Weirdly enough, Illinois is so damn awesome for the same reasons that so many albums released this decade were not. If the 90s were too lazy and apathetic to care, than the following decade was the total opposite. Too much music was concerned with soaring ambitions and pretensions and that sort of bullshit – and it was mostly all because of this album. Gleefully pretentious and zealous, Illinois is a simple singer/songwriter album dressed up in the fanciest and most ridiculous outfits available, all while thankfully being completely honest yet self-deprecating at the same time. Despite being presented as an embodiment of a state, Illinois succeeds and belongs on this list primarily because it exceeds those high-reaching standards, simply by never losing track of the hopes and feelings of its creator. And more than just that: it never loses the listener as well. Not even the record’s ostentatious nature could hamper Stevens’ gift for creating music that’s accessible and invitational, which is why Illinois truly deserves its following. All those ornate, elaborated singer/songwriter records that followed succeeded in copying Illinois’s aesthetic, but if only they would have recognized the record’s scope. If only. - Cam
I remember waking up at 6 AM on October 10, 2007, and–before showering, eating, brushing my teeth, or even dressing properly–opening up my web browser and getting my free download of In Rainbows. Of course I didn’t pay; Radiohead didn’t need my money, and someone would pay the extra amount, right? It was the dawn of the new age of digital music, and who better to usher in this new age than Radiohead, the band who led the alternative music world into the 21st Century? I remember immediately loading In Rainbows onto my iPod after the five-minute download, putting my headphones into my ears, and heading off to school. I felt delirious, half-awake, but the drum loop of “15 Step” woke me up immediately, at least mentally. I felt transported to another world, hypnotized by the repetitive guitar in “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” and Thom Yorke’s soaring melodies on “Reckoner.” I did not take my headphones out of my ears to speak to anyone. I lived in a trance, unaware of my surroundings.
This first listen is probably the most memorable first listen of my life, as In Rainbows is such a decidedly approachable album. The songs are minimalist, concise, and still extremely powerful. The songs encompass much of the band’s career, with songs like “Nude” dating back to the OK Computer era, yet the album has a distinctive barebones sound when compared to the rest of the band’s work. Perhaps this change is best summarized by the band’s decision to rearrange “Videotape” for the album. The live versions of the song include a huge build to a rather epic ending. Fans of the band eagerly anticipated this ending to the record when “Videotape” was announced as the final song on the tracklist. Instead, Radiohead reels it all back in, taming the song to have a subtle and perhaps more poignant ending. – Tyler Fisher
I actually find some redeemable qualities to “Music Box”, easily the worst song on Vheissu. The song is poorly composed, with generic down-tuned chords and an awful “music box” motif that runs above the chord progression. If any other band but Thrice wrote this, I’d probably hate the song. But the band’s sense of harmonic and dynamic progression is so good; the band is so in tune with each other, that I don’t care, and when I play Vheissu, I don’t even think about skipping “Music Box.” It allows me to focus on some of the least appreciated aspects of Thrice’s talent.
The rest of the album, though, is pure gold, and the reason why this album ranks so high on our decade list. Following the post-hardcore The Artist in the Ambulance, Vheissu marks the height of Thrice’s ascent to one of the greatest bands to exist in the 21st century. The sounds that Thrice pull off are so far-reaching, from the electronic “Atlantic” (a sound that would later become the entire Water segment of The Alchemy Index) to the almost post-metal “The Earth Will Shake.” Did I mention that these two tracks are back-to-back on the album? On Vheissu, Thrice jumps from sound to sound, emotion to emotion, with incredible flair and precision. Dustin Kensrue evolves as a vocalist, soaring over the album’s heaviest moments more often than screaming, thus making the screaming points cathartic and climactic. The quietest moments on the album are quieter than ever; the loudest moments are louder than ever; the powerful moments–well, they’re more abundant than ever. Vheissu remains Thrice’s magnum opus while leaving so much room for them to grow. – Tyler Fisher
Part ambient and part modern classical, And Their Refinement of the Decline is a record built on paradoxes that defies description. It’s quiet music that needs to be played loud, a grandiose statement of minimalism, and a record that reaches emotional depths few artists this decade have matched, all while sporting titles like “Dungtitled” and “December Hunting For Vegetarian Fuckface”. Much unlike SotL’s other great work of the decade, The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid, And Their Refinement of the Decline is not a sweeping statement, but one of incredible focus. For such textural music, the sounds employed throughout the 2-hour playing time rarely vary and while each track makes its own statement, the mood of the album stays much the same until the final notes of the final track.
