Star Man Fades to Black: David Bowie’s Brilliant Final Album

bowie-blackstar-viceAmid the frantic beats, atmospherics, and saxophones playing tug of war on the title track that opens the new David Bowie album Blackstar, about halfway through the 10-minute track most of the sound clears and Bowie sings “Something happened on the day he died, spirit rose a meter and stepped aside; Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried.”

Released on his birthday and just two days before his death, Blackstar is dizzying and exciting and strange and oddly cool and I thought all those things even before he died. But now it’s a little more difficult to hear him wailing “good-byyyyyyye” as the reverb increases and the star man sounds like he’s floating back into space or heaven or wherever he was just visiting from.

Secrets are hard kept in the modern age, and yet somehow Bowie could spend months working on a new album with a small group of people and the rumors never leaked. He stunned the world in 2013 when he suddenly had a brand new (and quite rocking) album, The Next Day. It seemed amazing, even a few years ago, that a major artist could be at work and finished with an album without the world hearing any rumors or news about it (let alone a leaked copy of the actual album). It didn’t hurt that it was a well-received return to form, a rare feat a full 10 years after his previous album.

He came close to pulling it off again, but in 2015 it looks like he chose to give the world a few months’ notice that he’d employed a New York City jazz band to back him on a very diverse record to be released January 8, on his 69th birthday.

And just as we were in the midst of unpacking this complex and interesting new album, Bowie was gone.

The world mourns online and it is one of the bittersweet and ironic advantages of the internet: we can all be together when we’re all alone and sad about the passing of a true artist. And among the inevitable retweets of clueless teenagers asking “who tf was david bowie?” there were countless tributes and notes of sadness, as well as attempts at joy (like this, from Dean Podestá @jesuisdean: “If you’re sad today, just remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”) Others commented that Bowie left such a huge void, as if an entire color was now gone from the universe. (Here’s a great collection of newspaper/magazine covers mourning the loss.)

I wasn’t a huge Bowie fanatic; I liked pretty much all his hits, knew some of his albums, saw him in concert once, and I understood his significance and influence in rock music and popular culture. And I’m probably one of the people that loved his first Tin Machine album. But even beyond the music, Bowie made being “weird” or just being yourself (and shattering such labels as “weird”) something to aspire to. Funny that there was a time when a kid could get beat up for liking David Bowie. But we don’t live in a world like that anymore, thanks in part to David Bowie. It’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to be different.

He didn’t just predict the future, he helped us get here. Continue reading →

Top 10 Albums (That We Reviewed) From 2011

It’s always so tough to pick only 10 records.

Let’s start our look back on a great year in new music with a list of the Top 10 Albums of 2011 that we actually wrote reviews for here on Bums Logic. This crop of reviews represents some of the core material published as we launched this new site in 2011 and we thank you all for listening and reading along.

Next week we’ll add another dozen or so favorites from this year that we didn’t write about…. and then maybe think of an excuse to add others, or combine them into one master list and rank them in order. Or not.

So here’s our Top 10 Albums (That We Reviewed) From 2011, in no particular order, and all with links to our original reviews:

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Here We Rest

Wilco – The Whole Love

Mastodon – The Hunter

Stephen Marley – Revelation Pt.1: Root of Life

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2

G. Love – Fixin’ To Die

Sonic Youth – Simon Werner a Disparu

Hey the Chili Peppers Released Another Chili Peppers Album!

You’d think after selling around 65 million records that they might buy a couple of shirts.

Flea and Anthony Kiedis have been doing their freaky styley funk game dance on us for a quarter century. And we’ve all been on to them in varying degrees since they laid that one hot egg the first time guitarist John Frusciante left the group. After their wild early days, highlighted by 1989’s Mother’s Milk, they broke through with both a mainstream hit and a bona fide classic in 1991 with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Then they signed mismatched free agent guitarist Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction for One Hot Minute in 1995 and set the controls for autopilot.

Will Farrell stars as drummer Chad Smith (right) as Flea and Anthony Kiedis make Another Chili Peppers Album.

Californication, a good but probably overrated record was a nice hit album in 1999, proving that the Red Hot Chili Peppers on autopilot were still good enough to rule at the turn of the century. Three years later, By The Way worked the same formula like a speedbag, californicating itself into yet. Another. Chili Peppers Album.

