Category Archives: Top Music Lists

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Top 10 Albums of the 1970s

Was 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.

Number 10.  –  Bat out of Hell – Meat Loaf

‘Bat Out of Hell’ is as much the brainchild of composer Jim Steinman as it is a Meat Loaf solo album. Steinman began working on the songs that would comprise the album in 1974, while he was composing a musical update of ‘Peter Pan’ titled ‘Neverland.’ Steinman and Meat Loaf later toured together as part of a National Lampoon live show, and began collaborating on the three songs they felt were the standouts from that project, with an eye toward developing the material into a cohesive album. Though the album was slow to break, ‘Bat Out of Hell’ eventually sold 43 million copies worldwide, including 14 million in the U.S. alone. It stayed on the charts in the U.K. for 474 weeks, and in true rock and roll fashion, its enormous financial success spawned a number of lawsuits and bad blood between Meat Loaf, Steinman, and various record labels. Meat Loaf and Steinman would continue their difficult working relationship thereafter, and Meat Loaf’s next album, 1981′s ‘Dead Ringer,’ would stiff in America, though it sold respectably in the U.K.Meat Loaf would continue on a downward career and personal trajectory that resulted in drug abuse, losing his voice, a series of poorly received albums and eventual bankruptcy before reuniting with Steinman for ‘Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell.’ The album, released in 1993, rocketed Meat Loaf back to the top of the charts and also won him a Grammy. Meat Loaf released ‘Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose’ in 2006, sparking off another legal dispute between he and Steinman.

Number 9.  –  Who’s Next – The Who

Songs that find their way into constant circulation on classic rock radio have a tough row to hoe: How can a tune you’ve heard hundreds, or even thousands, of times still be majestic, much less even enjoyable? And, worse yet, is there even an inkling of hope they can seem fresh? But the truly great ones find a way; Who’s Next is chock full of them.Who’s Next creates a sandwich of its own, two massive rock classics bookending the affair. “Baba O’Reilly” is best known for its organ-based synth-esque intro, but it also stands as the pinnacle of the Townshend’s empathy for — some might say “obsession with” — youth. Partially inspired by the drooling masses at Woodstock, “teenage wasteland” has entered the lexicon in a way that would make T.S. Eliot proud. On the flip side, “We Don’t Get Fooled Again” is as striking as ever for its unabashed bravado. After almost all of the nearly nine minutes of drum-bashing, power chord-exploding ferocity have expired, Daltry screams and proclaims, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Driving to work on a Monday morning, could anything still ring more true?

Number 8.  –  Paranoid – Black Sabbath

Paranoid is the album where heavy metal truly began, the Genesis moment for the genre. Sabbath was still in a transitional mode with their debut, shedding their blues skin to become a band that changed history. Paranoid is where Sabbath came into their own and wrote songs for the ages. At points, the band appears to be headed in different directions but it all gloriously comes together; Iommi plays a classic riff; Ward is at his jazzy best; Butler’s bass oozes into the spaces and cracks and Ozzy’s voice sounds ominous. The musicianship, particularly the rhythm section, is awe-inspiring; listen to the interplay between the big three, especially the musical section closing the final two minutes of “War Pigs.” It’s music that still gives me goose bumps decades after I first heard it. Like the early Led Zeppelin albums, he said he’d played it so many times that he couldn’t hear it again. I encouraged him to revisit it. Paranoid is the album where everything happened for Sabbath, all at once. Four decades later, it’s as fresh and relevant as ever, not just the most important Sabbath record but a musical benchmark of the 20th century.

Number 7.  –  This Years Model – Elvis Costello

Costello’s debut, My Aim Is True, had been brilliant enough, suffering only slightly from the impersonal and occasionally perfunctory work of his for-hire backing band. For his second album, he set out to solve that problem and put together the Attractions, which more than did the trick. From the muscular opening of the brilliant “No Action” it is apparent that we are in the presence of a true musical powerhouse, every bit the equal of their contemporaries the Clash. The result is a blitzkrieg of biting, flawless rock and roll, veritably spilling over with biting putdowns, harassing come-ons, and a kind of clear-eyed paranoia about the truth and consequences of impending stardom. This is Costello as both fearful talent and tactless bully: “If I’m going to go down/ You’re gonna go with me,” he taunts on “Hand In Hand” – and that is arguably one of the record’s love songs. On the cruelly baiting “This Year’s Girl,” he mocks the vapidity of the fashion industry, even while confessing his desire to have a pin-up model all to himself: “broken/ with her mouth wide open.” One of the rock tradition’s most bitter heel turns, This Year’s Model is an incredible display of focused talent and the unique capacity for a genius to make unpalatable vulgarities go down like so much poisoned sugar. Number 6.  –  Give ’em Enough Rope – The Clash  A year after The Clash bursted onto the scene with their acclaimed self-titled debut and gave punk the much needed political drive it needed, they followed it up with a record that tends to go under the radar since it is sandwiched between their furious debut and their masterpiece, London Calling. Released in 1978, Give ‘Em Enough Rope was The Clash sustaining their new found following with much more social and political songs about pissed off British youth. Songs like “Safe European Home, “English Civil War,” “Drug Stabbing Time, “Tommy Gun,” were audio documents as to what was going on in London and beyond at that time. With its original title as Rent-A-Riot, The Clash were on the verge of stirring up something big. Yet, while the album reached number 2 on the British charts and number 128 on the US charts and was actually the first album of the band to be released in the U.S. After the release and buzz about The Clash, CBS Records then went and finally released the band’s self-titled debut with an alternate cover and tracklisting, taking out the song “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” Yet, all these years later and with all of the global conflicts going on now, Give ‘Em Enough Rope is just as much as a document of today’s music as it was in 1978.

Number 5.  –  The Wall – Pink Floyd 

The last Pink Floyd album to feature all four integral members, The Wall has for many fans and critics been a point of as much contention as the album that would follow it, The Final Cut. A magnum opus by any standards, the album is seen as much the work of an egomaniacal, self-obsessed Waters as it is the “true” final statement of one of rock and roll’s greatest bands. Both claims are somewhat justified in light of the album’s visionary focus coming almost solely from the intensely personal experiences and emotional perspective of Waters, and also with regards to the album’s inclusion of the classic lineup, as Wright would be fired by Waters two years after its release. Over the course of the album’s hour and twenty-odd minutes, Waters uses his already well-polished metaphorical skill set to eviscerate everything from the recording industry to the educational system to the patriarchal (and yes, even matriarchal) corruption and villainy of the British government. From start to finish, The Wall is an overture to the perils of rock stardom and the inevitable betrayals of self it brings to those artists who achieve it. What might have otherwise lent itself handily to epic-scale self-loathing for virtually any other band served a different purpose for Pink Floyd with The Wall as the songs and overall storyline speak to the most viscerally human commonalities of fear, regret, and grief. Channeled through what are some of the band’s most powerfully enduring songs, The Wall allowed Pink Floyd the rarity to write an album about the introspective struggle of their celebrity without sacrificing its merits to self-important posturing of the highest order.

