Thursday, December 24, 2009

Top Records of The 2000's: 30-16

Here is the start of my top records of the decade. You wont agree with everything. I'm sure you're going to want to say "hey man, _________ by _________ is better". I'm sure it is, but thats not why I'm making this list. I don't care what you think dear reader. I obviously am going to miss things because, I can't listen to everything. Though, I can assure you that I have heard the whole discography of every artist on this list. I crafted this list as fast as possible, knowing that my instinct would steer me in the right direction. Once we get to the top ten or so, most of the rankings could be interchangeable. But Remember, I'm only but one man.

I guess it might be worth explaining how I gathered this list.
  1. Personal Preference
  2. Cultural Relevance
  3. Musical Relevance
  4. Album Cohesiveness (sorry Ken, just because the tracks bleed together, doesn't necessarily mean the album is cohesive)
  5. Misc. other crap that I think matters.
But these are the things I think are great, and if you stick around i'll tell you why. Check out all the records if you haven't already.

30. Cursive - The Ugly Organ

What a better record to start the list than a collection of songs, bound together by the music of one ugly organ. I’m sure that this is semi-autobiographical, but for the sake of interest, we'll assume it's not. It is just utterly baffling how much Tim Kasher puts into this record. The blood curdling cries are one of a kind and turned my ear. It maintains an interesting intensity throughout. Even in a song like “The Recluse”, you feel like something is going to explode from the bowels of this record.

29. Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger

I know. This isn’t Heartbreaker OR Gold. Wait...This isn’t Cold Roses either! Well by all accounts there can’t be any other Ryan Adams record on a Top List of the 2000’s then, can there? Wrong. Heartbreaker? Boring. Gold? Over the top. Cold Roses? Cut half the songs, then we’ll talk. Though Easy Tiger is listed as a solo record, this is the purest and most accurate representation of The Cardinals. The songwriting is so overwhelmingly strong. The record is concise and ridiculously exciting. They cover enough genres where you’re pleased but never confused.

28. The Matches - Decomposer

Pop-Punk had come a long way. Green Day and blink-182 paved the way to put the pop(ular) in front of punk making it aggressive, yet catchier than anything else at the time. The Matches started right where those bands left off. Then for their second record they slipped Pop-Punk some ecstasy. This spastic, slightly terrifying record represents the endless possibilities of what Pop-Punk could have become. The songwriting: phenomenal. The musicianship: outstanding. The live sets: one-of-a-kind. Unfortunately, they didn’t catch on and three years later: bye-bye to one of the most exciting bands around.

27. Amy Winehouse - Back To Black

Everyone likes to judge me and scoff at me on this one. I’m a sucker for soul. While the songwriting is all Winehouse, this record should be billed as Mark Ronson, Back To Black’s producer. This record is about as tasteful as you can get. Things are fleshed out perfectly and never over-done. One thing I absolutely adore about this record and most soul records is the sheer attitude. A lot of this record is a big “Fuck You”. “Fuck you, I won’t go to rehab”, “fuck you, I told you not to get close to me”, “fuck you, why did I ever think I needed you.” You get it. Though I’d like to give Ronson more credit than he got, the record would be nothing without the songs.

26. Coheed & Cambria - In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3

First impressions are usually the strongest. Especially for music. This was the first thing I heard by the Prog-Rock band Coheed & Cambria. Madness is straight through this. Everything from the riffs to the time signatures to the tangled web of lyrical content paints the portrait of the main character's story. These songs do a funny thing to me. I force me to pay attention to what going on. Every little turnaround beat, syncopated polyrhythm, and seamless key changes will drive you insane and keep you from skipping any track. It’s epic nature rings from the first notes of its title track to the mind-blowing hidden track “21:13”.

25. The Killers - Sam’s Town

People make me mad with this record. People bash Sam’s Town left and right but for what? Nothing. You can NOT deny Sam’s Town. I know what you’re thinking: “I’m denying it right now. It sucks. The Worst.” Have faith dear reader, I know you can. First of all, The Killers are all about the classic rip off, essentially relying on being what they aren’t. There will never be a definitive Killers sound. Ever. So stop saying Hot Fuss IS The Killers. You’re wrong, sorry. Second of all, take their first record, Hot Fuss, pound for pound with Sam’s Town. Lead singles were “Somebody Told Me” for the former and “When You Were Young” for the latter. Lets be real, you know all the words to “When You Were Young” and not “Somebody Told Me”. Sam’s Town just releases this indescribable energy that Hot Fuss lacks. The energy of “Bones” and “Uncle Johnny” cripples that of “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Mr. Brightside”. The Killers had a stick up their ass on Hot Fuss but they let loose on Sam’s Town, and it’s fuckin’ badass. So get the stick out YOUR ass and give poor Sam’s Town a chance.