But though it basks in many of the things that normally make ambient music boring or irrelevant, And Their Refinement of the Decline is never dull. Embedded within the deep layers of drones are many memorable moments, like the slow strings of “Articulate Silences Part 2″ or block chords that form the centrepiece of “Even If You’re Never Awake” or the deep rumbling sub-bass part that modulates “The Daughters of Quiet Minds” with such subtlety that you can miss its entry the first fifty times you listen to the song. Or even the entirety of “December Hunting For Vegetarian Fuckface” with its slow build of classical instruments and ambient synths that culminates in a four-note pattern more beautiful than anything else in the band’s career. And Their Refinement of the Decline is also music that defies emotional pigeon-holing. It is strongly melancholic, hopeful, pained, optimistic, longing, and content. And on a different day, it could be none of these things and something else altogether. And Their Refinement of the Decline feels like the climax of the career of Stars of the Lid, the point to which every other point in their seventeen year career has been leading up to. It is both the pinnacle of ambient and modern classical crossover in the first decade of this century, and a humble, simple record from two musicians who have perfected their craft. – Andrew Hartwig
I acquired White Pony through a CD case I found in my high school’s lost and found. At the time most of my musical experiences were through groups like the Pixies and the Bouncing Souls, and the collection of CDs I had found mostly revolved around the genre of nu-metal, which I certainly wasn’t a fan of at the time. Some of the records in the case would eventually earn constant rotation even to this day; the most important find in the case was easily White Pony. My experience with the Deftones had been the same as with other “heavy metal” artists that were featured on various late night music video shows, meaning the Deftones in my eyes had always been a collective likened to groups like Limp Bizkit and Korn. White Pony changed that opinion, and while I won’t say it was an immediate reaction, that original copy of the record that I stole from some poor kid eventually wore itself out. The record itself is a fantastic example of what mainstream heavy music was like in the early ’00s – the quasi-rapped lyrics and the immensely detuned instruments were all radio rock cliches that showed up on White Pony, but what makes the record so impressive is how the Deftones were able to make an artistic and mature statement while working in such a repetitive genre. Over the past ten years the group has attempted to grasp the impact that White Pony had on its listeners, but something so immense can be attempted only once. Is it telling that people who completely hate most of the Deftones’ contemporaries find themselves adoring this record? No, not really I suppose. The pop hooks are present here, but they are layered under a guise of noise as the group dips into their shoegaze influences. In retrospect that is where most of the success of White Pony stems from – the fact that the Deftones combined their otherwise pointlessly aggressive genre with a variety of softer and more “complex” influences. The fact that the group was able to obtain artistic legitimacy in a genre that is basically now seen as a complete joke should at least be enough to get any interested party to check out White Pony if they haven’t already. – Jared W. Dillon
Lets consider this site’s demographic for a second; I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we at Sputnikmusic are a mostly white, mostly male, mostly angsty 15-22 year old group of Fight Club watchin’, On the Road readin’ individuals disappointed with the artifice of mainstream culture, brought up to expect something great from this world only to get nothin’ but demonized high school years and romanticized summer vacations in return, retrospectively exaggerated to match the exaggerated state of our lonely, armored-by-flannel hearts, long since wounded by some doe-eyed girl’s manipulative, cheating ways.
Which is why Brand New is Sputnikmusic’s perfect band, why Jesse Lacey is our perfect frontman. We all grew up with the angst and disaffection that drew us simultaneously to what MTV (MTV2 I guess at that point, or maybe even Fuse) called Emo and the internet. And Brand New understood. The sound of Deja Entendu is the sound of teenagers desperately wanting to play it cool but frozen stiff by the insecurities and indecision of post-9/11 hyper-culture- or, more succinctly, the sound of us. It is the sound of a group knowing what it meant to be sixteen and completely disillusioned, only with the lyricist to express it in the artful way our journals and adolescent scribblings only aspired to. It has the choruses to sell the frustration we only dreamed of screaming at the top of our lungs but didn’t dare to because we were too afraid to worry our parents who were downstairs looking through each other from across the kitchen table.
