Saturday, October 1, 2011

My top 100 films of the decade (That I watched) 81-90

90. Shrek 2

 – And yes the same goes for Shrek. Sure the first one is a classic because it introduced the whole Shrek universe to the world, but #2 did it funnier and better on all fronts. Too bad they dropped the ball on the third one. And the fourth… well I haven’t even seen it yet cuz I suspect it blows that much.

89. Lord of War 

– Nicholas Cage is an ever rolling crapshoot. Sometimes he’s brilliant, other times he’s menacingly bad. Case in point compare Leaving Las Vegas and Kiss of Death with the likes of Ghost Rider or The Wicker Man. Enter Lord of War. Raw, biting, real. To be honest, it’s probably one of his best 5 flicks in my book. It’s Tony Montana meets Tony Stark. A rags to riches to emotional rags story of a weapons dealer that truly puts the question, when will too much be enough when it comes to the arms race.

88. Snatch 

 – Oh man what a hell of a film. Funny, dark morose, funny, well written, superbly acted, funny, messed up, funny and funny. It’s not that this is a laugh fest by the way, it’s just that the movie is so messed up, you can’t help but laugh sometimes and feel bad for doing so. Well not really.

87. Slumdog Millionaire 

– I almost hate to put this movie on the list anywhere simply because the hype was so ridiculous and I stand by my stance that this movie is overrated. Good? Yes. Quite good actually. But movie of the year AND song of the year this was not. To be honest, it seems some political interests were being served with all the Slumdog hoopla and it’s a bit disappointing because the movie is actually quite excellent and it might be a preemptor of things to come. Regardless of the collateral BS that comes with the flick, good acting, great editing and a satisfying script means that the movie gets a slot on the list, even if it’s leagues lower than slum fans would like it to be.

86. Sweeny Todd
 – The Demon Barber gets the Burton twist. A musical for the Mortal Kombat generation, Sweeny Todd gives Kill Bill a run for its money in the blood sloshing department. Most everyone in the movie does a great job but high notes need to go to Sasha Baron Cohen for taking the pee selling Pirelli to new heights.

85. Finding Neverland – Well shot, well acted, fun, interesting and inviting you to find your own Neverland. This movie was just a great experience for me even though the best parts were the ones alluding directly to the timeless classic. Funny how Johnny Depp was able to land in so many flicks on this list, yet is managing to annoy the hell out of me lately.

84. Dodgeball 

– Hear me out. A movie is great for me if it gets me laughing and Dodgeball had me in stitches from the ridiculous story to Ben Stiller’s moustache and his Purple Headed Cobras. BTW, special things happen to me when this movie is on, so I HAD to include this on the list, which is MY list. Feel free to disagree in the comments section.

83. Identity 

– Interesting, kind of creepy, unexpected ending. Identity is all the things you want from a suspense thriller, including an ending that isn’t happy.

82. Rocky Balboa
 – Finally the venerable series gets the sendoff it deserves. (I’m ignoring Rocky IV and V in this little rant). After the lame fifth outing, round six proved to be the winning round in the contest. The script was pretty damn good, Stallone did a great Rocky and Paulie shall forever be one of the greatest fuckups in existence, which you can’t help but hate and love in one sentence.

81. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 

– WHATTTTTT??? A full on chick flick is on this list? Why yes and do you want to know why? Because when you make a movie so good that it’ll become a TBS staple for years to come, you know you did your job right. A thoroughly enjoyable comedy anyone in the family can adopt as their guilty pleasure and one of the reasons why people even know when to say Opa!

My top 100 films of the decade (That I watched) 91-100

100. Casshern
 – I need to mention this movie for one main reason. The story is weird, the acting isn’t always top notch and the overall flow of the movie is just odd, but WOW does this movie look simply incredible. Whether you like the wtf Neo Evangelion concept or not, you can’t deny the sheer visual strength of this movie and this is probably the only movie on the entire list that makes it solely because of one criteria, hence it being #100.

99. Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events 

– This is not the most awesome movie ever, but I think it was so beautifully shot and its wardrobe and stage direction was so amazing, that not mentioning it would be kind of a foul. Tag on an excellent score and you have a sleeper hit of a movie that merits at least one watch, though probably a few. Too bad developmental hell kept sequels from being produced, but it might mean animated features in the future, which might work as well or even better.

98. Spider Man 2 

– By far the best Spider Man Movie since the first one was ok and the third one… well let’s not even mention the third one. Effects got a good bump, the storyline was much more solid, Doc Oc was awesome and the movie was pretty much the main reason for me thinking the third one was going to be epic... too bad I simply got Spider Man the High School Musical instead.

