If you’re not elated, swooning, righteously punching the air or otherwise moved by these passages, the artist in question may not be for you. Limited to musicians I’m familiar with; that is, three albums or more reviewed.
Animal Collective/Panda Bear
“All I want is four walls and adobe slabs for my girls” (“My Girls”). It gets much weirder from there on out…
This one’s a bonus, just because I had to. Everybody sing along: “I GUESS WE’LL JUST HAVE TO ADJUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (“Wake Up”)
I don’t know his music that well, but he also merits inclusion for the final breathless, high-octane line “Can’t find us, can’t find us, CAN’T FIND US!” (“Tonada Yanomaninista”) which never fails to get me totally pumped.
Clever? These guys own clever. They did nothing less than predict a second Middle Eastern invasion (and most of its details) with “A movie’s made, a war is won, a low-speed chase, a smoking gun distracts us while the actor takes the stand” (“Sell, Sell, Sell”). They can be quite depressing, too. “They say that Jesus and mental health are just for those who can help themselves; well, what good is that when you live in hell on earth?” (“War On Drugs”) is proof of that. And yes, they remain best known for wacky quipping like “Hearts on fire, you’ll learn, end up with heartburn” (“Wind It Up”).
But don’t overlook the haunting power of lines like the dying words of a car crash victim in “Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep At the Wheel”: “Now I’m floating above, looking in, as the radio blares and wheels spin; I can see my face slump with a grin, and you… you’re the last thing on my mind”.
“Who’s gonna answer profanity prayers?” (“Profanity Prayers”), because it’s catchy and punchy in a very Beck way, and the wordless yodeling-and-grunge guitar bridge of “Rental Car” for a peerless example of the art of sampling and mashups.
Belle And Sebastian
“I wandered all night, I wondered all night about you” and the song around it (“Roy Walker”) is the equilibrium of the band’s evolution, with everything represented: retro Sixties pop, jazz and classical flourishes, Europop underpinning, tons of great harmonies, and the odd cool experimental touch.
“Don’t you weep, don’t you weep for them; there is nothing as lucky, as easy or as free” (“Easy/Lucky/Free”), “I took off my shoes and walked into the woods; I felt lost and found with every step I took” (“Lime Tree”), “It starts with an ending, so thank you, friends, for the time we’ve shared” (“Method Acting”)…. I’ll stop myself at three, but these lines are just shatteringly powerful (in three different flavors – majestic synth suite, delicate string ballad, and jangly rock song, respectively). Resonance is Conor Oberst’s biggest strength.
“I hate the rain, I hate the rain” (“Red Tide”) and its preceding stanza for race-to-the-finish, firing-on-all-cylinders pop rock perfection; “It will end again in bullets, friend” (People Got A Lotta Nerve”) for a serendipitously gorgeous burst of catchiness; or “The needle has landed” (“The Needle Has Landed”) for the greatest female voice of her generation (hell yes, I just said that) doing what she does best. Neko also has a talent for writing, scoring and delivering lines that pierce right through your heart.
“Your skin, your skin and bones, turn into something beautiful” (“Yellow”) is the glorious peak of the tween-baiting, sissy pop band in their element, while “You’ll go backwards and then you’ll go forwards again, you’ll go forwards again” (“Twisted Logic”) is the clueless, ill-advisedly experimental pop band having a rare moment of pure excellence.
“It rakes in my heart, rakes in my heart” (“The Crane Wife 1 + 2”) and “Hear all the bombs fade away” (“Sons And Daughters”) are both rousing, cathartic finishes to complicated concept tunes, while also shining through with the band’s knack for simple, hummable pleasures.
The Flaming Lips
“What is love and what is hate, and why does it matter?” (“In The Morning Of The Magicians”) perfectly illustrates their pensive, proggy electropop tone, and any time they say the title phrase in “Do You Realize??”, it can’t be beat for sheer memorability and joy. Embryonic is a different beast entirely, but if you enjoy “See the leaves, they’re dying again” (“See the Leaves”), chances are you’ll be able to appreciate it.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” (“In Your Honor”) (I hope I spelled that right) for FF’s rock side, and “Car-o-lina, Car-o-lina” (“What If I Do?”) for their more tender moments.