Number 4.  –  Never Mind the Bollocks – Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols created an uproar with this album, simply for using the word “Bollocks” (a common British slang term for testicles). Getting banned from a number of shops for just their title speaks to how powerful this cut-up album cover is. Iconic for its design (or lack of it), Never Mind the Bollocks has been emulated countless times. A gorgeously packaged catchall, Never Mind the Bollocks documents the most infamous gang of teenage nihilists to ever pick up a guitar. Built around three culture-shock top 10 singles and the Sex Pistols’ glorious top 40 debut “Anarchy in the U.K.”, the November 1977 release of Never Mind the Bollocks was actually derided as a greatest hits cash-in by many critics (“Anarchy” was a year old, “God Save the Queen” more than six months). By the time the album came out in late ’77, it was the only way to hear the Sex Pistols, who were banned from performing in England. When the clock struck 1978 the Silver Jubilee was over and so were the Pistols, who self-destructed after a brief American tour in January. The Sex Pistols were one band who lived up to the hype and didn’t linger!

Number 3.  –  The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

While their previous releases had focused on common themes and narratives to the degree of one or two lengthy songs per album, Waters made clear his creative desire to see the band’s new material take on a unified theme with each track working as a compositional complement both musically and lyrically to the whole of the album. As opposed to what had been a largely abstract lyrical disposition for their material up to that point, Waters’ lyrics are more pointed and exacting on the album — an important shift especially given the explicitly topical nature of the band’s later releases and what would eventually prove to be a point of division among the members. From that perspective, The Dark Side Of The Moon remains Pink Floyd’s most important release though not the band’s best. Again highlighting their most compelling and commanding attributes as a collective of vastly talented musicians, The Dark Side Of The Moon succeeds primarily because of the music’s equity and balance. Even with Waters’ exclusive writing credits on the album, Pink Floyd’s eighth album is the definitive result of the band’s near-mythical rarity in being able to perfectly manifest their creative solidarity through every song. In an album featuring the likes of Gilmour’s iconic solo from “Money” or Wright’s beautiful and heart wrenching keyboard work on “Us And Them” as well as the numerous other key moments offered by each track, the fact that no song plays like the characteristic thumbprint of any one member is one of the album’s more subtle but no less powerful traits. The Dark Side Of The Moon was and still remains Pink Floyd’s unparalleled masterpiece in terms of what the band was capable of creating at the zenith of their creative synchronization, though its members would soon discover that their most powerful music was derived from a ruthlessly vulnerable place of imperfection.

Number 2.  –  The Clash – The Clash

Decide if you like London Calling or the debut Clash album, but I say that no other punk band was able to express powerful ideas as eloquently as the Clash and their debut self-entitled album. No other punk outfit was able to assimilate and utilize as relevant and fascinating a collection of influences.The late ’70s weren’t kind to England. The economy was in the pits and the outlook was bleak. Enter three lads from London, who managed to channel the collective anxiety of the country’s disenchanted youth, courtesy of Joe Strummer’s madder-than-hell, politically charged lyrics and Mick Jones’ machine gun guitar riffs. The Clash was a major turning point for punk. For the first time, the establishment had to recognize the genre as a voice for social change. On their eponymous debut they take Junior Murvin’s superlative reggae hit “Police and Theives” and transform it into a punk classic. Their most popular tune, “Complete Control” was produced by Jamaican studio genius Lee “Scratch” Perry, and is one of the most brilliant recordings ever made. In their remarkable statement of purpose, “Clash City Rockers”, they tack on an ending paying tribute to stars of both reggae and glam, while incorporating “Bells of Rhmney”, a folk song about labor unrest in Welsh coal mines in the 1920’s! A punk band with lyrics to rival Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs – it seems incredible. When this album came out in 1977, CBS execs in the U.S. decided not to release it here because they thought it would be over the heads of American audiences. They may have been right, but they finally released an American version after the LP became the biggest selling import in history. If you’re in a record store look carefully and you’ll see that there are two similar looking versions of the CD with somewhat different lineups of songs, the American and British versions. Take your pick, either version is SP’s #1 punk album of all time!

Number 1.  –  Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

One reason why I couldn’t say Dark Side of the Moon is Pink Floyd’s best work is because their follow up turned out to be the best follow-up album of all time, and the best album of the entire 1970s. Wish You Were Here‘s iconic artwork immediately betrays the emptiness and delusion of its subject matter from the mechanical handshake as well as that between the businessmen with one engulfed in the literal and metaphorical flames inextricably linked to the band’s being fully aware by then of the looming threat of creative and even more poignantly mental devastation. As intended as the album was in paying due credence to Barrett, Wish You Were Here works just as adamantly in the compositional and lyrical disenchantment of the remaining members of the band themselves. This is primarily evident on tracks such as “Have A Cigar” and “Welcome To The Machine,” both of which render a scene less focused on the retrospect of the album’s elegiac tone and more on what the band observed in themselves at that present time. The rarity of a perfect album does not afford itself simply to occasion, and much like Barrett himself the brilliance will justifiably be forever debated, but the humanity and fragility of grief poured into each song of Wish You Were Here will remain inarguably captivating and unrivaled. In the year since its release and in the relatively recent death of Barrett himself in 2006, the album has become one decidedly concerned with more than just the fragmented mind of its inspiration. For all its intimately achieved grandeur, it represents one of modern music’s most powerfully relevant introspective views of human fragility as well as the cruel indifference of grief. From that perspective, Wish You Were Here stands as Pink Floyd’s unintended masterpiece, as much an anguished and reluctant farewell to their friend in Barrett as it was to themselves as a band they no longer recognized.


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.

Number 10.  –  Atlas – The Battles

Experimental music is not one to remember about the 2000s music but listening to the Battles in 2007 was a huge of breath of fresh air. The whole song feels absolutely cartoony and animated which creates a lot of life to it when listening to it. Every instrument going on in this song just has that lovable charm that makes you smile at how cute it is. Part of how moving it is is the drums being played by John Stanier who responsible for making all of the Battles song feel moving instead of degrading. It’s one of those songs that is just a marching lyric-less song that constantly gives it’s listeners a lot of imagination and the creative types to brainstorm. Atlas is the kind of song that you want to listen to when you’re working long hours just to have fun. With so many emo and depressing songs lasting throughout the 2000s, it’s no wonder why Atlas is a breath of fresh air each time we put it on. Atlas is the song that that identifies the awesomeness of 2007, the last good year of the 2000s before everything goes to shit…

Number 9.  –  Viva La Vida – Coldplay 

Can you imagine that the Viva La Vida album and the song together are the most downloaded song of all time? It shows that there are people out there that actually care for songs that touches them instead of randomly dance to a bad song. It’s one of those commercialized songs that actually gives a damn about making good music once again. Sure it maybe overplayed when it was new, but that’s what you get when you’re the most downloaded song of all time. It feels like you’re going to Disneyland or a magical place that will indeed uplift your spirits up to the point of no return. Coldplay has always been that sentimental type of band but when you listen to Viva La Vida, it’s every all their evolution that the band went through to make their very own magnum opus. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world and everything is about you and it matters. It’s one thing to have a song that connects with you, but it’s another to make you feel better about like and that’s what Viva La Vida accomplished.

