Monday, November 16, 2009

Best of the decade: 61-70

70.

Band: Tara Jane O'Neil
Album: Peregrine

I admit I'm too much of a slave to my own tastes. TJO is an early musical crush of mine and I saw her touring this record in college. The "City in the North"/"City in the South" diad is beautiful and TJO's voice sounds as delicate and pretty as it ever has on this record.





69.

Band: Andrew Bird
Album: Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird makes art. His music is largely inaccessible, forgettable or both. Don't get me wrong, he's a wonderful songwriter and a favorite of the Chicago hipster set, but his music is hard to enjoy for someone not well-versed in Andrew Bird.

This record was his breakout, though. His final Righteous Babe release, Bird's violin is toned down, his songwriting is clever and imaginative and his voice is brilliant. He's able to move around between crooning, talking and straight-up singing. And his guitar work is lovely. "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" is among his best.



68.

Band: Radiohead
Album: Amnesiac

It's hilarious that the most celebrated band of recent vintage has a record that everyone seems to hate. Though, in reality, no one really hates it. It just garners e-mails (like I received from a friend recently) that read "Sometimes I write off Amnesiac. It's making me feel pretty okay at the moment."

Amnesiac's opening number -- the wonderfully-named "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box" -- is fucking amazing. "I Might Be Wrong" may be Radiohead's best song. "Pyramid Song" is a stellar song and "Morning Bell/Amnesiac" is near-perfect. That people see Amnesiac as a disappointment and Kid A as a triumph is a tragedy. Amnesiac is better.



67.

Band: The Arcade Fire
Album: Neon Bible

I don't like Springsteen, but I love Neon Bible. Figure that out.



66.

Band: Kelly Clarkson
Album: Breakaway

I've never been much of an American Idol watcher. I've seen, in total, maybe two hours of the show in five minute bits in between laundry, as my old laundromat's TV was always fixated on the show (which, I believe, Fox runs three nights a week during its season). Anyway, the point is that I didn't know Kelly Clarkson when her second record came out. I vaguely knew she'd won the competition, but, I didn't know her story and I'm still unclear as to how she won the whole thing.

Nevertheless, in the subsequent years, Clarkson has been absolutely killed in the gossip pages for her weight, her vey sporadic drunken antics at shows and her general, well, regular-ness. In a way, I feel sorta protective of her; she was (I think) a bar singer who won a talent show and ended up being covered in a way that fits someone like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.

Kelly Clarkson is not really very pretty. QED. She's not thin. QED. She's also very talented.

Breakaway is, in many ways, hard to define, as a record. For one, it's clearly been filtered through, I'm sure, at least 50 people at RCA before release. Still, the hooks on the record are undeniable and -- though label approved -- there is an edge on the record that did not exist on her debut. "Gone," "Walk Away," "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Since U Been Gone" are all fun rock songs that -- because rock and roll is essentially dead -- are largely missing in modern music.



65.

Band: Bon Iver
Album: For Emma, Forever Ago

After having been called "irresistible" by The New York Times, it's hard to top the praise for Justin Vernon's record. Yes, the newspaper was hyperbolic in its praise; most of the press has been far too effusive in writing about For Emma, Forever Ago. As I've written, it's a really nice record with an amazing back story.

But, then again. "Flume." "Skinny Love." Game over.



64.

Band: The Sea and Cake
Album: One Bedroom

For a band that remains one of my favorites, it wasn't really easy to pick a best record of the four released during the decade. Really, The Sea and Cake doesn't do much in the way of variety; differences in releases are subtle and each of the four 2000s albums has a place in my heart. One Bedroom excited me, largely because the band's previous release was somewhat disappointing.

And, as such, TSAC delivered. The cover of Bowie's "Sound and Vision" is the the finale of a record that's pleasantly challenging. McEntire's drumming is as crisp as it is anywhere and the stuttering Archer Prewitt guitarwork is at the top of its game. And, of course, Sam Prekop has the voice of an angel.

Album preview here.

63.

Band: Fleet Foxes
Album: Fleet Foxes

I don't love the Fleet Foxes record in the same way others do, but it's a lovely album that deserves about 70% of the critical acclaim that has followed it. Vocally, it's distinct, but, musically, it takes from Love and other such chamber pop of 1960s. It's a well-worn concept, but a well-done one on Fleet Foxes.



62.

Band: Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
Album: Rabbit Fur Coat

I love Jenny Lewis' two (sorta) solo records, though I understand that she's not exactly for everyone. Rabbit Fur Coat hits the usual Lewis targets -- religion, class, etc. -- and the Watson Twins provide pitch-perfect harmonies. "You Are What You Love" is among my favorite songs and a truer lyric likely hasn't been sung.



61.

Band: Bloc Party
Album: Silent Alarm

Released on my 24th birthday, Bloc Party's debut album is striking in its brilliance. It has New Wave jaunts, insane vocal delivery and a Camus-esque philosohpy of the absurd. I am absolutely sure I've underrated it on this list, but, honestly, I haven't listened to the album in over six months.

"Helicopter" is among the best songs released this decade, if not the single best song released in the 2000s. The guitar line is hypnotic and frantic, the drumming Keith Moon-esque and the shouty vocals wonderful.


3 comments:

Allen L. said...

When Springsteen was at his peak, in 84, there was another local bar band that had a few hits because they provided the soundtrack to Eddie and the Cruisers. John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown band were near Springsteen soundalikes.
If Arcade Fire was around then instead of now, they would be written off in the same way. Instead, they fill a void. But they don't sound like the Boss. They sound like a band trying to sound like the boss covering John Cafferty songs.
As a lifelong Springsteen fan I've been trying to get into Arcade Fire. I just can't.

Bradford Pearson said...

That Bloc Party album =Top 10 hands down for me. It's making a push for number one.

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