Saturday, 12 December 2009

Decade Part 7

This is the second to last part of the list. The final part will be posted on SUNDAY, probably with some thoughts about the list itself -- honorable mentions, further commentary, etc.

31. Mouse On Mars - Varcharz (2006)

Much like MOM's other entry on this list, this album flows so well from track to track, incorporates a new style into the already diverse MOM sound (this time it's noisetronica), and presents a consistent vision throughout. This one isn't so light-hearted or accessible, but the excellence level is about the same. Pulverising beats, whizzes, whirs, blips and bleeps aplenty, and interesting development in every track make this an addictive and compelling listen. Just two years after the party of Radical Connector, Mouse On Mars goes to a whole 'nother planet (pun intended) and concocts something exciting and irresistable. You can still keep dancing to this one (...well, certain songs belong more in the cerebrum...).

32. Joanna Newsom - Ys (2006)

This is the only "folk" album to grace the list. It probably has the most lyrics of an album here (oddly, it is sandwiched in between two wordless records). Despite the intensity in each song, I find myself listening to this album as sort of a "cool down." It's one I listen to when I want to hear something quiet, often late at night before going to sleep. Though it never fails to stir up all kinds of feelings, especially when I get to "Monkey And Bear," which is such a tragic tale. I think my iTunes star ratings speak to the quality of each song (and thus to the quality of the album) -- each one is a 5/5. No one is weak and picking a favorite is futile. This is a great full-album experience, but I do also find myself listening to certain songs on repeat for a period of time (and then moving on to another one). The praise I'm heaping is contrary to my initial reaction to Newsom. I guess music of this caliber is an acquired taste.

33. Pelican - Australasia (2003)

Pelican is a pretty controversial band it seems. There's been much debate as to their "metalness" and even "authenticity" and "hipsterness." Sometimes it's hard to ignore all this speculation and just listen. But when I put on Australasia, what I think about is listening to it in the dark back in '03, often on headphones, and imagining an epic story going along with it. I also remember listening to it at a laundromat. Either way, I just loved this band and album from the first time I heard them. My disdain for (death) metal vocals at the time led me to seek out metal bands who changed it up, and in this case, completely did without vocals. Sure they sounded a lot like Isis, but I also loved Isis at this time, and was eager to hear anything similar. But Pelican got rid of the vocals and thus, there was more room to imagine what these songs are about and add my own meaning. I liked that, and I still do like that. And I like all of Pelican's other albums, though they've taken a lot of different twists and turns. Australasia remains my favorite, largely because it's the incarnation of the band that I fell in love with, but also because the songs are frickin' HUGE. "Drought" is an out-and-out classic and the sludge of "NightEndDay" and "Angel Tears" crushes like the pressure at the bottom of the ocean. Pelican's songwriting at this stage was more of the shape-shifting riff and heavy repetition style, with songs usually around the 10-minute mark (with the exception of the diversions "GW" and "Untitled"), which I still find absolutely mesmerizing. I'm glued to the speakers hearing the development of themes and the sonic exploration. The songs here are exactly as long as they need to be, whereas later on down the line, I think Pelican may have edited a bit too much (see City Of Echoes).

34. Pig Destroyer - Phantom Limb (2007)

What? More grind? Where is the death and/or black metal??! I'm still growing in my appreciation for those two genres, so all the metal coverage on list reflects my history with the genre, which is limited mostly to grind, metalcore, avant-garde, and well, metalgaze. So, Pig D is the closest entry to death metal, but they are decidely a grindcore band. This album sees them expanding the grind lexicon a bit, even writing and an epic 4 minute song! (much like Discordance Axis and "A Leaden Stride To Nowhere," eh?) I could pull out all the requisite adjectives here "blistering," "brutal," "pulverizing," etc. etc, but I give a lot of credit for Pig D's success to the fact that they write and execute the songs so well. There's tons of memorable riffs, for example, the title track features a, blistering, gnarly six-string jab, and I feel it necessary to mention the incredible central riff in "Loathsome." Though not only is the riff ...brutal, but the interaction with the drum beat is just gravy. The guitar tone warrants special attention as well. It has a really retro "rock god" quality to it and is incredibly dense, whereas sometimes in extreme metal, I find bands going for the hazy, wall-of-sound thing and it ends up less ....pulverizing. Listening right now to this album, I notice how the vocals are much quieter than the guitar, which probably adds to the BLISTERING, BRUTAL, PULVERIZING impact.

35. Q And Not U - Different Damage (2002)

Ah, Q And Not U. Dischord Records band from the 2000s that put out three albums, obviously influenced by Fugazi, broke up, new, not particularly great projects, probably not going to be in the history books in the future. So, why do I have the AUDACITY to put them on a list such as this? Simple answer: Q And Not U was awesome and Different Damage was their best. Their first album was a little too derivative and their third tried to push things too far (though it's still pretty good). On DD, QANU found their own sound. It's hooky and fun, but there's lots of substance and quirk to keep it interesting. Veilled and symbolic songs about all types of political/social/technological/religious issues also feature sharp guitar lines, jazzy bass, and dancetastic beats. The songs are short and tight, never overstaying their welcome (quite the opposite: I find them nearly infinitely listenable). QANU might not make the cut historically, but I'll be wearing my QANU shirt for several years to come.

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