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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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!!! · “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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

I heard The Smiths’ “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” on Abby’s iPod last week, and it sent me scurrying through her computer (I had long since deleted them from mine) to snag a few albums to listen to at work. I didn’t need more than a few songs to “satiate the need” but I was reminded of Schneider TM’s brilliant cover of “There is a Light that Never Goes Out.”

I first heard The Smiths in my senior year of high school and immediately adopted their music as the soundtrack to my life. I pretty much gained entrance to my fraternity on the strength of my knowledge and collection of The Smiths releases, narrowly escaping disqualification for not knowing about The Stone Roses (more on them soon).

By the time I left Miami University, most of those (now no doubt extremely valuable first edition) releases had disappeared (one of the many prices I paid for living in one of two rooms on the front balcony). Truth be told, I didn’t miss them one bit. I had long since outgrown their sappy sentimentality, and was ready to move on to something decidedly less contrived and much more my own.

As I continue to reconnect (and in some cases have meaningful conversations for the first time) with friends from high school and college on Facebook, it’s both amusing and instructive to look back on the music of that era. I find myself all-too-aware of that same trap of idealism and false hope: wanting to be adored but completely unwilling or unable to return it without strings attached. I suppose that’s part of growing up, learning to give without conditions, love without fear, and be nothing more and nothing less than authentically me.

It’s true that I am a sucker for anything with a vocoder in it, but Dirk Dresselhaus’s much more modern version is an absolute classic (various outfits far more respectable than me have ranked it as one of the finest covers of all time). Most of all, I love the fact that an entirely new generation now has a bit of The Smiths to guide them along their own path of discovery. Truly the circle of life never ends.

Here’s the original:

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And the cover:

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While your here, have a look at Radiohead’s cover of one of my other all-time favorites, The Smiths’ “The Headmaster Ritual.”

Though brief, this post might be the meatiest of all my song of the day posts, especially since I have three excellent tracks to share, and each more than stands on its own. Nonetheless, they all fit together, albeit in a somewhat circuitous way, so please bear with me.

As I alluded to before when discussing Busdriver, I am frequently bored by hiphop, both lyrically and musically. With so much experimentation and innovation elsewhere in modern electronic music, I am continually surprised to see so little of it crossover. APC, however, not only embraces it, they take it in a completely new direction too. I didn’t immediately get this particular song, and I recall it was the feature track on Warp’s website for a number of weeks to my then dismay, but I quickly warmed up to it. In fact, the only thing I love more than this track itself now is the video for it:

I think seeing the way they move makes the music even more accessible. Here’s the track again:

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There is no way I cannot share LFO’s superb remix of “Ghostlawns”:

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And no mention of LFO can go without playing his epic remix of “Me and Guiliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)” — see yesterday’s post on !!! for the original):

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APC broke up several years ago shortly after touring with Radiohead in Europe, but have recently begun recording together again. While Beans more than kept it interesting in APC’s absence, I can’t wait to hear all of them on their new album Fluorescent Black when it comes out in 2009.

Shifting gears from last week’s five-day homage to Squarepusher, today’s song is yet another epic Animal Collective track, “Safer.” Once again, I owe my brother Kevin a thank you for this one as well.

I wish I had the bandwidth to keep up with everything new and dive deeper into everything old by Animal Collective. As it is, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface, but what I know I truly love.

Ever since I saw them in concert just over a year ago (again, my pics and video), I have been searching for a small reminder of that same frenetic energy and uninhibited emotion I found in their live show. You can then imagine my delight when Kevin sent me “Safer,” which initially seems to be an afterthought B-side to their Peacebone single, but does in fact stand quite well on its own.

I have just begun to unpack this song, and even after 20+ listens in the last four days, I still can’t get enough. I love Geologist’s little doodads in the background, Avey’s coarse enunciations, and Panda’s emphatic drumming. Add in the most delicate piano line, a ridiculous amount of reverb, and multiple layers of vocals (screaming too) to a meandering song that never seems to end and what you get is pure magic:

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This is why I love Animal Collective. With the exception of Radiohead, who truthfully exists on an entirely different plane, I don’t know of another band so consistently pushing the envelope. They just might be the new Beatles.