And so it went, all-world bassist and general maniac Flea fired up the furious funk and Anthony Kiedis jumped around with different hairstyles and they never fucking wore shirts and it was all good. The underrated Chad Smith is an effortless badass of a drummer whose talents sometimes sound wasted in the tight album-version arrangements. They dropped a bloated double album five years ago that even their fans admitted was too long as they talked themselves into liking it.

But all the people who don’t love the Red Hot Chili Peppers pretty much hate them. And we all know it’s cuz Anthony Kiedis is annoying and while I’m sure he’s a great guy and he’s an essential element to their sound and “he is what he is” as they say… he still sucks. And that’s a shitty thing to say and I should delete it but fuck it, let’s leave it there.

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to their new album, I’m With You. It’s got it’s moments, but it sounds like yet another bland reincarnation of that same album they’ve been making starting with Californication. A shell of a shell of a former band. And yet Flea still rips it, and even though they sorely miss the once-again departed Frusciante, new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer provides plenty of interesting moments (and space for Flea’s musicality).

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Jason Isbell Hits Home

Sometimes records come along and they just creep in and grow on you. But even the ones that grow on you can still be familiar upon first meeting, like that person you meet who you just connect with on some level like you knew them before, or whatever it is that some folks refer to as a good vibe. Or like a creaky floor that’s just always sounded that way and for some reason it’s a subconscious comfort of sorts.

Jason IsbellAnd then in walks Jason Isbell’s latest album Here We Rest. It’s instantly likeable and the kind of record that sounds as good on Sunday morning as it did on Saturday night. It’s dense with real life, not unlike a film. There’s a perfect mix of heartbreak and promise; of love and pain, of dreams and regrets.

The sound of Isbell and his fine band, the 400 Unit, is also perfectly mixed. There’s a clarity and separation that allows each guitar and organ part to seep out without calling too much attention to itself. The different sounds used (acoustic and electric guitars, fiddles, slide guitar, pianos and organs) are tasteful and always right on, and there’s “layers” without having 17 overdubs of extra guitars needlessly doubling parts.

Isbell’s coffee-stained vocal delivery is warm and sweet; a southern drawl meets blue-eyed soul that he honed when first winning us over as a member of the Drive-By Truckers. On some of DBT’s finest albums, Isbell’s songs (especially “Outfit,” “Decoration Day,” “Danko/Manuel,” “Goddamn Lonely Love”) were among the highlights, if not the centerpieces. No surprise that his first two solo albums were solid (but overlooked) gems. And this latest one is proving to be his finest, rewarding repeated listens with subtle nuances. Certain lyric lines just hit you, sometimes for their meaning and other times for Isbell’s phrasing; or both, when he turns a phrase like “No one gives a damn about the things I give a damn about.”

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Stephen Marley’s Roots Rock Revelation

Stephen Marley

Stephen Marley feelin' it.

Bob Marley once said that, while he knew he’d only be remembered for his music, his children were his true gift to the world. Bob Marley, a poet and a prophet.

With the recent release of Stephen Marley’s great new album, Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life, it’s time to start taking a closer look at the Marley kids, and the talents of Stephen Marley in particular.

Since Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers debuted in the mid-80s, and had a hit with Conscious Party in 1989, everyone has accepted and taken for granted that “Oh yea, Ziggy’s pretty good. Not quite his daddy but that’s ok cuz Bob was a legend.” And while most fans knew and appreciated Stephen’s presence and contribution to ZM&MM, the masses viewed the Marley kids as Ziggy and all the rest of ’em.

I don’t have the time or resources to research the 11 or so official children fathered by Bob Marley. With apologies to Ziggy, Bob’s beautiful-voiced daughters Sharon and Cedella, and his sons Rohan (who played football at University of Miami, has 5 children with Lauryn Hill, and runs the Marley Coffee business [seriously]), Julian (a few surprisingly decent albums to his name), Ky-Mani (a book and 6 [SIX!] albums to his credit), and even Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley, he of the smash hit Welcome to Jamrock and recent collaboration with Nas, Distant Relatives… (did I miss anyone?)… I’d really like to shine the light on Stephen.