And then when we grew up, Brand New did too, at first with the bitter grandeur of The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, then with the raw, disgusted rejection of the home they came from with Daisy. But for that one moment in time when we were too petrified by our confusion to go outside, when we were too scared to ask out the girls who were too scared to go all the way, that time when us older statesmen around here found community and a new identity in a website completely based off the one thing we knew we’d always have- music- we have Deja Entendu. And as our lives progress beyond what we now spit at as our worst years, we’ll have Brand New. – Adam Downer
The resulting creation is grandiose, diverse, and impressive, but also silly and fun. Songs like “3030″ and “Upgrade (A Brymar College Course)” are big, starry tracks that have a certain epic, spacy feel that captures the mysterious and far off sentiments of outer space and the future. These twinkling tracks are a platform for Del to take over with his off-line rhyme schemes and tongue-in-cheek technobabble lyrics: “controlling with my magical chance so battle advanced / through centuries a hip hop legacy, megaspeed / hyperwarp to automator’s crib and light the torch / they can’t fight the force.” Other songs like “Virus” and “Battlesong” are tight and ominous, thick with Kid Koala’s influence, which gives a dystopian slant to Del’s vibrant confidence. The icing on Deltron 3030 are the absurd but surprisingly meaningful skits, which feature the fictional characters of the album’s futuristic world. The most memorable of these is Cleofis Randolph the Patriarch who best characterizes Deltron 3030’s zany appeal in a few lines: “I keep my dreadlocks in a napkin ring / Rap and sing / Unlike the homogenous clones / I’m into earth tones, birth stones, and erogenous zones.” – Nick Greer
By now, the fable of Toby Driver is overdrawn and bloated. A student of the philosophical jazzist Yusef Lateef, Driver dissolves his death metal / prog project maudlin of the Well so he can compose and record a magnum opus; an album that blends metal, prog, modern classical, ambient (the list goes on); an album that has songs with more than 100 distinct pre-mix tracks; an album that was ultimately picked up by John Zorn to be released on his avant garde label Tzadik. Before its release, Choirs of the Eye was more a concept or myth that embodied experimental greatness than an actual album.
Despite these grandiose expectations, Choirs of the Eye turned out to be greater in scope and excellence than anybody could have anticipated. Every note and texture, from the microtonal bends that open “The Antique” to the psychedelic guitar solos of “Wayfarer” and the life-crushing crescendo of “The Manifold Curiosity,” is meticulously planned and perfectly evocative. Choirs of the Eye is an album that was created in an effort to generate something new, but unlike most albums that dare to enter uncharted musical territory, Choirs is pulls it off with such precision and elegance that an atonal melody or a 6-minute long ambient passage will feel familiar, appropriate, and maybe even fated. – Nick Greer
At one point, I had a hard time believing I’d listen to any sort of non-Godspeed related post-rock with any sort of regularity. ( ) changed that. It wasn’t even my first Sigur Rós album (I had owned and shrugged off Takk… previously), but it was the band’s first record that really turned me on to their music. And considering how much I dig Takk… and Ágætis byrjun now, it’s kind of a big deal. So ( ) is a special record for me and as consequence, it’s become one of my most highly played albums.
Much can been said about ( )’s thematic structure; the first four tracks are huge, upbeat compositions, while the album’s second half is a little sparser and more controlled. Although such a basic division seems as though it would be constrictive, the record is incredibly dynamic. Whether the imagery Sigur Rós conjures up is sunny and optimistic or grave, it’s extremely powerful. Significantly, it resonates with both close and casual listening. Obviously one can better appreciate the album’s subtler elements through deeper listening, but regardless, ( ) makes for an incredible listen in most situations. Frontman Jón Þór Birgisson is especially exceptional; though his lyrical work is unintelligible and more or less a non-factor, Jonsi’s vocals operate as another instrument on an album filled to the brim with stunning instrumental textures. It’s as awe-inspiring an album as they come, and in spite of its long length it’s just as accessible. – Mike Stagno
There aren’t too many musical moments more exciting than when You Forgot It In People finally achieves liftoff seconds into “KC Accidental.” A thundering assault of drums cascade in, lighting the tune up like a roman candle after two minutes of exquisite slow burn and announcing with a bang the 2nd effort of a 15-piece collective that probably struggled to all show up to play together, much less record what turned out to be a post-millennial classic. Although largely the brainchild of Canadian auteurs Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, Broken Social Scene is more an organic patchwork of influences than any one man’s vision, and You Forgot It In People encapsulates this better than any of the band’s work, past or future. It’s an album’s album, a minor miracle in cross-genre collaboration that flows from pounding indie rock to fuzzy noise to sharp post-punk to something genuinely unique, all with an ease that belies the massive amount of work put into it.
