The October Mixtape

MP3 :: Easy - Pure Ecstasy
MP3 :: Love Like A Sunset (Animal Collective Remix) - Phoenix
MP3 :: Crown On The Ground - Sleigh Bells
MP3 :: Shine Blockas (ft. Gucci Mane) - Big Boi
MP3 :: I Don’t Like Your Band - Annie
MP3 :: Bad Bands - Capgun Coup (original post)
MP3 :: Something In Common - Free Energy
MP3 :: Twenty Cycles To The Ground - Molina & Johnson (original post)
MP3 :: Trust - Old Canes (original post)

PHW's Albums of the Decade - # 10-1

I’ve had a lot of fun this week bringing you my 50 personal favorite albums of the past ten years. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well, and if there are any records on this list that you’ve ignored or missed or simply haven’t heard of by all means check them out. Feel free to leave a comment as well now that you’ve seen the whole thing. Peace.

10. Kid A / Radiohead (2000)

I’ll admit it right here - when I first heard Kid A I was one of those disappointed guitar purists confused by the band’s sudden lack of, well, rock songs. Kid A’s mix of ghost-in-the-machine electronics, IDM rhythms, and the general absence of the soaring version of Thom Yorke’s vocals made for an initial disappointment. But you know how the rest of the story goes…repeat listens >> close attention >> gradual conversion >> deep appreciation >> life-changing album.

9. Separation Sunday / The Hold Steady (2005)

Her parents named her Hallelujah/ the kids all called her Holly/ If she scared you then she's sorry/ she's been stranded at these parties/ These parties they start lovely, but they get druggy and they get ugly and they get bloody/ The priest just kinda laughed/ The deacon caught a draft/ She crashed into the Easter mass with her hair done up in broken glass/ She was limping left on broken heels/ when she said, “Father, can I tell your congregation how a resurrection really feels?”.

Coming on like either a bar-stool nerd poet or the world’s whitest rapper, Craig Finn’s redemption-themed story arc about a sweet girl named Holly (who‘s made some not-sweet friends) is as painstakingly detailed, earnest, and laugh-out-loud funny as anything I’ve ever heard. That it’s accompanied by the band’s gritty, pub-ready bravado makes for one of the decade’s best straight rock n’ roll records.

8. You & Me / The Walkmen (2008)

You & Me seemed to surprise a lot of people who must not have been paying very close attention to what came before it. 2004's Bows & Arrows was a landmark album that, apparently, many doubted could be topped, especially when it was followed by the somewhat disappointing A Hundred Miles Off. You & Me amends for that album’s missteps by dropping the angular guitar-rock for a rhythmic, woozy grandeur. The result is an absolute masterpiece - the perfect soundtrack for headphones, street lights, and city cement. Just don’t say you were surprised. You & Me was meant to be.

Stream :: You & Me

7. Is This It (U.K. Version) / The Strokes (2001)

The Strokes’ ascension to prominence in the early part of the decade was one of the first displays of just how influential the internet could be in making (and nearly breaking) a band. Scores of lesser acts have since been thrown into the hype machine and fallen flat on their faces. With the way the bratty, riches-to-richer back-story of the band turned off a lot of folks you’d think that the same fate would’ve befallen The Strokes. Not quite. The reason they survived is simple - Is This It is much, much better than the hype said it was. The U.K. version, which featured “New York City Cops” (deemed insensitive in the wake of 9/11 and left off U.S. versions in favor of the lesser “When It Started”) is better top to bottom and gets the nod here.

6. Kids In Philly / Marah (2000)

Kids In Philly is a swaggering, ambitious homage to Marah’s hometown of Philadelphia. Filled with banjos strummed like they were electric guitars, soulful street-procession horns, and brothers Dave & Serge Bielanko’s wordy, rapid-fire urban tales, the band rushes through these 11 songs in just 35 breathtaking minutes. A series of poor decisions derailed the band’s momentum in the years that followed, but for a short time during 2000-2001 Marah were America’s most exciting up-and-coming rock & roll band, and Kids In Philly is the dizzyingly cocksure proof. Brotherly love never sounded so good.

