The Best Albums of 2009

Dizzy's pick:
Around The Well
by Iron & Wine
"It's like having a tiny little electrical friend living in my iPod that listens to my problems and makes me feel better about the world. I could just listen to it over and over again...every song."

Basho's Picks:
1. The Hazards of Love
by The Decemberists
It speaks for itself

2. Far
by Regina Spektor
3. What Will We Be
by Devendra Banhart
4. Heartbeat Radio
by Sondre Lerche
From Scout: 
This year, Basho and I agree that we didn't receive what you would call 'classic' albums. Instead I personally got something much more important. I got memories in the form of records. Maybe these albums won't be remembered as the best of any year, but for me they came at a time when I needed them. They defined what has been a troubling but ultimately rewarding time for me. Some of them were handed to me by the very people who made them, others simply found me. They've all become hugely important to me over the last year and I encourage everyone to look outside the mainstream for the best music this year. I wasn't quite as taken with some of the records people have already started calling classics and masterpieces (Animal Collective, Phoenix, St. Vincent) though I did quite enjoy them. I think Actor is a fine album, but loving the first half of a record doesn't qualify it for 'best of' status, especially since it doesn't fill me with the same feeling of warmth or satisfaction I get listening to the records by Julie Doiron or British Sea Power. I got something better than classic records this year, I got memories of love and hope and inspiration and they came from these albums. When the lines between the songs and the times I was happiest started to blur, I knew that these were records that would stay with me.

The Airborne Toxic Event 
by The Airborne Toxic Event
I didn't quite expect much from Airborne Toxic Event. My editor loves the hell out of them but we also part company over The Hold Steady, so I was essentially neutral. When I finally heard their album I was floored. "This is the album Pitchfork gave a 1.6 to? Are you fucking joking? This is great!" A lot of frontmen have harrowing experiences but Mikel Jollet's voice communicates every day of his suffering in a totally honest and exciting way. His songs are catchy, thanks to the kick-ass guitar all over the record, and most of them are perfect car-trip fodder, unrelenting music you want to drum, shred and sing to but can't do all three and drive at once. Their dynamic suggests a mixture of The Shout Out Louds and The National but with a voice all its own. It's poppy, it's fierce, it's fiery and dysfunctional and full of suffering but it rocks and every song chips away at your heart until by the end you're at the bar with the band enjoying a drink. It's an album told by someone who's depressed, has no one to talk to, but no one's gonna live his life for him so he keeps on. And as I've been there and I love these songs, from the dramatic "Sometime Around Midnight" to the seething "This Nowhere", I give it up for this record. 

Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free 
by Akron/Family
I admit to being a late-in-the-game Akron/Family devotee. I didn't know they had a singer who had run off to Tibet which caused them to shift their dynamic drastically. I just thought I'd found a good record in what was probably a string of good records; it helped that I caught them at a mind-blowing instore. My friend Laura described the show they played later that day as like "being reborn." Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free is vastly different sonically from the other Family records but just as good if not better. A sort of dreamy pop emerges from it's 11 songs equally suited to waking up surrounded by your friends in summer or watching the sun rise over fields of snow. It's all very thrilling and full of life and to see it rocket from mountainous rock guitar to yearning violin and muted trumpet like on "Everyone Is Guilty", you just feel exhilarated, you feel alive. The songwriting feels cohesive despite coming from a place of fractured fortune. The soft, rootsy "Set 'Em Free," "The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen" and "Sun Will Shine" fill you with hope and the Brian Eno influenced "River" and "Creatures" make you want to dance and sing. Either way though it is really hard not to listen to Set 'Em Wild and not feel that these three know something crucial. They know the warmth of friendship, the intensity of love, the beauty of every inch of a natural world whose shadows are all over this record. They are happy to be here, you can just hear it.

Man Of Aran 
by British Sea Power
On paper Man Of Aran is either the most self-indulgent thing British Sea Power could ever hope to do or a really great idea or both. Self-indulgent? Maybe, but who cares, it's the latter. Scoring an obscure Robert Flaherty documentary about a remote Irish fishing village isn't anyone's idea of a blockbuster but I don't reckon Noble, Yan or the other members of camp Sea Power are all that interested in what you'd call success. I think they're out to catch the big fish like the fishermen of Aran. As a whole, BSP's chugging instrumental themes compliment the beautifully restored documentary footage of a seaside community's life and ritual uncannily. Isolated Man of Aran may be stripped of its ostensible purpose but loses nothing of its longing or its heavenly aimlessness. It necessarily moves arbitrarily because the film is already fairly uneventful (Flaherty had to stage the shark spearing, which gets the most ferocious song BSP's ever recorded). Perhaps the best summation can be found in the song "Come Wander With Me." What the band has done is create a mood that compliments a set of brilliant images but still delivers the mood divorced from those images. It's a spellbinding bastard; it asks nothing of you or even of itself. It does what it pleases and will with or without you but would love your company. So those gorgeous melodies on the viola and guitar are like the men of Aran, secreted away serving a purpose known only to those who seek them out. Once you're there, you may find it hard to leave. And if you can find another song that is quite so full of the joy of life as "The South Sound" I'd like to hear it because it makes 11 minutes feel like the blink of an eye. Man or Aran is a beautiful album and is bigger than just rock music.

Middle Cyclone 
by Neko Case
I can't account for why Fox Confessor Brings The Flood didn't affect me like it did everyone else. I don't know why, it just didn't. Middle Cyclone is another story. I think this is her record, her end-all, be-all tribute to torturous, tumultuous and terrible love. It's beautifully arranged, first of all. "This Tornado Loves You" sounds exactly like what it describes, a force of nature blowing across vast plains and through homes. I like this one because her voice works with her songs in a way I didn't get from Fox Confessor. Her unstoppable voice guides the guitars through seasons and emotions and heartbreak. Listen to the way the songs dip into minor chords, as on "The Next Time You Say Forever." "That's a dirty fallow feeling," Just listen to her sing. It's like sweet betrayal. Then of course her lyrics, which are wink-nudge brilliant, come from characters from all walks of life, species and planes of existence, each with a weary eye and a devastating voice. Thanks to John Convertino, some of her songs sound extra dusty and windswept a la Calexico ("Fever" and "Prison Girls"). If you'll indulge in some ridiculous metaphor, she's the sheriff of Heartbreak, world-weary and facing loneliness and infidelity at sundown. She has a thankless job and all she can ask for is outlined in "Don't Forget Me." Ultimately she'll end up alone; she's done this a thousand times and it's always the same. How else could she sing something so cruelly gorgeous as "Middle Cyclone?"

My Maudlin Career 
by Camera Obscura
Seeing as there was nothing by Belle & Sebastian worthy of the name this year and nothing by The Concretes ever again, it seems that my need for chamber pop will henceforth by filled by Tracyanne Campbell and her merry pranksters Camera Obscura. I haven't heard enough of their early music to put this in context but I do really enjoy My Maudlin Career. It's got tambourine and xylophone, shiny violins, the odd trumpet fill, sweet vocals, wistful lyrics and melodies fit for a Wes Anderson film. It's a trip to a fictional 60s where women walked the waterfront waiting for what will while wishing they could walk away from the working man who's won their heart who won't leave his wife or wear a tie; alright, so I sacrificed logic for a maddening and stretch alliteration. I'm sorry about that...anyway, the 60s I'm talking about...Ok, so it's a rainy day and a girl walks about an empty street in a dress with a pattern stolen from a Picasso. You there yet? Ok, she's window shopping, now she's dancing, now she's in love. Back to the record, shall we? It's not a break-up album so much as it is a classic boy troubles record. Campbell's narrator has both seen it all, can't catch a break and can't do what's best for her because she still believes in love. Above all though My Maudlin Career is a blast to listen to, whatever mood you're in, because there's both sadness and elation to be found in these songs. Light as air at first glance, but there's heavy soul beneath these feathers.