Number 8.  –  Icky Thump – The White Stripes

Playin’ cowboys and indians? Whatever you’re thinking about when listening to Icky Thump, it’s garage rock at it’s perfection. It’s a throw back to the hard rock songs of the 1970’s, as White Stripes always do. This song is a total showdown and it’s a song that makes you feel like a badass when listening to it. It’s hard to decide between Seven nation army and Blue orchid but this is the best song of all time this song stays in your head for ever with the keyboard at it’s beat and the guitar going for it and Meg pounding on the drums nothing get’s better than this.

Number 7.  –  Clint Eastwood – Gorillaz

Even though the legendary actor isn’t mentioned by name in Gorillaz’s breakthrough single, he’s all over it: In addition to the melodica that plays throughout — which recalls composer Ennio Morricone’s musical themes for The Man With No Name Trilogy that made Eastwood a star — the song’s signature line, “I’ve got sunshine in a bag,” comes from ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ The track also features a terrific turn by indie rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. Plus, the song’s deep sonic palette reveals something new every time you listen to it. An instant classic.

Number 6.  –   All Falls Down – Kanye West

A great social commentary on the effects of materialism. It Does a great job at putting us in the shoes of the girl in the song. Although, Kanye does derail to talk about how great he is for awhile. With “All Falls Down”, Kanye West proved that the dude knows what’s up (before, quite a few times, he disproved said opinion. Let’s all hope he’s learning). First, he broke down legal barriers when he asked Syleena Johnson to take a crack at Lauryn Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity”. When the sample wasn’t available to him (pesky copyright), Kanye took what he liked about it and enlisted help, allowing Johnson, a largely unknown singer then, to live on in what has undoubtedly become a significant track in the producer’s decorated catalogue. He used FM radio to not only give himself the biggest blip on the map, but also to remind us of one simple thing: It can all fall down, as long as there’s someone to pick it back up.

Number 5.  –  One More Time – Daft Punk

The original hands-in-the-ay-er jam is also Daft Punk’s most iconic. The student becomes the master on this one as one of Bangalter and de Homem-Christo’s “Teachers,” Romanthony, sings lead vocals to their throbbing 4/4. In a way, “One More Time” is their mission statement. “Our music is not stupid happy house, but it makes people happy,” Bangalter once said. The first step away from Homework’s minimalism, Discovery’s opening track is irresistible—who’s going to say no to “We’re gonna celebrate all night?”—and ephemeral, down to the Cinderella-like church bells that end it.

Number 4.  –  Breakbeats – Pasteboard

Rejoice! Shoegaze is still alive! Rejoice! A band from Japan knows how to handle the genre perfectly well! Rejoice! The music sounds fresh and breathtaking! And Rejoice… well, um… this is the only album that the band has released… Let’s bring out the tears bucket for another miss out coming form the shoegaze genre. Pasteboard’s glitter is a great 2005 release in shoegaze. While my familiarity with the genre is still a little bit in infancy, I enjoy listening to the genre from both Japan and Korea. Glitter contains vocals which slightly separates it from other shoegaze that focuses on more instrumental music. The nine songs are mainly hits with some songs like “flipper” using a much more pop indie style. Though when the band does focus on simplicity in their music with the instrumentals, those songs are the strongest on the album. While glitter isn’t the best shoegaze album, but it’s still very good. This is no doubt the most underrated albums I’ve ever encountered and since the whole world only focus on music that came from North America and Europe, it’s sad to see the East remains in that part of the world. I admit that I’m guilty for not checking out on more Japanese hidden gems, since nowadays it’s looked as soundtracks for anime, but damn it, once you listen to the opening track “Breakbeats” it take your breath away and beckons the listener to listen to the whole album and think about dreams and fantasy. It’s the whole point of shoegaze and if an album does that job well, it shows how good it is!

Number 3.  –  Little Sister –
Queens of the Stone Age

You might of think that “You Might Think I’m Not Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire” is QOTSA’s best song but you have to think about the soul that Little Sister has. It’s so blues and groovy that totally defines what the band is all about; [sexy enough for the ladies to jam to and hard enough for the guys to rock to]. QOTSA have always been sexy; sexy in a sleazy, cigarettes and whiskey kind of way. With “Little Sister”, they took that sexy to a new kind of uncomfortable zone. Homme drew inspiration for the song from the Doc Pomus (made famous by Elvis) song of the same name, explaining, “I like the amalgam of imagery that it puts forward, that throwing a little pebble at the girl’s windows late at night, you know, trying to creep in the back door, you know. And I also love the Elvis song ‘Little Sister’ because I like the sort of sexual twist that’s put on by ‘little sister don’t you do what your big sister done.’” The guitars roll and churn, while the continuous jamblock pounds out the rhythm of those pebbles at the window. Homme’s voice is suave, and gives you the feeling that you don’t want him anywhere near your siblings. -Nick Freed

Number 2.  –  Party Hard – Andrew W.K.

Andrew W.K. is some kind of enigma, a prophet for everything precious that’s left to worship in these cynical, modern times. In other words: He’s a prophet of The Party. His principle is the ‘everything louder than everything else’-formula and the constantly present urge for true Rock & Roll and rebellious ‘Fuck You’-attitude that young people (and those who stay young at heart) demand. These are not songs, these are principles – impossible to ignore and always over-the-top. You think it could get louder, there could be another layer of sound, another hook or more screaming and there it comes! It’s full of riffs, simple melodies and one-liners you never can get out of your head. Fuck smart music anyhow, I’d rather be part of the Neanderthal-crowd and sing on those tribal “Fun Night”-shouts.. He stands in a long line of tradition. It’s funny indeed that nothing really compares to this: You may mention the steamroller, no-bullshit attitude of early Rock’n’Rollers Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard that is present as well as the self-explanatory bareness of former (70s) prophets Meat Loaf and Ramones (who of course totally contradict each other). You hear traces of that non-compromising Damaged-feeling as well as the declarative vocal powress of Scooter! Actually, you can add whatever else comparisons of music that brings you down to your basic human instincts – this is just my version of how to describe this post-modern power-cocktail! It must be heard to believe and it sure will evoke something in you.

Number 1.  –  All My Friends – LCD Soundsystem

We have so many songs about love and enemies, but what about friendship? Sure there are plenty of them out there, but this one nails who loneliness can overcome you when old faces aren’t around and there aren’t that many people like that out there. It’s one of the saddest upbeat songs ever created where there are joy and heartbreaks of maintaining a friendship, it’s even worse that betrayal and broken friendship divides us from the world as much as a broken relationship. “All My Friends” is about aging, feeling disconnected, simultaneously reckoning with and missing your past. James Murphy turned 37 the year it was released, and it should appeal to people in their 30s. And yet Murphy’s impressionistic verses evoke more widespread experiences than chronologically approaching middle age. This millennium was kicked off with 9/11, and as it progressed we became able to carry entire decades of pop culture and history in our pockets. All of this ages us before our time, whether these were the years in which we grew up, or whether these were the years where we ourselves had children.”You spent the first five years trying to get with the plan/ And the next five years trying to be with your friends again,” Murphy sings. That could be about the struggles of aging and figuring yourself out, but it could also be about the seeming impossibility of navigating the people and culture around you when 2010 suggests 2001, 1987, 1964, and 1999 as much as it suggests itself.