It’s hard to pinpoint just what keeps You Forgot It In People from being the jumbled mess of contrasts and styles that one would expect from such a massive band and instead turns it into one of the best LPs of the decade. It’s something you feel more than hear or describe – the way I find myself air-drumming along to the jagged edges of “Almost Crimes;” the way “Looks Like The Sun” and “Pacific Theme” combine for the perfect comedown siesta to bridge the first and second halves; how goddamn close “Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl” cuts to the heart when Emily Haines’ distorted vocals lament “used to be one of the rotten ones / and I liked you for that / now you’re all gone, got your make-up on / and you’re not coming back;” the fact that there could be no better ending than the softly arching violins that close the album out on “Pitter Patter Goes My Heart,” faintly tinged with melancholy but mostly with triumph. It’s perhaps You Forgot It In People’s greatest gift that it can mean so many different things to so many different people, the kind of intensely personal record that can be both timeless and timely, an experience felt rather than heard. – Rudy Klapper
The growth of a band is always intriguing and Brand New may have one of the more intriguing histories given their dramatic change. From their early pop-punk days with Your Favourite Weapon, one would hardly foresee such maturation over five years that The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me brings. There is a newfound aggressiveness that pushes aside past albums once focused around teenage life and petty issues in turn for thought-provoking tracks centered on the afterlife among other issues. Tracks such as “Luca” and the instrumental “Welcome To Bangkok” build methodically as they incorporate perfectly placed dynamic changes allow songs to reach their maximum potential. The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is a splendidly balanced album that rivals any alternative rock album released this decade with the sheer amount of intensity brought without having an overwhelming presence, but yet still bring a side of joyful enthusiasm that personifies Brand New’s past. – Ryan Flatley
I feel like I should be writing about our number one album but unfortunately Boxer only barely managed to crack the top twenty. But I can’t really think of any other album that is more “indie” than Boxer. I’m not talking about obscurity or under-appreciation. What I’m referring to is the true nature of indie – where bands meet their dreams for us instead of using us as a means to do so. These songs are for the little guy in all of us – that small part that never really gave up on those dreams we had as kid – but they also serve to show that moving on in spite of those dreams can offer the same kind of fulfillment as living up to them. The album mourns the loss of Alligator’s carefree attitude, but it does so with remarkable tact and maturity, always seeing the silver lining in everything even if it is a bit bitter. The band found an incredible backdrop for Matt Berninger’s baritone and lyrics. “Organic” is a stupid adjective to use in a musical setting, but if any album can be lauded for being organic, it’s Boxer. Never devolving into electronic bullshit, vocal effects, or stupid Animal Collective nonsense, the album makes due with the shirt on its back, so to speak. Perhaps the best thing about Boxer is that it doesn’t aspire to deliver some sort of message from a pedestal. As with Alligator, the band chose to keep themselves at the level of their fans, creating strong songs that everyone can relate to – the uncertainty of “Green Gloves,” the energy of “Apartment Story” (courtesy of phenomenal drummer Brian Devendorf), the bitterness of “Start A War,” the longing of “Gospel.” It’s all here and, slightly unbelievably when you consider how deep this album goes, you don’t have to dig for it. Ladies and gentlemen, I present the greatest of indie bands: The National. – Channing Freeman
I was twelve when I first heard At the Drive-In. It was right around the time when Relationship of Command was set to come out and something about them really captivated me—it was mostly the listless enthusiasm of Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez, two energetic Mexi-somethings who even then appeared to be working on a different wave-length (drugs) than the rest of the band. It all culminated for me when I saw a re-run of the band on the kind-of-shitty TV show Farmclub, in which some throaty fat guy introduced their set which quickly devolved into the band trashing their instruments and kind of playing a song in between. I was captivated by just how primal it all ways, probably because I was going through puberty and probably because it was just over-the-top enough to catch my eye, but about a year later I’d grown out of the band, and their sound, and so began my three-year hiatus away from Bixler & Co.
