Monday, January 25, 2010
Albums 2000-2009: 40-31
40. Smoosh - She Like Electric (Pattern 25, 2004)
I know I throw superlatives around so much that they become meaningless, but I can say with no hyperbole that She Like Electric is the best, most assured album to ever be written and performed by pre-teens. (And my favorite article I ever wrote is about them.) Forget Asya's age -- she was about 12 at the time She Like Electric was released -- she's a bang-up great songwriter.
39. William Rusere - Shona Folk Melodies (District Six, 2001)
William Rusere is, as far as I can glean from the liner notes, an elder statesman of the mbira, or thumb piano. It might sound like a child's toy, but beneath Rusere's expert thumbs, the mbira can produce enchanting melodies and cross-melodies and rhythms. (An even more haunting version of "Bukatiende".)(Shona Folk Melodies also, strangely enough, features three dance remixes, though only the Plaid remix of "Bukatiende" qualifies as a must-listen.)
38. The Microphones - It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water (K, 2000)
As something of a throat clearing for The Glow, Pt. 2, It Was Hot, We Stayed in the Water kind of gets overlooked, which is a bit of a shame for an amazing first half of an album, from "The Pull" (love how the acoustic campfire turns into an explosion of lo-fi fuzz) to "Drums" (which, surprise, is a drumkit workout). And "The Glow," which encapsulates the best of the album before it finally burrows into subterranean murk -- all the tricks that Phil Elverum is capable of.
37. Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country (Merge, 2006)
That brand of scarf pop pioneered by Belle and Sebastian never sounded as joyous, abandoned, and thrilling as it does on "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken." (Unwritten rule about Camera Obscura is that you have to mention B+S right off the bat.) The album calms down from that point, though, mostly settling into an updated melange of wistful, loungey, sometimes twangy ballads, all pretty and melancholy like, with a couple notable exceptions. The spare production on "Country Mile" makes Tracyanne Campbell's voice sound crystalline, while the AM-radio fuzz on "If Looks Could Kill" layers and buries her under an irresistible bounce and makes me want to pomade my hair and find a sock hop to cut a rug to. And then the closer, "Razzle Dazzle Rose"... I'll just cite an old Tweet: "standing outside when the sky suddenly trickles before unloading a springtime storm."
36. Amon Tobin - Supermodified (Ninja Tune, 2000)
Before Supermodified drifts into bog-standard drum 'n bass on its second half (except for early Lamb, I've never enjoyed d 'n b breaks), Tobin goes to the future and shows us what the real space-age music that gets bumped by the pretentious cyborg kids of the future. (Hey, I just turned Supermodified into a concept album. Neat!) "Four Ton Mantis" is a monster of a track that can never get loud enough as far as I'm concerned, "Slowly" is the apogee of Tobin's usual collagist, sampledelic jazz, and the cinematic cool of "Deo" survived being used in a Coke ad.
35. Cat Power - The Greatest (Matador, 2006)
As someone whose fondness for Cat Power circa 2006 began and ended with You Are Free and its haunting American Gothicism, The Greatest threw me for a loop the first time I listened to its sweet, sunny Memphis soul (as sweet and sunny as lines like "There's nothing like living in a bottle / And nothing like ending it all for the world" can get, anyway). The Greatest has aged remarkably well, however. (I'm resisting an impulse to compare it to Tennessee moonshine.) In the end, I can't resist the gentle and, yes, hopeful swing of songs like "Willie," a rambling expanse of piano blues with this killer lyric: "He's laid my head on the bed / And told me sweetly I am not / Crazy like all the others said / No he's not crazy like me." "The Moon" has the vintage Cat Power slow-motion electric strum that I love (see also: "Good Woman" from You Are Free). It all adds up to "Love and Communication," in which her lyrical caesuras sprawl her verses over each other, smashed up against the eerie stomp of the drums and strings -- it's like witnessing firsthand two continents crashing into each other to create a mountain range, the feeling of triumph that Chan Marshall always wanted to impart in her songs.
34. Electrelane - The Power Out (Too Pure, 2004)
Sweet motorik-driven pop songs that merely hinted at the heights that Electrelane could reach, I'm willing to bet that The Power Out has the loveliest song ever to be inspired by a 16th-century Spanish sonnet.
(I completely melt when her voice careens and wobbles during the chorus.)
33. Windy and Carl - The Dream House/Dedications to Flea (Kranky, 2005)
Beautiful, spacious drone. What the Northern Lights sound like.
The Eternal Struggle
32. Josie and the Pussycats (Sony, 2001)
If only all corporate sell-out rock was as awesome as this, and looking at the writing and production credits, there's little mistaking this soundtrack as anything but a commercial product. But just as the film was disguised as a sly bite-the-hand-that-feeds-it satire, the soundtrack manages to avoid all the pitfalls of a made-by-committee product to offer the liveliest and funnest pop punk, dare I say, ever? Of which "3 Small Words" is the ne plus ultra, while the coda in "Spin Around" is so sticky-addictive that it ought to be a controlled substance, and "You're A Star" has the most irresistible chorus ever, I am guaranteeing that you will be "na na-na, na na-na, na na-na, yeah-yeah, yeah-yeah"ing along with it the second you hear it.
31. Bardo Pond - Circuit VIII (Three Lobed, 2008)
It's like "Destroying Angel," cut across its belly and splayed out across 44 minutes: a protracted intro of distortion and noise, raga-flavored acoustic strumming, electric guitar noodling with muted sci-fi synths in the background, and, 18 minutes after the track began, a vintage killer Bardo riff crunching gnarly man epic dude that doesn't let up for another 13 minutes, at which point it unwinds into ambient soundscapes for another 13 minutes.
Hahah I'm not going to be able to find or get a streaming sample of this anywhere on the internet, sorry, so here's their best song ever instead: