Friday, December 11The CDP's Top 250 Albums Of The Decade (10-1).
'This song will become the anthem of your underground.'
-Saves The Day, 'At Your Funeral'
-Saves The Day, 'At Your Funeral'
Well, it's about time. As The CDP Decade In Review comes down to its final three posts of the year, we finally wrap up our three-week long countdown of the Top 250 Albums Of The Decade. Within these 10 albums, you'll see about five classics that should arguably be on every decade-ending list, and about five personal favorites that had a major effect on me over the last 10 long years. It should also be noted that my Top 3 shuffled back and forth until the last possible minute; they really could all be #1 in my book.
Enjoy; let's go.
10. Further Seems Forever – The Moon Is Down (2001)
“I’ll give you my life, if you give me yours, somehow.”
1. "The Moon Is Down"
2. "The Bradley"
3. "Snowbirds And Townies"
5. "Madison Prep"
6. "New Year's Project"
7. "Just Until Sundown"
8. "Pictures Of Shorelines"
9. "Wearing Thin"
10. "A New Desert Life"
When 2009 wraps up, I'll probably be sitting in the living room of my house, lip-locking the woman I love amongst a few close friends and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with surviving such an ebbing and flowing decade. However, on the last night of 1999, I was in quite a different place, literally and figuratively.
I was 17 years old, at a New Year's basement party with about two people I wanted to see, and about 20 others that I haven't seen since. I was miserable. I was alone. The girl that I had been setting myself up for, the girl that I had changed my plans for, and the girl that I had been setting a course for, was gone. Off my radar. A certain impossibility. Where I once saw a path to my future, I saw a solid block of brick and mortar, not unlike the basement walls I was slamming my head into that night.
So I drank. And drank. And drank. As the night went into slow-motion and the emotions began to run rampant, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might never leave that basement. Never see 2000. Against any sane man's better judgment, I begged to be arrested (or killed), and drove home, borderline-subconscious and woefully underage, at three in the morning.
When I got home, I threw up in the kitchen, stumbled downstairs to yet another unfinished basement (My mother and stepfather's new house wasn't quite equipped for me, as I later found out when I was asked to leave a few months later). As I laid in my freezing bed, watching the trusses and insulation spin over my head as the sun came up, I knew for sure that this was one of the most pathetic moments of my entire life.
No less than a week later, I met Celia and my life changed. Changed changed. Had I not experienced such heartbreak and disappointment over those few months in late 1999/early 2000, I'd probably be...well, who really knows where I'd be.
Some people hear a song and think it was written for them. In my 17-year-old and depressed-out-of-my-mind stupor, this is how I felt when I heard 'New Year's Project,' off of Further Seems Forever's masterpiece, The Moon Is Down. Originally recorded for a 1999 split EP, it essentially tells the story I just told you above. Due in part to this, along with nine other breathtaking tracks, The Moon Is Down tells the story of the fading of youth, the remembrance of raw emotion, and doing (and feeling) anything to get to those that you love. We all know what Emo has become, and The Moon Is Down captures the other side of the equation, the reminder of how much an album can function as a Time Machine.
Nowadays, when I hear 'New Year's Project,' I'm happy. Happy because I'm older. Happy because my wife is next to me. Happy because I survived adolescence. It's a beautiful song, The Moon Is Down is a beautiful album, and hey, life is beautiful sometimes, too.
You Must Hear - 'New Year's Project'
9. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – The Tyranny Of Distance (2001)
“You had me two times out on the ledge, but I still love you, you see.”
2. "Parallel Or Together?"
3. "Under The Hedge"
4. "Dial Up"
5. "Timorous Me"
6. "Stove By A Whale"
7. "The Great Communicator"
8. "Squeaky Fingers"
9. "My Vien iLin"
10. "The Gold Finch And The Red Oak Tree"
11. "St. John The Divine"
12. "You Could Die (Or This Might End)"
(Review by The Missus:)
Is there any possible way to dislike Ted Leo? If there is, I have yet to find it. The Tyranny of Distance, released in 2001, was the first full-band album by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and immediately solidified them as a mainstay on the indie scene. An unusually prevalent attribute on this album is the Irish-folk inspired guitar styling, which melds seamlessly with Ted Leo’s pressured vocals and impossibly clever lyrics.
The Tyranny of Distance is one of those albums that will never leave your CD or iPod rotation once it’s there. Try as you might, it’s too monumental to put away for long.
(Note By The CDP: Considering Ted Leo's career, determining his 'best album ever' will surely lead you to some amazing music, and with The Tyranny Of Distance, we see him at his most inspired and amazing; no small feat.)
You Must Hear - 'Under The Hedge'
8. The Features – Exhibit A (2004)
“Hold on, ‘cause the end is coming soon; it won’t be long.”
1. "Exhibit A"
2. "The Way It's Meant To Be"
3. "Me & The Skirts"
4. "Blow It Out"
5. "There's A Million Ways To Sing The Blues"
6. "Leave It All Behind"
7. "Exorcising Demons"
8. "The Idea Of Growing Old"
9. "Some Way Some How"
10. "Situation Gone Bad"
11. "Harder To Ignore"
(Review by The Missus:)
Exhibit A is, well, Exhibit A of how major-label debuts can be grossly mishandled. While Kings Of Leon were starting to gain widespread popularity, The Features should have been eclipsing them by leaps and bounds…but they didn’t. Instead, their masterpiece Exhibit A is just another blip on the radar for 2004. With frantic, warbling vocals, blazing organ accompaniments, and sing-along melodies that stick in your head for days, The Features are impossible to dislike. Nearly all of Exhibit A is a lyrical ode to singer Matt Pelham’s young twin daughters. His love for them oozes adorably and evidently from every song.