The Hazards of Love 
by The Decemberists
What's funniest about all the blah-blah-blah that comes with each new Decemberists album is that there is almost no consistency between any of them beyond the fact that it's Colin Meloy and his twelve-string guitar writing the songs. Castaways & Cutouts was fun but had no unifying theme so exists as a collection of disparate elements whose order is unimportant. Her Majesty The Decemberists contrasted a distinct vision of a fictional past with a modern narrative about finding yourself in new surroundings, so of course the orchestration was going to be a touch more expansive. Picaresque was about the power of storytelling and what it means to be lost at sea, which meant creating a thick atmosphere and utterly convincing evocations of a Dickensian unreality. The Crane Wife was a romantic ode to death and not doing what you're told and so had a dark 70s edge, replete with prog-rock keys and haunted folk anthems. The Hazards of Love is the first of their records to hold a narrative through every song and Colin Meloy went out of his way to see that you never got bored. So what does he do? He pulls out all the stops: a Wendy Carlos-cribbed organ opening, hidden harmonies, creeping ragas at once calming and nervous, Becky Green and Shara Warden killing it in character roles, repeated themes, a sing-along, maybe the third proper sounding pop song he's ever released, and of course some of the most bitchin' metal guitar (70s metal; think Bowie or Hawkwind or early Zeppelin) to ever grace a folk album. It's tempting to say this ain't your mama's Decemberists (mostly because that's just a fun thing to say), but under the epic nature of Hazards are some great songs that play off each other nicely despite being slightly incongruous. Not to mention that Colin Meloy's been writing about infidelity, forced abortion and murder since their first record, he just did it in charming, Beatlesy acoustic songs. And those are still here - the melody of "Won't Want For Love" is as sweet as ever, and tell me "Wager All" isn't adorable. So, in other words The Decemberists haven't changed; if you don't like The Hazards of Love it's because you can't handle the truth...or the metal! Rock on, Decemberists!

Other Truths 
by Do Make Say Think
Do Make Say Think have long been in a class all their own. With Godspeed You! Black Emperor no longer spinning webs of beautiful darkness and Sigur Rós on a sentimental holiday, they are the most powerful orchestral rock band out there. I think what sets them above your other instrumental or post-rock bands is that there's a deftness and a harmony in their records that just feels like the work of something ancient. They go where the music takes them and each new instrument is a welcome addition to an expertly crafted stew. The duel drumming of James Payment and Dave Mitchell and Charlie Spearin's bass are at once an aggressive yet effortless rhythm section. Justin Small and Ohad Benchetrit's guitar tones, by now staples of the Do Make's sound, tell you that though something unique is happening, it's also familiar. In fact the guitar is the one reminder that you're listening to a 'rock' record. What with Small's keyboard, Julie Penner's eloquent string playing and the ever-present brass section, the guitar is the one grounding element. I think they expand beyond the confines of rock music on the latter 3/4s of the album but let's look at the leading track, "Do." The groove that the band finds themselves in is unmistakably something you'd find on a rock record (and it's also brilliant) but it feels like something bigger, something more. When finally they shed it halfway through you realize that this is a work of art that utilizes the form of a rock album as it's canvas. This is about creation, seeing where inspiration leads you and about being together as a collective and though it might not be their best record to date (though it could be. I haven't quite made up my mind if I like this or & Yet & Yet better), it's their most whole. It is the most we may ever see of its members coming together in blinding harmony to make something wonderful.

I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day 
by Julie Doiron
Julie Doiron is one of Canada's national treaures which means that America hasn't quite found her yet but that every other Canadian musician you meet loves her to death. They're all right, incidentally. For over ten years the Eric's Trip bassist has been giving "on the nose" a good name on her charming solo albums. It's always tempting to wrap Doiron up in words like 'adorable', especially on songs like "The Life Of Dreams" or "Nice To Come Home" but her view of life is a privileged one indeed. A mother now, Doiron knows exactly what's important to her and thus to be able to see that the desires of teenagers are tenative (as in "Borrowed Minivans") and the ability to host a giant music festival in her tiny home town are no small victories. I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day is what it sounds like when no matter where you are you think of the ones you love and know you'll be home soon.

Outside In 
by Julie Fader
Julie Fader and Graham Walsh invited me into their home studio one evening so I could interview her and film them playing a song together. A few minutes in their home explained the warmth and familiarity that permeates every new verse on Fader's newest record Outside In. The construction of each isn't exactly groundbreaking yet everytime I hear any of the songs onOutside In I'm at a loss for words. Fader's songs are just breath-taking. Perhaps it's their simplicity, perhaps it's the love and support in Fader's life, perhaps it's the conditions under which she wrote the songs or the freedom given to her by Canadian indie label Hand Drawn Dracula - I can't figure it out but something made her record especially lovely. Every song is irresistable, every line of her yearningly delivered lyrics, every flourish of her economical but crushing guitar playing, every new bit of multi-tracked instrumentation. Outside In is a beam of light from the setting sun at the end of an autumn day.

Jet Black 
by Gentleman Reg
Gentleman Reg has finally started to crack through to the mainstream and he's brought his vivacious take on isolation and social constructs with him. Jet Black may be Reg's most catchy (it's certainly his most wistful) to date; it takes place in two locations, a club and the ether, often at the same time. To that end the record is part dreamy disco and part rough-around-the-edges rock like an ultra-hip take on The Kinks. What I find most enchanting is that Reg's band is that rare backer that manages to sound like they're improvising. Songs like "How We Exit" and "You Can't Get It Back" turn from great pop songs into the kind of whirlwind performance you'd expect the band to come up with spontaneously one night at Lee's Palace.

by Grizzly Bear
When Veckatimist came out I was bummed. I'm still a little confused, come to think of it. I love Veckatimist. Why? Because I love music so murky you need to stir it with a stick to tell that it's actually music and not the sound of your own despair echoing in your head. I love writing while music like this plays, I love driving at night while letting it make my surroundings spookier, I love putting it through headphones on rainy days on the subway. I love darkness and I myself am a fairly dark person. It doesn't take a geneticist to see that Veckatimist is just as grey as it's older siblings, Yellow House and Horn Of Plenty, and it stands to reason that I'd enjoy the hell out of every creepy, scraping, gloomy second even when it resolutely refuses to go anywhere (like on "About Face" and "Hold Still"). My question is what exactly did everyone else see in this record? I got the distinct feeling that Grizzly Bear's rising star acquired quite a few bandwagoneers and Veckatimist was the starting gun for blind love. Where the hell were all these rapturous reviews when Yellow House came out? Where's that record's classic status? That album is absolutely brilliant, genius in a way that few bands will ever approach. That's my problem with Veckatimist. I like it sure, but the production isn't as good as Yellow House and no one else seems to care that their best album was put out three years ago. Also I liked "Two Weeks" better before it entered a studio.

Face Control 
by Handsome Furs
Married. Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry have gotten married since 2007's Plague Park. I've seen the wedding photos. What does it mean? It means that this record burns brighter than the last one, it burns as bright as love. It starts with a punch in the gut called "Legal Tender" a love song so like Gary Numan and The Cure and all those other turn of the 70s goth crooners that it's not worth comparing them. They just fall right in and if you ever see them live, you're lucky to leave with your hearing. Love is louder than hell. Dan Boeckner is Will Sergeant and Elvis and Bernard Sumner and Joe Strummer, his bride Gillian Gilbert, Sid Vicious and Tubeway Army. Listen to "Evangeline" and don't think about sex. I dare you. Alexei invited us all to do it on stage, now I'm passing on the slavings to you. Guitar and drum machine and their voices; there's something positively forbidden about us hearing this record. It's enthralling and electrifying. Boeckner's found a whole new voice for his singing and his lyrics come out like punches. He's got Dylan here "Talking Hotel Arbat Blues" and New Order there "All We Want, Baby, Is Everything" and those songs are ridiculously listenable. The interludes are like wandering through a club following someone you saw from the street trying to get their number; the last one being the pay-off, that unending kiss when you've finally connected and you know they might be the one you marry. But the favorite has always been the last song. "Radio Kaliningrad." It's too enigmatic and compelling not to be about something but what the hell does it mean? It grabs you by the ears and you have to sing along. The rhythm guitar is like a combine, the feedback a buzzsaw, the beat footsteps up a hotel staircase or into the woods. Boeckner's enunciation during the chorus is peerlessly exciting. One last time before bed. Face Control is sweaty and alive and amazing.

by Headdress
I saw Headdress open for Dungen early this year and I raved to the few people I knew would appreciate them. "Sunn O))) from Texas" was the best approximation I could come up with. More accurately it's two hefty guys in alligator boots running a telecaster and keyboard through a myriad of effects creating an expansive, ear-drum bursting drone that despite sometimes consisting of no more than seven notes (as in "Tip of the Pramid") is absolutely killer. It says so much with so little. There are echoes of Neil Young's fog-like score for Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, which means it's the sort of thing dreamt up for spirit walks and lonesome drives through miles of desert road, Lunes is lonesome, grungy, dirge-like genius.

by The Hidden Cameras
In my review for Origin:Orphan at Between Love & Like, I ran off a laundry list of influences I heard in each of its songs, which to me made the record all the better. That I recognized Wings of Desire and The Pleasure Principle in the album doesn't mean that Joel Gibb was neccesarily listening to them when he made Orphan, it just means his record has a timelessness missing from...I don't know Attack! Attack! or The Ting Tings. I'm not criticising their music (well, ok, I am) but my point is that Gibb's construction of pop songs has something more than radio-ready hooks to them, it has an understanding, an awareness of its place and of pop's history and what pop music is supposed to do. I think that "In The NA" is pure genius because it is a study of pop music as well as a brilliant pop song. His lyrics are pointedly obscure so that while you're often inclined to sing along, you don't know what you're saying. Pop music makes us sing along with things we may or may not believe but we do anyway because it fills us with good feelings. "In The NA" is a song made of hooks, the verse just as catchy as the chorus and each instrument is from a different era of pop. The whole album isn't quite as good (some of it is: "He Falls To Me," "Underage," "The Little Bit," "Colour of a Man," "Ratfiy The New") but they come from the same place and it is a warm feeling, glad to strain your jaw singing along, air drumming, cheesy-but-who-cares? good time album. I also think its the closest thing since The Who's Tommy to a sonic version of Günter Grass's The Tin Drum, but that's another essay.

