Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top Albums of the Duckade: 10-1
10. Fennesz - Endless Summer

The main thing here is the title track, which sounds like Beach Boys for the post-apocalyptic summer. It feels as though there's a radioactive haze around everything that, rather than being suffocating, only serves to make the few moments of total exposure all the more delicious. The rest of the album rules too.
9. The Avalaches - Since I Left You

This one is so nice. The very first track invites us to come in and to have a drink and a good time. And I swear to God, every time I really think to myself, "Yeah? Okay, I will."
8. The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?

I had totally forgotten about this one until I started making this list, but as soon as I saw it I knew it was going to be up there. These are great death-obsessed yet impossibly bright pop songs.

7. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois

You know the drill. Sufjan is awesome, and this is the best one.
6. Wolf Parade - Apologies to the Queen Mary

A couple of boy geniuses.
5. Panda Bear - Person Pitch

I guess this is Animal Collective's representative in my top ten. This is probably the best thing any of them did this decade, although everything they do is awesome. If this was a list of top artists, Animal Collective would be #1.
4. The Books - Thought For Food

All but the broadest definitions would probably question whether the The Books is music. Analytically, it's pretty much just sequences of samples plus some cello. However, when you actually listen to it, there's no question that it is not only music, but awesome jams. I guess you just have to follow your heart!
3. Manitoba - Up in Flames

A lot of you probably think this one is too high, and I'll admit it's partly here for sentimental reasons. This was really the first electronic music that I listened as more than a joke. However, it's still some of the most lush and vibrant music of any genre that I've heard. I feel that his more recent releases pale in comparison.
2. The Microphones - The Glow Pt. 2

While making this list, I focused on thinking about not what I listened to this decade, but how. The albums at the top of my list are ones that I listened to in a very intentional way. This one is a great example. There have been so many times when I wanted to listen to this album and this album only. And by listen I mean pretty much just sitting there, listening. I think that's the sign of a good one!
1. Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

The other day I was talking to Bryce about his top albums, and he mentioned that for him, each album has an associated memory of listening to it while driving somewhere with a particular person or group of people. This got me thinking that, probably, all art is fundamentally about processing memory: either specific memories of individuals or an inherent collective Platonic memory of the ideal.

I bring this up because my top album is really about memory itself. The lyrics make this apparent, but you can easily tell if you ignore the words altogether. It's evident in the slowness, patience, and tenderness these songs exhibit. For me, this album serves as a kind of universal nostalgia. Somehow, it reminds me of everything. That's why it's my top tog.

Next up is my list of top 500 historical heads of state.


  1. Nice list, Jim. It's funny you mention top artists of the decade, because that is exactly the list I've been working on. And I'm thinking I'll never be able to agree with myself enough to finish it. Yo La Tengo are making a good case for number one. So is Damien Jurado, for sheer consistency. But question: Should Animal Collective/Panda Bear count as one artist? Or should they be separated? Inquiring minds inquire inquisitively!

  2. My feeling is that if they're the same guys, they're the same guys. Just in a different guise.


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