Despite its total major-label failure, Exhibit A has remained a critical darling and garnered The Features a sizable and loyal following.
(Note By The CDP: What The Missus fails to mention is that, despite the overall feel-good tone and positive southern vibes emitting from Exhibit A, the music is downright psychotic at times. It's like drunkenly wandering into a swamp church in the middle of the bayou, meeting Satan and realizing he's not that bad of a guy. I love, love, LOVE this record.)
You Must Hear - 'Leave It All Behind'
7. Polysics – For Young Electric Pop (2002)
"Hey! Hey! Are you ready to go! Black out! Fall out!"
1. "For Young Electric Pop"
3. "It's Up To You"
4. "Wicked Lough"
5. "Black Out Fall Out"
6. "Let's Go"
7. "Mad Mac"
8. "Tv's High"
9. "Secret Candy"
11. "Get Back To 8-Bit"
12. "My Sharona"
For obvious reasons, Polysics could get by on their exotic charm and not-from-this-country aesthetic in America for the rest of their careers, without ever really having to evolve or possess any real talent. Fortunately for us, Polysics are insane geniuses, and have no intention of ceasing their hyper-evolution until they eventually take over the planet and enslave mankind.
Okay, so you have four Devo-obsessed Japanese folks (2 guys, 2 girls) who wear futuristic costumes and sing in 1/3 Japanese, 1/3 English and 1/3 gibberish. They started out writing screeching, noisy, lo-fi ear-splitters with rapid-fire start/stop/destroy rhythms, but eventually went a more pop route without sacrificing any of their punk brutality. Throughout all of their seemingly non-mainstream musical maturity, they actually became more accessible, their newer stuff acting as a gateway into their more hyperactive older stuff.
I had always loved Polysics, but even I thought they could take this shtick no further prior to the release of For Young Electric Pop. Then, they did what they've been doing for 10 years now; impress the hell out of me and introduce me to yet another new world of sounds. What they did so brilliantly on Pop that they didn't normally do on their older releases was run about 50 years of American Pop Music through their filter of spazzy, Japanese synth-punk. It's sort of like those 'American Pop' CD compilation infomercials that you see at 3am, only completely re-recorded by a J-Pop band.
And here's something else that most noisy, non-English-speaking bands can't do well; they actually can convey emotion at times. On the rare occasion that they slow things down for a few minutes (they alternate between their male and female vocalists), they make the ballad work (albeit their own special brand of ballad). For Young Electric Pop is unarguably an album that you have never heard before; they throw everything to the wall, and everything goddamn sticks.
You Must Hear - 'Code4'
6. The Impossibles - Return (2000)
"If we never say goodbye, there will be no end."
2. "(Never) Say Goodbye"
4. "Gone 4 Good"
5. "This Is F**king Tragic"
7. "Oh, Angelina"
8. "Stand Up, Fall Down, Get Crushed"
9. "4gn 4ever"
10. "Hey,you Kids!"
12. "Stopping Sound"
Here is a photograph of Gabe and Rory, the chief guitarists and songwriters for The Impossibles:
And here's a photograph of Gabe and Rory, my two male, Siamese cats:
Okay, so there's not much of a resemblance there, but the point is simple: I named my cats after these guys! For me, from 1998 to 2002, there was nothing, and I mean nothing, more influential to me than The Impossibles. They got me to start a band (who tried to rip them off at every corner). They got us to do an entire set of just Impossibles covers (a colossal failure). Their live shows amazing (still probably the best live band I'd ever want to see). We even include an 'Intermission' on our album, just as The Impossibles did on Return. Has it gotten annoying enough for you yet?
When Anthology came out, I spent several months dissecting every second of the album, speculating as to how these two kids (at the time) cracked the Weezer-ska code of structural musical brilliance. Their lyrics introspective, genuine and youthful. Their sound, guitar-driven, harmony-loaded and upbeat. Every song perfect. Every progression flawless. These guys shouldn't be this good! How did they do it? For awhile, I figured we'd never know, because they broke up for a couple of years, only to return and release...well, Return. The upstrokes were gone, replaced by more abrasive guitars, driving pop-rock hooks and those soaring choruses.
One of the things I really love about Return in retrospect is the opening introduction, which features the sound of a modem connecting to the Internet. If there's another sound that captures the beginning of the decade more perfectly, I haven't heard it.
And if Gabe and Rory (the musicians, not my cats) fade into obscurity or commit some atrocity against nature, they will always be immortalized for having written 'Never Say Goodbye,' the greatest and best rock song of the last ten years, bar none.
You Must Hear - 'Never Say Goodbye'
5. Ozma – Rock & Roll Part Three (2000)
“Chances last a finite time, and you’re running out of time.”
1. "Domino Effect"
2. "Apple Trees"
3. "Shooting Stars"
4. "Natalie Portman"
5. "The Ups And Downs"
6. "If I Only Had A Heart"
10. "In Search Of 1988"
11. "Last Dance"
Ozma was a relatively unknown band on a national scale up until around 2001, when a copy of Rock And Roll Part Three was handed to Weezer guitarist Brian Bell. Bell, who has probably been handed thousands of demos over the last 15 years, liked what he heard so much that Ozma was booked to open all shows on Weezer’s nationwide tour later that year. The rest is…sort of history. After Rock And Roll Part Three, they released a couple more albums over the next six years (with a breakup wedged between), only to break up once and for all in 2008.
