I don’t know why, but it’s surprising to see a favorite like Sun Electric’s 30.7.94 Live turn 20 years old. I felt the same way about Boards of Canada’s In a Beautiful Place out in the Country turning ten a few years ago. I suppose it just means I’m getting up there too.

I’m not normally the sentimental type, but these three tracks were a big influence on me at the time they first appeared. It was born of the era that produced the legendary Artificial Intelligence series on Warp Records, Aphex Twin’s dark and moody Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and Ultramarine’s exquisite Every Man and Woman is a Star. But Sun Electric combined the best from all three in one amazing hour of music. It’s the one I listen to most after all these years.

SunElectric-Castor&PolluxUnlike most of my favorite albums, I don’t recall the specifics of how I found 30.7.94 Live. Of course, my friends and I knew about Sun Electric, first from their association with LX and the Orb (whose influence is heard but thankfully tempered) and then the genre-defining album art created by the Designers Republic (as seen first in Emigre Magazine around this same time). I liked moments on Kitchen and tracks like “O’Locco,” but none of the music really stuck. Not so with this album in general and “Castor & Pollux” in particular.

It’s almost seven minutes before the first hint of percussion appears in it, but the track bounces even when seemingly standing still. I’d hardly call it an exercise in restraint, not with something so buoyant bubbling beneath, but this tension is magical. By the midpoint, it’s a stomper without so much as a single kick drum. I love the way those gently meandering pads balance the much more aggressive bleeps and bloops, and the way those more excitable cymbals are extended by the slowly-spaced claps, until the entire thing boils over nearly ten minutes in. Then the bottom drops out just after 11 minutes, and that tightly-wound SH-101 line comes out of nowhere, and I can’t stop smiling until it ends.

Even today, much of electronic music feels overly-sequenced and predictable. This is anything but, not with over 18 minutes of pure organic bliss, full of unexpected twists and turns, and such wonderful moments as a sample of The Beatles’ “Hard Days Night” turned psychedelic. The mix is fluid, the spatial arrangement is precise, and the quantity of ideas is matched only by their quality. “Castor & Pollux” still shimmers 20 years later. Have a listen:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The entire album is well worth a buy (just $3.49 on bleep.com or even less on iTunes) and an extended listen, like, say, over the next 20 years. The final track, the perfectly named “Northern Lights #5,” is every bit as good as this one.

Speaking of which, until I looked it up when I finished writing this post, I never knew the title had a connection to Greek mythology: “Castor and Pollux were twin boys born to Leda after her seduction by Zeus. Castor was mortal, but Pollux was immortal; at Pollux’s request they shared his immortality between them, spending half their time below the earth in Hades and the other half on Olympus.” What a fitting name for an otherworldly track.

I have written about Bibio twice before (posts one and two here), but not nearly enough given Stephen’s near perfect fit for my musical tastes. His music always hits the sweet spot, so endlessly satisfying yet never overly sweet. I can come back for more and more without ever tiring of it.

His latest track, “À tout à l’heure,” is another gem. Of it, he writes:

Although the majority of my tracks get started and finished in my studio, I occasionally take things outside where I’ve found the process and the result to be refreshing. The recording of ‘À tout à l’heure’ started out in my garden on a gorgeous sunny day when it felt morally wrong to be hidden away indoors. I still had the urge to make music so I limited myself to a few bits of gear and set up in my garden: a 12 string guitar, an MPC sampler, a microphone and a cassette recorder. I drummed on objects in the garden, like a plastic watering can and ‘snipped’ garden shears for percussion parts. The guitar part was something I had been developing over some time in my head but it was this change of environment that led to recording the backbone of this song, which I then continued to build upon in my studio later. When I listen to the intro of that track now, I still hear the sunshine and the garden in it because for me it’s like a photograph of that moment. No doubt the sunny outdoors inspired the lyrics too.

Once you listen to it, you’ll understand why:

I can’t believe I have to wait more than two months to hear the rest of Silver Wilkerson. Expect a few more songs to pop up here when it finally comes out.

