Albums Of The Decade, Part V

So I’ve been keeping tabs on all the other websites’ best-of the decade lists, and I gotta say- great work everybody. I like the way they’re doing it over at Aquarium Drunkard. Likewise Largehearted Boy (who was rad enough to include us in their roll call; gracias and mad kudos!), also check out their extensive and daily updated list here.

Some were laughable (Paste Magazine, I’m looking in your direction) some were head scratchers (Better Propaganda), some are eerily similar to mine (eMusic), some were extremely Spencer Krug-centric (Oceans Never Listen) but mostly they’ve been insanely interesting to read. I hope the same can be said about this list. Someday…

Death Cab For Cutie – We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes (Barsuk Records; 2000)


Poor Ben Gibbard; he had Jenny Lewis but lost her- he had to settle for Zooey Deschanel instead. Boo hoo, Benny boy. All jokes aside, I much prefer Gibbard‘s heart-rending (dare I say emo?) version of this band recorded right before the turn of the century, not his major-label cash grab records as of late. Death Cab‘s definitely lost something since Transatlanticism, I can’t quite put my finger on it; it’s a combination of a lot of things. Most of the things that make this record so wonderful have been completely stripped from DCFC‘s repetoire; the warm, lo-fi feeling of this album has been erased in favor of the $300 an hour studio with Atlantic Records‘ money, but hey- isn’t that the whole point; to have your music heard by as many possible ears as you can? When nobody knew who the hell these guys were is when they were still making great records- the most important thing Gibbard and Co. lost was a sense of urgency; a sense that here’s a band, toiling along in relative obscurity up in the Pacific Northwest and no one’s gonna get hear our best stuff so we get to keep both artistic integrity and there isn’t an ounce of pressure on us to do anything we’re not comfortable with. I have this feeling that they know this is a prefect record and they’ve been trying to recapture the beauty and wonder of this ever since- but most folks won’t get to hear it. Instead they’ll get to hear their late decade radio friendly drivel…

Key Tracks: Company Calls Epilogue, 405, For What Reason, Title Track


Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction (Misra Records; 2001)


Dan Bejar‘s lyrics are so cryptical, yet I feel like I understand every one. I can’t pretend that I really do- and that’s the biggest part of his appeal for me; they mean whatever I want them to mean. Like on the track The Bad Arts, when he sings: “Goddamn your eyes, they just had to be twin prizes waiting for the sun…” I’m sure I know exactly what he means there, and at different times in my life that’s meant different things to me about different people. I think. Then, he ends the song with the line “You got the spirit, don’t lose the feeling…” aping the line from the Joy Division song Disorder. It’s classic Destroyer; borrowing from the past- simultaneously revering it and ridiculing it. Nothing is sacred, except everything. This observational irony is a calling card of his work, so even when I don’t get it, it’s okay- I don’t know if Bejar himself gets it. And that’s sort of the whole point, right?

Key tracks: The Very Modern Dance, The Sublimation Hour, Streethawk I, Beggars Might Ride


Talib Kweli – Quality (Rawkus Records; 2002)


Two tracks from J Dilla, three from Kanye– this album was the hot shit back in early ’03; I can’t remember who gave it to me but it didn’t leave my car’s CD player for months. It’s just as well I can’t remember who gave it to me; it doesn’t matter- all that matters is that it was my intro to Talib, Dil and Ye (two out of three ain’t bad…) and the rhymes, beats, everything came together here on Quality. I think of this record as the tipping point- Kweli was a connector of sorts for me, from here I got into BlackStar & Mos Def, learned of Jay Dee‘s production prowess, that sick record he did with Hi-Tek; all his collaborators on here became instrumental in making me pay attention to hip-hop again. Maybe my friend Andrew the Jerk got me into this record, maybe it was that quiet chick who lived with her grandmother I dated a few times. I can’t remember for the life of me who gave me this damn record. Maybe that’s the appeal of this album; it’s memory to me is as underground as its reputation- ask anyone who listens to mainstream rap if they know this record (be prepared for blank stares), but they’ll surely remember Talib from his appearance on The Chappelle Show or his appearance on Kanye‘s track Get ‘Em High. Oh, well- Talib is a rapper’s rapper; he’s probably your favorite MC’s favorite MC.

Key Tracks: Get By, Rush, Shock Body, Good To You


Paavoharju – Yhä Hämärää (Fonal Records; 2005)


When I think of Finland, I think of massive amounts of snow, dense forests with herds of reindeer running free and rosy-cheeked vodka drinkers. If you were to mention Finnish music, I think of 80s hair band Hanoi Rocks, the synth-driven Children Of Bodom and Bam Margera’s favorite band, HIM– basically; cheesy-ass metal. Paavoharju could be called a lot of things, and cheesy-ass metal isn’t one- more like lo-fi experimental electro/acoustic freak folk (maybe?) I can’t put my finger on what it is they do, but they’re the only ones who do it, so I guess by default they’re the best. Makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is their story; a pair of born-again Christian hippie commune-living brothers (Lauri and Olli Ainala from Savonlinna) that make other-worldly sounds, decompose basic song structures into their barest parts but still manage to create songs built somewhat around hooks and pieces of hooks. Recorded over parts of five years with an ever-revolving cast of musicians/singers; it’s an accomplished debut- equal parts beautiful and creepy. Influenced by such diverse people and bands as William Blake, Burzum, Ed Gein, Boards Of Canada, Jesus Christ, Portishead and Ingmar Begman; that’s sort of what this record sounds like, with Paavoharju serving as dinner hosts.

Key Tracks: Syvyys, Ilmaa Virtaa, Musta Katu, Valo Tihkuu Kaiken Läpi


No Age – Weirdo Rippers (Fat Cat Records; 2007)


Turn this shit up, way up. LA two-piece that plays some of the finest noise pop for this here internet generation; equal parts balls-to-the-wall lo-fi hardcore and hummable, fuzzed out surf pop. Imagine The Jesus & Mary Chain knocking up Hüsker Dü; the resulting offspring would be Randy Randall & Dean Spunt‘s twisted take on rock and roll. One minute they’re experimenting with ear shattering, scuzzy feedback; the next sounds as if they’ve discovered how to create a sonic representation of dryer lint (warm, ambient and wooly). Anyhow; this Weirdo Rippers isn’t a real album per se, more or less a collection of 7-inches, b-sides and assorted paraphernalia that strangely enough, sounds cohesive. And don’t worry; if you’re looking for their “other” record, it appears on the “numbered” portion of this list…

Key tracks: Neck Escaper, Boy Void, Everybody’s Down, My Life’s Alright Without You