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum 
by Kasabian
Kasabian are my favorite arrogant people. In fact as arrogant people go, they're very nearly the only people who earn it with talent. I've said it for years, in fact I reviewed their last record,Empire, for my high school newspaper and said the same thing. I liked that record, I loved their debut (though it hasn't quite held up as well as I thought it would) and I love West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum. It is an expertly produced yet still loose and psychedelic rock record. There's Happy Mondays and Yardbirds in equal measure; the sort of thing Brian Jonestown is famous for doing but I think West Ryder is an altogether more coherent and likable record than anything Anton Newcombe ever did. Tom Meighan finds himself doing a bit of proper singing to go with his usual hypnotic bark and Serge Pizzorno's compositions show a depth missing from their previous efforts; in other words the snarl is there but it's being courted by a soft and hypnotizing beauty. It's a Stanley with a Stella. It's got hooks to boot and some of their best songs to date including an unprecedented duet with Rosario Dawson (...?) about two lunatics falling in love; not a bad metaphor for the record itself. It's a bit like someone making Blade Runner but instead of looking to film noir for inspiration, they chose Blow-Up and Clockwork Orange

Masters of the Burial
by Amy Millan
Amy Millan's solo records are decidedly different from her work with Stars. Left to her own devices, as on the heart-warming Masters of the Burial, she writes a sombre and beautiful country tinged sound that cuts through a serene sunset reflected on the surface of a pond propelled by lazy lapsteel guitar and perpetually singing mandolin. Her voice calls out for love on the shore, even as she recounts stories of her own loss and loneliness. She seems determined not to go it alone any further. "I'll find my way back to you," she sings in "Low Sail." Her compositions are much more assured than on 2006's Honey From The Tombs and match her storied and beautiful voice, the kind you fall in love with. You have your pick of heart-melting choruses from the sticky sweet "Old Perfume" to the sighing "Towers" and she still lets her Canadianness flourish a la trombone solos, a hundred guitars and a whole rogue's gallery of collaborators. She and producer Marty Kinack have managed a sound just as pastoral and amber-hued as Vilmos Zgismond's cinematography on McCabe & Mrs. Miller or Heaven's Gate; for those of you whose head that just went over, that's my way of saying Bravo!

Rain Machine
by Rain Machine
I never thought I'd ever compare anyone to early John Frusciante records but Kyp Malone matches his addict-energy and comes out the more coherent and capable songwriter. Killing all darlings from his day job, singing and playing guitar in TV On The Radio (save an affinity for bitchin' rhythmaning and intense percussive melody), Malone's songwriting has been sharpened like a shiv. Like the best of 70s cinema, Rain Machine is a record that feels like the city it comes from. Spinning tales from grey streets of Brooklyn's forgotten, moaning and in need of a fix, when he isn't howling like a preacher with an electric guitar, he, his band and his studio lay down relaxing yet vibrant bits of Tinariwen-inspired tribal rock. Rain Machine explores hitherto unseen depths in Malone's subconscious that are alternately warm ("Driftwood Heart") and cold ("Love Won't Save You") and often both ("Hold You Holy"); wholly different from his previous work and wholly welcome.

The Eternal 
by Sonic Youth
After over 25 years of life, Sonic Youth haven't really calmed down. In fact not only do they still rock, they're artists and The Eternal a late period masterpiece. Like Do Make Say Think's Other Truths, they've painted a masterpiece using the rock record as their canvas or medium. Each song is of a piece and everything from the harmonic-laden interludes to the almost dada-esque lyrics are all designed to fill your brain with the possibilities of sound and the efficacy of rock music and its legacy but never quite settle down and play by the rules. That so many of the songs have rather over-used blues riffs as in "Anti-Orgasm" or that absolutely devastating bassline in "What We Know" (that thing's like being in a car with a tiger and a snake. You know something's gonna happen) is not because they're trying to write blues rock, it's because that's a staple of a rock record and just as you can't have a painting without paint, you can't have a 'rock' record without an instance of a guitar doing what a guitar does historically. Once established, both songs cut up their canvases like knives and become something unclassifiable. Just what do you call what Sonic Youth does? So the genius is in weaving in and out of what could be called "rock" and delivering, in the in-between, something beautiful and audacious that sounds like heroin filling a vein, mixing with your blood like their feedback mixes with your rock music. It took almost 30 years for these four razor-sharp minds to be able to deliver this work of art to you and all you need to do is let it wash over you. Not a bad deal.

The BQE 
by Sufjan Stevens
Another of this year's many conceptual projects, The BQE received almost no fanfare when it was released. Sufjan Stevens resolutely refuses to do what the world wants him to, making another state specific album of quirky, yet haunting pop tunes (New York: Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor!) and instead does precisely what he wanted to, an instrumental record for one tiny piece connecting two tiny neighborhoods in a big city in a big state (The Brooklyn Queens Expressway). Stevens' album of expansive themes for a keyboard-driven orchestra may not have the heart of Illinois or Seven Swans but it also lacks the art school indulgence of Enjoy Your Rabbit. So where does that place it? It's kind of its own beast, switching lanes from swooning string themes to jittery electronic pieces when the numbers call for a change. What's funniest about the establishment all but overlooking this record is that it is so evocative and says more than so many of the other albums being heralded as the best of the year without actually saying a thing. I'd put money on this being called classic if it weren't by Sufjan Stevens or if it was the soundtrack to a Woody Allen film 30 years ago or if Philip Glass or Steve Reich had composed it midway through the 80s. Expectation has made the world deaf to what is quite simply a beautiful work. Stevens famously puts much more work into his albums than anyone really appreciates him for (without looking what's the full title of the second song on Illinois?) so it's no surprise that The BQE isn't on the radar. But The BQE does deliver some of his most lavish and heartrending songs to date. "In The Countenance of Kings" leads right into "Sleeping Invader" leads to "Dream Sequence In Subi Circumnavigation" right on through to "Self-Organizing Emergent Patterns;" as compelling and lovely a progression as any, inscrutable names aside. His genius as a composer outweighs his genius as a writer of flooring not-quite-pop songs at this point and seeing as The BQE is a record of staggering genius that doesn't feel at all epicurean, in fact it makes perfect sense in the context of his career, I think he should be given a good deal more praise than the likes of blogs or hip music magazines can give him. Beyond all that, though, it is just a powerful and stirring album.

It's Blitz 
by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It's their best. I could leave it at that and I don't think it would matter. It's awesome, it's got Karen O's strongest vocal delivery (and she's really singing) to date and she shows both depth and amazing control. Nick Zinner's compositions are both accessible and complex and I can just see the sweat forming on his brow while he nails the guitar on "Zero" and "Runaway," nevermind the thousand layers to be found on those and every other song on the record. To me this works so well because every second feels poured over, like they were giving it their all at all times. They could have been flat, easily, but they're not. Each moves with its own pulse and life and sound like the work of a full orchestra (and they even got one when they recorded Michael Nyman-esque alternate versions for the bonus cd). These are brilliant songs rendered timeless by a band at the peak of their powers. And really, as I'm sure they've been told, the record could have been Show Your Bones and I still would have lauded it as the best thing since reverb if all it had to offer was "Hysteric." Karen O's most confident and beautiful performance yet complete with a wonderfully restrained Zinner and Brian Chase backing her up, making use of silence when needed, something most bands don't respect. The spaces between Zinner's notes in the chorus show his talent more than any solo could. They understand. They know and their record is big. It's excellent. It's sweet. It's...

Honorary Awards:

To Willie
by Phosphorescent
The reason I hesitate to include this with the others is because all the songs were written by Willie Nelson, not Matthew Houck. Why it's here: because it's one of the most heartrending albums of all time. Houck's voice is pain and hope, together, given aural form. His band of former southerners help him rock, wail and moan but Houck's voice does more than justice to Nelson's songs, he does a better job than Nelson himself. If you're down, poetically down, give it a try. It's awesome, it's lovely and it's unforgettable.