As much as most casual fans probably thought Ziggy “looked and sounded just like Bob Marley,” it was always Stephen whose voice really sounded eerily similar to Bob’s. Cherry-picking the Melody Makers CD’s and assembling all the tracks featuring Stephen on lead vocals would probably be a worthwhile endeavor.

It turns out that Stephen isn’t just a pretty voice and good musician. His production skills have blossomed over the last decade, as he was the maestro pushing the buttons behind the various high points of the Marley kids recent output (Damian’s Jamrock and Nas albums, Julian’s Grammy-nominated Awake, and both Stephen’s own solo albums). Add that to his contributions to some of the best tracks from Ziggy’s heyday (91-99, in my opinion), and you can see why I’m writing this article.
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“Getting” Bon Iver

The new Bon Iver record just doesn’t sound like anything else. Nowadays it seems that’s the last frontier: unique originality. There’s only so many notes. You’re not going to think of anything that Miles Davis or Leonard Bernstein didn’t already come up with. Everything else is Beatlesque or ripping off the Stones (who were rip-off artists).

So while it used to be good enough to just sound like something that was already considered great and successful, at some point being completely new and “indescribable” was the new benchmark. It wasn’t enough to combine genres, the best artists could defy them.

It probably started with invention of hip-hop and rap music in the late 70’s and it’s subsequent explosion in the 80’s. Sure, they literally and physically combined genres, but it didn’t sound like anything else ever. Later, Radiohead came along. Their earliest work was guitar-drums driven, but they morphed into something from the future. Something indescribable. You might make the case that more recent critics darlings My Morning Jacket have that “dude you just gotta hear ’em” factor that would put them in this category.

Interestingly, both Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James have something else in common: they like to do a lot of their work in falsetto, their high vocals often serving as either an attraction for fans or a deal-breaker for the listeners that just don’t like it.
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Tame Impala – Innerspeaker Review

Trippy!

There are certain albums–for example, the Beastie Boy’s Hot Sauce Committee Part Two–that you can listen to while doing mindless tasks and still enjoy the music. It’s “party” music. Other albums require you to be in a certain head space to absorb them. Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker is one of those albums (I will never forget when my younger self put on The Wall during a beach trip with my brother, who subsequently turned it off while insisting, “this isn’t beach music!”).

I was (illegally) sent a copy of Innerspeaker–the bands debut album–by a close friend who’s musical tastes often coincide with mine. And when they don’t, he still has a pretty good grasp on knowing what I might find interesting and within my stylistic preferences. Tame Impala is a band he thought would fit that mold…and he was 100% correct. His selling points were: great vocal harmonies, cool production, catchy songs, and oh yea, the singer sounds just like Paul McCartney. He was right about everything except the singer doesn’t sound like Macca…he sounds almost identical to John Lennon (and that is not a bad thing in my book).

Upon my initial listen, I will admit that it took me some time to get over that fact: holy shit, this guy really sounds like Lennon! I played some songs for friends under the guise of, “you gotta hear this singers voice!”  Then after a few more spins I started to find myself singing the chorus’ for days on end and studying the production (Dave Fridmann–mostly of Mercury Rev and Flaming Lips fame–mixed the album). Innerspeaker was really starting to grow on me.

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G. Love Gets an Assist from the Avett Brothers

On his solid new album Fixin to Die, it sounds like G. Love has traded in his cold beverages for hot ones and wisely let the Avett Brothers mix up the special sauce.

Still best known for kicking out the hip-hop-styled blues and folksy party jams with his backing band Special Sauce, G. Love has made a great new record with the considerable aid of the Avetts rootsy live-sounding production and their able talents as multi-instrumentalists.

Among many standout tracks, “Milk and Sugar,” a love letter to coffee (and sweet women), serves as a subtle hot bookend to his early-career minor hit “Cold Beverages.” Alongside the usual suspects (covers of blues material by Willie McTell and Bukka White), there are also a couple of eyebrow raisers such as takes on Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes.” And yet somehow it works, as odd as it may seem. Continue reading →

Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots

The Drive-By Truckers excellent new album Go-Go Boots is just the latest chapter in the story of a truly great American rock’n’roll band. Even aside from their significant catalog, Go-Go Boots stands on its own as a testament to the melting pot of Americana, where blue-eyed soul and driving rock tunes chug along next to murder ballads and porch-front ditties.

