Category Archives: Top Music Lists

What I think is the best/worst of Music

Top 10 Albums of 1980

Image result for 1980 music albumsThe 1980s is perhaps the most vocal nostalgic era of all time. The only close contender of another decade being as vocal as the 80s would be the 1990s, but many things that was released out from the era of 1980 all the way through the end of 1989 has been severely remembered. Even those who were never alive in this new era are familiar with the cartoons, video games, movies, music and other entertainment coming out of this decade because the media has countless resurrections of these old products by making re-releases, remakes, & references using many brands to continue lasting their longevity appeal & legacy. And especially music in the 1980s, you can’t stand out much more from any other decade of music than the ridiculous synths, hair, and poppy appeal and sound. You can consider 80s fad in music the worst ever all you want but really it’s more iconic & recognizable than anything since & after. Here on TheTopLister, we’re going to begin getting more nostalgic lists by starting a series of the 1980s video games, music, and movie lists starting from 1980 all the way to the end of 1989.

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Top 10 Albums of the 1970s

Image result for 1970s musicWas the the 1970’s a good decade? Unfortunately, it’s a decade that’s just as bad, if not worse, than the 2000s. After the 1960’s Hippie Revolution, things came to a turn for the worse where the Cold War gotten more violent, draft was occurring in America, and many bad things were happening that effected the free world countries. For the least tragic stuff, there were a horrible trend of disco music that made all of us not want to go back to this decade. These where truly dark times, but fortunately people were able to fight back with music. As the psychedelic 60s gave way to hippie backlash and high ambitions, one thing was clear: There was something damn funny about peace, love and understanding. Shaking off naturalism, daisy chains and acid tabs came easier than expected, and what resulted was a paradox of both striking diversity and remarkable coherence: From high-concept prog-nerds and high-octane guitar solo to high-heeled glam-rockers and high-ass punks, the 70s saw the rise and dominance of the album-as-unified-statement. TheTopLister now takes the opportunity to present this list of its favorite albums of that decade… minus the fact that this is the top 7 70s albums with the top 3 Pink Floyd Albums.

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Top 10 Songs of the 2000s

I’ve already stated that music in the 2000s was a very horrible decade of music, and that’s because the focus on hits more than quality of songs are really hard look forward to. Part of it is that lack of originality or something that feels breathtaking as some of the many old songs that we love and cherish. More than likely, we go back to the old music that we cherish with the help of iTunes and downloadable music that only file-up an entire individual song instead of the whole album. It was really hard to judge what are some of the ten best songs of the decade, but I guarantee that not everyone is going to remember these songs, but they’re worth listening to due to it’s complexity, originality, and emotion/soul. Not much to describe about music in the naughties but minus well make this list to show that there were at least some really good music from this horrible decade.

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Top 10 Albums of the 2000s

Image result for 2000s musicTechnologically, evolution of music in the 2000s have been impressive where mp3 files changed the way we get our music and devices such as the iPod and cell phones were much easier to handle. But musically on the other hand… this decade was pretty bad. Music in the 2000s is a static and distasteful decade. Musically, the decade started out as a great, having left overs from the 1990s, but somewhere around 2002, music somehow stopped being as good as we hoped. Majority of pop music offered terrible genres such as emo, distasteful R&B and rap, pop, post-grunge movement, nu metal, and so many other music that ended up as a decade that we want to forget. Never have I seen a sufferable list of hits that made it on the number one charts and we have to thank the irresponsibility of many of these artists who created music that couldn’t even age a year since its release. It’s no wonder why so many stuck in the older times of music and never payed attention to the releases of 2000s. However, without the internet we wouldn’t be able to discover indie music. Never has underground and independent bands ever had so much exposure that it made the mp3 files in our computers to become the standard. And it made it so much easier to list down the albums the we’ve missed out in the decade.

Top 10 Albums of 2000
Top 10 Albums of 2001
Top 10 Albums of 2002
Top 10 Albums of 2003
Top 10 Albums of 2004
Top 10 Albums of 2005
Top 10 Albums of 2006
Top 10 Albums of 2007
Top 10 Albums of 2008
Top 10 Albums of 2009

It was really scraping the barrel to find at least ten albums released in each year of the 2000s. Because a lot of people realizes that they weren’t getting any satisfaction from mainstream music, there’s no wonder why people became hipsters and supported so many indie bands that they weren’t getting attention. But before the post-9/11 era started this terrible trend of music, the year 2000 was a start of a new decade and century. The days of the 1990s were no more, so new faces came in and tried to redefine their talents in songwriting. Again, 2002 was the year music stopped getting good and we would have to wait till 2007 till music got good again. After years of bad music, I can honestly say that 2007 had the best catalog of music coming out because that was when both indie and mainstream gave a crap in making wonderful tracks. You might be thinking that this person who made this list is an old fart bashing on this generation, but I assure you that I’m full blooded Generation Y and I still wish that my gen. could have their time of good music like 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Even though 2009 left us in a bad note, at least the 2010s are looking up so we can just move on. It was a difficult time to rank down some of the best albums of the 2000s to remind myself that this decade wasn’t at least all so terrible.

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Top 10 Metal Albums of the 1990s

The 1980’s gave the Heavy Metal genre recognition after a full decade of being looked as a despised “noise” that started with Led Zepplin and Black Sabbath. I can honestly say that even with the pure metal and cheesy hair metal, the 1980s was best decade for the genre. After Iron Maiden & Judas Priest started the metal boom in the beginning of the decade, metal in general started expanding into new diversity around the world to trash metal, progressive metal, black metal, speed metal, hair metal, and so many more. So many bands that came out this decade are still remembered as one of the best. Unfortunately the 1990s metal isn’t as powerful or as recognized as the 1980s. At this time around, metal was facing a new genre of music called Grunge and Alternative Rock that took the musical spotlight from everyone. Plus the evolution of the genre throughout the 1990s went sour when they reached the awfulness of Nu Metal and big names like Metallica sold out with different, tasteless musical directions. But that’s not to say that metal in the 1990s were at all bad because we had new bands that went into the positive direction of metal when transforming into folk metal, sludge metal, technical metal, and other metal that sounds and feels as impacting as metal in the 1980s. If you don’t believe me, check out past Top 10 Albums list for each year of the the 1990s.

With that being said, I certainly enjoyed the good side of heavy metal in the 1990s. Not to mention that I got into Heavy Metal in this decade so I can’t overlook at this decade’s metal and stick in the past in the 1980s. Here’s the best Heavy Metal albums of the 1990s! 


Number 10.  –  Burn My Eyes – Machine Head

Before experiencing this album I would have never dreamed that modern thrash metal can be this good, because I was pretty much an old-school purist (then). I guess that liking some contemporary modern metal (nu-metal included) and knowing the grunge scene also helps, but this release took me by storm anyway. Firstly you will have to go a long way to beat it. Producer Colin Richardson has done an excellent job at capturing Machine Head’s aggression while getting a very tight performance out of each individual member. Most notably that of Logan Mader. His riffs and solos keep this album interesting, mixing up each song so that it never finishes the way that it started. This prevents the songs from getting boring or even growing old even after 9 years. Sadly not much has been heard of Logan since his controversial sacking from the band apart from a short stint in Soulfly and now with his sub standard new band Medication. Burn My Eyes is full of everything you want from a metal album. Heavy riffs, ripping guitar solos, pounding double kick thrash beats; gut wrenching vocals and 11 of the best metal songs ever to be put into a single album. I long for the day when they can return to making music they way it should always be.

Number 9.  –  Agalloch – Pale Folklore

Agalloch are always listed as folk metal and black metal, but it is important to only keep these terms in the back of your mind, for Agalloch have a sound that is not that simple.  In fact, I’ve heard the band referred to as Grey Metal.  And it makes sense, partly because their music is difficult to classify, but mainly because the term fits their foggy autumn sound so well.  Maybe it is because they are from Oregon, far away from the European Black/Folk Metal scenes, that they have been able to craft such a unique sound for themselves.  Or maybe not, it doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that the metal world has been blessed with a new champion of creativity and intelligence. There’s also that folky texture that has become one of Agalloch’s trademarks, though it’s not as obvious as the acoustic interludes present throughout The Mantle—alternately, it’s more inherent and subdued.  The comparatively short instrumental The Misshapen Steed sums up Agalloch’s direction on this album for me: it’s quieter and more haunting than Agalloch’s next albums, but the enchanting and menacing qualities are still there, even if they take longer to make an impression. Hallways of Enchanted Ebony and As Embers Dress the Sky would make a list of Agalloch’s best songs, undoubtedly, and are the standouts on this release.  The Melancholy Spirit is harder to get into than those two but is also excellent.  The album’s weaknesses come in a few spots in the Skyline trilogy, which has its iffy moments, and Dead Winter Days is probably Agalloch’s most average song, but not bad by any means. This isn’t my favorite Agalloch album, but I do love it, even with its faults.  Everything this band does seems to have an underlying genius to it, and if dark, folky, and especially nature-worshiping music suits your fancy, the patience it takes to get into this album is well worth it.

Number 8.  –  Paegan Terrorism Tactics – Acid Bath

It sucks that a band like Acid Bath comes in with something new and refreshing then disband so soon, leaving us listeners to desire more. In comparison to When the Kite Sting Pops, this album is more groovy, consistent, and “mature” than the last album, which could be full blown chaos at times. This album doesn’t inspire the same level of terror the last one did, this album approaching darkness from the same angle that Alice In Chains usually did, through morbid and introspective lyrics, though this band is much darker than Alice. Dax Riggs’ favorite lyrical topics of drug addiction, abortion, bone dust, and grave flowers make a come back, and while his lyrical depictions are interesting. Acid Bath wasn’t just a run of the mill Louisiana sludge metal band. They were a fantastically crafted band that mixed the best of romance and macabre into a wonderful music mix which sounds a little like The Cure meets Cathedral. Acid Bath is bleak and dark as hell, but they are also melodic and sometimes gorgeous . Paegan Love Song is an anthem and Bleed Me an Ocean keeps up the intensity. This album is a grower. Upon a few listens each of these tracks will stand out and all prove strong on their own. New Death Sensation is haunting and offers an eerie listen. Venus Blue is amazing and is followed by the equally amazing and brutal 13 fingers which riffs like crazy. My only complaint is that 16 minute wait of silence which is attached to the Dead Girl track. That alone brings this down half a star, but it’s a minor complaint while taking in the album as a whole. Listen to this if you like grunge or metal or appreciate the darker side of life. You won’t be disappointed.

Number 7.  –  Ænima – Tool

When this came out it was either lauded as an ingenious masterpiece that was so far out there and unique that it towered over everything that Metal or Rock music had to offer at the time or it was dismissed as a pretentious affair, a presumptuous put-on that tried to pass itself off as an artful and refined musical statement. Latter sentiment was obviously fueled by later comments by Keenan, who as geeky introvert mused on the unfairness of the medias preference to favor generic and meaningless music in favor of what he termed “art” and that being reflected by the charts as well as the hordes of of people who seemed to radiate the message “hey, I listen to Tool, the shining beacon of the music industry which makes me one sophisticated son of a bitch”. The songs have all a dark atmosphere sorrounding them, this is a quite dark album. The drumming is interesting, but it is really the guitars that hold the song together. Most of the songs have multiple layers of structure, the most superficial being composed by the catchy riffs, while the deepest is composed by the deep lyrics and general atmosphere (you probably only reach this layer after some listens). Excellent album, which is a bit long no doubt but you can skip the somewhat weaker last 2 tracks. Highly reccomended for people looking for high quality and different sounding albums, whether it is progressive rock or alternative or metal.