Certainly millions have before me, and I definitely will not be the last, so I might as well call attention to the possibly pointless / perhaps perfect new video of my favorite song on Amok, “Ingenue.” If you’ve neither seen nor heard it, and let’s be honest there can’t be many of you, here it is:

On one hand, it appears as though choreography was an afterthought. It’s disjointed, haphazard, and even a bit clumsy. On the other hand, the cinematic quality is anything but. The backstage view before the screen drops is impeccably situated, the slow and subtle reveal of the empty theater is masterful, the appearance of the stars on the ceiling is stunning, and the closeup of her hand on his head is by far the most beautiful of many beautiful moments. But it’s the lyrics I keep coming back to:

You know like the back of your hand
Who let em in
You got me into this mess so
You get me out

You know like the back of your hand
Your bell jar
Your collection
Ingenue

You get me into this mess
Fools rushing in, yeah
And they know it

The seeds of the dandelion you know blow away
In good time, I hope, I pray
If I’m not there now physically
I’m always before you
Come what may

And you know it
Fools rushing in
Yeah
Well you know it
Who let them in?
Yeah

Well you know it
Gone with a touch of your hand
Gone with a touch of your hand
Move through the moment
Though it betrays
Transformations
Jackals and flames
If I knew now
What I knew then
Just give me more time
I hope and pray
I mistake all you say
The seeds of the dandelion you blow away

Even more so is Thom’s timing. His vocals only loosely follow the music, slipping between the cracks at times to emerge after an extended delay. I’ve yet to make it past this track on the album, it stops me cold each and every time I play it. Does it move you too?

Seemingly out of nowhere, Blake’s new single (and video) hit YouTube tonight. Just his voice, a synth, claps, and pure magic:

Cannot wait to hear the full album in April. I still absolutely love his first full-length, and pretty much everything else he’s done since too. Oh, and, it is inconceivable to me that he has this much talent and taste. So creative, and such flawless execution too.

With the proper release of Darkstar’s newest album, News from Nowhere, I can finally retire the link to their “Amplified Ease” video. I will post it here for safekeeping:

I must have played this video a hundred times, mostly for the music alone. But each time I caught the video itself, I was reminded of just how far the visual representation of electronic music has come. This is sophisticated stuff. 1080p ftw.

Make no mistake, “Amplified Ease” is an exquisite track too. So dense and layered, but completely light and free. It flows effortlessly, organically, especially with that ever so slightly slipped snare to keep (push?) time. I can’t wait to dive into the rest.

I always make a mix of my favorite songs of the year, but I’ve only posted a few here (see 2006, 2007, and 20 songs from the 2000s). For one, these posts take an enormous amount of time to do, and two, there’s not much you and I can do with them once done. That said, I do enjoy the process and the historical record.

Thundercat · “For Love (I Come Your Friend)” · The Golden Age of Apocalypse

So Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner gets Flying Lotus to produce his new album and then release it on his esteemed Brainfeeder label and the first song they leak is a George Duke cover that just melts my mind every time I hear it? This track has FlyLo’s fingerprints all over it, especially as it goes from seemingly nowhere to everywhere in a heartbeat around 2:30 in. It’s an absolutely epic track and a perfect opening for the mix.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Plaid · “tender hooks” · scintilli

At long last, after a good four plus years of broken promises, Plaid released scintilli. Granted, there were a number of other soundtracks in between this and their previous full-length on Warp, but nothing quite so profound. I could pull any of the 13 songs randomly and have a gem to share with you here, but “tender hooks” is the one that I play over and over again. It’s such a delicate and deliberate build-up, and I never would have guessed that a stomper of a track would emerge. I can’t imagine a more appropriate name for it than “tender hooks.” Exquisite.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Battles · “Futura” · Gloss Drop

