Albums Of The Decade, Part II

Rolling along, some more of my favorite albums…

Do Make Say Think – & Yet & Yet (Constellation Records; 2002)

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Easily the most accessible release from Canadian post-rockers DMST; & Yet & Yet sees the band at a more relaxed, dare I say post-jazzier pace than previous albums (and since). It’s way toned down as far as this band is concerned; they exercise a calm flow throughout the record with careful precision and uncomplicated noodling that never gets boring. The horns don’t blow you away on the song White Light Of and they don’t build every song to a dizzying crescendo and explode, it’s a lesson in refinement. Whether it’s the wordless singing of Soul And Onward, the bubbling synths, low-bottom bass and glitchy beats on the track Chinatown or hypnotic swirling of End of Music, the subtle build-up and short bursts of intensity on Reitschule or the majesty of drone during the album’s closer (Anything For Now), it’s a stunning offering from a band that continues to make excellent records, each one different from their last…

Key tracks: Classic Noodlanding, White Light Of, Chinatown, Soul And Onward

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The Unicorns – Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone? (Alien8 Recordings; 2003)

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Recipe for making an amazing pop album: add one part broken drum machines, one part toy keyboards, one part concept record about death, one part heavy LSD consumption, mix together in a studio where some/all of the equipment is falling apart/completely fucked-up/useless, fold in some fuzzy guitars, swirl, liberally add some catchy-ass hooks, swirl some more, add a little anti-hipster douchebag-ism, and pour evenly out of your speakers. This record is what the Flaming Lips would sound like if they had no money (or ProTools. Or massive egos. Or that stupid fucking bubble Wayne Coyne lives inside of.) This record sounds as if it’s about to become a humongous fucking mess every song but manages to not only completely keep it together, it’s as coherent a mesh of 13 songs anywhere on this best-of list. It’s fun, it’s pop, it’s accessible and inclusive- it takes absolutely all the seriousness and pomp out of “indie elitism”.

Key Tracks: I Was Born (A Unicorn), Sea Ghost, Jellybones, Tuff Ghost

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Pelican – The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw (Hydra Head Records; 2005)

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Instrumental sludge metal that creates a post-apocalyptic world of its own through gigantic riffs, megalithic power chords and dynamic double-bass drum pounding; it’s atmospherically heavy and dense but never collapses under its colossal weight. Metal of the first magnitude- and none of that stupid cookie monster growling/singing that most metal has (which is fucking awful beyond belief). This album doesn’t need to say anything at all, it just shuts its fucking mouth and shows you brutality. It also shows you beauty, despair, elation, solitude, death and rebirth. An epic journey across genres as well as emotions, again- no words needed…

Key tracks: Autumn Into Summer, March To The Sea, Last Day Of Winter, Sirius

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Swearing At Motorists – Last Night Becomes This Morning (Secretly Canadian Records; 2006)

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God-damn this life on Earth. I no longer want to live in a world where guitar-and-drum duo Swearing At Motorists isn’t a household name; if you had any sense this would be your favorite fucking band and this is their career-defining moment. Dave Doughman and Joseph Siwinski recorded this album all over this country while on tour; at soundchecks, hotel rooms, on the bus- Last Night Becomes This Morning is a post-9/11 indie rock version of Jackson Browne‘s Running On Empty, playing shows to no one (or at the very least an apathetic audience). If the one feeling you can walk away from this album with is anything it’s defeat; a beaten man retreating into a hermetic solipsism (to record some more music, no doubt). Doughman was so impressed with the sound he got playing some of these tunes on the Gipsstraße in Berlin (where he retreated to mix this record) that three of them ended up here- you can’t get that kind of reverb in a studio’s live room if you tried.

Key tracks: Waterloo Crescent, Ten Dollars, This is Not How Forever Begins, Timing Is Everything

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El Guincho – Alegranza (Young Turks Records; 2008)

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The Spanish Animal Collective; although I find El Guincho‘s Alegranza infinitely more interesting (and listenable- especially over time). First time I heard this (while record shopping) I thought “what the…?” and asked the clerk what we were listening to. He was out of copies, implored me to let him order one for me, and I left. Soon as I got home, I found it on eMusic- after the download I listened to it three straight times. I don’t think there’s been another album I’ve had for such a short time that has become such a go-to record; I don’t I’ve let a week go by this year where I didn’t listen to this (or at least a few tracks). It’s that good; like a tropical-psychedelic mash-up heavy on tribal drums and sampled bits of dubby electro-pop, with shout-along, call-and-response vocals (not unlike something Tito Puente would’ve done). It’s instantly smile-inducing, and I mean “big-grin-happy-to-be-alive” type of smiling. Barcelona-bred Pablo Díaz-Reixa has been called the Spanish Panda Bear (which is ironic because Lennox lives basically next door in Portugal; go figure) but I’d say that’s reductive- I imagine it’s way harder to become this talented and proficient outside of the technological wonderland of America, plus Panda had several collaborators as extra hands in his work. Anyway; this is a gem of a record- probably the most exciting thing I’ve found in the last year, it’s only a pity that I didn’t find this sooner (as it would’ve probably climbed into the top 20).

Key tracks: Palmitos Park, Antillas, Kalise, Fata Morgana