Friday, January 1, 2010

Port Chester Radio's/ Greg Baldwin's Top Albums Of The Decade

This is a list by Luke Carr, who runs the awesome blog Port Chester Radio

"If there's been one emblematic shift in pop since 2000, it has been the digitization of music. The onslaught of the MP3 has forever changed the way music is produced and how we consume it. There are no more labels, aside from the "Big Six" conglomerates, and anyone with access to the Internet can virtually track down and download any song ever recorded for free. Music, in my opinion, has actually benefitted from this.

Recording technology has been ripped from the hands of the elite few. Anyone with ProTools and an M-Audio microphone can record full-lengths in their bedroom. The reason I think music has benefitted from this, at least in terms of quality, is that musicians are more obliged to compose the most stimulating songs their private hearts can muster, otherwise their music never rises to the surface of the murky swamp that is the Independent Music.

But that's another story. This story is about the albums from 2000-2009 that floated up to the slimy surface and reached my eardrums . Considering I was twelve years old when the century turned, these years have been formidable to say the least, and the albums I list here have all had a profound effect on me. My favorite albums of the last decade aren't necessarily the ones that broke barriers or the ones ones that challenged old formulas, but ones that revitalized old formulas with new Turns.

Before you start scrutinizing my list, criticizing my taste, and scouring it for emissions, please know that these were just the first seven that came to mind."

Here's the list, read the descriptions and why on the blog:

Danger Mouse- "The Grey Album" (2004)
The Avalanches- "Since I Left You" (2000)
Grizzly Bear- "Yellow House" (2006)
Beach House- "Beach House" (2006)
Madvilliay- "Madvilliany" (2004)
J Dilla - "Donuts" (2006)
Panda Bear - "Person Pitch" (2007)
Dr Dog - "We All Belong" (2007)

READ HIS BLOG.


The next list is from musician and friendly Greg Baldwin

Listen to his music Greg Baldwin & The Aesthetics

Read his list w/ descriptions, because he doesn't have a blog:

15.)
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes 2008: In the compressed, auto-tuned and dry world of the late 00's, Fleet Foxes break onto the scene with vocals drenched in reverb and dynamics. This five piece from Seattle takes bits and pieces from all the greats of the 60's. From the Beach Boys to Dylan, their organic sound sets them apart from the overly produced and electric bands that dominate the rock music scene. Very impressive for a debut record, and I look forward to the follow-up!

14.)
American Idiot - Green Day 2004: In 2000 Green Day releases Warning with dismal reviews and album sales (I thought it was great). They're leaving their late twenties and entering their early thirties. Wives and kids. Billie Joe is getting fat and it looks like Green Day is on their last legs... Nope! I know this pick is going to get a lot of shit. It is very easy to hate Green Day with the aftermath of American Idiot. The hot topic girls who were born in 1994 suddenly cramming in any and every venue to see their 'new favorite band'. The unimaginable times you heard "Wake Me Up When September Ends" on the radio and how bad the music video was. We (my generation) remembers Dookie, so the comparison is quite surprising. But with all the publicity aside, If you actually listen to the record straight through(...have you ever even done that?) American Idiot proves to be one of Green Day's best releases. It packs the punch that dookie had and it's been ten years later! Green Day has managed to reach generations. While most think American Idiot is an anti-bush record, its really not. It tells the story of teenagers growing up in middle class america, doing drugs, having sex and identifying themselves. ...Kind of like DOOKIE! The only difference is, Billie Joe is writing this with a perspective having grown up and watching his kids now do the same.

13.)
Elephant - The White Stripes 2003: Nothing like music recorded to tape... but in the 2000's? Jack White is a sucker for the old school and so am I. This record is filled with riff heavy jams and a rock and roll approach long abandoned since Zeppelin. While 'White Blood Cells' put them on the map, Elephant solidified their prominence and for Jack as a songwriter, producer and arranger. No frills, this record just rules.

