Saturday, September 5, 2009
Naught to Be Outdone: Albums, Pt. 2
Hello friends. It's time for part 2 of our newest decade-end feature. As you can tell, there is little rhyme or reason to what features we put up at what time. Though we started off with a live review before moving on to our album list, it has been decided to follow through with the entire list before pursuing other features further. Obviously this is for the benefit of the reader, who is anxiously waiting to hear what the best albums of the decade are. You are very welcome, reader.
Click here part 1 of the list (and a profound, retrospective introduction).
15. Chutes Too Narrow. The Shins. 2003.
"Tone down the reverb. Clean it up; tighten the sound. Experiment a bit. Explore some styles that you hadn't before. Embrace those styles. But still build on what you've done before. Dig deeper. Have more fun. Get emotional. Keep it together." -an excerpt from How I Beat the Sophomore Slump and You Can Too! by James Mercer, published by Books "Pretension and Perk" Just Made Up.
14. Apologies to the Queen Mary. Wolf Parade. 2005.
I don't know what to say about this record. It simply comes as close as any album on the list to fitting my tastes perfectly. I love the way the two major songs writers play off each other, allowing the album to excel in ways that each fellow's separate efforts (see Sunset Rubdown; Handsome Furs) never could. While Spencer Krug's erratic and yelping contributions are the highlights of the album, Boeckner grounds the album with more straightforward indie rock songs. Instrumentally, the two also click: the layering of synth and guitar parts is done exquisitely, creating some of the most triumphant and rich sounds of the decade. Oh, look. I guess I could say something about the album.
13. The College Dropout. Kanye West. 2004.
DISCLAIMER: I know I'm contradicting myself. In the previous segment, I lauded Jay-Z's The Blueprint for its perfect structure; a tight and condensed effort that doesn't rely on guest spots or throwaways. I said I wished more rap albums were made that way. But here is College Dropout, an album that breaks every single one of those rules, three spots higher on the list. The fact of the matter is that Kanye knows what he's doing. When he makes moves that normally make me cringe, I don't mind. His skits are amusing, but don't seem like misguided attempts at comedy. All the guests prove that they deserve to be there, but they also don't steal Kanye's thunder (I doubt he would let that happen). And the beats, hooks, and flows are so strong and delightful that seventy six minutes does not feel too long. I guess I'm just another one of the millions of teens who fell for the guy who doesn't play by the rules.
12. Fever to Tell. Yeah Yeah Yeahs. 2003.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have certainly matured a lot over the years, but Karen O remains a very primal and ferocious creature, and the group was at its finest when the music was as raw and untamed as its leader. This album does not mess around. There's no filler; 37 unrelenting minutes of pure garage rock. The songs are fast, hard, and biting. Hell, even the song names are: "Rich". "Pin". "Maps". "Tick". Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. All right, they do tone it down quite a bit for "Maps", but that's because--in addition to it just being a pretty beautiful song--Karen and the gang don't want too much raucous rawk rocking your face too hard. They're looking out for you, listener.
11. And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. Yo La Tengo. 2000.
Yo La Tengo is a band of the nineties. And they're damn close to being the band of the nineties: I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and Painful rank as two of the finest discs of that decade, and the rest of their body of work holds up damn well too. Yo La Tengo's last few efforts, though, sound like greatest hits records; each track recalls a highlight from their output while the albums as a whole lack cohesive directions. And Then Nothing Turns Itself Inside Out marks the trio's last successful attempt to create a record with a distinctive personality. The disc sees Yo La Tengo venturing into a darker region of music, and maintains a moody overcast even when a song gets poppy. And it doesn't hurt that the group's best song, the upbeat and fuzzy "Cherry Chapstick", is on the album. A great way to start the decade.