The material on Rock And Roll Part Three is Ozma at their absolute best; a band that takes nerd-rock, Nintendo-core, guitar-noodling rock and roll, and turns each 4 minute track into a miniature pop opera. Dueling vocalists, shredding guitars and the kinds of melodies you only dream about are constantly on display, here. And the lyrics are as wry and clever as can be. Take ‘Apple Trees’ for example, a track about attempting to attract a girl in Math class (and hanging out in an apple orchard), using all sorts of puns, double entendres and Shakespearean nerd wordplay to do so:
“An apple pie, the number pi, I studied you in math class I did all my work but never got your digits Take a number like 5, times 10, times 10 again 500 miles of apple orchards to defend”
‘Domino Effect’ begins with a synth line that you’ll probably have playing in your head for the rest of your life, and ‘Natalie Portman’ is a song so emotional it borders on utter obsession (but considering the focus of the song, obsession is more than worthy). One of the album’s closers, ‘(In Search Of) 1988,’ with its Nintendo and Ouija Board references, take you right back to your room as a kid, and it’s beautiful without being patronizing or overly sappy. This is fun music about perpetual bummers.
There were a lot of bands this decade that attempted this sound, and only Ozma did it absolutely right. Rock And Roll Part Three can always be played in my car from beginning-to-end with no objections from anyone; in fact, I always get comments like, “Wow, this album is still awesome.”
You Must Hear - 'Natalie Portman'
4. The Weakerthans – Reconstruction Site (2003)
“You said ‘hey, can you help me, I can’t reach it,’
and pointed at the camera in the ceiling.
I climbed up, blocked it so they couldn’t see,
turned to find you out of bed and kneeling.
Before the nurses came and took you away,
I stood there on that chair and watched you pray.”
2. "The Reasons"
3. "Reconstruction Site"
4. "Psalm For The Elks Lodge Last Call"
5. "Plea From A Cat Named Virtue"
6. "Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault In Paris, 1961)"
7. "Time's Arrow"
8. "(Hospital Vespers)"
9. "Uncorrected Proofs"
10. "A New Name For Everything"
11. "One Great City!"
13. "The Prescience Of Dawn"
John K. Samson, The Weakerthans frontman, has stated that their albums take so long to make because it takes him a long time to write the music and the lyrics. “I don’t know how some people do it so fast,” he’s admitted. Considering Samson’s output, I think the only problem is why everyone else isn’t following his lead and taking their time. For my money, he’s our greatest working lyricist (‘our’ meaning Canada, I guess).
Fallow and Left And Leaving, the two previous Weakerthans works, were nearly flawless examples of their brilliance. Still holding on to punk roots, the uptempo drums and fuzzy guitars scattered about each album, but it always seemed like Samson was struggling to keep up; wanting more time to explain his thoughts to you (this was the main reason Samson left Propaghandi and started his own band). With Reconstruction Site he gets that chance, stringing his lonely, bitterly uplifting, and sometimes hilarious thoughts over more drawn out acoustic and twanging numbers. Sure, some tracks like the timeless ‘Our Retired Explorer’ kick an ass or two, but this album is about reflection, not rebellion.
And it is certainly an album; one track on its own is good, but require the bookending tracks to put it more into perspective and overall thought process. The walking through the hospital corridors, feeling death at every turn. The confession to the significant other, “I’m so glad that you exist.” Even a track sung from the perspective of Samson’s cat, giving him an ultimatum to cheer up before she decides to stray for greener pastures.
You can’t dislike The Weakerthans. You can say that Samson’s voice leaves a lot to be desired, but there’s always going to be something that keeps you coming back. Reconstruction Site is a modern masterpiece of rock, folk, alt-country and musicianship, and an album that I see myself coming back to forever.
You Must Hear - 'Our Retired Explorer'
3. Saves The Day – Stay What You Are (2001)
“Despair can ravage you, if you turn your head around and look down the path that’s led you here, but what can you change? You’re a vessel now, floating down the waterways."
1. "At Your Funeral"
2. "See You"
3. "Cars & Calories"
4. "Certain Tragedy"
5. "Jukebox Breakdown"
7. "As Your Ghost Takes Flight"
9. "All I'm Losing Is Me"
10. "This Is Not An Exit"
Saves The Day is one of my favorite bands of all-time. Following Chris Conley and company through their evolution has been amazing; their rise from Lifetime-influenced hardcore, to Jawbreaker-influenced emo, to becoming the standard-bearers of their own genre, is a success story all its own. I had already worn my copies of Can’t Slow Down and Through Being Cool completely out; would it be possible that they could once again show exponential growth and out-do themselves yet again?
What we got was Stay What You Are, an album that means so many things to so many people, and essentially defined a genre for the last eight years. Considering that Conley was about 20 years old when he did this, is mind-blowing. When I was 20, I was cracking jokes in an Electricity class, trying to put together a broken Atari 2600.
To really grasp how important Stay What You Are was, you need to grasp how important Saves The Day is to their audience. I remember my band playing a show on the night that the album was released. During a break between sets, one of the audience members stormed the stage and started singing the opening lines of ‘At Your Funeral’ into the mic (‘This song will be come, the anthem of, your underground…’). Within seconds, the entire hall had erupted into an impromptu sing-along; everyone knew the words, and the album had been on the streets for ten hours! I found this beautiful.