And then, either through a friend or through a late night radio broadcast (pick whichever sounds better) I came across The Mars Volta. Again, my timing ruled. They were just about to release Deloused in the Comatorium, their debut full-length. I guess I’d heard “Drunkship of Laterns”, since I distinctly remember being intrigued by a popped bassline, but again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is it felt like the album grew with me. Having moved away from the pent up anxiety of being twelve, Omar and Cedric’s new sound—which revolved around Jon Theodore’s relentless percussion and the decision to sing more and noodle excessively—captivated me. The band has failed to do so again ever since. There’s just something about the endless potential and energy that salsa-dances throughout the album’s ten tracks. Yes, the lyrics are nonsensical and the concept is either convoluted or stupid depending on the day, but what matters is how it sounds. And fuck, it sounds awesome. – Tyler Munro
The thing that always stuns me about For Emma, Forever Ago is how quickly it goes by. Granted, it’s only nine songs so I shouldn’t be expecting something very long anyway, but every time the surprisingly gentle strum of “Re: Stacks” comes in, I’m always mixed with a strange combination of awe and sadness. Perhaps my memory blows the length of For Emma, Forever Ago out of proportion; I’m the type of guy who finds that the term “classic” implies some kind of mammoth scope that spans over the course of hours and requires months of close study to fully appreciate. For Emma doesn’t fit this bill. Bon Iver’s 2008 masterpiece clocks in at a little over a half hour and is one of the most immediately inviting records to be released this decade, yet to me it cannot be described as anything less than perfect.
But why? We’ve seen sad records before and we’ve seen folk records too. What about For Emma, Forever Ago resonates so invariably? This is an album that basically crawled out of nowhere, a self released, back-of-the-truck deal that became a sensation in 2008 because of what? It certainly has a legend behind it, one worth dissecting Justin Vernon’s cryptically romantic lyrics to understand. Then again, when have we heard such soulful, gospel-esque harmonies deployed so effectively in a folk context? Or maybe the answer is as succinct as “these are just beautiful songs, man,” and that’s alright too. For Emma isn’t challenging, nor is it simple. It’s merely gorgeous, intricately constructed to get huge results out of basic means. The fact that its over so quickly just adds to the allure; this is music to cling to before it ends fleetingly with a twinge of regret, not unlike the relationship rumored to have inspired it.
Also, I’m professionally obligated to mention that this was written and recorded in a log cabin. How fucking indie is that?!?! – Adam Downer
The upshot of that is that I’ve long toyed with the idea of making him a mixtape of rap he’d like if only he’d heard, and as such, when I listen to a song, I often wonder what my dad would think if he heard it. When “Criminal”, the last track on this ridiculously intense, perverted masterpiece came on my iPod’s shuffle recently, my immediate reaction was to think, ‘he’d hate this’. Of course he would. Any reasonable person would. He simulates a murder halfway through, spends the entire first verse childishly baiting gays, describes his own fans as ‘fucking retards’, and suggests that if he hadn’t been famous he’d be a serial rapist.
And yet we accept it. We accept because The Marshall Mathers LP sucks us so strongly into its world, so strongly into Eminem’s own head, that “Criminal” becomes a cathartic release as you position yourself behind him, firing your own anger at his critics just as venomously as he does. “Stan”, “Amityville”, “Kill You”, “Drug Ballad” – it doesn’t matter what he says or does, you identify. Even on murder fantasy “Kim” – the heaviest song of the decade, no less – you’re on his side as he repeatedly stabs his wife. For that alone, The Marshall Mathers LP deserves a permanent place in history – nobody in pop music has ever presented such a well-rounded, sympathetic psychopath. – Nick Butler
Listening to Worship and Tribute in the context of the early decade’s affinity for post-hardcore made it difficult to place the album on its deserved pedestal. Like many of the popular but “critically-acclaimed” post-hardcore albums of its time, Worship and Tribute was necessarily heavy, fast, and mixed singing and screaming to increase the emotional stakes of already emotional music. Despite these surface similarities, Glassjaw were actually brewing a completely different brand of hardcore more indebted to genres that weren’t punk-derived, which opposed the iconic punk-indebted sound crafted by Thursday, Thrice, and a few other notables.