5. Kill The Moonlight / Spoon (2002)

On the heels of the career rejuvenating Girls Can Tell, Britt Daniels took another batch of his typically frantic pop songs and starved them until they were nothing more than skin and bones (and, on one occasion, beat-boxing). For a band that treats minimalism like its 5th member, Kill The Moonlight is their leanest and the meanest offering. And in that sense it is the band’s quintessential statement - a spacious, nervy, anxious romp through pop-rock perfection. Spoon was the decade’s best band, and Kill The Moonlight is their crowning achievement.

MP3 :: The Way We Get By
MP3 :: Jonathon Fisk

4. Funeral / Arcade Fire (2004)

For a record with such a bleak title, Funeral had little trouble satisfying our collective desire for music that was bigger than life. But for all of Funeral’s earnest sentiments and expansive arrangements, it’s the childlike stories and images (our parents, our parents’ bedrooms, older brothers, kids swinging from the power lines, all of “Wake Up”) that connected on some level with pretty much every young adult in the world with discernible music tastes.

MP3 :: Rebellion (Lies)

3. Person Pitch / Panda Bear (2007)

Panda Bear’s masterpiece is a pitch perfect combination of soaring, Brian Wilson-inspired pop and hypnotic, childlike mantras that gradually snuck towards the upper reaches of this list as it did to my 2007 list. A positively joyous listening experience and possibly the most beautiful album on this entire list.

2. The Creek Drank The Cradle / Iron & Wine (2002)

Sam Beam’s collection of reverent, homespun southern anthems, all featuring just acoustic guitar and some overdubbed banjo and pedal steel, is one of the purest recordings of the decade. That these songs, recorded in a near whisper to four-track in Beam’s home, were picked up by Sub Pop (at the time still best known for blistering alt-rock pioneers like Nirvana and Mudhoney) and released “as is” reveals their true power. One that comes from their quiet, traditional beauty rather than from trying to shout for your attention.

MP3 :: Lion’s Mane
MP3 :: Southern Anthem

1. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot / Wilco (2002)

There are a bunch of albums I consider when thinking of my all-time favorites - London Calling, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, Exile On Main Street, Let It Be (The Replacements, not those other guys), Nebraska, Still Feel Gone, Doolittle, Highway 61 Revisited, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, etc. Besides the already mentioned commonality, they all share one other trait - they all became favorites of mine well after their initial release. For some that was primarily because they came out either before I was born or before I was paying attention. Others just weren’t the types of album I was listening to at the time - even Aeroplane, which came out in '98, took me a few years to discover and catch up with. If you think about it, your favorite band releasing your favorite album when you are actually anticipating it is an incredibly rare event - one that only happens, if you’re lucky, a handful of times in your life. For me it’s been once. Guess when.
By 2001 I had been into Wilco for about 5 or 6 years. After my initial enjoyment of A.M. the band landed the 1-2 punch of Being There and Mermaid Avenue, catapulting them into constant rotation on my 5-disc changer with all the other great alt. country acts of that era. They then “officially” usurped The Tragically Hip (shut up) as my very favorite band sometime in 1999 with the release of Summerteeth. When word came a few years later that they were working on its follow up my excitement reached a fairly dysfunctional intensity. I probably checked Wilcoworld and the ViaChicago message board several times a day hoping for some little scrap of information to appease my immense curiosity. After what seemed like fucking forever, a Chicago radio station started streaming “Poor Places” from their website. That night I listened over and over, probably upwards of 15 or 20 times, gradually memorizing all the strange, exciting sounds and hoping the rest of YHF would be as perfect as this first glimpse. Wilco had already released several challenging, adventurous songs by this point, but nothing prepared me for the confounding, non-linear structure of “Poor Places” or the wall of abrasive noise that closed it. Still, it was clear that underneath the dissonance was a classic folk ballad, and one of the best songs Jeff Tweedy had ever written.
But that’s when all the infamous shit went down. What happened next has evolved into indie-rock folklore, and has perhaps become one of the decade’s defining musical stories. After deeming Yankee Hotel Foxtrot too challenging and without a song they would be able to push to radio, Reprise Records decided not to release it. Wilco were unceremoniously dropped from the label and allowed to purchase YHF back from Reprise and search for a new home. During their time in record label purgatory Wilco decided to do something that was, at the time, practically unprecedented. They streamed YHF in its entirety from their website. The highly unconventional move worked on every conceivable level. For fans it was a way to hear an album that the band was obviously very proud of even though no one had any idea when or if it would ever see the light of day. The move also ignited a bidding war between labels eager for the opportunity to release a record that was so obviously something special (to everyone but some moronic suits at Reprise). That privilege went to Nonesuch. With a new home came an official release date - sometime in late April, 2002. After listening to a stream through crappy computer speakers for so long, that first drive home from the store with the new CD blasting was an absolute revelation. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot had arrived, and it sounded better than ever.