Number 6.  –  When the Kite String Pops – Acid Bath

This is the album that started this new movement of sludge metal. For the fact that over 37,000 copies in the US with no publicity should tell you why this album is so massive. If the album cover that used the painting — made by notorious serial killer John Wayne Gacywhile in prison awaiting execution, didn’t intrigue you, then listening to it will. Like most metal, Acid Bath seems obsessed with the macabre, the gruesome, and the bloody, and in the case of this classic, almost entirely focused on the mind of the serial killer. The group tackles murder without any slasher movie excitement in glorification, nor third person analysis, but instead by going directly in the soured mindset, and showing often poetic and always graphic lyrical images of mutilated death, sexual assault, and about as many other horrible scenes they can muster. From the vague and tone-setting misanthropy thriving in The Blue, to the bloody sexual climax in Cassie Eats Cockroaches, the goal is always to indulge the listener in the darkest of the dark, with no safe spot to be found. Musically, variety is the main attraction point, and is the reason the album sticks out so much as a unique one. Songs here are well constructed, and played with focus and technical skill that never feels show-offy. The recording is clean and powerful by most metal standards, with everything taking up its own space and retaining a powerful guitar driven assault. It’s held back slightly by its meaty run time and a few lyrics that border on corny, but overall that doesn’t detract from an album that embodies it’s genre, while staying fresh and full of ideas 20 years from its release. 

Number 5.  –  Still Life – Opeth

As with many people, Opeth were my introduction to extreme metal, and also one of the first prog bands I really enjoyed, along with The Mars Volta and Tool. Still Life was my first experience of the band, and remains my favourite album of theirs, and one of my favourite albums of all time. Still Life represents the band at the peak of their career, between two styles. The dark, atmospheric sound of the early albums is still here, but the lengthy prog-influenced sounds of the more recent albums are displayed here for the first time. Still Life is possibly also the band’s most complex album, guitar-wise at least, with many time changes, heavy/acoustic switches and technical riffs and solos in most of the songs here. While Opeth are often criticised for staying on the same riff for too long, on this album they always seem to do something different at the exact moment you feel they should move on, with the possible exception of “Serenity Painted Death”, which thankfully has some of the better riffs on the album to save it anyway. The acoustic sections onStill Life are sublime, with “Benighted” and especially “Face Of Melinda” being beautiful, almost entirely distortion-free songs, with Mikael Akerfeldt’s clean vocals a huge step up from My Arms Your Hearse. The soft parts also work magnificently in contrast with the heavier areas, in particular on the insane opener “The Moor”, packed full of huge riffs, harmonies and time changes but also some brilliant melodic parts. “Moonlapse Vertigo” has some of Opeth’s catchiest guitar sections while “White Cluster” has some of their most technical, but my favourite song on here has to be “Godhead’s Lament”. Having the band to discover the folk style was the best thing for the best otherwise they would remain mediocre. It shows the spirit and soul that most Metal albums are seriously lacking but it enthuses upon so much creativity at the point where it’s artistic.  Opening with a maelstrom of swirling riffs and masterful drumming, it goes on to provide a storming display of the band’s best heavy work and also one of their most beautiful acoustic passages. The songs here are lengthy yet never dull, and perhaps more than any Opeth album since, offers new sounds on each listen. I have heard albums that do prog, metal and acoustics better than Still Life, but none that manage to blend the three as fantastically as Opeth on this release.

Number 4.  –  Focus – Cynic

The base of Cynic is in a highly technical breed of thrashy death metal with an emphasis on melody and texture provided by keyboards and other nontraditional metal instruments such as the Chapman stick. Vocals come in three distinct flavors: snarling male growls not entirely unlike what one would hear on a dusty copy of ‘Seven Churches’, sporadic operatic female clean vocals, and synthesized male vocals with a ‘robotic’ tone. The most logical adjective to use is, of course, ‘progressive’, as Cynic never ceases to change the direction or tone of their music. This album rarely settles down, with consistently shifting textures that trade off and overlap in what can only be described as organic manner. Frequently a technique will be employed where instrumentalists will slip one by one into the next movement until they have all collected before performing such a maneuver again, making this an oddly flowing listening experience. ‘Focus’, while not aesthetically for everyone, is an undeniably seminal work in the dimension of metal and progressive music. While only a certain segment might enjoy what is presented on this album, what is presented is an utterly necessary compendium of sounds that must be appreciated for what they allowed to be created more than what they are in and of themselves.

Number 3.  –  Dirt – Alice in Chains

Dirt is one of the darkest, depressing, harrowing albums ever made. It’s full of so much despair and pain, it contains so much anguish that it’s sometimes really hard to listen to. It’s seen as THE heroin album, because of what Layne was going through and how vivid the lyrics were and the imagery they evoked. The album is definitely about Layne’s addiction, but I think the songs go beyond that. They go much deeper and it isn’t quite as one dimensional as that, even though at the album’s heart it’s about addiction I think the songs deal with deeply personal and emotional issues that go beyond Layne’s addiction. Sometimes, the lyrical content is incredibly vivid and other times it’s so cryptic and hard to decipher. It’s one of the most absorbing albums ever, I feel exhausted and drained after listening to it. The best thing about Grunge, for me, was the different styles the best bands had. From Nirvana’s Punk Rock sensibilities, to Pearl Jam’s classic rock leanings, to The Afghan Whigs’ soul influences. Each band from the scene had something different to offer. Alice In Chains were the band whose aesthetic was closest to Metal and I think Dirt is not only the darkest album to come out of the movement, but it’s one of the darkest albums ever. Dirt is Alice In Chain’s masterpiece, their career defining album and it’s one of the best and most essential albums of the decade. It’s actually chilling, Layne invites us into his hellish nightmare and completely changes our perception of music. It’s an album that floors me, it leaves me absolutely speechless

Number 2.  –  Rust in Peace – Megadeth

Is there any doubt in your mind that this could not be number 1? Why not? This is the prime of Megadeth and even the best songwriting I’ve ever seen from the band. Everything I said that was good about “Killing is My Business…,” “Rust in Peace” is actually twice the awesomeness. It had the most innovative and the most groundbreaking guitar-riffs ever put in singular album. There isn’t a single bad song in “Rust In Peace;” the experience from beginning to end, each time you play “Rust in Peace,” is a fulfilling Metal experience. Ever since I’ve encountered this album, I haven’t encountered another Heavy Metal album that even approached to the effectiveness of this very album. It has a great balance of being so political and be so imaginative by putting the then US President, George H.W. Bush to be in this gigantic conspiracy of extraterrestrial activities. With an insane concept like that for an album, Megadeth spared no expense with what they were capable of in making this album. Even still to this day, I wonder how did they even pull off  these songs that you don’t ever hear from any other Heavy Metal band. “Rust in Peace” is a classic, it’s a phenomenon, and most of all… it’s legendary!

