Saturday, 5 December 2009

The 41 Best Albums Of The Decade

Or a more appropriate title: the 41 records I listened to the most this past decade and think are frickin' awesome. This list is highly personal, many of the entries being "favorite albums ever" being that I'm a young'n and about 60% of my music collection belongs to this decade and I rather avidly follow current music. A lot of the entries are my favorite artists, so this is not a "historical" or "musical journalism" type of list. Some albums are those that I loved during the year they came out, such as Echoes by the Rapture or M.I.A. Kala, but others were heard in retrospect and deemed to be the best of that year, like Broken Ear Record by Black Dice or Radical Connector by Mouse On Mars. The list was compiled by making playlists in iTunes for each year of the decade, picking my favorites from those and then whittling down the list (it ended up at 41 by accident, but it seems right that way). Some artists are repeated, but I guess that just goes to show how awesome they are. This thing is very incomplete and maybe in another decade it would be longer, once I've had more time to discover all the other albums that some of these artists put out this decade.

No discrimination was made to make each year have a specific proportion of albums, it's just a jumbled mess of the decade.

Each entry has a short write-up and the list will be published in alphabetical order in 8 parts.

Here's the first 5:

01. Ellen Allien - Berlinette (2003)

Upon relistening to this album, I realize a good bit about it: it's very pop-oriented and has a range of tones and moods, though there is a good unity of sound. All the tracks have a sort of static-y/distorted/guitay-y type sound, but within a techno framework. It's not surprising to think this album was fairly popular for the indie crowd in '03. Genres aside, it's a fabulous album. There's the playful, fun songs, like "Push" and "Secret," and the more serious, somber tracks like "Wish" and "Open," and even then there are the more neutral-type tracks like "Alles Sehen" and "Augenblick." The sound is very much it's own and would not be heard on later Ellen Allien albums, which veered in hugely different directions. So why did I pick this one? I think Sool is actually a better album overall, but this one is probably the most consistent and album-y. It holds together really well as a collection, but each song still stands out (and I never skip a track on this one). Both Thrills and Sool seem more fractured and more mix-tape ready. And the album with Apparat features three horrible songs at the end which automatically disqualify it from this list, despite the rest of it being excellent. Berlinette is one of those albums (like many others on this list) where you can listen to it over and over again, and your favorite song keeps changing as you listen. I wish I knew more German...

02. Basic Channel - BCD-2 (2008)

What is there to say about BCD-2? It's just really excellent techno. Every track is wonderful, hypnotic, long, and most importantly, danceable. It's great on a stereo and in the headphones. Every track is great separately, but as a collection, it's a veritable dance party. Some may think it's too minimal, but they're not listening closely enough. I realize this is technically a collection/compilation, but it when taken from the perspective of it being an album, it holds up better than most "album albums."

03. Björk - Medúlla (2004)

As I already wrote in my recap of Björk's major studio albums, Medúlla is her most experimental work. It's ambitious, but never gets too big for its britches. It has a certain humble earthiness to it that is really appealing and makes for an interesting listen. It has a stumble here and there, but succeeds the most of all Björk's records of this decade.

04. Black Dice - Broken Ear Record (2005)

I don't have Beaches & Canyons, so I can't attest to the earlier developments of Black Dice. But I've heard the album prior to BER and their latest release, so I can still situate this album among the others. I'd have to say that this one seems to be the definitive Black Dice album. Creature Comforts had a lot of the sound and style of this one, but it seems a bit underdeveloped, primative, and rudimentary. And then Repo goes in another direction entirely, with a lot of short tracks and increased use of vocal samples, which is great, but Broken Ear Record, to me, really defines the sound of Black Dice: songs that unfold somewhat slowly and develop and shape-shift into something completely different from where they started. These songs make you feel sick in the best way possible, but are also ridiculously catchy. They are abrasive, but don't lack structure or cohesion. And as a full-album experience, I think BER is the most memorable of Black Dice's records.

05. the Blood Brothers - Burn Piano Island Burn (2003)

This is hardcore punk like I've never heard before. It has the fury, the energy, and all the other requisite elements, but what HC band actually had this good of production and was this experimental? Some may say they sound too much like the Locust or Melt-Banana, but the songwriting style is completely different (the songs are longer than 2 minutes) and so many influences outside of HC (and grind for that matter) are evident. What HC band writes a groove like "Every Breath Is A Bomb" or an I-don't-even-know-exactly-how-to-describe-it-or-what-genre-to-put-it-in song like "The Shame," with it's horribly misleading, yet awesome anti-climax? And they succeed admirably at more straightforward 'core like "Ambulance Vs. Ambulance" and "I Know Where The Canaries And The Crows Go." I think the bizarritude of the lyrics warrants mentionning here as well. It's full of symbols and disgusting imagery, which compliments the the gnarly guitar playing quite well. The reason for this album's inclusion as opposed to say, the excellent Crimes, is mostly because I listened to this album a lot more than any other BB record and I think it's the most interesting of all their different incarnations, though the Brothers were an awesome band and I remain a fan of all their material.

Continues tomorrow and the next days until done.

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