Friday, December 31, 2010

A Few More Great Albums of the Aughts, Pt. 2: 2003-2009

I thought it was about time I get this out there...

20 Adam Green, Friends of Mine [Rough Trade, 2003]

You get the feeling that everyone listening to Adam Green for the first time goes through the same state of confusion where they ask themselves “Wait a minute, is he kidding?” With the masculine croon of a ‘50s lounge singer, Green delivers vulgar and absurd lyrics with an earnestness that allows you to find meaning in them whether they're rational or not.

Key Track: "Jessica"

21 The Books, The Lemon of Pink [Tomlab, 2003]

Considering that during their prolific first four years of existence The Books virtually owned the indie avant-garde scene, it's amazing how little they are discussed now or were mentioned on "Top" lists at the end of the decade.  Once the darlings of hipster sites like Pitchfork, they have sine been forgotten; only their first album, Thought for Food, made Pitchfork's list, and all the way down at the #125 spot.  Frankly all The Books' albums, which are basically audiophiliac ecstacy and textbooks on excellent production, deserve a thorough listen.

Key Track:  "Tokyo"

22 Explosions in the Sky, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place [Temporary Residence, 2003]

Key Track: "First Breath After Coma"

23 Fruit Bats, Mouthfuls [Sub Pop, 2003]

Key Track: "A Bit of Wind"

24 Kaki King, Everybody Loves You [Velour Recordings, 2003]

Key Track: "Night After Sidewalk"

25 Album Leaf, In a Safe Place [Sub Pop, 2003]

Key Track: "Over the Pond"

26 Ambulance LTD, LP [TVT Records, 2004]

Key Track: "Stay Where You Are"

27 Black Moth Super Rainbow, Start a People [70's Gymnastics, 2004]

Key Track: "Early 70's Gymnastics"

28 Elliott Smith, From a Basement on a Hill [Anti, 2004]

While many of Elliott Smith’s albums could be characterized as haunting, From a Basement on a Hill has the unfortunate distinction of fitting that description most literally. Released almost a year to the day after Smith’s grisly suicide, it contains some of his darkest, most schizophrenic work, though still distinctly Smith.

Key Track: "King's Crossing"

29 Johann Johannsson, Viroulegu Forsetar [Touch, 2004]

Key Track: N/A

30 Kings of Convenience, Riot on an Empty Street [Astralwerks/Source 360/EMI, 2004]

Key Track: "Homesick"

*31 Midlake, The Trials of Bamnan and Slivercork [Bella Union, 2004]

Key Track: "Balloon Maker"

32 Sondre Lerche, Two Way Monologues [Astralwerks, 2003]

Key Track: "Two Way Monologue"

33 Wilco, A Ghost Is Born [Rhino, 2004]

Key Track: "At Least That's What You Said"

34 The Books, Lost and Safe [Tomlab, 2005]

Key Track: "Vogt Dig for Kloppervok"

*35 The Headphones, The Headphones [Suicide Squeeze, 2005]

Key Track: "I Never Wanted You"

36 Jose Gonzalez, Veneer [Peacefrog Records, 2005]

Key Track: "Heartbeats"

37 13 & God, 13 & 13 & God [Anticon, 2005]

Key Track: "If"

38 Sean Lennon, Friendly Fire [Capitol/EMI, 2006]

Key Track: "Parachute"

39 Thom Yorke, The Eraser, XL [XL, 2006]

Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke may not have the most audibly pleasing voice in the world, but that hasn’t prevented him from establishing his larynx as one of the most iconic in rock history. His vocals bare a sense of desolation that is both startling and penetrating, with an alternatively uncanny ability to galvanize any sound that dares to occupy the same time and space. On his first solo album, his resolute but ill-at-ease intonations play perfectly off of ominous and minimalistic electronics to create a tone as bleak and awe-inspiring as deep space. It might be tempting to crown The Eraser as Radiohead’s sixth and a half studio album; afterall, it’s produced by Nigel Godrich, and relies at least partially on sampling the band’s unreleased recordings. But granting such a distinction would ignore the extent to which Yorke’s voice, both literally and figuratively, overwhelm this album.

Key Track: “Cymbal Rush”

40 Endless Boogie, Focus Level [No Quarter, 2008]

Key Track: "Executive Focus"

41 The Horrors, Primary Colours [XL, 2009]

Rarely is a new band able to invoke a past style with this type of inspired originality as opposed to overzealous emulation. The last time 80's post-punk was done this well was when Interpol convinced us that they had genuinely resurrected Ian Curtis on 2001’s Turn on the Bright Lights (which well may have been my #1, had I made a list). The Horrors are equally gloomy and effective; perhaps this is what it would have sounded like had Billy Idol and Richard Smith ever made a baby – and yes I mean the sound of actually making the baby.

Key Track: "Sea Within a Sea"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beware of the Blob

A couple of weeks ago on a night in I decided to watch the 1958 classic “horror” movie The Blob, which was playing on for free on demand, and which actually turned out to be a surprisingly good film. As you would expect, the special effects were hokey and primitive, an aspect of the movie which I actually enjoyed for the humor and sense of nostalgia they provided. But the story and its progression were also unexpectedly well-done, and an early example of a now common format for thrillers, adventure, and scary movies alike, in that the story takes place against the backdrop of some small-town, terrorized teenagers whom the authorities think are just up to no good pranks, and who are inevitably forced to take matters into their own hands as the unsuspecting townspeople get picked off one by one (It comes to mind, but you get the idea).

Despite all this good stuff, the highlight of the film has to be the opening credits, which portray a pretty cool visual sequence set to an uncharacteristically suave and upbeat theme song for the movie’s tone and subject matter. While traditionally The Blob is known for launching the career of future star Steve McQueen, turns out the intro theme was done by another up-and-comer: Burt Bacharach (with long-time partner Hal David). The team would breakout in the ‘60s, writing songs for everyone from the Carpenters, to Dusty Springfield, to Tom Jones. However, they were most well-known for their long-standing relationship with diva Dionne Warwick, who would chart 38 of their singles. I happen to be a big fan, hence the reason for this posting.

It’s a cool video, check it out.