For someone who had obsessed over music since early high school, that day was the rarest of events. My favorite band released my favorite album, and I was right there on the day it (finally) hit the shelves. If you’ve read this far you don’t need me to tell you about the music itself, you probably know every cryptic word and jarring note as well as I do. Ever since the moment I first heard the disorienting opening minutes of “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” no other album on this list, great as they are, had a chance. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot isn’t just my favorite album of the past 10 years. It’s my favorite album. And I’ve known it since the day it was born.

PHW's Albums of the Decade - #20-11

We’re getting down into it now. Here’s # 20-11 of my favorite albums of the decade. Thanks for stopping by, and look for the top ten tomorrow.

20. Let’s Get Out Of This Country / Camera Obscura (2006)

A nearly flawless gem of a record from the co-ed Scottish group that just gets better with age. The title track, “If Looks Could Kill” and especially the dizzyingly perfect “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” find Tracyanne Campbell singing some of the finest indie-pop hooks this side of A.C. Newman, while acoustic torch songs like “Country Mile” and “Dory Previn” give the album its battered heart.

MP3 :: Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken

19. Magnolia Electric Co. / Songs: Ohio (2003)

After recording some of the bleakest music of his era, Jason Molina opted to approach the transitory Magnolia Electric Co. differently. He brought his touring band, a crew who conjured a Crazy Horse-like intensity, into the studio to record his finest batch of songs yet. Highlights like “John Henry Split My Heart”, “Just Be Simple”, and, of course, the monolithic “Farewell Transmission” gush with blue-collar heartache and Molina’s aching, lonesome voice.

MP3 :: Farewell Transmission

18. Alligator / The National (2005)

Alligator should have announced a new critical and commercial darling to the indie-rock scene, but for some reason many only caught up with the band a few years later with the release of Boxer. Calling Alligator a “grower” though, as many have, is absurd - a completely revisionist excuse for missing the boat. I’ve hardly been smacked harder in the face on first listen by an album this decade than I was the first time I heard the rolling chords of “Secret Meeting”. And from there Alligator takes the richly-detailed working man blues of Matt Berninger and injects them into a batch of bracing rockers (hell yeah “Abel”) and nuanced, chamber-pop songs.

Stream :: Abel

17. Merriweather Post Pavilion / Animal Collective (2009)

After the occasionally harsh sounds of Strawberry Jam, Animal Collective filled Merriweather Post Pavilion with the same soft harmonies and mesmeric repetitions that made Person Pitch a stone-classic. That stylistic decision works particularly well within the album’s recurring themes of fatherhood and the struggle to overcome limitations to provide for your kids (see “My Girls”, especially). For years before this, their big breakthrough, Animal Collective churned out whimsical sing-alongs (“Grass”, “Leaf House”, “Peacebone”, etc) that seemed tailor-made for kids to shout along with. Ironically, it wasn’t until they started singing about adult concerns that a whole new generation of indie-kids started catching on.

16. Mass Romantic / The New Pornographers (2000)

A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar, and Neko Case’s art-pop side project turned out to be a bigger hit than anything they had done separately, turning the band into the ultimate revisionist super-group. Though they went on to make more commercially successful albums in the years that followed, nothing else captured the reckless, bizarre, and truly collaborative spirit of the band as well as their debut.

