A Mess of Ridiculously Good Albums that Defined the Naughts (for Me, Anyway)

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24. Jan. 2010, 3:39

(I should note this was going to be a "Tennish" list, but it... sorta grew)

The Clientele - Suburban Light and The Violet Hour
The Clientele might actually be my favourite band. At least, they are whom I listen to the most on any given day. At the moment, I probably listen to at least one song by them on a daily basis. I likely listen to a whole album once every three days at the most. And although they have released other wonderful albums this decade, the early collections of Suburban Light and The Violet Hour--along with the Lost Weekend EP that contains the song "Emptily Through Holloway" which strongly influenced my decision to live where I do now in London--represent The Clientele at their lonely, dreamy, melancholy best.

Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light
Music this heart-wrenchingly beautiful can only be the work of angels. Antony Hegarty is a seraphim among us. Yep, I think so.

The National - Boxer and Alligator
The National released some amazing albums, yeah? I tend to listen to Alligator in bits and pieces, and Boxer all the way through. Don't know why that is. Was going to say that it's because Boxer is more consistent, which may be true. Not necessarily consistently good, but I think the stories unfolded in Boxer tend to be a bit more similar. But another factor in why I tend to take Alligator in piecemeal is because some of the songs can really grab you unexpectedly.

Beirut - Gulag Orkestar, Lon Gisland EP and The Flying Club Cup
Zach Condon, this Arizona prodigy, created music your great-grandpa from the old country would be wistful over. Gulag Orkestar was magnificent. The Flying Club Cup is overwhelmingly brilliant. Poor guy has a lot to live up to now. But I think he can handle it. Did you hear "Mimizan" off off Dark Was the Night? How cute was that?

Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
The Midnight Organ Fight is so visceral, it may generate catharsis no matter how long ago you broke up with so-and-so. There should be a kit for break-ups, and I propose that it include a bottle of Hendrick's gin or comparable whiskey, a box of tissues, a pillow for periodically punching or screaming into and this album. Maybe some dishes to break as well.

If you have no emotions to let loose, you might not get Frightened Rabbit. And, for that matter, you're probably not very fun to hang out with.

Jens Lekman - Oh You're So Silent Jens
Jens Lekman is my generation's Jonathan Richman. The combination of shy awkwardness, quirky lyrics and cute candor not only makes an excellent collection of songs, but repeated listening to Jens Lekman could result in you actually thinking you can meet men this sweet and sincere. Well, you can't. Well, maybe you can, but...

On a vaguely-related topic, you know I've already started to spot Valentine's Day promotions here? Worst holiday ever. It's all about the slaughter of flowers that were perfectly fine in the ground, stupid balloons and obnoxious capitalist pressure to buy your girlfriend jewellery. The only thing good about Valentine's is the chocolate that goes on sale afterwards.

Aesop Rock - Labor Days and None Shall Pass
This may seem like some token appeasement to the hip-hop deities that first spawned my audiophilia, of whom I've neglected for much of the Naughts, but no, seriously, Aesop Rock, he wins. I can't really comment on Bazooka Tooth, because I own it in a format I wasn't really able to play conveniently (oh, vinyl...). But Labor Days and None Shall Pass are two amazing pieces of work. More like this, and I just might get back into hip-hop again.

Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights
No one will admit to it now, but Interpol is one of the reasons why a faction of indie kids want to move to New York. Languid, dreamy and droll, yet imbibed with a sort of melancholy urgency, Turn on the Bright Lights evokes a New York City that's enshrouded in darkness and steeped in cool. It's still an album I have on my iPod, even though their work, for me, has been disappointing since.

Grizzly Bear - Horn Of Plenty
Horn of Plenty is more of a feeling or mood than music to listen to. So many good songs on this one. "Deep Sea Diver" is just lovely. In comparison, Veckatimest seems so much brighter than Horn of Plenty, which seems to be a more inward, intimate piece of work. I like Veckatimest very much--it's often good to listen to while moving around the city. Horn of Plenty, on the other hand, is what to hear at the end of the day, at home or somewhere cozy, with a cup of tea handy as you gaze out the window. Or something.

