Posted on June 6th, 2010 in Music

100 best albums of the aughts, part 5 (#60-51)

On to part 5 of my 100 best albums of the aughts list.

You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here and part 4 here.

Thurston Moore – Trees Outside the Academy (2007)
Ecstatic Peace
Indie’s ageless leader takes less chances now (the cost of growing older?) than back in the Sister days, which means safer songwriting…and a little less reward (no Tuff Gnarls or Teen Age Riots here). But while Moore’s newer songs may be less risqué in Thurstonian terms, that doesn’t mean he’s lost that coolly detached moxie we’ve all grown to love; he’s still cooler than we’ll ever be. And he knows it.
The Ponys – Turn The Lights Out (2006)
I love the black-leather nonchalance of Jered Gummere’s vocals; very chic, very chill (à la vintage BRMC). Turn the Lights Out has less bite than Celebration Castle (no Steve Albini), but I generally prefer the ultra-hip detachment here (e.g., ‘Exile On Main Street‘ and ‘Harakiri‘).
Portugal. The Man – Waiter: “You Vultures!” (2006)
Fearless Records
Portugal. The Man are one of the most remarkably prolific indie bands around right now (five LPs in five years, with several EPs and an acoustic LP interspersed throughout). The danger of being an experimental prog rock band can mean occasional failure (Church Mouth), but the highs (It’s Complicated Being a Wizard EP, Waiter: “You Vultures!”) are worth it. I also love this album cover.
No Knife – Riot For Romance (2002)
Better Looking
No Knife’s distinct San Diego flavor channels everything from Pinback (‘Feathers and Furs‘) to the early British post-punk or Wire and Gang of Four. Its best songs (the title track, ‘Flechette‘, ‘The Red Bedroom‘) even bring a little Fugazi to the table; bridging the gap between post-punk and hardcore. Riot For Romance was sadly the band’s final album, but it’s an excellent curtain call.
The Strokes – Is This It (2001)
Indie rock’s retro garage-rock phase was short-lived, but The Strokes were kings while it lasted. Later albums trended toward Julian Casablancas’s growing infatuation with synthpop, which just don’t compare to the blasé enthusiasm and memorable choruses found on this debut. (That may be unfair to say; a modern Is This It probably wouldn’t have the same impact as it did in 2001—but regardless, this record was perfect for its time.)
Killing Joke – Killing Joke (2003)
Zuma Recordings
Not to be confused with their 1980 self-titled album—which is an entirely different beast—this is Killing Joke’s leap into the post-metal arena hinted at on 1996’s Democracy. A six-year hiatus must have been what Jaz Coleman needed to complete the transition; he brings the crazy as usual, and Dave Grohl throws down hammer-and-guantlet tribal beats as guest-drummer. Killing Joke may be a different-sounding band than they were in the 80s, but their roots are alive, and Coleman seems as confident as ever.
Built To Spill – You In Reverse (2006)
Warner Bros.
You In Reverse is a bit more understated than other Built To Spill albums; Martsch is so on point, so often, there isn’t much time for the quivering, meandering Dinosaur Jr-isms that characterize so many of Built To Spill’s best songs. The guitar solos are still alive—this is Doug Martsch, after all—but they seem to have a more functional purpose here. Sadly, the album cover is incomprehensibly awful.
The Wrens – The Meadowlands (2003)
Absolutely Kosher
The Wrens seem to come and go Salinger-style—armed with something mind-blowing whenever they reappear. I love the dirty-folk feel of this record—a toxic blend of Jersey Turnpike Pollution and maudlin folk-pop (perfect for cool October afternoons). Boozy epics like ‘Everyone Choose Sides‘ and ‘Boys, You Won’t‘ are captivating, transfixing.
Sparklehorse – It’s A Wonderful Life (2001)
[RIP] Mark Linkous delivers the standard amalgam of hyper-surrealist bedroom pop—complete with guest-spots from P.J. Harvey, Tom Waits, Dave Fridmann, et al. Linkous’s already somber music is even more gloomy in retrospect, giving this record a haunting—even disturbing—vibe. The stunning title track is among the best songs Linkous has ever written.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! (2009)
I wouldn’t say Karen O. has necessarily gotten softer with age, but her recent material is definitely (defiantly?) less abrasive than her art-punk roots would have predicted. With Karen, though, that’s not a bad thing; her Patty Smith-influenced, seXXX-charged vocals are a perfect fit for Nick Zinner’s churning guitar and the band’s newfound taste for new-wavy synth riffs. One of my all-time favorite album covers.

3 Responses to '100 best albums of the aughts, part 5 (#60-51)'

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    on June 6th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

  1. Visker! said,

    Hooray for the Wrens and Portugal. The Man! I think Waiter, You Vultures might make my top 100 if I give it a couple more months to fully sink in.

    However, “blase enthusiasm”? Is that like military intelligence? Also, it’s hard to estimate the impact that Is This It would have today because so much of indie rock was changed because of it. i don’t think it is possible to evaluate how a game changing album would be received at a later time because we don’t know how music would have progressed in the subsequent years. If the Beatles just started now, not in the 60s, what would the music scene look like now? Would they be as influential? I doubt it. Great albums are almost always a confluence of the actual album and the state of music when the album was released.

  2. on June 10th, 2010 at 2:31 pm

  3. Sebastian said,

    Could never get into that Built to Spill album. First track’s great, past that meh.

    That Killing Joke album is excellent. I tend to forget about it. I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to Hosannas.

  4. on June 13th, 2010 at 12:16 am

  5. […] You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here and part 5 here. […]

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