“If I could see all my friends tonight” [repeat ad infinitum until universe implodes… at least it would if there were justice in the world] (“All My Friends”) is the ultimate note of pleading optimism amidst self-doubt; “When someone great is gone” (“Someone Great”) rips out heartstrings, screw tugging on them; “Beats on repeat, beating on me” (“On Repeat”) kicks as much ass as Metallica, if not more. When this band really gets into a groove, they’ll captivate you like nothing else.
“Was it ever worth it? Was there all that much to gain? Well, we knew we’d missed the boat and we’d already missed the plane” (“Missed the Boat”) encapsulates Isaac Brock’s witty, but soulful misanthropy (I suspect the antecedent of “it” is human civilization), while “It would’ve been, could’ve been worse than you would ever know” (“Dashboard”) showcases his band’s brash, loony, fun as hell musical style.
The New Pornographers/Carl Newman
Are you ready for a list of some of the mightiest, most gleeful and unique refrains ever penned? Brace yourself – you may never stop repeating them in your head. For brevity’s sake, I’ll limit myself to ten.
“Listening too long to one song, sing me Spanish techno” (“Sing Me Spanish Techno”). “In the streetlight dawn, this beat turns on” (“Mass Romantic”). “Salvation, holdout central” (“The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism”). “Streaming into the magnets” (“The Electric Version”). “One of the greats on the way, hold on; behind the daylight, who knew what it could feel like?” (“July Jones”). “So we float through the streets, breathe city lights, flames of the crown forgotten; so we float through the streets the way you do, Miss Teen Wordpower” (“Miss Teen Wordpower”). “We have arrived too late to play the Bleeding Heart Show” (“The Bleeding Heart Show”). “Use it tonight” (“Use It”). “Now the plain blondes are playing along with you” (“On the Table”). “One by one by one by one, strike on zero” (“Prophets”).
Numerous anthemic, era-defining moments exist in the Outkast catalog that unite rock fans, rap fans, and pretty much music fans in general. A sampling: “Power music, electric revival” (“B.O.B.”); “Hey ya!” in the eponymous single; “I’m sorry Miss Jackson, I am for real” (“Mrs. Jackson”).
Ethereal: [wordless moan] (“How To Disappear Completely”). Beautiful, in a more accessible way: “You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking” (“Nude”) or “Dedicated to all human beings” (“Reckoner”). Sheer pulverizing toughness: “I’ve seen you coming” (“Bodysnatchers”). Upbeat jam rock: “Go and tell the king that the sky is falling in when it’s not, but it’s not, but it’s not, but it’s not, maybe not” (“2 + 2 = 5”). Funky: “The pot will call the kettle black, it’s a drunken punch-up at a wedding, yeah” (“A Punchup At A Wedding.”). Creepy: “There are barn doors, and there are revolving doors” (“Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors”). Noisy: “It’s holding on” (“The National Anthem”). Bizarre: “What was that you tried to say?” (“Everything In Its Right Place”).
Want climactic, wordy, insightful poetry? “I knew the worthless dregs we are, the selfless, loving saints we are, the melting, sliding dice we’ve always been” (“Know Your Onion!”). If you’re more interested in the band’s famously convoluted, but gratifying melodies, “You’re damned to be one of us, girl; faced with a dodo’s conundrum, I felt like I could just fly… but nothing happened every time I tried” (“Australia”).
“You got your cherry bomb” (“You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”) is very catchy, something that Spoon sometimes has trouble with. “Don’t make me a target” (“Don’t Make Me A Target”) rocks, which they have a lot of problems doing. Finally, “I believe that someone take care of me tonight” (“Black Like Me”) has resonance, an extremely rare quality for Spoon.
“Ooh va la, Gucci Moochie sang” (“Ooh Vah Lah”) is a perfect symposium on how this band can turn goofy, weird nonsense into perfect satire that feels more accurate and resonant than its target, and is usually catchier.
“They say you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone; I know that I got it, I don’t know what y’all on” (“Gone”). Is anything more Kanye than that? It’s vain, but it’s quite clever.
“Just keep drawing up the plans and re-erect it” (“Photograph”). That’s pure Weezer right there.
The White Stripes
“You took a white orchid and turned it blue” (“Blue Orchid”) rocks hard, “I’m thinking about my doorbell, when ya gonna ring it, when ya gonna ring it?” (“My Doorbell”) is catchy and fun, and “You’ve got her in your pocket, and there’s no way out now” (“You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket”) is soulful and raggedly pretty. Those are the three charms of this band, no more, no less.
