Saturday, March 19, 2011

Top 50 albums of the last decade - Part 3 (41-50)

50. Four Tet – Rounds: 

Nearly left off the list, upon closer inspection of my compilation, I had to include Rounds for being one of the most creative sonic adventures I’ve ever heard. Try marrying Trip-hop with Industrial music in the sense that juxtaposing noises are put side by side to create memorable soundscapes. Visionary, bold, mellow, and rewarding with every listen.

49. Grandaddy – the Sophtware slump
The Sophtware Slump was actually an album I bought because of one song and really didn’t give a couple of deep listens until a year or two after I bought it. What I found in those subsequent listens was a mellow album with strong tracks, a sense of robotic imagery that hinted at something grand beneath it all. Simply put, it’s an album that sounds like a concept album, might have a concept behind it but doesn’t necessarily depend on a concept to be enjoyable. It also plays great from start to finish or in shuffle, which is a tricky thing to accomplish. I think it took a while to get into it because it’s not a long album, but it does feel like one, mainly because of the first track which almost reaches the 9 minute mark. Regardless, it’s a great listen and a unique album in all regards.

Highlight Tracks: The Crystal Lake - He’s simple, he’s dumb, he’s the pilot – Miner at the Dial a view

48. Nine Inch Nails – The Slip: 

Take everything Trent Reznor has done from Pretty Hate Machine to Ghosts I-IV and trim it down to the bare minimum to get the best out of everything. That’s what The Slip represents. A consolidation of strengths to produce one hell of an album, even if it does fall short of other works by Maestro Reznor. But maybe it was his way of showing that he doesn’t need to produce a 70+ minute behemoth to get his message across. Actually, this time around it took less than 44 minutes.

Highlight Tracks: Discipline - 1,000,000 – Lights in the Sky – Corona Radiata

47. Peter Gabriel – Up: 

It’s not So, it’s not Us, it’s not Scratch or Security, it’s Up. A beautifully dark album with long complex tracks that unravel rather than reveal. Simply put, if you’re looking for another In Your Eyes or Solsburry Hill, this is the last album you should ever listen to. If you enjoyed OVO however or Red Rain, then you should check this album out. From a musical point of view, Up has so many layers, it’s ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t satisfying. Just one listen to the brooding Darkness, the Blind Boys from Alabama accompanied Sky Blue or the Epic Signal to Noise and it’s clear Gabriel has grand visions for grand music and nothing else will satisfy him as an artist.

Highlight tracks: Signal to Noise - Darkness – Growing up – Sky Blue

46. Coldplay – A rush of blood to the head: 

There’s a reason Clocks was played to death, it’s a great record, with great tracks to keep it company. Whereas some albums are epic because of the spontaneity they captured though, A rush of blood to the head seems like a deliberate album, crafted to please casual fans of Radiohead who wanted something less avante guarde and more mainstream. There’s nothing wrong with that, and unfortunately for all the haters, there’s nothing wrong with A rush of blood to the head either.

Highlight tracks: Clocks – Daylight – A rush of blood to the head – the Scientist

45. Mogwai – The Hawk is Howling: 

Picking one album from Mogwai over the others is a bit of a hassle, especially since they’re all pretty solid. But unlike other bands that got repeats, I only selected one album from this Scottish band. The Hawk is Howling sees them tread sonic textures they’d hinted at before, but unlike other releases, there are no vocals on this album, even for the purpose of singing a couple of notes. And they actually sound more full than ever giving one of their most satisfying albums which forces me to not be able to pick one track over another. So simply press play, and enjoy.

Highlight tracks: the whole thing.

44. Coldplay – Parachutes: 

If there’s any need to be apologetic about liking Coldplay, it has all to do with Christopher Martin’s posturing and the existence of Viva La Vida. Though Viva isn’t a poor album, it did feel forced and designed to please fans and the masses rather than any artistic desire within the band. It also bothered me a bit the whole thing with Joe Satriani and the very plausible ripoff of a song of his. But this has nothing to do with Parachutes. Possibly Coldplay’s finest effort (although you can debate between this and A rush of blood…), the deliberateness of their performance was there from the beginning, this is music to please, but there’s also the freshness of the band and tracks that have you humming them against your will. There’s also a bit less production and I think that’s something that helps the band since with every subsequent release, production has become more of a necessity, which might explain why X & Y and Viva la Vida sound so watered down. So if the essence of Coldplay sounds like something interesting to you, here’s a great start.

Highlight Tracks: Yellow – Sparks -  Spies – Everything’s Not Lost

43. Oasis – Don’t Believe the Truth: 

Fans tend to bash Oasis for the release of Be Here Now and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and although these albums were far from epic, they didn’t suck either. They just weren’t up to par with Morning Glory or Definitely Maybe. Then came Heathen Chemistry and you knew something was brewing though it wasn’t yet there… and them comes Don’t Believe the Truth. In comparison, this album is worthy of standing alongside their two first albums. The flatness of Heathen Chemistry is gone and it’s been replaced by what worked for these lads. It’s got grit, energy and the cocksureness that made Oasis such an enjoyable band in the first place.

Highlight tracks: Turn up the sun – Lyla - Part of the Queue – Guess God thinks I’m Abel

42.  Elbow – Asleep in the back: 

Elbow is the kind of band that you hear and don’t know where they came from actually. Their sound is so distinct that you’d have to scrape through some obscure bands just to find the roots of where they came from musically. That’s not a bad thing at all. Quite the contrary, it means that unlike other bands they have their own sound. Unique, mellow, at times blissfully bleak and songs that sound simple but really aren’t. It’s the type of band that rewards dedicated listeners just as much as the casual bloke who puts a track on. Peculiar lyrics, offbeat phrasing and instrumentation that sounds sparse but oddly full. Couple the lush tunes with Guy Garvey’s fantastic voice, and you have something that connects deeper than far more successful bands.

Highlight tracks: Scattered Black and Whites – Powder Blue – Don’t Mix your Drinks – Newborn – Asleep in the Back

41. Franz Ferdinand – ST: 

Dirty, groovy, post punk goodness is rarely pulled off this well. From all the bands that fall in this retro punk vintage, Franz Ferdinand definitely rank among the best, ripping 39 minutes’ worth of great tracks to show the other wannabes how it’s really done.

Highlight Tracks: Take me Out – The Dark of the Matinee – This Fire – Michael – Cheating on you

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