Archive for January, 2010

Favorite Albums of the 2000s (the pre-teens??)

January 21, 2010 2 comments

First off, might I point out how difficult this was. A decade is a long time. Musical tastes change from the beginning to the end. Some albums that I thought were great at the time I haven’t listened to in years (Disturbed?? DMX?? Limp *vomits* Bizkit). Anyway, as it stands now, here are my thoughts on the music of the last decade, followed by my favorite albums year-by-year, followed by my ten favorite of the decade.

Here goes…

-The “aughts” were an interesting decade for music (not necessarily good or bad, just interesting). Technology transformed the industry faster than any time since the debut of the phonograph. The peak of the MP3, the death of the “album,” file-sharing…all within the last ten years. In looking back, there weren’t really any trends that lasted the whole decade through. Rap-rock, nu-metal, boy bands, Britney, all fizzled out (thankfully). American Idol was huge, but didn’t really do much to the charts after Kelly Clarkson.

Best new artists of the decade: I’d have to vote for Kings of Leon, Lupe Fiasco and Josh Ritter. Kings of Leon (along with a few other bands) helped bring blues-oriented “bar-rock” back to the forefront. Lupe was really the only rapper woth mentioning that broke through this decade. Josh Ritter revealed himself to be a hybrid of this generation’s Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. All three of the above have what it takes to stay relevant through the next decade as well.

Best “comeback”: Bad Religion. Okay, so BR never really went away. But they released two steaming turds in a row in 1998 and 2000. The Process of Belief in 2002 was a huge step back in the right direction (thanks Mr. Brett). Empire Strikes First kept the ball running, and New Maps of Hell is my favorite album of theirs. Not bad for a band’s 14th album. I’m so glad they are “back.”

Best “guilty-pleasure”: Though I hate to use the term (as you shouldn’t feel guilty for liking anything), I think this probably goes to Rihanna (or whoever writes and produces her music). For catchy-as-herpes pop music, she probably takes the crown for the decade, at least to me.

Best thing that I’m glad disappeared: Rap-rock/nu-metal. For some stupid reason, I enjoyed Limp Bizkit, Korn, Disturbed, etc. for a few minutes there. I blame the fact that my brain had not fully developed yet. That music, however, went from bad to worse real fast. In hindsight…terrible, terrible, terrible. I feel guiltier for having purchased “Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water” than I do for enjoying the occasional Rihanna tune, that’s for sure.

Biggest debut band that I don’t get: Coldplay. They took watered down U2 and watered down Radiohead, watered it down and *poof* – Coldplay. After a decade, I’m still confused by why anyone likes any of their songs.

Okay. Enough rambling. On to the “faves.” My 94 favorite albums of the 2000s. Why 94? Because that’s what I came up with.

2000 (5) – Pearl Jam – Binaural / Face to Face – Reactionary / Dynamite Hack – Superfast / Radiohead – Kid A / Common – Like Water For Chocolate

2001 (9) – Jay-Z – The Blueprint / The White Stripes – White Blood Cells / Tool – Lateralus / Incubus – Morning View / System Of A Down – Toxicity / Better Than Ezra – Closer / Built to Spill – Ancient Melodies of the Future / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – B.R.M.C / Stereophonics – Just Enough Education To Perform

2002 (13) – The Roots – Phrenology / Queens of The Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf / Bruce Springsteen – The Rising / Sigur Ros – ( ) / Foo Fighters – One by One / Pearl Jam – Riot Act / Bad Religion – The Process of Belief / Finch – What It Is To Burn / Face to Face – How To Ruin Everything / Chevelle – Wonder What’s Next / Our Lady Peace – Gravity / Tom Waits – Blood Money / Tom Waits – Alice

2003 (11) – Damien Rice – O / White Stripes – Elephant / Jay-Z – The Black Album / A Perfect Circle – Thirteenth Step / Pearl Jam – Lost Dogs / The Black Keys – Thickfreakness / Kings of Leon – Youth and Young Manhood / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Take Them On, On Your Own / Cave In – Antenna / Jamie Cullum – Twentysomething / Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros – Streetcore

2004 (7) – Tom Waits – Real Gone / Bad Religion – The Empire Strikes First / Elliott Smith – From A Basement On The Hill / The Black Keys – Rubber Factory / Chevelle – This Type Of Thinking (Could Do Us In) / Eagles of Death Metal – Peace, Love, Death Metal / Mission of Burma – ONoffON

2005 (7) – The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan / Foo Fighters – In Your Honor / Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust / Death Cab For Cutie – Plans / Kings Of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Howl / Jamie Cullum – Catching Tales