Most moments on Stay What You Are last the test of time (the anthemic ‘At Your Funeral,’ the gruesome ‘As Your Ghost Takes Flight,’ the endless-night storytelling of ‘Firefly’), especially the feel-good-existentialist lighter-waver, ‘This Is Not An Exit.’ I’ve ran into many people with tattoos commemorating sort aspect of Stay What You Are (be it the title itself, or usually a favorite lyric), that it makes me feel good that this album hit others as hard as it hit me (a certain age, mindset and mood is paramount). If you notice, the font on the album cover is the same as the one I currently use for all of my CDP logos.
I could really go on forever about Stay What You Are, but we’ve reached a point where trying to properly convey the sort of emotion that is awakened by your favorite albums becomes an impossibility. In fact, Stay What You Are was supposed to be the #1 Album on this list, until I thought about it some more and dropped it to #3 (I may regret this later). Check it out; maybe you’ll like it, maybe you’ll wonder what the big deal is. All I know is that I feel very fortunate that it hit me (and all those kids in that hall) when it did, because Stay What You Are has brought me a lot of company and happiness over the last decade.
You Must Hear - 'At Your Funeral'
2. At The Drive –In – Relationship Of Command (2000)
We sample from the shelves
Tore a page out from this chapter
Deface the essays in the book that you're reading
We are the leeches that stop the bleeding
Deficit attention program
By any means necessary
Blare sirens to the library
Whisper instructions to the book-wormed glossary
Is it heavier than air...tell us, am I supposed to die alone?
2. "Pattern Against User"
3. "One Armed Scissor"
4. "Sleepwalk Capsules"
5. "Invalid Litter Dept."
6. "Mannequin Republic"
8. "Rolodex Propaganda"
11. "Non-Zero Possibility"
We lost a lot of good bands this decade, none better than At The Drive-In. No band was more passionate. More energetic. Their lyrics and music just as powerful as their following. Fortunately for us, they decided to break up on their highest note, following the release of Relationship Of Command, a sublime masterpiece of hardcore from the El Paso quintet.
I never got the chance to see them live; they were all but wrapped up by the time that I got around to appreciating them. That being said, I implore you to hit YouTube (or just watch the linked clip), and witness the slithering, manic madness that ensued. No live band put more into a set, and not many bands put more into their music. Their messages were brutal, political, spiritual and revolutionary. Their tales sordid and beautiful. Their instrumentation, light as a feather in one moment, atomically destructive the next. Cedric Bixler, the skinny, afro'd frontman, could whisper something in your ear so beautifully, microseconds before yelling it off with gusto.
Relationship Of Command is open to interpretation; critics range their lyrics from deep and meaningful to borderline unintelligible, five-syllable soliloquies. What's not open to interpretation is the energy, emotion and raw power possesed from start to finish. 'Punk' means nothing. 'Emo' is worthless. Even 'Hardcore' leaves so much to be desired. At The Drive-In incorporated so much into their wall of sound, that Relationship Of Command stands alone on top of a massive pyramid of those either trying to find their identity, or wholly and admittedly influenced by ATDI.
At first, I felt that I was giving Relationship Of Command the crown as some sort of Lifetime Achievement Award for At The Drive-In. Some sort of recognition for a career done well. However, Command stands alone; arguably their best album (structure-wise, production-wise, lyric-wise and tone-wise, without a doubt), and also a blazing metaphor for how the decade was about to play out. The anger, uncertainty and rebellion of 2000 is just as raw, just as relevant and just as real in 2009, and that's a true testament to an Album Of The Decade.
When we're through with alt-Country, when we're tired of attaching our egos to the latest Indie band, when we're too old to care about what's on the radio, we'll still want to scream. Still want to raise our fists and damn the Man. Still want to remember what it's like to be whipped into a rage, to feel like a revolution is just around the corner. With Relationship Of Command, that awakening is always just a few seconds away.
You Must Hear - 'Arcarsenal'
1. Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)
“I guess we’ll just have to adjust.”
1. "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)"
2. "Neighborhood #2 (Laika)"
3. "Une annee sans lumiere"
4. "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"
5. "Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)"
6. "Crown Of Love"
7. "Wake Up"
9. "Rebellion (Lies)"
10. "In The Backseat"
When I look back on this decade, it was easily the most important of my life. And how could it not? The years from 2000-2009 took me from age 17 to 27; from High School, to music, to employment, to moving out, to College, to more employment, to marriage, to home/cat ownership, and finally, my quest for Internet Immortality as an author. This has really been the only decade that ever mattered to me as an adult, because it’s the only decade I’ve ever experienced as an adult. For some of you, that decade was the 80’s or 90’s. For a few of you, it will be the 10’s.
The greatest moment of the decade for me was my wedding day. The culmination of a dream courtship that ended (or began) on a day so unbelievably perfect that I thought I was going to have a piano dropped onto my head at any second. I’ve never deserved anything so wonderful, and every Winter I’m reminded of how me and Celia met and turned a terrible Midwestern season into our own personal paradise. How we jumped into my 1986 Buick and braved the cold every night, just so we could hold each other for a couple of hours. The spark of new love that keeps me warm to this very day. Every snowfall reminds me of her. Every icy windshield makes me happy, because I know I’m coming home to her. This would sound unnecessarily sappy and trite if I wasn’t being completely genuine with you.