“Pick up, pick up” (“Bull Black Nova”) is stereo-shreddingly frantic and electric. “The best song will never get sung, the best life never leaves your lungs” (“The Late Greats”) is Wilco at their charming poppiest. “Tuned to chords strung down your cheeks, bitter melodies turning your orbit around” (“Jesus, Etc.”) is gloriously beautiful. You couldn’t ask from more for a rock group.
Great Album Covers
Using blatantly obvious propaganda to “defeat” other blatantly obvious propaganda. It was a fool’s errand, but Green Day are lovable fools if nothing else. Memorable as a cultural touchstone, at least.
Lady Liberty and the Motherland statue, crippled and cracked, hands outstretched toward an expanse of emptiness, their presence merely implied through modest synecdoche. Though one symbol is domestic and the other Russian, this is most definitely a record about American tensions. The two ideals of freedom and righteousness have become divided and misguided, their arms not even parallel, their aims totally contradictory. No other unnecessary signifiers mar this austere copper display. The torch isn’t being passed on; it’s being dropped, in this era of tumult and uncertainty. In fact, both sides of the image seem to be gesturing towards something just out of frame, sinister and unknowable. This picture is iconic beyond belief. It’s perfectly indicative of the somber, superbly-crafted, rock hard music inside. Does all this make you realize how freaking genius and poetically masterful this recording is? If not, you are beyond help.
Arular and Kala
Random stuff. Culture clash. Truffle fries. Retro-modern-ethnic-trippy. Insinuation without substance. Still quite colorful, and charmingly ramshackle.
The virginal maiden, the princess in distress, the pretty stiff, the daydreaming iconoclast – one strange and iconic portrait of the unforgettable Neko Case suggests them all.
This ingenious masterwork is a spectral cipher to be decoded, with precious secrets hidden amongst its vast ruins.
Chaos And Creation In the Backyard
Paul can’t let go of the past, so he decides instead to recast it in a wonderfully naïve pseudo-veritè document. The cover fits the music so well I’m not sure which component I just described.
Deloused In the Comatorium
I love you, Hipgnosis. Shades of Pink Floyd; too bad the band didn’t color inside the lines.
Drum’s Not Dead
Looking like a deranged cousin to the aesthetically creative track listings I’d draw as a kid, this extremely cool album cover presents the thematically loaded song titles with the most elaborate typography ever. At first they appear to be buildings, and each one sort of reflects the sonic pattern of its respective composition. This is fantastic, and hard to notice at first. Well done, Liars, especially since I’ve seen nothing like this before.
Mos Def does tinted film stills almost better than the Smiths and Belle And Sebastian.
Fevers And Mirrors
An effective gimmick. Minimalistic, humble Seventies-décor exterior. It’s like you’re snooping in somebody’s house, while on the record, Conor lets you into his most personal thoughts.
Fever To Tell
Looks like a hard-knock slum decked out in garish, festive Xmas lights. That sounds about right.
Four Winds EP
More cool decoding goodness.
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
A mystical, tone-setting illustration straight out of Aesop’s fables.
The Hazards Of Love
For a cover that’s all text and title, this is really creative.
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
The stained-glass window of album covers (later to be equaled by Veckatimest). Ooh, pretty colors…
A bizarre aberration: undulating yet austere, manufactured but totally alien. Pretty murky too. Once you realize what it actually is, it loses its mystique, but it’s still quite puzzling…
I don’t like it as much as everyone else seems to, but it’s still cool. Neko as badass hood ornament.
The Mouse And the Mask
Underground to the maximum. Threatening, but intriguing. Very cartoonish, as well. Roger Ebert (I think) once said the first five minutes of a good movie should teach you how to watch it. This album’s first track does that, instructing you on how to listen to it. And so does the cover. Mouse. Mask. Grime. Cartoon. Mystery. That should be enough to get you interested.
No More Shall We Part
A somber watercolor for a dreary-as-hell dirgefest.
What a delirious Norman Rockwell would produce if the citizens of Imaginationland commissioned a piece from him.
Transporting the viewer to a charming, antiquated era of hooligans, pirates, madams, and knaves.
Looking back through rose-tinted… light orbs? Actually, that’s just one of five ethereally pretty covers.
Sky Blue Sky
Zen-like elegance; an elegiac ode to the natural world. Abstract if you don’t quite know what it is, and it gracefully whorls and ebbs with singular instinct like the album. I don’t know, was that too impressionistic?
Source Tags & Codes
This is like a Magic Eye puzzle for people who can’t do those because they’re hard (i.e., myself). Keep looking… just a little longer…. Ah! You just soiled yourself in a moment of shock when you saw it, admit it.
Another very detailed baroque painting. Pretty!
Elegant, subtle, distinctive and streamlined. It’s a little more classy than merely writing “This is an album cover” on the sleeve, but just as understated and utilitarian.
Turn On the Bright Lights
Sleek, sharply defined objects in a confounding context surrounded by sussurating darkness. Yes, I am trying to make all these descriptions obvious metaphors for the music.
STOP LOOKING AT ME, MISTER SWAN!
Viva La Vida
Well, at least the cover is adequate and interesting. A defaced French romantic painting that promises a sense of exploration and artistry which the record never fulfills.
Wilco (The Album)
What the hell? Still pleasantly surprising, this band is.
Pretty literal here. But also memorable. It’s the most artistic, badass diorama I’ve seen in a while, that’s for sure.
This is like a tapestry from Medieval times.
Great Music Videos
A goofy, turn-of-the-century period piece where Captain Isaac Brock tells fishing stories. Better than it sounds, because of awesome makeup and effects.
A very harsh, but darkly clever ecological message piece. Stick around for the whole thing. Heath Ledger helped make this before his death, if that’s enough incentive.
“Missed the Boat”
A succession of charming, inventive fan-made videos, all with totally divergent ideas. But overall, the incredible song is what makes it notable.
A taut, noirish performance piece. The whipping wires are as mesmerizing as the guitars.
A bunch of interesting things happen while the band performs. I have no idea what this video thinks it’s doing, but it’s quite fun to watch.
Great Cover Songs
“Jingle Bells” – Barenaked Ladies (Traditional)
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” – Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan (Traditional)
“Act Nice And Gentle” – The Black Keys (The Kinks)
“The Moan” – The Black Keys (T-Model Ford)
“Don’t Forget Me” – Neko Case (Harry Nilsson)
“John Saw That Number” – Neko Case (Traditional)
“Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” – Neko Case (Sparks)
“Runnin’ Out Of Fools” – Neko Case (Aretha Franklin)
“Borderline” – The Flaming Lips (Madonna)
“Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” – The Flaming Lips (Kylie Minogue)
“The Golden Age” – The Flaming Lips (Beck)
“Knives Out” – The Flaming Lips (Radiohead)
“Bitches Ain’t Shit” – Ben Folds (Dr. Dre)
“The Book Of Love” – Peter Gabriel (The Magnetic Fields)
“Gone Daddy Gone” – Gnarls Barkley (The Violent Femmes)
“Jump Into the Fire” – LCD Soundsystem (Harry Nilsson)
“Slowdive” – LCD Soundsystem (Siouxsie And the Banshees)
“Toxic” – Local H (Britney Spears)
“Kid A” – John Mayer (Radiohead)
“It’s My Life” – No Doubt (Talk Talk)
“Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” – Robert Plant and Alison Krause (The Everly Brothers)
“Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy” – Queens Of the Stone Age (The Kinks)
“Because” – Elliott Smith (The Beatles)
“Figure 8” – Elliott Smith (Bob Dorough)
“Don’t You Evah” – Spoon (The Natural History)
“Conquest” – The White Stripes (Corky Robbins)
“I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” – The White Stripes (Burt Bacharach & Hal David)
“Walking With A Ghost” – The White Stripes (Tegan & Sara)
Various Great Songs
BEST DRUG ABUSE SONG
“Tonight”, TV On the Radio
(Second place: “Hurt”, Johnny Cash)
