As promised, here's a list of my favourite albums of the past decade. Don't feel obligated to make it to the end of this monolith post (I'm sure you don't, I'm not in the same room as you or anything (most likely)). I enjoy list making, and trying to get to the bottom of why I like certain musics... This decade is a special one for me because it is the first that I have been fully aware and invested in music listening. Hopefully it will change, as I get the impression I've only scratched the surface of an interesting decade.
1. MADVILLAIN - MADVILLAINY
I was 15 when this first came out in March 2004, I turned 16 that August. I was uninterested in hip hop or rap, underground or otherwise. I had a resentment towards classic rock (which I find myself discovering and enjoying a lot of only now), and was also just starting to read about music on the internet. I remember reading something about this record, and liking the album cover and maybe wanting to impress my girlfriend by being casually enthusiastic about a different genre of music. We split the cost on buying the CD, I took it home and burned a copy and gave her the original. I'm fairly certain I had never heard anything like it. I remember being puzzled and enthralled by it, loving maybe three quarters of it... It was only after 'Madvillainy' that I consumed every Wu-Tang related album that I could read about, and got interested in rap music in general. This album really opened a door for me into a thrilling and mysterious world and came to shape the way that I think about making music. It introduced me to two of my favourite artists of the decade, and was a gateway to so many of my favourite records ever. Not only that, but it's still the most thrilling one. Shadowy, funny, elliptical, obscure, concise, catchy, modern – it's unbeatable. For introducing me to so much, and for guiding me to conceptualize my own music, and for rattling the trunk it has stayed my favourite. (On a side note, the girlfriend ended up buying me the LP for my birthday because I complained so much about her getting to keep the original CD copy at her place).
2. BLACK DICE - LOAD BLOWN / DISCOGRAPHY
I could repeat the same story almost word for word about Black Dice's 'Beaches & Canyons.' That record seriously cracked my head into a thousand pieces. I had pretty much no context for it, was completely bewildered on first listens but for some reason listened to it every day for a while once I finally worked up the courage to buy it. If 'Madvillainy' was the introduction for all the hip hop on this list, this band is the equivalant for all the avant / arty stuff. I'm still very hesitant to choose one album to put on this list, all of their LP's have been really special to me. I honestly can't say that I have a favourite, though I think I've listened the most to Load Blown. I'm always amazed at how alien their music still sounds to everything else, even after getting into so much other weird shit. My interest in texture over melody (while still making a play it!) descends directly from hours on the subway travelling back and forth from high school listening to BD. My favourite band of the decade (and kind of beyond).
3. EDAN - BEAUTY & BEAT
The album I probably listened to most in the years since it came out. I love everything about it, from the artwork (I bought the CD and the LP) to the lyrics, and of course the beats which still make me drool. The only truly psychedelic rap record (that I know of – sorry Kool Keith). It's got serious rattlers, but also some heavy shit and so much dusty beauty that sometimes when I'm listening to the last song on a really nice day, taking a walk or whatever, I start to tear up... only just a little. This LP completely encapsulates it's own world, but it's not airtight - the psychedelia starts to leak out of the bag colours spilling everywhere soaking you in heavy splendor.
4. J DILLA - DONUTS
Dilla, the guy I wish most was still alive. Donuts is a spectacular self portrait of a master at the peak of his craft. I can't get over that concept. Here was someone so completely informed of what made his music function and glow, what he loved, what he knew worked in his craft. He couldn't of gotten better. How does someone achieve that? Did his impending death have anything to do with it? How long did it take him? Did he make the whole thing in a hospital bed, and if so how does it breath so vibrantly, so unlaboured? It's an enigmatic record, but it doesn't beg to be solved only tugs to be listened to. Interestingly, this record (an instrumental one) is the only one on this list that seems to reveal anything about it's author... How did he do this?
5. COUNTRY TEASERS - SECRET WEAPON REVEALED AT LAST
Probably my favourite songwriter of the last while. The Rebel pulls the original trick of combining comedy & political satire (two particularly volatile elements) with catchiness, weirdness and good song craft. I make the whole thing sound a lot less caustic than it actually is... But it's not very often you can be suckered into listening to music that routinely appals you, while making you laugh at the same time. Yes it's terribly funny, but this outing has some pretty arresting moments too ('Sandy' comes to mind). I listened to this thing more than once a day for sooooo long.