97. 28 Days Later 

– A good zombie flick needs gallons upon gallons of fake blood and a scene or two where you might even cringe a little. A REALLY good zombie flick is also gruesome but brings a story, innovation within the genre and best of all, running zombies.

96. Final Fantasy VII Advent Children
 – Another movie that made my list based mainly on its visuals is FF VII: Advent Children. Add to a stunning CGI film some great music and some pretty incredible boss battles and you can forgive the odd bits in between. Simply put, if you played the series and like animated films, you will put this on your list because unlike Spirits Within, this movie DID NOT suck.

95. Bruce Almighty
 – Tell me you haven’t fantasized of parting a bowl of tomato soup ever since you saw this flick. Witty, fun, and without getting remotely close to the hackneyed efforts of its sequel. In short, this movie was güd!!

94. Spanglish
 – Call this my Sandler trio. Starting off with Spanglish, Sandler has a knack for making movies I watch and enjoy. True, not all of his flicks are best of the decade worthy, but I can’t deny that I loved the silky smoothness of You Don’t Mess with The Zohan or the predictable fun of The Longest Yard. However, Spanglish was a different kind of movie in the sense that it had a plot you saw and could actually believe. It might be uneven but when you break it all down, it’s pretty real and it has Paz Vega, so #94 it is.

93. Reign Over Me 

– Second in the Sandler Trio, Reign Over Me is a movie that surprised the hell out of me. Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler don’t always work well together, but it was Sandler’s show to steal anyway, which he did. A movie about coping with grief and the pain of leaving things unfinished. Clumsy at times, graceful at others; a lot like life if you ask me. And as a huge bonus, Pearl Jam offered a cover of The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me.

92. Click – 

The final Sandler flick in this entire list, what sets Click apart is that in addition to good laughs, it has a good message to take with you. Besides, it’s got Christopher Walken as a kooky guy from Bed, Bath and Beyond, Master Hasselhoff and Kate Beckinsale. But apart from that, the whole message of “work too much and life will pass you by” and “make sure you appreciate the people you love” before it’s too late resonated with me.

91. X 2

– Like Spider-Man, the best was left for second. X 2 is all that the first movie wanted to be and all that the third movie forgot to be. The best effects, best action sequences, coolest characters and most solid plot are found in this installment.

You have been gifted

In life, there are thousands of lessons to learn, but one of the hardest is to learn to value and appreciate every single day of your life. People often morph into creatures of habit living each day as if it is scripted, doing the minimum to get by and complaining just about everything. “My job sucks, my life sucks, this day is lame, I wish it were Friday.” You hear these comments from people throughout the week and it’s as if they wish they could fast forward through life just to get to the good parts.

Luckily, you have them all beat. You have been given the gift of knowledge that makes you a far more complete person than they are. In reality, we are all terminally ill because in the end, no one survives life. It’s just that the time we have varies from person to person… but that’s nothing compared to the QUALITY of the life you live.

Think of it this way, what good is living to be a hundred if you’re bitter, hate life, stop learning and continually settle. Now think of living half that time but being productive, being loved, writing, making music, surfing, loving, having a family, helping people and whatnot. The quality of those 50 years far eclipse someone who achieved the milestone of reaching a century’s worth of life… because it was a bitter century.

Some of the people who live life to the fullest are people who have been diagnosed with what in reality is the most real deadline any of us could ever be given. The veil has been taken off and the illusion of conformity is destroyed, replaced by the reality of how much you want to live. Adverse events have that way of impacting our lives.

In the life of Jesse Billauer, it took an accident at Pipeline when he was 17. Rendered quadriplegic, most people would be bitter with their life. Jesse accepted his situation, adapted his life and didn’t take no for an answer. With the help of a strong support group and unwavering faith in himself and his beliefs, he still surfs. Don’t take my word for it, check the links below.

Here’s Jesse chargin:

Motorcross superstar, Travis Pastrana knows the value of life from what happened to his friend Matt Bigos. Because of Travis driving irresponsibly, he crashed his car leaving his friend paralyzed. After being told he wouldn’t walk again, Matt showed what he thought of those diagnoses… even in his condition, he does Iron Men triathlons and shows that nothing and no one is going to tell him what he can or can’t do. He also forgave Travis and told him things just happen.

Check his blog at

Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham was born with Spina Bifida, which means he’s probably wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. His response? Becoming the pioneer of freestyle wheeling, landing air 360s, double backflips, and a superman air… all on a wheelchair.