Number 1.  –  Sound of Perseverance – Death

And so we come to Death’s last, and during their run in the 1990s from Human, to Individual Thought Patterns, to Symbolic, to finally their last album, they were the best 4 consecutive albums that a single band has ever had! I could have put those four albums in the list of the best metal albums of the 1990s, but that wouldn’t be fair for the rest of Metal bands in the 1990s because they weren’t superior to Death in comparison. Death’s 1995 album Symbolic had been an astounding release and Chuck had evolved each album in a fairly linear direction away from straight forward death metal, and with that album appearing to take the sound as far as it could go without falling out of the genre altogether. With only the occasional riff or lead reminding you that this is the same “band” that released albums like Human and Symbolic. The progressive element has been amped up to much higher levels and the more traditional death metal riffs are far less prominent, none of which is surprising when you consider the members of the band were never hired to play to death metal in the first place. The more progressive metal style of The Sound of Perseverance is not the only thing that makes this album stand out from the rest of the Death discography. Chuck’s vocals have a much higher tone than on previous releases, approaching black metal-like screams while remaining completely intelligible. The new vocals somehow create such a passionate roar as we simultaneously hear many of the high-pitched riffs that’s out for blood. The musicianship is truly impressive and from a purely technical perspective, there are not too many albums out there that could match it. Every track has moments of sheer brilliance with crushing riffs, exquisite leads and some fantastic drumming from the very impressive Richard Christy. The majority of the album’s highlights occur in the first half with Scavenger of Human SorrowBite the Pain, Voice of the Soul, and the wonderful Story to Tell containing the most fluent and consistently enjoyable structures overall. It’s not surprising to me that there are many out there that consider this the finest Death album, as it would undoubtedly have drawn a whole new crowd to the band. Everything just comes together here, and sounds better than ever, from the mystic atmosphere to the driving grooves that had come to define Schulidner’s guitar wizardry.  Not to mention the fantastic songwriting, filled with memorable hooks and powerful vocals, with what is probably the best riffing the band had done up to this point. This is a culmination of all of Death’s previous works, and their ultimate album that left the metal world a huge bang to remember.

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Top 10 Albums of 2009

Number 10.  –  Fever Ray – Fever Ray

A thing to note is that I am not impacted by The Knife because I’m probably in the minority that has not listened to the band prior to this album. That’s probably for the best, as it allows me to review it unaffected by other impressions. The album is very atmospheric, it’s dark, it’s moody. The first time I listened to it, I was on the bus to go to buy Animal Collective tickets. Since then, everything’s changed, my misconceptions have been cleared up somewhat, the show’s date came and went (without a concert) and now I’m here listening to this album again. The first time was a time of excitement, this second time is post-disappointment. The record is the same, unchanged. The tracks flow one into the other, with If I Had a Heart a nice introduction into the album, then becoming When I Grow Up with a completely different, albeit related feel to it. The music is gentle yet foreboding and, for me, is most reflective of the cover art, which sees Karin as a mystic (or is that a witch?) in a night-time rural scene, with twisted tree roots and billowing clouds creating a sense of menace.  The artwork’s hint of a mythical world, with wizards, ghouls and goblins, reminds me strongly of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I used to play as a kid, and the a lot of the music on Fever Ray wouldn’t sound out of place in such imagined worlds either

Number 9.  –  The Fauns – The Fauns

For a group made up of three guitarists, The Fauns make a surprisingly gentle noise. This is the softer side of shoegazing where swirling atmospherics wash over the speakers. Added to this is Alison Garner’s light, aching vocals to caress each song, making them even smoother. Jangly affairs like ‘Understand’ (actually a cover version of a song by 1980′s indie act Brian) are multi-layered and mesmeric, ‘Come Around Again’ revolves around a subtle hook and ‘Fragile’ is simply lovely as its slow percussion, effects and Garner’s tender tones build into a fabulous glacial melody. The only problem is the lack of urgency on the album where even the faster tracks like ‘Black Sand’ are blurred around the edges. The Fauns arrive at a time when shoegazing is more in demand than ever but I’m not sure that they bring anything particularly new to the genre. That said, if you like your music to float rather than to grind, you could do a lot worse.

Number 8.  –  Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix –

hat you have here is some good old-fashioned guitar-synth pop. But goddamn if it isn’t some of the most intricately arranged and most achieved pop music out there. For the majority of the songs here, there is an incredible sense of completeness. There’s almost a sort of minimalism at work, as there is hardly any element here that feels extraneous. The songs are tight, impeccable little 3 minute exercises in music sensibility, and it’s so good. It’s hard to point another record that works so completely within the confines of pop music that achieves such an effect so marvelously. The second half of the album doesn’t stand up to the first in large part because the tracks on the album’s second half sound as if they were distilled from “Lisztomania”. A big part of this can be attributed to the vocal melodies being catchy, but lacking in diversity. Or it could be because the lead singer has trouble changing the range in emotion of his voice from track to track. Despite the variations on a theme that is the album’s second half, this is the only logical starting place for Phoenix and should please indie pop and dance pop fans alike.

Number 7.  –  Sigh No More –
Mumford & Sons

The best way to describe the music in Sigh No More is like going on a road trip through such beautiful scenery or a sad poem with a glimmer of hope from its expressive riffs. I feel like this was Mumford and Sons best album so far, which had such amazing tunes like Dust Bowl Dance, Winter Winds, White Blank Page, and their smashing hit Little Lion Man. It’s all very earthy but not in a camped up new-age ‘medieval-fare’ kind of way. Musically, Mumford don’t seem to wear their musical predilections on their sleeves like so many folky bands do and it comes through as a kind of quiet integrity both in the gorgeous lyrics and the top notch musicianship. There are the triumphant, blood quickening tempos wildly crashing into almost rock-like rhythms. Others will make you weep with their stillness and the cold beauty of their lyrics. The bright twang of acoustic steel underpinned with galloping but tastefully done banjos and Dobros, all the ingredients one would think for a hillbilly showdown yet so unlike that stereotype that I found myself re-assessing completely what these instruments mean in modern music and what can be done with them. A stunning debut! Heartfelt, passionate and downright sad in many places.

