Thursday, December 31, 2009

The best albums of the decade

What a fascinating decade. To say the least.

I got caught up in all the end-of-the-decade-best-of mania and decided to try to compile my own list of albums I've loved over the last ten years. Some were critically loved, others may very well have only been loved by me. I started to write why I chose them and what they each meant to me (and may still) but compiling them proved to be difficult enough. And rather than rank them I simply put them in rough chronological order. Enjoy.

And Happy New Year!

The List:

Ryan Adams "Heartbreaker" (2000)

Radiohead "Kid A" (2000)

Gorillaz "Gorillaz" (2001)

Ryan Adams "Gold" (2001)

The Strokes "Is this it?" (2001)

Sigur Ros "Agaetis Byrjun" (2001)

Wilco "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (2001)

Spoon "Girls Can Tell" (2001)

Interpol "Turn on the Bright Lights" (2002)

Coldplay "A Rush of Blood to the Head" (2002)

Spoon "Kill the Moonlight" (2002)

The Decemberists "Castaways and Cutouts" (2003)

The Shins "Chutes too Narrow" (2003)

The Postal Service "Give Up" (2003)

Ryan Adams "Love is Hell 1 & 2" (2004)

Modest Mouse "The Moon and Antarctica" (2004)

The Killers "Hot Fuss" (2004)

Arcade Fire "Funeral" (2004)*

Green Day "American Idiot" (2004)

Modest Mouse "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" (2004)

Kings of Leon "Aha Shake Heartbreak" (2005)

Death Cab for Cutie "Plans" (2005)

Amy Winehouse "Back to Black" (2006)

Arctic Monkeys "Whatever people say I am I am not" (2006)

Arcade Fire "Neon Bible" (2007)

Spoon "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" (2007)

Daft Punk "Alive 2007" (2007)

Band of Horses "Cease to Begin" (2007)

MGMT "Oracular Spectacular" (2008)

The Walkmen "You & Me" (2008)

The Raveonettes "Lust Lust Lust" (2008)

David Byrne and Brian Eno "Everything that happens will happen today" (2008)

The XX "XX" (2009)

Animal Collective "Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

Camera Obscura "My Maudlin Career" (2009)

[Bonus Round w/ 2010]

LCD Soundsystem-  "This is Happening" (2010)

Kanye West "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" (2010)

 Arcade Fire "The Suburbs" (2010)

* My pick for album of the decade, in case you were curious.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Top Albums of 2009

I don't think anyone outside of Goldman Sachs would argue that 2009 was about as crap as they come. Crashes, layoffs, a prez that misplaced his balls—it can only go up from here. Bad as it was, there was some pretty good music to get us through it. These were the ten albums I dug the most. Some of them topped other lists, others only topped mine. Given the chance, I feel like they could top yours too. Enjoy!

1. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Up from Below"
The flower children rediscover guitars and songs. It's been years since I've heard a band play such good tunes with such abandon. They sound like they climbed down from the Hollywood Hills with some songs and instruments they found out in the desert. They're what the Arcade Fire would sound like if they were from LA. They're what the Polyphonic Spree would sound like if they thinned their herd a bit. They're what the Brian Jonestown Massacre would sound like if they tried harder. The fact that they might end up killing someone just makes them that much more exciting. "She got jumper cable lips/She got sunset on her breath/I inhaled just a little bit/Now I got no fear of death." "40 Day Dream", "Up from Below", "Home", "Desert Song"—these guys are for real. I'm shocked this album didn't end up on more year-end lists, honestly. 'Cause they's at the top o' mine!

2. Grizzly Bear "Veckatimest"
The east coast answer to the Fleet Foxes. Gorgeous, meticulous production and incredible harmonies. For all the hype that comes out of Brooklyn it's crazy encouraging to hear a band that actually lives up to it. Bonus points for a mid-year Michael McDonald cover of "While you wait for the others" that was almost better than their own.

3. M. Ward "Hold Time"
An appropriate title for an album that could have come out any time in the last 40 years and been just as good. A killer voice, incredible songs and production that's so analog you can practically hear the dust coming off his equipment.