For the most part, the two faces on either side of the DBT’s coin are primary singer/songwriters Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, one with a high raspy voice and the other a smooth baritone. Such is the duality of the Truckers thing. As hard as they rock in the live setting (and many times on record as well), they are usually at their best on those quiet or mid-tempo moments that just sound better when you turn them up loud. While most songs follow some variation of a verse-chorus, verse-chorus-bridge pattern, these guys write songs more like man-wife, betrayal-murder-trial. Or sometimes sex-booze-rock-roll.

Continue reading →

Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part Two Review

These grandpa's been rapping since '83.

If you are at all like me–a long-time devoted fan of the Beastie Boys and their groundbreaking career–then there is a good chance that you have been a little disappointed with the group’s output since the release of Hello Nasty. It’s not that Hello Nasty is a bad album, it’s actually quite eclectic and experimental (which is saying something for these guys), it’s just that it might have moved a little too far away from the Beastie Boys we grew up with and had grown accustomed to with Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, and Ill Communication. Their subsequent output, To the 5 Boroughs & The Mix-Up, were hit-or-miss at best. The band definitely seemed to be losing some creative steam as we reluctantly began to wonder, “is the best Beastie Boys music behind us?”

To say that Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is a return-to-form or a comeback album might be overstating its value. But once you hear the first Clavinet notes and beat of “Make Some Noise” you can’t help but nod your head, smile, and think, “yea, this is what it’s all about. This is the Beastie’s Boys I know and love.” HSC2 is definitely the bands best overall album since Ill Communication.

The Beastie’s have always been hipster darlings and musical (and cultural) trend setters. In short, from 1986-1999, there was no cooler band in the world. Funky, 70’s-instrumentals? Check. Creative and unique sounds? Check. Witty, pop culture referencing rhymes? Check. Incredible studio production? Check.  And of course, great songs: Check your head!  HSC2 mashes up the Beastie Boys 90’s output with just enough new school bleeps and blips to keep the album sounding fresh and current while still maintaining that, dare I say, classic Beastie Boys style till the break of dawn. If you don’t nod your head during “Nonstop Disco Powerpack” then just hit the stop button now.

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A Love Letter to The Low End Theory

Time: Back in the Day
Place: Boulevard of Linden

Assessing great works of art, or trying to use words to convey the depths of our admiration of said works, is a futile pursuit. It’s not quite silly, as there’s good reason to spread the word about an album, painting, movie, or book that others might love. But it’s damn near impossible.

One of the great artistic landmarks of late-20th century popular music, and specifically the world of hip-hop, is A Tribe Called Quest’s 1991 masterpiece The Low End Theory.

The problem with where I take this essay from here relates to my previous assertion that it’s such a difficult task. It would be easier to lock you in a room or a car and just put The Low End Theory on repeat. More effective would be a time machine to transport us back to the house parties of the early-to-mid 90’s, where it seemed everyone had this album and everyone knew at least most of the words. Another angle might be to quote the legions of previous writers and musicians who have noted its brilliance and the influence that this Tribe album had on the world of rap music.

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The Flaming Lips – Embryonic (Retro) Review

A Grower

Before I begin writing this review, I have to give full disclosure and admit that I showed up late to The Flaming Lips musical masquerade party. I missed out on “She Don’t Use Jelly,” The Soft Bulletin, and everything else. For years, the band orbited around my auditory peripheral vision, mostly from friends telling me how much I would love them due to their obvious Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd undertones and Butthole Surfers sensabilities. It wasn’t until I finally gave them a chance with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots that I realized my friends were right all along.

By 2009, The Lips had grown into a much more popular band than anyone could have envisioned in their earlier years. With the success of the song “Do You Realize,” the critical acclaim laid on them for The Soft Bulletin, and their mesmerizing, legendary live shows, they had become one of the few that could easily headline Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, July 4th on The Mall, Coachella, and your backyard BBQ. Their music appealed to a wide array of listeners, much like Janes Addiction’s did before them. Hippies, folkies, metalheads, and hipsters alike were all on The Flaming Lips bandwagon. They were a fun, psychedelic, experimental, punky-meets-jam band with catchy songs about death, and a singer who dances atop the audience inside of a see thru ball. What’s not to like?