Number 6.  –  Cage The Elephant –
Cage The Elephant

We’ve all probably heard Cage the Elephant’s single Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked a couple of times and it’s really the most pleasant thing to listen to in recent years.  Part of it is because the band sounds like a solid mix between The Whigs and The White Stripes, but it’s uncertain if the group could release a whole album full of quality songs until we’ve checked out their self-entitled album that given us more of what we were expecting.  Somewhat surprisingly, Cage the Elephant have produced one of the most enjoyable albums I have heard all of 2009.  This debut is just pure fun from beginning to end.  One highlight called In One Ear immediately provides an indication how Cage the Elephant views their music while others like Tiny Little Robots and Back Against the Wall were still in my head long after Cage the Elephant spun to a stop.  This group certainly answered my doubts about releasing a very good album and I’m betting they can follow it up with something equally enjoyable.

Number 5.  –  Farm – Dinosaur Jr.

No band should be this strong in their third decade. It defies all conventional logic — just another act of Dinosaur Jr. defiance, it seems. Their reunion album Beyond was the album that proved that they still got it and then 2 years later they came up with one of their best efforts! Music doesn’t require perfect vocals. This is one thing that dinosaur jr. seems to emphasize with every single album. It is speed and guitars that make up the core of every of their songs. Dinosaur jr. has never truly been the same after their break up and ”farm” should not be compared to ”you’re living all over me”. It lacks the element of grunge, but truthfully who cares? I don’t and I can say with absolute certainty that other fans will agree. Farm doesn’t have the edge-pushing guitar effect work of You’re Living All Over Me or the variability of some other albums like Green Mind, but what it does have is just about the most solidly rocking and infectious songwriting of their career.  On top of that, the gorgeously distorted and compressed guitar tone is a treat to hear, especially in head phones where you can hear the thick tone dribble into your eardrum like honey.  This is one of my favorite albums of the last couple years, and one of my favorite Dinosaur Jr. albums.  Well worth a listen. A good album, but do not listen to it constantly like I did. Try it out and come back to it once in a while and I guarantee you that you will not regret getting it.

Number 4.  –  Black Gives Way To Blue –
Alice in Chains

For those who say that this band should have remained dead because Layne Staley is no longer around are forgetting the fact that the rest of the band want to carry on with new projects for the band but Layne’s isolation with Mad Season & his personal demons got the best of him. Never would I imagine there would be any similar wave & songwriting again because Layne’s death in 2002. Black Give Way To Blue could have been a major disaster because William DuVall is taking Layne’s place as lead singer, but surprisingly enough, Black Gives Way To Blue turned out to be the best comeback album of the entirety of the 2000s decade. The album feels much heavier than anything AiC have ever done before. They were always more of a heavy metal band than a grunge band, but if there was ever any doubt before there can be done now, Black Gives Way to Blue is definitely a metal album, I’d go as far as to say it really lacks what grunge influences were in the band’s music at the height of grunge. I strongly believe that if somehow this album was released in 1993, it would and could be Alice in Chains’s second best album and one that would be regarded a sure contender for the title of best Alice in Chains record and top alternative metal album. In fact, the child in me still thinks this is some kind of miraculously hidden album which was lying asleep in their rehearsal room and now that they’ve found another fantastic singer they thought they could finally release it. This is up to Layne’s memory, the Dirt/Jar of Flies times and it serves as a great introduction into the beautiful and sorrowful world of Alice in Chains. The riffs have groove, the vocals are hypnotic (both from newcomer DuVall and Cantrell) and the songs could rival anything off Dirt even. This is a monolith of alternative metal. I’m so glad they are back! Also these songs’ live presentation is on par with the glorious past. This is disturbingly great!

Number 3.  –  Static Tensions – Kylesa

It sure took Kylesa a while to get that edge to separate themselves from the rest of the Sludge metal genre but for nearly a decade, they found their edge to start their reign of good albums in their discography. The first thing you notice in “Static Tensions” is how different it sounds compared to previous Kylesa material: it is clear the band have found their own, original take on this kind of music. They have massive Sludge Metal/Hardcore Punk influences in most of the vocals , as well as in the heavy, crunchy, and extremely loud guitars; but the original aspect of the music is probably the rhythm section, which often incorporates more exotic percussive patterns that replace simple drum fills. However, the drummer in this band does not hesitate in blasting bursts of velocity, making Kylesa basically sound like the more drugged out, intense and in-your-face cousin of Mastodon. The great thing about this new style is that slower, clean moments are not rare, and still hint at that Psychedelic feel that is just as powerful as in the more intense moments, especially thanks to the clever addition of female vocals and the hazy production chops.  “Static Tensions”, in it’s most intense passages, reminds not only of the Hardcore flashes but also of clever, well structured Sludge Metal. Despite this raw blend, Kylesa manage to be extremely accessible in every single song, proving amazing songwriting skills. It is pretty rare to find a band that can successfully write catchy melodies, be adventurous, and surround you with total, blissful distortion, all at the same time.  With only forty minutes “Static Tensions” is by far the most solid Kylesa album. Although each song maintains a similar style (the clean moments though are all different from one another), they never bore all together, and together shine as one. Of course, there are specific highlights, like the amazingly face-bashing first track “Scapegoat”,  the more dualistic (soft and aggressive) nature of “Running Red”, the hypnotic atmosphere of “To Walk Alone”, or the straight-forward catchiness of “Almost Lost”. Each and every one of these songs has a different character, many of them present a different structural form, and all together they form a quite functional family of tough boys.

