Colin’s Top Ten Albums of 2009

Alright. Now phase two of our “albums week” continues with Da Morgue’s favorite albums of the past year. For me, 2009 was kind of mediocre as far as the albums that were released, but the year certainly wasn’t without it’s share of quality music.

10. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

I didn’t get in to this album quite as heavily as some people, but I still have plenty of respect for it. The way all of these reverb-soaked instruments are arranged to all these songs with a sort of chamber pop thing going on makes for quite a nice listening experience, and Ed Droste’s vocals are just a pleasure to listen to. Plus it’s got “Two Weeks”, easily one of the best songs of the year.

9. Passion Pit – Manners
I was having a hard time choosing between this album and Veckatimest for my number 10 spot, but then I listened to Bruce Springsteen’s Working On A Dream which was my original number 9, and realized it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. Anyways, this is a pretty irresistable little electropop album, full of big choruses and falsetto vocals. It seems like MGMT has made it ok for alternative rock guys like me to listen to bands that are on the more electronic side of the spectrum, and these guys are kind of in that same vein.

8. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – It’s Blitz!
When It’s Blitz! first came out, I was just starting to warm up to it and then John posted his middling three-star review of it, and I just stopped listening to this album entirely. Now I see that wasn’t a very good decision on my part. I’m actually really impressed with how far YYY’s have come in just three albums, and the way they trade in guitars and drums for keyboards and drum machines on this latest release seems completely natural. When you’re putting out songs that are as straight-up beautiful as “Skeletons” and “Hysteric”, combined with toe-tapping dance numbers like “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll”, you can do it on whatever instrument you like, I don’t care.

7. Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
I got pretty heavily in to Wilco this year after hearing Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and this is another solid release from one of the decade’s most reliable bands. Wilco (The Album) shows Jeff Tweedy and Co. going for a more laid back, but still very poppy approach that kind of reminds me of the seminal album they put out ten years earlier, Summerteeth. There’s also plenty of sunnier, upbeat songs like “You Never Know”, and “Sonny Feeling”, which are usually the kinds of Wilco songs I always find myself being most drawn to. On “Wilco (The Song)”, Jeff Tweedy sings the line “Wilco will love you baby”, and as long as they keep releasing albums like this, the feeling will be mutual.

6. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
Yes, I do realize that liking Green Day is about as cool as going to see the new Twilight movie, but I’ll be damned if Billie Joe Armstrong can’t still write one hell of a catchy rock song. Green Day have pretty much given up on milking the pop-punk genre and have shifted more in to classic rock territory with this album. I still haven’t listened to American Idiot, just because I’m still recovering from having to hear “Bouleverd of Broken Dreams” everywhere I went in 2004 and 2005, but this seems like a pretty worthy follow-up, even if it is a bit long.

5. Monsters Of Folk – Monsters Of Folk
This album seems pretty unprecidented. Not only for the fact that it brings together four of the most gifted minds in modern music, but also because it’s an album all four members of Da Morgue could get behind. It’s already made two appearances on this blog already and something tells me it won’t be the last so I’ll be brief. I like it, I like it a lot.

4. Girls – Album
It seems like every indie band I hear about nowadays just keeps milking the early alternative/post-punk sounds of the ’80s, but Girls’ Christopher Owens takes us back to the simpler sounds of the ’60s on Girls’ debut album. And no, I don’t like this band just because they’re from San Francisco. Whistful ballads like “Ghost Mouth” and “Lauren Marie” will melt your heart like butter, while songs like the surf-rock influenced “Big Bad Mean Mother Fucker” and “Darling” will tell you everything’s gonna be alright.

3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
This album definitely took me a while to get in to, but once it finally clicked I was like, “Yeah, these guys are pretty weird, but they know what they’re doing”. Every song on the album is very dense and layered, instrumentally and vocally, so there’s always something new to discover with each listen. I don’t know why I haven’t checked out the rest of Animal Collective’s catalogue yet, because this is easily one of the most creatively adventurous albums I’ve heard in quite some time.

2. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
When this album first came out, I was pretty pleased with it, but I didn’t quite feel like it lived up to its predecessor, It’s Never Been Like That. Now I’m not so sure about that. If it isn’t Phoenix’s best album yet, it’s still a nearly perfect blend of bouncy vocal melodies, even bouncier drums, and guitars and keyboards that seem like they’re always perfectly calculated. In fact, everything on this album seems like it’s executed in such a precise way that it seems Phoenix have become one of the most adept bands at writing pop songs for the masses. I can’t believe I’ll be seeing them live in less than a month, should be amazing.

1. U2 – No Line On The Horizon
Putting a band that’s been around for 30 years as his favorite album of the year certainly makes one question himself, but what can I say? I did not expect U2 to put out an album as good as this one. These aging rockers reach for the skies with an album that captures the yearning anthemic quality of The Joshua Tree, and the cool, heavy attitude of Achtung Baby, while sounding more cohesive and more immersive than anything the band has done in years. Whether huge, stadium-sized rock n’ roll still belongs in this day and age is something to ponder, but few bands have perfected rock at it’s most honest and ambitious quite like U2, and this is another great example of why they pull it off so well.

Nancy’s Top Ten Albums of the 00’s

I’d have to say this is probably the most anticipated post of the year. So unlike Sean, I won’t distract you, I’ll just let you see the list the will cause most people to say, “Oh yeah, that’s cool.”

Honorable Mention:
American Idiot by Green Day (2004)
The Execution of All Things by Rilo Kiley (2002)
The Crane Wife by The Decemberists (2006)
Saltbreakers by Laura Veirs (2007) Everthing Goes Numb (2003) by Street Light Manifesto
I had this dream back when I was trying to go to school in Portland, that I would get down there, meet a bunch of sweet musicians, and start an awesome ska band. This is what I wanted to sound like. I saw these guys live and it was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. They play like 3 times as fast as the actual album and play so tight and together which is incredible for how many musicians are in the band. And when you have sweet musical theory song names like “Point / Counterpoint” that remind you of your evil Russian theory teacher, what’s not to like?

9. Here, Not there. (2008) by Heathers
This album is kind of embarrassing to really get into once you realize that you are listening to high girls whine about there lame high school problems. But all of that lameness is canceled out by the fact that these chicks can really sing. They are all over the place with these incredible harmonies and when you take their age into account, I just find it really impressing. I can only dream of being that talented. 8. X&Y (2005) by Coldplay
All I have to say about this album is that “Fix You” is like the greatest song ever. EVER. 7. Give Up (2003) by The Postal Service
This is just one of those albums that I could listen to no matter what my mood is. If I don’t know what to listen too, I just play this. I was never really that impressed by the concept, just by the great songs. This is really Ben Gibbard’s finest hour lyrically and melodically. If you like Deathcab and have never listened to this, well, go talk to David Bowie. The Con  (2007) by Tegan & Sara
Departing from there more poppy sound, the BC twins took much more somber tone and teamed up with one of my favorite producers, Deathcab guitarist Chris Walla*. There was a point when this album came out where this was basically the only thing I was listening too. Over and over and over. My Shnoo co-workers were not happy. But they should have been, because its awesome. My only complaint is that it is really short, and when that is your only complaint you are in pretty good shape. Monsters of Folk (2009) by Monsters of Folk
This is also an album that I could not put down when I first got it. Usually long albums are a turnoff for me, but I’ve never heard one that was this good all the way through. Besides the first song, I’m basically hooked. I love the fact that instead of a super group where its basically four guys’ left over solo stuff jammed into an album, there is a real sense of comradery. Every song has tons of backup vocals and sharing lead vocals. I can’t really tell which song is written by who except for a few. It really is a unique musical experience. Sun, Sun, Sun (2006) by The Elected
This is another time period album for me. Basically Joey “the Rat” Epstein’s solo project, I was skeptical at first because I had never particularly liked the songs he sings for Rilo Kiley. But once again I listened to the shit out of it because that’s what I do. To this day it takes me right back to Kamola 368, trying to fall asleep whilst my roommate and that beezy get it on. Challengers (2008) by The New Pornorgraphers
After a somewhat disappointing album in “Twin Cinemas” I knew good ol’ Carl Newman wouldn’t let me down. Starting out with a great melody in “My Rights Versus Yours” and taking it to the Max Steel with “Adventures In Solitude” this album is truly a triumph and I am so glad I got to see them live. Thanks Colin. More Adventurous (2004) by Rilo Kiley
Besides Bright Eyes, these guys are probably my other favorite band. Jenny Lewis has the most pure singing voice in the world. Everything she sings is just effortless and the song writing is nothing short of spectacular here. I really wish she would stop fucking around with trying to reinvent her solo career and her band, because this shit is where it’s at. Give me more of this. Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005) by Bright Eyes
The sweet electronicish counterpart to I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning, this is what got me hooked on Bright Eyes. Even though I still love all their early whiny emo stuff, this is definitely where Connor Oberst hit his stride. These two albums really show how great of a song writer Oberst is and how diverse he can be. I don’t know how many times I can recommend this album. Get your shit together and listen to it. DO IT NOW!

No one put MOF on your list? Man, F**K you guys.

*Chris Walla’s solo album is so bad. Just thought I’d let you know. SOO BAD.

Sean’s Top Ten Albums of the ’00s

I know, you just wanna see my list right? In fact, you’re just gonna go scan over it, right? Did you do that already? OK, now let’s talk about me. I grew a lot musically in this decade. I went from liking like disco music and shit like that to enjoying alternative rock that is so indie my friends give me a hard time for it. It’s a shame I never really got into a musical instrument and plugged into the modern music scene early on, as I missed out on the gems that everyone gathers around, like Is This It, and was late to the party with other groups like The White Stripes. So since I can’t really do a list of the albums that meant the most to me at the time, because that list would pretty much just be from 2007-2009, I instead decided to list the ten albums of the decade that I listen to the most now.

Honorable Mentions

All That You Can’t Leave Behind (2000) by U2
Dear Science (2008) by TV on the Radio
Vampire Weekend (2008) by Vampire Weekend
Hold on Now, Youngster… (2008) by Los Campesinos!
Black Holes and Revelations (2006) by Muse
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (2002) by the Flaming Lips

10. Stadium Arcadium (2006) by Red Hot Chili Peppers
I’ve really liked what RHCP have been doing post-Californication, and Stadium Arcadium is them at their most triumphant. A double album is a dangerous thing, and generally I find that they are overly long and get boring. Somehow, the Chili Peppers were able to make this whole damn thing engaging, which is an incredible accomplishment. Not only could I not pick a favorite song off this album, I couldn’t easily pick a top five. It’s really that good. Yes, you could argue that they haven’t really done anything that different since Californication, but when I like it so much, I’ll do more than allow it, I’ll encourage it.

9. Because of the Times (2007) by Kings of Leon
Pretty much all of my honorable mentions could have taken this spot. Which is weird, because this is number nine, not ten, but that’s how my mind works. Stadium Arcadium is really good, definitely among my top ten albums of the decade, but this and the honorable mentions have been more important to me at different points in time. I even wrote a whole thing for All That You Can’t Leave Behind before I finally made up my mind. No, I don’t like “Charmer.” But this album is all kinds of good. Like, if I was driving somewhere, and I stopped at a light, and there was someone next to me with their windows down and Because of the Times blasting, I’d be like, “I like the music you listen to.” But they wouldn’t hear me, because the music is too loud.

8. Good News for People Who Loves Bad News (2004) by Modest Mouse
Gotta give love to Washingtonian bands. I’ve got some vivid memories of this album, from the time I accidentally started listening to it with my iPod turned all the way up in math class to some other time that I should remember. Now, some people are going to tell you that The Moon & Antarctica is the great Modest Mouse album of the decade. Those people are wrong. Sure, “3rd Planet” and “Gravity Rides Everything” are great. No, the band did not sell out. Good News for People Who Love Bad News is just really good, from beginning to end. And We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank is good too, damnit.

7. Our Ill Wills (2007) by Shout Out Louds
It is rare that an album captures me as much as the sophomoric release from Shout Out Louds. Which is why I was bummed out when my friends didn’t really respond to it at all. I guess this really was the start of me going off in my own direction musically. But Our Ill Wills isn’t on this list because of some strange guilt or because it was a turning point, it’s here because I love it. The strange, dark lyrics coupled with some cheery instrumentation make for one of the most engrossing albums I’ve ever heard. When I coupled this with that great album from Peter, Bjorn and John, I was pretty excited about the Swedish music scene. Then PBJ turned up the suck and Shout Out Louds still haven’t released a followup album yet. But unlike PBJ, I’m sure Shout Out Louds will not disappoint.

6. Sea Change (2002) by Beck
Beck was one of the great rising stars of the 1990s, with immortal classics like Mellow Gold and Odelay. When his long-time girlfriend left him, he was hurt. This brought about a massive transformation, a sea change, in the kind of music he was creating. The resulting album was less absurd and sample- and rap-heavy, less ironic and funny, and a lot more personal. It’s beautiful. There’s no album better suited for when you’re feeling a little down, but it’s appeal is greater than that too. I could have gone with the albums that Beck released after this one, since I like them a lot, but Sea Change is undeniably the most important record Beck put out in the decade.

5. Z (2005) by My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket is a really good band with countless great songs and several of my favorite albums. So I hope you won’t take it lightly when I say Z is thus far their greatest achievement. From the astounding beauty of “Wordless Chorus” to rocking “Off the Record,” Z shows how a great rock band becomes an important one. As they say, “we are the innovators, they are the imitators.” Colin says that My Morning Jacket is like the American Radiohead, and you can definitely hear that in this album. It’s like Radiohead went down south, put on a few pounds and pumped up the rock to new heights.

4. Funeral (2004) by Arcade Fire
I’ve talked about the white appeal of this album already, so there’s not much left to say. Ever since Where the Wild Things Are, “Wake Up” has gained even more power, because I can’t not think of that film when the song comes up. Frankly, if you ever meet a white person who says they don’t like this album, they are lying. Either they haven’t heard it yet or they are trying to impress someone. David freaking Bowie likes these guys, I’ve even watched a YouTube video where they play some songs together. Are you telling me David Bowie is wrong? I ought to punch you in the throat.

3. Takk… (2005) by Sigur Rós
Ágaetis Byrjun probably should have been on my 1990s list, I honestly don’t know why I didn’t have it there. There’s something so magical about this band, and especially that album, that really resonates within me. That album and Takk… have always been fighting for the position of my favorite from the band, and I honestly still can’t decide. Takk… maintains the bands trademark resonating sound, while introducing new elements that feel both organic and mechanical, resulting in a lush sound that just blows my mind. As I’ve always said, the Icelandic vocals just make it seem even more magical. Truly profoundly good music, unlike anything else I’ve ever heard.

2. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) by Coldplay
I’m always writing about Coldplay because I really like them. Yes, they are popular. Yes, it probably isn’t the most manly thing in the world to like Coldplay. I don’t care. Each album they’ve released is really good. With A Rush of Blood to the Head they went from Radiohead-esque in a more U2 direction. That’s a pretty sweet equation if you ask me. The fact that I probably know the lyrics to this whole album is pretty telling too, since I usually don’t really pay much attention to lyrics. Oh, and here’s a funny fact: I got this CD from my mom. She had bought it already, I’m not sure if she liked it, but I found it one day and brought it down to my computer. The rest is history.