The Happiness Project
by Charlie Spearin
I don't listen to this often, but it's on hear because not only is it one of the most original and intriguing and creative projects ever undertaken, it has the distinction of being the album that made me feel the greatest I've ever felt when buying a record. It came wrapped in biodegradable film (the first Arts & Crafts release I'd bought with the now mandatory wrapping), with its title in brail and inside was one of the most touching musical stories I'd ever heard. Also it's full to bursting with a bunch of lovely Canadian musicians, many of whom I've had the honor and pleasure of meeting. So while there may be a dearth of pop songs to rock out to in your car, you will love Charlie Spearin and his moustache even more than you already should. This is happiness, alright.

Trainspotting the Decade: Music

1. hobby of collecting railroad locomotive numbers: a hobby that consists of collecting the numbers of railroad locomotives
2. looking for vein: the search for a vein that is prominent enough to inject drugs into (slang)

Connotation: Obsessively compiling lists of pop culture minutiae....Which is what I was born to do.

I think I'd secretly been waiting for the end of the decade just so I could do shit like this. Go ahead and tell me what you'd put instead or what a goddamned idiot I am for thinking this, etc. They're music related (save one) and relate to everything outside of my best album/song posts. Just add 'of the decade' to all of them.

Best Stand-Up Comedians

1. David Cross
2. Maria Bamford
3. Zach Galifianakis
4. Patton Oswalt
5. Louis C.K.
6. Dave Attell
7. Eugene Mirman
8. Michael Ian Black
9. Jim Gaffigan
10. Dimitri Martin

Top Twenty Live Acts I've Seen (by definition of the decade) (No Order)

1. Ambulance Ltd.
2. Echo & The Bunnymen
3. Metric
4. Radiohead
5. Broken Social Scene
6. Sonic Youth
7. Arcade Fire
8. LCD Soundsystem
9. Rage Against The Machine
10. Rufus Wainwright
11. Wolf Parade
12. TV On The Radio
13. Sam Roberts Band
14. Phosphorescent
15. David Byrne
17. Handsome Furs
18. Ladyhawk
19. Julie Doiron
20. Bahamas

Twenty-Two Voices to Melt Your Heart And Shake Your Bones (No Order)
Or:, I like Bjork, too, but she's been around for almost thirty years. What? Well, yeah Rufus Wainwright technically released his first album in 1998, but he himself said no one really knew him until after 2002, otherwise he wouldn't have done that song for Moulin Rouge. What? It's my list, bugger off!

1. Matthew Houck
2. Amy Millan
3. Tunde Adebimpe & Kyp Malone
4. Regina Spektor
5. Fyfe Dangerfield
6. Leslie Feist
7. Rufus Wainwright
8. Neko Case
9. Spencer Krug
10. Regine Chassigner
11. Nick Stumpf
12. Shara Worden
13. Sufjan Stevens
14. Sharon Jones
15. Ed Droste
16. Lisa Lobsinger
17. Matt Bellamy
18. Theo Blasko
19. Robin Pecknold
20. Larissa & Shilough Hopwood

Favorite Lyricists/Songwriters/Arrangers

1. Colin Meloy
2. John Roderick
3. Spencer Krug
4. Rufus Wainwright
5. Win Butler & Regine Chassigner
6. Sufjan Stevens
7. TV On The Radio
8. Eirik Glambek Bøe & Erlend Øye
9. Matt Bellamy
10. Kevin Drew & Brendan Canning

10 Bands With Members (Frontmen especially) Who Seem Culled From The 70s

1. Parlour Mob
2. Of Montreal
3. Besnard Lakes
4. Metric
5. Mars Volta
6. Phosphorescent 
7. Franz Ferdinand
8. Gentleman Reg
9. Eagles of Death Metal
10. Handsome Furs

Five Best Original Soundtracks

1. There Will Be Blood - Jonny Greenwood
2. The Road - Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
3. Brokeback Mountain - Gustavo Santaolalla
4. Amélie - Yann Tiersen
5. Dracula - Philip Glass

Five Great Live Albums That Remind Me I Don't Have Many Live Albums

1. Wilco - Kicking Television
2. My Morning Jacket - Okonokos 
3. Richard Thompson - 1000 Years of Popular Music
4. The New Pornographers - Live From The Future
5. The Decemberists - Live At The Theatre Of Living Arts, also that live DVD they put out is pretty amazing, I don't know why they didn't release a proper live album from the master of that show.

Fifteen Favorite Electric Guitar Players Who Emerged after the year 2000
or The Devil's Hands Redux

Michael and Jordan if you're reading this, Dragonslayer is awesome and I can't wait to see you guys play some of it live. Thanks for the interview.

1. Michael Doerksen & Jordan Robson-Cramer - Sunset Rubdown
2. Andrew Whiteman - Apostle of Hustle/Broken Social Scene
3. Jack White - The White Stripes/The Raconteurs
4. David Andrew Sitek & Kyp Malone - TV On The Radio
5. Jimmy Shaw - Metric
6. Nick Zinner - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
7. Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez - Mars Volta/At The Drive-In
8. Tim Kratz - Honeychurch
9. Russell Lissack - Bloc Party
10. Erin Sullivan - The A-Frames/The Dipers
11. Dan Auerbach - The Black Keys
12. Kato Ådland - Sondre Lerche/House of Hiss
13. Dan Boeckner - Handsome Furs/Wolf Parade
14. Marissa Paternoster - Screaming Females

10 Fantastic Bass Players

1. Brendan Canning - Broken Social Scene
2. Carlos D. - Interpol
3. Andy Nicholson - Arctic Monkeys
4. Gordon Moakes - Bloc Party
5. Jared Fallowell - Kings of Leon
6. Jesse F. Keeler - Death From Above 1979
7. Julian Brown - Apostle of Hustle
8. Charlie Spearin - Do Make Say Think/Broken Social Scene
9. Bobby Kildea - Belle & Sebastian
10. The Arcade Fire (they all kinda take turns at bat)

12 Absurdly Talented Drummers (No Order)

1. Matt Tong - Bloc Party
2/3. Thom Pridgen/Jon Theodore - Mars Volta
4. Brann Dailor - Mastodon
5. Justin Peroff - Broken Social Scene
6/7.  James Payment & Dave Mitchell - Do Make Say Think
8. Sebastian Grainger - Death From Above 1979
9. Matt Schulz - Holy Fuck 
10. Rachel Blumberg - Decemberists/Norfolk & Western/M. Ward
11. Glenn Kotche - Wilco/Loose Fur
12. Jason Tait - Weakerthans/Bahamas

Ten Best Radiohead Songs From Their Last Four Albums

1. "Optimistic"
2. "Like Spinning Plates"
3. "In Limbo"
4. "Knives Out"
5. "Where I End And You Begin"
6. "Kid A"
7. "Life In A Glass House"
8. "Myxomatosis"
9. "Bodysnatchers"
10. "Sail To The Moon"

10 Christmas Albums That Are In No Way Christmas Albums
Albums that just put me in the holiday mood. I also used to watch Alien every year on Christmas Eve. 

1. Punches - World Leader Pretend
2. In Our Bedroom After The War - Stars
3. Two Thousand - French Kicks
4. Funeral - Arcade Fire
5. Dear Catastrophe Waitress - Belle & Sebastian
6. Asleep At Heaven's Gate - Rogue Wave
7. Without Feathers - The Stills
8. Gang Of Losers - The Dears 
9. Takk... - Sigur Rós
10. Want One/Want Two - Rufus Wainwright

Ten Favorite Hip-Hop Songs That Illustrate How White I Am

Incidentally in answer to your question (it was "you haven't heard much hip-hop, have you?", in case you don't remember asking), no, I haven't heard a lot of hip-hop, so these are basic and sheltered choices. What does it say that four of these tracks were made at least in part by white people and that four of the rest are by artists who are closely connected? I'll leave that to you. It's a cheat to put tracks by both Doom and Madvillain but...I don't care. I'm not a hip-hop connoisseur and so could only pick from the few things that have entered my periphery. So while I'm not at all the best person to ask, these songs are pretty goddamn great.

1. "All Caps" - Madvillain
2. "List of Demands" - Saul Williams
3. "National Disgrace" - Atmosphere
4. "Fig Leaf Bi-Carbonate" - MF Doom
5. "Save Me Dear" - Ghostface
6. "Gravel Pit" - Wu Tang Clan
7. "Let's Push Things Forward" - The Streets
8. "Fix Up, Look Sharp" - Dizzee Rascal
9. "Valhalla" - K-Os featuring Sam Roberts
10. "Bounce" - MSTRKRFT Featuring N.O.R.E. and Isis

Metal/Industrial/Noise Bands I've Had The Most Fun Listening To

1. Mastodon
2. Mars Volta
3. Pelican
4. Lebanon
5. Boris
6. A Life Once Lost
7. Electric Wizard
8. Baroness
9. Probot
10. Dimmu Borgir (these guys are a fucking riot!)

