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

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