1. In Rainbows (2007) by Radiohead
Everyone likes talking about their favorite modern bands, and I can’t think of anybody that’s more reliable than these rockers from England. After rewriting what an alternative rock album can be with Kid A, kinda doing the same thing again with Amnesiac, and then reestablishing their ability to rock with Hail to the Thief, Radiohead capped off their decade by rethinking the digital distribution of music. In Rainbows is everything that I like about Radiohead, there’s honestly not a weak track here. I could have easily gone with Kid A or Hail to the Thief, but In Rainbows is straight up my go-to album. Whenever I’m writing a paper, bored, whatever, it is In Rainbows where I find solace. In fact, I’m listening to it right now.

John’s Top Ten Albums of the 00s

This is some serious shit right here. “Favorite Albums of the Decade?” tough stuff but I think I got it down. So much sweet tuneage, I even wrote an additional review until I realized I had eleven (Louis XIV was originally on my list). Anyhow let’s go forth and gain a little insight into the musical likings of a man named John.

Honorable Mention
The Best Little Secrets Are Kept by Louis XIV
Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs
Fever to Tell by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
X&Y by Coldplay
Sam’s Town by The Killers

10. Jet – Get Born (2003)
A fan from the first single, nothing rocked quite like Get Born upon it’s debut. Definitely an influence on my music, Jet brought back classic rock fundamentals on this raw and bluesy debut. Nic Cester’s scratchy howls give it a real punch and the songs, although strangely familiar are all pretty solid. I mean The Defenestrators covered two of their songs, that’s gotta count for something.

9. Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004)
What a great debut from this swinging Glasgow quartet complete with the instant modern rock staple “Take Me Out”. I’m all about every single track, from their catchy riffs to discoesque bass lines and drum beats. There’s a great dynamic between front-man Alex Kapranos and guitarist Nick McCarthy, playing off each other and singing together, makes a hell of a live show (just watch out for charging fat guys) This is one of those acts that will probably never live up to their debut but boy, what a debut.

8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)
Gotta dig this hip preppy quartet which was probably my most listened to album of 2008. Inventive “look how smart I am” lyrics with some great rhythms behind em’ and simplistic yet entertaining arrangements. It’s the perfect album to pump up while strolling around a college campus. I have not a single complaint here and am thrilled to see what these guys will dish out next time round.

7. Radiohead – Hail to the Thief (2003)
Ah my first taste of Radiohead is still the sweetest. Being initially sucked in by the haunting and eerily beautiful single”There, There” my favorite all-time Radiohead song, Hail to the Thief is a dark yet moving piece from some of the most inventive guys in music. Thom Yorke’s soaring tenor and falsetto is as usual a highlight but the production and instrumentation are just out of this world. It’s an album that still gives me the chills every-time I listen to it.

6. The Vines – Winning Days (2004)
Even after seeing The Vines suck balls live in concert in 2004 I was still intrigued to check out one of their albums and I’m glad I did. Winning Days is by no means considered a notable album or was even that well received of an album but somehow I was totally absorbed by it. Going back in forth between crunchy grunge rockers like “Ride” and British Invasion style pop music seen on the title track, Winning Days is one of the most exciting and best produced albums I can recall hearing in this decade. Front-man/head songwriter Craig Nicholls although insane, truly is gifted in the studio. He’s a great singer (when he wants to be) and his songs were never better than on this trippy pop rock record. The Vines are definitely not for everyone and they’ve only gone downhill since this album but I’ll always hold this dear to my heart, after all it inspired me to write The Defenestrators classic “Wish I Were Flying.” Well that and The Monkees.

5. The Killers – Day & Age (2008)
Somehow The Killers have become my favorite band of this decade but I’m not ashamed to announce that as all three of their albums especially Day & Age have really been top notch entries into the modern rock. Synthy goodness with U2 inspired guitars and My Name is Earl on drums…. How can you lose? I’m just amazed by how many tracks on Day & Age feel like they could be singles. They got it down in the song-writing department and really excel from a production standpoint. Day & Age almost sounds like a greatest hits album and I don’t know what else to say but “I am Dancer.”

