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

No comments: