best studio albums by one artist/group (no compilations or live albums)
10. black dog
& black sifichi - unsavoury products
-- the music of black dog and speech of black sifichi combine for an interesting
and dark world on plastic. as the liner notes state - "inspired by the
life and work of william s. burroughs" and jack kerouac. this album has
some good ideas and will take me a little while longer to absorb because
of the quantity of text, but it earns a place on this top ten list.
9. chemical brothers - come with us -- this album is a banger. it's just got beats from beginning to end and i'm not above that. nothing is really amazing about this album, but it keeps the toes tapping with memorable and lasting beats so it makes the list.
8. (tie) rjd2 - deadringer -- a lot like a dj shadow album both in style and quality. granted it's no "endtroducing," but it's a solid effort of the same vein (with more rapping). has a few really sweet tracks and some pretty good tracks which is to say it's good on the whole, but doesn't have the consistency of "endtroducing." at any rate you may want to check this listener friendly hip-hop album out.
dj shadow- private press -- impossible to follow up an album like endtroducing so i tried not to compare the two. this album stands on its own, but is sadly overshadowed by endtroducing. not very impressive at first, but grew on me with time.
7. boards of canada - geogaddi -- i don't really know what to say about an album like this. there's no real lyrics to speak of, i don't know what message the music might be relaying, but there's just something serene and hypnotic about this album. it isn't overly ambient (not that there is such a thing by my standards, but some might say there is...) and it doesn't even approach the mundane beats you might hear at a dance club...it's right in the middle and includes enough peripheral effects and interesting soundscapes to make the record layered enough to stay fresh. it's not all that similar to autechre or aphex twin in its sound, but it is in its effect. boards of canada do more than just create an atmosphere for the listener to exist in, but don't really have the foot-tapping element that two lone swordsmen sometimes do. i couldn't honestly tell you what this record is supposed to be about...some say it's about childhood or paranoia or whatever else...i haven't studied it enough to really form a hypothesis, but i can tell you that it sounds good enough to make it on this list.
6. interpol - turn on the bright lights -- not really my kind of music on the whole. it kinda has that indie rock/emo feel, but it succeeds and has some lasting hooks so it makes the list. there is some real muscianship on the album and that is obvious after just a couple listens. in fact, i discovered this album for myself before it started getting a lot of hype so that, if anything, adds creedence (at least to me) to this album's strength. a lot of times it's hard for me to enjoy an album that is getting so much press, but this one i think does deserve it. we played this album an insane number of times while at work and it got played out and old, but it never turned bad...that's a good sign; every song on this album is good. in ten years these guys are more likely to matter than the white stripes or the strokes. this is one of only two rock albums in my top ten.
5. el-p - fantastic damage -- a very different type of hip-hop album. lyrically dense and even more so musically. very noisy musically, but it does seem to be efficacious and appropriately used. i find the lyrics tough to understand, which is too bad since what i do understand usually ends up being either funny, personally revealing or socially critical. this album takes repeated listenings, but i have a feeling it's worth it. "stepfather factory" is one of those tracks that can really make an album...it captures so much of the feeling of the album and probably best exemplifies the thematic feeling of the album. the pop culture references - both in their quantity and cleverness - remind me of paul's boutique. one problem i have with it is really my own inexperience, but still detracts from the record - a lot of the time i can't understand el-p's raps. with most rap i don't have a problem deciphering what the person is saying, but i finding myself straining to understand a lot of what el-p is saying.
4. eminem - the eminem show -- in music it's important to not give a fuck about what anyone thinks and eminem embodies that better than anyone else in the mainstream. his lyrics are "sick" his beats are "off the hook" and the album has more real emotion than almost anything else i've heard this year. all that being said don't go into this album thinking that every line has great significance (other than to screw with you). you'll have to pick and choose what things he's saying because he means it and which ones he's saying just to piss people off. but really so much of hip-hop is the same way - it's an angry and "male" genre almost naturally - and as such you have to be able to delineate between the truth and the requisite posturing. this album is based upon an assumption of binary oppositions - for every "fuck you" statement there is an equal and opposite "i love you" statement - and as such this album, more so than many will ever admit, tells the tale of humanity (the duality of man) from one of its less proud products (eminem).
3. hella - hold your horse is -- this album will change how you listen to rock. it is something genuinely new in rock. to me it's rock's answer to idm...fucked up beats and rhythms that when listened to correctly actually have a good deal of logic and melody built in. just fantastic - it exceeds math rock as you know it. admittedly this record isn't for anyone and, in fact, one reason i like it so much is because of the live performance i saw this year.
2. mr. lif - i phantom/emergency rations EP-- i decided to count both of these albums together just because one is an EP and they came out the same year. "i phantom" is an album of epic proportions. the liner notes provide chapter synopses for each track on the album. the album unfolds like a book or movie might and requires just as much attention to reach its full potential, but it's well worth the work. production by el-p, insight and others make for a complete fusion of music and words. sweeping indictments of our social, political, and economic systems are made more personal and relevant than ever by following several characters throughout their journeys in mr. lif's version of the world. that is, macro problems are made to resonate more intimately with the audience through the study of micro events. we follow different characters who do/experience a range of things (from an average worker quitting his job to a father learning what it means to be a good parent) which all shape mr. lif's vision of our world. a fantastic piece of musical literature. "emergency rations" isn't the great piece of literature that i phantom is, but is easier to get into at first and that's in large part due to the tour de force track "home of the brave."
1. blackalicious - blazing arrow -- this album can change how you live your life, or at least the way you listen to hip-hop. they spell "blazing" correctly, rather than shortening it to "blazin'" and this is indicative of blackalicious' style - they don't talk down to you and they don't fall in the mainstream mold of gang banging and posturing, rather they are socially conscious, smart, have fresh beats and it all works without coming off as pretentious. blackalicous comes off as the kind of group i'd like to hang out with...they're intelligent (but not those not pseudo-intellectual types), real, and not gangbangers. chief xcel comes up with some great music throughout the record and gift of gab amazes with his, well, gift of gab on every track. what really makes this album so enjoyable and timeless for me is that it can function as both a bumpin feel good album and an introspective and deep intellectual/spiritual force depending on your approach...complete melding of both high and low art.
mali music - mali music
vincent gallo - recordings of music for film
add n to (x) - loud like nature
best albums that
couldn't make the list:
tabla beat science - live in sf
various artists - asian massive
various artists - red hot + riot (tribute to fela kuti)
10. lord of the rings: the two towers - i haven't even seen it yet, but i already know it deserves a spot.
9. my big fat greek wedding -- really funny, highlights an underrepresented culture, tackles real social/cultural issues and manages to incorporate romance without losing its comedic edge.
8. sum of all fears -- i'm not a big ben affleck fan, but this movie was quality. addressed some good issues, had some good comic relief, wasn't completely hollywood, and anything with morgan freeman is going to be at least decent.
7. road to perdition -- most likely on the list to receive academy award nominations and rightfully so. above average script with good comic relief and very good acting make for a good show.
6. panic room -- when critics say "edge of your seat thriller" it usually ends up meaning you're constantly contemplating leaving, but that's not the case here. it's david fincher in the director's chair and jodie foster as the lead. it's not an amazing movie, but this was a lame year and this was a good solid film.
5. naqoyqatsi -- didn't really resonate with me until i was able to gain some distance from the act of viewing it. only after i was able to allow some of the detail to dissolve and look at the overall effect of the film did i see the film for the great piece of work that it is.
4. femme fatale -- rebecca romijn-stamos is so amazingly hot that based upon those merits alone this film would make the list, add to that depalma's artistic direction and a really good screenplay and you have a very solid film school type film.
3. ring -- this is best new horror film i've seen since blair witch project. a lot rides on your reaction to the tape within the film...if you are frightened by the images (like the characters are) then you will be right alongside the characters as they are scared shitless throughout the film, if not then you'll probably not be too impressed by the movie. i was drawn in from the very beginning and liked the ending a lot.
2. punch drunk love -- one of the best love stories of all-time from a guy on the short list of quality directors in the mainstream today. adam sandler gets and nails a lifetime performance. ambitious, well-balanced, great and unusual soundtrack, just fantastic. had i seen it twice it would probably be number one.
1. bowling for columbine -- fantastic documentary film in all ways. only moore is able to combine great comedy with incredibly moving drama without hint of force or being contrived. very dense...about an hour through i found myself thinking that i had seen enough to fill two movies, but the journey was only half done. despite this i never felt tired or weary of the experience - i felt i had seen so much, but was not overwhelmed. this really is a must see documentary.