Modern Classic Albums Part 3: 80-71
BURIAL - UNTRUE
Genre: Future Garage, Dubstep
Description: Artists like Skrillex and Knife Party have made dubstep a much vilified genre now days but before they decided to start making music that sounded like Optimus Prime having sex with a washing machine, a British dude that goes by the moniker ‘Burial’ (aka William Bevan) was already mixing random samples over the top of thick, earth shaking bass. This, his second full length, is a stunning display of his abundant talent and keen ear for mixing together sounds which are beautiful, haunting and lush. It is undoubtedly the standout dubstep release since the genre’s creation in the late 1999s challenged only by his wonderful “Kindred EP” released last year. Good headphones are a must.
Key Track: Like many electronic albums, “Untrue” has the greatest impact when it’s listened to in full. There are a few cuts that standout though. The two longest tracks (“Etched Headache” and “Untrue”) are both excellent whilst the immediately catchy “Archangel” is also terrific. For pure beauty and musicianship though, “Shell of Light” is the standout.
PJ HARVEY - LET ENGLAND SHAKE
Genre: Alternative singer/songwriter, Art Pop, Alternative Rock
Description: PJ Harvey has been one of the most consistent female alternative artists of the last couple of decades. This position on the countdown really was a raffle between “Rid of Me”, “Bring Me Your Love”, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea”, “Dry” and this conceptual masterpiece. In case you’re wondering, yes, that is over half her discography! In the end though, “Let England Shake” just edged out “Bring Me Your Love” because it best displays her ability to reinvent herself from album to album and still come up with the goods in the end. Pitch perfect production and instrumentation is complemented superbly by PJ’s distinctive voice. “Let England Shake” is one of the very best albums of the new decade so far.
Key Track: “The Words that Maketh Murder” was a worthy first single, however “In the Dark Places” is the song that grabs me the most. Harvey’s voice is characteristically sublime and lyrically it’s a knockout.
TV ON THE RADIO - RETURN TO COOKIE MOUNTAIN
Genre: Indie Rock, Art Rock, Experimental Rock
Description: TV on the radio are currently one of the great indie/experimental rock bands going around. They had a major purple patch in the middle of the 2000s and this cracking release was the high point of that period. It’s obvious that they really pushed themselves to develop new sounds and incorporate as many influences as possible. The opener “I Was A Lover” has a glitch pop feel, while hip-hop style beats and droney patches show themselves in multiple songs (especially the climatic “Wash the Day”). However, through the sound collage they still manage to put together some of their best songs and most listenable material. It’s the defining album from an excellent rock band.
Key Track: It’s impossible to go past “Wolf Like Me” as the key track of the album. If you’ve never heard it then you’ve obviously been living in a dark gloomy place. You fucking sad bastard you! It’s one of the greatest songs of the 2000s.
DEFTONES - WHITE PONY
Genre: Alternative Metal, Nu-Metal
Description: Unquestionably the most accomplished “Nu-Metal” release of all time, “White Pony” enabled Deftones to stretch the gap between themselves and the likes of nu-metal pin up boys such as Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit. This album in particular showed that they were a highly credible metal band in their own right, let alone within the Nu-metal genre. They created a set of songs full of passion, anger and atmosphere. It’s a moody masterpiece for the new age of metal.
Key Track: You could easily throw a blanket over all the songs here; such is the consistency on the album. However, the two that stand out in particular are the Maynard James Keenan assisted “Passenger” and the crushing “Change (In the House of Flies)”. Both are atmospheric, borderline-creepy tracks. They also both kick serious arse.
ANIMAL COLLECTIVE - MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILLION
Genre: Neo-Psychedelia, Psychedelic Pop
Description: Bursting forward in an explosion of colour, this 2009 offering from new age psychedelic pop dudes Animal Collective is a wonderful display of shiny production and shimmering melodies. “Merriweather Post Pavilion” is possibly the most accessible of their much vaunted discography, mixing trippy freak outs with undeniable dance-ability in parts. It’s one of the stand out albums of the late 2000s.
Key Track: “My Girls” was the first single of MPP and for good reason. Layers upon layers of vocals over the top of a spidery synth loop and undeniably catchy lyrics enable it to quickly burn itself into your brain.