So what did the band do at this point of their now well over 20-year career? They released Embryonic, perhaps their most inaccessible album since Zaireeka.

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Top 10 Best 3-Consecutive Album Runs

I think the title is clear enough: these are the 10 best 3-consecutive album runs. The only general guidelines were: no live albums, no ep’s, no greatest hits/collections, and of course they had to be 3 in a row by the same artist. here’s the list, in no particular order:

1. Bob Dylan
Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. If you don’t automatically nod your head in knowing concurrence with the greatness of these three releases, stop wasting time on the computer and go buy these CD’s. And to think that 40 years later he posted Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and Modern Times. A solid run that late in a career, but not great enough to make this list.

2. Rolling Stones
Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street. Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante, E Street guitarist, and underground garage rock DJ extraordinaire) once said, “Beggars Banquet to Exile on Main Street make up the greatest run of albums in history—all done in three and a half years.” Sorry Little Steven, we only have room for three on this list.

3. The Beatles
Rubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Or: Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and the white album. Or: Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver… or… you get the idea.

4. Jimi Hendrix
Are You Experienced?, Axis Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland. Wow. Three amazing albums that each stand on their own as bonafide “desert island classics” on their own. Not bad considering this was almost his whole studio output during his lifetime. Incredible considering this was done within about two years.

5. Neil Young
Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush, and Harvest. Once again, with an artist this good you could pick a different three. I picked these.

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Rick Rubin’s Resume

Actually, Rick Rubin’s Resume would be a cool name for a band, assuming he didn’t sue you. Anyway, wow. He not only has produced influential debuts from the Beastie Boys to LL Cool J to Run DMC to Public Enemy, but in the process proved that rock and rap could co-exist. He’s pretty much responsible for Johnny Cash’s late-career comeback and produced the flourish of albums at the end of Cash’s life. He produced a mid-career masterpiece for Tom Petty, almost all of the Slayer albums, and I think every Chili Peppers record since and starting with the classic Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He’s done solo/acoustic records for Neil Diamond and Jakob Dylan, alt-rock stuff like Slipknot, and produced the album that contains “Baby Got Back.” Most recently he got the unfocused and feuding Metallica to stop putting out crap and make a classic-sounding Metallica album and then produced a great rootsy folksy ditty for indie favorites the Avett Brothers. That kind of variety is what makes him incredible. He’s done everything at every end of every spectrum and everywhere in between and most of it is great. Sometimes all within the same year.

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Sonic Youth – Simon Werner A Disparu

The mere mention of the band Sonic Youth conjures images of the ultimate alt.rock pioneers; among the most respected bands in all of rock, the noise-rock veterans are critics’ darlings on one side and the ultimate indie-cool band for at least two generations of music fans on the other. But once the buzzwords are stripped away, they are a group of musicians who make engaging and unique sounds and their new soundtrack album Simon Werner a Disparu is yet another stunning example.

Last year, Sonic Youth gathered at their studio to view working footage of French director Fabrice Gobert’s new film about the mysterious disappearance of teenagers in an early-90’s Paris suburb. Over the next few weeks, they recording music eventually edited to fit the various scenes. But for this album, instead of just releasing the music clips from the film, the band returned to the original tapes and re-organized the assortment of musical sections for this new release on their own Sonic Youth Records label, sometimes combining multiple tracks, other times extending parts into new ventures entirely.

However they did it, Simon Werner a Disparu works as a fine instrumental Sonic Youth album. While the arrangements and vocal sections of their recent more-traditional album work is occasionally missed (life is always better with more moans, whispers, and screams from Kim Gordon), the tracks here are still engaging and at times hypnotic and transformative. That said, it never gets too weird or noisy, especially considering this is Sonic Youth. It’s mostly on the mellow side, but far from catatonic; it stays interesting without getting too frantic.