Number 2.  –  Merriweather Post Pavilion –
Animal Collective

If there’s anything that came from the indie scene that is a clear landmark to the genre (outside of Arcade Fire’s Funeral or Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea) it has to be this very album. Merriweather Post Pavilion is not only Animal Collective’s most likable, straightforward pop album, it’s also a lush, dreamlike experience, with endearingly cluttered arrangements and themes of family and brotherhood. It is a treasure of neo-psychedelia, it is one of the few post-2000 albums that actually challenges and surpasses the psych of the sixties in many ways, while still being unique in its own right. Almost every song on this album is powerful, well arranged, catchy, and loveable. “In the Flowers” sets the tone for the album with the line “If I could just leave my body for a night”, before erupting into a frenzy of synthesizers and quick drums. “My Girls” is an irresistibly catchy pop song that wouldn’t be out-of-place on top 40 radio (they seem to be cashing in the “indie” dollar for all it’s worth, but Animal Collective is much better than that). “Also Frightened”, “Summertime Clothes”, “Taste”, “Lion in a Coma”, and “No More Runnin'” are immensely unique in the realm of psychedelic pop, as well as unique amongst each other, making the album flow really well. Avey Tare’s vocals are at their very best on many of these songs. “Brother Sport” couldn’t have ended the album in a better way, the progressive tantrum of synths and loops at the end is impressive.

With many things in my life that I love, I hated Merriweather Post Pavilion the first time I listened to it. Actually, I didn’t even listen to the whole thing, just a short excerpt of My Girls on Youtube, because somebody recommended me the album. I was disgusted. “What is this shit?” I thought to myself. “Sounds like a mess of shitty synths and a terrible vocalist.” I exited from the website and went on my business for the day. I took me a while to actually listen to the album start to finish too, the songs were strange and hostile to my ears. And when I did finally listen to it I said, “Wow, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.”, and set it aside. Merriweather Post Pavilion certainly got better with age.  This record is a guide to life as an adult. Responsibility, arriage, and children, but also confusion and death — all swirling in the deranged hippy rave that is your life from now on. The entire feels like some odd trip through a purple swamp, with animals and plants and monsters hissing, screaming, singing with you on your strange journey.

Number 1.  –  XX – The xx

Some albums are best listened to in certain way. Whether it’s seasons, settings or times. Some albums are best listened to in the summertime, in a park, around midday. Others are best listened to where you stare at your own four walls and wonder where it all went wrong. xx is an album best listened to around autumn, driving around in your car, late at night. The early hours, in fact. It just has that smooth, dark, sexy sound that’s brilliant for driving around aimlessly to. Driving around with just you, the music and your thoughts. It has that thoughtful, personal, introspective quality to it. It’s amazing to think that this is their debut album, because it’s so incredibly accomplished. When they made this, they were all in their early 20s, but it has a certain maturity to it. I can’t even begin to think where they could possibly go from here. How on earth are they going to top this? This is about as good as debut albums get. Even if they don’t ever do anything this good again, at least I’ll always have this. I remember when I first listened to it, I’d just moved house and it was summertime. The exact wrong time to listen to this kind of album, because summery is the one thing it’s not, but I adored it anyway and I just connected immediately to it and waited for autumn. When I first listened to it, the thing that first struck me was the vocals. Particularly the female singer’s voice, I absolutely adored it. I kept listening and listening, the more I listened, the more I fell in love with her. I kind of put off seeing what she looked like, because she was never going to look as good as she was inside my head but when I eventually saw her I was a bit dumbfounded. How could that gorgeous, sexy voice come from her?! Needless to say, I don’t find her attractive, but every time I listen to her, she’s just about the most attractive woman in the world to me. Seriously, one of my favorite vocal performances and it’s just so suited to the music and the male vocals add a nice juxtaposition to the music. I love how both voices bounce off of each other. I adore the lyrics as well and the way they’re delivered is just perfect. The album has this intimacy to it, xx is like a window into the lives of two lovers. It’s just so easy to connect to. How can you not connect to lines delivered as perfectly as the way they sing “Sometimes… I still need you” on ‘Heart Skipped A Beat’? I find it impossible.  Musically, it has this really moody, melancholy, subtle, understated, intimate beauty to it. It’s almost haunting at times. The beats are fantastic, the guitar lines are great, the vocals are just orgasmic, the drum machine is fantastic and reminiscent of Young Marble Giants who are clearly a huge influence on The xx and it’s perfectly produced – glossy, smooth and accomplished. xx is incredibly minimalistic, but brilliantly atmospheric and evocative. No one knew before the xx’s self-titled debut that the silence laid between beats and spacey guitar could be used as a band’s most potent, emotive instrument. For an album that’s simplistic and spacy, it take a real talent to make it sound good rather than lazy and ironically enough it given its listeners a big bang to end the 2000s decade as we were entering a new one.

And speaking of the 2000’s decade, stay tuned for the upcoming Top 10 Albums of the 2000s as we wrap up this entire series before we enter the next decade!

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Top 10 Albums of 2008

Number 10.  –  Black Ice – AC/DC

Sometimes it’s unnecessary for a band to change their music because their identity & style is so recognized that would ruin their legacy if they choose to play a different type of music. This is one of those albums that there is not really anything to say about. It’s an AC/DC album, unless you are either deaf or have been living on another planet for the last thirty five years, you know exactly what its going to be like.  AC/DC have been doing what they do for something like thirty years, yet so many music fans still see them as a footnote, or a flash in the pan, sure that at any moment they will self destruct. There’s no progression to their music, no rocking ballads, no sweet backup singers to subtly sway the masses.  If anything has changed, it’s the vocals of Brian Johnson who sounds down right menacing as he comes across ever louder than ever before, hitting notes I thought not possible for his range, singing like he’s part of some tent revival, and he’s only got fifty five minutes to bring you the word.  I’m not sure that these boys know the meaning of adulthood, and that makes me smile.  There was once a group called The Beach Boys, who seemed destined to go on forever as young men.  Sadly they didn’t, finding more pleasures in the trappings of age and infighting than anything else … but AC/DC [?], they’ll still be sweating it out … for those about to rock.