Part of what makes Glassjaw such a stand out band is a combination of structured genre blending and blissfully naive experimentation. Some songs are tight, oversaturated explorations of how to map punk’s energy and immediacy to different genres. “Mu Empire” alternates a post-metal chorus with spacy, halcyon verses. “Tip Your Bartender” uses noise rock and metal to turn a simple repeated lyrical theme into an eerie, visceral headbanger. The verses of “Two Tabs of Mescaline” are pure math rock. Other songs ignore the concept of genre altogether and experiment outside of punk’s enjoyable but constraining directness. “Ape Dos Mil” is a pulsating ballad. “Must’ve Run All Day” is a slow jam wrapped in strange reverb and Daryl Palumbo’s melodramatic vocals, and the very next track, “Stuck Pig” is a metal song created entirely out of feedback and noise. The ambitious pairing of those two tracks alone makes Worship and Tribute one of the more singular and inscrutable albums of the past decade.
Bands like At the Drive-In and Thrice defined the post-hardcore “sound” with landmark releases that are still beloved today. With Worship and Tribute, Glassjaw deconstructed this sound entirely and produced an album that is genreless, peerless, and timeless. – Nick Greer
Ten years after its release, Relationship of Command still feels fresh. It still feels new. At the Drive-In’s masterpiece is the boldest artistic statement in music that I can remember since I took an interest in looking beyond what the local alternative rock radio station told me to listen to. At the time of its release, Relationship of Command was heralded as the new Nevermind by the press talking heads, and it could have been bigger if the band didn’t collapse under the stress of said declaration. In a time when parody was dancing on the bloated flannel corpse of grunge and the bullpoop testosterone driven machismo of nu-metal was being proclaimed as the wave of the future, hearing “One Armed Scissor” over the airwaves was a refreshing and much needed reminder that there was still hope for rock music in the new millennium. For those that got it, the feisty Texans, led by the cathartic political wailing of Cedric Bixler and the mangled and mutated guitar driven delirium of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, were musical mana.
There was, and still is, nothing that sounded like At the Drive-In’s swansong. While legions of imitators have tried, none have even come close. At times it sounded like Fugazi, but Ian MacKaye never managed to pack this much of a punch, and Guy Picciotto wishes that he could warp the sounds coming out of his amp like his afroed counterpart. Just take a listen to the jagged art-punk acid trip “Cosmonaut,” its violent, pulsating rhythms like traveling through a wormhole; a journey to the outer reaches of what hardcore is capable of achieving. Relationship of Command is equal parts deranged and divine. Its grandiose vision went beyond any one scene or style. It was punk, it was hardcore, it was rock and roll, and most of all it was too much for even At the Drive-In themselves. It split the band between afros and no afros, eventually leading to a gut-wrenching indefinite hiatus that left us with the more traditional Sparta and the schizophrenic nu-prog powerhouse The Mars Volta. Both have their merits, but nothing holds a candle to what they made together on Relationship of Command: absolute perfection. – Adam Thomas
Too many people think that religious music (or Christian music, at least) is all awful, that the classification automatically renders everything it touches invalid. That attitude needs shifting a little; like Christian people, Christian music is only annoying when it rams its unwavering faith down your throat with the kind of clumsy conviction only possessed by people who’ve never taken the time to consider that they might be wrong. When doubt enters the equation, things take a turn.
mewithoutYou are hardcore both in terms of their faith and their music, but that faith burns furiously through a wave of existential uncertainty, in the same way that great Romantic poetry and Greek myths draw their power from the power of temptation to corrupt holiness, and the individual’s battle to redeem themselves. Nervously caught between two equally abhorrent possibilities – being wrong about God or being wrong about life – vocalist Aaron Weiss screams to anybody that will listen for guidance. God is both attacked (‘Before my doubting eyes the Infinite appears in time, the Unquestionable is questioned but makes no reply!’) and worshipped (‘Open wide my door, my Lord, to whatever makes me love you more’), while earthly concerns are alternately embraced and feared in equal measure on “Messes of Men” and “In a Sweater Poorly Knit”. It’s messy and it’s occasionally brutal, and it applies to every person of any creed that might be reading this because, at heart, these are love songs. Classic, fully-rounded, painfully honest, bleeding-heart love songs.
