Amoeblog

Best of a Rapid Decade: One per year plus a few too good to not mention...

Posted by Mark Beaver, January 6, 2010 04:00pm | Post a Comment

In recently trying to fill in a friend on what I'd spent the last year or two listening to, I realized that my personal taste tends to gravitate towards some element of either Folk form (any hint of hill-folk finger-pickin' or Ozark/Appalachian melancholy and I'm in), Psychedelia or the tendency to extend a theme for a good long jam (a category in which I include a lot of the Jazz that I like), or just a great, funky groove.

With those qualifiers in place, the following is a year by year review of the last decade which somehow got past me with out noticing it. I mean, really?!! 2010?!!!  I didn't see it coming: 

2000: Album of the Year

Air's enjoyable and wacky Moon Safari had been on the decks for a couple years before they contracted for the soundtrack to Sofia Coppolla's Virgin Suicides. The resultant score is absolutely sublime and marked the French electronauts as contenders to watch.

For myself, it was the defining sound of the millennium's new year.
















Shelby Lynne released a killer country-soul gem, I Am Shelby Lynne, that echoed early material from the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Thinking that it was a brilliant debut from a talented 32yo unknown, I was eventually shocked to find that it was her 6th album. I listened to it for months.




Radiohead's Kid A stood out from the pack as probably my most listened to album of 2000.  It wasn't quite another OK Computer, but I was still high on them and the layers of rock guitar, electronica and Thom Yorke's signature vocal style kept me happy for another year.



Susumu Yokota was dropped on my radar by friends who just know what I like. Sakura, on the LEAF label, is on par with much of that label's releases: smooth, almost glacial electronica. In this case, lots of processed guitar and drum patterns building small, contemplative, melodic pieces. Yokota followed this beauty with an even stronger release in 2002, The Boy and the Tree.




2001: Album of the Year

2001 gave me the one title that I still obsess most about to this day.  It's an odd and singular slab of vinyl by The
Microphones
called The Glow Pt. 2. I have a hard time convincing others of its sheer greatness, but I've brought a few fellow travelers on board.

Led by Washington based Phil Elvrum, who now records under the moniker Mt. Eerie, The Glow is a many-faceted gem of lo-fi songwriting of shocking focus and clarity. Elvrum never lets anything play long enough to bore, and he has, album by album, become a master of atmosphere: layering found sounds, both natural and man-made, across his troubled, gentle songs. This is definitely an album that plays better alone and with headphones, but man! Easily in my Top 5 albums of the decade!





I was totally locked-in with White Stripes and the full-blown media blitz around White Blood Cells. I still think that it holds up as an amazing document from a great year from a great band at their peak. "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," is still a great song, as is "Fell in Love With a Girl," and the surprisingly sweet and affecting "We're Going To Be Friends."




2002: Album of the Year

I think that it would be hard not to admit that Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was the album of the year for 2002. All of the drama around the album allegedly being "passed on" by their label and its subsequent extreme on-line success was just too good of a story to not propel this really very, very good album into legendary status. It belongs there.

















2002 also gave us new highs from long-time staples Beck and The Flaming Lips. Both Beck and the Lips are fairly chameleonic entities. They change styles like people change babies. Beck sounded like he'd been bingeing on Gordon Lightfoot on his release, Sea Change, but the sound fit him well and, to date, it's the only Beck I own.



The Flaming Lips remade themselves from hard-driving psychedelic (damaged) warriors into mystic prophets of the multi-layered freakout. I loved Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots from the opening chords.




The sleeper of the year was Cliff Martinez' electronic score for Steven Soderbergh's remake of SolarisBattestar Galactica fans may recognize some of it as it reappeared in spots on the recent TV series. Not unlike an electronic gamelan. Hypnotic and absolutely beautiful.




Though associated thru her husband, Phil Wandscher, with the band Whiskeytown, Jesse Sykes is a phenomenon all her own. Her pacing, her smoky, almost male vocal tones and her haunting original songs have made her one of my top artists of the decade. As killer as Reckless Burning was in 2002, her albums only got better as the decade progressed. Definitely check out 2007's Like, Love, Lust and the Open Halls of the Soul (Barsuk).



Led by Will Oldham's brother, Ned Oldham, Anomoanon (rhymes with "phenomenon") brought all of their talents into focus for their 5th release, Asleep Many Years In The Wood. Sometimes described as a less-meandering Grateful Dead, or a slightly happier take on Crazy Horse, I loved, loved, loved this album and truly, every time I played it, somebody said something to the effect of, "this is awesome, what is it?"





2003: Album of the Year

I didn't pay any attention to Songs:Ohia until 2003, when their Magnolia Electric Co. (a name the band would subsequently be known by) appeared and blew my mind. Rootsy, haunting, alternately rocking or introspective, Jason Molina's self-driven project was my listen of the year.

Also released as a limited 2CD version that includes a disc of the whole album from beginning to end, done by Molina, solo, with just his guitar for company, on the last night that he occupied his apartment. Any of the band tracks that might not seem focused on the first studio disc come into high-relief thru Molina's solo treatment.










Bonnie Prince Billy (aka Palace, Palace Bro.s, Will Oldham) released his best album to date in 2002. Fully produced with strings, backing vocals and the whole kaboodle, it's a near-perfect album. Lots of his trademark Appalachian whine, but fleshed out. Every song a winner. You will see more of Oldham as you read on: he is my choice for Musician of the Decade.




A thick scotch brogue and traditional Scottish ballads or songs that certainly sound like traditional Scottish ballads (murder ballads or otherwise) mist up from the grooves on Alasdair Roberts' Farewell Sorrow. From the band Appendix Out, and signed to Drag City under the urging of Will Oldham, Roberts makes a softly paced trad-folk that's incredibly easy to listen to.



William Basinski found some old reel-to-reels that he had made back in the 80's, and, in the process of trying to transfer them to digital, noticed that the CrO2 was just falling off the tapes like powder. He looped the reels and let them play until they faded into silence. The results, his Disintegration Loops, are some of the most haunting recordings you will ever hear.





Hala Strana is fronted by the Jewelled Antler Collective member Steven R. Smith. You can hear him play amazing guitar on his own recordings and in the bands Thuja, Mirza and Ulaan Khol. Hala Strana takes all of his fuzzed and smeared guitar artistry and applies it toward treatments of themes from Eastern European folk music. Killer!


 

2004: Album of the Year

In all fairness, Dungen had been in the collective hipster consciousness for a good year or more when Ta Det Lugnt hit the shelves, but this was the slbum that set off the full-blown craze.

Everything I like is here: Scandinavian folk forms, psychedelia and some great extended grooves.

I just wish I knew what they were saying...
















The band Espers hails from the Philadelphia area, but their sound is all British Isles circa 1969. There is very little that definitely marks them as being a new-millennium-era band, but I don't mind that in the least. If everyone looked backwards at what came before them as solidly and craftfully as this accomplished combo does, the world would be a more beautiful place. And their albums are all as good as this, if not better.




2004 marked the debut recording, Milk-Eyed Mender, from classically-trained harpist/composer Joanna Newsom. Her troubling voice turned many to flight, as Allmusic described it, "somehere between a child and a crone." I loved it just because of that untrained Appalachian-scented cry. Her songs are intricate and heartfelt, like teaching songs for children about the most painful things they've yet to face.



Ghost albums are always a crap-shoot, but 2004 gave us one of the real gems in Hypnotic Underworld. Though there are no bad Ghost albums, some don't have the pacing one would like, or that complete album feel. Hypnotoc Underworld unfolds of a piece: great songs, great jams, great playing. Everything, in fact, that a collective of Japanese neo-hippies can bring. The best of theirs since 1996's Lama Rabi Rabi.





2005: Album of the Year

Okkervil River is another group that had bubbled along for years, arguably producing even stronger albums than Black Sheep Boy before I stumbled upon them. Nevertheless, I hooked into Black Sheep Boy and didn't let go for weeks.

The title track is a Tim Hardin cover, paced and folky like the original, but the rest of the album thrums like young punkers that are having a hard time fitting into the confines of "songwriting."

That very tension makes it all work.










Many Allison Goldfrapp fans will point to her self-titled band's 2000 debut, Felt Mountain, as the best of her output so far, but I found it all a bit too James Bond-y, torchy and tried. With Black Cherry, she lays it all out for the dancefloor and contends for the sexiest chanteuse of the decade. The title track, the grinding "The Train," and "Strict Machine" are some the most voluptuous dance tracks in years.






They may not have the most original sound on the block, echoing Red House Painters, Jay Farrar, Early Day Miners, and even straying close to Handsome Family, but Great Lake Swimmers sure know their way around a beautiful tune. Banjo, guitar, strings and brushed drums add up to sadcore at its prettiest.




Once the freak-folk began searching for her whereabouts, we knew it wouldn't be long before a new album (after a 35-year hiatus) emerged from British folk legend Vashti Bunyan. Lookaftering sounds like she recorded it a year after her last, the legendarily gorgeous Just Another Diamond Day from 1970. Well worth the wait.






At some point I'm going to have to admit that all I want is a cabin in the woods and a jug of moonshine because that's the sound that kills me. Phosphorescent is basically a one-person (Matthew Houck out of Athens, GA) band plus friends. On Aw Come Aw Wry, they make a decidedly Will Oldham-y sort of sound, though a bit heavier on the hoedown and religious revival. And who can resist a CD that ends with 19 minutes of rain recorded from a rural Georgia porch?





2006: Album of the Year/Album & Artist of the Decade

I've been a fan of Will Odham's through all of his incarnations, but nothing prepared me for The Letting Go. Recorded in Iceland with major contributions from Dawn McCarthy from the folky Faun Fables, the album is a major document of a truly gifted and eccentric songwriter at a real peak.

McCarthy's vocal arrangements are to be credited with a lot of the album's sparse power, but the songs are just really, really excellent.

Listen to the "little birdy" refrain that leads out of "Cursed Sleep." It has echoes of Charles Ives' vocal arrangements on Shaker themes. Fragile, backwoods songs as heard on a lost and broken coast out in the middle of the Atlantic...




Again, here's a piece that stirs the ghost of Charles Ives. Joanna Newsom returns with her second album, and it's a much more ambitious effort that her first collection of songs: only five songs that average out at about 11 minutes each. Van Dyke Parks is on board to help the arrangements in a sort of torch-passing of the American song-cycle form. It's a masterpiece, and a close contender for album of the decade.




I am a reluctant fan of the freak-folk. I don't like how dangerously close Devendra Banhart's vocals stray to those of T.Rex, especially since I'm not a fan of T.Rex's vocals, either. So, when a Banhart-associated project landed in my lap, I was slow to respond. Luckily, I did, and found something much less freak-folk and much more focused and complete. Vetiver's To Find Me Gone is large patches of musical extensions, slightly ambient psychedelic, held together with stitches of fine songwriting. Check "I Know No Pardon" and "You May Be Blue."



Juana Molina...what the hell?! Argentinian singer who makes confoundingly creative albums so varied and layered with ideas that I have to guess she's just plain nuts. Son is her 4th and, for me, her most out. It stands like The Dreaming amongst Kate Bush's catalogue. The stops are pulled out and the sheer insane musicality of it all tumbles out. Hold onto your hat.





I had pegged the Liars, after their debut album, They Threw Us All In A Trench..., as Fall wannabees. Interesting choice, I thought. Lots of the kids are copying the old-folks, but I haven't heard them attempting the Fall, yet. Their sophomore effort, 2004's They Were Wrong, So We Drowned was so god-awful that I thought I was done. Then they went even crazier. Drum's Not Dead and 2007's Liars are amazing albums, and I have no idea what they are doing.



2007: Album of the Year

It was a hard pick between Iron & Wine's The Shepherd's Dog and Panda Bear's Person Pitch, but in the end I was just so proud of Iron & Wine that I picked them as the best of the year.

After years of finely done, but ultimately a bit soft, boring and just incomplete music, I was pleasantly surprised by this full album of great songs, dynamics and jam that made me think that leader Samuel Beam had gone on a major Lindsay Buckingham kick and gleaned all the best things from the craftsman of Fleetwood Mac's pop gems. Feel the Tusk!








Person Pitch by Panda Bear (a project lead by Animal Collective's Noah Lennox) was presented to me as something I was supposed to either dislike or be confused by. Confused, yes, but I loved it. It was like the Beach Boys, who I never liked, suddenly made sense. These are the sounds inside Brian Wilson's head.





Are the tones that Adam Forkner utilizes on White Rainbow's Prism of Eternal Now really healing? They certainly healed my great drone deficiency. Forkner did similarly great work in his previous band Yume Bitsu, and it's good to see he hasn't lost any chops. Satisfies where Stars of the Lid only tease.




From the same Scottish collective that brought us King Creosote, K.T. Tunstall and Alasdair Roberts, James Yorkston writes beautiful, lilting ballads that churn along with strings, brushed drums, harmonica, mandolins and the like. Year of the Leopard is a great companion for a rainy day, of which, unfortunately, Los Angeles has way too few.





There are times in listening to the albums of Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen that one might think that he has abandoned the project, or just forgotten to play. Then the trio takes its next step forward and all of that silence makes breathtaking sense. Being There is his best to date and well worth some time spent in its company.




2008: Album of the Year 

Unlike a lot of the full-blown crazes of the last decade, I really liked how the Bon Iver phenomenon manifested. Not very different from the pacing of the album For Emma... itself, it bubbled along by word-of-mouth as more and more people really took stock of what they were listening to.

Justin Vernon's voice is unbelievably soulful without straying into the territory of "Soul Music." He uses vocoder without straying into irony or 80's nostalgia. It's so reservedly experimental that it never becomes "Art Rock." For Emma, Forever Ago is a felt and artful and crafted album, and it deserves all the praise its been given.








This is the cover of the LP version of Build An Ark's Dawn album. It's a great album cover. Luckily, what I found on listening is an astounding album of spiritual jazz featuring Phil Ranelin, Dwight Trible (arguably one of the greatest living jazz vocalists), Carlos Nino and Adam Rudolph, among a host of others. One can draw a line directly from the Impulse recordings of John and Alice Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders to this project's spirit. Heartful and real.





Former Pavement guy Stephen Malkmus got it all working for Real Emotional Trash. He's obviously loving playing his guitar and the extensions on the title track, "Hopscotch Willie," and "Elmo Delmo" show it. His lyrics are as often nonsensical as not, but we never complained when the Ramones sang "Gabba Gabba Hey."





Featuring members that have all cut their teeth over the years with the likes of Earlimart, Sebadoh and The Folk Implosion, Everest peaked the curiosity and attention of Neil Young, who signed them to his Vapor label and took them as openers on two tours. They write great folk and psychedelia-tinged songs like "Rebel in the Roses" and "Black Covers." Can't wait for the next, hopefully appearing sometime in 2010.





I never thought that I would respond to anything so redolent of Bob Dylan as Swede Kristian Matsson's solo venture, The Tallest Man On Earth. However, it's really surprising and really, really good. Just him and guitar (or dobro) and a pocketful of forward-driving folk songs that stand up and shake you by the lapels.






Just when you think there can't be any more good songs in Will Oldham, he lays out another gem. Every time I hear Lie Down In The Light again I just shake my head. How can it be so friggin' good?

Yet another reason why I grant him the title of Musician of the Decade.






2009: Album of the Year

All the pre-hype on this record had it billed as "their black-metal album." Well, black-metal it's not, but the record is flavored with it.

Phil Elvrum (formerly frontman for the aforementioned The Microphones), mixes up a brew that smokes with ambient, field recordings, low-breathed musings and full black-metal assault. It all adds up and ends up being surprisingly human and vulnerable and bare.

I understand those that can't get behind Mt. Eerie, but Im not going to join them. I think they are one of the few groups today that sound ONLY like themselves.









First of all, Dinosaur Jr. finally got themselves a good album cover. Really, they have had some of the worst of all time in their long 22 years of music-making. On top of that, Farm is a great album. Like on the previously mentioned Stephen Malkmus LP,  the Dinos are obviously really enjoying the act of playing rock-n-roll. A folky, Neil Young-y tinge has seeped in over the years and their songs are better for it. Arguably the best of their long career!






Like Espers, Marissa Nadler's music is hard to pin into the 21st century. Using 60's and 70's British Folk as a springboard, she lets her own songs slightly unwind. Organ, guitar, lap steel and percussion build a reserved psychedelic ambience around her thin reed of a voice. Little Hells is her 4th album in 5 years and she grows with every release. Keep an eye on her.

       
          
 

best of the 00's...my top 100 albums of the last decade 2000-2009...

Posted by Brad Schelden, January 1, 2010 04:00pm | Post a Comment



#1
Sigur Ros
-Agaetis Byrjun
(Play it Again Sam) 2000





 



#2
Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Fever To Tell (Interscope) 2003












#3
A Place To Bury Strangers-
A Place To Bury Strangers
(Killer Pimp) 2007










#4
Antony & the Johnson
-I Am a Bird Now (Secrectly Canadian) 2005








#5
Blonde Redhead
-
Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons

(Touch & Go) 2000






#6
The Faint
-Danse Macabre
(Saddle Creek) 2001





 



#7
The White Stripes
-White Blood Cells
(Warner Brothers) 2001




 



#8
Sufjan Stevens
-Illinoise
(Asthmatic Kitty) 2005




 



#9
Idlewild
-100 Broken Windows
(Capitol) 2000




 




#10
Bloc Party
-Silent Alarm (Vice) 2005




 




Radiohead-Kid A (Capitol) 2000





 




The Strokes-Is This It (RCA) 2001




 




The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
-
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

(Slumberland) 2009




 





MGMT-Oracular Spectacular
(Columbia) 2008





 






XX-XX (XL Recordings) 2009





 



Cat Power-You Are Free (Matador) 2003





 




The Knife
-Silent Shout (Mute) 2006




 




Hercules & Love Affair-
Hercules & Love Affair

(Mute) 2008




 





Jens Lekman-Night Falls Over Kortedala (Secretly Canadian) 2007




 




Patrick Wolf-Lycanthropy (Tomlab) 2004






 




The Postal Service-Give Up
(Sub Pop) 2003




 




M83
-Saturdays=Youth (Mute) 2008




 




Thieves Like Us-Play Music
(Shelflife) 2009





 




Explosions In the Sky
-
All Of a Sudden I Miss Everybody

(Temporary Residence) 2007





 




Daft Punk
-Discovery (Virgin) 2001




 




Arcade Fire-Funeral (Merge) 2004









Interpol
-Turn On the Bright Lights (Matador) 2002









Burial
-Untrue (Hyperdub) 2007










Black Heart Procession
-3
(Touch & Go) 2000









The National
-Boxer
(Beggars Banquet) 2007









Lily Allen-Alright Still (Capitol) 2007










Phoenix
-United (Astralwerks) 2000










At the Drive-In
-Relationship of Command
(Fearless) 2000









The Murder City Devils
-In Name & Blood
(Sub Pop) 2000









Placebo
-Sleeping With Ghosts (Astralwerks) 2003









Junior Boys
-So this is Goodbye
(Domino) 2006









Radio Dept.
-Pet Grief (Labrador) 2006









The Drums
-Summertime!
(Holiday Records) 2009









Peaches
-Teaches of Peaches
(Matador) 2000








TV on the Radio
-
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
(Touch & Go) 2004









Booka Shade-The Sun & the Neon Light (Get Physical) 2008








Telefon Tel Aviv-Immolate Yourself
(Bpitch Control) 2009









Studio
-West Coast (Information) 2007









The Teenagers
-Reality Check
(XL Recordings) 2008








M.I.A.
-Kala (Interscope) 2007










Bon Iver
-For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar) 2008









My Morning Jacket
-Z (ATO) 2005










Jose Gonzalez
-In Our Nature (Mute) 2007









The Gossip
-
Standing in the Way of Control

(Kill Rock Stars) 2006









Fever Ray
-Fever Ray (Mute) 2009









Silversun Pickups
-Swoon
(Dangerbird) 2009








The Killers
-Hot Fuss (Island) 2004










The Mars Volta
-
De-Loused In the Comatorium
(Universal) 2003






Arctic Monkeys
-
Whatever People Say
I Am,
That's What I'm Not
(Domino) 2006








The Decemberists
-Picaresque
(Kill Rock Stars) 2005









Belle & Sebastian
-The Life Pursuit (Matador) 2006








PJ Harvey
-
Stories From the City,
Stories From the Sea

(Island) 2000








Iron & Wine
-The Shepherd's Dog
(Sub Pop) 2007









Okkervil River
-Stage Names
(Jagjaguwar) 2007









Fleet Foxes
-Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop) 2008










Beirut
-Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing!) 2006










Shout Out Louds-Our Ill Wills
(Merge) 2007










Ryan Adams
-Rock N Roll
(Lost Highway) 2003









Muse
-Absolution (Warner Brothers) 2003










Franz Ferdinand
-Franz Ferdinand (Domino) 2004









CSS
-Cansei De Ser Sexy (Sub Pop) 2006










Lightspeed Champion
-
Falling Off the Lavender Bridge

(Domino) 2008








!!!
-Louden Up Now (Touch & Go) 2004









Death Cab For Cutie
-Photo Album (Barsuk) 2001








Bat For Lashes
-Fur & Gold
(Caroline) 2007










Crystal Castles
-Crystal Castles
(Last Gang) 2008









Max Richter
-Blue Notebooks
(Fat Cat) 2004









Jonas Reinhardt
-Jonas Reinhardt (Kranky) 2008









Manual
-Azure Vista (Darla) 2005










Ulrich Schnauss
-Goodbye (Domino) 2007










Sally Shapiro
-Disco Romance (Diskokaine) 2007









Gonzalez & Russom
-The Days of Mars (Astralwerks) 2005









Grouper-Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill (Type) 2008









Pictureplane-Dark Rift
(Lovepump United) 2009









Justice
-Cross (Vice) 2007










The Daysleepers
-
Drowned in a Sea of Sound

(Clairecords) 2008








The Legends
-Public Radio
(Labrador) 2006









Memory Tapes
-Seek Magic
(Pod/Inertia) 2009









Gravenhurst-Western Lands (Warp) 2007










Cursive
-Ugly Organ (Saddle Creek) 2003








Los Campesinos
-
We Are Beautiful We Are Doomed

(Arts & Crafts) 2008









The Big Pink
-Brief History of Love
(4AD) 2009








Friendly Fires-Friendly Fires (XL) 2008









Pelle Carlberg
-In a Nutshell
(Labrador) 2007









Godspeed You Black Emperor!
-
Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven

(Kranky) 2000










Grace Jones-Hurricane
(Wall of Sound) 2008










Mogwai-Rock Action (Matador) 2001










Xiu Xiu-Fabulous Muscles
(Five Rue Christine) 2004









Cold Cave-Love Comes Close
(Matador) 2009








Mew-And the Glass Handed Kites (Columbia) 2006










Dead Man's Bones-Dead Man's Bones (Anti) 2009










Maria Taylor-Lynn Teeter Flower
(Saddle Creek) 2007









Deastro-Moondagger
(Ghostly International) 2009









My Vitriol-Finelines (Epic) 2001









Sun Kill Moon-
Ghosts of the Great Highway
(Caldo Verde) 2003







Black Light District's Best Dark Music Albums of The '00's

Posted by Aaron Detroit, December 23, 2009 12:45pm | Post a Comment
Last week, I posted Black Light District's year-end best of list, which was a breeze to compile compared to reviewing the last 10 years for this week's post -- the 20 Best Dark Music Albums of The Decade. I had to whittle away many great titles, but I believe these records have proven to be or will prove to be dark classics for years to come. See ya next year, kids...

1. Coil – The Ape of Naples / The New Backwards (2005/08)


John Balance’s passing was one of the great tragedies in the music world this past decade. It was especially sad to see one of his greatest works be released posthumously. The recordings on The Ape of Naples and its (later-released) sister album, The New Backwards (collected together in the limited Ape of Naples LP box set), date back as far as 1993 when the band was briefly signed to Trent Reznor’s Nothing label, but went unfinished until 2004 when the group returned to the abandoned material for their new album. Gorgeous Funeral-Folk, third-eye electronics and captured transmissions from beyond The Threshold.

Listen: Coil "Fire of the Mind"




2. Diamanda Galas – Defixiones, Will and Testament (2003)

Diamanda has been scaring and thrilling me since I was a teenager and first heard the double-miked insanity that is Plague Mass
. Her wrath is visceral and unrelenting, and is not something I would like to incur. EVER. She once referred to her voice as “an instrument of inspiration for my friends, and a tool of torture and destruction to my enemies.” And that is exactly how she uses it on Defixiones, Will and Testament -- which not only stands as one of the best albums of the decade, but also as one of Diamanda’s ultimate masterpieces. This album is meant to give voice to those lives lost in the Armenian, Assyrian, and Anatolian Greek genocides which occurred between 1914 and 1923 via Galas’ other-worldy four-octave voice, piano, tape and minimal electronics. Harrowing, devastating, emotionally eructative, yet scholarly focused. The album, for its weight, intensity and scope, has no peers. 

                                                                  Listen: Diamanda Galas "Holokoftoma"





3. Nový Svět - Chappaqua (2001)

The now-defunct Austrian duo, Novy Svet, while largely associated with the Neofolk genre in the early part of this decade, was a truly singular band. Their post-industrial sound included bits of wonky lounge, Mediterranean folk, minimal wave, electro, krautrock, dark ambient and jazz. Their lyrics are sung in everything from English, Spanish, and German to Italian, French and even Esperanto. One’s inability to pin the duo down to one genre is a testament to their unique genius. While nearly any one of their 11 full-length albums could have made this list, Chappaqua is the first stand-out amongst their many stand-outs. It is the early masterpiece in their catalog for its unnervingly sinister ambience and dark romanticism -- sounding like nothing else in the year 2001, before, or after. 
                                                                 
                                                                  Listen: Nový Svět "En Posesion De Te"




4. The Knife - Silent Shout (2005)

Music for a David Lynch film that doesn’t exist but should from weirdo Swedish Brother/Sister Duo.
The Dreaming-style weirdly-pitched and occasional Eastern scale vocals, memorable melodies, bizarre story-telling and general eerie atmosphere make this one of the darkly defining and classic albums of the decade.

Listen: The Knife "One Hit" 






5. Subtonix – Tarantism (2002)

Subtonix was one of the only Deathrock bands to do it right this decade. They reclaimed the flame and moved the genre forward. Combining elements of Christian Death, X-Ray Spex, Fuzzbox and feminism with a Gothic Horror aesthetic at now- legendarily frenzied live shows, this is the one LP they left us with and it holds up with the classics from the original 1980’s Deathrock-wave.


Listen: Subtonix "Berlin 1930"




6. Cold CaveLove Comes Close (2009)


Like Subtonix were to Deathrock, Cold Cave is to Synthpop. Love Comes Close is an infectious slab of 9 inspired Darkwave and Synthpop anthems. Cold Cave couldn't have timed their debut any better either, with Synthpop bound for a big comeback with the release of BBC's stellar documentary Synth Britannia. Read my review of
Love Comes Close from earlier this year here.

                          Listen: Cold Cave "Heaven Was Full"






7. The Vanishing – Still Lifes Are Failing (2004)

After Subtonix, saxophonist/vocalist Jessie Evans (then Jessie Trashed) moved on to the more synth-heavy band, The Vanishing. Starting out with a relatively traditional Deathrock-vibe, the group eventually evolved into a more hypnotic dark electro/industrial sound, which can be found on the intense Still Lifes Are Failing. A record very much of its environment, Still Lifes funnels all the fear, war, excess and confusion of the last decade into a tight yet frenetic set that moves from the paranoid to the celebratory and back in under an hour. One of the best live bands of the decade finally was able to distill some of what made them so special live into a studio record. 

                                                                 Listen: The Vanishing "Still Lifes"






8. Wolves in The Throne Room – Diadems of 12 Stars (2006)

Epic, transcendental Black Metal that set the new bar. Folk, Goth, Shoegaze and Blackened Metal collide on the debut (and still the band's best as a whole) from the Olympia, Washington forest-dwellers. As important to American Metal’s evolution as Weakling’s Dead As Dreams.

Listen: Wolves In The Throne Room "(A Shimmering Radiance) Diadem of 12 Stars" PART 1
                                                                 
                                                                 PART 2




9. Rome – Masse Me
nsch Material (2008)

Honestly, any one of Rome’s records could have made this list, but I do believe Masse Mensch Material is the strongest of
masterstrokes from this young yet wonderfully prolific “Chanson Noir” collective. Rome built its foundation on Neofolk but has brazenly forged its own path, consistently improving and evolving on each consecutive release. They came out of nowhere and knocked all the hapless hushed neo-strummers on their asses and then kicked them into the dirt. The band further evolved on their 2009 release, Flowers From Exile (#7 0f 2009), adding poppier melodies and expanded instrumentation such as flamenco guitar to their soundscape. This definitely made Mensch the closing of the first chapter in the Rome story, and also effectively made it the band’s strongest effort as a ‘post-Industrial’ or ‘Neofolk’ outfit. Also, none of frontman Jerome Reuter’s peers can compete with his classic gothic tenor. 
                                                                
Listen: Rome "Der Brandtaucher"




10. Ruby Throat – The Ventriloquist (2007)

Stellar debut from Katiejane Garside's Folk-Noir project with guitarist Chris Wittingham. Ethereal pyscho-sexual musings to stark transgressive murder-balladry to sixteen-minute-long Apocalyptic/Psychedelic folk tracks. An amazing new peak for Garside, an already consistently powerful artist.


Listen: Ruby Throat "Lie To Me"




11.  Weakling - Dead As Dreams (2000)


Listen: Weakling "Cut Their Grain And Place Fire Therein" PART 1
                             
PART 2











12. Der Blutharsch - When Did Wonderland End? (2005)


Listen: Der Blutharsch "So Bring Your Iron Rain Down"









13. Bain Wolfkind – Music For Lovers & Gangsters (2005)


Listen: Bain Wolfkind "I Only Get Turned On..."

 









14. Ludicra – Hollow Psalms (2002)
 
Listen: Ludicra "The Final Lamentation"





 






15.  Piano Magic – Disaffected (2005)


Listen: Piano Magic "Night Of The Hunter"














16. Turn Pale – Kill The Lights! (2003)


Listen: Turn Pale "Lights Melt Away"

 












17. Cult of Youth – A Stick to Bind, A Seed To Grow (2008)


Listen: Cult of Youth "Torch of Man"


 










18. The Gault - Even As All Before Us (2004)


Listen: The Gault "Bright White Blind"

 












19. Spiritual Front - Armageddon Gigolo (2005)


Listen: Spiritual Front "Love Through Vaseline"














20. Tor Lundvall - Sleeping And Hiding (2009) 


Listen: Tor Lundvall "Falling Trees"











Honorable Mentions:

Nachtmystium – Instinct: Decay
(2006)

Derniere Volonte – Devant Le Miroir (2006)

Crebain – Night of Stormcrow (2003)

Of The Wand and The Moon - Sonnenheim (2005)
 
Pest - Ad Se Ipsum (2002)




A Decade of Live Shows in SF! The Best of the Best...

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 23, 2009 10:05am | Post a Comment
by Kaitlin

2010 will mark 10 years since I first moved to San Francisco. One of my favorite pastimes has been going to live shows. I’ve see big shows, small shows, quiet shows, loud shows, good, bad, memorable, forgettable and life changing shows. I’ve enjoyed rock in many forms: metal, acoustic, electric, world, performed by musicians ranging from close friends to the world famous…Here is a list of some of my favorite things about seeing shows in SF and some of my favorite shows in and around SF this decade:

great american music hall

There are so many amazing venues here to see just about any type of music you might be seeking. The Fillmore and The Warfield are classic venues that can pack in a lot of people to check out some big grindermannames, like The White Stripes, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Willie Nelson, Patti Smith and many, many more. Bottom of the Hill, the Independent, and Café du Nord are smaller and more intimate, and offer a wide variety of local and traveling bands the chance to be seen. 

The Great American Music Hall is my favorite venue in the city. It was designed and built after the 1906 earthquake, was called Blanco’s back then and served as a bordello up until prohibition. After that, it was a dance hall called the Music Box, and then a jazz club, until it was re-opened in 1972 as The Great American Music Hall. I’ve seen some of my favorite shows there, including Ben Kweller, The Mars Volta, Earth, Boris, Neurosis, The Dirtbombs, Grinderman, Shellac, Melvins, and High on Fire, oh, but to name a few…If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend checking out a show there!
dave grohl
But through all the venues and all the shows, here I have listed some of the most memorable ones I’ve seen during the 2000s, mostly rock and metal…I’ve tried to find a video to accompany these shows, although some videos aren’t from the show or even tour where I saw these bands. 

Continue reading...

Chip off the old tune - chip music for the masses - apologies for the strained, non sequitur, idiomatic headline...

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 28, 2009 01:13pm | Post a Comment
Trailer for Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet

Chiptunes (or chip music) is a genre of electronic music made using (now) old video game and computer hardware. The limitations of 8-bit technology present considerable challenges that require surprising creative solutions. Kōji Kondō, pretty much the Mozart of the scene, composed the score for Super Mario Brothers that shows how brilliant the music can be. Using a remarkably tiny sonic palette he managed to create a catchy electro-Afro-Cuban melody that could be looped over and over without driving the gamer completely insane, even in shameful, febrile, all night gaming sessions. When the DJ Jubilee-led Take Fo' Superstars used it in "Do the Mario," it was amazingly still fresh. Witness:



The roots of chiptunes date back to the 1970s. In the first part of the decade, video games like Pong used sound effects sparingly. With the introduction of the Atari 2600 and the Apple II in 1977, video games and computers began to use music more extensively. Then Asteroids debuted in 1978 and ushered in video games' golden age with distinctive bleeps, blops and white noise.


The music and sound capabilities were a selling point for video games, and computers and programs like 1980’s Atari Music Composer and 1987’s Ultimate SoundTracker (preceded by the 1982 introduction of MOS Technology SID in Commodores) allowed users to make chip music. Eventually, Atari’s POKEY, Nintendo’s Ricoh 2A03, GI’s AY-3-8910, Yamaha’s YM2612 and other hardware fueled the growth of chip music.


Celebrated professional chiptune composers of the golden age include Ben Daglish, Chris Hülsbeck, Hirokazu "Hip" Tanaka, Jochen Hippel, the aforementioned Kōji Kondō, Martin Galway, Nobuo Uematsu, Rob Hubbard, Tim Follin, Yuukichan's Papa and Yūzō Koshiro.


Prominent amateur chiptunes composers include Baroque, Duz, 4-Mat and Turtle. Their preferred way of making their music available was through computer files, although, by the late ‘90s there began to be CD releases of chip music – roughly coinciding with contemporary video game scores moving toward indistinguishablity from those used in films, relying increasingly on full orchestrations or collections of popular songs. Nonetheless, there remains a dedicated movement of musicians who still make chiptunes.

In many of the musicians’ cases, they’re probably too young to have played video games that used 8-bit technology, which probably leads some to dismiss the practitioners as engaging in hand-me-down nostalgia. That may be partly true (although chiptunes have recently been revived for several new games). Some chiptunes musicians bristle at the suggestion that their music is merely a retro trip and distance themselves from the music’s video game roots, attracted more by the unique aesthetic, timbres and artistic limitations of the format than an ironic revivalist spirit. In fact, many newer acts don’t limit themselves merely to chip music, instead using the technology (and samples of it) into more conventional genres like indie rock, heavy metal (e.g. Nintendocore) and dance.


Newer chiptunes progenitors, in addition to releasing recorded music, have, unlike their forebears, turned to live performance (although some professional video game composers have adapted their scores to symphonic performance. This era was ushered in with 8 Bit Weapon’s 2005 performance of "Bombs Away" and "Gameboy Rocker" on G4's Attack of the Show! Today, performers like Alex Mauer, Aliceffekt, Anamanaguchi, C-jeff, Firebrand Boy, mcfiredrill, Paza Rahm, PDF Format, Random, Role Model, Sabrepulse, Solemn Camel Crew, Trash80, Virt, XC3N and YMCK incorporate chiptunes to varying degrees in music in many cases made available through netlabels like 8bitpeoples, 8bitcollective, micromusic, Pause, superbutton and mp3death.

For more about chiptunes, check out these links:

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