BEST OF 00’S: 45-41

45. Joanna Newsom-Ys (2006)


This album did for the harp what The Beatles did for the guitar. Well, who knows, but what is for sure is nothing else quite so remarkable as this album came out this decade. Who the hell knows what genre this falls under, what kind of music this is. It doesn’t matter. While both of Joanna Newsom’s full length albums are something to be marveled at, the massive, larger than life feel of this particular one stays with me more than “The Milk Eyed Mender.” Through five songs and more than an hour of music, you enter another world you’ve likely never been to.

Except for the awkward and uncomfortable second track, “Monkey and Bear,” each one of these tracks is a masterpiece of introspective, in your room alone late night music. The centerpiece of the record remains the 16 minute plus opus “Only Skin,” featuring guest vocals from Bill Callahan which nearly steal the show. Then there’s the all too short yet appropriate closing track “Cosmia,” where she ends this journey by yelping “And I miss your precious heart.” Simple words that strike deep into my soul every time I hear them. Not to mention that anyone who can get a guy who worked on the composition for “Pet Sounds” (Van Dyke Parks) and a guy who produced “In Utero” (Steve Albini) to work on the same project must be doing something right. Lastly, probably my favorite packaging of any LP that I own!

44. Sun Kil Moon-Tiny Cities (2005)


Most people would kill me for putting this on my list, but the truth is, fuck the haters. In a way, I feel pretty silly loving this album as much as I do. Mark Kozelek, one of the most consistently dreary, provocative and talented songwriters of the last two decades, goes to town on this one, putting out a whole album of Modest Mouse covers. Although you can hardly call them covers, since each song sounds like Kozelek wrote it himself, with barely a trace of Isaac Brock’s artistic eccentricities that make Modest Mouse so unique. They are more reimaginings, with Kozelek taking Brock’s white trash philosophy on the universe and setting them to the gorgeous, shimmery, and easily digestible folky melodies he is known for pulling out so efficiently. In doing so, he brings out a certain poignancy and sadness present in Brock’s lyrics that is not always readily decipherable when listening to Modest Mouse. Kozelek succeeds not in reproducing already brilliant songs, but in making them into his own interpretations, occasionally surpassing the artistic impact of the original (“Ocean Breathes Salty,” “Space Travel Is Boring”).

While some tracks are throwaways, his track selection here is his strength. Rather than covering the “hits,” he goes for lesser known songs and breathes new life into them, making for an achingly beautiful album of melancholy folk songs that even Modest Mouse fans might mistake for original pieces if they didn’t know what they were listening to. I suppose I have a personal attachment to the album as well, since Kozelek’s 90’s group Red House Painters and Modest Mouse were both bands that i found out about and got into while at summer camp in New Mexico. It’s the perfect amalgamation to bring up instant feelings of being in a seemingly perfect place. It’s this album that helps me revisit that place even when I’m thousands of miles away.

43. Broken Social Scene-You Forgot It In People (2002)


One of the best concerts I saw all decade was Broken Social Scene at the Orange Peel in Asheville, NC in the fall of 2006. Surprising, since I had only ever been a passive fan. Their concerts have a feeling similar to what christians at those big megachurches must feel. There are almost as many people onstage as there are in the crowd. Well not literally, but it sure looks crowded up there, with over then members playing a variety of instruments.

While there are layers and layers of melody and music going on in each track, all in all it’s a pretty simple pop album. The thing is that they do it exactly right, never missing a chance to make any given moment that perfect moment on the record. They aimed pretty high on this record, and they succeeded. Tracks like “Cause=Time” and “Lover’s Spit” will keep me warm when I’m old and cold. A pretty classic, and downright influential, album of the indieverse, this is one of those records that was responsible for bringing independent music into the mainstream, uh, not so independent world of pop culture in the last decade.

42. Death Cab For Cutie-We Have The Facts And Are Voting Yes (2000)


A solid freshman year dorm room constant, this is the record where death cab were still trying to get out of the basement, and it’s pretty fascinating to listen to this and think about how far they’ve come. Before they were the darlings of The OC, they were a bunch of twentysomethings like you and me, with a whole host of bitter breakups and unfortunate “emo” male entitlement to boot. That youth certainly comes through on this record, and is part of what makes it such a great album, with raw, angry and edgy songwriting giving the songs real life. It’s clear they made it before they knew anyone was listening.

Ben Gibbard is the quintessential everyliberalartscollegegraduateman storyteller of the decade, using his occasionally unbearable full sentence phrasing to spin relateable tales of alcoholic summers, early twentysomething unemployment, false flings disguised as promising relationships, your ex-girlfriend marrying some douchebag, etc. Still, when you’re in the right mood for this record, it hits you harder than you might expect. I’ve always thought of Death Cab as a band that tries pretty hard, as the Lit Rock tendencies of Gibbard’s lyrics kind of make him seem like a bit of an egomaniac. When listening to it now though, it just sounds like a very simple, lo fi indie rock band fronted by a guy who likes to read a lot of books. “Title Track,” “Lowell, MA,” and “Company Calls” are some of their greatest songs to date.

41. Malady-Malady (2004)


In 2004, in the wake of the demise of the powerhouse Virginia bands Pg.99 and City Of Caterpillar, avid fans eagerly awaited news of the many rumored sequel bands, all rife with tags like “ex-pg.99” and “ex-COC.” Malady was one of those bands. I don’t remember when I first learned of their existence, but it was exciting since I and my friends had been turned onto the aforementioned bands at the tail end of their time, and their end left us craving more. This was a a band led by pg.99 vocalist Chris Taylor and COC guitarist Jeff Kane. Here, Taylor traded in his high pitched screamo shrieks for a low, grungy snarl and Jeff Kane traded in his Godspeed worship guitar buildups for a more melodic Nirvana. The songs were shorter, less chaotic and more arranged, yet somehow they seemed just as powerful as their punk rock pedigree.

The influences were less predictable for a band whose members just got done making some of the most abrasive music in the world. Taking from decades of punk, indie, and alternative, you could hear Rites Of Spring, Pavement, and even some Archers Of Loaf in there. The tasteful melodic interplay of the guitar work on this album is some of the decade’s best, and had a huge influence on me as a guitar player. After this 8 song beast of an album came out, a U.S. tour in support of Japan’s legendary Envy followed, yet suddenly they were gone almost as quickly as they arrived, breaking up with no explanation. A flickering footnote in a decade of amazing music, this band packed a lot of power and like so many of their contemporaries, ended far before their time was up.

50-46

…and we’re off! So let’s be real here folks- the 2000’s (or ott’s as some call them?) were a great decade for music, no matter what a debbie downer or purist you might be. I think it’s important to try and engage with the music that is new and relevant to the world you’re living in, rather than get bummed out about the “glory days” being gone, the grass being greener, and basically just blaming yourself for not having been borne earlier. The truth is the grass was never green and things have always been shitty and fucked up, at all times, in every decade, so you may as well engage in the here and now. As long as there are people around there will always be vibrant and important art being made. There was no shortage of that in our decade!

So anyway, let’s get on with it. To our fifty best albums of the decade countdown! Of course, these represent my personal favorites. I do not pretend to be an authority on all music, nor do I retain the right or ability to determine what the best music of the decade was for anyone except me. So take this list with a grain of salt! And of course, write your own! I will do these entries five at a time, once a week, til the end of the year! Here we go….

50. Fugazi-The Argument (2001)


This one sneaked in at the top of my list at the last minute, likely to the chagrin of folks reading this. The truth is that I have never been that into Fugazi. I know, I know, I am betraying my D.C. scene roots. I’ve always been someone who has to see a band live to really understand what they are about, or to form any kind of a personal connection with their music. I can’t go and get weepy eyed about a Led Zeppelin record, because unless I’ve experienced what they can do right in front of me, it doesn’t really speak to me. This applies even to hometown heroes like Fugazi. The thing is though, this truly is a terrific album, hailed by many as their best. Considering it is likely the last we’ll ever hear from one of the most influential punk bands in history, I thought it respectful to include this on my decade end of list. While I am sure if I hadn’t been away at summer camp when they played Fort Reno in the summer of 2002, I would have been an instant convert, I guess I missed the boat on the bandwagon. It’s a shame, since they are obviously one of the greatest bands of our time.

49. Further Seems Forever-The Moon Is Down (2001)


This would be way higher on my list if I felt it was more of a complete album, but this is one of those records that has a few songs that I’ve never bothered to listen to for some reason. Nonetheless, even the first half of this album is enough to carry it into my top fifty. Though it’s been many years since this was at the top of my playlist, this album is still a dazzling display of musicianship and gutwrenching, golden era emo. Most people know that this is the band that Chris Carraba from Dashboard Confessional was in before he made it big. There are many things that I might object to on this album today (the heavy Christian overtones, the Dashboard thing), but one can’t deny the cathartic and soaring choruses, the mindbending guitar and drum work, epic production quality, and overall hugeness of this album. Hell, it sounds downright inspirational at several points. This is definitely one that you will find yourself coming back to quite often over the years, even for a short burst for nostalgia’s sake. I’ve met a lot of indie snobs over the years who have confessed an earnest, undying love for this album. Proof that you can’t keep a great high school emo album down.

48. Mirah-You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This (2000)


Few other records bring me back to such a specific time and place like this one. It was my dear friend Shara, with whom I had a radio show bright and early on monday mornings fall semester of my freshman year at Guilford College, who introduced me to Mirah. The first tracks I heard of her were off of that year’s C’Mon Miracle, but it’s this record that continues to be her masterpiece, in retrospect. 16 tracks of lo-fi, brilliant indie pop from this queer, Jewish, Portland based songstress. From late night diner trips, to brisky cold fall bike rides, to the run down tiny houses of downtown Greensboro, to its bleak yet memorable post industrial landscape, my heart aches with nostalgia whenever I hear even one note off this album. I got the great pleasure of seeing her that fall at a show that my college radio station, WQFS, even sponsored, at a long since closed record store on Tate Street in Greensboro. I barely even hear songs when I hear this album, what I hear instead is the feeling of a clueless 18 year old just beginning to see the world outside his own inherently sheltered high school existence.

47. Kodan Armada-Collections Volume One (2004)


Another album that I can’t listen to much anymore, yet tugs hard on my heartstrings whenever I hear it, is this collection of singles from this Louisville hardcore/screamo outfit. For a couple years they were one of the biggest bands on the national screamo circuit, until they broke up, like most great bands, seemingly before their time was up. Most people who loved Kodan will mention their insane live shows, their use of not one but two lead singers, the fact that they always chose playing on the floor over playing on a stage- but these recordings also suffice as an appropriate document of one of the more intense, heart-on-your-sleeve punk bands of the decade. Even if you’re turned off by the abrasive nature of it, you can’t deny the amazing energy projected forth on each of these tracks. The centerpiece of this collection is lead track “No One Has Ever Had Three Letters,” a song about a band member’s experiences with a family member recovering from the trauma of incest. The song still brings me to tears when I hear it. The band managed to make something bright and beautiful out of the darkest corners of our world, how great art should be. Kodan Armada represent some serious salad days for many punk kids who are all growing older with each season, several years after their sudden breakup, either conjuring up the warm memories of youth or the painful feelings of regret and angst that may have led you to one of their shows in the first place. I was lucky to become friends with one of the vocalists, Dan Davis, who lived in Asheville, North Carolina during the few years I lived in Greensboro. I don’t see Dan around much anymore, and when I do it’s only for a few minutes, but I hope he is doing well in Louisville. The final plea of the final song on the album rings forever true of this and so many old friends and faces that come to mind when I hear these songs: “Distance Kills Us All.”

46. Stop It!!-Self Made Maps (2004?)


In March of 2004, I worked with my friend Carni to set up a benefit show at the old Cafe Mawonaj in Washington D.C., where our young bands got the chance to play with a few groups we really looked up to: Del Cielo, Tradition Dies Here and Richmond, VA’s Stop It!! A curious name for a curious band, I wasn’t a big fan when I asked them to play the show, I just knew they would bring a lot of people out. They did not disappoint as they proved to be the best band of the night, and this album proved to be a kind of soundtrack to my life for the next several months, some of the more eventful, blissful, dramatic, and important of my life. Taking influence from At The Drive In, Sonic Youth, and every other great fucking band, this album packs an urgency and kinetic energy miles above 99% of other hardcore albums released this decade, done with astounding attention and care for details. These songs brood and build, never quite giving you the payoff until you realize that is the payoff itself. Songs like “Maybe She’s Born With It” and “Name & Number” bring me back to my lonely freshman year dorm room, where these songs provided me with the perfect soundtrack to transition, loss and alienation in a setting where nothing was certain. Even more so, “Remove Your Teeth” instantly recalls driving up and down the east coast summer of 2004, on a botched tour effort with my band and some of my closest friends at the time. One of the few good things about the city of Richmond.

…and that’s it for now! Keep checking back! Next Thursday you’ll see 45-41!

Hey folks! I was talking to my friend Danielle last night and realized all I need to do is have a day of the week where I update and stick to it! She has already laid claim to Monday, so thus I have decided on…THURSDAY.

This is a post to inform you that on Thursday, I will begin my BEST OF 2000’S countdown! I am going to be highlighting the thirty best records of the decade! Can you believe it’s almost a new decade?

Anyway, stay tuned for more! I want to start taking this blog a lot more seriously.

jams of the day: P.S. Eliot

P.S. Eliot!

P.S. Eliot- Introverted Romance In Our Troubled Minds

I saw this Birmingham, AL based band in a packed and boiling hot basement in Baltimore in the middle of summer, and was captivated throughout their set. I had never heard them before, and all it took was a live show to hook me in. The album sounds like a sampling of every great indie/alternative band of the last three decades. I hear a lot of Discount, Billy Bragg, Jawbreaker, The Replacements, and Yo La Tengo. Imagery and sounds of mispent youth, crushes and heartbreak, nostalgia, late night benders and bike rides, boring summers, post teen angst and road trips fill this record with instantly relateable content. Vocalist/guitarist Katie Crutchfield perfectly coining all the parts of life that usually get left unsaid into something poignant and meaningful. The main strength of P.S. Eliot is their songwriting. The arrangements and timing are perfect, the hooks are unforgettable, the lead guitar work is complimentary and appropriate. It’s really awesome that this band is from Alabama, as you don’t hear a lot of music like this coming out of the deep south. Perhaps I am just ignorant and haven’t heard it. Just goes to show what kind of gems there are in unassuming places, waiting to be discovered. Every one of these songs will likely be featured on hundreds of mixtapes trading hands for years to come, so hop on that bandwagon and enjoy one of the best records to come out this year!

listen to them at their myspace page, or you’se a bama, for real.

also…

Check this flier for a show my other band, Voyage In Coma is playing on September 11th. Yes, the possibilities for irony and subtle humor are endless. Call me offensive, but but you can blame the Republicans and George W. Bush for making a big joke out of such a tragic day.

9/11

kind of a weird flier. whatevs.

and if you are interested in hearing some of our studio tracks, check out the myspace link at the top!

new digs, new season

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this thing, and one of my fall resolutions is to become a more consistent blogger. I am moving into a new house in Northeast Washington D.C., so hopefully this will be a catalyst for some big changes in my life as well as a brighter outlook on things.

My house is about six blocks from the Rhode Island Ave. metro stop and New York Ave metro stop. I’ll be sure to post some pictures up here when I get the chance. I have three roommates and one mystery roommate yet to be determined.

The rest of my summer was very productive! The Ambulars went on a weekend tour, recorded an EP, and played eleven shows overall. Not bad for a band that started practicing in April. In a lot of ways it was probably the best band I’ve ever been in. The future is still open for us, but our dear bassist Jen moved to Chicago, so who knows what will happen.

Here are some fliers from some of the last few shows we played over the summer:

at the charm city arts space in baltimore!

our last show! also our EP release show

It was a blur of a summer, one that I will think back on quite a bit when the weather starts getting colder, which has already begun…

If you would like to stream the Ambulars EP, entitled Summer Of The Ambulars, then fuckin go here: our myspace.

If you’re trying to DOWNLOAD it so you can listen to it on your ipod on your way to your boring ass job or your boring ass class, then go here: Summer Of The Ambulars.

The first six tracks on there are the EP, and the last four are an acoustic EP entitled Summer Fling that we recorded to sell on our “tour.”

The fall brings new projects, new people, new location, new everything. Lots of people say that spring is the time for something new, but I’ve always felt that fall is the time for this. Obviously I associate it with starting school. But in this way, most of my best friends I’ve ever had were made in the fall. Because of this, it is such a nostalgic time of year for me.

This has been a long post, but I guess I’ve had a lot to say. I’ll end this for now and believe me, you will see a lot more where this came from!

First Ambulars Show!

the flier for our first show!

Last night was the first show, and it went super great! We played a five song set, including one cover of a Kid Dynamite Song. People seemed to be really excited about it. We are recording in July with our friend Joe Mitra twisting the knobs in Baltimore. We’ll be playing more shows soon! I’ll let you know about them as they come along.