Monday, December 28, 2009

The 100 Albums Of The Decade: 50-41

50. TV On The Radio
Dear Science

[Interscope, 2008]

One of the pleasures of following indie music in the 2000s was watching TOTR start strong… and then keep getting better. Dear Science is the peak of three exceptional albums simply because it offers more of everything; this is the Brooklyn collective at their most refined and most innocent, their giddiest and their heaviest.

49. Sigur Rós
Ágætis Byrjun

[Smekkleysa/Fat Cat, 2000]

Ágætis Byrjun is a record at once exceptionally beautiful and positively alien, with bowed guitars crying out like mating whales, lyrics from a made-up language (Hopelandic) sung in a near inhuman register, and glacial soundscapes stretching for upwards of ten minutes. In 2001, Sigur Rós’ masterpiece sounded like nothing else on Earth; in 2009, it still doesn’t.

48. The Flaming Lips
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

[Warner Bros., 2002]

In the wake of the breakthrough that was The Soft Bulletin, the Lips wisely chose not to fix what wasn’t broken, and thus Yoshimi plays out like a (slightly) weirder kissing cousin to that earlier work; its best moments are Day-Glo radiant and shot through with charming naivety, the most vivid childhood fantasies brought to stereophonic life.

47. Spoon
Kill The Moonlight

[Merge, 2002]

With one simple, sticky organ riff that keeps threatening to explode but never quite does, “Small Stakes” sets the mood for the entire Kill The Moonlight record—and, arguably, every Spoon album to follow. This is the band at their minimalist best, crafting unexpected-yet-perfect arrangements on the simplest of foundations... and making the entire thing seem maddeningly, brilliantly tossed-off every time.

46. The Avalanches
Since I Left You

[Sire/Modular, 2001]

The logical progression from Paul’s Boutique and DJ Shadow’s Entroducing…, Since I Left You crafts a swirling, hypnotic universe out of more than 3500 (!!) different samples; the end result is akin to stepping into a pop Phantasmagoria of sound, where each listen unveils new wrinkles and even the most recognizable elements are magically, wonderfully altered.

45. Brand New
Deja Entendu

[Triple Crown, 2003]

In the biggest stylistic leap since Radiohead released The Bends, Long Islanders Brand New followed up their generic pop-punk debut with this, a magnificently multi-layered meditation on betrayal, regret, and all points in between. With its razor-wire lyricism and surging choruses, Deja Entendu—ironically, French for “already heard”—not only pushed Warped tour conventions to the breaking point, but also signaled the way forward, helping to make Brand New the most important punk band of the decade.

44. Nada Surf
The Weight Is A Gift

[Barsuk, 2005]

You could write a book on Nada Surf’s remarkable transformation from Nineties one-hit wonders (“Popular”) to an indie-pop act of the highest order—or you could just check out Let Go and its even-more-impressive follow-up, a gorgeously unassuming record that straddles the line between bruised melancholy and heart-on-sleeve exhilaration. Heartbreak never sounded so catchy.

43. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Hearts Of Oak

[Lookout!, 2003]

Ted Leo is a man out of time, a gifted songwriter with impeccable punk cred whose records continue to slip under the radar year after year. In a perfect universe, he would have the stature of Joe Strummer, and Hearts Of Oak—a career pinnacle both political and playful—would’ve connected with the same force as London Calling.

42. D'Angelo

[Virgin, 2000]

The all-too-brief neo-soul movement had two peaks: Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, and D’Angelo’s second effort, a late-night cycle practically oozing with sweat, all raw edges and grooves thick as molasses. D’Angelo spent the next nine years pulling the J.D. Salinger act; thanks to this record, he’ll still have a passionate fanbase when (and hopefully not if) he decides to return.

41. Bat For Lashes
Two Suns

[Astralwerks/Caroline, 2009]

Melding Kate Bush’s chilly drama with Sinead O’Connor’s otherwordly urgency, Two Suns emerged at the tail end of the decade and instantly announced Natasha Khan—a.k.a. Bat For Lashes—as the most exciting female voice in years. A singularly intoxicating vision, her sophomore release teems with the potency of a fever dream, lingering and haunted.

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