Favorite Albums of the Noughties February 3, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Music.
Pardon me for posting another music list again. WordPress seems to be much friendlier in terms of layout and visits than the other blog, so this noughties list finds its home here. Without sounding too defensive I think my appreciation for the movies goes hand in hand with my love for music, that without one or the other, I wouldn’t be regarding them the way I do now, or even think of writing about them. They are inseparable fields, almost one.
All right, so without further nonsense, here are my favorite albums of the last decade. (List lovers, you won again.)
15. Stubbs the Zombie Soundtrack (Various Artists, 2005) My fondness for remakes reaches its climax here. The strangest of circumstances led me to discover it—considering I don’t play any video game. Must be fate, must be the ghosts of 50s and 60s songs reminding me that I was born in the wrong era. That being the case, this may be fate’s way of tolerating my homesickness. Every track in Stubbs the Zombie smacks of that ugly wound that never heals: the nostalgia of something that can never happen—and probably never will.
14. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (The Flaming Lips, 2002) The Lips regard each of their experiments like their only ticket to ride the popularity they have amassed since The Soft Bulletin. The record that comes after it sounds so fluid that when it ends it dreammorphs into air, occupying the space of future time, and taking all the hearts of dead hopeless-romantics they could ever get to use. Yoshimi is as bizarre as it is wonderful.
13. Greatest Hits: Chapter One (Backstreet Boys, 2001) The only record on this list which I can sing along to whether asleep or awake. Black & Blue should be here, but I opted for this instead because I listen to it the most; “Backstreet Boys obscurity” (frak what a term) is a no-no. I know every bit of ooohs and aaahs and yeaahs and babys in this collection, and I know where every one of them is placed. But above all else, it confounds me like the lost ark, what songs will they include in Chapter Two?
12. The Crane Wife (The Decemberists, 2006) A concept album that is more of an album than a concept, which is good, because most albums tend to get too conceptual and forget that they are albums, bought for a price and not just a giveaway. If you go ambitious, go more ambitious than ambitious; for even if you fail, at least you are still an ambition away from failure. The Decemberists are fine musicians, and are even made finer because Colin Meloy is a wonderful writer, he whose gifts never falter in every track of this record. Luscious to the core, The Crane Wife rewards like a great Japanese novel, slowly peeling to reveal its hidden treasure, gratifying word after word.
11. Plans (Death Cab for Cutie, 2005) I kill myself every time I listen to this, how in its melodies I find the comfort of a dying man, resuscitating me the living, only to keep my life shorter than it should be. So much for their name, in Plans, Death Cab are at their most bereaved.
10. The ’59 Sound (The Gaslight Anthem, 2008) It’s all but a feeling of looking back. Brian Fallon sings and alludes to Charles Dickens, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, old Hollywood movies, and of course, his band’s main influence, Bruce Springsteen. He sings them like parting ways with his memories, full of energy, brimming with force, non-stop, never petering out. Amid all the references, the hodgepodge doesn’t feel in any way contrived; on the contrary, it is the record’s absolute distinction.
9. Bring it Back (Mates of State, 2006) Mates of State are better than the White Stripes not because they are less popular but because they don’t care. They create music filled with harmonies that are always in good spirits, but without lying to us about the ugliness of the world either.
8. Lesser Matters (The Radio Dept., 2003) Remember that childhood habit of singing in front of an electric fan in full speed, and enjoying the sound that comes out of it, like alien noises or trapped spirits in chorus. Oh how we spend lazy afternoons just doing that. The Radio Dept. sound just like that, only theirs is lyrical, melodious, and polished. It’s twee the way twee should be: dainty, fragile, and almost shivery, but beautiful nevertheless. Lesser Matters is light but not lightweight, sun-dappled but not too sunny, and all its tracks are refreshing like ice-cold glee.
7. Sound of Silver (LCD Soundsystem, 2007) “Sound of silver talk to me, makes you want to feel like a teenager, until you remember the feelings of, a real life emotion of teenager, then you think again.” James Murphy sings these words to me while in fact I am no longer a teenager, but he still makes me feel like one. A dance album that does not only leave me dancing, it also leaves me in a state of unexplained giddiness that I end up wailing the way an Air Supply song does.
6. Silver Series (Donna Cruz, 2006) Quite possibly the greatest pop star of her time (although she barely made it there) and on a par with Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos in their musical heyday, Donna Cruz is more relished now when she is no longer active. And that’s the test of greatness, I think, feeling the loss when the career is no longer there, fumbling only with the crumbs left of it. Still, in my wildest dreams, I picture a Donna Cruz comeback, and in them she sings all these songs, never waning, divine and garish, guesting in an old noontime show. I always get this feeling that she’s like J.D. Salinger, stopping when she’s at the peak, but not regretting it in the slightest. A legacy untarnished until now.
5. Dragonslayer (Sunset Rubdown, 2009) Too soon you say, but if Dragonslayer only has “You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)” it will still be here. The hidden epic feels more pronounced as it continues, like it rolls until it finally explodes—only it doesn’t explode but silently kills. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when Krug cheers, “This one’s for the critics and their disappointed mothers!” but how nice of him to say.
4. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Wilco, 2001) Calling it life-changing doesn’t even feel like an exaggeration, or an empty pronouncement that overjoyed fans always find themselves saying. But truth, as always, reveals. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is already deemed a classic right after it came out, and looking back nine years after, it still is, coming out shy from the recognition. It’s like a heart saved from dying; beating with a renewed appreciation of life every time it plays. I figure if this were a film list, this would be that Hong Kong movie with a man telling his secret to a tree.
3. Sung Tongs (Animal Collective, 2004) More interesting for me is how music critics have managed—and have continued to manage—to convince us that Animal Collective are not only terribly good musicians but also consistently great artists, like they can do no wrong in the future. In my fanaticism for the band, I admit, I have always raised that as a concern. My friend asks me, almost rhetorical: are we really aware that we’re mostly growing up with music journalism and not with the music itself? Yes, that’s true, and I am completely aware. And it’s weird his question only started to bother me when I finally got down making this list. Thinking about it I remember that Sung Tongs is one of the first records that opened its doors for me to discover many great things—like Alice in Wonderland or Willy Wonka when we were young—and if that’s the effect of bandwagon journalism and canonizing way of writing I am always exposed to, I feel there’s no reason to be sad about it. On the contrary, I’m thankful that this came along my way. Sung Tongs only has Avey and Panda working; and albeit stripped, its temper hops like a crazy kangaroo, and it sounds like a cricket humming in a coma. For an album that starts with cats and rabbits, this one is a rare occurrence of a fey portent—the will-o’-the-wisp of all Animal Collective records.
2. Illinois (Sufjan Stevens, 2005) How to profess my love for something that only silence can tell? The late nights are my witness: this comforts me without me asking for it. Illinois is Sufjan’s literariness at its coltishly best, charming all the way through even in its lonesome moments. Every time Sufjan opens his mouth to sing, all the trees in the field clap, all the leaves sway in merriment, and all the roots climb their way up just to glimpse at his face.
1. In Rainbows (Radiohead, 2007) How much for a memory I can’t remember? It is a feat in almost everything, a skyrocket that explodes after takeoff, and every shrapnel shoots to the heart and bury themselves there. What else to say aside from “this is not Kid A“?