Favorite Albums of the Decade

#1) Queens of the Stone Age Songs For The Deaf
Prior to the album’s release I remember listening to a raw demo of “Song For The Dead,” which was essentially Dave Grohl’s drum-intro looped on repeat for six minutes. I had never heard anything like it before. Grohl’s hand is heavy on the album, as is bassist Nick Oliveri’s (who left the band before QOTSA’s next record), both of whom gave the album its unbelievably robust backbone. Looking back, Songs For The Deaf seems like a record that was a product of its elements which could never have never been created at any other time, or nearly as masterfully if any of its parts were missing.=

#2) The White Stripes Elephant
The White Stripes were the best band of the Aughts, and any of the duo’s albums could have fallen into my top 10 favorites of the decade. Elephant just happens to be my favorite.

#3) Danger Mouse The Grey Album
This album completely changed the way I approach listening to music. Girl Talk’s Feed The Animals, a direct descendant of The Grey Album, would also be on this list had it been best 11 or 12 of the decade.

#4) LCD Soundsystem Sound of Silver
“All My Friends” might have received the most acclaim from the record (and deservedly so), but I continue to fail to find a fault in any of Sound of Silver’s other tracks.

#5) Justice Cross
Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay were the icons who led a casually nihilistic club movement that helped reintroduce electronic music into the mainstream’s conscious (which consequently led to the the gross overuse of a term which has come to mean nothing: “hipster”). Cross was their soundtrack.

#6) Sufjan Stevens Illinois
There remains no better example than Illinois as to why Sufjan Stevens was heralded as one of the best songwriters of the decade. The album is chilling, delicate and achingly beautiful from start to end.

#7) Kanye West The College Dropout
No other musical artist has had as much of an impact on pop culture this decade as Kanye West. The College Dropout was the record that essentially started it all, and still remains his most complete album.

#8) Hank Williams III Straight To Hell
A musician that singlehandedly made country music less shitty to me. The broad genre is still pretty bunk on the whole, but rebel country has an edge that makes it as punk as any other type of modern music; the face of rebel country is Hank III.

#9) Andrew W.K. I Get Wet
I was introduced to Andrew W.K. with a description that likened his music to a cross between ABBA and Slayer. The man’s enthusiastic approach to everything he does has made him easy to love, but his music is what has left me coming back after nearly 10 years.

#10) Danger Doom The Mouse and the Mask
Is it the best hip hop album of the decade? Nope. But The Mouse and the Mask gave MF Doom a medium to further explore the comedic element to his lyrics, trade verses with Talib Kweli and Ghostface Killah, and interact with some of Danger Mouse’s most enjoyable beats to date. While its ties to the Cartoon Network might have negatively affected its credibility (at least on tha streets), it remains one of the best surprises of the decade.

Black Blondie: Favorite Albums of the Decade

#1) Meshell Ndegeocello Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape
#2) Outkast/Andre 3000 The Love Below
#3) Erykah Badu Mama’s Gun
#4) Taraf de Haïdouk Band of Gypsies
#5) P.O.S. Ipecac Neat
#6) Bright Eyes I‘m Wide Awake, It’s Morning
#7) K’naan The Dusty Foot Philosopher
#8) Clipse Lord Willin’
#9) The Paper Chase Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know
#10) Black Blondie Do You Remember Who You Wanted To Be
(*Can’t help but mention our first record that we are so proud of!*)

No Bird Sing: Favorite Albums of the Decade

One Day as a Lion One Day as a Lion EP: This new group, consisting of ex-Mars Volta drummer Jon Theodore and ex-RATM front-man Zach de la Rocha, made the hardest-hitting rock slash hip-hop album of the decade. This one would make my list for the production alone. Mixed by Mario C. (Paul’s Boutique, other Beastie’s stuff), I believe they captured the spirit of the John Bonham drum sound, one of Theodore’s biggest influences. Also interesting about this record is there’s no guitar, all the distorted leads and chords are played on a rhodes by de la Rocha. This album is an exercise in simplicity and tone, and takes distorted rhodes and drum room mics to a new level. (Graham O’Brien)

The Mars Volta Deloused in the Comatorium: Another album with Jon Theodore on drums. I heard this album before really knowing about Cedric and Omar’s earlier stuff and since I have always thought this album is their crowning achievement, maybe in part because this one was produced by Rick Rubin. Deloused is a record that sounds like a modern-day combination of Zeppelin and Mahavishnu Orchestra and drummer Jon Theodore’s sound and feel makes that happen. This is one of my favorites, not necessarily completely for the songwriting, but for the grooves and feel within the songs (and in particular the drums)—they’re an inspiration in their dynamic range and precision. (Graham O’Brien)

El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead: Easily the best hip-hop album of the decade for me, this is also the one that’s still in my car stereo all the time. This project is impressive because of its scope and continuity, it plays like one cohesive piece of music and sound design. To me, no other hip hop album has had such a strong continuity. One of the huge accomplishments of this album is its value in repeated listens. The layering, detail and propulsive energy is definitely one reason for that, but it’s also in the lyrics. They are difficult to hear (actually mixed pretty low a lot of the time) and also understand sometimes, but that’s his plan: in “Smithereens,” I think, he says “I keep my meaning tucked deep so all you creepers give me some privacy.” Plus it’s really a dark album, sonic and otherwise. Dark is good. (Graham O’Brien)

The Black Keys Attack and Release: This record is an onslaught of loose, raw, fat grooves, huge, wide drum sounds, and dark, catchy melodies. In particular I love how loose the grooves are. C’mon, if you’ve seen the Black Keys live you have to admire the way they walk the line between train wreck and rock band. Attack and Release helped push our collective ears away from over-polished expectations and let them fall back in love with the the grit of great music. (Graham O’Brien/Eric Blair)

Radiohead Kid A: It’s not exactly easy to come up with a short-list of the best albums of the decade. As it is, between Graham and I, our short list became sort of a medium list. But the one quick consensus was Radiohead’s Kid A. I only really got the context of Kid A well after its 2000 release. Call it a function of age, or of listening to nothing but gangsta rap throughout high school. But shame on me. Radiohead transcended from just another ’90s alt-rock band to arguably the greatest band of our generation. And Kid A was the jump off. Thom Yorke is such a unique songwriter, and the expanded use of crazy obscure instruments both electronic and acoustic means everyone who made an album after Kid A was somehow bathing in its adventurous shadow. (Eric Blair)

Kill the Vultures The Careless Flame: The general criticism surrounding The Careless Flame is the sheer amount patience required to listen to it. That… and it’s “weird.” But in the conveyor belt mediocrity of our post turn of the century world, those qualities make Careless Flame a shining beacon in the wasteland. Who cares if Flame takes a bit of work to get to? Anyone brave enough to explore the masterfully fragmented, McCarthy-esque, world of producer Anatomy and vocalist Crescent Moon will find their definition of the word “weird” wonderfully and irrevocably changed. (Eric Blair)

Halloween, Alaska Halloween, Alaska: The first few words of an album are like pick-up lines. If they’re boring or uninspired, the record gets a few polite nods but little else. If they’re really bad or even offensive, the record spends the night wiping appletini off its face. But James Diers’ honestly delivered “Well hello little hellion/Make yourself at home” has earned Halloween, Alaska’s now classic debut album more than a few snuggle partners. Dave King’s drum work is mind-bending in its balance of complexity and reserve. The music is impressively patient, waiting until the last possible instant to break into inescapable refrains and choruses. Case in point, Des Moines starts its refrain at 4:19, long after most songs would have ended. But go to any hipster bar in the tri-state area and start singing “Twenty times around the block/Twice in every speed I got” and enjoy the sing-a-long that ensues. (Eric Blair)

Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago: Long before Justin Vernon became famous, it was common practice in Eau Claire to sit around complaining about how his brilliance would forever go unnoticed because he was far from either coast. I personally just saw For Emma, Forever Ago as a way to mourn the loss of Deyarmond Edison as yet another Amateur Love (read: the best band you’ve probably never heard of). Emma was released with 500 or so screen printed eco-friendly cardboard packages and a well-attended show at the House of Rock. A few years and shit ton of records later, Vernon has restored our collective faith in the power of authentic music triumphing over big industry. For Emma was not only a brilliant record, but an important one. (Eric Blair)

Will Markwardt of the Absent Arch: Favorite Albums of the Decade

It seems as though making a top five of the decade list may be similar to taking a starving child out to dinner. Everything looks good, but damn kid, we’re not made of money! He will spend two hours drinking his chocolate milk until he finally decides on the macaroni and cheese, unfortunately not sure if that’s what he really wants. Gotta decide eventually though, happy hour for the grow-ups ends in 10 minutes. How ’bout if he finishes his plate, he gets dessert? Let’s eat!

Drinks – The Acorn Glory Hope Mountain: Have you ever listened to an album so unbelievably much that you braced yourself for the moment when you got so burnt out on it, it didn’t even seem like music anymore and you were just bored? Thought so, happens to us all. Funny thing about this album though, that never happened: I listened and listened, waiting for the day it would spoil and it never did. Rolf Klausener is such a smooth writer there is never a single moment on this record that makes you cringe, say “eh” or break the flow of head bobbing. The things they do with percussion are so subtle but add more to this album than anything else. His brilliant lyrics somehow fit themselves around melodies so smoothly it never sounds forced. Them Canadians know how to make ‘em.

Free bread – World’s End Girlfriend Dreams End Come True: I once almost spent the Japanese equivalent of $60 plus an enormous amount for shipping and handling on this album. My hesitations set in when not only was this the only site I could find this album for sale, but it was in Japanese and I spent half my time there closing pop-up adds. Highly questionable. I would later find it for much cheaper, on an English website, with no pop-ups within clicking distance.

World’s End Girlfriend is the one-man project of Katsuhiko Maeda. Armed with only a guitar and some ridiculous noise creating mechanisms and pedals, this guy will blow your face off and then put it back together again over the course of any of his six 25 minute epics. Dreams End Come True is the perfect example of what Maeda is capable of. It’s coordinated chaos amidst some of the coolest rhythmic decisions I’ve heard in quite a while. Ear piercing noise sharing a space with beautiful arrangements. I think the only album of his that ever made it to the states was a split record he did with Mono (Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain) which is average to say the least. Yet, Dreams End Come True is worth any amount of money you can throw at it, if it still exists for purchase on the interweb.

[Note: If anybody is going to Japan anytime soon, snag me a copy. Mine is pretty beat up.]