↓ Download all ten songs Just like last year, though admittedly much less ambitious, I want to mark the passing of another year of with my thoughts on the most distinguished artists and albums of 2007 (according to me), and give you a song from each one to take with you.

If there’s one common theme in this disparate mix, it’s a delicate balance between such lush and abundant instrumentation and a sparse and minimal sound. As I’m fond of saying, it’s the space in between that’s most interesting, and that’s clearly the case in these ten songs, listed below in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

Animal Collective · Strawberry Jam · Unsolved Mysteries

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I would have never known about AC if not for my brother Kevin — he was the first to suggest Sung Tongs and Feels and even sent me some pre-release mp3s from Strawberry Jam. While I liked songs from the first two, SJ was so dense (and unbelievably tense) that I found it difficult to listen to in the very beginning. But again, on his recommendation, I bought tickets to see them live and then also began to listen to SJ more intently, often for days on end, as the show approached. It’s safe to say I was absolutely blown away by their show (see my pictures and my videos from it) and now I’m completely hooked on the album in its entirety. Definitely at the top of my list for 2007.

Battles · Mirrored · Tonto

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Warp heavily promoted the new BTTLS album for a number of months, but it never really caught me the way it seemed to hook everyone else. My good friend Andrew ‘Japandy’ Tweed insisted I take a second look, and I did to my great delight. I wrote about both of their incredible videos, and was lucky enough to see them live not so long ago in San Francisco (need to upload that video to YouTube, it’s amazing). I have yet to see anyone or anything play with such pace, precision, and passion; the only way I can describe it is to say that I can’t listen to their incredible album anymore: it’s too slow, too lifeless (that’s a preposterous thing to say, btw). I was exhausted at the end of their show and (still) incredibly inspired by the whole thing.

Beans · Thorns · We Rock

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I came to follow Beans when Warp signed Anti-Pop Consortium (apparently soon to be reunited, thankfully). Most hip-hop bores me — even though I would listen to nothing but hip-hop if there were more artists like Beans — instead I often find nothing but unimaginative rhythms and even more mindless lyrics. I loved many songs on Tomorrow Right Now and even more on Shock City Maverick, so I eagerly awaited Thorns. After hearing Thundermouth for the first time, I thought it would be near impossible to top that track, but he did it with We Rock. Show me someone, anyone, who rocks it harder than Beans — it can’t be done.

Björk · Volta · I See Who You Are

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Abby absolutely loves Björk, and while I do too, it’s not with the same intensity. I was definitely excited to see her show this summer, but after having seen her on the Vespertine tour before, I wasn’t expecting such an intense and high energy show. This song is equally intense, even though it’s much more sedate. I love the delicate instrumentation on this track and her beautiful lyrics, it’s yet another exquisite collaboration with Mark Bell (LFO). Tops.

Burial · Untrue · Archangel

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The reviews on Warpmart practically begged me to buy it, but the lo-fi samples on bleep sounded flat and uninspired. I debated it for several weeks, but finally gave in and bought the album just to hear it for myself. I was immediately taken by it, no doubt egged on by my then new Shure SE530 headphones (such a guilty pleasure, but damn worth it — find ‘em new on eBay, they’re way cheaper there). This album is incredible, infinitely complex and yet just right there where it should be. I find new twists and turns every time I play it. If you haven’t heard it, you owe it to yourself to get it. btw, Abby’s first impression: “It sounds like Jamie Lidell meets Boyz II Men meets Autechre”. Yep, classic.