Bjork - Vespertine
Best listened to under blankets with someone you're sweetly smitten with.

The Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave
Perfection.

The Faint - Danse MacAbre
Fuck, I didn't put this on my hard drive before I moved?! I hadn't thought about this album in ages, but now that I have, I realise how incredibly vital this album is. Man, "Worked Up So Sexual" was the jam when I moved back to Orlando in 2003. I danced the hell out of that song in the living room.

Sol Seppy - The Bells of 12
I'm perplexed as to why Sol Seppy isn't more popular. The Bells of 12 (or, as my iTunes puts it, 1 2) is beautiful and lovely and dreamy and great. I love this album to bits and bits.

Come on! There's a cute girl on the cover of the album! In a short dress! What more do you people want?

Broadcast - Haha Sound and Tender Buttons
I remember catching "Pendulum" from Haha Sound on WPRK. The crack of the drums, followed by the synth that sounds like some sort of sound emitted from a UFO at the beginning of the song was curious, and the sweet-yet-eerie vocal delivery was even curiouser. "Pendulum" reminded me of The Silver Apples in its execution, and remains one of my favourite songs off an album that was quite original, yet familiar in its homages to 1960s pop music and psychedelica.

So I was very excited when Tender Buttons came out, and it's still a fave, despite the time when one of my old roommates became obsessed with the album and he played it constantly. Yeah, still didn't kill it for me. "Black Cat" and "America's Boy" are still my jams.

Blockhead - Music By Cavelight
Well done, Tony1er. You did good with Uncle Tony's Coloring Book, too. Keep it up.

The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters and Forget the Night Ahead
So, when thinking of music out of Scotland, people tend to think of Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura. Which is fine. But Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad have been the ones I've been associating with the land that is, now, directly north of me. Fourteen Autumns and the recently-released Forget the Night Ahead are both rip-your-brains-out good, but perhaps The Twilight Sad are an acquired taste. Or perhaps one just has to be odd enough to appreciate disturbing imagery coupled with a gripping ferocity unleashed in a borderline violent manner.

Oh, and hot Scottish accents! *swoon!*

But yeah, seriously, The Twilight Sad should be in your collection if you like music that sticks a knife in your chest.

Radiohead - Kid A and In Rainbows
I like Radiohead. Who doesn't? Oh yeah? You're lying. Either that, or you just don't like music. Quit actin' like you're too hip.

I have a vivid memory of travelling on a bus through northern Thailand, listening to "Everything in Its Right Place" and looking out the window as the bus lumbered along, and seeing these houses on stilts appear like ghosts out of the darkness. It seemed so perfect.

The Decemberists - Picaresque and The Crane Wife
It took me a long time to warm up to The Decemberists, but once I did, I did indeed. Did you hear "The Infanta" played at the beginning of a Mad Men episode? Nice. It's hard to discern a favourite song, because it's really about discerning a favourite story, isn't it?

Bat for Lashes - Fur & Gold and Two Suns
Natasha Khan makes fairytale music. It's completely ace. It's the soundtrack for when some magical creature from another world comes to you on the street and begs you to help him save his country from the evil King Diacretes and his army, and it comes to pass that you are "the chosen one" of prophecy and have latent magical powers that have been awakened by an incantation, so you follow this little creature back to his land to save his world, that somehow ties into this world through some cosmic link in dreams, so you are also saving this world as well.

It's also the soundtrack for when you're in your car on your way to Whole Foods, or on the 91 en route to SOAS. Yep.

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Eloquent and bare, For Emma, Forever Ago is near mythic. I'm digging Volcano Choir as well.

In truth, this list could go on, but I'll leave it at that. The Naughts did come through in the end, with music I'm still in the process of discovering. As I write this, I've come to the realisation that these artists (and many more) all have helped make up the soundtrack for my twenties. Wow. I hope my thirties sound this good.

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