I’ve written about my love for Battles many times here. I had the great fortune of seeing them perform on the Mirrored tour in 2007 and again just before Gloss Drop was released earlier this year. “Futura” was by far the highlight of the most recent show, and I watched any live performance I could find on youtube until the album was released just to get my fix. Battles is one of a handful of bands that’s actually worth watching play live, as they really do create these sounds on the fly rather than just pressing play on a loop. Check this video from La Blogotheque for proof.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Hudson Mohwake · “Thank You” · Satin Panthers

I saw Hudson play live up close not too long after Butter came out. He had taken all of those already ridiculously over-the-top tracks to entirely new heights, so I was beyond excited to hear this new EP. I’ll honest though, I thought Satin Panthers was a little flat, but “Thank You” almost makes up for it. It’s exactly what you’d expect from him: it’s dripping with funk, super-sized ideas, comically absurd melodies, and his typically tight percussion. I just wish it didn’t feel like a consolation prize.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Four Tet · “Locked” · TEXT011 / FABRICLIVE 59

I’ve long had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Kieran Hebden. His remixes are often better than any song he does on his own, and his singles are often better than any album, and his collaborations with Burial and Thom Yorke are generally head and shoulders above all. That said, I was completely blown away by his FABRICLIVE mix from earlier this year, and “Locked” (the last track on the mix) is perhaps my favorite of all. That “womp womp” of the bass at 3:00 just lights me up every time. More like this, please.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Juk Juk · “Winter Turns Spring” · TEXT012

I saw that Keiran was posting tracks on soundcloud earlier this year, and began following him once he posted this track from Juk Juk before it came out on his TEXT label. I bought the vinyl before the track ended, and continued to play “Winter Turns Spring” almost daily on my walk to work on soundcloud over 3G in SF, which is no small feat. This is such a confident track from such a young producer. It feels like an old friend, but could clearly only be made in this era. I love the way it decomposes in the middle, with the frizzling bass that comes in and then organically fades out to leave just the core rhythm track in its place. If you like this, don’t miss his mix for The Daily Street. It’s every bit as brilliant.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Rustie · “Hover Traps” · Glass Swords

I didn’t get into Rustie’s stuff on first listen. I bought the two track EP that Warp released before Glass Swords came out, and while I liked it, I didn’t love it. I poked around to see what other people had on their end-of-year lists when I began pulling tracks together for this mix, and Rustie was all over them all. I bought the album and immediately fell in love with “Hover Traps.” There’s so much going on in this track, but it never feels crowded or forced. His production is tight, his ideas inventive even if a bit derivative, and the final product is one of the lighter and more lively tracks on this list. I can’t wait to dive into the rest of it in the new year.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Rone · “Planet Zoo” · So So So EP

I came across this EP from Rone on bleep.com, and I was sold on it by the description alone. Like Juk Juk’s track, “Planet Zoo” feels both old and new at the same time. It clearly points back to the heady days of IDM but does so in a way that’s genuinely new and novel. Perhaps it’s just the pace of it, but I just love the way it moves so effortlessly. I can’t wait to hear his full-length album when it comes out.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Burial · “NYC” · Street Halo EP

Like me, you probably bought this three track EP from Burial the moment you came across it without a second thought. This track, though, exceeded my every expectation. I can’t imagine anything more soft and subtle from him. The word majestic comes to mind. It’s so refined and restrained, yet it clearly packs his unparalleled touch and trademark punch on the lower end. I loved the two tracks he did with Thom and Keiran, but I played this track nonstop for days on end, and still can’t get past it without an extra play or two now. It’s as close to perfect as it gets.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Bibio · “Excuses” · Mind Bokeh

I almost neglected to add this track to the mix, but once I placed it after Burial’s track there was no way it was going to get bumped. I’ve underestimated Bibio before, but even this track in particular and this album in general blew me away. I know of no one else who can so naturally bend genres at will. This is everything a modern electronic song should be: well-composed, equal parts elegant and phrenetic, and informed by what has come before but completely unrestrained by it. I even love the cheeky little “A fragment of time. Which is not recorded. There is a moment of darkness.” sample at the end, mostly because of the way he cuts it up to suit the song rather than that other way around.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Thank you for listening. If you like what you found here, you will definitely find more in the Songs of the Day tag. Enjoy!

Boards of Canada’s exquisite In a Beautiful Place out in the Country was first released ten years ago today on November 27, 2000, and it’s a moment worth remembering I think. Recall that the world had gone mad over their first full length release, Music has the Right to Children, and had waited well over two years for something new — that this was such a bolt from the blue makes it all the more impressive. I hold this lovely little four-track EP in the highest regard, and the limited edition sky blue vinyl as one of my most cherished possessions. I still can’t believe I opened it for a friend to play, otherwise it would still be sitting in the plastic sleeve, untouched by human hands.

In a Beautiful Place out in the CountryI always recommend these four songs to people new to electronic music in general or BoC in particular — I can’t think of a better representation of the genre itself or their body of work. IABPOITC flows so effortlessly you just might miss it on the first listen. Successive spins pull you deeper and deeper into its trance, leaving you no closer to solving the mystery of its magic, but thirsty for more. I still find it endlessly entertaining and every bit as alluring as my first listen ten years ago. Warp’s founder, Steve Beckett, the man who brought BoC to the masses, says it best:

“Sweet psychedelic 80′s funk – Boards have got a nack for sucking you into a tune within a few seconds and then just holding you there in the beauty of their sounds which connect directly to your heart.”

It begs to be played as one song from start to finish, but the title track stands alone as the finest of the four. Have a listen:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

For those of you paying attention to my humble blog, you’ll note that I left this masterpiece off of my 20 songs from my favorite 20 albums of the 2000s. I cannot begin to explain nor atone for this error. It belongs not only on the list but at or near the top.

Lastly, I was fortunate enough to see them play live in 1999 at Warp’s We Are Ten party in London. They opened their set with the fourth track on the then-unreleased IABPOITC, Zoetrope. A zoetrope loosely translates from Greek to “wheel of life” in English, dates to the second century, and functions as a crude means of showing animation, none of which I knew at the time. I have searched high and low for some footage, even a still photograph, of the video they showed on the screen behind them as this song played — words fail to describe what is still one of the most magical things I have ever seen. Think of the cover art on MHTRTC, with those same nameless and faceless forms, this time in full motion on playground equipment, only instead of moving forward they floated backward without a hint of anything unnatural. It was, as this entire release is, an astonishingly beautiful sleight of hand.

Here’s the audio of Zoetrope from the show:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Thank you, Mike and Marcus, for this still wonderful gift, even ten years later. Now, may I please ask for something new in 2011?

Sam O’Hare’s “The Sandlot” is an absolute masterpiece. It certainly helps that its subjects are the buildings, people, and public spaces of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but it’s the impeccable composition and delicate pace with which they are handled that really shines.

It’s comprised of more than 35,000 still photographs shot over five days and two nights in August of 2009, a herculean effort in and of itself. Each image was manually tilt-shifted and then assembled in time-lapse. What you see here is New York in miniature, yet vivid motion. It’s more humane, more comprehensible, and more attainable, all things not often said about it.

While you can watch it here, it’s worth clicking over to Vimeo to watch “The Sandlot” in full-screen high-def.

As for the music by Human, owners of what looks to be a website designed and developed in the late ’90s (no, that’s not a compliment), Sam says:

I wanted the track to speak to what it is like to experience the many rhythms, pulses and moods of the city and the composition, especially the peak, does this beautifully. The vocals add narrative and pacing to the piece, and really help draw you through it.

Yes, and how. This track, untitled and completely unavailable as best I can tell, would fit perfectly in the Morr Music catalog, slotted between Styrofoam and The Go Find. The male vocals are gentle but spirited, calm but not sedate, and the female vocals remind me of Kirsty Hawkshaw’s work on Opus III’s “It’s a Fine Day,” perhaps best known as the sample in Orbital’s epic “Halcyon and on and on.” High praise indeed.