4. Kaiser Chiefs – Employment (2005)
This energetic debut from these english rockers is just too much fun. With songs powered by shouting sing-along chorus complete with hella “ohhhs!” and “La la la la la” backup vocals, The Kaiser Chiefs keep the spirit of Brit Pop alive while proudly wearing one of their greatest influences The Jam on their sleeve. But the Chiefs really kick it up a notch with some poppy numbers perfectly suited for shouting out during any sporting event, which isn’t that surprising as the group took their name from a South African soccer team.

3. Oasis – Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)
The album that made me the huge Oasis fan I am today, “Don’t Believe the Truth” was in my opinion this Brit Pop groups true comeback creatively. New members Gem Archer (Guitar) and Andy Bell (Bass) prove to be perfect editions to the band, being the first members aside from Liam or Noel to write songs, pretty damn good songs at that. Not to mention Noel and Liam are at the top of their game bringing on their trademark rock swagger in some excellent stadium rockers. Add in excellent drummer Zak Starkey (You know Ringo’s son) and you have one of Oasis’ best albums period. Seeing these guys perform this live at the Everett Events Center in 2005 was the concert going experience of my life, I was in the third freakin’ row too. It’s a damn shame that creative force Noel Gallagher quit the band this year but I have a feeling the Gallagher brothers will reunite someday.

2. The Strokes – Is This It? (2001)
The Strokes are one of those bands that just blew me away the first time I heard them. They just seemed so unique to me when I became a fan in about 2003. For some reason I just couldn’t get enough of this New York Quintet’s slick debut. Great guitar riffs and progressions all tied together with Julian Casablancas’ crooner like vocals. I even remember talking to Colin and Nancy over AIM when we all first heard it as we all listened to it at the same time… Something like that I don’t know it was awesome, good times.

1. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)
: It seemed like a breeze picking a favorite album for my “Best of the 90s” list but picking a favorite album of the decade your still in? It’s hard to say how time will treat certain albums but eventually I decided that my top spot would go to whatever album has most greatly affected my life and that would easily be Spoon’s triumph Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Buying this album was the first thing I did after I got my drivers license, I pumped it up after getting my first and current job and it’s only left my car a total of three times. I’m not sure why I have so much affection for this album but I’ll try to explain.

I was never a Spoon fan before (I’d never really even heard them) but their minimalist style somehow really spoke to me. Instantly I fell in love with Britt Daniels’ vocals and along with Jim James he’s probably my favorite vocalist currently in rock music. The compositions and arrangements are simple but so damn catchy and it all flows together perfectly. It’s probably the best album this band will ever make and has more or less become the soundtrack to my life, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it, hell I’m gonna listen to it right now.

Colin’s Top Ten Albums of the 00’s

Here we go. We’ve finally decided to start our top ten albums of the decade lists, as well as top albums of ’09 as this crazy mixed up decade comes to an end. I’m not sure quite how this is all gonna work out, but I figured we should get through all of these lists without dragging it out too much. I think all of the members of Da Morgue are ready to post their favorites albums of the “aughts”, even Nancy, so this should be an exciting week.

Honorable Mentions:
All That You Can’t Leave Behind by U2 (2000)
Love And Theft by Bob Dylan (2001)
A Rush Of Blood To The Head by Coldplay (2002)
Illinois by Sufjan Stevens (2005)
It’s Never Been Like That by Phoenix (2006)

In Rainbows by Radiohead (2007)

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium (2006)
With this album RHCP somehow pulled off the feat of creating two hours of consistently impressive tunes. Sure, the Chili Peppers didn’t really break any new ground with Stadium Arcadium, but they made an album that was able to bring out all of the things this band does best, the funkiness, the in-your-face rockin’, and the beautiful guitar work from musical powerhouse John Frusciante. It’s too bad that Frusciante recently quit the band, it’s seems the Chili Peppers have only been able to reach their full potential with him involved.