2006 (11) – Josh Ritter – The Animal Years / Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor / Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam / Neil Young – Living with War / Viva Death – One Percent Panic / Rocco Deluca and the Burden – I Trust You To Kill Me / Real Space Noise – Radio Method / Built to Spill – You In Reverse / Eagles of Death Metal – Death By Sexy / Stereophonics – Language. Sex. Violence. Other? / Silversun Pickups – Carnavas

2007 (10) – Radiohead – In Rainbows / Bad Religion – New Maps of Hell / Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests Of Josh Ritter / Lupe Fiasco – The Cool / Rush – Snakes & Arrows / Linkin Park – Minutes to Midnight / Kings of Leon – Because of the Times / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby 81 / Eddie Vedder – Into The Wild / Neil Young – Chrome Dreams II

2008 (11) – Blitzen Trapper – Furr / Murder By Death – Red of Tooth And Claw / The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound / Flogging Molly – Float / Kings of Leon – Only By The Night / Street Dogs – State of Grace / Trever Keith – Melancholics Anonymous / Jackson United – Harmony and Dissidence / Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs / The Black Keys – Attack & Release / Eagles of Death Metal – Heart On

2009 (10) – Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures / Silversun Pickups – Swoon / Pearl Jam – Backspacer / Built to Spill – There is no Enemy / Neil Young – Fork In The Road / Dan Auerbach – Keep It Hid / Sonic Youth – The Eternal / Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King / Blakroc – Blakroc / Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue

Okay…of that 94, here are my ten favorites of the decade. I based this on how often I still listen to the albums, sometimes a decade after their release.

10. Face to Face – Reactionary. This album was a return to “punk rock” for them after 1999s Ignorance Is Bliss (which, by the way, is one of my favorite albums by anyone ever). Great “reaction” to the naysaying fans. Showcases new-ish drummer Pete Parada better than IIB did.

9. Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures. John Paul Jones. Dave Grohl. Josh Homme. ‘Nuff said.

8. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros – Streetcore. Too bad Joe didn’t live to see this album come out. Deeply personal, almost haunting at times. Probably hindsight talking, but it almost sounded like Joe knew he wasn’t long for the world, even though his death was sudden and due to an undiagnosed heart defect.

7. Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. Solidifies Josh’s status as the best singer-songwriter of the decade. Very reminiscent of early Springsteen/early Dylan. Songs about love, travel, confrontation, adventure. Brilliant.

6. Silversun Pickups – Swoon. Builds off their debut album, but also blows it’s doors off. It’s an interesting mix of light (Brian and Nikki’s voices) and heavy (especially the guitar and the riffs) at the same time. A compelling album from start to finish.

5. Bad Religion – New Maps Of Hell. Released 27 years into their career, this is their most solid work. The three albums with Brooks as drummer marked a return to kicking ass, and each gets better and better. All the best things about their prior best albums rolled into one.

4. Pearl Jam – Binaural. A lot of people knock this album. They don’t know what they are talking about. Seemless blend of some of their rockingest riffs (Breakerfall, Insignificance, Grievance), haunting ballads (Nothing As It Seems, Sleight of Hand), and ukulele (Soon Forget). 2nd most underrated Pearl Jam album.

3. Face to Face – How To Ruin Everything. Boy, they sure did ruin everything. Way to release your best album and then call it a career, fellas! This is the perfect punk rock album. Tight, three piece sound, machine-gun precision drumming, poignant, snarky lyrics, three-part harmony (with only two parts), Scott Shiflett’s on bass. Can’t tell you how glad I am that they “reunited.”

2. Incubus – Morning View. This album came out in October of 2001, and I don’t think it left my CD player until Face to Face’s album came out in April of the following year. Everything that Incubus did well we at it’s pinnacle on this album. They haven’t been the same since (which is probably because Dirk left in 2003). I think the most brilliant part of the album is the tracklisting. I think a lot of work went into finding the perfect ebb and flow…expertly woven from hard to delicate to harder to even more delicate to frogs croaking (okay…you have to hear it to understand).

and last but not least…

1. Pearl Jam – Riot Act. I know I am in the overwhelming minority, but I think this is PJs best album (and, as you may have guessed, I’ve put a loooooot of thought into this issue). Written in the peak of our post-9/11, W.-induced hysteria, the raw energy and passion that the band plays with shows them firing on all cylinders like never before (or since). But it also features “Thumbing My Way,” their most personal ballad since “Black.” To me, a perfect album. I still listen to it weekly, at least.

There you have it. Time to go listen to some 2010 music. Keep on rockin’ in the free world!

