    Rufus Wainwright - Want One/Want Two
    As these two were originally conceived as a double album but released in the end as two separate albums, I just feel that these are still one album. (I think a U.K. edition came out that combines the two.) Anyways, this has to be without a doubt, one of the greatest albums of the decade so far. You can just see how much more mature Rufus has become as opposed to his first two releases and further proof of his status as one of our greatest living singer/songwriters right now. Want One is probably the most accessible of the two as it has so many great tracks on it as it's just beautiful, captivating and grandiose. Want Two is probably the least accessible out of all his albums but is in my opinion, one of his most personal. It's more focused and more appealing on a scale of a wider variety. It's also much appreciated because of the tribute track "Memphis Skyline" to Jeff Buckley (one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters). Want One/Want Two are truly amazing pieces of work.
    * MP3: "Pretty Things" - Rufus Wainwright from Want One [Buy it]

    Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People
    For most of 2003, I ignored this album for reasons that I don't even remember. When I finally bought it after hearing "Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" some place, I realized that I had probably made the biggest purchasing blunder at the time with waiting so long. It was the beginning (along with The New Pornographers) of the discovery of the indie super-group for me. It introduced me to so many new and unique artists/bands who I still enjoy to this day. I used to have a big beef with it though as I used to think the second half greatly lagged behind the first. There was just such an abundance of truly inspired material here that over the years, I pretty much forgave it. It's an essential album that you can't go wrong with, as its music ranges from power-pop, ballads, rock anthems, the whole shebang.

    * MP3: "Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl" - Broken Social Scene from You Forgot It In People [Buy it]

    The Postal Service - Give Up
    This was an album that didn't disappoint at all. It was a shot in the arm, and brought something new and unique to the table while still being accessible and just downright fun to listen to. I still consider "Such Great Heights" one of my favorite pop songs of all time, and I still listen to the album every once in a while. Usually with something like this, continuous play would make it become stale but I think it's aged quite well. The only problem I had with this album was not enough Jenny Lewis, but that's such a small gripe for something just bursting with great melodies and beats.
    * MP3: "Such Great Heights" - The Postal Service from Give Up [Buy it]

    Dave from The Rawking Refuses To Stop! writes:
    I'm a guy who likes lists—and being organized to the point of anal-retentiveness. So when Charlie asked me to pick out a few of my favorites from the decade so far, the answers were easy: Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out (my absolute favorite), Jim O'Rourke's Insignificance and the Softies' final album, Holiday in Rhode Island. All of these are slow, quiet and sad, three qualities which describe the bulk of my record collection. Well, of the sad bastard music, this stuff is easily the saddest and most bastard-y.

    Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
    The Yo La Tengo album, in particular, is crushingly depressing because of its very gentleness. Unlike, say, the ragged soul-baring of an Elliott Smith, when Ira and Georgia whisper to each other across the tracks, they sound detached and nostalgic. The distant quality is echoed by the music, making songs like "Tears Are in Your Eyes" both breezy and impossibly heavy.
    * MP3: "Our Way To Fall" - Yo La Tengo from And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out [Buy it]

    Jim O'Rourke - Insignificance
    As a Wilco fan, it's hard not to like O'Rourke. Insignificance features studio work from Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche, whose drumming fills in every gap in this record effortlessly. But the real marvel is Jim's songs, bitter relationship ballads that squeeze out every drop of sarcasm and wit in the service of staving off loneliness. The production, of course, is immaculate. O'Rourke's pure pop material is scarce, and so far, none of it's as good as this, making Insignificance quite important after all.
    * MP3: "Therefore I Am" - Jim O'Rourke from Insignificance [Buy it]

    The Softies - Holiday In Rhode Island
    As for the Softies - I've probably listened to Holiday in Rhode Island hundreds of times and it keeps getting better. It's easily my favorite Softies record, as downcast and melodic as shy indie-pop gets. Every time I think I've picked out a favorite song, I have to change my mind, but right now it's "Me and the Bees" that gets me.
    * MP3: "Favorite Shade of Blue" - The Softies from Holiday In Rhode Island [Buy it]

    And finally here are my picks:

    The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free
    Every time I listen to this album, I feel like I should get another stamp on my passport. From Mike Skinner’s nasal cockney inflections to his distinctly Anglo argot (“oy!,” “shrapnel,” “gaff”), it exudes the young British experience like nothing else. I loved the freshness of Original Pirate Material when it came out, but its successor managed to exceed the debut in every way, digging even further into the core of this average Birmingham boy. Skinner reveals so much in his quotidian details, turning a trip to the ATM into an existential crisis and girl-watching into a referendum on romance. For the sake of his storytelling, he forwent the easy path of producing obvious singles to create something smarter and grander. And while some people still quibble with the Streets' talky bastardization of rap, that's much of the appeal for me. Whether or not you consider the Streets rap, it’s clear that Skinner has refrac ted the form so far that he’s practically become a genre unto himself. Instead of talking about pushing things forward, he went out and made it happen.
    * MP3: "Blinded By The Lights" - The Streets from A Grand Don't Come For Free [Buy it]

    Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights
    I couldn’t fathom it in 2002, and it’s still kind of puzzling me now. How could an album be this cool? This Warhol-banana-Daydream-Nation-early-Clash cool? From the swaying basslines to Paul Banks’ darkly rich baritone, Turn On The Bright Lights hooked me from first listen. It became synonymous with New York for me almost upon contact the way I’m sure previous Gotham generations adopted Lou Reed or Joey Ramone. Just like New York, here was an album that had a clear lineage but felt excitingly current, that was always simultaneously mysterious and inviting, that shared enough to reel you in but never lost its aura of secrecy. I’ve listened to Turn On The Bright Lights on almost every street in downtown Manhattan and it only gets better and fuller. And though I’ve moved on from so many other bands that broke in the early ‘00s, Interpol is a masterful cryptogram that I’m still trying to solve.
    * MP3: "Leif Erikson" - Interpol from Turn On The Bright Lights [Buy it]

    El-P - Fantastic Damage
    Without a doubt, this has to be my favorite album of the decade so far. From its first discordant note, it attacks with a violence and a hunger that are absolutely unstoppable. El-P raps like the world is coming to an end; his flawless apocalyptic beats do nothing to dispel that theory. The flows are so potently dense, it took me years to decipher all of the targets in his crosshairs. And beyond the album’s inherent greatness, I can’t think of another musical work that so encapsulates the terrors of post-millennial America: mechanization, militarism, governmental intrusion, ultraviolence, crass commercialization, cities on fire. It’s all here, rendered in rhymes that will move your neck and blow your mind. Equal parts Philip K. Dick and Public Enemy, Fantastic Damage is the aural equivalent of a bullet to the brain, the wailing siren warning you to get your ass in a bomb shelter and start praying. Because the brave new world is here and it sounds fucking amazing.
    * MP3: "Dead Disnee" - El-P from Fantastic Damage [Buy it]

    Comments on "For the record #1"


    Blogger Taylor said ... (1:07 PM) : 

    Great job. Thanks for including me in your list.


    Blogger Grand Epic said ... (5:09 PM) : 

    For me:

    Radiohead - Kid A
    Neko Case - Blacklisted
    dEUS - Pocket Revolution
    Shearwater - Palo Santo


    Anonymous Clare said ... (5:21 PM) : 

    Loved your choices. I'll always love and listen to both those albums. I'm always amazed at how even now when I listen to TOTBL I hear something new. And some may have tired of Mike Skinner's style but as I sit here listening to 'Blinded...' still brings that intense imagery.


    Blogger Charlie said ... (5:50 PM) : 

    Shearwater for best of decade? It just recently fell off my upcoming top 30 of 2006. I love the first half (especially "Red Sea, Black Sea") but it slows down and softens too much for me by the end. I'm gonna go listen to it again.


    Blogger Paul said ... (11:46 PM) : 

    excellent post Charlie. i am honored to be a part of this! Looking forward to future collaborations. :)


    Blogger Passion of the Weiss said ... (2:45 PM) : 

    Nice work man...I think your picks could've just as easily been mime...if I had to fill out a top 10 there's a good shot El-P, Interpol and Streets would've made it. I liked the writing too, especially the Fantastic Damage blurb.


    Blogger DW said ... (8:46 PM) : 

    Wow! Yeah... The Postal Serive and Broken Social Scene would be in there for mee, too!


    Blogger Charlie said ... (9:04 PM) : 

    Jeff, what are you doing reading the writing on an MP3 blog? Don't you know you're supposed to grab the music and run!?


    Blogger Rachel said ... (1:19 AM) : 

    This is a fantastic post...Damn Charlie great work, and thanks goes to Jeff, Taylor, Dave, Paul and Justin for their awesome input.


    Anonymous Anonymous said ... (3:36 PM) : 

    Favourite 3 for me:

    1.Arcade Fire - "Funeral".
    2.Bjork - "Vespertine".
    3.Antony & the Johnsons - "I am a Bird now"


    Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:22 PM) : 

    1. Radiohead-Kid A
    2. TV on the Radio-Return to Cookie Mountain
    3. RHCP-Stadium Arcadium
    4. White Stripes-Get Behind me Satan
    5. N.E.R.D.-In Search Of...


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