Friday, January 01, 2010

The Secret Sun Best of the Zeros: Music

And now, for my favorite albums of this godforsaken decade. A diverse sampling, all united in principle by attention paid to the pleasure of sound and music as an end unto itself. Most of it lies squarely in the psychedelic realm, meaning psychedelia as a principle and not a retro style. In no particular order...

Mastodon- Crack the Skye (2009): Sometimes I'm tempted to give up on metal entirely, since so few bands can hit the broad side of a tune anymore. I wasn't sold on Mastodon's debut, but this became a complete addiction. Like QOTSA, Mastodon captured the spirit of 70s metal/hard rock without succumbing to its well-worn cliches. Absolute genius, and one of the best albums ever recorded by anyone at any time.

Killing Joke - Hosannas from the Basements of Hell (2006) The 2003 comeback was pretty epic as well, but the David Icke-on-meth lyrics and nu metal riff-o-mania rank it behind this grimy, greasy bombardment of occult noise. The mix is questionable and the songs are all at least a minute too long, but every time I took this album out on my walking tour of my Necropolitan neighborhood (there are six cemeteries in walking distance of my house and more bizarre symbolism hiding in plain sight than you would ever want to see) those filthy, arcane guitars would speak to me.

They told me terrible, unspeakable things.

Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (2006) This was the decade of the post-punk comeback. This Boston legends came back before, but only at half strength. The Obliterati opened up a portal back into my youth, when Boston was still a city of the mind and not merely of the wallet. A veritable time machine of an album. Pounding, postmodern punk-prog. Album includes Rock's only love song to a Sumerian goddess.

Ladytron- Witching Hour (2005) Here's an album that me and my girls all enjoyed together. An eerie synthesis of 80s electropop and 90s shoegaze, dressed up with minimalist yet extremely enigmatic lyrics dripping with witchy significance. Still haven't gotten into their 2008 followup.

Near the Parenthesis- Of Soft Construction (2007): While Boards of Canada dithered, San Fransciscan Tim Arndt stepped up to the plate and unleashed this amniotic addiction. Lush to the point of pain, hypnotic, dream-inducing, addictive, immersive, delirious. Works just as well inaudibly soft or teeth-rattlingly loud. Incomprehensibly obscure. His 2008 offering has some killer tracks but is not as consistent.

Wire - Send (2003): Brit punk/post-punk legends disappeared up their own asses in the 90s but then stormed out of nowhere with their angriest, most aggressive album ever (as well as some equally great EPs). Same pop hooks, but a renewed commitment and a sandblasting punk-metal sound. Their 2008 followup Object 47 is just as good, if less attention-grabbing.

Queens of the Stone Age - Songs for the Deaf
(2002) A stoner classic pulled out of an other-dimensional 1974 and polished with post-grunge elan. Dave Grohl drives it all along with his pounding kick-drum, which he brought along when he hogged the kit as an honorary Killing Joker the following year. I knew every song by heart the first time I played this album.

Me'Shell NdegéOcello - Comfort Woman (2003): A late discovery of an artist whose charms I'd been previously resistant to. Sort of a post-trip hop outing, with heavy doses of dub, psych and postpunk. Lush, rich, silky, spacey stuff with the requisite tunes to keep it from becoming an amorphous blur. Delicious.

Cliff Martinez- Solaris
(2002): Indescribable. An album I'd been waiting for all of my life. Hypnotic in its intensity, transcendent in intent. I couldn't begin to imagine Soderbergh's film without it. Absolutely essential. Probably the one album on this list I couldn't live without.

Sigur Ros - ( )
(2002): One of those albums that makes an act's other albums inessential- at least for me. Not that I didn't like their earlier work, but this album defines Sigur Ros in my mind. Every note is painfully beautiful. In a better world, this would be a must-have for mindful music mavens.

Albums #11-20 - David Bowie Heathen, Andrew WK I Get Wet, Stone Temple Pilots Shangri La-De-Da, Geordie Walker 2007 Demos, Sia Color the Small One, Interpol Turn on the Bright Lights, The Darkness Permission to Land, Kate Bush Aerial, The Go Team Thunder Lightning Strike!, Santogold Santogold.

Singles: The Killers 'Mr. Brightside', TV on the Radio 'Wolf Like Me', MGMT 'Kids', Feist 'Mushaboom', Taxi Taxi 'Family Doctor', VHS or Beta 'Can't Believe a Single Word, Sia 'Numb', Stars 'The Night Starts Here', Beyonce 'Single Ladies', Interpol 'PDA'.


  1. Hmm. My own list isn't finalized, but I'd definitely include Fields of the Nephilim's Mourning Sun, HUMANWINE's Fighting Naked, Émilie Simon's eponymous CD, and Sol Invictus's The Devil's Steed. I'd probably also include Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Yanqui U.X.O. and Kokusyoku Sumire's Anderumeruhen Kakyokusyu (or perhaps Zenmai Shojohakoningyo if I thought that a shorter CD would be worth a "Best of the Decade" list). Beyond that, I'd have to actually sit down and think and research. Certainly, The Angels of Light should probably be on the list somewhere, along with Skinny Puppy and Killing Joke. And didn't Leonard Cohen release something this decade?

  2. Happy New Year! Can't wait to get your take on the twisted Jay-Z video ABC decided to launch into 2010 with:

    I have a feeling my parents (and probably a hefty swath of the viewing audience) were pretty traumatized by it, by design.

  3. Happy New Decade Chris

    Great list, good to see some love for the Witching Hour with its mix of poppy melodies, harsh instrumentation and sinister lyrics.

    Going on some of your posts about Boards of Canada thought you might have mentioned Geogaddi, especially since it explores a lot of Secret Sun type topics, ie numerology, religious cults, shamanism etc.