4. Animal Collective "Merriweather Post Pavilion"
Like a seven layer dip of delicious, delicious tunes. Vocals on top of overdubbed vocals, keys, beats, loops, chimes, bleeps, bloops, stuff clanging together—you name it. It worked. By summer it had become my soundtrack. And it's still going strong.

5. Camera Obscura "My Maudlin Career"
Gone were the frumpy grandma clothes and sad-sack lyrics of their prior albums. Not sure if they just grew up or finally got to that place where they're happy in their own skin. Or maybe they started spending time somewhere besides dreary Scotland. Whatever it was, something happened. By the time you get to the eighth track and Tracyanne begins repeating "this maudlin career has come to an end/I don't wanna be sad again" you can't help but believe her.

6. Monsters of Folk "Monsters of Folk"
So three overly talented dudes get together for a "super group" album. As good as Jim James, M. Ward and Conor Oberst are, we've been down this road before. Only this time the road led to headphone gold. The formula seemed to be "take three guys who with their bands have turned out some of the best albums of the decade and let them make one together." Well, color me still listening like a motherfucker.

7. The Raveonettes "In and Out of Love"
My friend Josh said he never got into the Raveonettes since their songs all sound alike. I suppose there's some truth to that but I think that's why I like 'em. They simultaneously sound like motorcycles and subways, switchblades and super 8's, alleyways and open highways. A guitar, a bass, a snare and a tom. That's it. That's the recipe for everything they make. And it all sounds alternately like a fistfight or a joyride.

8. Matt & Kim "Grand"
I feel like this album came and went kind of quick with the hipster set. But to me it sounded like some lost gem from the 80's. All tinkly keyboards, overly energetic faux-british vocals and New York imagery. In many ways it seemed to sound like 2009.

9. U2 "No line on the Horizon"
I've loved U2 since I could hear. Granted, I came of age during the glory of their 80's rein. So I was bound to be disappointed eventually. But I still saw the genius in "Achtung Baby" (just listen to Edge's solo on "The Fly) and gave "Zooropa" and "Pop" a chance. Then again, the 90's were a weird time for all of us. But in 2001, they seemed to rediscover their mojo. I don't know that this one supplants "All that you can't leave behind" as their best-of-the-decade but (if you skip "Get on your Boots" and "Stand-up Comedy") it's a solid outing with some of their best playing in years. The Edge apparently took Chuck Berry's whole "playing a guitar just like he's ringin' a bell" thing seriously.

10. Tie: Passion Pit "Manners" and Phoenix "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix"
These spent a fair amount of time on heavy rotation in my house this past summer. Then you couldn't go anywhere or watch TV without hearing them. That's the reason they're both not ranked higher. Or alone. Still solid though.

Here's to 2010 and new LP's from Spoon, Vampire Weekend, Beach House, Shout Out Louds, and a possible new Arcade Fire.

Merry Christmas. And God bless us everyone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Ad Awards

Best Christmas ads of the season? These.

Just well done, all the way through.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

You can still change your mind

Dear President Obama,

In a couple of hours you're gonna attach your presidency to a war started by a dipshit who had no plan to get out of it. Oh, I understand that apparently YOU've got a plan to "win it" and get out of it. But then again, I'm sure the Russians and the British all had plans to "win" and get out too. You know how those turned out.

So don't do it.

You yourself said you don't oppose all wars, just the dumb ones. That's why I voted for you. That's why record numbers of us voted for you. Now you're getting ready to do something that literally is making Karl Rove jump for joy. That right there has gotta tell you it's the wrong thing to do.

You've already pissed away any meaningful healthcare reform and sold us out to Wall Street. Can we at least get this right?

Half the country is gonna hate you no matter what you do (after all you're black, you weren't born in this country, you're a socialist/marxist/communist/fascist, you're trying to kill our grandmas, you're gonna take our guns, and you're from a big city).

The trouble is, by escalating this war, the other half is gonna start to hate you too. Think it over. You've still got an hour to do what you know is right.

And end it.