The lyrics are stunning, especially the last line and inspiration for the title of this post:

Here we go
Start over
Motion fills the air

C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon now

And we know
The fragments
Revealing all the patterns
everywhere

C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon
C’mon c’mon now

And we are
The story
Turn the page
And see what happens next

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go

We walk outside
All afternoon
All afternoon
All afternoon

All afternoon

Over and over
All afternoon

Rivers of light
Flowing home again
A flicker and its gone

As much as I love music, I often find that the video gets in the way. I can think of only a handful of that serve as more than just a compliment, they provide a means to access the music in a totally new way, something like The Books “Smells Like Content” (like tiny fragments of a finger snap). I will always love this quick “Glowing Cities Under a Nighttime Sky” clip, but the music is secondary. The only one that really comes close is this gem by Andrew Paynter for Tortoise:

That’s the San Francisco I know and love, so cool and crisp, but it pales in comparison to the warmth and glow of Sam’s New York. Makes me wonder why I’m still here and not there.

I have a great and lasting fondness for compiling these lists, making these mixes, and writing these posts. In years past, I spent nearly 16 hours doing a simple ten track list+mix+post, and then quietly resolved to never spend that much time again, but chances are I won’t be all that far from it once this particular effort is done. Fact is, this is a painful process, but still something I find much joy in doing.

↓ Download all 20 songs I had no intention of compiling such a lengthy retrospective on the music of the naughties, but once I saw that others were doing it, and then combed through my list, I found a bunch of albums that deserved recognition. However small and insignificant my words may be, these 20 songs from my favorite 20 albums of the 2000s meant so much to me.

So here they are, mixed to perfection. Enjoy!

Jamie Lidell · “Yougotmeup” · Multiply · 2005

I bought this album the moment it came out — without bothering to preview it or read the reviews — even though his previous efforts left me scratching my head as often as waggin’ my booty. “Yougotmeup” is completely out of this world, and not only sets the tone for the rest of the album, it set me on a five year journey to see him live as many times as I could. No one else even comes close to the creativity and ingenuity of Jamie Lidell, especially in front of a crowd.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Vampire Weekend · “A-Punk” · Vampire Weekend · 2008

Had my friend Maroney not passed along this album, and had Abby not fallen in love with it, I doubt I would have ever listened to it. I’m not even sure it belongs on this list — I have seen countless arguments for The Strokes over anyone else of their type — but there’s something so pure and simple about Vampire Weekend. On top of that, this album speaks to me much like the Violent Femmes self-titled debut did some 27 years ago. No small feat there.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah · “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth” · Clap Your Hands Say Yeah · 2005

This song and this album (really, everything about CYHSY) just scream New York City for me. I even lost $300 trying to see them play on NYE in NYC (and I always thought I was street-smart) but eventually saw them twice. I credit them with bringing the feel of a dj set to the typical rock show, stringing each and every song together with some sort of whimsical musical transition. Now (almost) everyone does it, but they were the first.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Radiohead · “Bodysnatchers” · In Rainbows · 2007

I was waaay late to the game with Radiohead, so much so that the first album I purchased was Hail to the Thief. Sure, I complained about the 160kbps thing when they first released In Rainbows, but paid for it anyway and then paid again when the cd version came out so I could have higher fidelity copies. I raved about Bodysnatchers in my list of favorites from 2007, so please go read about it there if you care. Chances are you already feel the same way about this song, it’s an absolute masterpiece.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Thom Yorke · “Black Swan” · The Eraser · 2006

As I wrote about The Eraser in general and “Black Swans” in particular in 2007:

It’s quirky and downright weird at times, but songs like this one are so completely infectious that I can’t stop listening to them over and over again. There’s that innocence again, and a rawness that runs counter to the polish of Radiohead. This is a definite favorite of 2006.