mewithoutYou followed this record up with an album that spent more time talking about organic food than Jesus. Shame. If everybody took the time to articulate their faith with as much fury, honesty, and power as Weiss does here, the world would be a much better place. – Nick Butler
That Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is so unabashedly unlike any other Wilco album that has or ever will be released is, in a weird twist, its legacy: it’s a UFO speeding past at ground level, some sort of unidentifiable machinery with no real evidence or indication of where it came from, and people gravitated towards it because of this. Hell, take away Jeff Tweedy’s endearing whine, and you hardly even have a Wilco album. As a fervent fan of almost anything Wilco, including everything that came before it (sans A.M.) and after it (sans A Ghost is Born), how different this album was has always made Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sit uncomfortably for me: I could definitely recognize why all the hype and critical adoration had made the record a minor classic, but it just couldn’t hold a candle to their previous albums for me. It just wasn’t the kind of Wilco I enjoyed listening to.
But then it hit me. I don’t know why, and I only vaguely remember when (about a year and a half ago). But, seemingly all in a flash, I realized the slipshod genius of “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart”, the understated power of “Radio Cure”, the breezy effortless of “I’m the Man Who Loves You”, why those lyrics, why that was like this, etc etc. Everything made sense. “Jesus Etc.” being a so-called perfect song? Hell, I even agreed with that. I guess I realized that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a one-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, for both its listeners and its creators: the album’s feel of spontaneity and yet preciseness, as well its buckling of any sort of rut its writers may have willingly fallen into over the years, is something that will never be done again. Even if Tweedy were to write another record like this one, it just wouldn’t be the same: the shock wouldn’t be there, the total reinvention would feel more processed, less like a genuine shout of frustration to break away from the norm. But so what? Even if Wilco never does anything as good as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot again, or produce these kinds of feelings again, I’ll be totally fine with that. At least we have this. And at least I get to play “Jesus Etc.” for the rest of my life. - Cam
Guys, can we just talk for a second about how awesome “Turn Into Something” is? It’s the explosion Feels returns to after the sheer unhinged celebratory naivete captured on “Did You See The Words?” is lost somewhere between “Bees” and “Loch Raven.” It’s a furious race, where it doesn’t matter who wins it’s just the running, the endless breath-stealing running. And then that coda: a euphoric dream fully realized and enveloping, a warm cocoon to hide away in and sleep in forever. And if you thought that description was ludicrous fanboy babble, know that I could do this for eight more songs.
I don’t think there’s been an album I’ve been so passionate to defend and explain to anyone who will listen or even to those that won’t. I think I do this more to hear myself think than to convince others of its quality; the fact of the matter is that unlike, say, that other Animal Collective album (you know, with the wallpaper cover), I could care less what others think about Feels because I’m still figuring this one out myself. I’ve been living in Feels for about two years now, and I’m still finding new reasons to love it. Passages once overshadowed by just how fucking good “Banshee Beat” is are still revealing themselves and I suspect several more are lurking behind “Grass” and “Purple Bottle.” I mean, I’m not even going to pretend to understand “Bees” yet but “Daffy Duck” has started to evolve into something that will make me like Feels even more. And I already have this as my number one album of all time. Of all time!
I believe an esteemed member of our staff once said of Feels: “Whatever it is Animal Collective do, they got it right with this album.” With this in mind, it’s no surprise Feels sits in the middle of Animal Collective’s decade long journey towards pop music. Feels tugs on the band’s future while holding on to to its past, creating this strange but wholly idiosyncratic blend of the abstract and concrete. It’s invariably warm, recalling a pollen-filled spring we’ve never quite had but remembered fondly. It’s almost embarrassing to break this album down into melodies and instruments; just listen to when Avey sings the word “pool” on “Banshee Beat.” That should tell you all you need to know about Feels.
Speaking of, can we just talk for a second about how awesome “Banshee Beat” is? – Adam Downer