The worst moment of the decade for me (and, so far, the worst moment of my life) was losing my Grandfather to cancer in January of 2005. You couldn’t have asked for a smarter, funnier, charismatic and influential man in your life; he functioned as my father more times than I care to even discuss. His death was inevitable, yet unfathomably tragic. Like my 2000 Winter with Celia, this all took place during the most bitter part of January, and the feeling of loss amongst the desolation of a Wisconsin Winter was almost too much to bear. To this day, every drive back home in the Winter reminds me of the night we lost him. Every time I enter my Grandparent’s house (where I lived for several years, and where he died), I feel a tremendous sense of pain where there was once overwhelming joy and timeless memories. I’m over it on a functional level, but we never fully recover from the loss of a loved one.
It’s these conflicting Winter memories, the best of times…the worst of times, that bring me to Funeral. The debut full-length by Arcade Fire, and probably the most regarded Indie album of all-time (only behind In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, perhaps). It’s these memories of blissful love and heartbreaking loss that created the gateway and opened the door for Funeral to completely overwhelm me in every possible way, because in many ways, the album was entirely about what I was going through.
At first, I ignored the hype machine like a lot of you probably did, only to break down and grab the album about a week after we put Grandpa into the ground. The rest was unstoppable. Immune to hipster criticism. Impervious to the cries of ‘overrated!’ None of what anyone was saying about Funeral, good or bad, penetrated my wall of emotion. This was my album. My solitary experience. My therapy.
From the opening, tinkling piano of ‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels),’ we hear the story of a young couple in love, surviving the Winter, growing their hair long and disappearing into their own world for so long that they could no longer remember the names of those they once knew. This was a feeling I knew well. ‘Neighborhood #1’ is also one of about maybe three songs I’ve ever heard that I would deem ‘perfect.’
The recurring theme of family and coping with change comes back up in ‘Neighborhood #2 (Laika),’ and ‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out),’ the latter being a rousing, drum-looped number that recalls a week-long power outage in Montreal. The lyrics are mostly a call to arms for the hurting, announcing that what’s in your heart should be put in your hands (be it a sword, a pen or what have you). This was the motivation I needed to pursue writing as a career, as my fragile state of mind at the time was a constant reminder that we’re all on borrowed time and need to act quickly.
Which leads me to ‘Wake Up.’ For some, this has become a bombastic, bloated anthem that you’d probably expect hear at a hockey game. For someone fresh off a profoundly painful loss, however, it was permission to cry, put my first through a wall, dig the grave and pummel forth. ‘Wake Up’ was my grieving process.
Something filled up
My heart with nothing.
Someone told me not to cry.
But now that I'm older,
My heart's colder,
And I can see that it's a lie.
Children, wake up!
Hold your mistake up,
Before they turn the summer into dust.
If the children don't grow up,
Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We're just a million little gods causing rain storms,
Turning every good thing to rust.
I guess we'll just have to adjust.
I missed the old guy more than anything, but it was time to adjust. Time to live. Time to do all the things I knew I was capable of doing. I’m a bitter, jaded, atheist husk of a man right now, but I can honestly say that I’m stronger and more motivated than I’ve ever been, or thought I'd be.
The penultimate track of the album, ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ is a reminder that not only can age and experience not be trusted, but that maybe, maybe we’re all going to be okay. A lyric as simple as “Here’s the sun, it’s alright…here’s the moon, it’s alright” can seem life-affirming when you need it more than anything else. Another call for motivation comes in the opening lines, "Sleeping in is giving in, no matter what the time is." This is a mantra I follow to this day; I always feel a certain amount of pain when I see the Missus sleeping until noon, because I know that there will come a day when she wishes for those hours back.
Finally, we end with ‘In The Backseat,’ where Regine tells us that she’s “been learning to drive my whole life,” another reminder that despite the horrific trials and tribulations we face, we’re more ready for it than we give ourselves credit for. The loss. The love. The new beginnings. The tragic endings.
Funeral could not have shown up at a more perfect time in my life had I written it myself, and I know this. I won the lottery when it came to personal albums, and hey, the imagery is vague enough for all of us to find something in there that we can relate to (good musicians do that). The production is shitty. Win Butler couldn’t sing. The multi-instrumentation would be more impressive if they could play their instruments better. Doesn’t bother me none. Funeral got me through the roughest patch yet, introduced me to some amazing music and changed my life for the better.
Isn’t that exactly what music is supposed to do?
You Must Hear - 'Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)'
And with that, we're finished with the CDP's Top 250 Albums Of The Decade. Try as I may (and I tried), I couldn't deny Funeral the top spot. Sound off in the comments section, share with us your choice for Album Of The Decade and enjoy your weekend.
We return next week with the CDP YEAR IN REVIEW. See you then.
Monday, December 7The CDP's Top 250 Albums Of The Decade (30-11).
'Pardon the intrusion; could we leave before it gets bad?'
-Matt Pond PA, 'Halloween'
-Matt Pond PA, 'Halloween'
Welcome to Day Nine of The CDP's Top 250 Albums Of The Decade. Without exception*, I could listen to every album on today's list from beginning-to-end, and enjoy almost every second of it. It's relatively dominated by indie rock, with some hip-hop, electronic and instrumental albums thrown in for flavor. All amazing, though. Please enjoy.