It’s too overwhelming to face that all at once. Is it then any wonder that perhaps the two defining behaviors of our era have become nostalgia and ironic detachment, that we prefer our world through the perfectly faded haze of Instagram or the performative quips of Twitter? Even if you’d argue that the last thirteen years have been primarily characterized by a push and pull between irony and earnestness, it all stems from a sense of disassociation from our time and place — we intentionally say things we don’t mean so we don’t have to bare ourselves to all the noise that comes with infinite digital voices, or we overcompensate and overshare as a proposed salve to the supposedly corrosive effects of ironic living. Murphy buried some of the most earnest pop songs of the last ten years under a veneer of ironic wit. “All My Friends” taps into that same disassociation. It’s like, to paraphrase an old Don Draper quote, watching your life, knowing it’s right there, and futilely trying to break into it. That’s the engine behind “All My Friends,” behind its oscillation between sentimentality and one-liners. Thanks to the speed and abstractions through which we live our lives in the new millennium, you no longer need to be 37 to feel that way.

So, then, in celebration of paradoxes. “All My Friends” is happy and it’s sad. It’s naïve, but also disillusioned. It can make you feel twenty again. It makes you feel forty before your time. It makes you feel twenty and forty at once. It spirals into drug-fueled escapism, and it spirals into nostalgia. It’s mature. It’s the sound of sobering up. It’s the song you play as the party peaks. It’s the song you put on headphones when you walk home in the early hours of the morning, and some nights you triumphantly reminisce about all the experiences of your life, but maybe the edges are haunted and just as you step up to your front door and Murphy’s last refrain echoes “If I could see all my friends tonight” you also know you’re searching, too, that you feel all the dejection and isolation that’ve been as much a part of these last thirteen years as a new online version of community, or as much as anything else. It’s a song about 1987 and 1997 and 2007 and probably 2017. Even weighed down by all of this, it still moves. And because we have no other option, because this is our new millennium life: We still move, too.

Top 10 Albums of the 2000s

Technologically, 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.

Number 10.  – Kid A – Radiohead

Something happened in the three years following OK Computer. The endless touring, the relentless media coverage, the invasive life of celebrity struck a nerve somewhere in the heart of the band. They went home to work in studio again but were stuck. On top of that, Thom Yorke had developed an immense distaste for rock, or any guitar-based music for that matter. He bought the Warp Records back catalogue and listened pretty much exclusively to electronica. Kid A is an album of remarkable beauty. Its haunting soundscapes are built on a foundation of ambient electronica, and it eschews typical chorus-based song structures and rock-and-roll dynamics in favour of compositions which build and evolve through waves of textures. There is a disturbing, dark quality to this album that underlies every track. To ears that’d had the second half the 1990s to ingest the rapid developments in electronic music, ears weary of the bankruptcy of post-Nirvana alternative rock, Kid A sounded like a next development in rock music that was both logical and surprising. Thoughts about millennial techno-dread; fragmentation, broken transmissions, garbled communication; the feeling of helplessness that comes from having access to so much information about the world while not having the power to change any of it; the subtle and dramatic ways that electronics are altering our landscape and our consciousness. And there’s still something there, though in some ways it’s all now more intense. Part of our brains moved online in the last 10 years, and this will continue; it’s not a good or bad thing; it’s just the way it is. Refracting these developments through the prism of Kid A, it still resonates, even if so much has changed since. Radiohead were not only among the first bands to figure out how to use the Internet, but to make their music sound like it, and they kicked off this ridiculously retro decade with the rare album that didn’t seem retro. Kid A – with its gorgeously crafted electronics, sparkling production, and uneasy stance toward the technology it embraces completely– feels like the Big Album of the online age. Abstract yet poignant, Kid A is an album filled with contradiction fusing elements of acid, rock, folk, trance and house together to create a truly experimental and epic album.  The album at times goes from being simple to theatrical. In addition, the fact that Radiohead took the risk of committing commercial suicide just not to compromise their musical integrity makes this album a thing of legends.

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Number 9.  –  Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes

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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Number 8.  –  Relationship of Command  – At The Drive-In

At the Drive-In spent the majority of the ‘90s honing their skills as young, mostly untrained musicians and wowing people with their unbridled passion during live performances, but reportedly, they had a difficult time capturing that same passion on studio albums. For their third (and final) album, Relationship of Command remains one of the most intense recording sessions ever pressed. Cedric Bixler’s slightly strained, extremely expressive and emotive vocals not only leave a lasting impression, but they also spawned an entire generation of imitators who got close, but could never capture the rawness of Bixler’s delivery. The vocals weren’t the only source of intensity; we can also credit the dueling, interlocking guitars of Omar Rodriguez and Jim Ward, doubled on top of each other to either deliver beautifully melodic atmospherics and crunchy, punkish aggression. Relationship of Command does sound like a band being pulled in two different directions—you can hear the mature, Latin-influenced passages and the moments of dub experimentalism. You can also hear the boyish skater punks come through with the pop punk on songs like “One-Armed Scissor” and “Pattern Against User.”  At the Drive-In had just the right amount of appeal and mainstream success to be The Chosen Ones to inspire the countless third-wave emo bands of the 2000s. Let’s not undermine the unbelievable talent and power Relationship of Command unleashes—the album was recognized for a reason. Musically, it’s stunning—every single track is just as intense, relentless, and creative as the one before it. Lyrically, the songs are obtuse, but during this era, when you only had Blink-182 writing lyrics about toilet humor, Bixler’s Lynchian, stream-of-consciousness writing was amazingly refreshing. Thematically, the album deals with darker subjects—from kidnappings (Enfilade), to disappearances of countless women in Mexico (the highly-emotional Invalid Litter Dept), to hypocrisy in government Sleepwalk Capsules), to Jeffrey Dahmer (Arcarsenal). The lyrics and passionate screams fill you with such an inexplicable fire that you don’t know what to do with yourself. You want to scream, you want to tear out your hair—you end up questioning your very existence.