These people didn’t take no for an answer, they didn’t give up and they didn’t let days slip by without doing what they loved. How many people do you know who can say this? How many healthy people? How many people with a smart phone, with Internet, with endless amounts of possessions and heaps of money?

In my personal experience my aunt was diagnosed with AIDS and my father was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of crumbling under the pressures of treatment and pain, my aunt published a book and spoke to people to create awareness and offer support. My father rekindled lost faith, prayed and finally broke down years of emotional barriers to finally show outwardly how much he cared for his family and in those 6 years he told me he loved me more than the rest of my life combined. If that isn’t worth more than 100 bitter years of life, then I don’t know what is.

Unlike countless millions, you have been given the gift of knowledge. You have been exposed to the one undeniable truth that binds all of us and which is your mission to share with everyone you come into contact with and it can be summed up in 5 words:

Every day is a gift

So my best to you and always remember to keep your head high because in everything, life is about quality not quantity.



Thursday, June 9, 2011

Explosions in the Sky – Take care, take care, take care – A+

Explosions in the Sky don’t make music, they make soundtracks to life and in their latest installment, there’s a sense of peace which is at times uplifting. Although often inclined to create epic compositions heavily flavored with melancholy, this is the most hopeful album they’ve ever created. Rest assured, if you’ve liked previous outings from Explosions, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care does not disappoint and further puts them at the forefront of post rock. Starting off with Last Known Surroundings, the song is an introduction to the album and that’s something you’ll have to maintain VERY present throughout. Although the tracks on this album can be enjoyed individually, they really do merit a full listen through since this album was made to be listened in one sitting. Tracks mesh into one another and the transition from the first track to Human Qualities is quietly beautiful. This track treads through more familiar Explosions territory, but it’s a wonderful setup to one of the definite highlight tracks on the album, Trembling Hands. Stylistically, this is a definite departure even going so far as to include looped vocals on the track. The echo drenched guitars continue but the pace of the song is the closest they’ve come to being frantic and at 3:31, I’m pretty sure it’s the shorts if not one of the shortest songs by Explosions in the Sky. The tone is at one of its definite highest on this track and it has to be a great song to hear live and territory I hope they explore further since it’s quite an interesting thing to see how much music they can cram into four minutes or less. Then you transition to the gentle Be Comfortable Creature. Another revisit to some familiar ground with some very present new colors in their palette. The synth breathing that enters around the 1:45 mark is beautiful and definitely carries across the title of the song. In this song especially you get a sense that Explosions in the Sky have definitely learned how to let a song grow at its own pace. They might be playing it, but they don’t own it by any means and the songs feel quite organic in that sense. Afterwards comes Postcard from 1952 another great song that shows glimpses of past compositions and stylistic trademarks while creating something entirely new before melting into the highlight of the album. In the background you can hear something that seems like a horn section, which is really the background guitar drumming out notes that could very much work in an orchestral setting before picking up the crunch, and taking you for a ride that grows and grows as has been their nature as a band for some time now. Which is all fantastic, but it’s only a setup for pretty much one of their best songs, the closing Let me Back in. The song begins with more synth whispers and some piano in the mix and it just grows, and grows and grows into forever. Truly, it’s a beautiful song and a definite high point in their catalogue since like other songs, it truly takes its time to develop and the end result is magnificent. Take Care, Take Care, Take Care offers the most new dynamics to the Explosions sound and few bands can even fathom to connect the way these guys do.

Highlight Tracks: Last Known SurroundingsTrembling HandsBe Comfortable CreatureLet me back in

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues - A

Fleet Foxes is a band ripped from some sunny hideaway circa 1963. That’s what they sound like but impressively, this band is from Seattle. Trust me, just seeing my record collection you can see I have NOTHING against Seattle and truly am a grunge child. It’s just my way of giving a tip of the hat to a band that has gone their way regardless of what’s expected from said territory. Whereas 90’s bands sounded like they came from the proverbial grey existence that is Seattle at times, you can’t help but feel as if you’re skipping through a sunny field when you listen to a Foxes album. That much is clearly apparent on each of the twelve tracks offered this time around. Montezuma opens with a sunrise track evoking echo laden dollops of hope only to be followed by a more Nick Drake meets America number in Bedouin Dress. Throughout the musicianship is excellent and it’s another album that gets you smiling. I can’t help but feel as if this album sounds like something I would have found hidden in one of my parent’s music collections from their teens. It’s music to inspire and feel hopeful to, which is ironic given the title of the album. The retro folk grandness continues with Sim Sala Bim and it doesn’t let up. Like their debut and First EP Sun Giant, the band doesn’t let up and the quality of the music holds strong throughout. Great band, great album, great listen.