The New Song
Mediocre At Best | MySpace Music Videos
30. Mediocre At Best – We’re Not Going To Make It
*Right off the bat, here's the exception. I don't know what you were going when you were 18 years old, but I was writing music, playing shows and touring the state with my three best friends. And yeah, the music was as middle-of-the-road as the name of our band would imply, but what's important is that is was probably the three best years of my life, and I'm really proud of that.
When We're Not Going To Make It was released at the beginning of 2001, I thought for sure that I would never create a better artistic achievement, and in some weird way, I think I was right so far. There's such a big difference between writing essays and publishing a book versus writing songs and releasing an album. The emotions, reactions, experiences and memories are polarizing; authors sit in quiet rooms, talk to nobody and read reviews and viewer mail in silence. Musicians experience everything immediately, on stage, with no backspace button. Now that I'm older, I favor the quiet over the terror or live performance, but not even selling a zillion books is a worthy substitute for one awesome show. Not even my favorite essays as an adult can match the feeling of being a kid, wrestling a song to the ground with your buddies and achieving that 'eureka!' moment where you all realize that you made it happen.
I recommend it to anyone reading that's under the age of 21; start a band, work your ass off, earn absolutely no money and make some memories that you'll cherish forever.
You Must Hear - 'The New Song'
29. Explosions In The Sky – The Earth Is Not A Cold, Dead Place
Listening to Explosions In The Sky can make eating a breakfast burrito or purchasing stamps feel like a life-changing act. How these four guys can make such beautiful, swelling, emotional soundtracks without a speck of lyrics is a feat in and of itself; allowing the listener to fill in the vocal gaps with whatever problems or situations they happen to be struggling with at any given time. Over the last few years, their music has been given new life by functioning as the unofficial house band for the brilliant TV show Friday Night Lights (while adding significant depth as well), and the fit is a match made in heart-on-your-sleeve Heaven.
You Must Hear - 'Your Hand In Mine'
28. Islands – Return To The Sea
Nick Diamonds cannot really sing, but hey, neither can Win Butler, and that gives each respective band their specific intangible. What Diamonds and his musically-trained buddies in Islands can do better than almost everyone though, is squeeze and stuff endless hooks, key changes and breakneck chord progressions into every single second of Return To The Sea. Just listening to 'Rough Gem,' probably their biggest single, boasts new layers and structuring to marvel after repeated listens, and it's probably their most straightforward and poppy song. Speaking of Arcade Fire, I'd say that Return To The Sea is like a more rambunctious Funeral; more humor, more chances to not take themselves so seriously. And ironically, this is what makes Islands succeed on such a smart level.
You Must Hear - 'Rough Gem'
27. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
Professional basketball has the 1992 Dream Team. Professional football has the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Indie Rock has Broken Social Scene. Assembling some of the best Canadian artists (19 at last count; the band doesn't like the term 'supergroup') led by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning (the Jordan and Pippen, or if you prefer, Malone and Stockton), You Forgot It In People throws absolutely everything at the wall, creating a cacophony of sound, thanks to the mad genius production of David Newfeld. Winning the 2003 Juno Award (a Canadian Grammy), People has already received tons of accolades and topped plenty of year and decade-ending countdowns, cementing its legacy amongst a major group of indie fans.
You Must Hear - 'Cause = Time'
26. The Benjamins – The Art Of Disappointment
Oh, The Benjamins. Milwaukee's very own. The wall of fuzzy, Weezered-out guitars. The drunken romantic lyrics. The PBR-swaying anthems. The annual reunion shows. When they signed on to Drive-Thru Records and released The Art Of Disappointment, most of us thought that the rest of the nation was going to discover what us Midwesterners already knew; The Benjamins were a damn-near-perfect rock band. However, the stress of touring and...who knows what else, caused the band to eventually dissolve for good, leaving behind nothing but sweaty memories and this one stand-out album. It always takes me back.
You Must Hear - 'Wonderful'
25. Communiqué – Poison Arrows
Rising up from the ashes of Lookout! Records veterans American Steel (before once again dissolving and re-forming as AmSteel), Communique rocked harder than any dance-rock band, and they made you dance harder than any rock band. Their songs catchy, dark and sexy; truly one of the best make-out albums of the last 10 years (do kids make out anymore, or do they just skip to getting pregnant behind the elementary school?). Lyrically, they found a way to break the norm of teenage angst with honest songs about longing and emotional distress, suicide and death. This is a synth-rock emo CD for adults who have perhaps grown out of the genre, or never even really liked it at all.
You Must Hear - 'Perfect Weapon'
24. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World
Screw Garden State; seriously. In a perfect world, James Mercer would be a billionaire, and Zach Goddamn Braff would be scrubbing his toilets with a toothbrush.
You Must Hear - 'Know Your Onion!'
23. Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun
Do me a favor and not tell me that Agaetis Byrjun was technically released in 1999; I don't want to hear it. If it wasn't going to be this album, it would have been ( ); you just cannot discount the impact, acclaim and beauty that these Icelandic weirdos brought into our black, little hearts.
You Must Hear - 'Svefn-g-englar'
22. Q And Not U - No Kill No Beep Beep
Q And Not U were one of those bands that could be easily hated. Dischord Records post-punk, mixed with nearly incoherent, Beck-esque lyrics and angular, jangly beats and riffs. However, like most good bands of that genre, once the switch was flipped-- due to a particular song, verse or even a specific lyric that hit you the right way, you fell in love with them for the long term. You instantly saw their genius, heard every note differently and understood exactly where they were coming from (even if they were admittedly coming from nowhere at all). As the years move on and we begin to distance ourselves from decent post-punk more and more (and more), No Kill No Beep Beep seems to sound more and more like an artifact from the future, instead of a shining example of our past.
