Thursday, December 31, 2009


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Happy New Year's Eve! Only five this one, I've got somethin' else planned for the top 20. (Shoulda planned that better...) I'll finish the list up starting later tonight, or tomorrow on the New Year. Enjoy.

#25. Yellow House
by Grizzly Bear (2006)
Sufjan Stevens meets Sigur Ros anyone? Everyone has made such a big hoopla over newest album Veckatimest (which is of course of only two albums to make this list from '09) that they seem to have forgotten the majesty of Yellow House. I find this album to be a lot more subdued and natural, where the newest one almost sounds forced. This one just has a slow burning drive to it that is so hypnotic and dreamlike. Its an album that has to be discovered in the right mindset. I'm always mesmerized by music that can give me that odd but relaxed feeling of being half-awake. Somehow that feeling never gets old.

#24. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2005)

I was first intrigued by the DIY approach of this group. Hard work, self-promotion, and word of mouth can do a lot these days. But none of it would work without a virtually flawless album full of quirky grooves and brilliantly unique vocals. You have to have the right type of sound to get away with singing the way Alec Ounsworth does. Sounding like your just a tad nuts definitely helps. This album flows so seamlessly and never once misses a step, start to finish. The test has to be "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth." Your opinion of that song will probably decide if you'll like the album or not. It worked for me.

#23. Agaetis Byrjun
by Sigur Ros (2000)

I always tell people the easiest way I know to describe Sigur Ros is to imagine what a "rock" band from Rivendell might sound like (if you need help with the "Rivendell" reference, shame on you.) Unlike many, this album wasn't my first encounter with the band, otherwise it might be a little higher on the list (maybe #21?) based on shock value alone. Nothing can prepare you for what this group brings to the table. It's hard to comprehend how a band can sound so epic in such a relatively quiet fashion (probably to do with that cello bow guitar work...). Whatever it is, it's nice to know the vast cosmos will always have a soundtrack.

#22. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Soundtrack)
by Various Artists (2000)

Part of the reason O Brother, Where Art Thou became one of my very favorite movies is because of its equally amazing soundtrack. It definitely had a big effect on my perception of that "old timey" sound, and I know I wasn't the only one. Some groups that made this list probably wouldn't have if I had never heard this soundtrack, (Sufjan Stevens, Nickel Creek, Love Psychedelico, Guster, Kings of Convenience) as well as a few I'm just getting into now (Bon Iver, Joshua James). A very influential album for me.

#21. ( )
by Sigur Ros (2002)

No title? No song names? Not even one word of actual language? The longest song is 13 minutes?? THIS was my first encounter with Sigur Ros. It is a difficult listen for the average Joe, I can imagine. What I like about it that previous album Agaetis Byrjun didn't quite manage is its consistent, continuous mood. Sure, it's a somewhat grim and dreary mood (it kind of matches the crap weather we're getting right now). But there is a deep emotion throughout that lingers long after it's done. Like you've just seen a beautifully sad film. The climactic final track is one of the grandest of all finales . A great musical experience, if you have the patience.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


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#50. Deep Forest

by Do As Infinity (2001)

This album sounds like Japan. It reminds me of walking the streets of the big cities, and each track sounds like the opening theme to some anime or video game (the title track was actually the theme song to the anime "Inuyasha"). I tend to listen to this album a lot when I think about Japan. Just pure and simple J-pop, and it always puts a smile on my face. Besides...they always have good album covers (wink wink).

#49. Grateful Triad Years: 1998-2002

by Thee Michelle Gun Elephant (2002)

I had barely heard "Last Night" from The Strokes before I headed out on a mission, but I wasn't impressed. Crappy old-school butt rock? Who needs that? It wasn't until my buddy Kiyo Fuji (whom I found had similar taste in music) gave me this birthday present that I first embraced the raw energy and grit of the "garage rock revivial." These dudes were rockin' Japan earlier (and harder) than either them Strokes or them White Stripes. Maybe not quite as great as the aforementioned, but any true fan of rock n' roll needs to hear the tunes "Smokin' Billy" and "Free Devil Jam" (LOUD!).