12.)
The Lemonheads - The Lemonheads 2006: The Lemonheads had their hay-day in the 90's and many would have thought that Evan Dando would melt into an old fart pot-head in the 00's, but out of the blue comes their self titled ninth album. While considered a bit of a reunion, the only original member to return was Evan Dando, but with former members of the Descendants, Bill Stevenson on drums and Karl Alvarez on bass you, can't really go wrong! Not to mention additional guitar leads by J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. and Garth Hudson from THE BAND on keyboards! Names aside, this record has catchy uptempo pop tunes galore. Kicking off the album with 'Black Gown' clocking in at just over two minutes, I was instantly hooked. Dando was able to capture the essence of what made his 90's hits and transfer them to a somewhat timeless record for the 00's.

11.)
Guitar Romantic - Exploding Hearts 2003: This debut (and last) record released by The Exploding Hearts is such a great representation of the powerpop revival in the early 2000s. This lo-fi release pays its respects to some of Britain's bests, from Elvis Costello to the Clash. I really don't know the specifics of their recording process but these songs sound like they were barbarically recorded to tape in a garage in 1978! Unfortunately all their potential future releases were cut short when in July 2003, while on the road, their van flip on interstate 5 on their way to San Fransico killing three of the four band members. This record is only a glimpse of what would have been had they continued to write more songs. Their story is tragic but their tunes will not be forgotten!



10.)
Sam's Town - The Killers 2006: The Killers are certainly a guilty pleasure of mine and I'm not afraid to admit it. I'll hang with the 15 year old girls who think Brandon Flowers is hot because... well... I may think so too. But with all that aside, Sam's Town has some incredible substance for a sophomore album. While still synth heavy like Hot Fuss, it has the balls that Hot Fuss lacked. When You Were Young is certainly an incredible anthem that kicks the pants off the listener leaving the question, "this is the killers!?" Flowers' wobbly vocal approach captures a genuine delivery in his lyrics. He captures a lot of the feelings and emotions of '20-somethings' and their families living in middle class America. In an interview Flowers once said about Born To Run, "I didn't see New Jersey in my mind when I listened to it. I saw an America that I recognized - and that I had neglected". It's clear he took that message to heart and wrote with that inspiration in mind.

9.)
Neptune City - Nicole Atkins 2007: A New Jersey native, Nicole Atkins is truly a diamond in the ruff. Her voice sounds like it traveled through time from the 50's, 40's or even 30's. Her sultry range and vibrato is a refreshing change from the tuned pop princess' we hear today. While this list is certainly a sausage-fest, Nicole can roll with the rest of these fellas and then some. She has been said to be the female equivalent of Roy Orbison. Her epic and climactic song structures keeps the heart racing. Her songwriting is timeless and tasteful. What I find surprising is that her music can be so cross generational. The last time I saw her perform the audience's age ranged from 16-50. She plays the guitar, she belts like an angel and she writes songs you wish were about you.

8.)
Phantom Punch - Sondre Lerche 2007: The only foreigner on my list! Sondre Lerche of Norway definitely has a way with words. English being his second language, Lerche can still deliver his lyrics (all in english) with the most elegant voice. Influenced from Abba to Pet Shop Boys to Steely Dan, Sondre Lerche has been doing his homework when it comes to pop songwriting. Phantom Punch is a bit of an edgier release compared to his previous Duper Sessions LP which featured more jazz. This collection takes his whimsical pop songwriting and cranks up the gain. This may also be the most compressed record I've ever heard. It is loud and is almost used as an effect. The drums punch, the vocals push and guitars wail all while still being considered 'pop' music. It's not very often that you hear major and minor seven chords with great tube gain. Lerche's falsetto is certainly a tool he uses to his advantage. Why belt a note when you can whisper it? What makes this record truly unique is how tactful and delicate it can be while being so loud and raw.

7.)
Stay What You Are - Saves The Day 2001: This record has been around long enough to say that it has certainly been influential on the music of today. This dark collection is what got a lot of my generation through their awkward high school days. Honestly, Stay What You Are is fantastically straight forward and really speaks for itself. enough said.



6.)
Sha Sha - Ben Kweller 2002: What a fantastic collection of quirky Alt. tunes. This energetic release has one catchy song after the other and they have become staples (at least for me) of our teenage years. Ben slightly dives into a country feel with tunes like 'Family Tree' but he takes queues from the likes of Tom Petty to Pavement for his rockin' numbers like Commerce, TX and No Reason. While some of the songs are quirky he can write some serious jams as well like 'Lizzy' and 'In Other Words'. Ben's pallet of songwriting dips into so many previous decades, from the 60's - 90's and does such a great job of putting it all together.



