Wednesday, December 16, 2009


'Hey evah baddah wuur Jedwards!' Jedwards

Seeing as the world and his wife seems to have got in on the Pitchfork style list-o-mania to mark the end of this decade in modern music I decided it only right that I should be in on the act.

I read a lot of other peoples lists and nobody seemed to get it quite right, a few publications forgot that the U.S existed (Guardian/NME), others that the year 2000 is actually part of this decade (Stereogum) and it seemed to slip the collective minds of all involved that 'Metal' became a legitimate musical force over the last ten years and should no longer be prisoner of it's own genre specific year/decade end lists. My personal favorite other than the fact that Thom Yorkie obviously bought sometime in 2003, was that somehow Kasabian seemed to have convinced Britain's only surviving weekly music paper that 'Pauper Lunar Piper Fuckface' was in fact not a joke album.

I've left this late on the off chance that something might come up the inside lane to both stagger and shock me like The XX managed to do with their debut. This has not happened. The past few months in contemporary music have been what wine connoissuers might call dry and tasteless. Initially I had this down as a list of fifty, then thirty but decided I was being a bit too wishy washy, had a failure to commit and forced myself to cut away not only all of the chaff but half the wheat as well.

This should be in reverse Miss World order but it's not. If you would like to view it this way scroll to the bottom and work up.


1.) Portishead – Third 2008
Undisputed heavy weight champeen. The British hip-hop spasticities that came close to dating and null and voiding the bands first two releases are all but forgotten here. The most pleasant surprise is that in the time between albums Geoff Barrows has gone from being American rap-singer obsessive to total record shop slut bag, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. The album is testament to the fact that he has grown up and grown ears the likes of which many a dog would be proud. 'Third' is a fucking lovely album and a total and utter treat for anybody even remotely interested in the kind of music that lies out yonder, there beyond the village fence.
2.) Anthony and the Johnsons – I Am a Bird Now 2005
I first read about Anthony in Wire magazine and off the back of his circus freak like life rushed out and bought this album (ahem...CD) as soon as it landed. I was blown away. My appreciation of the music on I Am a Bird Now' actually came as something of a shock to me, I was at the time balls deep in the land of Spazz, The Locust and Thrones but this record, slow, studied and beautifully composed as it is provided the perfect soundtrack to a particularly melancholy period in my life. A time that saw me venture out as little as possible, turning my back on the bright lights of Amsterdam and opting instead for quite night after night eating ravioli alone sat silent between two speakers, the tall man's voice making me wish I was gay and living in New York.
3.) Isis – Oceanic 2002
I read review after review of this, each one a gushing testament to what some described as nothing short of life changing. Whilst I didn't rush out and get an ISIS tattoo after listening my mind was sufficiently blown to drop this record into conversation whenever possible, recommending it to anybody who wound listen. Basic, repetitive guitar parts, vocals at the back of the mix and drums that sound like buildings being leveled by heavy ordnance. Oceanic is a perfect example of how much scope and energy there is left in what is very loosely termed 'Metal'. It's interesting that this came in the same decade that saw another formerly rich genre, that of Hip Hop, sign it's own death certificate. 'Oceanic' is a planet sized album and I am pretty sure it isn't possible to play it loud enough.
4.) Gavin Russom and Delia Gonsalez – The Days of Mars 2005
Four tracks of minimal yet beefy analogue-driven drone disco that provided the perfect accompaniment to my staring off at both the wall and out of the window. Rather than leading me to explore the DFA back catalogue, something I was already familiar and disappointed with this pushed me into looking into the world of Supersilent, Deathprod and other released from Rune Grammofon, and when I was done looking for something , anything to come even close to this, I put my hands up, gave in and went back to 'The Days of Mars' because there is nothing even close to this out there. Imagine the theme from Tomorrow's World or Krypton Factor slowed down and played live through a back-line of Marshalls. Kind of like that but not like that.
5.) Deftones – White Pony 2000
What? More metal? Yes. Treadmill running, iron pumping, gym metal? Yes, but also more, much more than that, this is the greatest 'sex' album ever recorded. Forget Prince and those other posturing amateurs with their over obvious witterings about masturbating to magazines and creaming on top of your dreams, this is where it is at, ugly, out-dated 'Nu Metal' genre tag et al. The Artist Formerly Known As Symbol said something about twenty two positions in a one night stand... Fuck that shit. Chino Moreno will have quiet then shouty distorted guitar sex with you whether you want him to or not for an entire month, stopping only for sandwiches.
6.) Beck – Sea Change 2002
Beck is a Scientologist, he has the hair of a girl, bad taste in hats and the same posture and frame of Kate Moss. Beck is an ugly male Kate Moss in a bad hat. But for a brief period around the time he got out and out dumped in 2001/2 he made Sea Change and it's enough to forgive the lifetime of shit that he released to bookend it. Odelay is outdated, irrelevant and caked in the kind of shit ridden white boy frat rap that brings to mind such luminaries as Insane Clown Posse. Mellow Gold is interesting at best but turgid for the best part, Midnite Vultures and Mutations... I'm bored already. Anyway, to conclude, boy needs a haircut and much as I have more than a mild distaste for him, much as I try I cannot fault this string driven perfect portrait of heartache I cannot. For the duration of this album at least he doesn't put a single foot wrong.
7.) Blur – Think Tank 2003
I feel the need to qualify this entry. It's not a perfect album, the two Norman Cook produced tracks on here (and possibly the reason for Graham Coxon's quitting the band) are utter bollocks. Brighton big beat bollocks. A taste of out dated and ill-advised indie dance music the likes of which have no place outside the foggy Snakebite tinged memories of 1994. But the rest of the album with the possible exception of 'We've Got a File on You' and 'Something or other in My Leg' are perfect. There is something dignified about Blur's performance here, the record plays like an hour (ish) long knowing nod, atmospheric, tender (see what I did) and mature in a way that I for one never expected from the idiots that brought us 'Country House'. Think Tank, shitty artwork and shittier name aside made me take a second look at the Blur cannon and come away proven wrong.
8.) Badly Drawn Boy – Have You Fed the Fish Yet? (All Possibilities) 2003
Damon Gough, straggly hair and Glasto-tea cozy hat played what can only be described as a doozy in 2002. His first album never touched me in the same way it did others, in part because of the weedy production but also because the record sleeve was a dead ringer for a Bally Sagoo album that came out the year before. At the time a lot of people shot 'Have You Fed the Fish Yet' down suggesting it was over baring, unnecessarily orchestrated... Those people are now dead or at the very least one would like to think jobless. This is in fact an absolute tank of a record, solid from tracks to turret. It succeeds in having a mass appeal that very few records have ever managed, utterly in-offensive and totally rewarding a very rare example of singer/song writer pop perfection.
9.) Low - Trust 2002
It was snowing when I went to see Low at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, I sat on the floor for the first two songs right in the middle at the back, chin on hands unable to comprehend that the music filling me came from three people and the smallest drum kit this side of Wayne Pikehorn and the Skiffle City Washboards. 'Trust' is the dictionary definition of 'melancholy' but with that horrible Smashing Pumpkins bi-word they are achingly beautiful, troubled and haunting. Add to that the fact that if Christmas was a band it would be Low and you have something that has remained pretty much unchallenged since it's released