Highlight Tracks: Montezuma - Bedouin Dress - Sim Sala Bim – Grown Ocean – Lorelei The Plains /Bitter Dancer – Someone you’d admire

Monday, May 30, 2011

Recaudando dinero en la luz – un verdadero valor puertorriqueño

No hay nada mal con querer ir a una competencia en Estados Unidos y necesitar recaudar fondos. Si lo resumes es básicamente tener un sueño y necesitar lograr la manera de llegarle. Básicamente lo único que limita tus esfuerzos de recaudación es el nivel de creatividad que emplees. Desde un venta bajo la carpa, a un bazar, vendiendo limonada, bizcochos, un talent show o hasta ventas de pizza o botellas de agua… la realidad es que HAY maneras de ganarte ese dinero o de justificarlo. Pero en vez de hacer algo para ganarse ese dinero, como muchas cosas, esperamos que no los regalen.

Ciertamente pararse bajo el sol boricua en una luz no es placentero, pero tampoco toma una ciencia ni mucho esfuerzo. Es aguantar calor mientras esperas por el mantengo a base del ay bendito, lema nacional de nuestra querida isla que tanto se le ha olvidado cómo ganarse el dinero. Hay quien dice que tal pensamiento es ignorante de mi parte porque yo no entiendo lo que es pasar necesidad, porque soy un cuello blanco y miles de otras razones para tratar de desvirtuar la atención de la realidad – y es que hay DEMASIADA gente que vive del mantengo y no es por nada, pero me desgarra las entrañas el que yo tenga que dejar artículos de mi compra por falta de presupuesto mientras personas con la tarjeta de la familia tienen dos carritos de compras llenados más a capacidad que si Aventura tuviese un concierto gratis en el Choliseo. No estoy diciendo que todo el mundo que tiene la tarjeta de la familia la usa irresponsablemente, pero es innegable compartir que hay personas que abusan de los beneficios que le dan.

El recaudar dinero en una luz es una acción ignorante, irresponsable y dañina a la sociedad porque le estás diciendo a un chamaquito que es tan especial que le van a regalar los medios para lograr sus metas y sueños. Siendo honesto, la única otra profesión que depende exclusivamente de la recaudación monetaria en cada semáforo de esta isla es el ser un deambulante.

Se le enseña la valiosa lección de poner cara de víctima y necesidad para que llueva maná capitalista y abracadabra, nos fuimos a Washington el equipo entero con sus familiares que no tienen por qué servir de sanguijuela financiera, pero pues, como la limosna fue tan efectiva, por qué no llevarlos. ¿Pues por qué recurrir a esta acción si es tan despreciable? La contestación es simple y desagradable… porque funciona. Y si funciona, ¿pues para qué pasar esfuerzo?

Esa es la misma actitud que le enseña a un joven a quejarse y llorar hasta que le den una A, los mismos valores que usan los corruptos y criminales cuando están en la corte para justificar su desliz con la ley y los mismos valores que nos han llevado al actual estado de crisis financiera y moral del país. Por eso invito a que se mande pal infierno el ay bendito aunque sea por un año como un experimento socio cultural. Quién sabe, a lo mejor recobramos algo de lo que nos hacía un sitio tan agradable para vivir hace dos décadas.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Elbow Build a Rocket Boys - A+

I’ve said it before, rarely have I recommended a band as much as Elbow. Having discovered this band through chance, I came about their album Cast of Thousands during the summer of 2004 while working as an intern in NYC. Little did I know I’d chanced upon what would turn out to be one of my favorite bands, ever. Thing is that it’s easy to love this band but it’s equally easy to understand why it’s taken them so long to gain the respect and admiration they deserve. This is music with deep seeded influences but a true commitment to the personality of the band members. It’s not pretentious, it’s intricate, it’s beautiful and lush, but it does so by being well thought instead of in your face. Simply put, no one sounds like Elbow and it’s good that no one tries to emulate this band, because odds are it’d be a terrible idea. The nuances, subtleties and unique textures comprised by a ménage of all the instruments are anchored by an everyday guy with a golden voice who has a true knack for writing lyrics that resonate with underlying human threads that know no boundaries.

Build a Rocket Boys is the fifth album by Elbow, and it’s just as rewarding (and possibly more so) than their previous releases, which is saying quite a lot. Musically, the textures are as inventive as ever and the overall mood of the album has you careening from introspective beauty reflecting on life and smiling to wanting to build something while smiling… the key factor is that I can’t help but listen to this album without smiling. Often pegged as sappy sad kids, Elbow have done quite the job of creating music that fills you with smiley jitters. It’s not that they’ve left aside their roots or their identity, or that the album doesn’t include some quietly beautiful numbers, it’s just that at least for this outing, they’re still reaching for the stars, but doing it with a smirk on their face and three beers in their belly.

