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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

50 Best albums of the Decade Part 6 - 11-20

20. Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
If you’re looking for the most successful release by the Kings of Leon, look two albums ahead. If however you want their best work, look to the followup to Youth and Young Manhood. Aha Shake Heartbreak does not contain songs as anthemic as some found on Only by the Night, but there isn’t one so-so track on this 37 minute testament to southern rock. From the great opener in Slow Night, So Long to the whiskey laden Rememo, the Kings take their brand of sound and crank it up while broadening their collective musical chops. True, their next album had them almost venturing into a prog rock version of southern rock, but on Aha Shake Heartbrake, they find the right balance and deliver the goods in spades. Crank it up, roll down the windows and enjoy the ride.

Highlight Tracks: Slow Night, So Long – King of the Rodeo – Taper Jean Girl – Milk – The bucket – Four Kicks - Rememo

19. The White Stripes - Elephant
Just how much variety can a guitar drum duo make? How loud can it be? Just listen to Elephant to find out why. Starting off with the dirty blues glory of Seven Nation Army, Elephant possibly turns out to be the best album in the Stripes catalogue. It’s dirty, raw energetic, anthemic and superb just to use some superlatives that though overused when describing this album, are remarkably apt. Elephant is a raw angry album that is unapologetic in its musical approach and shows Jack White can definitely make enough crunchy goodness with his guitar to keep you headbanging throughout while Meg White keeps the basics on full drive to get the message through of what a memorable beat should truly sound like. Well, headbanging as long as it isn’t a mellow acoustic number, which this album has to balance the whole thing out. Honestly, the fact that the track selection is excellent and has no easily discernible weaknesses means that though this band has recently announced their demise, they left for us a yummy red and white nugget of musical greatness that ranges from dirty blues, to raucous punk and everything in between.

Highlight Tracks: Seven Nation Army – Black Math - There’s no Home for you Here – ball and biscuit In the Cold cold Night – The Hardest Button to button – Girl you have no faith in medicine

18. Elbow – Cast of Thousands
If there’s any band I’ve recommended to no end, it’s Elbow and it has a lot to do with this album. During the summer of 2004, I came across this album at a job I had in NYC. They had an extra copy and told me to take it with me. What has ensued is a little love story between a fan of music and a band that makes music in their own vein, without saying excuse me, or minding any of what’s going on. It’s great music based on great lyrics, with one of the best voices currently swooning into a microphone. Cast of Thousands has so many memorable moments, that you can get lost in it all, and without exaggerating, it’s probably one of my favorite albums because much like the band, the album came into my life out of left field. I wasn’t looking for them; I wasn’t desperate for that new band to see my feelings reflected… they just arrived. The level of influence these guys might have on me might actually come full stride if I ever become a successful writer, but that there tells you something… this is music to listen to, to get inspired by, to use as a backdrop to a life… not a killer epic life, but just life in all its ordinary glory. Add to that the fact that they seem fully committed to always developing an album and not just a collection of singles and you see why it all resonates. They’re bringing something new without forgetting the old. They’re classic, but revolutionary, prog but minimalistic, and every day people who do amazing things with just instruments and words.

Highlight Tracks: Ribcage – Fugitive Motel – Switching off – I’ve got your number – whisper grass – buttons and zips – crawling with idiot – grace under pressure

17. Fugazi – The Argument
It’s cute to see bands trying to be as do-it-yourself, innovative, relevant, and talented as Fugazi. It really is, because for every indy band labeled as such, they owe said denomination to one of the few truly independent stalwarts of rock music. Then Fugazi go and release The Argument, which is their best album yet. From Cashout to Argument, the entire album is a collection of great songs delivered raw but refined. On the album you often have two guitars going in very distinct directions and on their own, they could make their own track… but they’re collaborating to create a wall of sound. Behind that wall of noise you have a tight rhythm section that is inventive, distinctive and above all else original. I wouldn’t be surprised if people mentioned any of the musicians in Fugazi as their favorite in their respective instruments. Melodic, uniquely structured, catchy, yet always pushing limits… this could describe The Argument or the essence of Fugazi equally well.