15. White Blood Cells / The White Stripes (2001)

At the heart of White Blood Cells are the recurring themes of old-fashioned simplicity (“Hotel Yorba”, “I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentleman”) and nostalgia (“We‘re Going To Be Friends”, “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known”). Neither is a hard rock platitude, but then again there weren’t many conventional aspects to Jack & Meg’s rise to prominence. Afterwards came Jack’s public relationship with an overrated celebrity, the movie cameos, and the cross-over appeal to mainstream rock fans courtesy of “Seven Nation Army” and The Raconteurs. But White Blood Cells captures the duo in their last moments before superstardom, unfettered by expectations and just out to make the best album they possibly could. Each record they’ve done since has been worthy of praise (most notably Get Behind Me Satan), but none comes close to the bare-bones 60’s garage-rock revivalism of their breakthrough.

14. The Moon & Antarctica - Modest Mouse (2000)

With its title referencing the two most remote, desolate places man has set foot, The Moon & Antarctica takes the sprawl of The Lonesome Crowded West and tightens things up thematically. With production help from Red Red Meat’s Brian Deck, Isaac Brock crafted a focused set of songs here that tackle distance, isolation, loneliness, and the afterlife with a sharp pen and the band’s typically angular sound. Though they made great independent albums before this one, and have enjoyed well-deserved crossover success on a major label since, nothing else in their catalog comes close to this dark, staggeringly ambitious masterpiece.

13. Black Sheep Boy / Okkervil River (2005)

With a plaintive cover of Tim Hardin’s title track, Okkervil River open the curtain on a set of highly literate songs filled with tension, violence, wanderlust, longing, and old fashioned romantic courtships. After a handful of more humble efforts, the thematically tight songs on Black Sheep Boy allowed the band to reach a new level of self-assuredness. They sound downright bloodthirsty on “For Real” and “Black”, and give plenty of subtle sonic weight to quieter moments like “A Stone” and “Get Big”. At the center of it all though is singer Will Sheff, whose often dramatic vocals and delivery cut right to the bone - the guy sounds like a deranged, homicidal maniac one minute and Prince Charming the next. 2007's The Stage Names propelled the band into the indie-spotlight two years later, but Okkervil River are yet to top this dark, brooding folk-rock masterpiece.

MP3 :: For Real
MP3 :: Black

12. Vacilando Territory Blues / J Tillman (2009)

There are albums that you hear in your life that become inextricably linked to a specific time and place. Hearing Vacilando Territory Blues for the first time last February, a mere 5 days before the birth of my twin girls, gives the album the unfair advantage of sentimentality. I just can’t hear songs like “Firstborn”, “Laborless Land”, or “Someone With Child” without being immediately brought back to the happiest days of my life - surely not the type of connection Tillman intended with this set of stark, endlessly beautiful folk songs. But the funny thing is that I’m sure this incredible album would be right here where it is even without the personal connection - it simply is that good.

MP3 :: Steel On Steel
MP3 :: James Blues

11. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga / Spoon (2007)

Like 2005’s workmanlike Gimme Fiction, Gax5 doesn’t do anything dramatically re-inventive with Spoon’s trademark sound - razor sharp guitars and taut arrangements that barely contain Britt Daniels’ restless howl. But this record sees the full fruition of Spoon’s gradual exploration of traditional pop sounds over the previous half decade - one after another they churn out many of their catchiest songs. From the angular guitar anti-heroics of “Don’t Make Me A Target” to the triumphant “The Underdog” through the sweeping “Black Like Me”, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is nothing short of a rock n’ roll celebration.

MP3 :: The Underdog

PHW's Albums of the Decade - #30-21

Here’s the Humpday edition of my favorite albums of the decade. Check back Thursday and Friday for the final two installments. Hope you’re enjoying it so far.

30. Fleet Foxes/ Sun Giant EP (2008)

Fleet Foxes’ stunning Sub Pop debut does a fairly common thing - it mixes traditional folk sounds with heavenly vocal harmonies and douses them in reverb. But while the method may not be unique, the results are - the album manages to make each of its small, simple songs sound like widescreen epics.

MP3 :: White Winter Hymnal
MP3 :: Mykonos

29. Plague Park - Handsome Furs (2007)

As the less critically-adored half of Wolf Parade, Dan Boeckner has been living in the shadow of the erratic genius of Spencer Krug for too long. Plague Park should be sufficient proof that Boeckner is deserving of no such fate. His is Wolf Parade’s steady hand, adding a solid string of steadfast rockers to both Apologies To The Queen Mary and At Mount Zoomer. The debut of his side project (a bare-bones duo with his wife, keyboardist Alexi Perry) is filled with gritty, paranoid urban-anthems stripped right down to their primordial core.

MP3 :: Cannot Get, Started
MP3 :: What We Had

28. The Midnight Organ Fight - Frightened Rabbit (2008)

Rock music has been documenting the tribulations of the sexually frustrated 20-something male for a long, long time. Frightened Rabbit capture that essence with their painfully earnest lyrics, their loud fucking guitars, and Scott Hutchinson's anguished Scottish howl with such precision that the fact that you’ve heard all of this before doesn‘t matter one bit. You haven’t heard this incredibly visceral version. Well, unless you have I mean. Then you already know.

MP3 :: Old Old Fashioned (live)

27. Girls Can Tell - Spoon (2001)

After 1998’s A Series of Sneaks and some unfortunate label woes, Spoon returned to the scene in a big way with the decidedly more adventurous Girls Can Tell. GCT is the beginning of Britt Daniels’ gradual incorporation of 60’s pop and 70’s soul into the band's stripped down, wiry indie-rock - soon to be perfected on Kill The Moonlight and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. A Series of Sneaks is a great rock record, but Spoon, as we know them today, starts here.

MP3 :: This Book Is A Movie

26. Feels / Animal Collective (2005)

Expanding on the psychedelic campfire vibe of 2004's Sung Tongs, Feels possesses a fuller sound and houses several songs that are more articulate than anything the band had yet attempted. The rest is organic, spacious psyche-folk (check out “Banshee Beat” to hear one of their very best songs) that walks the line between sublime and just flat-out weird (in a very, very good way).

25. Destroyer’s Rubies / Destroyer (2006)

Between Destroyer and his various side projects, Dan Bejar has been involved with, at my count, 10 albums in the past 10 years. That’s quite an output, and behind The New Pornographer’s Mass Romantic, Destroyer’s Rubies is the best one. Destroyer has always strived for expanse and mystique on record, but Rubies matches Bejar’s ambitions with a stellar set of songs (brimming with his typically bewildering lyrical fancy) and his most professional production to date.

24. The Meadowlands / The Wrens (2003)

The one-and-only Wrens album from the decade is a glorious, sprawling, broken-hearted mess of a record. The Meadowlands was put to tape over a tumultuous 4 year period during which the band were rarely, if ever, together in the same room at the same time. The results are decidedly slipshod, though somehow it still manages to sound more "mature" than anything they had previously tried. The Meadowlands captures the sound of resisting whatever urge there may be to age gracefully - turned here into high art by a couple of guys with day jobs, back alimony, and the kids on the weekend.

23. Constantines / Constantines (2001)

Canada’s Constantines made a few really terrific albums this decade, but their self-titled debut captures their ferocious intensity better than any of them. The throaty growl of Bryan Webb was the perfect vehicle for the band’s mix of raw punk energy and blue-collar classic rock. “We want the death of rock & roll” he sings on “Arizona”, which he makes you believe would be a good thing, if for no other reason than it could then be rebuilt in their likeness.

MP3 :: Arizona

22. In Rainbows / Radiohead (2007)

In Rainbows is sheer brilliance - a concise and instrumentally fluid album from the most important band of the past 15 years. Priceless.

21. For Emma, Forever Ago / Bon Iver (2008)

For Emma, Forever Ago came with the kind of built-in back-story that most albums would kill for. Guy with beard, guitar, and (incredible) voice loses his band & his girl. Guy gets mononucleosis. Guy recovers and retreats to his father’s secluded Wisconsin cabin to hibernate, only to emerge at the end of a very good winter with a record full of timeless songs. It may have taken a few months for this to really catch on after its initial limited-edition run, but when it finally did it absolutely exploded. So thanks Emma, for whatever happened.

MP3 :: Skinny Love

PHw's Albums of the Decade - #40-31

Here is "Part 2" of my 50 favorite dad-rock albums list of the past ten years. I’m not trying to be dramatic or self-important or whatever by breaking it into 5 equal segments, it’s more a result of the difficulty I always have in formatting large posts like these. Blogger can be a pain in the ass with large posts featuring multiple images, and breaking it down like this makes that somewhat easier for me.

Anyway, I’ve listened to a lot of albums over the past decade, some that I’ve actually paid for. The following are 50 that, upon reflection, I feel best represent the music fan I have become over that time. These are my favorites right now, over the past month or so that I’ve spent drafting what you are about to read. They are also the ones I anticipate going back to consistently over however long the rest of my life may be. Many of these albums you’ll recognize from various other End-of-the-Decade lists, but I promise lots of upsets, surprises, and underdogs in here as well. I hope you enjoy reading, and feel free to comment about what you agree with and where you think I fucked up. Peace.

40. Hearts of Oak - Ted Leo (2003)

The Tyranny of Distance announced Leo’s arrival on the scene in a big way, but Hearts Of Oak is the best example of his eclectic, punk-inspired indie-rock over an entire LP. The obvious highs of “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?” and “The High Party” are matched by album tracks such as “2nd Avenue, 11 A.M.” and “Bridges, Squares”, making for an album that satisfies from start to finish. His great gift though, besides an elastic voice that leap frogs into a falsetto at any given moment, is the way he manages to be so much rock n’ roll fun without ever sacrificing the social conscience.

39. The Milk-Eyed Mender - Joanna Newsom (2004)

I don’t really have words to describe The Milk-Eyed Mender, at least not ones that haven’t been turned into cliché over the past 5 years. Yeah, the first time my friend played this album for me that day in the car I was really turned off by “that voice”. After my initial disinterest he forced me to listen to “Sadie” about 3 or 4 times in a row, and the disinterest turned to intrigue. I borrowed the CD and that night lied down on the floor in my apartment and hit repeat on the unbelievably beautiful album closer “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie” about a half-dozen times. And here it is, one of my favorites of the decade. Even though Newsom generally gets labeled folk or freak-folk or whatever, there’s just nothing else out there that’s quite like her, or this perfect little record.

38. Amnesiac - Radiohead (2001)

The companion album to Kid A practically stands next to its big brother, once again finding the band exploring the endless possibilities of electronic music over 11 adventurous, continuously surprising songs.

37. Decoration Day - Drive-By Truckers (2003)

The Truckers have made quite a living writing songs about the Dirty South, and Decoration Day is the most consistently satisfying record in the Truckers’ very deep catalog. It’s also about as dark and gritty as albums get - populated with shotguns, shotgun weddings, blue collar desperation, incest, whiskey, suicide, murder, and various other forms of recklessness and debauchery. Oh yeah, and one of the most self-aware lines of the decade during “Marry Me”: “Rock n’ roll means well but it can’t help tellin’ young boys lies”. Ever so true.

MP3 :: Loaded Gun In The Closet

36. Pride / Phosphorescent (2007)

Pride is a hypnotic, meditative song cycle recorded almost entirely alone by Matthew Houck. It sounds like a true field recording, mainly because you can envision him alone out in the middle of one, guitar in hand and accompanied by an army of harmony-singing night insects. That solitude is best expressed on the arresting ballad “Wolves”, in which Houck sounds resigned to the violence that surrounds him.

MP3 :: A Picture Of Our Torn Up Praise

35. Ágætis Byrjun - Sigur Rós (2000)

The alien fetus album art unquestionably played into the notion that this band’s lush, orchestral music and the ungodly vocals of Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson were coming from somewhere much further away than the Icelandic countryside. While disappointingly not from another universe, the intense beauty of Ágætis Byrjun certainly is universal.

34. The Woods - Sleater-Kinney (2005)

That Sleater-Kinney broke up soon after the release of The Woods, one of their most critically lauded albums and the first to feature the larger-than-life production of David Fridmann, was one of the indie rock’s great losses. But they sure knew how to go out in style - The Woods is a sonically potent slab of punk-inspired classic rock that found the female trio at the height of their seemingly infinite powers.

MP3 :: Jumpers
MP3 :: Entertain

33. Bitte Orca - Dirty Projectors (2009)

Bitte Orca is a fractured avant-pop thrill ride, exactly the type of album that rewards repeat listens as its subtleties are revealed. Though masterminded by David Longstreth, this assured set of songs is a truly collaborative effort, which is never more evident than on Amber Coffman’s star-turn lead vocal performance on “Stillness Is The Move” - one of 2009’s best songs.

32. Since I Left You - The Avalanches (2000)

The Aussie’s cut-and-paste masterpiece is built from the ground up on a virtual treasure trove of samples. That firm foundation supports scratchy, blissed-out, endlessly listenable party music that feeds your brain as well as it moves your butt.

31. Quicksand/Cradlesnakes / Califone (2003)

Having never heard of the band before, I saw Califone open for Wilco soon after the release of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. I was immediately taken by the band’s mix of rickety folk and deft electronic flourishes and sought out this, their latest release at the time. 2006’s Roots & Crowns is arguably its equal, but Quicksand/Cradlesnakes remains my sentimental favorite because of the way I first stumbled across it. Plus - “One”/“Horoscopic. Amputation. Honey.”, one of the finest album openers of the decade.

MP3 :: One
MP3 :: Horoscopic. Amputation. Honey

PHW's Albums of the Decade - #50-41

This week on PHW I’ll be running a countdown of my 50 favorite dad-rock albums of the past ten years. I’m not trying to be dramatic or self-important by doing it over 5 days and breaking it into 5 equal segments, it’s more a result of the difficulty I always have in formatting posts of this nature. Blogger can be a pain in the ass with large posts featuring multiple images, and I’ve never figured out how to make these things look just the way I want them. Breaking it down like this makes that somewhat easier for me.

Anyway, I’ve listened to a lot of albums over the past decade. Some that I’ve actually paid for. The following are 50 that, upon reflection, I feel best represent the music fan I have become over that time. These are my favorites right now, over the past month or so that I’ve spent drafting what you are about to read, and the ones that I anticipate going back to most over however long the rest of my life may be. Many of these albums you’ll recognize from various other End-of-the-Decade lists or wherever, but I promise lots of upsets and underdogs in here as well. I hope you enjoy reading, and feel free to comment about what you agree with and where you think I fucked up. Peace.

50. Impasse - Richard Buckner (2002)

Impasse may be the most overlooked record in the already underappreciated catalog of this Texas-by-way-of-California singer-songwriter. Not as emotionally naked as Devotion & Doubt, as all-encompassing as Since, as historical as The Hill, and predating his contract with Merge, Impasse is simply a collection of great indie-folk songs that are spruced up by Buckner’s wife on drums and some unexpectedly convincing synth-work. The result is an album with a uniformly moody, mid-tempo sound that centers on Buckner’s deep-throated rasp and elliptical lyrical style. It’s a personal favorite that I never get tired of. Obviously, or it wouldn’t be here.

49. Endless Summer - Fennesz (2001)

Endless Summer is quite a departure from the music that makes up much of the rest of this list. While in no way a less inviting album than, say, Since I Left You or Fleet Foxes, this classic from sound manipulator Christian Fennesz is mostly comprised of strummed, distorted acoustic & electric guitars surrounded by hissy, ambient noise effects. The result is a beautiful album to submerge yourself into like you would the cool ocean on a hot and hazy summer day.

48. Dear Science, - TV On The Radio (2008)

By the time of Dear Science, TV On The Radio had already made a pair of the most critically-lauded albums of the preceding few years. This album was received similarly, but managed to reach a larger audience than ever before. The difference here is the band’s willingness to strip back some of the more challenging, noisier elements of their repertoire and let the accessible side of their songs shine through. This is clear right from the opening moments, as those thumping first beats and doo-wop “bom-bom-bom-bom-boms” of “Halfway Home” kick in and lasts all the way through to the triumphant finale “Lover’s Day”.

47. American Hearts - AA Bondy (2007)

One of the most unadorned albums on this list, American Hearts is an album of songs, and what a great collection of those this is. The intimate folk music of his 2007 solo debut make Bondy sound like a man out of time - a relic from an era when songs were sung and remembered instead of ever actually being written down, much less recorded in a studio. There are highlights throughout (“There’s A Reason”, “Black Rain, Black Rain”, and the elegiac “Of The Sea” spring to mind), but on “Witness Blues” it’s like he re-wrote “Blowin’ In The Wind” for the Bush administration - “and once there was a time to join the army, and once there was a time to hear the news, and once there was a time for easy silence, but now the jury waits for you”.

MP3 :: There’s A Reason

46. Untrue - Burial (2007)

The underground dubstep on the mysterious Burial’s sophomore album is the perfect soundtrack for long walks through urban winters; a distant and alien sounding collection of R&B vocal samples, emaciated beats, and ambient noises. Whatever haunted universe this music is beaming from must be lovely, dark, and deep.

45. Everything All The Time - Band of Horses (2006)

The influences here may be easier-than-easy to spot, but Band of Horses’ debut overcomes pigeonholing on the strength of Ben Bridwell’s reverb-soaked vocals and some really kick-ass songs. “The Funeral” is one of the very best rock songs of the decade; a soaring anthem that could encore their shows until the wheels fall off. But there are plenty of other highlights here that nearly match it - particularly the pulsing “Our Swords” and the slow-building, melodic folk of “Monsters”.

MP3 :: The Funeral
MP3 :: The Great Salt Lake

44. Mono / Grandpaboy (2002)

Despite a promising 1993 solo debut, 14 Songs, most of Paul Westerberg’s post-Replacements output has lacked the spark of his former band’s best years. For that matter, so did the last few Mats albums. But at some point in the mid-90’s, in between lackluster major label efforts, he found time to sneak out a quick 5-song independently released EP under the Grandpaboy pseudonym which managed to recall the tossed-off spirit and snappy songwriting of his youth. In typical fashion, it went pretty much unnoticed by everyone except his diehard fans. After being dropped in 1999 by his second major label in as many albums, Westerberg retreated to his basement and started bashing out home recordings of similar quality to that EP at a fairly rapid pace. He’s now been doing it for 10 years. The best of the bunch is Mono, a collection of ragged rockers (again under the Grandpaboy moniker and released in conjunction with the folk-leaning Stereo) that is easily his most exciting set of songs since Pleased To Meet Me.

43. Distance And Clime / Centro-matic (2003)

It was a hard task choosing just one album for this list from this Denton, TX band, as every single one they’ve released (and God knows there a bunch) is essential stuff in my book. But Distance & Clime flaunts everything I love about Centro-matic in spades - passionate, egoless rock songs bursting with energy, Will Johnson’s sandpaper growl, and my favorite guitar tones (buzzy, feedback-heavy, and right up front) of any working band.

42. The Sunset Tree - The Mountain Goats (2005)

The Sunset Tree is unique in the way it makes someone’s personal anguish so endlessly inviting. John Darnielle’s often uncomfortably personal documentation of surviving an abusive stepfather is also one of the most redemptive albums I've ever heard. Much of it is fairly typical late-period Mountain Goats (acoustic guitars driving the rhythm, sprinkled piano, Darnielle’s penetrating vocals, and detail-oriented lyrics that use jarringly direct similes), albeit quieter and more contemplative. But a handful of truly anthemic songs, like “Dance Music” (“so this is what the volume knob’s for”) and “This Year” (“I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me”), force us to sing along, and in turn must offer a sort of communal healing for Darnielle, especially when performed live.

MP3 :: Lion’s Teeth

41. Bows + Arrows - The Walkmen (2004)

The Walkmen’s sophomore album sways between bracing rockers (“The Rat”, “Little House Of Savages”), and woozy, romantic ballads (“Hang On, Siobhan”, “138th Street”) that proved The Strokes weren’t the only relevant post-punk band in NYC during the early years of the decade. Bows + Arrows thrives on pent-up tension, either brought out by the clash of chugging rhythms and clanging electric guitars, or by Hamilton Leithauser’s anxious, growling lead vocals. Though they went on to make a better record a few years later with You & Me, Bows + Arrows is an essential early statement from one of the decade’s best rock bands.