Finer Feelings: My Favorite Albums of the ’00s, #20-11

Boy oh boy!!  I’ll have a special, non list-related something for you tomorrow, and then Monday will start with a full review of my #10 album.  Those will continue each day until we reach #1!  That should be enough time to make my year-end list, but that’s another story.  Take a deep breath, review the previous entries, and let’s take a look at the latest installment…

20. Antony & The JohnsonsI Am A Bird Now (2005)

Haunting, lovely and generally heart-wrenching, Antony‘s breakthrough is nothing short of a masterpiece.  Once you get past his voice (which, believe me, can be done), you’ll be infinitely rewarded with gems of modern balladry.

19. Steve PoltzChinese Vacation (2003)

An incredibly clever songwriter, Poltz follows up his fall from major-label grace with an eclectic mix of darkly humorous tunes and delicately arranged love songs.  Though his live shows are the best way to experience his quirkiness, Chinese Vacation is a pretty good substitute.

18. Robyn HitchcockLuxor (2004)

Earlier this decade, Robyn took a more folky approach to his inimitable brand of surreal songwriting.  Nearly every song is Robyn, alone with a guitar, singing out the heart of the guitar he’s playing.  Okay, I’ll leave the weird imagery to him, but Luxor follows in the vein of the classic I Often Dream Of Trains LP, which came out twenty years before.

17. Rock Plaza CentralAre We Not Horses? (2006)

Chris Eaton knows how to tell a story, even if he’s the only one that gets its plot.  A fable about angels, devils, robot horses and real horses, RPC‘s magnum opus is a striking mix of country, folk and rock.  Call them riders of Neutral Milk Hotel‘s coattails, but not even Jeff Magnum could make a robot horse’s existential crisis sound this good.

16. Lee Press-On & The NailsEl Bando En Fuego! (2002)

It’s a little unfair to put an album by a friend of mine on this list, but if Sean Altman has a place, then so should Lee.  On this, so far his last album, Press-On filters his band’s manic jump-swing through a golden age of Hollywood filter.  Standards like “Brazil” and “Pico & Sepulveda” get a Spanish-inflected makeover, but in a fun, campy way.  Call it kitsch, but El Bando is hell of a great album.

15. ClinicDo It! (2008)

A terrifying mix of surf, garage and countless unidentifiable genres, Clinic‘s music is nothing if not unique.  Do It! focuses their often scattershot instincts into a precise package.  Of course, when you wind a band like Clinic up this tight, the explosive unraveling is inevitable.  And that instability, that threat of sudden mania is what makes Do It! so exciting.

14. Robyn HitchcockSpooked (2006)

Unlike Luxor, Spooked features a band.  Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, to be precise.  The veteran duo bring a bluegrassy twang to many of the tracks, but again it’s Robyn’s intimate solo performances (especially his cover of Dylan‘s “Tryin’ To Get To Heaven Before They Close The Door”) that steal the show.

13. Andrew BirdArmchair Apocrypha (2007)

Reverb, loops, whistling; it’s a cool thing to be Andrew BirdArmchair Apocrypha does what The Mysterious Production Of Eggs only did occasionally: take Bird’s intricate and complex experimentation and craft it into bona fide songs.  The tracks flow together in a song cycle about birds, toy guns, awkward pauses and plane crashes, but fear not, for you’ll get lost in the world of Bird before you get too depressed.

12. The DecemberistsCastaways And Cutouts (2002)

Who would’ve guessed that this band of bookish troubadours would have gone from making up their own Child Ballads to being indie rock superstars within a few years?  Actually, listening to this, The Decemberists‘ debut, you can tell that they have got a lot in them.  From the lament of “Leslie Ann Levine” to the tell-all waltz of “A Cautionary Song,” Colin Meloy proves to be our generation’s vagabond minstrel, whose petticoat was mesallied by the chimbley sweep.  Or something like that.

11. The Magnetic FieldsDistortion (2008)

Stephin Merritt cloaks his songs in a haze of feedback and, yes, distortion for one of The Magnetic Fields‘ finest works.  If you’ve seen them live, you’ll find that there’s much more to the songs than the sonic squall.  These are some of his best compositions, and hold their own incredibly well in Merritt’s vast catalogue.  Next year, we’ll get Realism, ostensibly Distortion‘s counterpart.  If Merritt keeps on the streak he’s been on, the next decade will be another great one for The Magnetic Fields and their fans.

…Check back tomorrow for a special diversion, and back on Monday for #10!!


~ by E. on November 19, 2009.

One Response to “Finer Feelings: My Favorite Albums of the ’00s, #20-11”

  1. A friend of mine introduced me to THIS SONG from your number 12 pick. I liked it so much, I illustrated it.

    Thanks, ants. Thants.

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