6. BROADCAST - HAHA SOUND
Neat trick sounding pretty reverent to retro psychedelia, but entirely modern by the same token. Broadcast grew colder and more austere by decades end (I love that shit equally), but this release caught them with some beastly live drumming and some pretty intense ambition. This record feels pretty massive to me, but HaHa Sound like yah it's no big deal to sound so pristine and archaic all at once, to be so beautiful yet deteriorate the whole time.
I'm realizing this is kind of a mammoth task (for my skewed unemployed work ethic), to write fifteen in depth blurbs about fifteen items I have a hard time verbalizing my affection for... Can't I be briefer from now on til the end?? It's not that I like the following records that much less, it's just that I tire of the music mumbo jumbo trash talk.
7. LIARS - THEY WERE WRONG SO WE DROWNED
One of those records I had to hear because the reviews were so bad (funny how often that strategy really pans out)... Something like the aural equivalant of electric barbed wire growing intwined in some bad vibes horror forest. Some fucked up breakbeats with crutches on, atonal medieval fire alarms that kinda shit that I dig... This one is heavy.
8. CLIPSE - HELL HATH NO FURY
ICE. This one is so cold. The beats are like little ice cubes side by side. I listened to this one sooooo much. It's like a 6th season of The Wire. Seriously though, no one was fucking with them with their vicious vicious pen game at this point. Their voices, like, cut my fucking ears through the headphones. OUCH. (On a sidenote, holy shit I would've killed to have made the beat for 'Ride Around Shining.' Pharell is kind of the unsung genius of this list, persecuted for not really being involved in a stellar-the-whole-way through album other than this one. But seriously, in my book that guy is a fucking lunatic genius alchemist).
9. GHOSTFACE KILLAH - FISHSCALE
Another case of not really knowing what album to choose from. Ghost was the most consistent MC of the decade. Every album was great (excluding Bullet Proof Wallets, but some people tell me even that album rules). I really don't know which record I like the best. Pretty Toney has my favourite song – 'Biscuits.' Supreme Clientelle is flawless on some totally abstract wordplay (and has one of my favourite RZA verses ever - 'Nutmeg'), but Fishscale was the one that really turned me on to the others, plus it has some great beats from DOOM & Dilla... Yea, I'll pick that one.
10. DIZZEE RASCAL - BOY IN DA CORNER
A debut so fully formed and raw, it's author has yet to match it. Pop music rarely sounds this alien from everything else surrounding it. I thought this album was insane the first few times I heard it.
11. PORTISHEAD - THIRD
Oh man, I already wrote about this record and why I like it so much... SEE HERE, if you're really that curious and not just totally indulging this completely absurd list.
12. SCOTT WALKER - THE DRIFT
Another record that totally broke my brain. Honestly, I didn't know you could do this with vocal based song-form music... And now I do, that's pretty great. I will admit, that I don't listen to this album nearly as much as most of the others on this list but I am so happy that it exists. Also, 'Cossacks Are' fucking KNOCKS.
13. LIGHTNING BOLT - WONDERFUL RAINBOW
I got into this around the same time as 'Beaches & Canyons'. I'm still kind of shocked listening back to it now just how accesible it is. Mutant melodies screaming at you... Kind of like a kid who wants you to eat ice cream with him, (which you totally love), but he's just a little too eager and enthusiastic it's kind of throwing you off a little, and your not quite sure, like... you just want to eat ice cream and roll around in the park right? Whut the fuck? Yea, kind of like that. As colourful as 'Beauty And The Beat,' just violent too.
14. CANNIBAL OX - THE COLD VEIN
Totally visionary stuff. Hip Hop that people bump in their flying cars in Blade Runner, or some other such bullshit. What happened to these guys right? (Oh and props on by far the nerdiest album cover on this list...).
15. SUNN O))) - MONOLITHS & DIMENSIONS
Honestly, this is kind of a placeholder for 2009. I hate being that curmudgeon who's like – fuck all music being made today, it sucks. Don't get me wrong, this album is fantastic... but I haven't lived with it in the same way I have the others. I chose it because it was number one in my list of 09 stuff, and it may well end up legitamitely earning it's spot on this list but it's just too early for me to say. If you're curious like number 11 on what I think about this album please SEE HERE.
Addendum: The Strokes 'Is This It' and Andre 3000's 'The Love Below' where both in the running, I like those albums as much as much as most of what I wrote about above but felt it would be boring to write about albums that have already had sooooooooooooooooooo much ink spilled on em. But yea, they rule.
Lastly, yea Tom I agree with you Kanye's 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' was one of the best songs of the decade, shame he couldn't put out an album matching that consistency...
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