9. My Morning Jacket – Z (2005)
This was pretty much the album that made My Morning Jacket one of my favorite bands. They were already a pretty cool little Southern Rock jam band at this point, but this album showed them taking their music to the moon and back. Evil Urges was a great follow-up but I think I like this one a little better just because it rocks a little more, and I like John Leckie’s spacey production. But either way, with this album these guys earned that line in “Wordless Chorus” that goes like “we are the innovators/they are the imitators”.

8. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008)
This album didn’t place all that high on my best albums of 2008 list, but since the year ended I’ve continued listening to this album way more than anything else to come out last year. Some people can’t help but hate on them for flaunting their upper-class preppy background by singing about things like oxford commas and Louis Vuitton, but I don’t think anyone can deny how incredibly well crafted these songs are. And these great pop songs combined with the whole afropop influence have made them quite unlike anything happening in indie rock in the latter half of the decade.

7. The Hold Steady – Boys And Girls In America (2006)
I think these guys are just amazing, I mean how many other recent bands can say they put out 4 outstanding albums in just 5 years? Really any of them could of made this list but I think this is where their sound really came together. Craig Finn already showed that he was one of the most unique lyricists in modern rock with The Hold Steady’s first two albums, but with this album there’s plenty of big sing-along choruses and the rest of the band sounds like a real well-oiled machine instead of just a vehicle for Finn’s tales of wasted youth, crazy parties, and Midwest geography. There’ve been plenty of bands throughout this decade that have tried to revive classic rock, but in my opinion this is the only band that managed to pull it off while still managing to sound like true originals.

6. Arcade Fire – Funeral (2004)
When I first heard this album it really struck me in a weird way because when it came out emo was at the height of it’s popularity, and this was an album that was full of emotion that actually felt sincere. So much so that Sean can’t listen to the song “Wake Up” without getting a little choked up. Another thing that amazed me and still amazes me about this album is how incredibly ambitious the production of this album is, it seems like every song just builds to these huge symphonic climaxes and it’s just incredible to me that a band could make such anthemic, fully-realized work on their debut, it’s got to be one of the most epic debut albums of all time. But I think that’s also kind of been a crutch for this band. When their second album came out I barely even gave it a chance, I guess I just couldn’t help but think “what’s the point? They’ll never even come close to Funeral.

5. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
Why it took me until this year to finally get in to this album I’m not sure, I just know I spent way more time this year listening to it than anything else. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is truly an inspired blend of alternative, country, and experimental rock, and the songs are easily the best batch from Wilco’s now nearly fifteen years of existence. The album is probably best known for the fact that it was the first album to be independently released by a band over the internet, after the album was rejected by the band’s record label. It’s definitely sad to see how the record industry basically went to crap in this decade, but you can obviously see that the industry was pretty fucked up when a major label would refuse to release an album as brilliant as this one.

4. Brian Wilson – Smile (2004)
The release of Brian Wilson’s Smile, an album that Wilson started recording with The Beach Boys in 1966, is truly one of a kind. How many times does a genius of Wilson’s stature get a second chance to finally finish an unfinished masterpiece, and actually pull it off? This album could have turned out to be a huge disappointment, but Wilson and his backing band give these songs the care and attention they deserve, and it’s just hard not to get swept up with the whole sunny disposition of these songs. Yeah, it probably doesn’t quite have the effect it would of had if it had been completed as the follow-up to Pet Sounds in 1966, but it still stands as a great album regardless of what decade it was released in.

3. The White Stripes – Elephant (2003)
Meg and Jack White had already showed the world that all you really needed to make great raunchy rock n’ roll was a guitar and drums on White Blood Cells, but I think this is the album where The White Stripes really came alive. It’s just amazing what a huge sound Jack White was able to achieve on songs like “The Hardest Button To Button” and “The Air Beneath My Fingers”, but do it so sparingly. Plus you’ve also got plenty of acoustic songs like “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket”, on which Jack White sounds downright charming, something he seems to have lost a bit over the years. It’s also hard not to mention the song “Seven Nation Army”, which has what I would say is probably the definitive guitar riff of the last decade or so.