Appetizer – Sigur Rós ( ): I mean, c’mon! How do they do it? The “light at the end of the tunnel” album for my college years. This album continues to give me goose bumps and most likely always will. Nothing can come close to seeing Sigur Rós live and no show will ever top seeing them on tour supporting this album. ( ) is an experience everyone should have. Take some time out to sit down with a drink, lay back and throw this one on. Although I’m sure many of you have already. I will say no more.

First course – Sun Kil Moon Ghosts of the Great Highway: So many stories to go along with this album. Road trips, tragedies, relationships, break-ups, fuck ups, inspiration, motivation, restoration, life… as it goes. I had a daily ritual for years. A ritual that involved listening to this album every single day of my life. Whether it be at work, at home, in bed, driving, walking, drinking, reading, thinking, sneezing. It’s a cyclical album with a cyclical story for the cyclical life of anyone who’s willing to give it a chance. Absolute beauty in music form. One of the most relaxing and powerful albums I’ve ever heard. I called it the greatest album of all time, until I heard my final choice for top five albums of the decade.

Main course – Elephant Micah Hindu Windmills: Joe O’Connell is the greatest songwriter of our generation, period. No questions asked. Give the man his trophy. An underrated and generally unknown genius who resides from Indiana. An idol of mine for years and one who I can humbly say with a giddy stutter in my voice, have met and played a few shows with.

The first time I met Joe we did a show together at Augsburg College back in 2006. Which because of him, was the reason I would meet my now great friend and musical companion Will Garrison of Spirits of the Red City. Not only did that night secure what would become a great friendship and, in turn, the reason I’m still playing music, but it was also the night I would purchase the greatest album to ever grace my ears.

Hindu Windmills had just come out and I was lucky enough to get one of the last hand-made vinyl copies. The effortlessness in his voice, a sort of soft swoon that can float just above any instrument you throw at it, with a range that anyone would be envious of. His guitar arrangements that will leave you in awe. Meticulous alternate tunings and half-step drops. The way he twists his words around chords. Everything. Everything.

I’ve spent years trying to figure out how one man can write as perfect as he does. I could replace this album for any number of his others but this one definitely stands above the rest. The fact that he isn’t selling out theaters across the world is a sin.

Dessert (’cause I know the meal is over but I just need to tack on a few more pounds [honorable mentions]):

Super Furry Animals Rings Around the World
Rhys Chatham A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars)
Guided By Voices Isolation Drills
Lucero That Much Further West
Elephant Micah And the Agrarian Malaise
Duo 505 Late

Favorite Albums of 2009

#1) Fever Ray Fever Ray
A challenging record that is eerily beautiful from start to end.

#2) The Slew 100%
The Slew, a combination of Kid Koala, DJ Dynomite D, and the rhythm section from the first incarnation of Wolfmother, quickly reveals itself to be a surprisingly cohesive unit on 100%. Though it might casually sound like a step toward a nu-metal revival, the album is anything but; turntableism never sounded so massive.

#3) Pearl Jam Backspacer
The right producer, with the right band, at the right time, Backspacer is a pure rock album by a band that undeniably knows how to do just that: rock.

#4) Rancid Let The Dominoes Fall
Let The Dominoes Fall is a bit like rekindling a friendship with a best friend you haven’t seen for years: it’s a little awkward at first, but eventually you remember why it—in this case, the band—meant so much to you in the first place.

#5) Lily Allen It’s Not Me, It’s You
While Allen deserves of some of the ridicule she received this year (quitting music, stance on file-sharing, etc.), It’s Not Me, It’s You is still the most enjoyable pop album of the year.

#6) Raekwon Only Built For Cuban Linx Pt. II
Fans were hoping for a classic from Cuban Linx II and The Chef and his Wu-brethren delivered. One of the best Wu-Tang records of the decade.

#7) P.O.S. Never Better
A dynamic shift from the norm, Never Better was seemingly built from as clean a slate as you might find these days. The result is a record that sounds genuinely fresh and original.

#8) Moby Wait For Me
On the brink of has-been-dom a few years ago, Wait For Me takes a gigantic leap from Last Night’s club-infused tracks, and rediscovers Moby’s ability to create music without contrived beats or overused sampling.

#9) Dan Deacon Brompst
An overlooked gem that finds Deacon taking a giant leap from acclaimed novelty-act toward acclaimed musician.

#10) Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion
Though it’s lost some of its shimmer since its release in January, MPP remains a criminally good album that fails to grow old.

Doomtree’s Lazerbeak: Favorite Albums of the Decade

#1) Jay-Z The Blueprint / The Black Album: I know that this is technically cheating with two albums, but I just couldn’t decide. Jay was absolutely untouchable on both of these records. The greatest of all time.

#2) Cannibal Ox The Cold Vein: This came out around the time I had just started making beats, and it completely blew my mind from both a production and lyrical stand point. An absolute classic. I’m almost glad they never made another record.

#3) The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots: For some reason I just keep listening to this one to this day. Makes me feel really awesome.

#4) Hockey Night Keep Guessin’: I have no idea how this record somehow creeped into my top five, but I cannot fight it. One of my all time favorite bands to ever come out of the Twin Cities. The few shows that TPC! got to play with these guys were an absolute joy to be a part of. It is an eternal travesty that they had to part ways.

