Friday, October 02, 2009

End of Decade Lists: P4K and Uncut

Various comments about the top ten albums on these lists ...


10. The Avalanches, "Since I Left You"

I don't think I've knowingly listened to any of this (except the title track) since it came out ... it always struck as the sort of album Norman Cook would make if he was more into hip-hop. I like bonkers albums. I do find it remarkable that this album had so much staying power, particularly because the follow-up has yet to appear.

9. Panda Bear, "Person Pitch"

Still great.

8. Sigur Ros, "Agaetis Byrjun"

Good album, but it's the worst of Sigur Ros' four 2000's albums, by far. It's also surprising that this album has had so much staying power, considering the hate that's been thrown at Sigur Ros in the years since then (although we can now clearly see that it was a relatively brief phase, 2001-4). Many people have come around on "{}" since then, and it's placing lower in this chart is one indication of that.

7. The Strokes, "Is This It"

At the time, I refused to buy into a lot of the hype and called them wholly unoriginal (check the blog post from eight years ago), even while finding plenty to like about the actual album.

People spend far too much time and energy ascribing "importance" to albums, or claiming that such-and-such "defined the era" or whatever. I've tried my best to avoid making such characterizations about the music that I like. But if it must be done, I can't for the life of me understand why people are spilling that ink on Radiohead and not on the Strokes. "Kid A" didn't define the decade yet to come, as much as it summarized a lot of the electronic music trends from the 90's. These days, when I hear a track like "Someday", it makes me nostalgic for 2001 in the fondest sense of the word. It is the sound of 2001, just as "G-d Save the Queen" can be said to be the sound of 1977, or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was the sound of 1991.

In fact, if any band were the Nirvana of the 00's, it was the Strokes. They didn't break new ground, but they carefully assembled their influences into something brash, arrogant, and unapologetically pop. They took a sound that had been bubbling under the radar for some time and let the charge to bring it into the mainstream. I was as cool on grunge in the 90's as I was on garage rock in the 00's, but as the years passed, the greatness of the Strokes (and Nirvana) became more and more clear as their imitators all tried and failed to make music that was any better. When the scene hype faded away, leaving nothing behind but the music with which to judge it, the brilliance of the scene's original superstars stood out even more than it did in their prime.

"Is This It" is a great album.

6. Modest Mouse, "The Moon and Antarctica"

I haven't heard this. When the follow-up was released, I couldn't see the BFD about "Float On" and haven't given them a second thought since.

5. Jay-Z, "The Blueprint"

Good stuff, can't argue much here, although the crushing inevitability of its crowning as the decade's best hip-hop album was second only to the inevitability of "Kid A" topping this list.

4. Wilco, "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"

I think I heard this once back in 2002.

3. Daft Punk, "Discovery"

A great EP and a bunch of filler. But unlike "Kid A", nobody is pretending that G-d had a greater purpose for this album. No sociology theses, no "the world we live in" grandstanding. Nobody is saying that "Discovery" reinvented house or techno, or that it pushed the boundaries of what great dance music could be. They're saying that Daft Punk made huge, stomping, sometimes tearjerking dance floor anthems, and that they were the best at it. It's all about the music, and a shared communal experience spent enjoying that music. As it should be.

2. Arcade Fire, "Funeral"

Great album. I'm not sure which is better, this or "Neon Bible", but the latter certainly got the shaft in this poll, didn't it? That seemed to be a trend -- if this list is to be believed, virtually every major band got worse with each new release. I call b.s. on that ... every band in this top three arguably made a better album after the three listed here.

1. Radiohead, "Kid A"

Maybe three decent songs here.


10. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Nice harmonies, I guess. Haven't heard the whole record.

9. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker

Haven't heard it.

8. Bob Dylan - Modern Times

I don't know how, but I'd avoided hearing the albums since Dylan's return to critical greatness in 1997. Until "Modern Times". This is embarrassing, and is nothing to be proud of.

This album didn't resonate with me.

7. Arcade Fire - Funeral

6. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - Raising Sand

Hmmm. Haven't heard it.

5. The Strokes - Is This It

4. Brian Wilson - Smile

I'd thought we'd all forgotten about this. I haven't heard it since 2004, and haven't felt the least bit inclined to do so. The "completion" and eventual release of "Smile" was a critics' rite of passage, like losing one's virginity ... you look forward to it seemingly forever, then it happens, and afterward, you never feel the need to think about it ever again.

I'm sure I will give this album a spin sometime in the next couple of months, for old time's sake in the end-of-decade spirit.

3. Wilco - A Ghost Is Born

They went with the unexpected choice -- Uncut, more zany and unpredictable than Pitchfork: official!

2. Bob Dylan - Love And Theft

Shame on me for not having heard this yet.

1. The White Stripes - White Blood Cells

"Fell in Love With a Girl" is nice, I guess. Good video, too.

All right, so Uncut's top ten isn't really my bag, but Uncut's 11-20 > Pitchfork's 11-20!

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