Wednesday, December 2

The CDP's Top 250 Albums Of The Decade (50-31).

'This is the new science.'

Welcome back to The CDP's Top 250 Albums Of The Decade, brought to you by Jameson whiskey, Honey-Nut Cheerio's and Nutella. Please enjoy as we break into the Top 50.

50. Nightmare Of You – Nightmare Of You

Well-crafted as any indie rock album this decade, the debut from Nightmare Of You showcases razor-sharp lyricism with underplayed (yet beautiful) musicianship. Not necessarily a sleeper album by any regards, but certainly an effort that should have been taken in by a much wider audience. Why these guys didn't end up on the radio alongside of Death Cab and The Shins is still beyond me.

You Must Hear - 'My Name Is Trouble'

49. The Velvet Teen – Elysium

Judah Nagler is a genius. Not 'genius' in that I dig the man's music and think he's a neat guy (I do), but 'genius' in that I still cannot fathom how such ideas could have been concocted inside his brainball. Written, recorded and produced in the dude's bedroom with no guitars whatsoever, he manages to pull off something beautiful, foreign, swelling and magnificent. Again, this is another situation where Nagler deserves to take his seat right next to indie royalty, but for whatever reason, continues to hole himself up somewhere alone, creating new and wonderful masterpieces every few years. And hey, whatever keeps the guy busy.

You Must Hear - 'Poor Celine'

48. Polysics – Hey! Bob! My Friend!

Hey! Bob! My Friend! was my first official experience with Polysics, a band that I've proclaimed as 'Best In The World' for at least six years now. While this album is mixed with so much high end that your ears begin to spurt blood merely seconds after hitting the 'Play' button, it's by far their most spastic, distorted, wild and 'punk-sounding' album. More recent efforts have seen our favorite J-Pop quartet find a more polished and...dare I say 'mainstream' sound...but this is not necessarily a bad thing. When I want a screeching, disjointed, catchy and uniquely Japanese assault on my temporal lobe, however, I always turn to this album.

You Must Hear - 'Hot Stuff'

47. The Decemberists – Picaresque

I'm a guy that usually finds himself boiling bands down to various sub-genres and parallel influences in an attempt to describe them to others, and I almost always hate myself for doing so. I feel it's a disservice to the originality of each band, yet it seems to be a nearly universal way of letting someone else know what you're into. That being said, I never quite understood what 'Chamber Pop' meant, but I know for certain that The Decemberists embody it. Songwriter extraordinaire Colin Meloy puts on his Captain's hat, sets sail for 300 years ago, and is nice enough to take us with, provided we're wearing our best suit or frilliest dress.

You Must Hear - 'We Both Go Down Together'

46. Mando Diao – Hurricane Bar

I don't know what the Swedish rock bands are listening to over there, but they always seem to produce either the catchiest rock & roll around, or the blackest metal on Earth. In Mando Diao's case, they put together a beginning-to-end hookfest with Hurricane Bar, boasting enough earworms and sing-alongs to keep you happy for months. I always get really excited when I dig into a new album and start realizing that there will be no skipping over tracks necessary; every track is awesome. With Hurricane Bar, this is a guarantee.

You Must Hear - 'You Can't Steal My Love'

45. Cursive – The Ugly Organ

Back to that whole 'Chamber Pop' thing. Tim Kasher (the guy that, for better or for worse, taught Conor Oberst how to play guitar) has always been a hit-or-miss guy with me, but hit everything perfectly with The Ugly Organ, easily Cursive's best total work. With seething anger, bi-polar orchestral arrangements (those cellos kick ass) and the sound of a man on the verge of a complete psychological breakdown, The Ugly Organ is vibrant, breathtaking and mad as hell.

You Must Hear - 'Art Is Hard'

44. Yesterday’s Kids – Can’t Hear Nothin’

McCartney & Lennon. Plant & Page. Hall & Oates. Perkins & Schweiger? After the local and national success of the Fox Valley's very own Yesterday's Kids' debut album, we were all more than ready for these guys to hit the ground running with Album #2, take the world by storm and make us all proud. What we got was Can't Hear Nothin', and it kicked ass. Lookout! Records-influenced rock with touches of Springsteen and the Beach Boys, it showed us exactly what we could expect out of these guys in the future (they eventually went on to lead their own separate groups, in what I can only surmise was an amicable separation). Last I saw, Justin Perkins was playing bass for Screeching Weasel, which is about the coolest thing I can possibly think of right now. Full disclosure, Mr. Perkins also produced my band's debut album, which means that if he shot my mom in the face, I'd still cry at his execution.