#5) The Killers Day & Age: Yikes! I know, terrible. One of my guiltiest pleasures. Oh well, I love the Killers and I can’t really explain why, which makes it hard when trying to convince people that they are actually good. They are a great American rock band though, and there are some pretty ridiculous saxophone lines and bongo parts all over this thing.

Honorable mentions:
Freeway Philadelphia Freeway
The Hold Steady Separation Sunday
T.I. Trap Muzik
Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
D’Angelo Voodoo
Randy Newman Harps and Angels
Scarface The Fix
Al Green Lay It Down
Daft Punk Discovery
Outkast Stankonia
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Usher Confessions

Favorite Songs of 2009

#1) Bat For Lashes “Daniel”
The most beautiful song on an album that made Bat For Lashes a household name this year. Well, in some households.

#2) The Prodigy “Invaders Must Die”
With all three original members of the group together again for the first time in over a decade, the Prodigy never sounded so fierce; even if only for a song or two on their otherwise forgettable comeback album.

#3) Fever Ray “Triangle Walks”
This pick could have been any song from Karin Dreijer Andersson’s now-defunct solo project. Each song is remarkably unique and stunning in their own right.

#4) Pearl Jam “Just Breathe”
The most delicate and touching track on a rugged rock album, “Just Breathe” showcases how brilliant Eddie Vedder’s much scoffed at songwriting can truly be.

#5) Yeasayer “Tightrope”
Though it has long-since in the band’s live repertoire, “Tightrope” has a lasting sound that acted as a fantastic gateway song between All Hours Symbols and Odd Blood.

#6) P.O.S. “Purexed”
Again, this pick could have been a handful of tracks from the stunning Never Better. The bi-polar nature of “Purexed” makes it stand out however, and that’s saying something when considering how unique the entire record is.

#7) PJ Harvey & John Parish “Black Hearted Love”
The best rock riff of the year.

#8) Matt and Kim “Daylight”
It’s hard not to be happy for the Brooklyn-based duo’s success this year. Matt and Kim’s live performances do well to accurately reflect the overwhelmingly positive feeling of their songs; “Daylight” just happens to be one of the most enjoyable of which to listen to either live or on record.

#9) Dead Man’s Bones “In The Room Where You Sleep (original version)”
The Anti- version which made it onto Dead Man’s Bones’ debut album lacks the eerie grit that the original (pre-label) version had. The song is only topped by its music video.

#10) Raekwon feat. Method Man & Ghostface Killah “New Wu”
Method Man’s chorus on “New Wu” is an earworm that just won’t die; the entire track has me anxious waiting for the trio’s forthcoming collaboration. Wu-Tang forever.

Lil Wayne “Rebirth” Review

It has been nearly a year since “Prom Queen” was released as the first single from Lil Wayne’s highly speculated rock album, a record which was later rumored to see release sometime in 2009. Since then, the album’s release was confirmed and three other tracks from the record were officially released, however Rebirth’s release was pushed back multiple times despite Wayne himself confirming that the record had been finished in August. While the album was again given a formal release date recently, this time set for February of 2010, coincidentally just days before Weezy’s impending sentencing date stemming from a 2007 weapons possession charge, Rebirthwas leaked by, of all places, Amazon.com (as some 500 copies were prematurely sent out to fans who had pre-ordered it). While the circumstances surrounding the leak are unfortunate, what’s even more unfortunate is that with Rebirth actually hitting the streets, the highly talented, highly prolific, and highly acclaimed emcee has now officially released the worst album of his career.

Lil Wayne has never been one to shy away from the spotlight, or publicly express any sense of honest self-consciousness, but in Rebirth’s lead track, “American Star,” the emcee sets a precedent that eventually explains why the record never had a chance to begin with. “Listen to my own voice, in my black Rolls-Royce; get the girls of my choice to take off their shorts and blouses, I take of my trousers.” Like the lyrics, Rebirth is—even compared to Weezy’s other matierial—overindulgent, but more importantly, the album is entirely humorless; from the get-go Rebirth is simply a record where, whether purposefully or not, Weezy takes himself, and his craft far, far too seriously, and suffers greatly for it.

“Prom Queen,” the DJ Infamous & Drew Correa-produced single that sparked discussion about the possibility of the album, drops as Rebirth’s second track. While the initial shock of how pathetic it is as a stab at some sort of rock stardom has wore off (slightly) since is was released in January, the evidence remains that Weezy still lacks any sort of chops when stepping into the world of guitar-driven rock. “Ground Zero” follows as a unique hybrid, where Wayne fails to fully commit to either rapping or aggo-yelling; it’s a tired comparison, but Weezy is honestly a backwards red NY Yankees ball-cap away from full on Limp Bizkitry here.

The only highlight on the record comes with Eminem’s verse on “Drop The World.” Unfortunately a minute of cohesion doesn’t make up for an album’s worth of poorly constructed confusion.

Rebirth eventually closes with two of its worst tracks, “Knockout” and “The Price is Wrong.” If nothing else, “Knockout” stands as one of the best examples as to why vocoderized pop punk should not exist. “The Price is Wrong,” however, has many more issues. The drop-tuned, overly aggressive power chords used in the track translate as so completely empty that they’d hardly cut it with the worst of the current batch of bands residing on pretty much any station still using “X-treme” in its tag line. The song thankfully fades away, but as it does so, it concludes with Weezy repeatedly barking, “Fuck her anyway;” which is ironic as the feeling which follows is “Fuck Wayne… anyway.”