10.) …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – Source Tags and Codes 2002
I really didn't want this record to make the grade. Why? Because on reviewing this top ten list the inclusion of so much 'metal' makes me look like a recovering monster of rock, a head banger in denial, somebody who wears leather pants and Denim aftershave. Unfortunately it's an undeniable fact that 'Source Tags and Codes' is up there as At The Drive Ins 'Relationship of Command' very nearly was. It kills. Yes it comes from some of the worst hair cuts in rock, junk food addicted Manga obsessives whose target audience is the children I haven't yet had but step back take off your judgement goggles and holy fuck if this record isn't nigh on perfect. It is one of those rare albums that gets better with time, the exact opposite of the Flaming Lips 'Yoshimi', a record that I actually wanted to put in the microwave after about six listens.
Close but no cigars and in no particular order, remnants of the Hot 30 the ones that could and probably should have gotten a look in:
The XX - The XX (2009)
Jim O'Rourke - The Insignificance (2001)
Grandaddy - Sumday (2003)
The Knife - Silent Shout (2006)
Mastodon - Blood Mountain (2006)
!!! - !!! (2001)
Burial - Untrue (2007)
Band of Horses - Everything All the Time (2006)
Snapcase - Designs for Automation (2000)
PJ Harvey - Stories From the City Stories From the Sea (2000)
Sigur Ros - () (2002)
Sunn(0))) - Black One (2005)
The Good The Bad and The Queen - The Good The Band and The Queen (2007)
Johnny Cash - American IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)
Deerhoof - Apple O (2003)
Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)
Death Cab For Cutie - Plans (2005)
And that's it, that's the decade. A merry new year to one and all and thank you most sincerely for reading.

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