(Honorable mention goes to the three best songs on Songs For the Deaf)
BEST MACABRE, YET OPTIMISTIC SONG
“Do You Realize??”, the Flaming Lips
(Second place: “Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep At the Wheel”, Barenaked Ladies)
BEST BREAKUP SONG
“Someone Great”, LCD Soundsystem
(Second place: “Lost Cause”, Beck)
BEST JAM OR SOLO
“Woman And Man”, Ween
(Second place: “Lay Low”, My Morning Jacket)
“Wake Up”, the Arcade Fire
(Second place: “Sing Me Spanish Techno”, the New Pornographers)
(Honorable mention: “Take Me Out”, Franz Ferdinand)
(Second place: “Foreground”, Grizzly Bear)
BEST “ROCK IS DEAD, LONG LIVE ROCK” SONG
“New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”, LCD Soundsystem
(Second place: “A Certain Romance”, the Arctic Monkeys)
BEST POLITICAL SONG
“Sell, Sell, Sell”, Barenaked Ladies
(Second place: “Argument”, Fugazi)
(Honorable mention: “A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country”, Randy Newman)
BEST MIDLIFE CRISIS SONG
“All My Friends”, LCD Soundsystem
(Second place: “Losing My Edge”, LCD Soundsystem)
BEST STALKER/SERIAL KILLER SONG
“Son Of Sam”, Elliott Smith
(Second place: “Stan”, Eminem)
(Honorable mention: “Object”, Ween)
BEST APOCALYPTIC SONG
“Watching the Planets”, the Flaming Lips
(Second place: “Easy/Lucky/Free”, Bright Eyes)
(Honorable mention: “4 Minute Warning”, Radiohead)
“Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors”, Radiohead
(Second place: “The Fucked Jam”, Ween)
Metallica, Death Magnetic
(Second place: Green Day, American Idiot)
BEST COMEBACK SONG
“Bam Thwok”, the Pixies [Yeah, they didn’t really start making new music, but they began touring again. And this song rules.]
The New Pornographers (technically speaking)
Them Crooked Vultures (in terms of primary bands that people actually know)
MF DOOM and Danger Mouse, The Mouse And The Mask
BEST ALBUM OPENER
(Second place: “Fight Test”, the Flaming Lips)
BEST ALBUM CLOSER
“Good Vibrations”, Brian Wilson
(Second place: “Argument”, Fugazi)
(Honorable mention: “Gone” or “Late”, Kanye West)
BIGGEST STANDOUT ON A WEAK ALBUM
“Like A Stone”, Audioslave
(Second place: “This Beard Is For Siobhan”, Rejoicing In the Hands)
WEAKEST LINK ON AN OUTSTANDING ALBUM
“Marais La Nuit”, Middle Cyclone
(Second place: “Shadows Of Tomorrow”, Madvillainy)
BEST BONUS TRACK [Note: That’s “Bonus track”, not “B-side”]
Tie: “No Conclusion”, Of Montreal and “Metanoia”, MGMT
(Note: these both won because they manage to sustain their awesomeness for a very long amount of time, providing quality and quantity.)
BEST SONG THAT DIDN’T GET RECOGNITION YET
“Lose Yourself”, Eminem
(Second place: “Young Folks”, Peter, Bjorn & John)
BEST ONE-HIT WONDER
“I Believe In A Thing Called Love”, The Darkness
BEST SO-DUMB-IT’S-AWESOME SONG
“Miracles”, Insane Clown Posse
BEST INTERNET MEME SONG
“Dragostea Din Tei”, O-Zone
(Second place: “The Ultimate Showdown”, AlbinoBlackSheep)
OTHER GREAT INTERNET SONGS
Basically anything musical by Brad Neely
(Second Place: “I Am the First Fifty Digits Of Pi As Tablature”, Andrew Huang)
“BETTER AND MORE CREATIVE IDEA THAN SAMPLING” AWARD
StSanders’ “Shreds” videos, particularly “Kiss Shreds” and “StS’ Beatles”
BEST ORIGINAL VIDEO GAME SONG
“Still Alive” [Duh], Portal
(Second place: “One’s Weaker Self”, Silent Hill 3)
AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN ORIGINAL MUSICAL NUMBERS ON TELEVISION
(Second place: Tim And Eric, Awesome Show! Great Job!)
BIGGEST PLEASANT DISCOVERIES
2. Neko Case
3. The Decemberists
4. LCD Soundsystem
COOLEST PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN
Kid A/Amnesiac, Radiohead
(Second place: Year Zero, Nine Inch Nails)
(Honorable mention: Night Ripper/The Grey Album/The Mouse And the Mask (Girl Talk, Danger Mouse, and DangerDOOM, respectively) all tie, since they all did similar things around the same time.)