You Must Hear - 'And The Washington Monument (Blinks) Goodnight'
21. Ultimate Fakebook - This Will Be Laughing Week
One the most pitch-perfect pop-rock bands of the entire decade, Ultimate Fakebook was a three-piece that reveled in 80's nostalgia, forgotten youth (their liner notes are laid out like a high school yearbook; not in an emo way, but in a dive bar alcoholic sort of way), and the girls that got away. Blasting through guitar-drenched power-pop, or slowing things down for a piano-driven ballad (about rejection at Prom, no less), the hooks are everywhere, the intelligence and humor hanging from every word, the message loud and clear.
Songs about the Star Wars prequels being a metaphor for ailing a crumbling relationship, the teen excitement of 'Electric Kissing Parties,' and the nostalgic love of your first (metal) band, Ultimate Fakebook could have been the Hold Steady of the new millennium had it not been for their eventual breakup years ago.
You Must Hear - 'Tell Me What You Want'
20. Matt Pond PA – Several Arrows Later
(Review By The Missus:)
This was Matt Pond’s sixth full length album, and arguably the most accessible album to date. The opening track 'Halloween' sets the tone for what is basically a non-stop, chamber-pop (barf, I hate that term!!!) masterpiece. Mr. Pond’s musical maturation is incredibly evident in the track 'Spring Provides,' which could almost be mistaken for a Peter Gabriel composition. Several Arrows Later is the perfect starting-point and introduction for those new to the Matt pond PA catalog.
You Must Hear - 'Several Arrows Later' or 'Halloween'
19. The Format – Dog Problems
There are some vocalists out there that could sing me the appetizer section off of a Chinese menu, and I'd adore every second of it. Up until 2002, Saves The Day's Chris Conley was the only current guy that this for me. After Dog Problems, Nate Ruess has taken his place. Dog Problems is frantic, whimsical, brutally emotional, indulgent in almost every major genre and could probably serve as the soundtrack of almost any Disney Movie from the 40's (provided it was about infidelity and divorce).
With each second that passes on Dog Problems, the unpredictability is replaced with a sense of wonder and exhilaration, as Ruess (backed by almost every musical instrument ever created) goes from a overwhelmingly happy young man to a self-destructive alcoholic within the space of a measure. Didn't think I would like this album, and it turned out to be one of my favorites.
You Must Hear - 'Dog Problems'
18. The Thermals – The Body, The Blood, The Machine
Are The Thermals the best rock band in America right now? It's certainly arguable, considering the decade they've had. All four of their major releases since 2003 have been incredible, with each featuring Hutch siren-wailing his existential/biblical/motivational/hopeless scribes over the noisiest guitar ever, and Kathy holding down the rhythm like an adorable, bopping metronome.
The Body, The Blood, The Machine showcases the (perceived) hypocrisy of the Bible, and certain groups of faux-Christians in general, all while maintaining a certain amount of respect and knowledge about religion by and large. Most rock bands wouldn't try this hard, put their asses so far on the line and somehow emerge with a hard-rocking, fun-as-hell and instantly memorable set of anthems and shout-along choruses, but hey, that's what The Thermals do best.
You Must Hear - 'A Pillar Of Salt'
17. Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins
(Review By The Missus:)
I personally think that Satanic Panic In The Attic should be higher up on this list when it comes to Of Montreal, but since this isn’t my list…well, you know. 'Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)' is a great track, but I can probably never, ever listen to it again thanks to Outback Steakhouse re-penning the lyrics and using it in their incredibly obnoxious ad campaign. In fact, you can thank Outback Steakhouse for giving Kevin Barnes the funds needed to effectively become crazy and probably ruin his own career; but I digress!
The first half of The Sundlandic Twins features some of of Montreal’s best electronic-pop tunes to date. 'So Begins our Alabee' is a ridiculously danceable, singable feel-good track that is only made better in that it was written for Kevin Barnes’ baby daughter. The fun highs of the first half of the album are in stark contrast to the dark, experimental turn the second half takes. Even with its inherent drudgery, humorous ditties like 'Oslo in the Summertime' still manage to make it out alive.
You Must Hear - 'So Begins Our Alabee'
16. Mew - …And The Glass-Handed Kites
I really don't know how they do it. I've always been of the opinion that there are two types of people that decide to make music. The first type makes music because they know how to do it (or can sort of learn), they like music, and they like the subsequent fame, attention and fortune that comes with it. This type of person encompasses approximately 99% of all musicians on Earth.
The second type of person makes music because they are a genius, can create something never seen or heard before, and see it as a language they speak better than any other ventures in their life. John Lennon was this kind of person. David Bowie is this kind of person. Mew is this kind of band. They do what you'd never think to do; create something you never thought you wanted to hear. Hit you with a melody or progression that changes your mood. That's what real artists do, and Mew, with their shimmering, heavenly shoegaze landscapes, succeeded brilliantly with ...And The Glass-Handed Kites.