Highlight Tracks: Cashout – Full Disclosure – Life and Limb – The Kill – The Argument

16. Tool – 10,000 Days
Tool is that band that spooks other musicians, because there’s no way human beings can be this good as a collective. 10,000 is another installment in a stellar catalogue that though with waiting periods bordering on the ridiculous, when you see the end result, you can’t help but feel the wait is justified. Tool is a band that has pretty much created a subgenre of its own and spawned dozens if not hundreds of clone bands like Chevelle wanting to cash in on their sound. The problem for half ass bands like them is that though they are quite capable of making pleasant music, they are not Tool, they will never be Tool and they will never be compared favorably to Tool. With 10,000 days, Tool cements their legacy as the band to look up to.

Highlight Tracks: Vicarious – Jambi – Wings for Marie 10,000 days – Right in Two – Rosetta Stoned

15. Explosions in the Sky – All of a sudden I Miss Everyone
Sometimes music is just supposed to transport you… It just so happens that with Explosions in the Sky, you can go farther than many bands. Every one of their albums seems to be a voyage of some sort and this time around you can see landscapes of a thousand horizons welcoming a thousand suns. You float and soar with the music and you realize that like the album, no matter how far you tread from home… missing people is something that comes natural to us since nostalgia is simply desire expressed towards the best times of our lives. When I listen to an album like this, I can’t help but be more thankful for everything I have and every experience I’ve lived… if that doesn’t merit a place on this list, I don’t know what does. 

Highlight Tracks: The Birth and Death of A Day – Welcome Ghosts – It’s Natural to Be Afraid – What do you go Home to - Catastrophe and The Cure -

14. The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute
Occasionally music is so amazing that you can transcend the physical and achieve new found heights of consciousness. That’s what I think would happen to me if I did shrooms and listened to Frances the Mute. Mazelike, intense, odyssey-esque, uniquely complex, beautiful, powerful, transcendental and yes, weird… very weird. This is the work of true musicians who give a rat’s ass about what’s going to sell a record. They’re here to show you something new. Some cosmic post space punk with latin flourishes and enough string bending guitar greatness to let you ascend. But then you also have the drumming of Jon Theodore, a true highlight of my listening career because the groove this guy has is utterly amazing. The entire band behaves like an organic maelstrom of musical power vent on ebbing and flowing energy, pulsing back and forth between tempos, time signatures and wails to let you the listener, listen to something that doesn’t necessarily belong in any space time continuum. It’s something new, it’s always been here, it’s grandiose and it is amazing. Lest you be fooled by the length of the album, there is only one song that doesn’t clock in over ten minutes, and one song that lasts a full half hour. This means there are five tracks and in between each track, there’s layers of white noise that float about. It can be excessive at times (4 minutes of full blown Puerto Rican coquis is a bit much if you ask me), but overall the caliber of the music is astounding. That they recorded this is a testament to greatness, that they are able to pull it off live is a testament to the human spirit, and that you can listen to it is a testament that you are very fortunate.

Highlight Tracks: Cygnus Vismund Cygnus – The Widow L’Via L Vazquez – Miranda The Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore - Cassandra Gemini