You could say that this album is celebratory and maybe it has to do with their success on their last outing – the fantastic Seldom Seen Kid, which also happened to be their breakthrough. You can actually say a lot of things, but what you can’t say is that this album isn’t ridiculously good or crafted with passion, love and talent.

Apart from a rocket, these boys are also building something many bands are taking for granted: a legacy. We just happen to be lucky enough to tag along for the ride. From the beautiful opening of The Birds, with its electronic flourishes, to the college kid’s reflection of Jesus is a Rochdale Girl, to pretty much every track on the album, Build a Rocket Boys shows a band growing and evolving in talent and scope but keeping it very real.


Friday, May 27, 2011

R.E.M. - Collapse into Now - A+

For believing albums are dead, R.E.M. have put out one of their best ever. Even more so, something I really think needs to be said about this album is that unlike most R.E.M. albums, Collapse Into Now doesn’t have their typical mid-album slump (something also very apparent in their last outing Accelerate). But if anything, I think R.E.M.’s reaction to the album is interesting because although in interviews they almost sound as if they’re full of it, they play on the album with as much f%^& you conviction as ever. Actually, it often sounds like they’re having a really good time.

True, many lyrics may have them taking the role of curmudgeonly journeymen talking to “the kids”, but if that’s my main complaint of this album… then I’ll take it, because at 30, I often feel completely out of sync with lots of things that are happening nowadays and the music here says that loud and clear. Whatever you’re doing now, we’re not interested, this is how we rock.

Collapse Into Now maintains the focus seen on Accelerate, but a hell of a lot of variety has been added to the mix to offer up a great solid collection of songs that lyrically, musically and thematically matter. Peter Buck even pulled out the mandolin to reminisce on greener and less socially-networked pastures of the days of old.

Great lyrics, good choruses and impressively so, one of the most intelligible I’ve ever heard Michael Stipe. Although the interviews and the album title might project a sense of pessimism and nihilistic tendencies towards their relevance, Collapse Into Now is the work of great musicians, making great music just for the hell of it apparently.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soundgarden – Live from the I-5 – A -

It’s been a long time in the making, but there is finally a goddamn Live Soundgarden album. If you read the reviews, you might find some hater reviewers who aren’t too fond of the band giving it an ok review. Since I’m a fan, this is a review for fans. So if you’re a hater, take it elsewhere.

If you ask me, the track listing is interesting, varied and showcases some definite high points. The only thing that could have some sort of question mark regarding Soundgarden live is Chris Cornell’s voice, and to be honest, that’s the only thing I could sort of complain. As I mentioned to a friend of mine, it’s not that Cornell sings songs in a greater range than Robert Plant, it’s that song after song in the Soundgarden catalogue are punishing on anyone’s vocals. Let me drown is a particular track where your own throat might hurt just from listening to Chris shredding his chords. But occasional vocal blips aside, this is a great collection of live tracks, so let’s look at Live on the I-5 track by track. 

1.      Spoonman: Hell of a start to a live album and shows that when Soundgarden delivers, they REALLY deliver. The band is beyond punched and you feel the riffs rip at you. Kim Thayill is smoking on this opener.

2.      Searching with my good eye closed: Definitely one of the highlights of the album with Matt Cameron showing that this is his band. Add to this the guitar led vocal riff at about the 2:22 mark which then leads into all hell breaking loose on the rhythm section.

3.      Let me Drown: One of those songs that just hurt to listen to not because it’s bad, but because Chris Cornell is on the verge of losing his voice on occasion. Again, the band rips the hell out of this one.

4.      Head Down: Along with Mailman, this is one of my favorite Superunknown songs. Odd time signature, weird tuning, weird song. It’s a cool song to have them play but not one of those marquee moments in a concert or on the album, which shows that not all in this collection is perfection. Highpoints in the track go to Ben Shepperd and Matt Cameron who give a nice musical breakdown at the 3:15 mark and are a highpoint throughout this track and at the end.

5.      Outshined: Hell of a great song live. Period. Sabbath channeled through 90’s alt metal, what’s not to like.

6.      Rusty Cage: Dirty, powerful, scary fast songs are a plus for any Soundgarden experience and their rendition of Rusty Cage rocks.