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Number 7.  –  Songs for the Deaf – Queens of the Stone Age

Here’s the secret recipe of how QOTSA’s formula; make songs that’s hard enough for the guys, but sweet enough for the girls so that everyone can have a nice time with their music. Queens of the Stone Age is currently the only Hard Rock band that doesn’t go over the top like every other Metal Bands screaming into your ears trying their best to you’re your world, but remained that classic feel of laidback rock-star status and song writing that I find lacking in rock music today. Throughout the 2000’s Queens of the Stone Age never once made an album that disappoints, but I have to choose their best for this pick and why is “Songs For The Deaf” that pick? Because it’s an extremely rare occurrence that one album will completely vaporize your concept of cool. This goliathan rhythmic melting-pot is the Rock equivalent of a trip out to the desert under a full moon with a lot of firepower, high-powered narcotics, great friends and a muscle car with a big-ass engine. t’s equal parts danger, mystery, fun and a mind-blowing collection of talent providing a massive dose of steroids to the Queens sound. The result was something we’d been waiting for, whether we knew it or not; that first sign of a next evolutionary step in Rock music, like the “Appetite for Destruction” by Guns n’ Roses and “Nevermind” by Nirvana that came before it. This very album delivered a bracing jolt that fused punk and hard rock sensibilities with an artful sense of eclecticism and that aggressive paste that didn’t feel pretentious or generic. Like other Stoner Rock band, Queens of the Stone Age was not afraid to admit where they got their inspiration; sex and drugs. But in order for Queens to ever be this good again is to get Nick Oliveri back in the band and Josh Hommes to get over himself. But regardless, NEVER listen to this while driving if you want to stay under the speed limit; the fast pasted nature of this album will encourage you to move as faster than the music.

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Number 6.  –  Untrue – Burial

Just when you thought that there would never be another album like DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing…” along came one of the most atmospheric albums of all time. We as listeners listen to music for different reasons, and many of the majority say that they listen to the music for emotion. Sad driven albums can either make or break an album, and it all depends how the artist handle the limitations he/she has. If you’re looking for emotion, then why have you missed this album out? Its atmosphere is so magical that it has indescribable meaning to it while listening. It takes some of the best sampling to create such as stupendous work of music in ways I’ve never imagined. It flows like an original movie score, but Untrue remains faceless and largely anonymous, yet also acutely personal and introspective. You can just simply listen to this album on a rainy day and imagine someone in the world is in pain and you could just cry with them because it took you, as a listener.  Burial doesn’t take music as simply music but as an emotion, as sound. Not heavy nor intense sound. That sound that is made only for touching your heart and emulating emotions at any moment. Only music so esthetically beautiful could move you like this. And it was so unique and revolutionary in its epoch. The concept of taking the human voice and to stretch it so far as making it ghostly and body-less has already been invented but his own take is mindblowing. I already spent too much time reading about him, everything I could find and I understood that (in my sense) he represented music at its most important, the notion of music being emotional and no one else could make it better. Every time I listen to Untrue I’m so amazed by his genius that I become speechless, seriously. I feel so much of his talent that I can’t express it in words. Despite Untrue’s immersive melancholy the album never becomes oppressive, Burial’s moody, evocative sampling has an allure that always beckons the listener for one lonelier walk beneath its flickering streetlights.

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Number 5.  –  College Drop Out – Kanye West

This is definitively a difficult one. On one hand, it’s well known (if not sadly very true) that Kanye West isn’t the greatest rapper alive. Hell he’s not even close. On the other hand, we have to admit for a first outing, Kanye is one hell of a producer and one hell of a musician. Yes I know that the majority of his rhyme’s aren’t too complex but there really is something captivating about his music. Well you’d be batshit-retarded to think that Kanye West was going to put out poor beats and raps on his debut effort (where everyone would be making judgments on whether or not to take him seriously as a rapper). No, there are hilarious skits, catchy instrumentals, A-list-rapper guests and his Midwest rapping style (which the mainstream public isn’t too familiar with if you look at the rap charts before Kanye showed up) that deals with subject matters of sexuality, conflicts, and spirituality. It’s definitely all very listenable and at times very good even great. Kanye’s first album expressed his deep views on race, politics, family and religion. Sure, he had a little fun too, but there was once a revolutionary brewing inside of Kanye that soon got lost in all the lights. Still, the College Dropout is one of the best albums ever — you can debate whether or not this is Kanye’s best album, but you cannot doubt that he wanted to be the musical genius he claims to be today. While it may not seem like it, he’s putting his soul on the line here and at the same time sounding relaxed as all hell. Before what would result in intense ego that even would break from the public news reports into his future albums, you had a young, talented producer who wanted nothing more than to be taken seriously as a rapper, and because of that motivation and the overall “new” feel of the album The College Dropout is anything but a flop. If anything, it’s the best hip hop albums of the entire 2000s! It never gets boring or dull. The music is dynamic, the story is engaging, and Kanye sounds excited just to be living his dream. We were excited just to be living it along with him, on record.

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Number 4.  –  Discovery – Daft Punk

Every song, every note, every beat, every instrument used, every songwriting, and every second just listening to Discovery was made perfectly and still remains unforgettable. Daft Punk made this album based on their childhood in the 70’s & their personal relationship with that time of their lives. The theme really colors this album entirely; so colorful in fact that it makes their listeners to feel like kids. It took every popular music genre in the 70’s and mixed it with modern electronic instrument to feel like a ride of a life time to appeal anyone’s musical taste. All of their songs succeeded wildly, dissolving a decade-plus of dance music good taste. Anyone who’s anyone has a favorite song in this album, but of course the obvious choices are One More Time, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, & Aerodynamic, When there’s an album nowadays, I usually find myself thinking if only they could organized the songs better, used the solos more than they left off, or made some of the songs longer/shorter (especially some of the albums in this list), but in Discovery’s case, there’s no possibility of me thinking that I could make this album better than it is. Some say there’s no such thing is perfect, but Discovery made perfection believable. The electronic music industry owes a lot for Discovery for bringing much more recognition to the electronic genre. This album is so inspirational that several other artists such as Kanye West, LCD Soundsystem, and more couldn’t simply ignore them. This album was popular enough to get itself a movie, Interstella 5555, which purpose was show the visual realization of the album as a whole. Discovery’s reputation as being the best of the decade is truly deserved. This is perhaps one of the most celebrated albums I’ve ever encountered and yet, I refuse to stop celebrating this brilliant piece of music. It’s truly a type of music that is meant to celebrate in harmony and none does it better than Discovery!

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Number 3.  –  xx – The xx

Some albums are best listened to in certain way. Whether it’s seasons, settings or times. xx 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, the xx 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 kept listening and listening, the more I listened, the more I fell in love with Romy Madley Croft & Oliver Sim sing together. 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. 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 gentle. 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 took a real talent to make it sound good rather than lazy. Ironically enough it given its listeners a big bang to end the 2000s decade as we’ve entered a new one.

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Number 2.  –  Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

Throughout the entire 2000’s if you were focusing on the current events, many of us, especially Americans, have been extremely paranoid about terrorism since 9/11 and was heavily into the subject of politics and terrorism. We still are today, but back then, everything was semiserious. Almost everywhere I turn there was nothing but negative liberal crap on TV, anti-Bush movement everywhere, anti-Iraq War debates/arguments. This is one of the more annoying aspects of the 2000s decade. Because of this we forgotten about the greatness about being in America and what’s what Sufjan did. Sufjan Stevens was out to make an accomplishment by making 50 albums for each state of the United States of America. Hearing that, sounds very patriotic because if you know us Americans, many of us fight each other because of what state one is from. So far he released “Michigan” and “Illinois” and boy, his album “Illinois” already became a classic. What made “Illinois” so special and on the top of this list is that it was indeed a very VERY well crafted album that perfectly nails what Illinois should be remembered for, rather than mobs and Al Capone already given the state a bad reputation.

