Putting together a list of best albums is difficult enough to do for just one year, but I have always wanted to do a whole decade because it makes me reflect on albums that I still listen to today, have forgotten because they didn’t stick with me long-term or have known all along that they are my all time favorite. I spent more time determining the order of albums then I did picking which to include among the 30, agonizing which album was better than the other. It was a fun exercise and might even lead to further “best of the decade” lists so I hope you enjoy!
Jim O’Rourke – The Visitor (2009)
Billed as O’Rourke’s return to the acoustic flourishes of his early albums and a departure from his ambient noodling’s, The Visitor reminded longtime fans like myself that the man is still a great musician. Unlike the straightforward record structures of “Insignificance” and “Eureka” he decided to have only one song clocking in at just over 38 minutes and ditch the vocals. This time around you get a bevy of instruments including horns, piano, banjo, percussion and all held together with Jim’s distinct guitar playing. You can hear the Burt Bacharach influence all over the place with his melody building and emotion built-in to every nook and cranny. While I was initially resistant to this record because I wanted to hear Jim sing in his typical snarky way, this is a very rewarding listen to those willing to put in the investment.
Panda Bear – Personal Pitch (2007)
Personal Pitch is an odd duck of an album. Built brick by brick with samples and spacey vocals, the songs rely heavily on repetition. Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear separates himself from his unexciting cousin “dubstep” by infusing a light airy feeling to the music. ”Take Pills” for instance with its boggy intro turns into a beach romp complete with bonfire, acoustic guitar (via the Tornado’s sample) and people dancing their brains out. Even the slower trippy songs such as “I’m Not” have a hypnotic effect as Noah accentuates his “t’s” at the end of each would be chorus. The repetition and spacey effects also lend themselves to have a distinct sing along quality and you will find yourself with your eyes closed and your head weaving back and forth to the beat.
The Walkmen – You & Me (2008)
2008 was the year of The Walkmen. It was the year that the band started clicking for me and this album was the reason. Before “You & Me” they were a noisy, slightly off-putting mess who had moments that intrigued me but failed to capture my full attention. Then in 2008 I heard “In The New Year” with its apathetic guitar line from Paul Maroon as he hangs on each chord for a split second longer than expected and wound like a coil vocal strains from lead singer Hamilton Leithauser……..I was in for it now. I dug deeper into the record and found pummeling drums, some sincere slow songs and whole heck of a lot of musical dynamics. Take “New Country” with its undulating fast/slow guitar tempo that borders on uneasy but Hamilton’s voice injects some pure weight to keep it anchored. This was the true power of The Walkmen and each of the 14 tracks have a place and showcase a different strength from rocker to relaxer.
Hot Snakes – Suicide Invoice (2002)
Post-Punk, Post-Hardcore……..whatever you brand the Hot Snakes will be an understatement because they will wallop you. When someone says that they put on Metallica to get fired up, I scoff and tell them to put on Suicide Invoice and bring a change of pants. Every aspect of Hot Snakes has been run through a buzz saw and then given steroids. It will beat you up and leave you on the ground bloody and you will say thank you, get up and do it all over again. From the chugging metronome on speed guitar lines to lead singer Peter Froberg’s anthem evoking screams I challenge you to resist bobbing your head, or resist throwing up a fist. Even on songs where they aren’t chugging along, there is a whole ton of dynamics. ”Paid In Cigarettes” has a drunken bar room feel to it before it explodes like a bottle over your head into a outtro of all outtros. Put on the back to back of “Gar Forgets His Insulin” and “XOX”, crank it up and skip the coffee because you won’t need it.
Menomena – Friend and Foe (2007)
The 2000′s were filled with some really refreshing new music. Bands like Menomena were creating sounds that were the right combination of familiar and brand new. Menomena is built backwards around the drums and bass and some piano/synth with the other instruments playing the compliment role. A baritone sax will emerge among bloops and bleeps (and whistles) and even take the reins of the song (see “Boyscout’n). This album is fun and an ear worm filled adventure. The climax of “Rotten Hell” is grand crash as they sing “Well it’s high time we step outside Drop the gloves and settle this like a man”. Too bad this current decade doesn’t have many bands like Menomena who are willing to throw out convention and trends and make some great music with a fresh approach.
Pt. 1 – Link