7.      Burden in My Hand: One of those songs that has a lot of color in each particular instrument, Burden is a track that translates pretty good live and especially showcases Ben Sheppards talents on the bass.

8.      Helter Skelter: Truly a unique version of this Beatles song that leads into one of my favorite random Soundgarden songs.

9.      Boot Camp: The segue is flawless and definitely works like a charm on a live stage.

10.  Nothing to Say: Sludging guitars drop like sonic lava on your body… that’s a pretty good way to describe this song as Chris Cornell shreds his voice to pieces. Highlights are on the offbeat drumming of maestro Cameron and the 6 string licks of Kim Thayill. Definitely a sound that feels like the true essence of grunge at its best.

11.  Slaves and Bulldozers: Another sludgy song which is vocalizingly punishing but very satisfying since you feel the slight desire to break something.

12.  Dusty: Dusty is one of those songs that definitely does not sound like a single but was. It’s a good song, odd sound structure, interesting verse and guitar work with some nice improvisation work throughout.

13.  Fell on Black Days: Fell on is a song that doesn’t get you pumped but it’s always a nice treat to listen to. It’s more an album song to plug into and really listen to, but it’s probably a great precursor to a gut busting track… and with what comes afterwards in this setlist, that seems an appropriate approximation

14.  Search and Destroy: Quite soundgarden like to follow a mellow number like Fell on Black Days with a scorching rendition of Search and Destroy that would make the Stooges proud and a little afraid. Where the stooges were pure raw power, Soundgarden takes this song and spruces it up enough to make it their own without losing the essence and definitely hitting hard. The two covers on this live album truly stand out for being great takes on classics and Search and Destroy does not disappoint. So how to top it?.....

15.  Ty Cobb: By playing Ty Cobb… a raw weird, pumped up song that gets your adrenaline rushing at the energy and your head scratching at the great playing. Seriously, few people can be so punk and prog in their approach as these guys.

16.  Black Hole Sun: Which obviously means they throw a curveball with a guitar driven rendision of Black Hole Sun… a lovely aperitif or an adieu before ripping the heads off the crowd with one of their best live songs.

17.  Jesus Christ Pose: Now that’s the song to end a Soundgarden concert. Thumping drums and bass, screaming guitar, vocals straight through the roof. If there’s no tomorrow and this is the last song they play live, it’s a good choice.


Most bands wish they could have the energy and talent these guys have on a soundcheck on any given performance. That being said, I think it’d be great to see more of this because it’s the first time I’ve listened to full-fledged sound checks. Hell this disc makes me wish I was a roadie.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

50 Best albums of the Decade Part 7 - the Top 10

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium
When it comes to quantity vs. quality, you should always pick the latter… but when you get both, who the hell are you to complain. To be honest, Stadium Arcadium is not an album in the sense that the songs need to be played in the sequence they’re laid out. It’s a statement said in various reviews and one I tend to agree with on certain occasions though if you’ll take the 28 tracks as a whole, Danny California is the perfect opener and Death of a Martian is quite an appropriate closer. It’s in the middle that things get a little dicey, but that’s a small complaint when you see the quality of music dished out by this group of veterans. A while later after the release and subsequent tour of Stadium Arcadium, John Frusciante parted ways amicably with the band and I think a lot of that has to do with this double dose of Red Hot Goodness. Although Flea and Chad Smith do a great job as always, the band member who stretched out the farthest was Frusciante and when you listen to the tracks and the variety, an honest question arises… what the hell else can John do in this scenario that he hasn’t done before? Truly, listening to things so drastically different as Animal Bar and Storm in a Teacup shows that John can push to new boundaries and maybe he wants to explore new ventures before possibly returning to the RHCP after he’s figured out that this is where he can excel as a guitarist. Truth be told, a mind as hyperactive as Frusciante’s is capable of pumping out multiple albums in a year and maybe he just wanted more flexibility to do all of that. The treasures he’s left behind in this outing though serve as a perfect canvas for Anthony Kiedis to excel as a singer and often times, he delivers, coming up short on just a few occasions. For their part, Flea and Chad Smith could very well be a two headed Siamese beast since they are that much in sync. Some people think this could have been an epic album if it would have been trimmed to the barest necessary tracks or if it had been spliced into two distinct albums but for my part, I’m happy they released a double album. Most fans want at least one double album from their favorite artists just to see what they can do with that scenario and a lot of times we have been surprised. The Beatles released the White Album, Zeppelin had Physical Graffiti, Pink Floyd built the Wall, The Who released Qudrophenia, Nine Inch Nails released the Fragile, and even the Smashing Pumpkins released Melloncollie and the Infinite Sadness. For their part, The Red Hot Chili Peppers did the double album proud and it makes me wish for the same from some other artists just to see what they can do.