I still find myself drawn to this album, and finding new twists and turns with each and every listen. It seems wholly unfair that one man should have such impeccable taste and immense talent, but at least Thom Yorke sees fit to share his gifts with the rest of us.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Plaid · “Masato Shuffle” · Heaven’s Door · 2008

Whereas most of the more traditional bands on this list have an electronic(a) edge, Plaid is the purest expression of that sound. I spent all of 2009 anticipating their still unreleased album entitled Scintilli, and almost slept on Heaven’s Door (the soundtrack for a Japanese film) in the process, but I am eternally grateful I found it. I have no fewer than seven favorites on this album, but “Masato Shuffle” is at the top of my list. It’s the most exquisitely delicate song, so seemingly effortless you might be tempted to ignore it. Take a minute or two and let it pull you in — I can and have listened to this song on repeat for hours on end — you’ll soon go back for more.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ulrich Schnauss · “Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn” · Far Away Trains Passing By · 2001

Many, many moons ago, I coined a phrase to describe music not at all unlike Ulrich’s: “a motion with emotion.” Far Away Trains Passing By first appeared to me in the form of what seemed to be hundreds of messages on the idm list-serv I once followed, all of which raved about his enchantingly melodic and indelibly rhapsodic sound. Still to this day I remain in awe that so many loops can be so perfectly placed, never crowded, always balanced. “Blumenwiese Neben Autobahn” — roughly translates to “flower meadow beside the freeway” — is the most pristine gem on an album full of them, one I can’t recommend enough.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Animal Collective · “Graze” · Fall Be Kind · 2009

Animal Collective and its many permutations so thoroughly dominated the latter half of my musical decade that I have no choice but to dedicate 20% of these songs to them, and I easily could have added more. Fall Be Kind is the only EP on the list, but more than holds its own, even more so as it comes on the heels of the esteemed Merriweather Post Pavilion (found below). All five songs on FBK are instant classics, and light years beyond anything else out there, including MPP. I don’t know how they do it but I hope they never stop.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Grizzly Bear · “Southern Point” · Veckatimest · 2009

Were it not for two back-to-back Animal Collective shows, including the one in the Big Sur fog with only 299 other lucky souls, Grizzly Bear would have been the show of the year for me, and “Southern Point” its absolute highlight. While the album comes across as soft and even somewhat delicate at times, their presence onstage was anything but and their sound was big, Big, BIG. This was the song they opened with, featuring Daniel Rossen on lead vocals and Ed Droste as his primary backup, and it instantly brought an already revved up Fillmore crowd to a fever pitch. I have a feeling this band is just hitting its stride, and will be back bigger and better than ever with their next album.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Battles · “Atlas” · Mirrored · 2007

Battles delivered one of the most unexpected and absolutely epic albums of the decade, and two of the most spectacular videos too. I still get chills when I think about the show they played in San Francisco, and remember being somewhat disappointed that they looked like such normal guys — I half expected robots. Tortoise, aka TRTS, might be the only other band that can play as tightly through a subtle change in pace and as frenetically for such lengths of time as BTTLS. I always want to call John Stanier, John Stamos. Not even close.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

!!! · “Me and Guiliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)” · Louden Up Now · 2004

Those ungoogleable bastards, !!!, completely won me over with 2004′s brilliant Louden Up Now, and then sealed the deal with their tour in support of 2007′s Myth Takes. Imagine a high school pep rally gone awry, with a bit of Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies, some New York punk, and late 90′s rave culture thrown in for good measure. Oh, and some killer lyrics too:

People always ask me, “What’s so fucking great about dancing?”
How the fuck should I know? Yeah, even I can barely understand it
But when the music takes over, the music takes control

“Me and Guiliani” was one of my Songs of the Day in 2008, and I’m quite fond of that post if you’re interested in reading more. I love !!! and can’t wait to hear what they do next.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Hudson Mohawke · “No One Could Ever” · Butter · 2009