THE AVALANCHES - SINCE I LEFT YOU
Genre: Plunderponics, Instrumental Hip Hop
Description: The second Australian album on this list is also one of the most original. This is some statement considering “Since I Left You” uses about 3,500 vinyl samples to construct its 18 tracks. Masterfully mashing together this library of sound, The Avalanches came up with an album that is cohesive, forward thinking and most of all, exceedingly enjoyable. It’s hands down one of the greatest Australian musical achievements of all time and gets nowhere near the recognition it deserves.
Key Track: The opening title track is one damn damn catchy piece of music but the undoubted genius of the sprawling “Frontier Psychiatrist” makes it the standout.
YO LA TENGO - I CAN HEAR THE HEART BEATING AS ONE
Genre: Indie Rock, Lo-Fi Indie, Indie Pop
Description: This LP is another fine example of indie rock from the 90s. Yo La Tengo have been making music since the mid 80s and are still putting out stuff today but it was during the 90s that they were at their creative peak. They released a string of great albums but “I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One” is definitely the jewel in the crown. It’s a fairly diverse ride, with Lo-Fi meeting shoegaze and acoustic pop. It’s perhaps not the most consistent album on this list but when it’s good, it’s bloody lovely.
Key Track: “Deeper into Movies” is just about a perfect piece of lo-fi indie rock. The wall of guitars and deep mixed, shoegazey vocals are guaranteed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy in your loins.
MOGWAI - YOUNG TEAM
Genre: Post-Rock, Noise Rock
Description: Mogwai have been one of the defining post-rock bands of the last few decades but at no point have they passed the dizzying heights of their 1997 debut full length. “Young Team” displayed their characteristic formula of building melodic passages before destroying them in a wave of distorted fuzzy, guitars. But “Young Team” just sounds so much more edgy than a lot of their later material. Weird vocal samples and slabs of eerie drone separate many of the tracks. It makes for a confronting listen at times but importantly it is also incredibly engaging and memorable, something that Mogwai haven’t been able to achieve at other points in their career.
Key Track: The huge closer, “Mogwai Fear Satan”, is easily one of Mogwai’s greatest ever compositions. A superbly expansive piece of music.
ISIS - PANOPTICON
Genre: Atmospheric Sludge Metal, Post-Metal, Post-Rock
Description: Monstrously epic are about the only terms that can effectively describe Isis’s Magnum Opus, “Panopticon”. Seven tracks; all massive in length; all massive in sound. This album is about as perfect as any band has split post-rock and atmospheric metal tendencies. Crushing riffs and throaty vocals are interspersed with delicate instrumental interludes, creating a listening experience that is not only attention grabbing but very moving at times. This sensational LP is in the top couple of metal albums since the turn of the new millennium.
Key Track: You’d have to go a long way to find a better post-metal track than “Syndic Calls”. It’s absolutely immense.
BRAND NEW - THE DEVIL AND GOD ARE RAGING INSIDE ME
Genre: Emo, Alternative Rock, Indie Rock
Description: I’m sure the genre name will turn many pompous music fans away, with thoughts of dark eyeliner and whining vocals littering their heads but the truth of the matter is that “Emo” stands for “Emotion Hardcore”, a sub-genre started during the hardcore explosion in the mid 80s by bands such as “Rites of Spring” and “Embrace”, pushed forward by bands such as “Sunny Day Real Estate” and “Jimmy Eat World” in the 90s and then perfected by Brand New in the 00s with this positively sublime record. On “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me” they put together a collection of affecting, heartfelt and angst-riddled songs that grab you from the moment frontman Jesse Lacey screams the band into life in the opening track “Sowing Season”. The particularly memorable album art also deserves special mention.
Key Track: This is definitely a line-ball decision between “Sowing Season” and the gorgeous and emotionally sapping “Jesus”. Lyrically it’s one of the finest examples of the Emo genre. “Well, Jesus Christ, I'm not scared to die / I'm a little bit scared of what comes after / Do I get the gold chariot? / Do I float through the ceiling? / Do I divide and fall apart? / 'cause my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark / And the ship went down in sight of land / And at the gates does Thomas ask to see my hands.”