Thursday, December 31, 2009

My favorite songs of the 2000s

Applaud my sophisticated tastes! Marvel at my DJ skills! Create your own at home! Some assembly required!


Avantasia, Avantasia (2001). Bombastic, artsy and nerdy German power-prog. Dio writes Rush lyrics on an album entitled The Metal Opera. Description sufficient.

Prometheus, Covenant (2002). Anthemic, slow-burning Swedish synth-rock. Blurps and surges like hot MAG-MAH.

One With the Freaks, The Notwist (2002). Have you ever been understood?

Hey Ya, Outkast (2003). A bit embarrassing, considering how overplayed this was. But it's one of the best pop songs I've ever heard and I'm not ashamed to admit it. And this video never gets old:

Songbird, Oasis (2003). Simple, short, sweet.

The Buford Stick, Drive-By Truckers (2004). Sure it's fanfiction inspired by a 70s rednecksploitation movie. But the swaggering triple-guitar attack on this song just oozes cool. "Hit an embankment doin one-twenty on a straightaway, the Lord works in mysterious ways..."

Love Steals Us from Loneliness, Idlewild (2005). Sure their earlier albums were better as complete works, but this song is pure sonic melancholy bliss. With one of my all-time favorite and remarkably fitting videos. Like a short Antonioni movie...cold, distant beauty met with sarcasm and resolve.

It Generates, Iris (2006). Sounds a lot older than it really is...reminds me of classic Depeche Mode, especially lyrically. Deals with one of my favorite motifs -- fighting against incredible odds, knowing full well that in the end you're going to lose but giving it all you have anyway. Brings to mind Captain Ahab by way of Khan: " the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee..." I don't think of it in such a sinister tone -- I prefer the valiant Ragnarök of Norse mythology -- but you get my point.

Roscoe, Midlake (2006). Smooth, man, smooth. AM radio down by the lake, in the fall, with the late-day sun filtering through the trees. And weird obtuse lyrics.

We Share Our Mother's Health, The Knife (2006). Kicks in like a rusty carnival ride, ends by disintegrating into a puff of smoke. The part in between doesn't translate into English.

Indian Summer, Manic Street Preachers (2007). Sounds like the title. Pair this with "Roscoe" above for a double-feature of wistfulness.

The Escapist, The Streets (2008). Another example of a good song on multiple levels, including an excellent video. Evokes thoughts of two activities that are near and dear to my heart: cycling and traveling. Persistence, exploration, solitude, beauty, self-reliance, escape. "I'll not feel no fear, 'cause I'm not really here. I'm nowhere near."


Saturday, December 26, 2009

My favorite albums of the 2000s

In no particular order...

  • Dopethrone, Electric Wizard, 2000. The wizard is smoking something on the cover...they don't call it stoner metal for nothing. Incredibly heavy.

    WARNING: this record is one of them "heavy metal" ones your mommy always warned you about. It talks about smoking dope and worshipping Satan. I am not kidding. You probably can't understand the words, but that's just how they seep insidiously into your subconscious mind without you knowing it. Flee now.

  • Machina / The Machines of God, Smashing Pumpkins, 2000. I remember being mildly disappointed in this record when it first came out. It started to get stale pretty quickly, and most of the songs sounded processed within an inch of their lives. Funny how the Corgan / "Pumpkins" records released in the interim have made it sound so much better in retrospect.

  • Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today, Slobberbone, 2000. They went downhill fast with their subsequent records...this one is them at their peak.

  • Original Pirate Material, The Streets, 2002. The novelty of heavily-accented British rap gives way to the realization that this stuff is actually more than that and not bad. Garage, they call it. That's GAIR-ij. As thematically dissimilar to the tired old "girls, money, and Bentleys" of American hip-hop as René Descartes is to Dr. Phil.

  • Southern Rock Opera, Drive-By Truckers, 2002. On my all-time list, so of course it's here. Blew me away the first time I heard it and hasn't gotten old to this day. Tuneful, powerful, epic double album about what it means to be a "Southerner" (depicted most directly in "The Southern Thing", but much more eloquently in the record as a whole) as told through the rise and fall of a fictional rock band.

  • Magnolia Electric Co., Songs: Ohia, 2003. Listen to this weepy album late at night on a dark country road and ghosts will float out of your speakers.

  • Mary Star of the Sea, Zwan, 2003. Mostly disrespected. Mostly very good.

    (Sorry, no samples available).

  • Decoration Day, Drive-By Truckers, 2003. Hate to double-dip, but I do have a second-favorite DBT record. And it's too good not to include. Their darkest album, and the peak of Jason Isbell's tenure with the band -- "Outfit" and the title track are the two best songs he's ever written. And "My Sweet Annette" holds the distinction of being the first DBT song I ever heard.

  • Wrath, Iris, 2006. Anthemic, slighty-retro synth-rock, plain and simple. Top-to-bottom awesome.

  • Silent Shout, The Knife, 2006. Deep Cuts is an excellent album, but this one is The Knife at their best. Trippy scary plastic beats and skiddly screeches.

  • Zoysia, The Bottle Rockets, 2006. Thinking man's roots rock. Life and politics in small-town USA.

  • Age of Winters, The Sword, 2006. Call it poseur metal if you want, but this is good stuff. Honorable mention: the track "How Heavy This Axe." Not on this record, but I would be remiss not to mention it and the sheer coolness of the title.

  • Boys and Girls in America, The Hold Steady, 2006. Big, manic, and earnest. Horn section and all.

  • The Trials of Van Occupanther, Midlake, 2006. The lost Fleetwood Mac album from 1978. Mellow.

  • Untrue, Burial, 2007. Smoky, haunted dubstep.

  • Labels:

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    My favorite albums of 2009

    2009: crap year for music.

    Not much going on, I'm afraid. Not to say there wasn't any good stuff put out for the hungry masses...just more of a case of quality over quantity.

    So few of them, these ARE in order.

    1. Fever Ray, Fever Ray. Solo project by the singer from The Knife sounds like, guess what...The Knife! This is not a bad thing. Just a bit more laid-back sounding than her other band. And like The Knife, many songs have a vague tropical vibe to them. "Triangle Walks" kind of tastes like Miami Vice.

    Best songs: Seven, Triangle Walks (Rex the Dog remix).

    Triangle Walks (Rex The Dog Remix Radio Edit) - Fever Ray

    2. Journal for Plague Lovers, Manic Street Preachers. Crunchy yet melodic tunes garnished with vintage grunge lyrics. Turns out this album was created in part by using the band's vanished bassist's old notebooks.

    Best songs: Peeled Apples, Virginia State Epileptic Colony

    3. The Blue Record, Baroness. It's a metal album, but a grab-bag of one that is hard to pin down stylistically. Also, it is on this list, so it is good.

    Best songs: Ogeechee Hymnal, The Sweetest Curse