13. Pearl Jam - Binaural
Pearl Jam shall always be considered one of the most sincere uncompromising bands in all of rock history for the fact that they never try to make an album to cater to the masses. Binaural is no exception and on this collection of great tracks the once gods of grunge have turned to their influences to open new paths of musical revelation. Breakerfall and Evacuation has a 70’s era vibe more akin to the Who than any of their contemporaries. Actually that trio of openers is the type of start Pearl Jam are known for only to throw in Light Years, a pensive folksy rock ballad that tells you that this isn’t a one trick pony. To further show their repertoire and versality they come back with Nothing as it Seems, an epic reverb soloing delight that soars as much live as recorded and after that track, you have Thin Air… an airy folk ballad that offers such sincere lyrics as “There's a light, when my baby's in my arms” And “And I know she's reached my heart in thin air.” This lovely tune gives way to Insignificance, one of the many drumming highlights of the disc and one of their most powerful songs on the album, especially due to the weird musical structure and soaring guitars. To add another screw ball into the mix, the set is followed by Of the Girl a kind of bluesy, Middle Eastern folk song if that makes any sense. And then back to another powerful offkey rocker in Grievance. These aren’t conventional rock songs by any means and when you listen to them live, you see that the recorded songs are great but are just precursors of what you’ll be assaulted with in a live setting. Two other highlights of the album include the mystic Sleight of Hand and the wonderful closer, Parting Ways. To be honest, Binaural is not as immediate as Yield or as offbeat as No Code. It treads familiar ground while taking various twists and turns to go into new territory for a band that are all about the journey and about not being complacent. If you don’t believe that, then just skip to track 12 to listen to a catchy ukulele song and realize that it shares territory with punk numbers, bluesy delights and folk ballads. Diverse and satisfying.

Highlight Tracks: Breakerfall – Light Years - Nothing as it Seems – Thin Air – Of the Girl – Grievance - Sleight of Hand – Parting Ways

12. System of a Down – Toxicity
How do you top one of the most raw demonstrations of metal music? System of a Down’s answer was to make it all accessible. Their debut album is a visceral affair that always seems as if it’s going a few miles per hour faster than what it can withstand, but through sheer will power, it all stays together. Toxicity is the well oiled version of System of a Down. It’s damn near perfect in execution. It’s not as raw as their debut, but it’s just as intense. At times funny, at times raw, at times manic, and always SOAD. While their self titled debut is the album you put on your playlist when you want to surf mean and hard, toxicity is the one you also listen to when you want to surf fast and crazy.

Highlight Tracks: Jet Pilot - Chop Suey! – Bounce – Aerials – Forest – Shimmy - Toxicity

11. Radiohead – In Rainbows
Radiohead have a way of coming out screaming with an excellent track on their albums, that being said, 15 step is quite possibly the second best opening after Everything in its Right Place. Then you have their crunchiest track in years with the lively dynamic and headbanging worthy Bodysnatchers. After making a series of avante garde albums that either had people saying they were geniuses or that they were full of it, they release In Rainbows, their most accessible album and a given to be on most any best of lists of the year, the decade and eventually all time. The ability this band has to mesh into one another and present new music that sounds truly different is something to admire. If anything is very present while listening to In Rainbows is that this was an album to give repeat listens to, not to unlock some musical mystery but because it calls for repeat listens. The question many people have is what the hell is over the rainbow for a band that seems to push the envelope with every album.

Highlight Tracks: 15 step – Bodysnatchers – Nude – Weird Fishes / Arpeggi – Reckoner – House of Cards - Videotape

Monday, May 23, 2011

50 Best albums of the Decade Part 5 - 21-30

30. Incubus – Morning View
A great followup to Make Yourself, and the most consistent Incubus album in their catalogue, Morning View turned Brandon Boyd into a genuine heartthrob, but one who could sing and write without venturing into the hackneyed, corny or sappy bullshit subsequent albums occasionally ventured into. Unlike those albums, Morning View is tight, relaxed, varied and ultimately one of their two best records. If it’s too commercial for people who want their top 50 lists more indie, then tough shnoogans and feel free to file a complaint with the comments department.

Highlight Tracks: Wish you were here – Echo – Aqueous transmission – Warning – Just a Phase – 11 AM

29. Norah Jones – Come away with me
It’s not all about revolutionizing music… sometimes you just need a great album to drink wine to, to slowdance to, to talk on a Sunday morning to. Come away with me is a superb collection of tracks by Norah Jones that most certainly deserves a mention on this list. Classic, mellow, beautiful and timeless… all adjectives that describe this artist and this album.