Stevens collected facts and anecdotes about the great state of Illinois, stringing them together in ambitious rhyme schemes and wrapping them in meticulous arrangements; from Chicago to Seer’s Tower, he made anything historical or significant about Illinois in wonderful songs. It not only takes those locations seriously, but also made stories of those who lived in the state such as his friends, family, religion, and experiences living there. This is truly an emotional album where all the stories that Stevens shares in this album was wondrous & magical, but at times sad and emotional. It’s quite rare to see such album to have a great story going on. Listening to this album from beginning to end felt like it was a Broadway Play. I can’t imagine anything else when listening to Illinois but a stage play with each story that each song represents. You can just visualize actors going on stage singing and dancing to whatever the songs is playing and it executed perfectly because of its vast variety of moods! There are plenty of moments in this album that gets emotional, magical, powerful, joyful, romantic, and all kinds of emotions that fulfills the experience of such a great album. Even for some of the songs that have very weirdest titles ever, they were all references to many of the famous parts of Illinois like Superman (his origins), Casimir Pulaski Day, Christianity, ghost towns, and more. Never have I seen such brilliant lyrics in a large selection of songs in a single album. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a great folk album and Sufjan Steven’s “Illinois” should definitely be in the same league as to Don McLean’s “American Pie” & Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisted.”This album had a huge impact on me and it always reminds me how good it is to be an American and appreciate my nationality as it is a blessing. I thank, Sufjan Stevens for showing patriotism in an oddly fashion of music, but yet his goal in one day making all 50 albums for every State in America would be the most patriotic thing an American musician can possibly do.

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Number 1.  –  The Mantle – Agolloch

Death comes for us all. We will one day come to our death and no matter how hard we from escape it, there will be that one day that our time will come. It’s normal for all of us to fear death because we really don’t know if its truly our end or we might end up in the afterlife. Agalloch’s “The Mantle” is unlike any album because it tackles the theme of the afterlife. This album is so amazing that saying that it puts you in its own atmosphere does not do it justice; rather it brings you to this new stratosphere of the hereafter that no other album can possibly do as well as The Mantle. And what’s incredible about Agalloch is that they were able to do all of this with only limited instrument effects of black/doom metal and neofolk that redefined a new breed of the metal genre. Agalloch have always been a band that isn’t afraid to experiment and mix many different styles of music in order to produce their own unique sound. Nowhere is this more apparent than on their sophomore album, The Mantle. After their extremely solid debut record, Pale Folklore, the band somehow managed to greatly advance and improve their sound, and produce what many people would say is their magnum opus. This album could easily be the soundtrack to a long, cold walk through the woods at night or a foggy day, as it is easily one of the most atmospheric albums I have ever heard, and I have frequently used this album as a soundtrack for long walks into the snowy wilderness. The production on this album is extremely clear, and the musicianship, while not particularly flashy, is extremely well done, and creates a very lonely and depressing tone. The vocals range from the traditional black metal style growls, to the dark and melancholy, and extremely haunting clean singing.

This is perfect songwriting within storytelling with two separate voices telling two different view points of the same story; like two characters in each of the songs. It’s one of Haughm’s trademark styles, but none is more apparent nor more powerful than The Mantle. Just how is it possible that an album could make you feel that spirits are watching you and you can feel like you’re a wandering ghost stranded in a haunted cabin covered in this snow? As the album draw near to its end, you as well can feel that the end of the world approaches. It really makes the listener to feel as if they’re really there while everything around them is a foggy mist where we’re uncovering the unknown. The band members come from Oregon, and they take a lot of inspiration from Oregon’s forests and look at the result!

It’s complex, rough, and beautiful all at once; I’d definitely rank it as one of my favorite albums of all time.  Mostly, The Mantle explore the destruction of nature by the human race—In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion tells the story of a man who realizes that we literally live “in the shadow of our pale companion,” nature, (which is pale, as we sucked the metaphorical blood out of it), that it is only the “death of man” that will save the Earth, and commits suicide in the end, his suicide symbolizing the death of man. It’s much more moving when you understand it (though the music itself is great on its own), but the more you understand this album the more you’ll love it. I would cite my favorites as In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion, Odal, and You Were But a Ghost in My Arms. But No song in this album really stands out from one another which makes it perfect for anyone to decide what their favorite song from The Mantle is. This is an album that will reflect on your lost ones that you hope that you’ll one day see again; helping those mourners to feel that very out of the body experience from beginning to end, (using their imagination of what the afterlife is like and use their life experiences & memories in the mix) while you’re still alive…

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The Top Albums of the 2000s

          10)    9)     8)  

7)      6)     5)  

           4)     3)     2)  


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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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Top 10 Albums of 2007

Music throughout the 2000s have been a very mediocre decade, musically. As the years go by, it has gotten harder and harder to find the right music for us long time listeners of the media. As society cater more to the mp3 direction more so than the physical copies of albums, new artists and old names couldn’t match up to the greatness of music from previous decades. The 2000’s was a mediocre on for sure, however 2007 has got to be one of the best year of music ever. After a whole decade of obscure bands as the only good music (which is very hard to find) and horrid mainstream sounds, this is the year were there were more good happening in music in nearly all scene in music. Not only that they’ve released numerous albums, but many bands had their reunions, and we had the best number of live concerts ever happening in a single year. There are just too many good albums released in 2007 that made it one of the most difficult list to make for this site. It didn’t matter what music you were into, there was something good for you and some of the music genres you hate could still impress you because many of the active musicians given their best efforts in 2007. Wether you were downloading or buying songs, seeing these bands active in 2007, or watching music videos or seeing them perform on youtube, this was all music in 2007! This really is one of the best years of the decade and here are the best efforts that music had offer in this very year!

Number 10.  –  United Abominations – Megadeth

My major complaint with “The System Has Failed” will always be the lack of creativity and atmosphere outside of bashing the US Government, they did it again here in United Abominations but this time made it so imaginative that would make George Carlin smile. This was a major evolution to the band where they deliver some of the hardest riffs that they ever pulled off thanks to the new sound system they’re using. I mean the sound quality of this album is so earth-shaking that it’s madness, with songs like “Sleepwalker,” “Washington Is Next,” “Never Walk Alone,” and “Blessed Are the Dead.” I admit songs like “Gears of War” is just so commercialized and out of placed (plus it’s based on a crappy game series) and even the remake of “A Tout Le Monde” was worse. If you look pass those two songs, this is almost Dave Mustaine’s fantasy come to life. But I will get on a rant here because I’m upset that there’s only one song that’s exclusive in the pre-ordered version of United Abominations, “Black Swan.” “Black Swan” was so good that I could rank it in the Top 5 best Megadeth songs and it needed to be in this album. So just the pre-ordered version of United Abominations alone make it in the Top 5!

