Thursday, December 3, 2009

Perfect Albums: Best Albums of 2000 - 2009

As the decade comes to a close, it's time to look back on what really mattered the last ten years: the music. Here is my list of the Top Five albums of 2000-2009:

5. Isis – Oceanic - 2002

This album defined “heavy” for me for the ‘00s, both in terms of its sound and its emotional content. While blurring the lines between Doom Metal and the still developing Post Metal, “Oceanic” is a concept piece (much like every other Isis album) that tells the story of a man close to complete emotional numbness. He then meets and falls in love with a woman, but over the course of the story finds out she is sleeping with her own brother. The shock of this drives the man to kill himself by walking into the ocean and surrendering himself to drowning. Pretty heavy, right? Not nearly as heavy as the music.
Isis perfected their song style with “Oceanic”, tightly defining their building quiet to loud to extremely loud to quiet again structure. There are dramatic build ups to some songs and multiple movements and changes to others. They even utilize female backing vocals on some of the songs that add a haunting feel to Aaron Turner’s deep bellowing.
Put simply, while others (Mastodon, I’m looking at you…) did very well to challenge the originality and mastery of this album in the ‘00s, “Oceanic” remains the absolute greatest Metal album of the decade for me, with countless listenings spent on it. While Isis’s career before this was stellar, this album marks a strong change that carried them through the following years and that will hopefully continue far into the future. As good as Isis’s albums have been since “Oceanic” ( this year’s “Wavering Radiant” might even be album of the year if it weren’t for a release from some friends of theirs) ,their solidified style began here.

4. Les Savy Fav – Go Forth - 2001

I doubt I would give half the shit I do about modern Indie Rock if it weren’t for Les Savy Fav in general, and this album in particular. One part Talking Heads, one part Fugazi, one part bravado, one part melodic catchiness, Les Savy Fav perfected their sound with this album. 1997’s “3/5”was a solid punk rock start for them, 1999’s “The Cat and the Cobra” started to show the frantic sound they were developing for themselves, 2000’s “Rome Upside Down” EP served as the herald piece to what was coming (imagine “Rome Upside Down” as the Silver Surfer to “Go Forth”s Galactus), but it was 2001’s “Go Forth” that will undoubtedly serve as the pinnacle of their career.
Clever lyrics that knock you upside the head with their descriptive storytelling, sharp guitar stabs, driving bass lines, and incessantly rhythmic drumming make for a perfect rock album. Each song is a little concept, a self contained story told with enough energy to power a city. Les Savy Fav also holds the award for greatest live act of the ‘00s as I saw them twice in support of this album. Holy shit, you would not believe how awe inspiring and fun this band is to see live with the endless antics of lead singer Tim Harrington making it impossible to look away. Every other band I saw for the remainder of the decade was held to the scrutiny of Les Savy Fav’s live act, and all failed (although there were a few close calls). While 2007’s long overdue “Let’s Stay Friends” is a well rounded development of their style, “Go Forth” stands out in a flawless rock n’ roll career. Let’s hope there’s more of this to come.

3. DangerDoom – The Mouse and the Mask – 2006

This album has four great things going for it:

1.) Producing from the always inventive Danger Mouse
2.) MC-ing from the always jaw dropping MF Doom
3.) Endorsement, themes, samples and new material from the always entertaining Adult Swim animation block on Cartoon Network
4.) A stunning array of Guest MCs including Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah (whose 2006’s Fishscale came close to making this list), and Cee-lo (whose incredible work with Danger Mouse in Gnarls Barkley deservedly ruled the hip hop and pop worlds of the late ‘00s)

All I knew about this album when it came out was that it was an Adult Swim (who are responsible for the greatest television of the ‘00s, and who I remain fiercely loyal to) related Hip Hop album that they were dropping. Two of my favorite things put together! I needed no further information. I had heard Danger Doom’s unique mash up of The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black album, but this was my first introduction to MF Doom and my strong love affair with the underground MC and producer began here.
MF Doom owns the market on clever rhymes, and there’s no exception of his stunning humor and quick wit on this album. Danger Mouse’s beats are some the greatest of his career and inspire endless head bobbing. Most of the songs pull inspiration from Adult swim’s stellar line up of hilarious shows at the time. Audio samples and references to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Harvey Birdman, the Brak Show, Family Guy, Perfect Hair Forever, Futurama, and Sealab 2021 are slipped in throughout the album. It even features new and hilarious material from the cast of Aqua teen and Space Ghost.
Some people might consider this simply a novelty record, but it’s far from it. It’s a perfectly crafted Hip Hop album that helped strengthen the popularity of underground Hip Hop in the late ‘00s . It never loses its charms and it stands out as one of the best works of both Danger Mouse and MF Doom’s respective careers. I could swap out any of MF Doom’s 2000-2009 work under any of his pseudonyms, and they could all take the place of this album on this list, but The Mouse and The Mask is where it all began with me for him, and the added dynamics of Danger Mouse’s production and Adult Swim’s contributions make this a fun stand out.

2. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot it in People – 2002

I don’t even know where to start on this album. It’s easily one of the most beautiful compositions created in the last ten years. Every song feels as if it’s recorded by a different band, yet they blend seamlessly into each other. This observation is not off base as at the time of this album’s recording, Broken Social Scene consisted of 19 members and each track was recorded with different arrangements of that ensemble. The result is a towering indie/baroque rock masterpiece.
Sometimes its rhythmic and moody rock n roll. Sometimes its light hearted. Sometimes there’s a full string section. Sometimes there’s horns. Sometimes there’s singing. Sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes it’s moving. Sometimes it’s gritty. It’s always passionate though, in a very real way. Each song, even the few instrumentals, get a lot of feeling across without being heart breaking or distressing. Not one song on this album sounds like its predecessor which makes for a strong audio adventure through different sounds and styles. Each voice given and instrument played is given with the utmost talent and abiltiy.
I can’t say enough good things about this album, and I listen to it often as several of its songs are now synonymous with different parts of my life in the ‘00s. Their album before this is a great slice of ambient instrumentals and the album following it, the self titled “Broken Social Scene” pushes their varied and erratic recording style even further, but their ultimate stroke of genius will always be “You Forgot it in People”.

1. Converge – Jane Doe – 2001

It’s really hard to imagine a more perfect record than “Jane Doe”. It’s not only the best album of the ‘00s, but it’s my favorite album of all time (although admittedly, Wu-Tang Clan’s “Enter the 36th Chamber” comes close). From the first second of this album, to the very end of the over 11 minute closing track, “Jane Doe” is not so much a contemporary Hardcore album, it’s an assault intended to destroy you. This album wants your blood and bruises and it often feels like it leaves some after each listen.
In the ‘90s, Converge had solidified itself as an inventive and dedicated band with amazing albums that sound a little like Slayer if they were tougher. “Jane Doe” changed something for the band. They stripped down from 5 to 4 members, enlisted their permanent new drummer Ben Koller, and created a sharp and dedicated direction for the band. They were no longer straight forward Hardcore music makers, they were innovators, leaving unique and lasting impressions on the Hardcore, Punk Rock, and Heavy Metal communities.
“Jane Doe” remains a 12 song breakthrough which shifted both the influence of their following 3 albums (2009’s “Axe to Fall” undoubtedly sneaks by the previously mentioned “Wavering Radiant” by Isis as album of the year) and continues to inspire new generations of metal and hardcore groups. Try as they might to mimic Converge’s style, it is impossible to duplicate. “Jane Doe” is an overpowering collection of Jacob Bannon’s junkyard dog like screams into the microphone, Kurt Ballou’s endlessly impressive brutal and atonal guitar riffs, Nate Newton’s bellowing distorted bass lines and back up growling, and Ben Koller’s impossibly fast, grinding drum fills. Can’t understand all the lyrics? Not important. Just feel the pain and loss that comes though the vocals and the anger and resolve that comes from the music and you’re set. There’s never a bad time to listen to this album, it’s energy will do ceaseless wonders in inspiring you. I probably listen to this album at least 3 times in its entirety a month, or any time I need a good recharge or a kick in the ass.
There are no throw away tracks on the album and each song bleeds perfectly into the next. The almost four minute entirety of the back to back songs “The Broken Vow” and “Bitter and then some” takes you from feeling like you’re being drowned, only to give a 1 second moment of false security before it lets you come up only to receive a sharp punch to the face. I urge you not only to listen to the masterpiece that is “Jane Doe”, but experience it. Be careful, however, as It absolutely seeks to destroy you.


pUNKrOCKfairy said...

I'm impressed. I don't think your blog is nearly as narcissistic as you fear, and I'm a little jealous that you've found the motivation to put these kinds of thoughts down in an organized fashion, anywhere outside of your own head. Zoe asked me the other day what my top 5 songs were and I nearly had a stroke at trying to mentally rifle through that much information and then decide which of it should rise to the top.

MY blog (you can click the link on my screen name) is narcissistic as I use it for cathartic release of my frustration with MS. YOUR blog is a totally handy source for me to check out some music and movies.


SteveoDestructo said...

Thank you so much for the kind words Julie! I'm glad you dig the writings, i'll be sure to dig yours, i didnt know you had one of these!

Jamez Kelske said...

why arent you posting more? I need your insight helps me stay motivated