Rebirth is a stunningly sour example of why Lil Wayne should stick to what he’s good at. He can seemingly lay down 100 bars at a moment’s notice, and at this point in time it’s almost guaranteed that at least a few of them are going to be smart, funny, and downright untouchable. But take the emcee outside of that realm and he’s lost—put a guitar in his hand, and he becomes a lost fool. As an emcee, Wayne has produced a series of remarkably sharp studio recordings that has given credence to accusations that he’s one of the best rappers alive. That being said, Lil Wayne has clearly smoked himself retarded as he believes that he is equally strong as a vocalist and musician, which clearly he is not. No further proof of this is needed other than a single listen to Rebirth.

Sir Gregory Fuck Knight of Fuck Knights: Favorite Albums of the Decade

#1) Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Mirror Man (Recorded 1967, reissued 2009 on Buddah Records): Why’s Trout Mask get all the accolades when this is such a perfect blend of “out-garage” and “avant-roll”?

#2) Velvet Underground Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes (Recorded 1969, released 2001 on Polydor Records): A Cale-less VU figuring out where to head next. The obvious contrarian answer? Pop. White Light/White Heat tunes performed live in a tentatively groovy Loaded manner.

#3) The Stooges 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions(Recorded 1970, reissued 2005 on Rhino Records): Every precious second of each of these seven shimmering discs totaling seven infallible hours and 52 immaculate minutes? Absolutely, unquestionably essential.

#4) The Damned Machine Gun Etiquette (Recorded 1979, reissued 2007 on Ace Records): First-wave punk’s equivalent to Dylan “going electric.”

#5) The Fall Grotesque (After the Gramme) (Recorded 1980, reissued 2005 on Earmark Records): Brit-filtered Hell-a-billy art-skronk easily obliterating critic-jiz-inducing Hex Enduction Hour in depth, listenability, and wittiness.

Favorite Concerts of 2009

#1) Mayhem @ Station 4
By the time of the St. Paul date, Cephalic Carnage, Cattle Decapitation and Withered had all pulled out of the tour due to backstage (thought to be financial) issues, and a delay in the visa process had prevented Marduk from performing at any of the Blackened Fest dates. Mayhem & Station 4 offered up refunds to those who weren’t down with seeing the band on its 25th Anniversary Tour, but those who stayed were treated to one of the sickest metal shows of the year. And although I still think the band sucks, Anal Blast’s opening performance would prove to be one of Don Decker’s last.

#2) Peelander-Z, Birthday Suits, Awesome Snakes & Fuck Knights @ Turf Club
Not only did this night stand out as the first time I saw one of my local favorites, Fuck Knights, but it was the first (and thus far only) experience I’ve had with Peelander-Z. Wow. Just wow.

#3) Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ First Avenue
Though visually stunning and musically sharp, the night’s performance was ultimately dominated by Karen O; she is the sun to which eyes have no choice but to gravitate toward.

#4) Moby @ Fine Line Music Cafe 
While I’ve been a fan of Moby’s since my unfortunate Dance Mix phase as a youth, I hadn’t ever seen him live before. Toting an overwhelmingly powerful backup band, the Little Idiot took the packed house on a sentimental voyage through his entire catalog: from “Go” to “Honey” (which on this night was blended with a rendition of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”) to music from his most recent release Wait For Me. It was beautiful.

#5) Sonic Youth @ First Avenue
The light show alone was enough to cause trauma, but it ended up being the music that left a lasting impression. Shying away from older material for the most of the set, the band played all but one song from its most recent release (2009’s The Eternal) and offered a vibrancy that puts younger bands to shame.

Top Albums of 2009 That Should Have Been Great, But Weren’t

#1) Ghostface Killah Ghostdini the Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City
A crossover from hip hop to R&B that should have never taken place. By comparison, More Fish, an album of leftovers from the brilliant Fishscale, sounds like a classic.

#2) UGK UGK 4 Life
So much for going out on top.

#3) Dead Man’s Bones Dead Man’s Bones
While a few songs stand out—”Pa Pa Power” is surprisingly good—the polished eerie electronic sound on the album does little to reflect the rugged character of the original version of “In The Room Where You Sleep.”

#4) Spinnerette Spinnerette
I love Brody Dalle, and the Distillers’ various albums were in heavy rotation for much of the past decade. But while “Ghetto Love” was promising, Spinnerette lacks the urgency and aggression the Aussie conveyed in her earlier recordings. Another album like this, and comparisons to Courtney Love—and I’m talking Celebrity Skin Courtney Love here—might have a leg to stand on.

#5) The Flaming Lips Embryonic
The Flaming Lips open and close Embryonic with the album’s best songs, but in the middle we’re left with 16 forgettable tracks.

Guante and Big Cats! live at Bedlam Theatre (Minneapolis, MN)

Video of Guante and Big Cats!‘s December 13, 2009 show at the Bedlam Theatre in Minneapolis, MN features performances of “Stockholm Syndrome” (featuring Big Quarters & Truthbetold) and “Yes, God is a DJ; No, Not a Good One” (featuring Eric Blair of No Bird Sing and Truthbetold).