2. Radiohead – Kid A (2000)
I really can’t think of anything original to say about this album that hasn’t already been said, so I’m not gonna try very hard. This album quite simply defines why Radiohead was, and still is the most creative, innovative, and important band of their generation. They had already taken alternative rock in to uncharted territory with OK Computer, but they somehow managed to take themselves even further with Kid A. There’s barely any guitars on this album, barely any real drums, it seems like Thom Yorke’s vocals were the only thing not created synthetically. But it’s the album’s venturing into electronic music that makes the album seem like something that truly defines this technology-driven decade that was the 00’s. In fact most people seem to be hailing this as the album of the decade and I have a hard time arguing with that, but….

1. The Strokes – Is This It (2001)
The Strokes were just so damn cool. They defined the swagger, frustration, and energy that seemed to be lacking in rock n’ roll at the turn of the century. They had such a simple, bare bones approach to all of their songs, but the songs were so catchy, so rockin’, and yet they seemed like they didn’t even care how good they were, they just were. The Strokes even managed to cause a “garage rock revival” movement that was supposed to save rock music, and even if things didn’t quite turn out that way, the influence of this album on alternative rock is hard to deny. And besides that this is quite simply the album of this decade that I found myself coming back to more than any other. So whether I truly believe this is the best album of the 00’s I can’t say for sure, but more than any other this was the album that got me through the decade.

A Merry Christmas to You

As everyone settles into a delicious family dinner tonight, whether it be a tasty trip to ham city or a morally upstanding stop at salad town, we here at Da Morgue Dot Org would like to hope you imagine us with you. Eating your food, mocking your inferior Christmas gifts.

When you go to sleep tonight, tired from getting up early, full of love and high spirits, we’d like you to imagine us with you too. Looking, unflinchingly, straight at you, too covered with a blanket to really know what we’re up to.

When you awaken tomorrow, slightly disheartened at the end of the holiday, but optimistic about the quickly approaching New Year’s Eve party on Thursday, imagine we’re there with you then too. Going through your mail, watching, learning. For if some fat man on a distant continent can keep a vigilant eye on you, you better believe we can too. We’re always watching.

Merry Christmas.

Air America

Up In The Air

Up In The Air is pretty much the kind of film I find myself hoping for each year. It’s a film full of wit, humor, heart, and feels like it totally represents the weird, uncertain state that this country is in right now. Director Jason Reitman made two comedic triumphs with Thank You For Smoking and Juno, but I think this is his best film yet.

George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who’s job is to help companies downsize by firing their employees, and consequently spends most of his life on the road. After he’s asked to take on an up-and-comer, played by Anna Kendrick he starts to fall for a woman with a similar lifestyle, played by Vera Farmiga. Both of these women cause Bingham to question his way of life as he gets closer to his goal of reaching 10 million miles traveled.
Clooney gives what might be his best performance, and pretty much the whole cast is a real pleasure to watch, Kendrick and Farmiga especially. The three of them are great comedic foils for each other and also bring a great amount of depth to their characters. I can already see that Reitman has a penchant for smug characters caught in a crisis, and Clooney brings a nice amount of vulnerability while still being able to come off as one of Hollywood’s coolest leading men.
The whole corporate downsizing aspect of the film blends quite nicely with the existential questions raised by Clooney’s character, and the fact that the film used real layed-off workers for the firing scenes gives the film an even deeper resonance. Another thing I really liked about Up In The Air is the way it kind of sets you up for this soft happy ending, but kind of shifts very skillfully in a different direction. And I think it’s kind of rare to find comedies now a days that try to tell an unpredictable story while still leaving plenty of room for laughs.
I guess this seems like the kind of film that I’d usually give 4 stars, but what can I say? I really can’t think of anything that I didn’t like about it, it completely deserves all of the Oscar-buzz it’s been getting and I think Jason Reitman will definitely be a director to look out for in the years to come.