2. Belle And Sebastian
4. The Flaming Lips
TEN GREAT TURNS OF PHRASE/COMPLEX THOUGHTS
“You’re the last thing on my mind” (in both its interpretations) – “Tonight Is The Night I Fell Asleep At the Wheel”, Barenaked Ladies
“We built ourselves a pillar, but we used it like a crutch” – “Missed The Boat”, Modest Mouse
“I couldn’t love you more” (in both its interpretations) – “Powder Blue”, Barenaked Ladies
“And since I’ve gone to a cell for some petty crimes, I guess I’ve gone to the well one too many times, ‘cause I’m gone” – “Gone”, Kanye West
“I knew the worthless dregs we are, the selfless, loving saints we are, the melting, sliding dice we’ve always been” – “Know Your Onion!”, the Shins
“If you can’t do what’s right, you can always do what’s left” – “Nobody Loves Me, And Neither Do I”, Them Crooked Vultures
“Please don’t let what was get in the way of what’s next, and don’t forget that what’s to come hasn’t come yet” – “I Remember”, Devendra Banhart
“This is fucked up” – “Black Swan”, Thom Yorke
“The enemy is within, don’t confuse me with him” – “Stupidity Tries”, Elliott Smith
“I was waiting on a moment, but the moment never came; all the million other moments, they just wasted all away” – “Ego Tripping At The Gates Of Hell”, the Flaming Lips
[Many Eminem songs, “Sell, Sell, Sell”, and “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” had too many contenders to just pick one.]
Finally, to prove I’m not completely an out-of-touch, elitist hipster asshole:
Assorted totally mainstream, megahit, teenage girl-pop songs that are actually good to great (a not quite comprehensive list)
“Dirrty”, Christina Aguilera
“Bootylicious”, “Crazy In Love” and “Naughty Girl”, Beyoncé
“Miss Independent” and “Since U Been Gone”, Kelly Clarkson
“Soak Up the Sun”, Sheryl Crow
“Independent Women, Pt. 1” and “Lose My Breath”, Destiny’s Child
“Thank You” and “White Flag”, Dido
“Work It”, Missy Elliott
“Going Under”, Evanescence
“I’m Like A Bird”, Nelly Furtado
“Hide And Seek”, Imogen Heap
“Don’t Know Why”, Norah Jones
“Fallin’”, Alicia Keys
“Alejandro”, “Bad Romance”, “Dance In the Dark”, “Teeth”, “LoveGame”, “Paparazzi” and “Poker Face”, Lady Gaga
“Bulletproof”, La Roux
“Sk8r Boi”, Avril Lavigne
“I Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, Kylie Minogue
“Bathwater”, “Hella Good”, “Hey Baby”, “It’s My Life” and “Underneath It All”, No Doubt
“Hot N Cold”, Katy Perry
“Don’t Let Me Get Me”, “Get the Party Started” and “Just Like A Pill”, Pink
“Whenever, Wherever”, Shakira
“I’m A Slave 4 U”, “Oops!… I Did It Again”, “Stronger” and “Toxic”, Britney Spears
“Cool”, “Hollaback Girl” and “What You Waiting For?”, Gwen Stefani
“That’s Not My Name”, the Ting Tings
“Forever And For Always” and “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!”, Shania Twain
“Rehab”, Amy Winehouse
…And male-performed pop songs that were good
“Dirty Little Secret” and “Gives You Hell”, the All-American Rejects
“Ch-Check It Out” and “The Rat Cage”, the Beastie Boys
“Let’s Get Retarded” and “Where Is the Love?”, Black Eyed Peas
“I Miss You”, Blink 182
“Give My Love To Rose”, “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”, “Hurt” and “The Man Comes Around”, Johnny Cash
“Ridin’”, Chamillionaire feat. Krayzie Bone
“My Band”, D12
“Bodies”, Drowning Pool
“AM Radio”, Everclear
“In Da Club”, 50 Cent
“One Thing”, Finger Eleven
“Bitches Ain’t Shit”, “Rockin’ the Suburbs” and “You Don’t Know Me”, Ben Folds
“Wheels”, Foo Fighters
“Stacy’s Mom”, Fountains Of Wayne
“No You Girls” and “Ulysses”, Franz Ferdinand
“Clint Eastwood”, “DARE” and “Feel Good Inc.”, the Gorillaz
“Hate To Say I Told You So”, the Hives
“Bandages” and “Middle Of Nowhere”, Hot Hot Heat
“Dig” and “Megalomaniac”, Incubus
“Empire State Of Mind”, Jay-Z
“Bleed American”, “The Middle” and “Pain”, Jimmy Eat World
“Move Your Feet”, Junior Senior
“Bend And Break” and “Somewhere Only We Know”, Keane
“Day ‘N’ Night”, Kid Cudi
“Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me”, the Killers
“Ordinary People”, John Legend
“California Songs”, “Hands On the Bible” and “Heaven On the Way Down”, Local H
“All I Need”, “Harder To Breathe”, “She Will Be Loved” and “This Love”, Maroon 5
“Bent”, “Mad Season” and “Unwell”, Matchbox 20
“No Such Thing”, John Mayer
“We Are All Made Of Stars”, Moby
“Teenagers”, My Chemical Romance
“Shake Ya Ass”, Mystikal
“Hot In Herre” and “Ride Wit Me”, Nelly
“Bye Bye Bye” and “Pop”, *NSYNC
“A Million Ways”, “Get Over It”, and “Here It Goes Again”, OK GO
“Idlewild Blue” and “The Whole World”, Outkast
“Gimme the Light”, Sean Paul
“Imitation Of Life”, R.E.M.
“It Wasn’t Me”, Shaggy feat. Rikrok
“Drop It Like It’s Hot”, Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell
“Lonely No More”, Rob Thomas
“Kryptonite”, Three Doors Down
“The Way I Are”, Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson and D.O.E.
“Cry Me A River”, “My Love”, “Rock Your Body”, “Señorita”, and “SexyBack”, Justin Timberlake
“Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” and “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”, U2
“Yeah”, Usher feat. Ludacris and Lil’ Jon
“Get Free” and “Outtathaway”, the Vines
“Dope Nose”, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”, “In the Mall”, “Keep Fishin’”, “Perfect Situation”, “Pork And Beans” and “This Is Such A Pity”, Weezer
“Heartless”, Kanye West
“White ‘N’ Nerdy”, Weird Al Yankovic
Why I didn’t review other critical favorites of the decade (or review bands’ entire discographies)
Feels and Strawberry Jam – Animal Collective
You really think I’m going to put myself through two more of these things because a bunch of senseless hipsters happened to have a collective lapse of common sense regarding Animal Collective’s early work? No.
Favourite Worst Nightmare and Humbug – Arctic Monkeys
Not worth it. They’ve apparently just done the same thing in slightly different iterations since their debut.
Thickfreakness and Magic Potion – The Black Keys
After two albums, I think their style would probably just become predictable. Plus, I had better stuff to do. And they weren’t very acclaimed.
For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
Typical, unremarkable orchestral moody folk. Not my cup of tea.
American Recordings III and IV – Johnny Cash
I just didn’t feel like reviewing these. The man’s a legend, and I’m sure they’re good enough, but I’d rather listen to other stuff.
You Are Free and The Greatest – Cat Power
Even descriptions of this person’s music hurt my ears and self-respect.
Love And Theft and Modern Times – Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan sucks. Especially now that he’s 70 years old. He’s pretentious, nonsensical, complacent, derivative, atonal, repetitive, clumsy, and boring as HELL. Is that enough of a reason?
Under Construction – Missy Elliott
I just plain neglected this one. I should have noticed it popping up more in critical polls.
Encore and Relapse– Eminem
Hahahahaha, no way.
Food & Liquor – Lupe Fiasco
Once again, totally forgot about this acclaimed album until it was too late and would have required too large an investment of time on my part.
Dark Side of the Moon – the Flaming Lips
This just came out too soon before I started the project and finalized the things I wanted to review. I’ll definitely listen to it someday.
St. Elsewhere – Gnarls Barkley
Again, one-hit wonders are mistaken for musicians of cultural importance. This time, by some fluke, they are both individually talented, though.
Gorillaz and Demon Days – Gorillaz
Only mildly interesting. And there was no consensus on which of their albums was better.
21st Century Breakdown – Green Day
Definitely not. The arrogant, ugly byproduct of the Offspring and Blink 182 thinking they’re the Who and the Clash.
Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
One hit wonder. Elevator music. Don’t care.
Songs In A Minor – Alicia Keys
MEH. JUST MEH.
Hot Fuss – The Killers
By sheer force of will and utter belief that they’re the greatest, an everyday synth-pop one hit wonder band convinces the world that they make consistent albums.