5.)
Merriweather Post Pavillion - Animal Collective 2009: As you may see from this list, I am a fan of bands with guitars, but this record has none to my knowledge. Merriweather Post Pavillion took the songwriting, melodies and harmonies that made the Beach Boys and completely re-created it for the 21st century. Usually I'm turned off by 'musical landscapes created by synth' bullshit, but the timbres used to layer the backing tracks are truly impressive. What puts this apart from a lot of the other typical brooklyn noise/synth/experimental groups is the songwriting. Lyrically, melodically and musically it proves to be solid all around. I remember asking my mom once what made Sgt. Pepper so great when it came out and she said, "No one had ever heard anything like that before". I feel the same could be said for Merriweather Post Pavillion, only time will tell if it can capture audiences decades later.

4.)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - Wilco 2002: The first time I heard this record I thought how absurdly pretentious it was, but listen after listen I realized Jeff Tweedy and the rest of Wilco put their credibility on the line with this adventurous take of arrangements and created a fantastic record of great substance. Wilco had been such a straight forward alt. country band, but with this record, they threw conventional techniques to the side and arranged what would be typical pop tunes into experimental masterpieces. 'I Am Trying To Break Your Heart' the opening track from the record may be one of the most haunting tracks of this decade. Wilco used everything but the kitchen sink for this record... and I wouldn't be surprised if they played that too.

3.)
Boys And Girls in America - The Hold Steady 2006: Lyrical authenticity is a hard thing to come by in rock and roll music when most songs are about love or lack thereof, but The Hold Steady were able to capture the most basic of American pastimes, emotions and dilemmas and put them to song in Boys and Girls in America. Though it seems that Kerouac's "On The Road" was certainly the fuel to help the creative juices flowing, ("There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right, 'Boys and Girls in America, have such a sad time together'"). These Springsteenesce anthems dive into the topics of sex, parties, relationships, drinking and everything that is the typical focus of... you guessed it: boys and girls in america! Finn has a knack for creating memorable characters that remain a fixture the entire record. Musically, they embody everything about being an american bar band. Play it loud and play it like you mean it. Perhaps if I had heard this record at a different place and a different time it may have squeezed by my radar, but it truly captured my life as I entered my twenty somethings.

2.)
Is This It? - The Strokes 2001: In the early 2000's New York was in dire need of a new act to represent such a fine city. In October 2001 they found one. The Strokes embraced a forgotten New York punk attitude and a knack for writing straight forward catchy dance numbers. Their stripped down approach to songwriting gave them the ballsy aesthetic that set them apart from so much music at the time. What I find most impressive about this record is that there are NO harmonies. Not ONE. Julian Casablancas' distorted vocal approach had no need for back-ups. It was raw, and best of all, these songs sound equally great live! New York City Cops was quite controversial after the wake of 911, but isn't that what being a NYC rock band is all about? This particular album put them on the map and New York again as well. Is This It laid down the ground work for the New York indie 'style' for the rest of the decade, whether you Williamsburgh hipsters like to admit or not.

1.)
We All Belong - Dr. Dog 2007: It was a typical weeknight my junior year of college when I was dragged along to the student center for a band I "had to see". Needless to say, I was left jaw dropped. Dr. Dog were on the road promoting their record "We All Belong" which captures everything timeless about rock and roll music. With an uncanny sense of dynamics, they can play ever so delicately one moment and blow the roof off the next. Recorded to 24 track tape, they were able to capture the gritty sounds of a real band. From the rustic "Alaska" to the peppy "My Old Ways", Scott and Toby both trading off singing lead, keeps the album fresh from song to song. "We All Belong" the climactic last track which shares the name of the record provokes that very message. Their slightly out of tune harmonies are a refreshing reminder that not all needs to be autotuned in the new millennium. Songwriting is a craft that has fallen to the wayside now-a-days as an 'image' or 'name' takes center stage, but We All Belong stays true to the musical integrity of what a band really is; a collective of musicians each contributing for the benefit of the song.




ps- here's a link of Greg performing a song on my radio show forever ago.

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