Top Twin Cities Albums of 2009

#1) P.O.S. Never Better
Innovative, challenging, and oh-so-fresh. Not only a prime candidate for TC album of the year, but a definite contender for hip hop album of the year. Period.

#2) Red Pens Reasons
The best rock duo to arise from the Twin Cities since Gay Witch Abortion, Red Pens’ songs offer a combination of ample riffage and furious distortion, curiously presented without a single hint of bullshit.

#3) Lookbook Wild at Heart
The most enjoyable ’80s pop album of 2009.

#4) Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles Special Party Time For Everybody (album review)
Equal parts buoyant and delicate, Special Party Time is a vast step toward capturing on record the breathtaking abilities of each of the band’s unique talents.

#5) Brother Ali Us
Chuck D. jumps in to hype and praise Brother Ali in the introduction of his own album, and things only get better from there.

DJ Soviet Panda: Favorite Albums of the Decade

My top five Queens of the Stone Age albums from the 2000s:

#5) Over the Years and Through the Woods (2005): Seeing Queens of the Stone Age live is generally better than listening to their albums, usually because any dud songs can be cut from a setlist. Unfortunately, the 2005 London shows that make up this album heavily feature songs from Lullabies to Paralyze (and virtually nothing from the following Era Vulgaris), and don’t fully translate the experience of seeing Queens in person. Thankfully, some of these versions, in particular “Regular John,” give a worthwhile insight into the way Queens rework their songs live, twisting riffs in and out of time, with new build-ups and breakdowns, like a DJ set. And while the line-up here may not include Dave Grohl, Mark Lannegan, or Nick Oliveri, it does feature the frequently over-looked talents of guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and drummer Joey Castillo.

#4) Lullabies to Paralyze (2005): Lullabies was Queens’ first release after band leader Josh Homme kicked out Nick Oliveri, the band’s bassist, part-time vocalist, and until that point, only other full-time member. Some expected the album to be much softer in tone as a result, and while some of the band’s harder metal flashes and sicker bouts of humor are missing, it doesn’t sound all that different. Nevertheless, Homme unfortunately seemed to compensate by going overboard with one of his usual production gimmicks, the creepy background oooh’s and aaaah’s. In fact, I think the concept behind this album is “more ghost vocals.” A lot of the songs here just don’t hold up to repeat listens, including the jam out with one of the ZZ Top dudes, “Burn the Witch.” There is still some great standard Queens stuff here though, especially the woodblock-driven lead single, “Little Sister.” 

#3) Songs for the Deaf (2002): Songs for the Deaf was the band’s breakthrough album, and is considered by many to be their best. Leading up to its release, reviewers were sincerely hailing it as the best rock album of the decade, in spite of the “rock revivialism” popularized by the White Stripes and the Strokes at the time. Needless to say, it’s not the best rock album of the decade. Nevermind the forced album concept of flipping through radio stations—what really gets old is the hyper-compressed, volume-constant production. Outside of those qualms, the album is excellent, with relentless, gigantic songs, backed by Dave Grohl’s enormous kick drum. It’s just not my favorite.

#2) Rated R (2000): Rated R, the band’s second album, found the Queens transitioning from the heavy drone of their first album into the more accessible rock sounds that would follow. As such, it gives off a kind of experimental vibe, as sounds shift between heavy pop, screaming metal, hazy psychedlcs, coked-up glam, and other touchstones. Thanks to Homme’s oversight, it all coalesces into a really fantastic listen. Plus “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” should’ve been much bigger than “No One Knows.”

#1) Era Vulgaris (2007): Queens of the Stone Age have been active during the entire decade, driven by Josh Homme, who, perhaps unsurprisingly, mainly works within a few of his own well-worn song-writing formulas. QOTSA albums all follow similar ebbs and flows, showcasing a number of signature Homme riffs, flourishes, scales, solos, and the like, alternately giving in to and subverting those expectations. What ultimately differentiates the albums, besides a quantifiable amount of track sucesses and failures, is the overarching theme or tone that eventually seeps through the production and song-writing. Era Vulgaris is a bright, sickly neon pink. It’s robotic, growling, druggy but not dazed, and serves as Homme’s lackidasically viscious skewering of this decade’s pursuit of willfull desensitization and information overload. It has some of the band’s least memorable songs, but also conatins most of their best: the brutally precise “Misfit Love,” the burning “3′s and 7′s,” and “Sick, Sick, Sick,” Queens’ best single, and their most singular execution of their entire concept. When it comes down to it, it’s my favorite. (Also worth seeking out is the b-side cover of Brian Eno’s “Needles in the Camel’s Eye.”)