At times pulsing with steady grooves, and yet dreamlike and drifting in and around other spots, this is the sound of electric guitars screeching and crashing with drums beating like hearts in that mysterious place between sleep and consciousness. Maybe they ain’t that young anymore, but thankfully they are still thundering down the road less travelled, and they are still sonic.

Best Albums of 2010

Ah yes, another no-name blogger weighing in on the best albums of the year. I know: you care. My Top Ten Albums of 2010 list contains 27 titles and includes live albums. It doesn’t contain a couple albums I probably loved and somehow forgot. Feel free to post your Top 10 of 2010 in the comments below.

THE BEST
The Roots – How I Got Over

Black Keys – Brothers

White Stripes – Under Great Northern Lights (live)

THE REST
Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone

Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions

John Mellencamp – No Better Than This

Eminem – Recovery

Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away

Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives

Tom Petty – Mojo

Spoon – Transference

The Roots & John Legend – Wake Up

Robert Plant – Band of Joy

Peter Wolf – Midnight Souvenirs

Neil Young – Le Noise

Frightened Rabbit – Winter of Mixed Drinks

Avett Brothers – Live Vol. 3 (live)

Jakob Dylan – Women and Country

Ryan Bingham – Junky Star

Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards

Ray Lamontagne – God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise

Big Boi – Sir Luscious Leftfoot

Drive-By Truckers – The Big To-Do

Eels – End Times

Black Crowes – Croweology

Derek Trucks Band – Roadsongs (live)

Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues

Best Albums of the Decade 2000’s

Originally, I set out to compile my list of the Top 20 Albums of the Decade. The 2000’s. Or the Aughts. Yea, I guess we never got around to naming this decade and now it’s already ending. I thought I was realistic by not even attempting a Top 10 Best Albums of the 2000’s, but it turns out even 20 proved difficult. And once I passed 20, the albums just kept flowing and then I thought “okay, Top 40 would be good, since “Top 40” is sort of a tried and true phrase in popular music. Then I hit 50. OK, I’ll do a Top 50, why not! Then I got to 52 and beyond and finally just gave up and let myself list all the great albums I loved this decade and not worry about cutting any out just to keep the list at 20, 40 or 50. So I ended up with 65. Seems a bit excessive, sure. But it’s still only about 6 or 7 per year. And I easily could have added a few more. Actually, I could just call this a Top 50 Best Albums of the Decade list because they’re not numbered, and if you actually read through it and count the exact number of albums, I’m just glad you’re reading our blog.

Please add your Top 5, 10, or 65 favorite albums of the decade (or point out my glaring omissions) in the comments section. Now, on with the list…

Mos Def – Black on Both Sides (1999)
First album on the list and I’m already cheating. This one came out just a couple months before 2000, and is such a great album. One of the best hip-hop albums of all time, even if you don’t see it on such lists in the mainstream media. So why not kick off this list with the last great album of the previous century?

2000

Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R

OutKast – Stankonia

Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2, or the last remains of the dodo

Talib Kweli & Hi Tek – Reflection Eternal

Radiohead – Kid A

U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind
It’s pretty easy to hate on these grandiose mega-stars, but this was and is a truly great U2 album made several years after most of us figured they’d never do it again.

D’Angelo – Voodoo

Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele

2001

Bob Dylan – Love and Theft

Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
This one would probably make the list even there were only 5 albums on it. Songwriting, atmosphere, and using the studio as an instrument without getting too cute or overdoing it. It’s all here, a classic peak from a great band.

Tool – Lateralus

Jay Z – The Blueprint

Whiskeytown – Pneumonia

2002

Sonic Youth – Murray Street
This is how I love my Sonic Youth. This album and the three that have followed are all really good. I actually like this (and those other recent ones) more than their old classics. Blasphemy for hardcore SY fans and a nation of hipsters, I know.

Elvis Costello – When I Was Cruel

Bright Eyes – Lifted, Or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground

The Roots – Phrenology
A bit all over the place stylistically and a bit long, but still mostly brilliant. It’s like their White Album.

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Polvo: In Prism

Can one band manage to sound like both Led Zeppelin and Sonic Youth, and yet still somehow get tagged as some mathrock prog outfit? Yes, apparently. Polvo’s fantastic new record In Prism is a unique and original sounding disc that shatters labels and transcends genres to land in the lofty pile of great rock records.