You Must Hear - '(Ode To) Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet'

43. IfIHadAHiFi – Ones And Zeros

So yeah, I was in a little ska/punk band from 2000-2002 up in the Fox Valley, and at that time, the best (and pretty much only) place to cut your teeth on stage (and face asinine hipster criticisms) was Green Bay's Concert Cafe (later re-named Rock & Roll High School). Most of the bands that played the Cafe sounded identical (and considering that most bands were merely a revolving door of the same 10 musicians, this made perfect sense); Ramones-influenced stuff, straight-up punk rock and some occasional blues-influenced rock.

However, the first night I saw IfIHadAHifi, I knew that the paradigm was about to shift. Wearing their Devo/Polysics/Brainiac influences on their sleeves, the HiFi were unapologetically nerdy (songs are normally about astronomy, robots or other post-apocalyptic characters), unapologetically fringe (initially, it seemed as if the only goal was to make as much noise and ruckus as possible, eventually grooving into an ass-shaking juggernaut with slightly less anarchic tendencies), and unapologetically insane (every HiFi live show was memorable for some borderline-dangerous reason). Amongst a sea of bullshit egos, attitudes and a fear of venturing outside of only a few core influences, IfIHadAHiFi, even in their controlled frenzy, looked like they were actually trying, and this has to be the reason they're pretty much the only Cafe-era band that's still tearing up stages to this day.

You Must Hear - '(This Is) The New Science'

42. Modest Mouse – The Moon And Antarctica

I'm going to let the professional critics sway you on this one:

"Pitchfork Media ranked the album as the third best album of 2000, trailing Kid A by Radiohead and Agaetis Byrjun by Sigur Ros. In February 2005, Pitchfork named it the seventh best album of the years 2000 through 2004. The Moon & Antarctica was voted the sixth best album of the decade by Pitchfork in October 2009. In 2008, betterPropaganda ranked the album number 23 in their Top 100 Albums of the 2000s. The album ranked number 37 in Entertainment Weekly's "The New Classics," a list of the hundred best albums from 1983-2008. In March 2009, the album was certified gold by the RIAA in the United States."

And leave you with this:

Well, God sayin' somethin', but he didn't mean it
Everyone's life ends, but no one ever completes it

Dry or wet ice, they both melt and you're equally cheated
Well, it took a lot of work to be the ass that I am

And I'm really damn sure that anyone can, equally easily f**k you over

I'm sure you'll tell me you got nothin' to say

But our voices shook hands the other day

If you can't see the thin air then what the hells in your way?

You Must Hear - '3rd Planet'

41. The Good Life – Album Of The Year

Tim Kasher's solo project (and calendar-themed concept album), Album Of The Year covers the spark and bloom of new love, followed by the courtship, pain and inevitable heartbreak. Less Chamber-Poppy and more Bright Eyes-songwritery (in a good way), Album Of The Year showcases Kasher's booze-soaked lyrics, smoke-filled barrooms and revolving door of failed relationships. This is an album I seem to come back to every year, and each time, I'm hooked.

You Must Hear - 'Album Of The Year'

40. Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s – The Dust Of Retreat

I'm going to let Cargirl handle this one:

"This album is not the most transforming for me, it did not save my life, it did not help me through any sad times or see me through any happy ones. But the first time I heard it, this album engraved in my brain a photograph of where I was, who I was and what was happening to me. Every time since has been exactly the same: after the opening chords I am inescapably pulled into the magnificent world which this album so delicately weaves. Aided by Richard Edwards’ apathetic vocals and the chilling feeling of being deep inside the world of a Wes Anderson film, the first track has the unrelenting ability to sink me from absolutely any mood down into the vulnerable, cold feeling of nihilism and heartbreak. After the opening credits comes the proverbial overture to the journey of the next 40 minutes. And then comes the story. The Dust of Retreat is a story of love, self-destruction, apathy, of pain and numbness and of moving on—and it’s told over trippy keyboards, blaring trumpets and an ever-refreshing assortment of percussion. The album closes and the story ends with an eerily uplifting song that instills in you a feeling which can only be compared to watching snow fall untouched in the dead of night."


You Must Hear - 'Skeleton Key'

39. The Weakerthans – Left And Leaving

It's no secret that The Weakerthans are on a very short list of my favorite bands of the last 10 years. The lyrics, music, message, tone, emotion and overall mood of John K. Samson's art are second-to-none in many regards. The dark humor. The anxiety and illness. The depression of watching the last few leaves of Summer falling off of every tree in the city; it's all there. But it's not necessarily sad. In fact, The Weakerthans are one of the most uplifting and overall positive bands I've ever heard. Flat out, I think that listening to The Weakerthans would give you more insight as to how I operate as a person. Jury's still out if you care; just throwing it out there.