Highlight Tracks: Come away with me – The Nearness of you – Cold, Cold Heart – Don’t know Why – Turn me On – Feelin the Same Way

28. Sigur Ros – Takk

Sigur Ros makes beautiful music… they always have (well maybe not on Von, but I’m not really counting that album). It’s music so beautiful, you can’t help but cry… so what happens when you take a band that makes epic music that can rip your soul and let them shine a bit of sunlight? An album called Takk. Where Agaetys Bjyrnum and ( ) were sublime but ultimately grueling in their sadness, Takk levels off and allows quite a few moments of sheer beauty, painting musical landscapes filled with wonder and light that would do C.S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum and Lewis Caroll proud.

Highlight Tracks: Glósóli – Sé Lest – Saeglopur – Milanó – Andvari – Svo Hljótt

27. Bjork – Vespertine

Bjork has ALWAYS been an intriguing exercise in music because it’s not like anyone phrases music like her. She’s genuinely peculiar… but like the singer, the more you look at her work, the more you might be fascinated with the subject. Vespertine is her best work of the 2000’s for a bunch of reasons, but above all else it is a weirdly beautiful album with enough layers to compete with a Peter Gabriel outing. A collage of instruments flutters about the whole album and honestly, it’s a great disc to put in a music appreciation class since you can identify strings, horns, harps, xylophones, other wind instruments, generous amounts of electronic and lord knows what else. It’s a meticulous album that really feels alive like some majestic musical jellyfish, glowing in the depths of some mysterious ocean. To be honest, I’ve had this album for over 10 years and two things: 1- it doesn’t get old and 2 – it always shows little new surprises depending on where I listen and how much attention I put to the music while I’m listening. The only thing keeping this from being near the top albums from this artist’s catalogue is the fact that the tone never really pushes speed to offer sonic surprises and that the emotion of peace is executed so perfectly, that sometimes you’d like something to punish your heart and soul a little more. This is music to put to a slow motion film of a flower blooming. It’s beautiful, it’s dramatic, it’s heartwarming, it’s existential and pensive, but even in all its wonder it’s above else calm. The thing is who knew that peace and quiet could be this marvelous?

Highlight Tracks: Hidden Place – It’s not up to you – Pagan Poetry – Aurora – Harm of Will - Unison

26. My Morning Jacket – Z
In life, my favorite bands have come at a time when a song or an entire album resonates with who I am and what I’m going through, but that’s not the case always. By 2006, I hadn’t heard of My Morning Jacket at all… then I saw them live as the opening act for Pearl Jam. I’ve seen some great shows, but rarely have I seen a band I’ve NEVER listened to and loved it as much as MMJ. Once I heard them live, I was hooked and went on a rampage to buy every single album. To be honest, with maybe one exception, they’re all great but in the case of MMJ, I forced myself to pick the album that made me a fan. The rest are great and have some wonderful tunes, but once you put Z on your record player, you’re in for a treat. Southern harmonies that echo The Band jump at you with some of the best guitar licks this side of the 21st century. It’s music with soul at a time where soul is actually not that easy to come by. If that weren’t enough, they even took the riff from Hawaii Five-O and put it into one of their songs. But if you want a descriptive of what Z is… imagine walls of echo slow cooked to perfection, seasoned with timeless southern rock goodness and basted in delicious blues.

Highlight tracks: Wordless Chorus – It Beats 4 U – Gideon – Off the Record – Lay Low – Knot Comes Loose - Dondante

25. Fleet Foxes - ST
There’s just something about bands and artists that sound out of their time that truly fascinates me to no end. Fleet Foxes sounds like a tour mate of America or CSNY and in reality, they’re just a bunch of kids from Seattle. Yes THAT Seattle, the birthplace of grunge. So how the hell can music so beautifully sunny come out of a place theoretically dominated by overcast grey skies? Who cares? This is a great album full of rich music, lush harmonies and it’s just a treat to hear, even if the album itself is a bit on the short side… but that isn’t a bad thing, because if the best albums can teach us anything is that true worth merits repeat listens, and Fleet Foxes never disappoints.