Not unlike Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks recent Real Emotional Trash album, In Prism also pulls off the rare trick of being immediately likable as well as a grower that gets better with more listens. And also like that album, it’s hard to describe as it meanders through rockers, quiet somewhat-psychedelic interludes, stomping beats, and catchy crunching riffs (often all within one song).

It really doesn’t sound like Zeppelin OR Sonic Youth, regardless of what my first line of this review said. And there are a few other loose and partially inaccurate comparisons that could be made, but I just can’t put my finger on them.

The bottom line is that this is just a really great record, easily among the best of 2009. If you like rock music, if you like interesting music, I can’t see how you wouldn’t love this album. And despite all the critics calling it alt-prog mathrock, it’s actually pretty catchy and easy to listen to.

Funny story: I’d actually never heard of Polvo until I read something about this new album. Apparently (I’ve since found out) they were a relatively well-known alt-rock outfit in the 90’s, and this album is a reunion of sorts after a 10-year hiatus. I guess the shifting tempos and unconventional arrangements are what got them that mathrock label. I don’t know, I’ve still never heard their old albums. But I’ve been streaming this forthcoming new album (to be released September 8, 2009) on the Merge Records website over and over again since it first sunk its hooks into me a few weeks ago.

So of course I email a couple guitarist friends of mine to say “you’ve got to check out this band called Polvo, this new album is streaming free for a while.” Well, one of the guys shoots back sarcastically “have you heard of this great new band called The Who?” and proceeds to inform me that the other guy actually named his dog Polvo. So yea, they’d heard of them.

I’m generally the kind of guy who’s heard of a lot of bands that most consider “obscure” or whatever, but obviously I must have missed this one. I spent most of the 90’s listening to either Grateful Dead or hip-hop. So excuse me if freakin’ Polvo is now such mainstream old news. But really… POLVO? I’m a Johnny-come-lately for not knowing POLVO? Welcome to the internet, circa 2009, where you can be laughed at as the “last to know” by streaming a new album that isn’t even out yet.

Pink Floyd Discography Review

The following are reviews of every Pink Floyd studio album from 1967-1983. There are no greatest hits, compilations, solo, live recordings, or post-Waters albums reviewed:

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
Floyd’s unheralded, and underrated, debut album.  Recorded at the same time as The Beatles Sgt. Peppers (and in the same studio-Abbey Road), it’s hard not to notice a few similarities between the two. Rumor has it that Lennon and McCartney used to sneak into the Floyd mixing sessions to hear what they were up to.  This is Pink Floyd as a psychedelic-pop band, not the artsy, self-indulgent “acid rockers” that they later became known as.  Whereas The Beatles were well into their careers by this point and first starting to experiment with drugs and the wonders of the recording studio, Floyd was still a young, undeveloped pop act that was writing tripped out songs about gnomes, strange cats, and galaxies.  Lyrically and musically, this album belongs to Syd Barrett. The underground London hippie scene was in full effect at this point, and this album reflects those times. Listening to it now, parts are dated and somewhat corny. But if you put yourself in the mind frame of 1967 and compare this album to other “psychedelic” albums of the time, you could sense that Floyd wasn’t just some drop in the pan band that was going to disappear. They were just beginning.

Highlights: Astronomy Domine, Interstellar Overdrive, Bike, Lucifer Sam
Could Do Without: The Gnome, Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk

A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
By this point, Floyd was still a struggling band on the circuit and Syd Barrett’s drug abuse and mental state were taking their toll. Syd was relieved of his duties during the recording and replaced by David Gilmour. This is the only Floyd album that technically contained a 5-member lineup, with Barrett and Gilmour splitting the guitar parts.  The tensions within the band at this time are apparent on the album. Waters was starting to take over the writing from Barrett, but was still far off from his future works. This album sounds like Floyd at a crossroads trying to define themselves. It was also the beginning of the change in sound for the band. With the absence of Barrett’s LSD laced lyrics and song structures, longer, more atmospheric numbers started appearing. This is NOT a pop album.

Highlights:  Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun, A Saucerful of Secrets, Let There Be Light
Could Do Without:  Jugband Blues, Remember a Day, See Saw

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