You Must Hear - 'The Zookeeper's Boy'
15. The Hold Steady – Boys And Girls In America
I grew up in an unincorporated town called Larsen, and went to school in an unincorporated village called Winneconne ('Winnie-Connie'). One stop light, one Post Office, a dozen bars; Main Street, USA, as it were. Kids drank behind the hardware store. Took their bikes into the woods to make out. Destroyed their parents cars by doing donuts in the school parking lot. Climbed up the water tower and graffiti'd the crap out of it. Why? Because we were bored. Drugs, music, shitty cars and women of loose morals were the only thing that you had in a place like this, so you had to stick together and stave off death by monotony one night at a time. And the grown-ups? They were even worse.
The Hold Steady knows this (so does Chuck Klosterman), and with Boys And Girls In America, they paint the landscape of every unincorporated town in America with a brushstroke that reminds me of a drunk, passive-aggressive and depressed Norman Rockwell. Where they succeed, however, is in mining some sort of nostalgic enjoyment out of these memories that usually seem tragic in the light of day. Craig Finn makes you feel like he was at every party you ever went to as a teen, and wrote a kickass song about it just for you.
You Must Hear - 'Chips Ahoy!'
14. P.O.S. – Audition
The best hip-hop album I've heard all decade, and one of my favorites of all-time, Minneapolis' P.O.S. blends a Punk Rock attitude (not 'rap-rock,' mind you), furious anger at...well, just about everything, and the intelligence of one of the smartest young men in the game. Taking on the 2004 Presidential Election, his frustration at the bleak landscape of mainstream Rap and damn near anything else unfortunate to pop up in his crosshairs, what I love most about P.O.S. is his truly funny sense of humor, and the face that he's one of the nicest dudes on the planet.
If you have given up on hip-hop, think that all rappers are idiots (hey, some people do) or think that the message wouldn't resonate with you, Audition will be an awakening.
You Must Hear - 'Half-Cocked Concepts'
13. The Velvet Teen – Cum Laude!
(Review By The Missus:)
Cum Laude! is one of those albums that leaves you a little confused the first go-round, but makes your jaw drop open just a little more with every subsequent listen. It is nothing short of the polar opposite to the Velvet Teen’s previous album Elysium. Where Elysium has quiet beauty and confidence completely lacking guitars and heavy with strings, Cum Laude! is a dizzying assault of distorted vocals, bizarre noises, and chaotic drumming. Drummer Casey Deitz puts on a clinic of musicianship that is without exaggeration positively mind-blowing.
I was fortunate enough to see the Velvet Teen live a few years back when they were touring on Cum Laude!, and I can honestly say I have never seen something so phenomenal in my life. Casey Deitz was banging out rhythms that completely defy logic, Judah Nagler was screaming the vocals through a megaphone, and bassist Josh Staples somehow held the whole thing together. Seeing The Velvet Teen live made me realize that these guys don’t play music because they want to…they play because they HAVE to. It simply seeps out of them, and thank God they don’t try to stop it.
You Must Hear - 'Gyzmkid'
12. The Postal Service – Give Up
I've been making an argument for five years now, stating that Give Up was the single most influential indie album of the decade, in that it single-handedly changed the sound, mood, fashion and experimental nature of that particular genre. I defy you to find anything before 2001 that sounded like The Postal Service (new wave influences notwithstanding), and nowadays, you can't swing a dead cat without hearing some sort of minimalist electronic influence on some of your favorite modern emo and indie groups.
Now, I didn't put it at #12 because of my delusion that it was more important than Kid A. I put it here because it's incredible. Ben Gibbard has never sounded better. His lyrics have never been more pure. Death Cab never succeeded on this type of level. And what's funny is that The Postal Service didn't expect Give Up to take off like it did; they viewed it as a side project with no intentions of a tour or follow-up. However, the album hung around...and hung around...and built up steam on the magnitude of 'Such Great Heights,' probably one of the best and most beloved tracks of the entire decade. Give Up went on to become the sleeper hit of sleeper hits, selling over 900,000 copies and becoming Sub Pop's second-best selling record ever (only behind Nirvana's Bleach).
When I first got Give Up, I put it in my car stereo and proclaimed it to be 'good.' I listened and appreciated the tracks, which made way to an unhealthy infatuation with every bleep and bloop. It became my go-to album for drives to and from school. Eventually, I realized that I had been listening to it for pretty much a year straight, something I hadn't done since I snagged Saves The Day's Through Being Cool and made my friends listen to it eight thousand goddamn times.
Not too shabby for a side project.
You Must Hear - 'Such Great Heights'
11. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
The best-reviewed album of 2005. Pitchfork, Amazon, L.A. Weekly and Entertainment Weekly's 2005 Album of The Year. A critical, musical and artistic triumph.
Sufjan Stevens was sort of kidding when he said he was going to release 50 different albums for each of the 50 states, but after Michican and Illinois, we all really hoped he was serious (and not just because Wisconsin seemed like the only logical third record). It is what it is, a musical guided tour of Illinois, spotlighting such things as John Wayne Gacy and Frank Lloyd Wright, complete with any and every orchestral means necessary to get his point across.
Also, in a decade that may have seen the death of the 'album,' Illnois is an album. You need every scrap of footage in this collection in order to get the full spectrum, or you'd just be cheating yourself out of one of the most beautiful albums of the last ten years.
You Must Hear - 'Come On! Feel The Illinoise!'
Thanks so much for reading. The CDP Decade In Review continues Friday, as we finally dig into my selections for The Top 10 Albums Of The Decade. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your day.