Thus far, my list feels fairly conventional, even to me. Sure, there’s a handful of outliers, but nothing quite like Butter. In fact, I think it sticks out like a sore thumb, whatever that means, and “No One Could Ever” is the biggest red blister of all, pulsing with an insatiable beat and ridiculously hyperactive drums. I love, love, love everything on this album, and anything else I have heard from HudMo. To be sure, not all of his music sounds like chipmunks on crack, but his best stuff certainly does.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Squarepusher · “Tetra Sync” · Ultravisitor · 2004

I can’t say that I ever really fell for Ultravisitor top to bottom quite like the way I fell for Hello Everything and Just a Souvenir, but every time I come back to it I find another gem. Squarepusher is undoubtedly one of my all-time favorites, top five in fact (on the active list at least), and “Tetra Sync” is one of his finest efforts. Tom Jenkinson has a way of making music that in which everything sounds like a remix of one or more of his earlier tracks, but this one sounds like his entire career rolled up in one. I can barely wrap my mind around what a killer track this is, and more often than not am reduced to dropping f-bombs to describe it — it’s *that* good. I have seven other songs posted if you want more: Love Will Tear Us Apart, Star Time 2, Port Rhombus, Iambic 5 Poetry, Iambic 9 Poetry, A Real Woman, and Star Time 1. All every bit as epic.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Animal Collective · “Daily Routine” · Merriweather Post Pavilion · 2009

As I wrote about “Daily Routine” earlier this year:

Normally, I play a SOTD over and over while I write these posts. Not so with this amazing new song from Animal Collective, in fact I can’t do anything beyond marvel at its absolute perfection: so sparse yet so full, so chaotic yet so incredibly peaceful. And that bass, those drums, the claps, the carnivalesque keys, and that seemingly endless outro, I defy you to find a more spectacular song, at least one that isn’t on the very same album!

I remember this one more than any other song that they played at both of my shows earlier this summer, especially since they extended the doodling at the beginning and let Panda take the outro even further. Merriweather Post Pavilion may very well be the album of the decade, and this song is a big reason why. Is is still sacrilegious to say that Animal Collective is my generation’s Beatles?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

o9 · “Terminal Silver” · Church of the Ghetto PC · 2004

Much like Ultravisitor, I initially found a couple of songs I instantly loved, and more or less stopped listening to the rest of Church of the Ghetto PC. I don’t know what prompted another listen in the past year or so, but ever since then I have been hooked on o9. As best I can tell he dropped off the face of the earth, so if you’re out there, Jesse Legg, and still making music, I want to hear it! If nothing else, please see to it that some 45rpm mp3s of No Delay for Days are added, I can’t stand it so slow.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Burial · “Ghost Hardware” · Untrue · 2007

It never really mattered whether it was called dubstep, grime, or wonky, I simply didn’t care for it. The entire genre always felt too contrived, too of the moment without any regard for the one prior or post. Somehow Burial came out of the very same movement, only to rise above all else with an album so perfectly situated not in the present, past, or future, but simultaneously in all three. Abby put it best when she said:

It sounds like Jamie Lidell meets Boyz II Men meets Autechre.

Yep, classic.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Flying Lotus · “Roberta Flack (feat Dolly)” · Los Angeles · 2008

FlyLo burst on the scene as quickly and vividly in 2006 as HudMo did in 2008, and like Butter I could point to any number of songs on Los Angeles that deserve special mention here:

[B]ut for me the one that truly stands above and beyond all others is “RobertaFlack (feat. Dolly).” The sparsely spaced rhythm track shines on its own, but that gives Ellison plenty of room to add Dolly’s beautiful voice for color and depth. And then he tops it off with the most unexpected breakdown at the end, so ridiculously sultry and seductive I could listen to those last 52 seconds on repeat for the rest of my life and die a very happy man