Number 9.  –  Cryptograms – Deer Hunter

I think what makes Cryptograms such an outstanding record is how hard it is to really… comprehend it. That might explain the relatively low rating and how long it took to hit me. Deerhunter have always had a distinguished talent for writing pop songs with strong melancholy undertones, often evoking feelings of wasted time, time passing by, loneliness and what not, but Cryptograms captures them at their most confused, hazy, inchoate and nebulous – and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s the sound of a wakening teenager caught in the maelstrom of adolescence, alarmed by the future and the ticking clock.  Whereas Microcastle succeeded in conveying all these themes of loneliness, fear and anxiety through the lyrics and the music, Cryptograms does this most successfully through the music; it just forces you into this ill-defined musical world governed by all kinds of sounds, ranging from dainty ambient tracks to the kind of infectious/melancholy pop tracks that the band are so good at writing, giving us a well-rounded view of their diverse range of tones. Time and memory seem to be the prevailing lyrical obsessions here. I can instantly connect with Bradford’s lyrics, because almost every time I listen to a Deerhunter track with vague suggestions of wasted time (I read on his blog once that he was fascinated with the Bill Fay line that goes ‘all my time is lying on the factory floor’ and that just surprised me because so was I) or time spent waiting for something to happen, I don’t know, I just relate in a way. I think it’s a fascinating lyrical recurrence.

Number 8.  –  Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Spoon

This is a crisp, tight album that sees Spoon expanding their palette and experimenting a little (“The Ghost of You Lingers”) as well as crafting the best songs of their fantastic career (“Black Like Me”, “Don’t You Evah”). For those of you who don’t know too much about Spoon, they were around long before the Strokes, or the White Stripes considered making albums and they are more influenced by beat-driven dance-punk/post-punk than by new-wave or blues. They seem to be highly underrated by this website and I can’t help but wonder why, they write infectious songs and they have an extremely undervalued song writer in Britt Daniel. Give them a listen, they will likely carve a big place in your life if you let them. Ever since the album came out back in 2007, I found it to be quite a fun listen. Thus so, that now that I’m giving the record new spins, I happen to find all ten tracks to be highly enjoyable. The album as a whole seems to carry throughout its running time a rythmic vibe which manages to cheer me up. The rythm section is tight, and the band’s strongest point. There is really not much else to point out as outstanding, or different from anything else out there. What’s really to point out, is how these guys manage to properly make what they’re good at. Then of course, there are highlights; You’ve Got Your Cherry Bomb and The Underdog being my favorite ones. I mean, it always brings a smile to me to hear that line about “You’ve got no time for the messenger”, recall how I seemed to connect to it, and smile to myself at how off date it is only 6 years afterwards.

Number 7.  –  Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky – Earthless

I ordinarily have a hard time getting into instrumental rock music, especially the extra-jammy kind. And yet, I somehow find myself absolutely loving Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky, a release in which two thirds of the tracks are instrumental acid rock freak-out jams over twenty minutes long. It’s because there are just too many good moments in here to deny. Plus, the cover of “Cherry Red” sounds the way the original should have. Rhythems from a Cosmic Sky one can sit proudly right near the top of that particular pile. It’s a little bit japanese noise-psychedelia (High Rise, AMT, Mainliner etc), a little bit krautrock, and a little bit Cream/Jimi Hendrix Experience power trio jam-rock. So no, it’s not a strikingingly new & original (or seemingly very wise) take on heavy rock music, but holy crap these Earthless people have done a great job of stealing a few of the better ideas off their elders and running far away with them. You get controlled feedback drones & standard echo reverbspacey effects that morph gradually into prolonged stamina-requiring but surprisingly untedious guitar soloing. There are two of these 20-minute psych-metal monster tunes back to back, all capped off with a reasonably faithful cover of The Groundhogs “Cherry Red”, which is the only song to feature vocals. This style of rock music is a rare breed since music has evolved drastically over the years, but it’s a welcoming sound that has been missed by many listeners.

Number 6.  –  Sound of Silver –
LCD Soundsystem

The thing with Sound of Silver is that it manages to walk on familiar territory with such confidence. It’s often reminiscent of artists that came before them – but they put a new, fresh, exciting slant on it and they manage to add their own personality and distinctive style to it. As you listen to it, you hear Bowie, you hear Eno, you hear Kraftwerk. You can hear a whole host of influences but unlike a lot of artists, LCD Soundsystem aren’t simply plagiarising these artists and that’s why it was such a critically acclaimed and widely respected album where its legacy will only grow with time. There’s a fine line between regurgitating your influences to the point where it feels trite, derivative and dated and actually doing something interesting with those influences while putting a modern slant on it. LCD Soundsystem are always on the right side of that line. This is them at their best. I don’t want to point out individual tracks because generally, it’s not really my reviewing style. Though I occasionally decide to do track by track reviews, but it has to be said that ‘All My Friends’ is absolutely amazing. A truly incredibly and unforgettable song. One of the best ever written, but nothing else pales in comparison to it. This is where James Murphy’s punk, pop and electronic sensibilities meet to create something wonderful. It has so many different styles on here which is pretty fantastic, ranging from alternative rock, to electronica, to post-punk, to dance punk, to disco, to krautrock. In LCD Soundystem’s short career, this was their masterpiece. It felt like only yesterday that I first heard ‘Daft Punk Is Playing at My House’ playing a video game and now they’re finished – but at least they gave us this. Sound Of Silver is most definitely one of the best albums of the decade, a true classic.

Number 5.  –  The Shepherd’s Dog – Iron & Wine

The Shepherd’s Dog continues Iron and Wine’s foray into full-band mode in every imaginable way; by adopting a diverse and eclectic approach to songwriting, incorporating a wide variety of instruments, adding smooth transitions between songs, giving the record a gorgeous, lush production effort and so on. However, the core of Iron and Wine is clearly still Sam Beam; his songwriting, hushed vocals and simple guitar work. With the band’s new approach to instrumentation also comes a new approach to songwriting, with Beam writing in less traditional pop song structures and moving towards more through-composed ideas. Sonically, The Shepherd’s Dog is a much more percussive album, based far more on rhythm than either of the band’s previous LPs. The bouncy opener “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” focuses on an upbeat rhythm as its center while its followers “White Tooth Man” and “Lovesong of the Buzzard” are thick, almost tribal pieces. Certainly though, tracks such as the gorgeous “Carousel” (complete with rotary-style vocal effects) deviate from this template. Closer “Flightless Bird, American Mouth” makes use of waltz rhythms while “House By the Sea” takes the band into dreamlike territory with delayed loops and atmospheric keyboard sounds. Beam’s lyrics come forward with their usual amount of rich imagery and are perfectly suited to the music he is creating. The lyrics booklet that accompanies The Shepherd’s Dog is designed in such a way that perfectly reflects the music contained on the disc. When held from afar, the lyrics simply look like a large (poster sized) jumbled mess; but closer examination is soon rewarding. In much the same way, the music contained on The Shepherd’s Dog is layered and seemingly messy at first, especially compared to the immediacy of earlier work. For anyone willing to give it a fair shot, however, it’s hard to imagine the album being a disappointment. Once and for all, The Shepherd’s Dog proves that Beam is worthy of the attention that he is given and actually a brilliant musical mind rather than some guy who got lucky enough to make a great album in his bedroom.