You Must Hear - 'Aside'

38. Girl Talk – Feed The Animals

Mash-up album of the decade. Redefined a genre. Solidified the art form. Took every hook, line, beat and riff from every decent (and terrible) track over the last 30 years, and created the jam album of 2008. Any student of pop music (and despite these rushed reviews, I really am) will probably listen to Feed The Animals with wide-eyed wonder, beaming with respect and recognition at each new twist and turn that Greg Gillis whips up.

You Must Hear - 'Here's The Thing'

37. Less Than Jake – Anthem

If this were a list of my 250 favorite albums of the 90's, I'd put Less Than Jake's Hello Rockview in the Top 5, without a doubt. Less Than Jake has just always been one of those bands that I followed, supported, defended and attached a big part of my personality to. The follow-up to Hello Rockview, Borders & Boundaries, was overall good but tepid when it came to fan response. Anthem, however, was a return to form for the Gainesville ska-punk masters. Hard where it needed to be, nostalgic where it needed to be, and mainstream where it needed to be, Anthem was easily the best LTJ album of the decade (they released four in the 00's), and on par with their earlier classics when it comes to some of their best tracks.

You Must Hear - 'Look What Happened'

36. Streetlight Manifesto – Everything Goes Numb

Ska's Third Wave died out several years ago, but the sound and the bands (for the most part) haven't gone anywhere. Arguably, we saw the uprising of the best 'third-wave' band of all-time when Streetlight Manifesto formed from the (proverbial) ashes of Catch-22 in 2002. The horns are brick-solid, the rhythm section tighter and more musically inclined than just about any other, in any genre. The choruses anthemic each and every time. And the rapid-fire lyrics of Thomas Kalnoky driving us through Hemmingway-esque six-minute tracks like they were 45 seconds. Hey, ska isn't for everyone, but good bands are good bands, and Everything Goes Numb is an absolutely killer album that just might turn you onto a sub-genre you never thought you'd dig.

You Must Hear - 'A Better Place, A Better Time'

35. Nada Surf – Let Go

What a difference a decade makes. In the mid-90's, Nada Surf was relegated to 'Buzz Clip' status on MTV's Alternative Nation (I miss you, Kennedy!), on the strength of their (at that time) one-hit-wonder, 'Popular.' A few years later, they re-focused, re-ignited their sound and re-invented their following around some truly beautiful indie songwriting. In 2009, almost nobody remembers 'Popular,' which is something to be said, as most bands never get the chance to start over again. Releasing three great albums this decade (with Let Go being the best of the bunch) is amazing enough, but the up-down-up tale of Nada Surf is worth noting as well.

You Must Hear - 'Killian's Red'

34. Travis – The Invisible Band

If the Missus created her own 'Best Of The Decade' list, I'd bet that The Invisible Band would make the Top 3 or 5. Since this is my list, however, it's at #34, but I'll also take this moment to publicly chastise each and every American that decided to make Coldplay a more popular band than Travis. You screwed up; plain and simple. Across the board, at every turn and at every stoplight, Travis is a superior freaking band. You really disappoint me sometimes, kids.

You Must Hear - 'Side'

33. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible

Ten years from now, I may decide that Neon Bible was a better Arcade Fire album than Funeral. From a production standpoint? Absolutely. From a focused musical sense? Perhaps. From an overall mood and feel? It's debatable. Quite frankly, the fact that their post-Funeral effort turned out this wonderfully is a triumph in and of itself. When I first heard 'Intervention' a few months before the album was released, my jaw hit the ground. "Holy shit; they're going to do it again!" Well...maybe they did and maybe they didn't (Neon Bible was my 2007 Album Of The Year, after all), but it's an undeniably good album that I probably would have ranked even higher if I didn't think that people would be such dicks about it.

You Must Hear - 'Intervention'

32. Green Day – Warning

Contrary to popular belief, Green Day did release a good album this decade! Their post-Nimrod effort was mellower, more acoustically-minded and featured a lot of elements we would come to know as the Second Stage of their career began. At first, I hated it. This was my favorite band, after all; how dare they mess with success, and at the same time, strip me of the identity I had so carefully crafted around their snotty angst and fury?

What we got was (I guess) a more 'mature-sounding' band with significantly much less to bitch about (I sometimes wish that Billie Jo Armstrong would have never gotten married, so he would write songs about unrequited love forever), and even though it didn't go platinum for several years after its release, it's one of those Green Day albums you can rediscover and fall in love with.

You Must Hear - 'Church On Sunday'

31. Big, Big Furnace - Soundtrack To A Midwestern Winter

I think these guys were from the Milwaukee area; an emo quartet with equal parts humor, self-deprecation, emotion, longing and truly beautiful songwriting. They broke up before I ever had the chance to see them live, but I had gotten my hands on Soundtrack To A Midwestern Winter shortly after it was released in 2001, and it absolutely became my own. Literally nobody else that I knew owned this album, so I was responsible for turning people on to it and converting friends on every long Winter drive around my small, unincorporated town (when you live in the middle of nowhere, those drives are always long).