It’s totally and completely unfair to call it easy listening, but whenever I need to find a groove to get something done, I always reach for Los Angeles. The entire album flows so well, and the music itself is neither in my face nor so distant that I don’t notice it. It’s full of songs as eloquent as “Roberta Flack,” one masterpiece after the next.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Panda Bear · “Take Pills” · Person Pitch · 2007

Person Pitch was my first Animal Collective experience, and at the time it seemed like I was the last to find out about it or them, but it didn’t take me long to want much more. From there I jumped into Strawberry Jam and my first show at The Fillmore, then a deep dive into their back catalog. There’s something so raw and immature about this solo effort from Noah Lennox, it’s such a scattered amalgamation of sounds and themes, but there’s a knowing wisdom about it too, like this is the way music is meant to be. I always imagined that the creatures on the cover lent the music its eclecticism, especially that gigantic sea lion. I bet he plays a mean bass.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan · “Lay Lay Off Faselam” · Pullhair Rubeye · 2007

Believe it or not, this is the only album on my list that I did not personally pay for, and as far as I know it’s not even commercially available in its reversed form. My brother Kevin sent this to me, and it instantly became one of my most cherished possessions, for lack of a better word. The music is flimsy and gauzy, Kria Brekkan’s voice is dainty and wispy, and the lyrics are dreamy and distant. What it lacks in mass is more than made up in mettle, for this is a deeply heartfelt album, one-of-a-kind, and not likely to be duplicated ever again.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Bjork · “I See Who You Are” · Volta · 2007

Speaking of the heart, I can think of no greater love song than “I See Who You Are” from Bjork and Mark Bell. This is such an intensely beautiful piece — the underlying music itself is perfectly restrained whereas Bjork’s voice is anything but — and each element embodies the message so well:

Let’s celebrate now all this flesh on our bones
Let me push you up against me tightly
And enjoy every bit of you

Do not miss that crescendo at the end with the horns and the pipa (a traditional Chinese string instrument, much like a sitar) played by Min Xiao-Fen. It all adds up to one phenomenal track, and a perfect end to this mix and post.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


If you made it this far, I thank you for reading and listening. I am truly honored.

I would love to hear which ones resonated with you, and please let me know about anything I might have missed from your best of the decade list.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed making it. Happy new year!

Absolutely epic rant on the ills of AT&T and business in general from an old favorite, Fake Steve Jobs:

While I’m ranting, let me ask you something, Randall. At the risk of sounding like Glenn Beck Jr. — what the fuck has gone wrong with our country? Used to be, we were innovators. We were leaders. We were builders. We were engineers. We were the best and brightest. We were the kind of guys who, if they were running the biggest mobile network in the U.S., would say it’s not enough to be the biggest, we also want to be the best, and once they got to be the best, they’d say, How can we get even better? What can we do to be the best in the whole fucking world? What can we do that would blow people’s fucking minds? They wouldn’t have sat around wondering about ways to fuck over people who loved their product. But then something happened. Guys like you took over the phone company and all you cared about was milking profit and paying off assholes in Congress to fuck over anyone who came along with a better idea, because even though it might be great for consumers it would mean you and your lazy pals would have to get off your asses and start working again in order to keep up.

And not just you. Look at Big Three automakers. Same deal. Lazy, fat, slow, stupid, from the top to the bottom — everyone focused on just getting what they can in the short run and who cares what kind of piece of shit product we’re putting out. Then somehow along the way the evil motherfuckers on Wall Street got involved and became everyone’s enabler, devoting all their energy and brainpower to breaking things up and parceling them out and selling them off in pieces and then putting them back together again, and it was all about taking all this great shit that our predecessors had built and “unlocking value” which really meant finding ways to leech out whatever bit of money they could get in the short run and let the future be damned. It was all just one big swindle, and the only kind of engineering that matters anymore is financial engineering.

The original sin here is that the “real” news comes from “fake” personalities. America has no check on the rich and powerful in business, because both the media and the political structure in Washington are wholly owned subsidiaries. It fails by design because it’s more profitable than making it work.

More gems from FSJ.