#48. The Black Parade

by My Chemical Romance (2006)

This one gained tons of browny points for converting me despite my better judgement. I truly was determined not to like it, but its not something you can resist when the songs are this large and in charge. I couldn't help conjure up obvious images of Queen, or maybe Jack White taking over Green Day. Comparisons aside, this band was able to fuse it all into a sound their own. Goes to show that great songs and a whole lotta passion can always prevail.

#47. Wallpaper For the Soul

by Tahiti 80 (2002)

This group was also introduced to me by my friend Kiyo Fuji. The singer has less control over English than his other French contemporaries, but the simple lyrics add to the pure, no-nonsense tunes. More groups need to make great pop like this. ABBA would be doing the same thing today I'm sure. 70's disco with a little modern hip-hop flair. Its as good as it sounds.

#46. Sounds of Silver

by LCD Soundsystem (2007)

I've always been a sucker for a good groove. This decade ended up having some of the greatest, most sincere, and artistic dance music ever, and it seemed to hit a brilliant high with Sounds of Silver. James Murphy pulled off the producer turned performer beautifully on his debut, but it was this sophomore effort where he truly showed off his abilities as a songwriter. Tongue in cheek humor mix with poignant reflection, often in the same song, and he doesn't miss a single step for nine genius tracks. Rarely does dancing sound so life-changing and epic.

#45. The Information

by Beck (2006)

I think the one thing putting Information slightly above Sounds of Silver is Beck's impeccable and possibly underrated knack for melody. Similar to Gorillaz, Beck manages to take out the jackass egos and vulgarity of popular hip-hop and make it poptastic and emotional (and therefore listenable). I really appreciate it when that happens. I keep thinking if I was a famous (and talented) musician, this is the kind of album I'd like to make.

#44. Elephant

by The White Stripes (2003)

The first time I heard "Seven Nation Army" I was stunned to figure out it was a "new" song. I wasn't fully convinced until I heard "Black Math." When Jack ripped through the middle of it with his monster guitar and his Elvis-on-steroids roar I was floored. This album sounds like it was recorded in one take and thrown on tape for you to like it or not. And I did.

#43. Reflector

by Killing Heidi (2001)

I had heard of this group as I became semi-obsessed with all tunes Australian. Enough 90's alternative to appease my still very 90's soul, but enough pure pop brilliance to keep it alive through the decade. Something about it is just so innocent and fun. Could have something to do with the singer being only 17 at the time. Whatever it is, I still really enjoy it.

#42. Get Behind Me Satan

by The White Stripes (2005)

I wondered how a band could follow something like Elephant without doing the exact same thing. Apparently this is exactly how you should do it. Throwing in blues piano over the guitar was the perfect ingredient to keep it interesting. Singing about Rita Hayworth left and right was an added bonus.

#41. Quiet Is the New Loud

by Kings of Convenience (2001)

Extremely heartfelt and intimate. About as raw and passionate as The White Stripes, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. I didn't hear this (their first) album until long after I'd heard their second. By then it didn't take much convincing. One of the most honest and beautiful groups out there. Always good.

#40. White Pony

by deftones (2000)

Slipknot. Godsmack. Papa Roach. These are a few of the groups I was listening to at the turn of the decade/century/millenium.. Deftones fits right in there. But, something changed for this group in the 00's that filtered them out of the previous company. Their atmospheric, experimental, and (dare I say) "artsy" metal was miles above the 90's nu-metal crap of the rest. This album is more My Bloody Valentine than Limp Bizkit. I dare say my liking of groups like Sigur Ros, Mogwai, Serena-Maneesh, and to a degree Radiohead, can be traced to this album.

#39. Why Should the Fire Die?

by Nickel Creek (2005)

I developed a keen liking to this group after my mission. But it wasn't until we overplayed this final (?) album at work that I truly saw their songwriting brilliance. Tracks like "Can't Complain" and "Doubting Thomas" beautifully rip your heart out, then on "Scotch & Chocolate" they melt your face off with their wicked solos. One of the most talented groups there is, no doubt.