Number 9.  –  One Day As A Lion – One Day As A Lion

It’s a shamed that Audioslave could never hold the candle or the edge that Rage Against The Machine, however One Day As A Lion has that appeal we miss in the 1990s. It’s not just Zack’s hardcore vocals, it’s the familiar songwriting that has level of balls that never changed since Battle for Los Angeles. This self titled EP is very reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine. Essentially the key instruments used to make this EP possible are the drums and the keyboard. Although there are no longer any actual instruments played besides the drums and keyboard, this project still brings the feeling of a live recorded band. The lyrics and vocals of Zach De La Rocha have not changed a bit over the time between the Rage Against the Machine era and now. He still speaks on the various issues that plague our society, government, and economy. In their direct words they describe their music as “a defiant affirmation of the possibilities that exist in the space between kick and snare. It’s a sonic reflection of the visceral tension between a picturesque, fabricated, cultural landscape and the brutal socioeconomic realities it attempts to mask.”  The single off the EP, “Wild International”, suggests the horrors of war, specifically the war on terrorism. Those who are hardcore Rage Against the Machine fans should definitely pick this one up as soon as possible. One can only hope for the same satisfaction from their full length album, although I highly doubt that they will disappoint. Ultimately, I envision One Day as a Lion becoming one of the futures greatest artists to ever hit the charts.

Number 8.  –  Third – Portishead

Portishead’s pair of albums from the 90s are mind-slamming 5 star all-time favorites for me, music that has rattled my brain down to the smallest neuron.  I had no idea what to expect going into this third album made about a decade since the last one, but I knew it would be worth paying my fullest attention, with a proper listening position relative to my speakers.  At heart, Third is an album full of contradictions.  It’s obviously indebted to the ’60s, but it still sounds futuristic; it could easily be the work of an entirely different band, yet it still sounds like Portishead; it’s home to both their heaviest and most fragile songs yet.  The biggest and best contradiction, though, is that by experimenting Portishead are actually playing it safe.  Everybody knows how easy it would have been to offer up the album everybody was expecting, so were this to be a failure, the band would at least be commended for trying something different.  It’s a good job, then, that the songs are so brilliant.  “Silence”, “Hunter”, “Nylon Smile”, “The Rip”, “We Carry On”, “Machine Gun”, and “Magic Doors” are all more than worthy of sitting next to “Glory Box” and “Sour Times” in a back catalogue that suddenly looks very, very strong.

Number 7.  –  Microcastle – Deerhunter

Musically, Deerhunter meld together some disparate influences, from Brian Eno’s art-rock to the doo-wop of the Fifties to the post-shoegazing American indie rock coming out of places like Washington D.C in the early Nineties – but they make it truly their own.  It may be easy to say that Microcastle merely capitalizes on the accessibility and immediacy of something like, say, “Strange Lights”, from Cryptograms, but there’s much, much more going on on this record.  And there’s where sequencing comes again:  the middle and final third of the record diverge from the “Strange Lights” pattern, and that’s part of the success:  though those early pop tracks like “Agoraphobia” ease you in, it’s that they change direction one-third of the way in that makes this album awesome.  The middle third – songs like “Calvary Scars” – delves into a more polished version of the bedroom ambient Bradford Cox made in his early days as Atlas Sound; the later third gets big and noisy again, channeling that part of the early Nineties when Sonic Youth jumped ship to DGC and got them to sign Nirvana.

Number 6.  –  The Chemistry of Common Life – Fucked Up

After hidden world i was really ready for anything. I waited in anticipation for it’s release and of course downloaded it early(like an impatient ingrate). I really gave this the fairest listen while spending a good four hour session writing. I fully enjoy everyone of their releases because each album really conveys a different meaning to me. Epics gives off just pure aggression and tales of lashing out in a world of constant litany and defeat. For a genre that has been declared dead more times than hip-hop, hardcore has certainly found a lot of ways to circumvent its supposed limitations.  Their choruses, while massive, are not hooky enough for radio play, and their compositions are not twisted enough to fall under the post-hardcore label. What’s more, Fucked Up chooses to eschew the usual buzzsaw attack of hardcore guitars, instead layering their guitars until they resemble the impressionist swirling of early 90’s shoegaze.  While this combination certainly makes for an interesting listen, the concept is often better than the hooks.  Fortunately for Fucked Up, their concept just so happens to be one of the most intoxicating ones found on any release in 2008.

Number 5.  –  Symphonic Homicide –
Do It With Malice

It’s not everyday that you come across a rock band that defines its sound as “two guitar players, a Cuban, a carney, and an I.T. technician,” but Do It With Malice is not an average rock band. The group performed an incredible set at the Mohawk Place recently, proving that ska, jazz, punk rock, reggae and metal can blend together perfectly if done correctly. Symphonic Homicide is well-constructed and unique listen. The band includes a variety of sounds in throughout the album. The album features a large horn section (trumpet, trombone, and baritone, tenor, and alto saxophone all play at one point or another), though now the band only has a multi-talented wind player I believe. The use of the horns is of consistent quality but not overwhelming; often the horn lines back the choruses or bridges without stealing the attention from the crafty vocals. The main melodies are well-developed and show a significant amount of thought has gone into them. “Malicious Intent” starts the album and is purely instrumental and one of the clearest examples of how the horns work on different levels with various polyrhythms and harmonies. “Paranoid,” “Symphonic Homicide,” and “That Guy” feature exceptionally unique phrasing by the horns. Some creative use of horns on the album also include double tracking of the same saxophone, and the use of more horns than the band was physically able to play at one time. I would recommend this album to anybody and nearly have only positive comments for it. Some of the tones take a getting used to, but once overcome, you will find yourself listening to a quality album

Number 4.  –  For Emma, Forever Ago –
Bon Iver

This album is gorgeous. Justin Vernon deals with pure heartbreak and puts all of his emotion into an underground indie folk album that became an instant classic. This is the perfect album to listen to during the winter when you’re feeling alone. This isn’t a gimmick like a lot of “emotional” records today. It’s very conscious and I feel like Vernon was looking for an answer to why something like his break up was meant to happen but it goes beyond that. All of his questions wouldn’t matter anymore by the time he realized that life goes on and you can tell he feels that way from the group’s bigger-sounding second album, Bon Iver, Bon Iver. This album isn’t intense but it has an immense amount of emotion. It’s relatable when you have a big break up and think that’s why I love it so much. It’s difficult to put into words how you feel about the world after a moment in your life like that. He had the voice, the soul, and the musical ability so why not make an album like this one? I know isolation, and I know I know it because I’m not proud of knowing it. There’s no dread, no silent and terrifying feeling of empty space and total futility seeping in. For Emma isn’t a bleak album, because bleakness implies more conflict than this guy’s capable of giving. It’s just a sad record, sort of, like a continuous moan – albeit a well-produced one (I like that swooping electric in “For Emma”). To be fair, the music does occasionally move, which is more than can be said about Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine, or Will Oldham. But at the end of the day, these guys all belong in the same camp: vaguely competent self-pity. Boring music for boring people who haven’t spent enough time with Pink Moon and equate getting out of bed at noon with the civil rights movement.

