My proudest teenage music moment was when Metallica had a techno version of "For Whom the Bell Tolls" on the Spawn soundtrack, and I turned to my friend and said, "You know what, I think Metallica peaked. I think it's all down hill from Loaded."
Reloaded came out later that year and my friend immediately bought the album. Later that week we sat there, listening to it, tense concentration on our faces, waiting for the part where it gets good. That CD eventually ended up at the bottom of a rain barrel.
Other than that and having the good sense to realize ICP was utter shit, I was a pig in shit listening to Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Mindless Self indulgence. It wasn't until U.N.K.L.E. came out that I started buying Beasty Boys and DJ Shadow and the rest is history.
Once I had a computer and an internet connection, the modern equivalent to achieving samadhi, I started finding the kind of music that makes me feel good about my taste in music. This decade has been a good one for music discovery with the onset of the MP3, and the music is only getting better every year as the record industry crumbles, it's grasp on the peoples' taste loosening with each shuddering gasp for breath.
It kills me that I didn't discover Mulatu Astatke last decade, because Ethipiques 4 would have been listed highly in the top ten albums of the millennium, along with Django Reinhardt and Michael Jackson. But here goes a list for this decade:
10. School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms
I imagine if Tibet became a sort of hipster village (a paradox for certain) this would become their traditional music. Dirty feedback reverbs in tandem with tip-tapping percussion and haunting vocals. Sometimes meaningful, sometimes meaningless, but always in earnest. This is a band to watch out for.
9. Portishead - Third
I honestly forgot about Portishead for a while there. Something about the combination of record scratching and kill-me-now vocals never really had the alchemical wherewithal to make a fan out of me. Imagine then my surprise when Third came out and blew me away. Listening to Third evokes the kind of mood of a very bad man drowning; it is a whole process of horror and acceptance and finally comfort in the face of the inevitable.
8. Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Realpeople - Holland
Beirut embraces all the grandiose shapes of eastern european and klezmer sounds while allowing folksy jazz roots to shine through, casting the kind of flickering silhouette that could startle Alfred Hitchcock.
With their latest 2 disc album, they've taken that spirit and replaced the candle with a 500-watt projector. The wet drip of electric synth complements Zachary Francis Condo's vocals in ways foreign to the Beirut fan, instigating a cognitive dissonance that becomes intoxicating.
When you start to miss their earlier work, you can put on the sister album, March of the Zapotec, a mexican infused slow-dance that builds and builds with the of flexibility and stamina of sexy yoga instructor.
7. Beck - Modern Guilt
Fuck Beck. I mean that. Who does he think he is, making music good enough that you can forget for a second that he's a fucking Scientologist? I can't even get over that fact while writing the review, but as soon as I put on this album all of his crazy frequent flier Thetans disappear in a cloud of molten ash.
6. High Places - 03/07 - 09/07
I imagine the Universe as being an order of things. Below is the fractalling chaos of quasars erupting and popping and the reverberating purr/screech of Schredinger's cat maybe dying and maybe living. Above there is a great grid of light aligning, reminding us that there is a direction. What happens when these two meet is exactly what High Places is about.
Angelic vocals and bells chirp and tweet and poke and prod, all the while dirty percussion and reverberating atonal drone reminds us that all is not well. It is the kind of funky electro-indy wonderland that my brain enjoys on the most base of levels. Well meaning uncertainty has its limits, and not all songs are created equal. High Places is still Big Banging around, but they're definitely heading for their namesake.
5. Flying Lotus - Los Angeles
Flying Lotus is a game changer. Once hip-hop producers start extrapolating his sound and working with some of the more talented MCs out there, Steven Ellison will be remembered for making rap palatable to sonic snobs and indy kids alike.
Flying Lotus vaults over the current indy hip-hop Blue Note catalog sampling paradigm towards pure bliss. Forget sampling, forget break beats and high hats and that fucking car alarm sound you hear in every dub remix, this is what hip-hop will sound like in ten years. If all goes well, next decade's top ten list will be rife with rap as the genre rises from novelty status to rival the best indy-rock available.
4. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
This is the most cogent Animal Collective yet. It is approachable, but still thrums with the bizarre sounds that has elevated this group into the collection of every psychonaut worth their salt.
3. Fever Ray
If the Oughts were the decade of female lead singers, a premise I assert is true, Karin Dreijer Andersson is their patron saint. I pray at this demi-goddess's altar daily, waiting anxiously for her next gift from on high.
2. Deerhunter - Microcastle
This is the kind of morose music that reminds you that things could be worse. Thusly, you end up feeling pretty good about yourself.
1. Battles - EP C / B EP
If music is mathematical by nature, Battles is math that requires a quantum computer and a blindfold. It asks for suspension of disbelief, the assumption that there is a man behind the curtain. If you accept that premise you will find true pleasure in the complexly twisting sonic helix that is Battles.