Favorite Mashups of 2009

#1) DJ Schmolli “The Trooper Believer” [MP3]
(Iron Maiden “The Trooper” vs. The Monkees “I’m A Believer”)

#2) dj BC “Everybody’s Everywhere Girl” [MP3]
(Fleetwood Mac “Everywhere” vs. Snoop Dogg “That Girl” vs. Kanye West “This Way” vs. Q-Tip “Come Close” vs. Capleton)

#3) ABX of the Hood Internet “Comfortable Up Here” [MP3]
(Lil Wayne “Comfortable” vs. Royksopp “Happy Up Here”)

#4) Dan Mei & Marc Johnce “My Life On The Crazy Train Sucks (So What?)” [MP3]
(Kelly Clarkson “My Life Would Suck Without You” vs. Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train” vs. Pink “So What” vs. Daft Punk “Technologic”)

#5) G3RSt “XXX Girl from Ipanema” [MP3]
(Peaches “AA XXX” vs. Rayitodesol “Girl From Ipanema”)

#6) Frogthedawg “Westside Godzilla Connection” [MP3]
(Westside Connection “Bow Down” vs. Blue Oster Cult “Godzilla”)

#7) DJ Paul V. “I Might Like Ghosts Better” [MP3]
(Amanda Blank “Might Like You Better” vs. Bad Cabbage “You’re Rude, Get Fucked” vs. Deadmau5 “Ghosts ‘N Stuff”)

#8) Overdub “Mixed Farm” [MP3]
(Beck “Mixed Bizness” vs. Rage Against The Machine “Maggie’s Farm”)

#9) CjR Mix “Call Me Uprising” [MP3]
(Blondie “Call Me” vs. Muse “Uprising”)

#10) Pheugoo “Hurt Wit Chu” [MP3]
(Johnny Cash “Hurt” vs. Queens of the Stone Age “Make It Wit Chu”)

#11) Mighty Mike “Dead Teardrop” [MP3]
(Lenny Kravitz “Rock And Roll Is Dead” vs. Massive Attack “Teardrop”)

#12) Voicedude “Strange Diggity” [MP3]
(Blackstreet “No Diggity” vs. Reba McEntire “Strange”)

#13) Hathbanger “Party and Bullshit (In the U.S.A.)” [MP3]
(Notorious B.I.G. “Party and Bullshit” vs. Miley Cyrus “Party in the U.S.A.”)

#14) DJ Zebra “Rock The Hobo” [MP3]
(Charlie Winston “Like a Hobo” vs. The Clash “Rock the Casbah”)

#15) Clive$ter “Say Yes and Fly Away” [MP3]
(Wax Tailor “Say Yes” vs. Goldfrapp “Fly Me Away”)

14KT: Favorite Albums of the Decade

1. Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere
2. Kanye West The College Dropout
3. Slum Village Fantastic Vol. 2
4. Erykah Badu Mama’s Gun
5. Radiohead In Rainbows / Jill Scott Words & Sounds Vol. 1 (tie)

[Reigning from Ypsilanti, Michigan, 14KT has been associated with the Athletic Mic League, the production collective known as the Lab Techs, and has worked with a vast array of pivotal artists in the Michigan's hip hop scene.]

Estate: Favorite Albums of the Decade

1. Daft Punk Discovery
2. Röyksopp Melody A.M.
3. Avalanches Since I Left You
4. Chromeo She’s In Control
5. Bonobo Dial “M” For Monkey

Dom Davis of Dearling Physique: Favorite Albums of the Decade

The Knife Silent Shout: Silent Shout revealed so many creative corridors within that I had yet to walk down. Everything from the alien and androgynous sounding vocal treatment to the sleek and intricate electronic arrangements. It was unlike anything I had heard before.

Blonde Redhead Misery Is A Butterfly: Utterly beautiful and consistent. Blonde Redhead couldn’t have possibly selected a more fitting title for this album. It is the quintessential soundtrack to many of my days.

Radiohead Kid A: I had not been an avid follower of Radiohead prior to hearing Kid A. That being said, I did not have the pleasure of experiencing Kid A as the dynamic shift in musical direction coming out of the already flawless OK Computer. Regardless, Kid A always stood out to me as something very special. It speaks my language, and I’ve formed a deep connection with absolutely everything it so colorfully is.

Portishead Third: Third has the effect of consoling both sides of my emotional spectrum.

Animal Collective Feels: I was introduced to Animal Collective with Feels, and it remains to this day my favorite of their work. Playful and packed full of this uncorrupted wonder.

Favorite Music Videos of 2009

#15) Dead Man’s Bones “In The Room Where You Sleep”

#14) Depeche Mode “Peace”

#13) The Maccabees “Can You Give It”

#12) The Dead Weather “Treat Me Like Your Mother”

#11) Grizzly Bear “Two Weeks”

#10) Yeasayer “Ambling Alp”

#9) Basement Jaxx “Raindrops”

#8) Bat For Lashes “Daniel”

#7) Fever Ray “When I Grow Up”

#6) Depeche Mode “Wrong”

#5) Bodies of Water “Under The Pines”

#4) Matt and Kim “Lessons Learned”

#3) Ramona Falls “I Say Fever”

#2) Land of Talk “It’s Okay”

#1) Fever Ray “If I Had a Heart”

Power of 2: Favorite Albums of the Decade

We had to do separate lists because, while we do share many influences, we have fairly differing opinions on our top five records of the decade. Here they are in no order:

[Joe Clark]

Do Make Say Think Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn: This is the one album I make sure I have enough time to listen to without stopping. I specifically save this one for long drives. As far as songwriting influence goes, this tops my list.

Brian Wilson SMiLE: This album has history. It’s one thing to have a fully dynamic and
seamless album, but that can only take an album so far. This album has had time to age like a fine wine on the shelf, only to be opened and ingested decades later.