And because I'm looking for honorary citizenship...Eleven Reasons Canada's Better Than America

1. Arcade Fire
2. Holy Fuck
3. Constellation Records
4. Sappyfest
5. Wolf Parade and family
6. New Pornographers and family
7. Sam Roberts Band
8. Arts & Crafts Records
9. Rufus Wainwright
10. The people are nice (especially Jo-Ann Goldsmith)
11. Healthcare

Bands Whose Music Thankfully Refuse To Age

1. Sonic Youth
2. Tom Waits
3. Richard Thompson
4. David Byrne
5. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
6. The Pixies
7. Björk
8. John Cale
9. Morrissey
10. New Order (respective members)

Bands I Liked Before They Were Cool

I mean like first EP, saw them open for Metric, was hurt by lineup changes, major label debuts, TV appearances, hate the new fans, etc. If you liked The Decemberists before blogs foundPicaresque or DeVotchKa before Little Miss Sunshine then you know what I'm talking about. I still listen to and love most of them, too. 

1. Kings Of Leon
2. Sondre Lerche
3. Iron & Wine
4. Interpol
5. Grizzly Bear
6. Feist
7. Wolf Parade
8. Langhorne Slim
9. The Black Keys
10. Múm
Criminally Underappreciated Bands Better Than Most Everything On The Radio
There are more, but I don't want them to wind up on MTV; These bands seem inaudible to the ears of the Twilight set.
  1. matt pond PA
  2. Cass McCombs
  3. Blood On The wall
  4. Tulsa
  5. Clues
  6. The A-Frames
  7. Land Of Talk
  8. Nat Baldwin
  9. Julie Fader
  10. The Besnard Lakes
50 Songs To Give, Receive and Remember Hugs By

Ok, assembled here is a list of my 50 favorite songs of the decade that do a certain thing for me. Mostly whenever I hear them I want a hug and/or think of times when I got hugs from people and then remember those times fondly. Their sense memory songs, if that makes sense. You remember intimate things about yourself and your closet friends and loved ones that are hidden inside these songs. Mostly what these songs share in common is that typically when I fall in love, I listen to them for mental encouragement the same way people play Dutch Courage before asking someone to marry them. These songs are like the alcohol I'd consult if I weren't such a pussy. They've been there when I've had to keep my feelings to myself. Now I kept it to one song per artist and they all come from proper albums, so everyone got their fair share at play, with the exception of the two tunes by Guillemots which I kept because they're two sides of the same coin; they both mention Brazil, too, so it seemed to make sense. For example "Neighborhood #1" and "Parachutes" are both beautiful songs, some of the best ever written in my opinion, but they were shorn simply because the songs I used by their creators happen to have made me feel smaller in their presence. "My Body Is A Cage", which is the Arcade Fire song I did pick, has the single greatest ending of any song ever written; again, this is my opinion, but I'll defend my choice in the thunderdome if need be. Mostly they speak for themselves but I've added a sentence where I needed to indicate a particularly poignant memory or something I feel like sharing. Play them in descending order and you have my perfect mix-tape.

1. "My Body Is A Cage" - Arcade Fire
⁃ This songs wins because it is specifically about and communicates through its very structure the ecstasy involved in being close to someone physically. Thus the ending is not only the single greatest thing I've ever heard, it is also about becoming close to someone.
2. "The Mother" - Nick Cave & Warren Ellis
3. "Trains To Brazil"/"Sao Paolo" - Guillemots
⁃ Fyfe Dangerfield's voice is perfectly suited for declarations of love. It's beautiful.
4. "Be Dark Night" - Phosphorescent
5. "Casimir Pulaski Day" - Sufjan Stevens
6. "Ultimatum" - The Long Winters
⁃ John Roderick has more than once shown me how to express myself. When I'm stuck he's always there with the words I'd been looking for.
7. "Middle Cyclone" - Neko Case
⁃ What it's like to be alone looking at two people holding hands.
8. "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" - Iron & Wine
9. "Human of the Year" - Regina Spektor
⁃ Hearing this was like hearing my friends Theo and Sarah's voices recorded for the first time; all three times I thought in stunned silence "I had no idea you could do that!"
10. "Deep Blue Sea" - Grizzly Bear
11. "So Sorry" - Feist
12. "England Will Just Not Let You Recover" - French Kicks
13. ("Fewer Words") "On The Bus Mall" - (Badly Drawn Boy) Decemberists
⁃ I can only listen to these two together ever since I wrote my first real screenplay wherein they follow each other.
14. "Sky Starts Falling" - Doves
15. "Handjobs For The Holidays" - Broken Social Scene
16. "Shiver" - Coldplay
17. "14th Street" - Rufus Wainwright
18. "Chancery Lane" - Honeychurch
19. "Window Bird" - Stars
⁃ Dear Amy,
⁃ If we were kids on a playground I'd give you a flower. Thanks for signing that post-card and I sincerely hope you're well.
p.s. This song is awesome. You've never sounded lovelier.
20. "Hummingbird" - Wilco
21. "Hysteric" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
⁃ Have you read my screenplay?
22. "Lions Of The Kalahari" - Sam Roberts
⁃ Sam doesn't write love songs so much as he writes "thrilled to be alive" songs; he's a bit too plugged into the world to do anything but the latter, which makes him an incredible human being. This might be the best of those songs.
23. "Blue Hour" - Turin Brakes
24. "Wordless Chorus" - My Morning Jacket
⁃ So many rides to school spent wishing while Jim James sang to me.
25. "Bang Theory" - World Leader Pretend
⁃ Best played with snow on the ground...also helps if you're obsessed with someone.
26. "Burnt" - The Futureheads
27. "Family Tree" - TV On The Radio
28. "Mike Mills" - Air
29. "We Do Not Fuck Around" - Viva Voce
30. ""Yeah" Is What We Had" - Grandaddy
31. "Young Urban" - Ambulance Ltd.
⁃ The ending of this song is falling in love.
32. "I'll Believe In Anything" - Wolf Parade
33. "PDA" - Interpol
⁃ This one didn't particularly work out, but at least I got to keep the songs. Intoxicating.
34. "Like Eating Glass" - Bloc Party
35. "Quiet Houses" - Fleet Foxes
36. "Slow Night, So Long" - Kings of Leon
37. "The South Sound" - British Sea Power
38. "You Love Me" - DeVotchka
⁃ I cried the first time I heard this alone. To this day I don't know why. I wasn't particularly upset or anything. Oh well...
39. "Nice To Come Home" - Julie Doiron
40. "Know How" - Kings of Convenience
41. "Music Is My Boyfriend" - Hidden Cameras
⁃ A song about the extremes we'll go to prove our love that I absolutely identify with.
42. "Geraldine" - Glasvegas
43. "You Can't Hurry Love" - The Concretes
44. "Stadiums and Shrines II" - Sunset Rubdown
45. "All My Friends" - LCD Soundsystem
46. "Lately" - Helio Sequence
⁃ Deliciously ironic romantic sentiment; I've been there with him.
47. "Up Against The Wall" - Peter, Bjorn and John
⁃ If I didn't have this song, I'd likely not have made it through my first semester of college
48. "Your Lips Are Red" - St. Vincent
49. "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" - Bright Eyes
50. "Saviour" - The Dears

50 Songs To Get Into A High Speed Car Chase By

These are the other fifty songs. While they can provoke a strong emotional response, really what their attacking (other than your ears) is your gut. They get you in the mood for action. So I've titled this list songs to get into a high speed car chase by. It could alternately known as music to get into gun fight, Oldboy style brawl with hammer or intense video games to (I don't play video games, so I'll just assume that the latter use applies. Oldboy style hammer fight, though, who hasn't been there?) Mostly they speak for themselves but I'll put a sentence or two where I feel a footnote is necessary. Mostly these are just great songs that do more than make you want to get hugged by....though "Bitches In Tokyo" does that everytime I hear it...come to think of it so do "Superconnected" and "McFearless", but that's it, I swear!