Number 3.  –  Vampire Weekend –
Vampire Weekend

This has got to be some of the best debut albums of the 2000s because right from the get go, this band knew their style which lead them world-wide popularity. Nowadays, hipsters bashes this album because they feel as if Vampire Weekend should have stayed under the radar instead of having mainstream success — who are they to make that judgement? Love ’em or hate ’em – and at this point those are the only two positions I can understand – Vampire Weekend has done something pretty extraordinary here.  They’ve stuck with a purely pop medium and came up with a full album of material that never really tires itself.  Enough variation to keep you interested, but all of it enormously catchy and kind of familiar.  There are a few songs here that hint at ska influences, which is interesting.  The target audience for Vampire Weekend is probably young or young-ish (say 15-25 years old), an audience that just missed the tail end of mainstream ska acts like Sublime or Goldfinger.  And then the playful classical hook of “M79” is tough to miss as well.  I suppose there are a few neat influences that pop up every now and then, but make no mistake, this is entirely a pop release and one that will have a lot of influence on up-and-coming acts, not necessarily for the better either.  This seems so simply attractive to me that the backlash against it has me scratching my head.  I suspect that this distain, for the most part, has little to do with the music itself, which is understandable but unfortunate if that’s the case.  Listening to Vampire Weekend is just too easy and casual. This is the case where simplicity is a positive thing and it’s one of the reason why this debut album has garnered so much hype.

Number 2.  –  Saturdays = Youth – M83

M83 are the band I’ve been looking for, they do what they do absolutely perfectly. Synth pop that’s combined with a palette of other genres, influences, styles and it comes together perfectly. Anthonly Gonzalez is the brains behind the band and he creates something fantastic truly fantastic. I love them because they’re a band that borrow heavily from the 1980s, but unlike a lot of synth pop from the 1980s, it sounds fresh and interesting. It sounds so reminiscent, without being dated or trite and it sounds like something that’ll never really date. It isn’t hampered by its aesthetic or the quality of the recording at all, and the songwriting is just incredible. THE best 80’s tribute album in a long, long, LONG time. It feels retro, but it never gets old. The album passes the feeling it wants to pass: carefree youth, with happiness and sadness. Dream pop + Shoegaze + Synth sounds very good. M83’s “Saturdays = Youth” sounds definitely good in some moments. It’s nice when it sounds ethereal and relaxed on “You, Appearing” and “Skin of the Night” but also shines when it gets to its more “synth-pop happy” phase (“Graveyard Girl” and especially “Kim & Jessie”). All the tracks have a similar vibe but it’s not a repetitious album by any means.  It’s moving and catchy.  There’s an audible thread that binds all the music together here that’s difficult to describe.   They also did a decent job with the pressing .  I think some of the midrange levels could’ve used a little boost, but overall the sound is dynamic and textural. This album was a wonderful surprise. I always associated the band with instrumental electronic music before. This album is like a throwback to my favorite postpunk/dream pop bands from the ’80s – irresistible. It puts me in mind of bands like the Comsat Angels and Cocteau Twins. Maybe a bit of Slowdive as well. Overall very good sense of melody, very good indie pop.

Number 1.  –  Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes are one of the greatest emerging bands from the 2000s for a long time. Their self-entitled album is also one of the best debut albums I have ever heard. This album is very different from anything else as well as this band is too, and is it is a new sound that is emotionally beautiful that should be loved and popular someday everywhere in the world. It’s difficult to make comparisons for Fleet Foxes, given the unique vocal talents of the group, but I certainly can see the Beach Boys or Cosby, Stills, & Nash comparisons that people often draw. And that’s not a bad thing; Fleet Foxes are excellent vocalists that make great use of the different textures of musical instruments. I find that each song is really a composition rather than just a tune. Fleet Foxes can be loved by everyone. Your dad, your grandma, your dog. Fleet Foxes ubiquitous sound is a combination of classic rock, 50’s vocal harmonies, classic country, modern folk, and a dash of pop. “Sun It Rises” begins with a folky harmony as an opener. By the end of the song Robin Pecknold is enveloped by ethereal voices as a guitar softly plucks. It’s a moving moment and it happens all within the first song. The mood is broken by “White Winter Hymnal” with its mysterious lyrics and steady guitars. There is just such a variance between the songs that Fleet Foxes traverses with the skill of a band 10 times their age. Every song sounds like its own serious moment; it’s hard to describe but the album doesn’t feel like an album. Few artists strive to make derivative music.  It makes sense that music done before need not be continually reproduced.  A refrain similar to that can be heard many places over on RYM but in the case of the Foxes, that rule doesn’t really apply.  Many reviewers say that this band relies too much on the voices of other bands, but I don’t really see it.  I find the music to be both original & powerful enough. There are short and occasional moments in the Fleet Foxes’ self-titled album that feel as if they are the very embodiment of perfection – the climax of Heard Them Stirring, or parts of the melancholic Blue Ridge Mountains. ‘Fleet Foxes’ is a rare album that utilizes harmony effectively so that every song feels like a part of a cohesive and rewarding whole. Some songs do seem flat and unchanging, and Robin Pecknold’s voice does conflict too greatly with the music, possibly due to mixing, as heard in Tiger Mountain Peasant Song. But no matter what, it is an album that deserves to be heard – if you give it your undivided attention. ‘Fleet Foxes’ is an album that has clearly been meticulously crafted with great attention to detail. Within the songs lie so many short harmonies and brief segments within that it is a rewarding album to explore.

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