Fog Ditherer: A recent discovery. I tried not to prematurely include this on my list
so I made myself listen to it so much I’d get sick of it. Well that hasn’t happened yet, so here it is. By the way, never trust Pitchfork, they’re schemers.

Radiohead Amnesiac: I don’t understand why this album is so overshadowed by Kid A. It’s the most interesting album to me because every element that makes Radiohead a great band is evenly dispersed into it.

Amnesiac: Electronic, Raw, Human, Guitars, Sad, Funny, Weird, Potent, Frightening.

Kid A: Electronic, Sleepy.

mewithoutYou Catch for Us the Foxes: Just a personal favorite that defines a very specific time in my life. The memory is so potent when hearing it I can even remember specific foods and smells and locations. I don’t know, it’s weird, just go listen to it.

[Max Becker]

Deftones White Pony: This album really showed me that “heavy” music doesn’t all have to be the same. When I started listening to Deftones, I was also listening to all the generic metal crap that you would hear on the radio. Like all Deftones albums (except maybe Adrenaline), White Pony stands out from the rest of the genre by exploring all aspects and ranges of the band’s musical abilities and by experimenting with their sounds, structures and mood.

Enon High Society: Usually when an album is as schizophrenic as High Society, it comes off as inconsistent, pretentious or experimental, but this album goes so far beyond genre hopping, each song seems to come from a different band. High Societychanges pace and mood to tell a story. Definitely an album that can be listened to no matter how you’re feeling, or what you’re currently in to.

Guided By Voices Human Amusements at Hourly Rates: This one is kind of a cheater. This epic, 32 track album was released in the past decade, but it’s a compilation of earlier songs. Lo-fi, high-fi, pop, punk, melodramatic, this album has all the greatest Guided By Voices songs. Even at 32 tracks, you won’t get sick of it if you listen all the way through, there’s so much going on, and so much passion.

Modest Mouse Building Nothing Out of Something: Again, another cheater here. This album is a compilation of rarities and B-Sides from Modest Mouse’s first few albums but was released in early 2000. This is my favorite Modest Mouse album, and it’s interesting how these are the songs that either didn’t make the cut for a different album, or were somehow considered to be not as good, but when all of these songs are put together on one disc, they create an amazing and surprisingly cohesive album.

Sigur Rós ( ): This album had a huge impact on me. I hadn’t heard any Sigur Rós before when a friend lent me the album. The packaging is brilliant; besides the band’s name it is completely wordless and contains a book of nearly blank pages for the listener to write down their own interpretations of the lyrics. The only images are vague tree shapes that span the pages. The album and songs are all untitled and the words are sung in a made up language. The album is hauntingly beautiful, nightmarish and hopeful. As a whole, this album is truly a piece of art.

Gospel Gossip: Favorite Albums of the Decade

Broadcast Ha Ha Sound: “Pendulum” has to be one of the best songs ever: it’s so uninhibited by convention, yet it’s got this addictive groove that you just want to listen to over and over again. On top of that, the album pushes their obsession with space-pop and The United States of America to the extreme. Definitely way ahead (or behind?) its time.

Air The Virgin Suicides Soundtrack: Probably the strangest album we fell in love with. Came across it one way or another a long time ago. It wasn’t until it came up during practice and we’re like, “Remember that album? Used to listen to it all the time.” Much of its charm is how the songs were intended to be background music for the film. So that provided for a unique mix of early ’70s production, angular jams, and messed up electronica. Still a good listen.

Deerhunter Cryoptograms: We were floored when this album came out, Cryptograms was unlike anything else at the time, in fact I remember lots of people hating it because it didn’t seem to make up its mind about whether or not to be experimental, and if it went one way or another, it was an embarrassing hack job. To us, it was one of those milestones like Psychocandy or Ramones that blended the push and pull of noise and pop and ushered in a new era of music.

Yo La Tengo And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out: This is actually the first Yo La Tengo album we listened to when it came out, so it’s got a special place in our hearts. Turns out, it’s fantastic and totally unlike anything they’ve ever done. Actually, its pretty weird: very lethargic and ambient; a mix of long brooding songs, and adultish pop. But stuff like “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House” and “You Could Have It All” are absolute gems.

Panda Bear Person Pitch

Cat Power You Are Free

Electrelane No Shouts, No Calls… we all love this record to death. It’s very minimal with an icy-cold production, which highlights the songwriting and the mood—something that didn’t really happen much on albums this decade. The drums are really creative, the singing and guitars way catch. It’s a shame they are inactive right now.

Daughters of the Sun: Favorite Albums of the Decade

Alright dudes, we’ve thought heavily about this shit and listened to a ton of nutso jams but check this out (in no particular order really…):

Kites Peace Trials: Insane mix of homemade synth electronics/psych-jams from one of the most intense minds of today. Ripz!

J Dilla Donuts: Best beats ever. Dude died three days after this shit came out that’s how heavy these hits are. A swan song above all.

Dead Meadow Feathers: Sweet dudes. Rad no-bullshit blues riffs with not a crap note played vibe. By far the best album of the decade to get busy with.

Jakob Olausson Moonlight Farm: No doubt one of the best folk albums. Total happy/loner songs from Sweden with on-point psych moves throughout, amazing.

Black Dice Beaches & Canyons: Eternal electronic bliss from way back in the day, this shit started a lot of gears in our domes when it came out and still does.