1. "Wolf Like Me" - TV On The Radio
2. "One Armed Scissor" - At The Drive-In
3. "The Good, The Bad And The Queen" - The Good, The Bad And The Queen
4. "Super Inuit" - Holy Fuck
5. "Empire" - Kasabian
6. "Knights of Cydonia" - Muse
7. "Black Math" - The White Stripes
8. "If I Had Changed My Mind" - Tom Vek
9. "Slow Hands" - Interpol
10. "Millionaire" - Queens of the Stone Age
⁃ This was written for Dodge Chargers to get wrecked by
11. "Empty" - Metric
12. "Apostolic" - Loose Fur
⁃ This was actually the catalyst for this list. I thought to myself one day "I would fucking love to get into a high speed car chase to this song."
13. "Superconnected" - Broken Social Scene
14. "Six Barrel Shotgun" - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
15. "Svart Är Himlen" - Dungen
⁃ The modern equivalent of a Lalo Schifrin film cue.
16. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" - Wilco
⁃ Preferably the live version from Kicking Television
17. "Phantom Punch" - Sondre Lerche
18. "The Universe!" - Do Make Say Think
19. "Justine, Beckoning" - Apostle of Hustle
20. "Single Ladies" - Beyonce
⁃ I know, I know, just trust me on this one...
21. "Remember When (Side B)" - Black Keys
22. "Helicopter" - Bloc Party
23. "Flower Garden" - Chad Vangaalen
24. "Yes" (part 2) - Coldplay
⁃ The latter half of this ONE, when it turns into an old Ride song, that's when the fun begins
25. "McFearless" - Kings of Leon
26. "Romantic Rights" - Death From Above 1979
27. "I Disappear" - The Faint
28. "Redhead" - The Fever
29. "Evil And A Heathen" - Franz Ferdinand
30. "Sacred Trixster" - Sonic Youth
31. "Wax Simulacra" - Mars Volta
32. "Dashboard" - Modest Mouse
33. "Diamond Hoo Ha Man" - Supergrass
⁃ This song has to have been written with this list in mind
34. "Absolute Affirmation" - Radio 4
35. "Radio Kaliningrad" - Handsome Furs
36. "A Life Wasted" - Pearl Jam
37. "Bodysnatchers" - Radiohead
⁃ This would also work if you were to involve speeding trains
38. "Le Ruse" - Tapes 'n Tapes
39. "Death At The Chapel" - The Horrors
40. "Y Control" - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
41. "Shine A Light" - Wolf Parade
42. "First Wave Intact" - Secret Machines
43. "Our Trip" - The Thermals
44. "Trumpet, Trumpet" - Sunset Rubdown
45. "Reptilia" - The Strokes
46. "Chicago x 12" - Rogue Wave
⁃ The last few seconds of this song are like a gun fight, car chase and breaking glass at the end of the aforementioned hammer fight. They're that good.
47. "Bitches In Tokyo" - Stars
48. "Actor Out Of Work" - St. Vincent
49. "Guns of Memorial Park" - Sparta
50. "Down On The Street" - Rage Against The Machine

Rain Machine and Top Soil at the Ship Inn

Tonight- or I guess it was yesterday...I went to see KYP play music in Milford, NJ! First of all, when I heard about the show I was like "what? Kyp's playing music in my home town? My little nothing of a town? Opening for a band I have never heard of?!" Then I was talking to him and it all suddenly made perfect sense. He was like "Well they asked me to!" and later, on stage, he was like "I'm really glad I was asked to play here tonight because I've got a lot of roots down in this place. I've been touring a lot recently doing this with a whole band and everything and it's really nice to be able to come back to one of my many homes. And it's the first snow, so that's special." and then he said that feedback was all the rage in Brooklyn right now.

He played songs from his new solo record, Rain Machine, and also, I believe, a few others that I had never heard before. Everything sounds so different live. So much more... alive! He did an awesome job. Malone is like this big bear that walks around and is really nice and croons so beautifully you think your ears are going to fall off and makes you thankful for things like Sundays and blankets and strawberry jam. And I'm just really glad that he's around.

There is something strikingly different between seeing someone play music with a full band (TV on the Radio) at the biggest stage at Lollapalooza in front of thousands of people and seeing him in this little bar in front of maybe twenty people, with one microphone, one lovely guitar and a glass with a little red straw in it. I am not really an expert on these matters, but I really enjoyed being there and I had never seen him, or anyone play guitar and sing like that. It was like that rainy afternoon in the Red Shoes, only it was 9:45 at night with the first snowfall of the season floating down outside the steamy windows. And there were shirley temples. Goodness I love those drinks.

I saw a lot of familiar, friendly faces around. It's as though Kyp just carries this bubble around with him that attracts really nice people. I saw Emily, my old boss there and a bunch of people I used to see pretty much every day at the coffee shop I used to work in before the man shut us down. And I saw Dennis Liana! and I got quite a few hugs. And I got to spend time with my dad and my little sis. It was just a really comfortable, welcoming place. Top Soil, the other band playing that night, was really jazzy and loud and danceable and oh dance people did. Mostly the Isabels. I took some pictures with my phone, not my real camera, because... well I'm not sure why I didn't bring it. But i think it was better that way..? I developed my second roll of Holga film on Friday and I messed it all up because I wrapped it around the thing backwards and only maybe two and a half pictures (out of 12) turned out. So I suppose this was one of those rare, shining occasions when I would rather not hide behind a lens when I could be out getting hugs and getting big Xs on my hand and remembering it all my myself.

On Film Punk

I dream that you changed the Film Punk layout without telling me first, and booted off all of the contributors beside me because you wanted me to help you fix it when you fucked up the code or something. I hope that this doesn't become a reality, and that this wasn't a mutual dream, because I think that we got a good thing goin' here.

Why would you even consider that?

much love,

The Best Underrated Post-Punk Albums of the Decade

So as I consider myself a defender of Post-Punk (just as over at Honors Zombie I'm a defender of zombie movies to a largely unconvinced and haughty public, a professor of putrefaction, you might say. Or anyway that's how I think of it; the public has yet to really enter into the equation) I think it apt that I go back and put some of the decade's most assured and underrated post-punk albums into their much deserved spotlight. Ah, but what's post-punk even mean, you ask? Well, first off it's the term that applies to most of the music my friend Ken and I used to listen to at unreasonable volumes in our car and then would try to play in my basement when we both bought instruments. But that won't help you so let's say music influenced by the music made between David Bowie's Low and The Smiths' The Queen is Dead. First generation Post-Punk sounded typically like people trying to be David Bowie on his Berlin trilogy, largely because a lot of them were. Joy Division even asked their producer to replicate the drum sound on Low for their first EP (without access or knowledge of Brian Eno's Eventide Harmonizer they could only imitate it, but I digress). Bands like Gang of Four, Wire, New Order, Pere Ubu, The Fall, Talking Heads, Devo, The Residents, Josef K, R.E.M., Public Image Ltd. and my personal favorite Echo & The Bunnymen made a brand of minimalist, politically motivated, often danceable rock music. The typical set up was simple: bass, guitar, keyboard, drums and that was all you could hear. They eschewed the excesses of the previous decades progressive rock and the polished vocals of those who would come to be known as classic rock. They were indignant, had something constructive to say about art and social issues (though that message was often "Let's deconstruct this shit!"). The height of post-punk is, aside from today, my favorite period in modern musical history. There's nothing I love more than finding the influence of Human League or Violent Femmes in records released today. Occasionally, as in that laughable second album by The Shout Out Louds which sounds exactly like The Cure, bands go too far and sound like carbon copies of some of the best LPs of the time; Q And Not U for example sound too much like a Gang of Four cover band without the politics for me to listen to their records straight-through (apologies to Ken, Ben and guys liked those records, right?). The best of them synthesize their influences and make something unique. In fact some of them are so good that they're not on this list, but my best records of the decade list, like The Arcade Fire. Listen to those guys rock material from Funeral live today and you'll hear David Byrne in "Neighborhood #3", Robert Smith in "Rebellion" and David Bowie in "Crown of Love." To me, knowing where my favorite music comes from only enhances my enjoyment of it. Thus albums like Silent Alarm by Bloc Party are not just undeniably catchy, irascible and soulful but also literate and steeped in a crucial history they then carry on. They know what came before them and are paying tribute to them by reinventing the sound their heroes pioneered.

How To Plan Successful Parties
by The Dipers
Erin Sullivan is one of my favorite songwriters that no one's ever heard of. Here fronting the Dipers, a band composed of Lars Finberg on Bass, Dean Whitmore on drums and himself howling like a goddamn lunatic while destroying a guitar I can only imagine looks grungy as shit, they delivered rock that I'm tempted to say is the closest thing to The Velvet Underground we've gotten since John Cale departed in '69. How To Plan Succesful Parties, their only album to date and, at 7 songs and barely twenty minutes, seems like the work of people too obdurate to follow it up, was already a few years old by the time my friend Ken, who specialized in finding esoteric rock records, found it and put it in his car stereo while he and I drove around our town hollering approximations of the lyrics at squares and people who had the misfortune to have chosen to eat outside that night. It was something of a ritual for us but no trip was quite as spastic and raucous as the night he brought How To Plan Successful Parties for the first time. Like old school Rock'n'Roll played by some bunch of barely competent yet somehow expert teenagers while their lead singer turns into a werewolf, The Dipers were peerless for the few months they existed. Who else could boast a song whose lyrics were as crazy as "I am Voltron, I am Voltron, I Am Voltron, Watch Me Grow!"