It was not groundbreaking. Had it been released a week ago, I would have ignored it completely. But it was my own. The album sounded like Winter, too. The typical tracks about unrequited love, passing glances to attractive strangers and late-night conversations were all set to a Wintery backdrop (there's even a song about sledding!). To this day (and probably forever), I always bust out Soundtrack To A Midwestern Winter on the night of the first snowfall, take a drive around and play this baby from beginning to end, remembering what the world was like in Winter of 2001 (for me, it was Heaven). And if I can get one other person to do the same, that would pretty much make this entire list worth it.

You Must Hear - 'A Midwestern Winter'

Thanks so much for reading. The CDP Decade In Review takes the rest of the week off, as we begin to dig into the Top 30 Albums Of The Decade on Monday. Sound off in the comments section and enjoy your weekend.

Aw, shucks. Thanks for the shout-out.
You mentioned the Arcade Fire. As they say in Fark-land...I'll get the popcorn!

PS - Ska had a third wave? I miss the Specials.
Borders & Boundaries trumps Anthem in my humble opinion, though I will allow that the latter's version of "Look What Happened" wins by a nose. If I had to pick a favorite LTJ song it would come down to a three-way tie between "Scott Farcas," "Sugar In Your Gas Tank" and "Look What Happened."

It took me a while to figure out about Streetlight, since I stopped following Catch-22 after Thomas left and I didn't really keep up on the scene. Listening to "Everything Goes Numb" and "Somewhere In The Between" make me feel young again. The whole Third Wave ska craze did get me to go back and check out a lot of older bands. I like the Specials, the Madness and the like, but they'll never displace LTJ, the Bosstones and Streetlight for me.
I am really enjoying the list, and it makes me wonder what my list would be like if I actually had the patience to sit down and do one. Hmmm... maybe this weekend...

Anyways, The Weakerthans' Left and Leaving and Green Day's Warning would be in my top 10 of the 2000s. I think Warning is Green Day's best album, and is incredibly underrated for the quality of the songs on the album. "Church on Sunday," "Castaway," "Deadbeat Holiday," and my personal favorite "Macy's Day Parade." These all compare FAVORABLY to any other songwriting done by Green Day.

The Weakerthans are one of those bands that for me released a particular album at a particular time in my life. Left and Leaving is that album. Such great songwriting on that album.

wallrock--I would have to include "Automatic" and "Al's War" on any list of top LTJ songs. "Sugar in Your Gas Tank" would be on mine as well.
CARGIRL - No problem.

SMEDDLES - The Specials are great. Now that I'm older, I give the two-tone stuff more of a chance, but I'm always a Punk Rock guy.

WALLROCK - I agree; the second version of 'Look What Happened' was just fantastic. It actually made me re-visit (and subsequently re-enjoy) Borders & Boundaries.

MAB - Thanks for the props; I appreciate that a bunch.

If you like The Weakerthans, I'll have you know that they have another album in my countdown that hasn't shown up yet...

And yeah, 'Al's War' just kills me every time.
Dude...must I slap you around? The two-tone stuff emerged from the punk movement in London influenced by the rude boys from Jamaica that had the REAL goods, like the real records from Prince Buster. That's why the Clash covered "Police & Thieves" and wrote "White Man In Hammersmith Palais". The Selecter, The Specials, Madness and the English Beat emerged from that amalgamation in the late 70's. Of course, by that time, ska evolved into rocksteady and reggae and the early ska performers were entrenched in those genres.

I think the Bosstones and Rancid, amongst others, captured the Clash's tributes but not the true heart and soul of the real ska. And now, the third wave (or fourth wave or whatever) builds from that, distancing it from the true source.

I find that a 'ska band' is limiting - it inhibits artistic development as it seems to be a very rigid format. Which is why I think rocksteady and reggae formed eventually, and that Madness and the English Beat and the Specials (kind of) moved away from ska.

But that's my nickel and I'm here in Nebraska hogging yer comments, so I'll quit. Just remember, it's music, good tunes, that matters, no matter what genre.
I know what you're saying; I just meant that I usually go for the harder, more uptempo stuff. What attracted me to the third wave was the modern punk influence. I think this also came around during that Swing revival that seems so silly in retrospect, but was actually sort of cool at the time.
I discovered The Decemberists really late, and for some reason find "The Rake" an incredibly compelling (and equally disturbing) little song. I have a Pandora station that I've manipulated so that it will play pretty much every song by The Weakerthans and The Decemberists and is only occassionally broken up by other artists.
BRANDY - That sounds like an awesome station; reminds me of Autumn.

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