Highlight Tracks: Sun it Rises – White Winter Hymnal – Ragged Wood – Your protector – Meadowlarks – Blue Ridge Mountains

24. Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero
Out of all the NIN albums released throughout the decade, Year Zero is the one that captures the best of the NIN essence. Ambitious, sprawling, complicated, angry, sexy, dark and meticulous as only Trent Reznor could create. When even Maestro Reznor admits an album is too long, you can imagine just how stuffed the album is. At over 63 minutes, it’s not massive, but it definitely feels massive. But in that grandeur, it’s impressive to see tracks that have sheer aggression coursing through them while other tracks are just ideal dirty sex music.

Highlight Tracks: Survivalism – The Good Soldier – Capital G – My Violent Heart – God Given – Zero Sum – Meet Your Master – The Great Destroyer – in This Twilight

23. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Neo post-americana… that sounds about as close to a description of what Wilco pull off on this excellent album as I think I can get to. Another album I chanced upon during my summer of ’04, Wilco craft an excellent eclectic collection of tracks that spin seamlessly from start to finish. Jeff Tweedy’s raspy voice perfectly complements musical compositions that melt in your ears like honey. From the sprawling I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of those albums that manages to be fantastic without swinging for the fences. There’s nothing here which is over the top and everything sounds seamless and relaxed. The lap steel guitar and string flourishes in Jesus Etc. embody this perfectly, showing how small details can go a long, long way to make a great song. Then Ashes of American Flags rolls around and you swear you’re looking at the US through a lava lamp. Throughout, Yankee hotel Foxtrot is an album that does not blow you away immediately but the more you listen to it, the more you get out of it. It’s mellow but surprisingly intricate and wouldn’t surprise me if it became that album that every time you listen to you are reminded of how good it is.

Highlight Tracks: I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Radio Cure, Jesus, Etc., Ashes of American Flags. Poor Places, Reservations

22. The Mars Volta – The Bedlam and Goliath

From a sonic perspective, I think I’ve never heard anything as overwhelming as this The Bedlam in Goliath. Sure, we’ve heard harder or louder, but more overwhelming? I can’t think of ANYTHING that comes to mind that has so much momentum and is so crazy intense throughout. This is not an album to go to sleep to; this is an album to conjure black magic with. Dark, scary, intense, fast, and bombastic are just some of the adjectives that come to mind, but seriously, overwhelming is right up there because though there are better Mars albums, nothing hits as hard or as continuous as the Bedlam in Goliath, and that’s a very very good thing. You see, there’s intense music and then there’s the crazy shit the Mars Volta does…

Highlight Tracks: Aberinkula – Metatron – Ilyena - Agadez – Askepios – Goliath – Ouroboros

21. Gustavo Cerati – Fuerza Natural

Last year Gustavo Cerati had a stroke and he’s been in a coma ever since, but before this unfortunate incident he put out what I think is his best work since the masterwork known as Bocanada. Fuerza Natural isn’t a sequel to Bocanada but you can’t call it a return to form because it’s not like he was ever out of form. Cerati is pretty much the only Latin Rock star that has never disappointed me and with his last album, he showed he still had the goods to make memorable and epic music that moves the soul as well as your head. Some people might say that I put this album on the list because of the stroke, but unfortunately for them, there’s only one problem regarding that opinion, and that’s an album’s worth of music to prove naysayers wrong.

Highlight Tracks: Fuerza Natural – Deja Vú – Amor sin rodeos – Tracción a Sangre – Rapto – Cactus – Dominó – Sal – Convoy