Feb 26, 2010

via//chicago's 200 of the 2000s:

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns (Astralwerks, 2009)

There has certainly been a long tradition of thrilling female songwriters working well outside the lines of mainstream "popular" music (Laurie Anderson, Tori Amos, Kate Bush), but it feels like Natasha Khan is operating so far beyond a world populated by the likes of Fergie and Ke$ha that she really must come from another planet. I loved her debut album, Fur and Gold, but nothing on that record could have prepared me for the growth she demonstrated with this follow-up. Lead single "Daniel" was the first shock, its soaring chorus and evocative lyrics cutting right to the heart of desire and love, in a better world this would have been an inescapable radio hit. As joyful and melodic as that song is, however, the rest of the album is packed with moments equally as haunting and sinister as that one is light and airy. The production is impeccable from start to finish, nearly every single note and sound is deployed to maximize emotional effect - even when the tracks are stripped-down and minimal. With all of the synthesizers and programmed drums littering the album, the organic feel of "Travelling Woman" with its live drums and piano makes for a dramatic turn cements my adoration for this album. A really stunning work of art from an extremely talented woman.

Feb 24, 2010

via//chicago's 200 of the 2000s:
Shout Out Louds - Our Ill Wills (Merge, 2007)

I know it has been questioned several times in the past decade, but what exactly do they put in the water in Sweden to produce so many consistently great pop artists? Shout Out Louds debut album, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, was an exciting enough debut, but they managed to surpass themselves on this second release. Obvious and heavy debt is paid throughout to The Head on the Door-era Cure while completely avoiding lazy pastiche. Opener "Tonight I Have to Leave It" got much of the attention, deservedly so for its bubbly melody and plinking percussion, though I think the track only serves as the tip of the iceberg. Pop perfection abounds, from the muted and tender "Blue Headlights" to the handclap sugary sweet "Normandie". Shockingly enough the band truly excels at the epic, with both "Impossible" and closer "Hard Rain" reaching seven minutes plus but neither overstaying their welcome. A gorgeous pop album from start to finish.

Feb 22, 2010

via//chicago's 200 of the 2000s:

Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era. Cont. (Kranky, 2008)

Between Deerhunter and his Atlas Sound side work, Bradford Cox became one of the more consistent artists of the second half of the decade. Even the random droppings he tossed up on his blog had a pretty high ratio of engaging listen to tossed-off barrel scrapings. Microcastle, the third full-length under the Deerhunter name, just might be the most consistently great record of the bunch. Others have hit higher highs, but it is really hard to find fault with any of the gauzy goodness throughout. "Nothing Ever Happened" rightfully got lots of attention as one of the high water marks, but I really think "Never Stops" is the track that really nails what I love about the Deerhunter aesthetic. It's a very melodic and pop-oriented track, but the layers of shoegaze gauze wrapping all the melodies are what breathes life into the composition - particularly when it builds in intensity. This noisy pop sensibility is all over the album proper, but then you pair it with another entire full length (Weird Era Cont.) that explores other fine branches of the Deerhunter sound, and you are left with a truly exciting package.

Feb 19, 2010

via//chicago's 200 of the 2000s:

Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport (ATP, 2009)

There was a lot of potential shown on Street Horrrsing, their 2008 debut album, but the prettiest noise band of the decade outdid themselves on every conceivable level with their genre-defying second record. "The Lisbon Maru", with its deceptively soothing melody and propulsive beat, is the go-to track to make a newcomer fall in love with this duo, exposing all their strengths and explaining just how apt the "pretty noise" descriptor is. But for my money, the absolute peak of the record is the eleven minute centerpiece, "Olympians", an accurately named epic that soars to triumphant heights. A brave, exciting record that would reward listeners of nearly any background - dance heads, noise punks, or just plain fans of experimental music.

Feb 18, 2010

via//chicago's 200 of the 2000s: the introduction

Things have been quiet on the via//chicago front, with good reason this time. I've been spending what spare moments I've had over the past few weeks working towards a project I've had in mind for a few months, namely sharing with you, loyal reader, my favorite 200 albums of the decade that has recently wrapped up. I know I'm running a few months behind most blogs and publications, but for some reason I felt silly trying to start this list before the decade was officially over. But after much hemming and hawing, I'm pleased to have finally put together a list that I feel really good about. I'll be unveiling the list over the months to come, one album at a time, while talking a little bit about what made each one special to me. It'll be a fun look back, so keep checking as we progress.

A few caveats:
1. I'm certainly not claiming these to be the definitive albums of the decade, not the most essential. These are the albums that meant the most to me and became my favorites at one point or another. I won't be trying to convince anyone that these are the best albums, just that they are certainly worth some attention.

2. I noticed that the top of the list was weighted towards things from early in the decade. At first I was a bit concerned that maybe I was giving short shrift to recent favorites, but I realized that I've simply lived with the early decade releases longer and have had more time to fully fall in love with them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

3. While I've generally tried to list these in some sort of prioritized order, with number one being my favorite and number 200 being significantly less so, I am certainly not hung up on the precise order. Really, there's not much of a difference between, for example, numbers 53 and 59. If I were to spend time being that precise, the list would never be finished. So please, don't get too hung up on Album X being unfairly ranked behind Album Y. I certainly didn't when making this list.

With that being said, come back next time when we will unveil album #200. I'm very excited to present this list and I hope you gain just as much enjoyment from reading it.

Feb 15, 2010

np: "Swoosh" - Lil Wayne

After suffering through the abysmal (to put it kindly) Rebirth two weeks ago, I've been spending the day crawling through some of Weezy's mixtapes from the pre-Carter III era and remembering when he was positively dripping with charisma. I'm hopeful, but doubting very much he'll ever reach these heights again. It will certainly be interesting to see what he sounds like after his 8-12 months in jail, not to mention hearing all the material he recorded in the rush before his sentence was to begin. Anyway, let's forget the horrible rap-rock record and reflect back on the crazy Weezy we all knew and loved.

Feb 12, 2010

np: "Black Sabbath" - Black Sabbath

Happy 40th Birthday Heavy Metal!

Before celebrating love and cupid and all that stuff on Sunday, take a minute to throw the horns in remembrance of Friday the 13th of February, 1970. Also known as the day Black Sabbath dropped their debut album on an unsuspecting world.