Number 4.  –  Mirrored – Battles

Battle’s debut effort is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Mirrored changes direction and time signature so often that it is hard to follow. I felt that as the listener, I needed to match the intensity of the music by moving my body in ways that seemed odd and foreign. At times I’m sure it would look to another party that I was convulsing. However, that is probably another appropriate response to this music. The strength of this music lies in its ability to capture and retain the attention of an audience. At no point did I have the urge to skip a track or shut off the album.Composing an album with an equal distribution of quality is smart when the quality is to a very high caliber. Although Battles attained a surprising degree of commercial success with this album – mainly through the song Atlas being used on a whole bunch of soundtracks for things – there’s no hint of them diluting their quirky math rock approach on this album. Having tried out a few different approaches on the preceding EPs, Battles have cooked up a catchy sound in which Tyondai Braxton’s eccentric vocals are subjected to so many effects they effectively become another instrument in the band’s arsenal. With addictive rhythms, manic performances, and intriguing compositions, Battles have produced an album which manages to be accessible without compromising their integrity. Everything is so incredibly varied and well judged. It has an awful lot of difference influences ranging from math rock, progressive rock, alternative rock, krautrock, electronica and the eclecticism just works. Mirrored contains fantastic keyboard and guitar lines (and riffs), analogue rhythms, interesting and really quite odd time signatures, shifts in temp, dynamic changes, weird distorted pitch-shifted vocals.

Number 3.  –  Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde  – Alcest

The translation of the album title, Memories of Another World, presents an ambiguous theme. For many, childhood is another world in itself, a land with miracles and magic abound where everything seemed brighter and greener. This obviously coincides with Neige’s inspiration, which is comprised of his own childhood memories of escaping into fantasy worlds. Like the ghost, the album could musically represent another life, propelled by the themes of fond remembrance, longing, happiness, sorrow, and an eventual gentle passing within Tir Nan Og. The music of Alcest defies description. It’s orchestral in scale and swells like a heart on the brink of exploding. Yet it’s claustrophobic, enclosed by a shroud of background noise which somehow manages to stay on the right side of musical. It’s easy to envisage the vocals being recorded in a gothic cathedral in the depths of a frozen winter. They have such a crystalline quality you can visualise the breath on the cold air. The fact everything is sung in French (although the title of the final track “Tir Nan Og” originates from Irish mythology) adds a further air of mystery and makes trying to nail down exactly what you’re listening to even harder. On this album Alcest is one man. Neige (Stéphane Paut) plays all the instruments, is responsible for virtually all the vocals and mixed and produced the album himself. Somehow he’s managed to create something both sinister and uplifting in equal measure. The shimmering wall of guitars (or what we call shoegaze) provides the perfect canvas on which to paint a fantastical, hallucinogenic world. It’s hard to imagine music founded on such an intense blanket of noise being termed beautiful, but Souvenirs d’un autre monde is exactly that. Really ethereal and unreal experience, very dreamy and sweet record. However, calling this band black metal in any sense is a disgrace to black metal music, there isn’t much black metal influence here other than the hazy guitar (which is more shoegaze really) and maybe some sparse vocals here and there, still a great shoegaze record. But the real highlight of this album will always be the final track Tir Nan Og, which is some of the most magical pieces of music ever recorded. From beginning all the way to the very end, Alcest succeeded in giving their listeners a huge breath of fresh air.

Number 2.  –  Alive 2007 – Daft Punk

While I don’t think Human After All was horrible, it was a massive dissapointment compared to Discovery. But I can’t simply ignore Human After All because it’s what made their tour in 2007 one of the best live concert experiences of all time! I fondly remember seeing Daft Punk playing their music inside a flashily pyramid mixing many of their best songs into a breathtaking experience which I’m glad it was released into a live album. Daft Punk go far beyond what’s necessary for their chosen profession, not only with their jaw dropping visuals, but with their crafty re-workings of old stand bys. What they’ve done here with their work, up to and including the weaker Human After All tracks, is nothing short of outstanding. There are an innumerable amount of highlights captured onAlive 2007, but nothing compares to the moment where “Rollin’ and Scratchin'” segues (or should I say, squeals) right into “The Brainwasher”‘s hyper House thump, causing such mass hysteria that the bat-shit insane Parisian crowd can’t help but be heard whooping and hollering all over the track’s paramount peaks. Moments like this brain eating cathartic monster are not simply sprinkled throughout Alive 2007‘s hour long set; they consume the entire record. From start to finish, this is an amazing release.  It’s like the illest greatest hits album imaginable, but made even better due to the fact that the songs are mixed together.  Not only are they mixed together sequentially, but little recognizable bits of Daft Punk favorites are interspersed with other songs, yielding – to use only one of the best examples – the “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” remix of “Face to Face.”  There’s some great reworkings of some of their classic material, as they make some of the lighter stuff from Discovery more beat-heavy and dancefloor-friendly and sort through the Human After All album to give us only the highlights.  These guys are brilliant.  Easily one of the best albums of 2007, an essential live electronic album, and the best possible recap of their ten years since releasing their debut Homework.  I don’t look at this live record as just a great album, but a celebration of Daft Punk’s legacy that totally beats their Alive 1997 album ten years ago

Number 1.  –  Untrue – Burial

Just when you thought that there would never be another album like DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing…” along came one of the most atmospheric albums of all time. We as listeners listen to music for different reasons, and many of the majority say that they listen to the music for emotion. Sad driven albums can either make or break an album, and it all depends how the artist handle the limitations he/she has. If you’re looking for emotion, then why have you missed this album out? Its atmosphere is so magical that it has indescribable meaning to it while listening. It takes some of the best sampling to create such as stupendous work of music in ways I’ve never imagined. It flows like an original movie score, but Untrue remains faceless and largely anonymous, yet also acutely personal and introspective. You can just simply listen to this album on a rainy day and imagine someone in the world is in pain and you could just cry with them because it took you, as a listener.  Burial doesn’t take music as simply music but as an emotion, as sound. Not heavy nor intense sound. That sound that is made only for touching your heart and emulating emotions at any moment. Only music so esthetically beautiful could move you like this. And it was so unique and revolutionary in its epoch. The concept of taking the human voice and to stretch it so far as making it ghostly and body-less has already been invented but his own take is mindblowing. I already spent too much time reading about him, everything I could find and I understood that (in my sense) he represented music at its most important, the notion of music being emotional and no one else could make it better. Every time I listen to Untrue I’m so amazed by his genius that I become speechless, seriously. I feel so much of his talent that I can’t express it in words. Despite Untrue’s immersive melancholy the album never becomes oppressive, Burial’s moody, evocative sampling has an allure that always beckons the listener for one lonelier walk beneath its flickering streetlights.

Top Listed Albums of 2007

10)     9)     8) 

7)     6)     5)  

4)     3)     2)  


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