Highlight Tracks: Dani California – Charlie – Stadium Arcadium – Hump de Bump – She’s only 18 - Especially in Michigan – Wet Sand – Tell me Baby – Readymade – Animal Bar – Storm in a teacup – Death of a Martian

9. Sigur Ros – ( )
( ) is the title of one of the saddest yet most beautiful albums I’ve ever heard in my life. If anything, Sigur Ros know how to make music that only they can pull off. It’s beautiful, it seems like music made for winter mornings and the attempts nature sometimes gives to try and thaw and be happy, while still remaining frozen. It’s slow and it unravels and it’s an album that demands from its listener because you’re either contemplative, pensive or sad when you listen to this music. It does have its jeering moments when the band puts forth some of the most wonderfully aggressive music in their catalogue and truth be told, with the glimpses we see here, I’d like to see and angry Sigur Ros album. I’m not expecting heavy metal, but I am expecting the amazing heaven seizing grandeur as seen on some tracks that will remain nameless. Sure, they’ve been given some pseudonyms, but in essence, the tracks are without title. There are no liner notes, no thank yous, and no lyrics, only two words… Sigur Ros, and that’s on the cover sleeve. The songs have no real words as it was sung completely in hopelandic and you can see how this plays with your mind, because you want to adlib and fill the blanks with whatever is inside you. They say there are two sides to every story, well it also turns out that there’s two sides to an album. The first half of this collection is more hopeful, beautiful and even sunny. The second half is bleak, despondent and as mentioned above, at times angry. But no matter which side or which track you’re listening to… there’s no doubt that this is pure Sigur Ros.

Highlight Tracks: The entire album

8. Jorge Drexler – Eco
Sometimes the measure of a great album is the fact that you can listen to it from start to finish three or four times in a row. That’s how I feel with Eco. A warm, smartly produced and intimately performed album by an Uruguayan singer that also happened to win an Oscar. The measure of importance of an artist in each and every person’s life directly correlates with what a song means in your particular life. For me, Eco the album holds enough great memories to elicit smiles on cue and a spot on the top 10.

Highlight Tracks: Eco – Deseo – Todo se Transforma – Guitarra y Vos – Don de Fluir – Salvapantallas – Al Otro Lado del Río – Polvo de Estrellas

7. At the Drive–in – Relationship of Command
Few bands could pack a punch like At The Drive In. Listening to them you felt like you were on a cart on some maniacal roller coaster and that at every turn you could fly off… but you didn’t, because this wasn’t pure reckless aggression, it was concise, precise and deliberately out of control, like some race car driver skidding on turns. Relationship of Command is the tightest most aggressive ATDI album, and that’s saying something. It’s also an album that pushed the band to the brink creatively and heralded the creation of two bands when members of this one couldn’t reconcile. But this album represents some of the best and most raucous rock music you will find this past decade or anywhere. You see, before a bunch of boyish fruity punk bands urinated all over the moniquer Emo, At the Drive In was showing what the real deal was. Posers have long listened to it to try to emulate, but unfortunately for them, they lack the musical gonads to match this band in half its prime, much less when they were going out guns a blazing.

Highlight Tracks: Arcarsenal – One Armed Scissor – Enfilade - Mannequin Republic – Cosmonaut – Rolodex Propaganda – Invalid Litter Dept… in all honesty… the whole damn thing

6. Queens of the Stoneage – Songs for the Deaf
Desert rock has never sounded this good. Also, Songs for the Deaf is an appropriate title for an epic album that starts off with audio that is barely listenable, prompting you to crank up the volume only to have your eardrums shattered by the real track a few seconds later. After that hell of an intro, what follows is a sequence of excellent songs that never lets up, never disappoints, consistently surprises and never ceases to reward generously. With excellent contributions by Mark Lanegan and the drumming of Dave Grohl, going wrong wasn’t a likely choice for this album, and it never takes its foot off the gas. Not even in the slower songs. This is an album for all occasions if all occasions happened to be epic and inspired greatness. People often remember No One Knows and Go with the Flow, but the Queens pulled off an album where every track is just as solid.