Categories: Uncategorized

Favorite Albums of 2009

January 21, 2010 1 comment

Okay, so 2009 wasn’t the best year for new music. For my own personal collection, this was a year of filling in back releases of bands that I was slow to catch on to (Built to Spill, Stereophonics, Mission of Burma, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and broadening my horizons (Robert Johnson, Son House, Junior Kimbrough, Leadbelly). Anyway, here are my thoughts…

Biggest disappointment: Rocco DeLuca and the Burden – Mercy.
I’m a huge, huge fan of RDB’s first album. He is amazing to watch live. He is an incredible Dobro player and delta-blues-inspired rock song writer. That said, his new album highlights none of his guitar playing ability, and focuses more on his voice (which is certainly unique) and…the glockenspiel. I wish I was kidding about that. Individually, most of the songs aren’t bad, but collectively the album has no feeling or heart or energy. I blame Daniel Lanois.

Second biggest disappointment: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Working on a Dream.
Many people know that I was raised on The Boss’ music, and I continually listen to a half-dozen of his albums on a regular basis. I wasn’t a huge fan of the last album, “Magic,” because I thought it was too mid-tempo rock formulaic. Apparently Bruce and Brendan O’Brien loved the album, because they essentially made it again. No heart, no passion, just mid-tempo adult contemporary schlock. Time to ditch the E-Street band again and make another acoustic solo album about the plight of the working man again.
*Note – my disdain for Brendan O’Brien will appear again soon

On to the countdown. It was a decent year for indie/alternative music I guess:
10) Tie: Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue
BlakRoc – BlakRoc
I really didn’t want to like the idea of a Layne Staley-less AIC, but this album is really pretty good, especially since Layne was too jammed up to really do anything productive on the last couple AIC albums anyway. And, anything by the Black Keys will always be on a year-end list. Add Ludacris, ODB, Mos Def, NOE, Raekwon and RZA to the project, and you get a fine, raw, rap-blues album.

9) Sonic Youth – The Eternal
For whatever reason, I always liked Sonic Youth but only had one album prior to this year. The Eternal isn’t their greatest, but it is a solid indie rock album from the pioneers of the genre.

8) Mission of Burma – The Sound The Speed The Light
There really is no valid excuse for me being so slow on the uptake when it came to listening to Mission of Burma (aside, maybe, from the fact that they broke up when I was 4 initially). Do yourself a favor and “discover” them like I did this year.

7) Dan Auerbach – Keep It Hid
Solo album from one-half of The Black Keys. It’s not quite as good as a Black Keys album, but it is still damn good. “I Want Some More” is one of my favorite songs of the year.

6) Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy
Seriously, how did I not know about Built To Spill earlier?!? I mean, I had always seen their name in the gig guide of the Phoenix now and then, but never bothered finding out what they were all about. I deserve to be scolded for that. Shame on me. Anyway, this is my favorite of their albums so far (though admittedly I’ve been listening to them for two weeks).

5) Blitzen Trapper – The Black River Killer EP
Usually an EP won’t make my list, but “The Black River Killer” is such a damn good song that this one does. Blitzen Trapper are a really, really underrated band.

4) Pearl Jam – Backspacer
Well, Pearl Jam finally did it. They released an album that didn’t make #1 on my year-end list. Only time this has ever happen. This album has good bones and some good individual songs, but Brendan O’Brien watered it waaaay done, the way he has with the last few Springsteen albums. For someone who was so vital to the sound of a lot of the music that I still love from the 1990s…what the hell happened? Still, “Gonna See My Friend,” “Just Breath,” “The End” “Got Some” and “The Fixer” are as good as anything they have ever put out.

3) Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King
This album caught me off guard, because I despise anything that Dave Matthews put out since “Before These Crowded Streets.” That changed when I head “Funny The Way It Is” while sitting in a booth at Smokey Bones in Nashua. The passion and the emotion and the craftsmanship that MADE the Dave Matthews Band is back with a vengeance on this album.

2) Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
So Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, some other band in the 90s), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal) and John Paul Freakin’ Jones (some band called Led Zeppelin) decided to form a group, eh. Of course it is one of the groove-heaviest (and heavy groove-est) albums of the year. This could very easily be ranked #1A. Why it doesn’t get played on rock radio stations more…well…sorta explains why rock radio stations have been in continuous decline for a decade. Pick this one up (legally). It’ll rock your face off.

1) Silversun Pickups – Swoon
SSPUs are probably my favorite band to debut in the ’00s, as you’ll find when I ever get around to putting together the “Favorites of the ’00s” list. I could listen to this album every day (and sometimes I do). Very melodic (though heavier than you’d expect at times), very beautiful for a rock album. Obvious comparisons to early Smashing Pumpkins are warranted, but I think it is more sincere and skillfully crafted than anything Billy Corgan ever did. You deserve to own this album. Reward your ears. It’ll make up for all the Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas you’ve had to endure.

Categories: Uncategorized