Flying Lotus · Reset EP · Dance Floor Stalker

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When the news of his signing to Warp hit, I immediately went searching for his prior release 1983 on Plug Research. It’s an epic instrumental effort, notable for its brief but incredibly thick and dense tracks. I was immediately hooked and kept it in heavy rotation on my peaPod this past summer. Luckily, the Reset EP is all of that and a whole lot more. I played this six-track EP over and over without ever tiring of it. The bass is monstrous, the beats are genius, and the flow is absolutely out of this world. FlyLo deserves his place on Warp’s legendary roster, I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

Matthew Dear · Asa Breed · Don and Sherri

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I almost left this one off, as much as I love this album and listened to it non-stop for a month straight. I saw his show in San Francisco this fall, and well, to put it kindly… It sucked. Ass. The crowd was sparse, poor promotion perhaps, but he failed to connect with it, preferring instead to plod along with his pre-canned rockstar shtick. The highlight of the show was the next to last song, the epic Don and Sherri, also known as that sick track on the Hummer commercial. Even with the goofy lyrics, this track makes me want to shake my booty. I still love the album, in spite of the awful show. I do believe he will learn so much from this tour, and I expect to see a better show next time. I still believe!

Radiohead · In Rainbows · Bodysnatchers

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Yes, I whined about the 160kbps thing, impugned their motives, and generally disparaged In Rainbows in the very beginning. But the more I listened to it, the more I came to see that the music on this album is as revolutionary as all that surrounds its internet-only release. No one makes music like Radiohead, and Bodysnatchers in particular has my head bouncing from side to side the moment it comes on. But nothing, nothing tops the breakdown shortly after the two minute mark, and the way it builds back into the first part of the song just makes me want to play it all over again. And again. And again. I absolutely love this track.

Sky Observer · Sky Observer’s Guide 070707 · Skyway Drive

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“Space, space, space.” It’s true, Stewart Brown and I go way, way back, and I played a small part in getting this release out to the world, but that has so little to do with how strongly I feel about it. At once timeless and yet clearly of this very moment, Brown succeeded in capturing the dichotomy of his youthful, irreverent energy and his measured, masterful touch. With no hesitation whatsoever, I predict that years from now people will love this effort the way they love Boards of Canada’s In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country, as an old friend indeed. Listen to the other four songs for free at FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT.

The Tuss · Rushup Edge · Synthacon 9

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C’mon, we all know it’s Aphex Twin. And it’s without a doubt the most magnificent track ever created.

Late update: Here’s a pic of Sawyer helping me write this post:

Sawyer helps me write a post for my blog

From here on out, if and when something so momentous comes to pass and I haven’t mentioned it on this blog, please send me an email or reach me through the contact page.

Joy Division too?!!

I don’t know that I have ever seen a band have so much fun making music. Amazing. Simply amazing.

As much as I love the new Radiohead release, I have to say I’m still disappointed by their decision to go with 160kbps. The muffled and muddied sound quality of the files feels like a bootleg copy, or something I downloaded illegally because I couldn’t wait for the full and final release…

Admittedly, I have done it before — I downloaded a bootleg copy of Hail to the Thief well before its official release, which is not something I normally do but I really wanted to hear it. I have to wonder if Radiohead didn’t realize that In Rainbows would be leaked soon and quickly p2p’d into the hands of anyone who wanted it. For free. Seen in that light, this is clearly a very shrewd move, and likely very lucrative even if most people pay very little for it. It’s quite likely that a high percentage of those who downloaded this version will buy the cd when it comes out next year.

Just the same, I expected better, and most importantly I paid for it too. Perhaps I’ve been ruined by bleep.com, where I buy almost all of my music these days. It’s DRM free, 320kbps, and reasonably priced. Strange to call that the bare minimum when it seems like the gold standard, but that’s how I rip mp3s from a cd, and have for many years. And since I refuse to buy cds anymore, except in special situations, that’s how I want my mp3s.

I’m a huge Radiohead fan, but this feels like a bit of a bait and switch. The buying experience was lousy, the quality of the files is poor, and there was no embedded artwork (perhaps the most glaring omission of all). Yes, it’s still a new Radiohead album — and I haven’t stopped listening to it since Wednesday morning — but the whole process feels rushed at best, or half-assed at worst. And I have to wonder why.

Am I just being contrarian? Does anyone else see it the same way?