    Anyway, good luck with your new years mission to kick pains ass, definitely a foe worthy of a kicking!

  4. I am going to listen to these vidz in a few minutes~ might help dispell my hangover~ but- isn't it "shoegazing" not "showgazing"? That's the way they pronounced it on WFMU in the 90s... anyway much appreciated... Happy New Year Mr. Knowles!!!

  5. oooh don't forget the Owl by I love you but I've chosen Darkness, that song rocked

  6. o wait my bad, that's an old song but I just saw it the first time this year on your blog

    nice posts Chris

  7. Faoladh- Interesting list. I'm going to investigate some of your choices- I didn't know FOTN and SI were still recording. Cheers.

    Anony435- Marilyn Mansonism completes its takeover. And the funny thing is that all of the imagery is so vague and the lyrics are completely generic. The giveaway line "y'all should be scared of what I do next." That's how he keeps the spotlight on himself. A very old and time-honored approach.

    MrPanda- I've put a bunch of fanvids up from Geogaddi up here. I love the drone/ambient stuff on it. Thanks for the words of encouragement- pain has been dragging me down way too much lately. Time to make a stand.

    Ned- Happy new year to you, sir. And cheers for the proofread. My readers are my editors!

    JR- That's right. I put that video up either here on the Satellite a while back. Thanks for reminding me. Cheers. That video is absolutely terrifying and revealing.

  8. Thanks for this list; being 'turned on' is one of the beauties of music.

    Aerial is definitely on my list. 'Gold' I tells ya! It's nice that she had another masterpiece up her sleeve.

    At the risk of wearing out my welcome:
    Pluramon released 'Dreams Top Rock' and 'The Monstrous Surplus' last decade, which I discover because I happened to take a different train one day, on which a Julee Cruise concert was being advertised. Pluramon was her backing band.

    Also, King Crimson's 'The Construction of Light' and 'The Power to Believe' were released in the zeros.

  9. I'm going back and forth on GY!BE, it might be that Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven might be the better choice. It's difficult to decide.

    FOTN is just Carl McCoy now (plus whoever he picks to back him up), but he was always the real force behind the band anyway, as Rubicon proved (not that Rubicon was bad, just not the same).

    I don't think that Sol Invictus has ever stopped. According to the discography on Wikipedia, other than 1988, '93, '96, 2008, and '09, they've released at least one thing every year, though some years it was only as part of a compilation CD. Missing only 5 years out of 22 is a pretty good recording career! Missing the last two years, though, may mean something - or it might just be a short hiatus.

    Also, thinking it over, you're definitely right that Sigur Rós belongs on a Best Of The Decade list. I'd probably pick (), as well, though Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust is a strong contender. The rest of your picks that I haven't heard yet, of course, are ones I will check out.

  10. Chris, I was pleased to see your inclusion of QOTSA. I never tire of "Songs". Have you checked out "Then Crooked Vultures"? Not bad, a bit hit and miss with some tracks. I'm not hearing enough John Paul Jones, but his sound creeps through. For any Dave Grohl / Josh Homme fans, this trio is worth a listen. One track sounds like retro Creem, and a few others remind of me of Bowie: "Man Who Sold The World" / Tin Machine.

  11. "Against criticism a man can neither protest nor defend himself; he must act in spite of it, and then it will gradually yield to him." – Goethe

    "Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained." – Gandhi

    Never heard or saw those quotes before. I have two sons and my 1st sons middle name is Gandhi!

    1st born sons name is Lennon Gandhi Myers & My 2nd born sons name is Lincoln Kennedy Myers. Named after After both Bobby & John Kennedy

  12. I am happy that Killing Joke is still appreciated. Ive been an absent fan since Pandemonium. Considering Jazz's Magical background it does not surprise me that you had the walk you had while listening to it.
    Pax Deprofundis,

  13. Some music that came to mind...

    Armin van Buuren ft Sharon den Adel - In and Out of Love -
    Lunatica - Winds Of Heaven
    Delerium - Self-saboteur
    Adam Nickey feat Tiff Lacey - Letting Go - (Michael Witness Ambient Mix) -
    DJ Shah feat Jane Kumada - Turn Back Time (Acoustic Version)
    AIR - Tropical Disease
    The Flaming Lips Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung

    The Muppets: Bohemian Rhapsody :)

  14. No love for Tool's 'Lateralus' (2001)?
    Tool's most esoteric outing, and their first union with psychedelic visionary Alex Grey. MJK mines lyrics about planetary alignments, duality, Jung, fibonacci; contains their most hypnotic and uplifting song, 'Reflection'.
    An album deeply ingrained in my psyche and one I return to often.
    "As above so below and beyond I imagine..."

  15. Davidly- That's right-- Constucktion was 2000. Fracktured is one of my favorite all Crimson pieces.

    Faoladh- My favorite Godspeed is Slow Riot- but that was 1999. I'll check what SI are up to.

    Matt- Yeah, I love that Crooked Vultures single. Josh Homme is a genius.

    Quark- Those are cool names. Congrats, sir.

    Puer- Oh, I think Geordie is the true conduit to the other side in that band. I'm sure Jaz does too.

    Pictus- Outstanding. Thanks for the links. I'll definitely check them out.

    Anony- I'm more old school Tool. Aenima is one of my favorite albums. The more recent stuff is good but not on the level of the early material for me.

  16. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  17. Slow Riot for New Zerø Kanada is wonderful, but I'm more of a F♯A♯∞ guy. I still wish I had a copy of that one on vinyl, due to the locked groove at the end and the other variations from the CD release.

  18. thanks for sharing with me (us).

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