#38. Deep River

by Hikaru Utada (2002)

Japan's answer to Brittany. Take away the drama, add the ability to write your own stuff, and throw in a lot more class, and you get Hikaru. She has a couple English albums (going by just "Utada") but they aren't nearly as good as this sublime J-pop classic. It was the biggest thing around on my mission, so naturally I had to get it. (Fans of the game Kingdom Hearts already know this gal, since she does the theme songs.)

#37. Gorillaz

by Gorillaz (2001)

I never quite got into Blur. But I think we were all a little blown away when Damon Albarn threw Gorillaz at us. Remember that "Clint Eastwood" video? Genius. Genre mashup perfection. If only more hip-hop were like Gorillaz. If only more pop were too. And rock.

#36. Silent Shout

by The Knife (2006)

Techno? Haven't really cared about that since Mortal Kombat. Wait, here's something interesting. The Knife...? Oh wow, so this is what it sounds like when creepy Swedish ice goblins get a hold of techno! How amazing! Its as if they've been creating this in some snow cave and the last 20 years never even happened! Cool.

#35. Ten Silver Drops

by Secret Machines (2006)

What I like about this album is how it seamlessly mixes epic pop melody into drawn out space rock. That's not supposed to work, but it does, and all of the sudden seven minute songs don't seem so long anymore. Throw in a thumping groove with a talented rhythm section and you strike gold with tracks like "I Hate Pretending."

#34. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

by Sigur Ros (2008)

Sigur Ros has not made a bad album. Not a single one. When you make epic elven rock for the Gods, I suppose it has to be this way. But on this album they bring it down to Earth a little more and let us humans sit around the campfire with them. The most "pop" of their albums, and still far more epic than most anything else out there.

#33. Heroes to Zeroes

by Beta Band (2004)

A perfect example of making music out of sound in general. Beta Band is technically a rock band I suppose, but why stop with just guitar, bass and drums? Everything is welcome to the party! As their last album, it is a fitting and grand finale. A sly, mischievous humor floats over the whole thing, and it fits my personality very well.

#32. Give Up

by The Postal Service (2004)

I had no idea who Death Cab for Cutie was. All I knew was this dude's quiet voice and poetic love poetry fit perfectly over the fantastic electro beats and grooves. I don't think I'm the only one who finds this more appealing than Death Cab itself. In my opinion, it has a lot more life to it. Too bad there was only one album. Unless you count the myriad of lesser clones that came out afterward.

#31. The Invisible Band

by Travis (2001)

This was the go-to feel-good album of the decade. Positive lyrics and bouncy, happy jingle jangle. Almost like what Radiohead might have sounded like if Thom & Co. took a lot of Prozac. They were Coldplay before Coldplay came along and became Coldplay. A great, beautiful album, and the first people I ever noticed do the faux-hawk. And not one of them is named Travis.

#30. It's Never Been Like That

by Phoenix (2006)

It took me a bit to finally come around to this group. The cover deceived me into thinking it was another cookie cutter Strokes clone. But when I finally heard them, I realized they were something much better: It was Phoenix! It wasn't a watered-down Strokes, if anything it was a juiced up Strokes, with dance grooves to spare. Eiffel Tower, move over. Phoenix is the new French landmark.

#29. First Impressions of Earth

by The Strokes (2006)

The same year Phoenix slowly but surely blew me away, The Strokes proved they were still the kings of retro-rock guitar noodling greatness. I'm not sure why this album gets panned so easily. Half of it is comprised of some of their best songs they've ever done. Granted, the other half isn't exactly TOP notch, but the good far outweighs the bad to me. Its a flawed album that somehow shines all the better for it.

#28. Copia

by Eluvium (2007)

How did this New Age background music of an album end up being one of the most played albums on my iPod? Well, it makes me feel like I'm swimming in an anti-gravity pool in space. It makes me feel like I'm enveloped in a pillow of cloud candy. It reminds me of a higher meaning to life. It dissipates stress almost completely. I suppose that's all reason enough.

#27. Don't Believe the Truth

by Oasis (2005)

Finally! I was waiting for this album ever since '95 when (What's the Story) Morning Glory came out. No, its not nearly as good as that classic, but its far and away the best beside it. This album was stripped of any fake tricks or over indulgence and they just rocked it out with their stadium sized melodies like they hadn't all decade. Finally! And apparently they broke up this year. Wah wah wah. We'll see I guess.