Highlight Tracks: You think I ain’t worth a dollar, but I feel like a millionaire – No One Knows – First it Giveth – A song for the Dead – The Sky is Falling – Hanging Tree – Go with the Flow – Another Love song – a song for the deaf

5. Beck – A Sea Change
Some of the best albums don’t need to be played by virtuosos, they just need to have soul and Sea Change has that in spades. This collection of songs was inspired by a breakup and it shows. It feels as if it’s a soul trying to cope with the loss and doing a sometimes good job of it. Pretty much if you ever needed a reason to know why there’s an idealization of sadness and the beauty of teetering on the edge of despair, Sea Change shows why. Face it, sometimes we show the most beautiful part of who we are as people when we are at our lowest. You see, not everyone manages to be happy in life, but sadness often binds us to one another… and if the tides teach us anything it’s that though sometimes you are high, and other times you are low… there’s always a sea waiting for you to lose yourself into… and that’s life.

Highlight Tracks: The Golden Age – Paper Tiger – Guess I’m doing Fine – Lonesome tears – Round the Bend – Already Dead – Sunday Sun – Side of the Road

4. Pearl Jam – Back Spacer
Past 40 and still ripping rock and roll a new one, Pearl Jam’s last album of the decade is also one of their best. With the 1-2-3 combo of Gonna See My Friend, Got Some and the Fixer you know the boys are revitalized as ever. Then you have the beautiful Just Breathe that tugs at heartstrings while Ed Vedder channels his Into the Wild persona on this track and the closer. As if that weren’t enough, you have the soaring Amongst the Waves, a true surf fan track if there ever was one plus another helping of crunchy goodness with Supersonic only to end on one of the most breathtaking PJ tracks ever in The End. Pearl Jam proves once again that when it comes to straight up Rock and Roll, few do it better than them while veering far enough from the path to touch on punk, folk and even a song about the late great Johnny Guitar Watson. This is an album to throw in the faces of bands half their age, who consistently put out albums half as good and play shows half as long. If you want the full-on satisfaction of music, get Pearl Jam or get bust.

Highlight Tracks: Got Some – The Fixer – Just Breathe – Amongst the Waves – Supersonic – the End – Speed of Sound

3. Tool – Lateralus
There’s something about Tool’s music that sounds as if it were the soundtrack to an HP Lovecraft Dream Cycle. It is timeless, it is scary and it is beautiful. The images inspired by the music alone is worth the price of admission and if you need a further description, consider this the most beautiful version of that dark side of your soul expressed in music. Tool has never been a band to elicit light imagery, but with Lateralus, they break new ground in the aim to allow people to transcend rather than simply transport. The music is complicated as only they can make it and the synergy between Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor and Danny Carey is frightening in its darkness. Danny Carey especially proves with this outing why he’s one of the best drummers to have ever roamed the Earth and you just need to listen to the Grudge, Ticks and Leeches or Reflection to see why. Maynard James Keenan offers up some of his most introspective lyrics to date and again, the purpose of all the music on this album is to help you transcend to higher darker regions of consciousness to find the beauty in the shade.

Highlight Tracks: The Grudge – Schism – Lateralis – Ticks and Leeches – Parabol/Parabola

2. The Mars Volta – Deloused in the Comatorium
Rarely does a debut album exceed the hype… for Deloused in the Comatorium, people had some very high expectations regarding what they would offer the world. Their Tremulant EP gave a hint at where they were going, but no one had any idea of how intense the ride would be. Simply put, Deloused in the Comatorium is a masterpiece. It has so much energy you’d be scared that the disc would explode during the pressing process, but somehow they managed to keep it under wraps. If you’re looking for logical lyrics and verse-chorus-verse songs, don’t even put this album on. It’s not conventional and it’s far from predictable. What it is however is a musical behemoth, breaking down walls of genre, time constraints and polyrhythm. The album tugs, pulls, pushes and creates new ground with salsa inflexions, the energy of true post punk and guitars that attack like a sonic maelstrom to create one of the best albums I’ve ever listened to.

Highlight Tracks: Inertiatic ESP – Roulette Dares – Drunkship of Lanterns – Cicatriz ESP – Televators – Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt - Ambuletz

1. Radiohead – Kid A
Everything in its right place indeed. There is just no other place for Kid A on this list that isn’t on the top. That an album so alienating as Kid A was embraced by so many people is a testament to how great it is. From the beginning bleeps of the opening track to the beautifully sad Motion Picture Soundtrack, no track is filler since even the quiet sparsely produced Treefingers and the intelligible Kid A are wonderful in their own random way. For harder tracks look to National Anthem and Idioteque and the sheer musical beauty of Morning Bell at around the 2:08 mark is something to wonder at. Kid A is an album that ebbs and flows. That has a beginning, a development, an end. It tells a story, it serves as the soundtrack for your life, it inspires you, it makes you want to dance, it makes you think and it is rewarding in each and every listen you give it.

Highlight Tracks: All of them