A Slice of Fried Gold

Favorite Albums of the Decade: 30-21

Friday, October 2, 2009
Day 3 of my favorite albums of the decade is here, with the final 30 coming in the next three days. Before we start that, a recap of the list so far (you can see 50 through 41 here and 40 through 31 here):

50. Andrew WK - I Get Wet
49. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike
48. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire
47. Badly Drawn Boy - About a Boy Soundtrack
46. Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
45. M.I.A. - Kala
44. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
43. Hot Hot Heat - Elevator
42. The Stills - Without Feathers
41. Cake - Comfort Eagle
40. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
39. The Apples in Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder
38. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
37. The 88 - Over and Over
36. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
35. Muse - Absolution
34. Cursive - The Ugly Organ
33. Spoon - Gimme Fiction
32. Phantom Planet - The Guest
31. Air - Talkie Walkie

30. Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground - Self Titled (2008)

Recommended Track: Simon Courage Flees the Coop

Why I Love It: Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground rose from the ashes from my once upon a time favorite band Gatsby's American Dream, as it was fronted by one time Gatsby's bassist Kirk Huffman and also featured keyboardist Kyle O'Quinn, yet it did not feature really any of the technical rock brilliance that made Gatsby's such a great band. This band was an entirely different animal, channeling Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band and psychedelia into modern day indie rock to create a sound that was altogether unique and original in its own right. Their self titled debut featured a dense and beautiful instrumental sound (it better, given the fact they have roughly 1/5th the population of Washington state in their band) and Huffman's smooth vocals, and it blew me away. It maintains itself as one of the most obscure of gems from this decade, but I think one day they'll find their audience outside of the Pacific Northwest.

29. Gorillaz - Self Titled (2001)

Recommended Track: Slow Country

Why I Love It: This album reminds me of driving around in high school with my best friends, being alternately entertained by their more popular songs such as "Clint Eastwood" or "19-2000" while marveling in the creepy cool of "M1A1" or the monstrous relaxation powers of "Slow Country." This album could easily have been just a gimmick (it's a band fronted four cartoon characters!), but heavily featured on this album is all of Damon Albarn's musical prowess and Dan the Automator's incredible production. Individually, their powers would assure a project success. Together? They make something special, as this album clearly demonstrated.

28. Passion Pit - Manners (2009)

Recommended Track: The Reeling

Why I Love It: This album only came out this year, but any album that cause me to immediately text my friend and say "it's like they made this album specifically for me!" has to be a strong contender for one of my favorite albums. This album is all soaring vocals, delicious synth, clap along beats, and unforgettable hooks, and really, that's about as good of a recipe for "David music" that you could possibly come up with. Perpetually exciting, energetic, and dance party inducing, this album is assured a place in my rotation well into the next decade.

27. Radiohead - Kid A (2000)

Recommended Track: Everything In Its Right Place

Why I Love It: After seeing massive success with The Bends and OK Computer, Radiohead effectively abandoned their more straightforward rock sound to adopt the sound of the future. More keyboards, more electronic production, more post-modern glances at what the future of music could be like. Before this album, no one had so successfully adopted this type of production and such intense focus on textures and depth of sound, and it is something that has obviously affected many artists since. Even without the pioneer nature of this album, this is one that is filled with every bit of the Radiohead songwriting talent that we'd come to expect, and in many ways surpassed even OK Computer as Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood and the rest clearly were not fearful to adventure as far as their sound could take them on this album. Completely brilliant, and a great marker for where music was going to go in the decade that followed it.

Bonus points for "Everything in its Right Place" being one of the single coolest performances of any song I've ever seen live. When I saw them, they closed their encore with it and it ended up being Jonny Greenwood with a series of pedals remixing the song live with all of the instruments looped through and controlled by him. Brilliant.

26. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (2006)

Recommended Track: Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)

Why I Love It: Zach Condon is a talent that is about as surprising as you can find. Here is this 20 year old kid from Albequerque who releases an indie rock album positively buried in Balkan musical influences in which he plays anything you can think of: guitar, accordion, trumpet, mandolin, ukulele...everything. This kid is just massively talented. Not only that, but he is blessed with one of the most unique voices in music today and a nearly unparalleled songwriting ability. This was his stunning first release and it is as filled with sweeping emotions that you would expect from someone of his age. The fact that he managed to imbue it with such genuine feeling and such a unique sound really solidifies him as one of the most exciting young talents in music today.

25. Rilo Kiley - The Execution of All Things (2002)

Recommended Track: My Slumbering Heart

Why I Love It: "You don't like girls!" my mom says hysterically. We're talking about music and how I'm not a big fan of female lead singers, but her phrasing leaves something to desire. It turns out that I actually like both girls (in general) and girls (lead singer varieties). Especially when it comes to Jenny Lewis, the lead singer of Rilo Kiley, who combines with guitarist and occasional singer Blake Sennett to form one of the best songwriting duos in music (as long as it isn't on Under the Blacklight). This album finds them at their best, pairing occasionally dark subject matters with atypically sunny presentation, as they brilliantly hide the lyrical weight in jangly guitars and simple and beautiful melodies created by Lewis. Not bad from the kids from Troop Beverly Hills and Salute Your Shorts.

24. Portugal. The Man - The Satanic Satanists (2009)

Recommended Track: The Home

Why I Love It: Portugal. The Man automatically get bonus points for being from Alaska, but really, that doesn't matter when it comes to this album. While previous albums featured elements of brilliance but ultimately fell off because a few tracks that were a bit weaker or because they simply did not stand up to the test of time as well, this one combined all of the strengths of their first three albums and removed the negatives. It's as if John Gourley and his brethren made a pros and cons list of their sound and simply crossed off the cons. This album highlights Gourley's beautiful vocals, which occasionally touch on falsetto but never egregiously so. They do this by focusing their sound more towards a pop influenced version of their funk groove sound, targeting melody and rhythm over their more surprising sound of the past.

Some would say it's less challenging than their older albums, I'd say it is similar to what Animal Collective did with Merriweather Post Pavilion: the distillation of their sound to focus on the elements that work the best. After many spins of this album, it's hard to argue that their decision was the wrong one.

23. The Thermals - Now We Can See (2009)

Recommended Track: How We Fade

Why I Love It: The Thermals have long been a band that I've enjoyed but never one where I ever sat down with an album, listened to it all the way through and thought "man, I loved every second of that." Well, that is until this album, in which we found them tightening up their sound a bit and focusing more on production and songwriting. Tying into a theme that Hutch himself described as "The Thermals Guide to Better Dying" (or at least I coerced him into that one), this album packs their typical lyrical power into an album full of tracks that rival the power of personal favorite "Returning from the Fold" (from their album The Body, The Blood, The Machine). It's like a greatest hits all on one new album from of the Pacific Northwest's best bands.

22. The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002)

Recommended Track: In the Morning of the Magicians

Why I Love It: The Flaming Lips are really a magical band. There are not a lot of other ways to describe them, as their sound is so unique and uplifting and spiritual in ways that typical phrasing does not describe them that well. This album finds Wayne Coyne and the rest harnessing their sound into their most infectious and often beautiful album yet, creating the theme song of Oklahoma and my life simultaneously. This album is almost the musical manifestation of John Michael Higgins character on Community tonight, as if with every passing track Coyne is telling us to live life to its fullest. When I'm listening to this album, I don't really see any reason why that isn't possible.

21. The Killers - Hot Fuss (2004)

Recommended Track: All These Things That I've Done

Why I Love It: The Killers?! What are they doing here?! I must have made a mistake! Okay, maybe I didn't. Under the bravado, before the terrible follow up albums, and even if you say they're unoriginal and deriviative, I will say this: they write some damn catchy tunes. This album was entrenched in my CD player for quite some time and still is an album that can get me to effortlessly sing along to in no time flat. Sure, they may be all of the negative things you think they are, but it is impossible to deny that this album is infectious beyond words and possibly the single best popular album to be released this decade.


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