#26. Wincing the Night Away

by The Shins (2007)

Spongebob (not Garden State) actually converted me to The Shins when they appeared on the movie soundtrack (great soundtrack by the way). So I was expecting something like that song when I bought Chutes Too Narrow, but (to me) it failed to live up to the hype. It was good, just not what I was expecting. So when Wincing came out, I was skeptic. This album turned out to be exactly what I was expecting from The Shins in the first place. I know its blasphemous to some, but this, to me, is their most accessible, melodic, and best album. I'm a fan now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


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#75. Veckatimest

by Grizzly Bear (2009)

Baroque-space folk-pop (?) Still new-ish, but its inching up the decade list.

#74. Renegades

by Rage Against the Machine (2000)

The great Rage's last one. This is how a cover's album should be done.

#73. Silent Alarm

by Bloc Party (2005)

A promising group that sorta fizzled out after this. Boy what a fabulous punk-funk debut, though.

#72. Moon Over the Freeway

by The Ditty Bops (2006)

Dang these alt-vaudeville gals are fun. Great live show, too. Too bad they're lesbians. Or not.

#71. Discovery

by Daft Punk (2001)

I only barely heard this whole album for the first time this year. Still "discovering" its brilliance.

#70. Tyrannosaurus Hives

by The Hives (2004)

Retro punk deliciousness.The audio equivalent of caffeine. And just as addicting.

#69. The Mouse and the Mask

by DangerDoom (2006)

Cartoon Network's Adult Swim+One of the best producers (Danger Mouse)+One of the best rappers (MF Doom) = I like.

#68. Weezer (Green Album)

by Weezer (2001)

The last album I cherished before I went on the mission. The last summer album of adolescence.

#67. Message

by Mongol 800 (2001)

Extremely talented and fun pop-punk guitar chugg-chuggery. Great for a drive on the town.

#66. X&Y

by Coldplay (2005)

My least fav of their's, but it is Coldplay after all. Don't be a hater.

#65. Keep It Together

by Guster (2003)

Guster's best working of harmonious melody and folk rock grooviness.

#64. Fleet Foxes

by Fleet Foxes (2008)

Bringing back the four-part harmony folk to the masses. And its even better live.

#63. Dear Science

by TV On the Radio (2008)

This is exactly why more black dudes should take part in the "indie" avant-garde.

#62. The Shepherd's Dog

by Iron & Wine (2007)

Lots of Twilight fans have heard this album by now. Sam Beam should have a full band with him at all times.

#61. III

by Love Psychedelico (2004)
The group's third album of electro-country-rock goodness. Representing some of Japan's best.

#60. Unrest

by Erlend Oye (2003)

This half of Kings of Convenience is obviously the fun half. Fantastic dance album.

#59. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

by Phoenix (2009)

Instant '09 classic, still marinating. If The Strokes had a baby with Kelly Clarkson, it would be this band.

#58. Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends

by Coldplay (2008)

Probably the most eclectic of Coldplay's albums. Beautiful and emotional.

#57. Puzzle

by Tahiti 80 (2000)

Them Frenchies sure do know how to make great dance pop. (See also: Daft Punk, Phoenix, Justice)

#56. Relationship of Command

by At the Drive-In (2000)

Before the split into Sparta/Mars Volta, these guys rocked to perfection on their final effort.

#55. Is This It?

by The Strokes (2001)

The slightly overrated but still brilliant debut of the garage rock revivalists.

#54. Get Born

by JET (2003)

Not nearly as unique or genre defining as Is This It?, but it's twice as fun.

#53. Nickel Creek

by Nickel Creek (2000)

First major label debut with Alison Krauss producing. And what a beautiful one it is.

#52. Evolver

by 311 (2003)

Not the mega-fan I once was, but Evolver is definitely one of their more adventurous and sincere albums

#51. Happy Songs For Happy People

by Mogwai (2003)

Winner for most sarcastic title. Brooding and epic post-rock instrumentals.