24. Chuck Ragan - Feast or Famine

So...ya know when a a band breaks up and the singer goes off and starts a solo career? Ya know how it usually sucks (i.e. Billy Corgan, Chris Cornell, Ringo Starr, every hair metal band’s vocalist’s solo career)? Well here’s a time where all of that is corrected. Chuck Ragan’s band, Hot Water Music, was legendary. A relentless punk band that had legions of fans all around the world. When they broke up, I’m pretty sure bearded men everywhere cried a single tear. Fear not you flannel-wearing, mosh pit-starting, Trio Tat-donning punks. Chuck had a solution for the temporary problem. Gritty acoustic singer-songwriter tunes that puts punk, country, blues, folk and bluegrass in a big ol’ bag and shakes it up. The result? An honest account on life. Beautiful songs with more feeling than every Sammy Hagar song combined. Chuck won a whole new group of fans just based off of his solo material, and THAT is impressive.

23. Jay-Z - The Blueprint

Alright, here’s the first record on the list where I haven’t listened to it's content a million times. The record is on this list solely due to its mystique. You laugh, but there’s such a big question mark with The Blueprint. What is it? A record trying to create a new layout for hip-hop? That’s too easy. A record on how to live you life? Not quite. The Blueprint is a record about how to be scared. Ironically, it’s a scary thing to come to grips with. During the making of this record, Jay-Z was facing criminal charges of gun possession and assault. Pretty scary if you ask me. How do you cope with that fear? Womanize, smoke weed, blame people and things and most importantly: never show your true feelings. This is a coping record. Mr. Carter used fear to create one of the best rap records in a long time. The record had some of the most timeless hip-hop tracks of the decade, if not ever. “Izzo”, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Jigga That N****”. You can’t go wrong with The Blueprint if you love true hip-hop.

22. Queens of The Stone Age - Songs For The Deaf

Hard Rock sort of failed this decade. Lets list the ways. Creed, Nickelback, Disturbed, Staind. Barf me. Thankfully I said “sort of” and not “totally”. Joshua Homme saved Hard Rock from hilarious extinction. First off, he took his words seriously. People won’t take you seriously if you won’t put in the time to come up with better lines than “We'll show the world they were wrong / And teach them all to sing along”. Grow a dick Chad Kroeger. Secondly he created something that met conventionalism and progressiveness in the middle to make something most everyone could agree on. Once again, we don’t get a Superman story were the talented band gets all the money they deserve. No no, that goes to the talentless ass clowns who pump out the most aurally offensive garbage since The Bengals. QOTSA got a few radio singles from the time of this release to present day, but they deserve so much more seeing that they crafted an album that saved true Hard Rock from being a minor blip in the music history radar. Stuff like this is what kids of the future will yearn for, wishing that something will be created in their generation, something to call their own that isn’t complete trash. Thanks Mr. Homme, I appreciate you now. But for real dude, Songs For The Deaf is heavy. So fucking heavy. Makes a brotha wanna puke.

21. Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare

Arctic Monkeys understood where they stood in the popular music lexicon before making Favourite Worst Nightmare. They were the new Oasis, with a bit a of punk and a lot more touch-in-cheekiness. Well, I'm pretty after a year or so of that, they had enough. They took cues from Mr. Homme and Satan and got bit heavier, eerier and darker. Their lyrical ways didn’t change. Alex Turner observed life and women under a high powered microscope. Interestingly enough, the first single, “Brianstorm” is about a guy they had a single encounter with at a club. He made such an outrageous impression Turner felt that his life was meant to be under the microscope for the world to hear. They also started thinking outside the box. Another great moment was when they lifted the chords from the final scene of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly to make the eerie swan song for Favourite Worst Nightmare, “505”. They have a whole lot of bone crunching riffs and really great ideas here. Would you be shocked that in 2009 they made their third record with Josh Homme as their producer? Me neither.

20. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells

This record is on this list solely because it reminds me of my childhood. It’s one of the few musical things I remember from being a kid. My sister got this record and even as an 11-year-old, I couldn’t resist “Hotel Yorba”. White Blood Cells is the definition of bare bones rock. I mean come on, they made it made in a day. As opposed to focusing on sonic perfection, Jack White made sure the songs were solid. Most garage rock bands just focus on being garage-y. That usually back fires (See: The Vines). Beyond the fact that this is just a great record with great songs that will last until its time for me to give my kids this music, it gave kids like me and Sam Page hope. We didn’t need to be the next Slash or Neil Peart to be successful musicians. As an 11-year-old, this was a PRETTY big relief. I could plug in my guitar and slam away. I didn’t have to know scales and modes and I didn't have to learn how to tap(though I’m still trying to learn those things). It came as a pretty huge shock when I found out that not only could Jack White shred, he was (and still is) one of the best guitar players of my generation.

19. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex / LoveSounds

I don’t know if Katie Boyer will ever read this. If she does, I’d like that thank her for never shutting the hell up about this record. When it came out, I was on the top on my musical thrown (unfortunately, I can’t say that I was listening to superior music, in fact I was listening to the most inferior shit ever) and I thought anything produced by a pop sensation was just awful. Two years go by. I become snobbier with the music I like, but I begin to appreciate pop music. Enter: JT. With the exception of “SexyBack”, I could argue that this is not just a pop record. This is a powerhouse neo-soul and neo-funk record. Timberlake’s talent for melody is utterly baffling. The layers, the segue ways, the confidence. It all shines through and sold me that pop music isn’t a total joke, that I might be worth the time to experience and it can be better than the shit I’m listening to. Sometimes. Plus Rick Freakin’ Rubin produced the last track. That’s weird.

18. The Faint - Wet From Birth

People are probably going to not like this one. Mostly because you haven’t heard of these guys. My thing with this Omaha band is that there isn’t anyone like them. The issue I have with most electronica/(insert genre) bands is that their super glossed over and offer nothing but poppy tunes to dance to. The Faint, however, offer a lot more without being glossed over. They truly take the elements of Electronica and Punk and make it work better than any Electronica mash-up. I hate to disappoint some of you, but you can not dance to punk music. I was listening to Fugazi stage banter (pretty entertaining. Check it out if you can) and they were railing the audience for not dancing. Shut up Fugazi, humans cannot dance to you. But The Faint! Oh my! There’s nothing better than gettin’ funky to “Drop Kick The Punks”. I also must give my sister a shout out for our hours of dancing to “Southern Belles…” on the way to shows in Chicago. Long story short, there isn’t a dud on this record. Put it in. Get down. That's what she said.

17. Andrew Bird - And The Mysterious Production of Eggs

I don’t have much to say about this. Everything about Andrew Bird is one-of-a-kind. The way he writes. The way he performs. The words he uses (Bird’s albums should come with a dictionary). Throughout The Mysterious Production of Eggs, nothing really makes sense but it still somehow makes total sense. That’s what brings me back to this album and every Andrew Bird album. There’s so much to figure out, there’s so much to listen for, there so many words to look up. Plus...there will be snacks.

16. Cold War Kids - Robbers & Cowards

Around the time that Robbers & Cowards came out, I was getting sick of Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves (why? Why did I listen to them?). I needed something new. I had the new issue of Rolling Stone in front of me and in the new artists section was a great big picture of the Cold War Kids that covered half the page. I was just so enraptured with the image of this band. They felt so aged and weathered. They held instruments that came out of the 40’s and they just looked so cool. I can’t recall what exactly the magazine wrote about the band but apparently it was enough to make me go to Best Buy the next day and pick up their first record. Boy, was that the best blind purchase I ever made. The organic nature of those songs were so new to me. The jangle-y piano and impromptu percussion just made sense. It just seemed these guys new exactly how to sound like they had no clue what they were doing. And that’s awesome. I was coming from music that was so pretentiously plotted out it became stale. This band and this record showed me that music with a question mark is far more exciting that music with a period. Period.

...To Be Continued...

15-1 in the coming days...


  1. Kudos for having Winehouse on the list. I always thought this album was completely underrated. The soul ooooooozes out of that beauty. Love it.

  2. I think I might have read more popular music criticism than any other type of periodical content. I say, you have a way of making the music more enjoyable for having read your critiques, and that's the only reason to read a review imho.

    Anyway, nice to see you building on that talent.