Youth And Young Manhood, Aha Shake Heartbreak, Because Of the Times, and Only By the Night – Kings Of Leon
Their vocalist makes Craig Finn sound charismatic and tuneful. Such an offense should be punishable by extended, excruciating torture and death.
Tha Carter III – Lil’ Wayne
This hype machine contains all the annoying things about lame rappers, with only one-quarter of the things that make rappers good! And everyone’s unfairly raving about the dude! Listen, basic wordplay is not Shakespeare, you guys. And a drawl is nothing new is the history of sound. He’s wacky and ambitious enough to conceivably do something unique if he wanted to, but so far he hasn’t.
SadSappySucker – Modest Mouse
It’s technically a reissue. Yeah, I know I reviewed the similar Push Barman To Open Old Wounds, but I was getting lazy. It’s a great lo-fi rock album, with dumb-fun indie melodies, an everyman D.I.Y. aesthetic taken to its maximum, and silly dial-a-songs, which are a totally original idea. For fans only, I suppose, but it’s an interesting artifact, and I have a lot of fun listening to it. **** 1/2. There’s your review.
Idlewild – Outkast
Just for time reasons. I’m actually really interested in listening to this; I bet I’ll like it. Outkast getting too experimental and pretentious? Psh! I can’t imagine such a thing.
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix – Phoenix
Twee done wrong. A bunch of hyperactive, needless nonsense, without much in the way of melody.
Give Up – the Postal Service
UGH. Appallingly precious whine-pop which tries so hard to be profound and dramatic that it ends up being self-centered and obnoxious. I don’t care how fresh it sounded at the time, now the electronics sound like a limp affectation, moodily and boringly blooping and bleeping and sucking all the fun out of the music (not that it would have been exciting to begin with).
The Rising – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
I think that this would most directly appeal to people deeply and personally affected by 9/11. And that’s okay, but that doesn’t include me (not that it wasn’t a tragedy).
Original Pirate Material – the Streets
Not notorious enough. And it didn’t sound that game-changing.
Futuresex/Lovesounds – Justin Timberlake
Actually has a few good singles and seems like a genuine effort towards respectability, but it would most certainly grow stagnant over such a long time and with so much indulgence.
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes – TV On the Radio
They hadn’t totally come into their own on Return To Cookie Mountain, so I’m wary of how novice and full of wasted potential this would sound.
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and No Line On the Horizon – U2
The pandering, rewrite-happy comeback continues. Nah. The singles are the only stuff that’s worthwhile at all, and even then, not always.
808s and Heartbreak – Kanye West
It seemed like it would be interesting in theory, and maddeningly boring in practice. Plus it got more pans than recommendations. But I still find it a bit enticing…
Kicking Television – Wilco
Eh, Wilco live isn’t worth writing a whole review about.
Back To Black – Amy Winehouse
Edgy, tormented Norah Jones, but with soul instead of jazz. Again, one hit. I won’t begrudge her the accolades she received, but I personally don’t care.
REVIEWING MY OWN REVIEWS – SURE, WHY NOT?
Since I’ve been fairly longwinded and self-aware this whole time, and since you few loyal readers are still sticking around, I thought I’d indulge myself for one more humorous list. I will now grade how well I thought each of my own reviews have been written. I tried to be fair, because God knows they’re not all perfect, but I’d like to think that I spent enough time polishing each one that at the very least, it’s moderately informative, cohesive and entertaining (a C rating). And there are a handful that I’m very proud of, and – I’ll confess – have actually reread for my own enjoyment in the past. Again, these are my rankings for how good each review is, not for the album itself. Let’s begin!
Fig. 8 B
Miss E C+
No More C+
( ) A+
Eminem Show C
Sea Change C
Turn on A
You Forgot B-
American Idiot A-
New Danger B
Mouse and Mask A-
Push Barman B-
You Could B-
Boys and Girls A-
Drum’s Not Dead A+
Fox Confessor A-
Night Ripper A+
Ga Ga B+
Hissing Fauna A-
Person Pitch A-
Raising Sand B
Sky Blue Sky A+
We Were Dead B+
Death Mag B+
Viva La Vida A
The Ecstatic A-
Get Guilty B
Middle Cyclone A-
Final list A+++++++++++
Best: Final list/parentheses album/Night Ripper/Sky Blue Sky/Drum’s Not Dead/Deloused
Worst: Eminem Show/Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea/Third/Sea Change