Red Bedroom/In The City of Sleep
by The Fever

Come back with me to 2004 for a second. Back then all anyone could talk about were The Killers because of their professed 80s-ness yet no love was shown to The Fever who did the 80s thing without the glittery hangover the next morning or the lounge singer in your bed you had to explain to your mom. I liked the Killers until I bought their first album...then not so much. The Fever were unfortunately forgotten as one of the many sub-Interpol bands to come out of New York around the time that you couldn't swing a dead goddamn cat without hitting a band from New York. I was torn about which record I liked better, their jumpy debut Red Bedroom or their almost ridiculously Tom Waitsy follow-up In The City Of Sleep. Red Bedroom is like a party in your head and In The City of Sleep is like a macabre children's book reimagined by an excitable kid with a full orchestra behind him. The Fever broke up soon after City of Sleep so these are artifacts now, doomed to be underrated from now until doomsday but if you want a raucous good time remembering in a time when rotoscoping your music video was considered edgy but avoid all of the backlash that comes with it, for the love of god get your hands on these two records. The production is a flawless mocking of the stuff they (and I) love and the between the guitar/bass heroics of Keith Pony Stapleton and Chris Sanchez, the sweetly unnerving organ playing of J. Ruggerio and the selling point, Geremy Jasper's truly insane vocals (Isaac Brock + Peter Hayes, maybe. Luke Jenner x Howlin' Wolf?) they were able to turn many a car ride from trip to Trip. Listen to "The Secret," "Grey Ghost" or "Redhead" for a Devo-by-way-of-The Contortions good time. Seriously, these records are so much fun!

Siberia/The Fountain
by Echo & The Bunnymen

I love Echo & The Bunnymen. Let me try that again I LOVE ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN!!!! If my house were on fire....I'd save Echo & The Bunnymen. Anyway, I love their music and have always loved it. Porcupine has been in my top five albums since I first heard it, and Ocean Rain is a close second in their catalog. I saw them at the Black Cat in Washington D.C. in 2005 following the release of Siberia, their great if slightly vacant comeback record. Though for a few years I wondered if it really was a comeback record. I hoped it was because that show at the Black Cat remains one of the best I've ever seen. They tore through some of their best songs ("Over The Wall," "The Cutter," "Lips Like Suger") and some great new ones ("Scissors In the Sand," "Stormy Weather") with a weathered but still awe-inspiring ferocity. Then in 2008 who should show up in New York to play all of Ocean Rain with a ten-piece orchestra? That's right! I didn't mind paying the 70 bucks to get in because it topped their show at the Black Cat (it helped that their opener, Glasvegas, was incredible, too). I could live a hundred years after today and still not see anything quite so humbling as Echo & The Bunnymen playing "Ocean Rain" or "Thorn of Crowns" or "Nocturnal Me" with strings at Radio City. But more importantly with the performance came news of a new album. A year later The Fountain showed up and is easily the best thing they've released since their self-titled farewell album in 1986. It captures that same production sound and shows guitarist Will Sergeant at his most athletic and the band at their loudest and most assured since 1983. Sure it's not Porcupine but it kicks ass and when so few of their sonic godchildren live up to their potential, I'm happy to have Mac and Sergeant laying it down again. And without them, a lot of my favorite records probably wouldn't have been made.

Oh, Inverted World
by The Shins
These guys pretty quickly became the band that people made fun as your go-to for Indie music. Seth Rogen even makes fun of them in Pineapple Express (troublingly roping them in with Godspeed You! Black Emperor; the two are sort of mutually exclusive among die-hards of either camp). Anyway, I remember my friend Larissa telling me that she'd seen them before they got big (read: before Chutes Too Narrow and Garden State) and she said they reminded either her or her husband a touch of The Police, I can't remember. Add a dash of the Kinks, a pinch of R.E.M. and there you have it. Sweet, minimalist songs from someone no one had ever heard of who started quiet and then got loud and produced. I put money on them following the R.E.M. model and lasting two hundred years and a billion albums. Anyway I still say that Oh, Inverted World is their best record yet because it's the most consistent and isn't trying to break your heart or fill your ears with quirk. Like Murmur it sounds like four guys just doing their best and being themselves. The idea of Oh, Inverted World bringing these guys to fame probably seemed faintly ridiculous at the time but look at them now. But seriously I'm tempted to call the thing uneventful and I love it. It's just this unassuming pop record half-whispered by a nervous front man with a band who apparently turned their amps down. Take that boybands and nu metal! Where the fuck are you now Nick Carter? James Mercer's king of the goddamned Portland-based underworld mountain! The man made more magazine covers in 2007 alone than Staind will in its entire career! They were pretty much entirely responsible for Sub Pop's resurgence in the first half of the decade! I'm not a bitter man, I just get bothered when truly pathetic movements come along and whitewash years of great music with least common denominator lyrics and generic-as-shit music videos when all you need to make great music are some unassuming guys with some earnest songs.

You're A Woman, I'm A Machine
by Death From Above 1979
For a kid like me in 2005 Death From Above 1979 was how I imagined it was in the 80s to find that girl with the mohawk for the first time. She didn't want your affection but you followed her all over D.C. anyway trying to impress her. But she's all into being a free spirit and believes marriage is just another form of bourgeoise complacency, man. But she makes out with you after the Scream concert anyway, but then won't answer your letters and you can't call her cause she doesn't have a permanent address, this was before cellphones mind you....wait. Ok, so anyway here was this super sexy and loud and bass and drum record with these two Canadians screaming at you who you never got a good look at because they were constantly hidden behind scarves and looking at the floor. I like what Sebastian Grainger and Jesse Keeler are doing now, but DFA was and remains the shit (the kids still say that? No matter). Who else could be on Headbanger's Ball and still make kids dance at little clubs in New York? NO ONE, that's who! They also had easily the best record title of the year, too before pointedly ironic sentence long titles became the fashion and totally fucked everything up. 

by Grandaddy
I would have killed to see this band live after Sumday got released. This album is a truly wonderful trip to some depressing highway town, the kind of place you stop for gas on your way to pick up your kid from college, as Jason Lytle takes you through falling in love and finding friends over the course of a year. Because as much as he sings about the things he loves, you get the feeling that he's dreaming of bigger and better things. It reminds me of a Becket passage "Drowning in dreams and burning to be gone..."

by The Rapture
Ok, so if you heard this record...scratch that if you heard the song "House of Jealous Lovers" you knew whether The Rapture was for you. I saw them live at the Curiosa Festival with my friend Ken and loved every second of it. It helped that Muse, Mogwai, Interpol and the fucking Cure were also playing, but still, great time. Loud, brash, bouncing dance-rock from New York. Add to that Luke Jenner's voice (like nails on a hip chalkboard that hurt so good) which is almost as jagged as his guitar, the bands propensity for old keyboards and simple but effective bass and metronome-like drums...I mean, you either love it or hate it, no? Well I love it. I danced like a goddamned idiot in a mostly empty amphitheater to it and I'd gladly do it again.

Wet From Birth
by The Faint
Before Saddle Creek Records became a bedroomhold name, they were a fledgling label run out of Nebraska. One of the first bands that got signed early days was The Faint, a dance-rock band with no ties to New York city. Just before they got 'big' one of their members quit to go write songs on his acoustic guitar about how miserable and cold he was and how the Bush administration was really dropping the ball. Anyway, their first real release was called Blank-Wave Arcade which is six kinds of  awesome and sounds exactly like you'd imagine it does, like kids playing a show in an arcade and using the Asteroids and Centipede machines in their songs. Jump ahead a few years to 2004 when they put out their much clearer, much hipper Wet From Birth about the basest of sexual urges set to Giorgio Moroder-esque backbeats and music that sounds like it could either be samples from some forgotten Lomax collection or the band actually rocking out like Bauhaus or Scritti Politti in modes from several different nations. But beyond that it's super catchy and rocks every minute. I defy anyone who's heard the bass riff that kicks off "I Disappear" to forget it anytime soon. Also, it has a song called "Drop Kick The Punks" on it.

The Futureheads
by The Futureheads
This was the ultimate car in the middle of town album. I'd like to take a moment and apologize to anyone who went outside in Doylestown, PA between 2004 and late 2005 as I'm sure I made your life a little less pleasant at some point or other. Gang of Four for the 21st century, granted a little easier to swallow thanks to the much less sharp edged issues tackled, but still a great raucous record for late nights. Got the whole man-becoming-machine thing from the late 70s thing down pat and then evolved and released one of the best records of all time in 2006 which apparently everyone but me hated and so then they released a totally boring album last year. You Goddamn non-sophomore-album liking sons of bitches! Not you, reader, this isn't your fault.

Stealing Of A Nation
by Radio 4
Possibly named for a Public Image Ltd. song, these guys had the dance-your-ass-off-for-socialism thing on lockdown (the kids still say that?). They wrote political songs that sounded halfway between Talking Heads and The Clash but for whatever reason haven't become quite as well regarded as either, not even in post-punk circles. I'm perplexed. I love this record.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
That goddamn bass! Jesus, just listen to it. Ushering in a new era of ultra-hip slacker rock, these guys were the kings of not giving a goddamn what you think of them or anyway that's how I felt listening to Alex Ounsworth's rootless drawl. I saw them live once and they were awesome. Minimalist rock that somehow transcends time and place. It's weird and off-putting on paper but somehow in your ears it becomes endearing. (inside joke: I take my pills to get my thrills...)

The Back Room/An End Has A Start/In This Light And On This Evening
by Editors

The Editors are like a critical punching bag for all the reasons I love them. Their super emotional, they sound like the best records from 77-84 England, Tom Smith sounds like Ian Curtis, each records has a uniformity that they rarely diverge from. That is until In This Light And On This Evening. People were bummed when this came out, I love it. I love the synths and the Gary Numan direction they went in. Granted it got zero fanfare when it came out and you were lucky to know that they'd even done another album. Anyway, their records have evolved sonically like this: The Back Room = Joy Division + Echo & The Bunnymen. An End Has A Start = Interpol + Jesus & Mary Chain. In This Light And On This Evening = Underworld + New Order + Depeche Mode. But all the time they remain easy to listen to, cold, dramatic, emotional, virtuosic, yet always consistent. What's not to like?

It's Never Been Like That
by Phoenix
Wheras everyone else assumed that nothing worthwhile had ever come from Phoenix before Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, their admittedly good fourth record, I kind of like the one before it better. It's a bit sweeter, a bit catchier, a bit more like Orange Juice and R.E.M., a bit more autumnal (I'm all about that, in case that hasn't been made clear up to this point). I like all of these tracks, especially "Sometimes In The Fall," "Rally," and "Consolation Prizes" but I think the standout for me is always going to be "North," an inward looking trip via soft guitar and drums and no words. It's the most introspective the band has ever gotten which is all the more impressive considering no one says a word for five minutes. I truly love that song and the album that houses it is pretty special, too.

We Have Sound
by Tom Vek
I really wish Tom Vek would put out a second record and fulfil the potential he displayed on We Have Sound. He sounded like a one-man PiL. Guy was awesome! Dude was like John Lydon + Elvis + Elvis Costello - whining. Anyone remember the video for "I Ain't Sayin' My Goodbyes?" It was awesome. Go look it up.

Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not
by Arctic Monkeys
These guys qualify as Post-Punk only in that there are four of them, they sneer a fair amount, are super english and make a lot of noise. This was a great record, wasn't it? And Alex Turner's put out a record every year since. Gotta admire that. He's like Atom Ant! Anyway, they were a touch like the British Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in that they didn't seem to care about what you thought. I was sold when they appeared prematurely (in that they hadn't quite tamed U.S. audiences yet) on SNL and in the soft part of "A Certain Romance" Turner looked up into the audience, saw some bored punter and screamed "That Man Just Yawned!" before bursting into the solo-laden ending freak-out. Every strange element comes together beautifully. Andy Nicholson's fluid and memorable dub-like basslines, their fast-pace and Alex Turner's insolent Sheffield accent announced that they were to be taken seriously. Also, some people got up in arms because of the cover of this record and I just wanna share what their manager said in response to the criticism that it reinforces the idea that smoking is ok, cause it's pretty fucking brilliant: "You can see from the image smoking is not doing him the world of good."

Give Me A Wall
by Forward Russia
I hear Pere Ubu, Mars and DNA and love the frantic energy and of course the guitar tone. Put that guitar tone on anything and you've got at least one fan.

Strawberry Jam
by Animal Collective
I got into a huge argument with a friend of mine because I said that all the music he really liked was made possible by Brian Eno. I didn't mean to negate the contributions of those artists, I liked a good many of them too (he can keep Dan Deacon, though. Goes right over my head, it does), my point was that it helps to know where those bands were coming from. I would argue that Yeasayer and Department of Eagles would be the first to tell you the bands they revere (unless they're total dicks) and just because they don't sound like anything else today or yesterday for that matter, doesn't mean their anomalies, it just means they're quite good. I like hearing influences in music because I'm not one of those assholes who negates someone's achievement if it bares a passing resemblance to something else; I tend to love that, in fact, unless you're plagiarizing. Anyway, my friend asked me who I thought Animal Collective owed their sound too and other than Vashti Bunyan I have to admit I was stumped. But I mean there's David Byrne and Thomas Dolby if you listen for it. My point is that being the product of your influences aren't a bad thing, in fact without them, where would you be? Even Daniel Johnston had heroes; so don't get all up in arms because I know where your bands came from. But what I really wanted to say was that while everyone else is so taken with Merriweather Post Pavilion, I'd like to say here and now that Strawberry Jam is their best album and considering it's their last as the full band, I'd say it has more right to classic status. I like Merriweather but it's not as unique and listenable as Strawberry Jam is to me. I love this record. "Fireworks," "#1," and "Cuckoo Cuckoo" are fucking mind-blowing and I don't think Merriweather matches Strawberry Jam for intensity or inventiveness.

Plague Park
by Handsome Furs
Face Control is better, but I think this got mentally filed under "Wolf Parade but less" by everyone when it came out in 2007. Shame on you, imaginary group of lazy rockophiles! This record's great and was a useful insight into what specifically Dan Boeckner brought to the Wolf Parade table. Also, he made it with his fiance; that's like my dream job. I think Face Control is better because they got married and were able to craft a wholly new feel for the record, but Plague Park is still a lot of industrial goodness.

Live It Out
by Metric
These guys owe as much to post-punk as they do actual punk and new-wave but Emily Haines is a force free from the constraints of any influence. Sneering seductively about ejaculation and giving in to desire with a candidness and blasé attitude that not even Debbie Harry managed, plus Haines also has a really amazing singing voice when she isn't doing the female Colin Newman thing. And the band kicks ass. Did I mention that? Well, they do. James Shaw's one of my favorite guitar players yet his virtuosity is all in the rhythm and Justin Winstead and Joules Scott-Key provide some of the most memorable backing around. Also, they're all gorgeous. It doesn't really seem fair, does it?

Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
by Of Montreal
Giorgio Moroder, Georges Bataille, Bowie, Prince, New Order...I could go on speculating, but this is Kevin Barnes and co's best record to date. A lotta shaking follows. The 12 minute centerpiece almost always gets my blood boiling. It's a throwback but also totally alone and timeless and I love the hell out of it.

by The Dears
A little Bowie, a little Smiths, a little choir, a little atmosphere, a lotta rock geared toward getting people to hold hands while the world falls to pieces, which might just stop it from doing so.

Walk It Off
by Tapes 'n Tapes
Ok, so I admit that I don't quite know if this should be considered post-punk but I'd say these guys probably listen to their share of Wire and Mission of Burma, but what do I know? This record was rudely under-appreciated and perplexingly the band's limping debut record was held aloft as their high-water mark. This is wrong. No offense to Tapes 'n Tapes but The Loon has nothing on Walk It Off's ball-out energy and kick-ass rock grooves.

Some Are Lakes
by Land of Talk
Though there are probably those who disagree with me, I'd say that Land of Talk are indeed a post-punk band, albeit one who's sound is a touch hard to pin down. When I place it here it's because of Elizabeth Powell and her devil-may-care guitar playing. Her SG is always a step or two to the left, which on top of putting her in the Sonic Youth godchild category, makes her otherwise ambling rock songs into something more in the early 80s mold. There's a bit of early Scritti Politti in the rhythm and the jagged playing, a bit of Wire in the attitude, a bit of R.E.M. in the vocal delivery/harmony, a bit of Gang of Four in the minimalist dynamic, a bit of The Feelies in the sun-going-down laid back feel, and a bit of The Pretenders in Powell's bad ass rawking. Really though I just enjoy the hell out of the songs; "Yuppy Flu," "Corner Phone," and especially "Young Bridge" are fucking excellent. Have you seen them live? They're awesome.

Never Cry Another Tear
by Bad Lieutenant
What better way to celebrate the influence of Bernard Sumner and his ilk than with a record by Bernard Sumner and his ilk. The former New Order/Joy Division guitar pioneer releases a palatable selection of songs that sound like castaways from the last 20 years and are just as nice as any post-Technique Sumner-related project you're likely to find. He's not reinventing the wheel, but first of all he already did that, and does anyone want him to? That's what I thought.