Monday, 5 December 2011

Here at ATCB, we are big fans of music lists. But we are also big fans of procrastination. So when all kinds of sites were getting on with their “Best Of The Decade” style pieces through 2009 and 2010, ATCB was busy playing video games and eating too much cheese.

To remedy the awful situation of a lack of lists on the blog, ATCB is therefore both dropping talking about himself in the plural third person and writing a big, big list.

It’s always irritated me that people write lists of top releases of a decade (or year) just after the time period is up, or even just after. How can you have had proper time to reflect on recent releases? Some albums or books or games or whatever are gifts that keep on giving, whereas others reveal themselves to be horribly shallow and deceptive skeletal creatures once the initial flush of enthusiasm wears off.

So this isn’t a best of the decade. It’s a best of my decade. These are the 100 albums that defined my life from the age of 20 through to 29. Some ground rules:  

  1. The album must have been first released between December 16th 2000 and December 15th 2010.
  2. Only one album is permitted from each artist. Arbitrary perhaps, but since it’s a personal list my wildly illogical personal preferences are allowed.
  3. No EPs/Best Ofs/Singles Collections/split releases/soundtracks/scores/compilations. They may well appear in a shorter addendum to the main list. Because I love EPs and I am pedantic.

Otherwise, anything goes. This will be a free fire zone of mostly ‘alternative’ music. I’ll be publishing ten releases per day, every weekday from now until my 31st birthday. On with the show.

A Spotify playlist featuring all recommended tracks available will be built alongside the daily entries, and can be reached by clicking here

100. Anaal Nathrakh – ‘Eschaton’ (2006)
All of Anaal Nathrakh’s releases are a blistering fusion of black metal, grindcore and industrial but ‘Eschaton’ got the balance just right – not too much black metal operatics, slower and more melodic riffs and drum patterns evil enough to wake/molest the dead. V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’s vocals sear the surface of the mix just right – and the mix on this kind of full-frontal assault is no easy task. All this and they manage to sample Blackadder too. Truly living legends.
Recommended Tracks: “Between Shit And Piss We Are Born”, “The Destroying Angel”, “When The Lion Devours Both Dragon And Child”

99. Detritus – ‘Origin’ (2005)
Atmospheric and downbeat electronica that fills the ears too much to be considered minimalist, but leaves enough spaces for you to fill in the blanks mentally. There’s a creepy sense of foreboding present, but also an elegance constructed by the mid-tempo dirty beats and sparse electronic echoes. Later releases of the decade such as 2007’s ‘Fractured’ would add more definition to the mix with heavier layers of sound and instrumentation, and do it well. But ‘Origin’ is a leaner, hungrier animal.
Recommended Tracks: “Dead Daffodils”, “Origin Narrative (v3.03)”, “Fable”

98. Minus The Bear – ‘Highly Refined Pirates’ (2002)
Minus The Bear have a knack for constructing sparkling pop songs disguised as cool alt. indie, and nowhere is this better shown than on their debut LP release. Complex guitar tapping and time signatures litter their songs, but somehow they are no less approachable and catchy for it. A light layer of keyboards underpins the other instrumentation, while Jake Snider’s lyrics are personal and grounded in relationships and life without veering towards self-pity and indulgence – a rarity in the Age Of Emo.
Recommended Tracks: “Absinthe Party At The Fly Honey Warehouse”, “Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo”, “Spritz!!! Spritz!!!”

97. Devin Townsend Project – ‘Addicted’ (2009)
Devin Townsend is nothing if not varied and prolific, and deciding on an album to best represent him within 2000-2010 was a tricky task. I was deeply tempted by 2001’s prog opus ‘Terria’ but instead opted for this gem of oddly glimmering pop-rock-metal-somethingness. More dense than heavy with a melodic sensibility that is helped to drive forward by additional vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering fame, it shows off Mr Townsend’s songcraft and ability to continually reinvent his style while keeping it distinctly Devin. Possibly his most commercial release since 1997’s excellent ‘Ocean Machine: Biomech’.
Recommended Tracks: “Hyperdrive!”, “Ih-Ah!”, “The Way Home!”

96. Cold – ‘Year Of The Spider’ (2003)
Cold are the only nu-grunge band I have any time for whatsoever, and therefore it makes perfect sense that they are relatively commercially unsuccessful compared to the wretched Nickelbacks of this world. ‘Year Of The Spider’ took their miserabilist anger and refined it to something sleeker and catchier, then resolutely failed to catch the eye of the alternative mainstream (an oxymoron that because ever more apt as my twenties wore on) despite being their best-selling record to date.
Recommended Tracks: “Suffocate”, “Stupid Girl”, “The Day Seattle Died”

95. Swans – ‘My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky’ (2010)
This record would probably be higher up on this list if it weren’t so damn hard to listen to. And unlike some other releases in this list (and in the Swans’ back catalogue), the challenge of this album does not lie in an unrelenting aural assault. No, these days Swans deal in breaking you via emotional detonation – on record, in any case. Seeing them live shortly after this release left me with splintered muscles and a degenerative skeletal condition. Sonically unlike any previous release, this LP is a more meandering country-influenced beast that nevertheless manages to hold you down and beat your face with its forehead until you plead for mercy. There are moments of heaviness in the conglomeration of tortured guitars, despairing vocals and relentless drums. But as always the main challenge while listening to Swans is that they are the closest one can come to a primal scream of anguish while still maintaining song structure and melody.
Recommended Tracks: “No Words/No Thoughts”, “Jim”, “Eden Prison”

94. Jóhann Jóhannsson – ‘Fordlandia’ (2008)
If you’re going to create a concept album, make sure the concept is a damn weird one. This release certainly managed that, being written about the failed prefabricated rubber plantation/town Henry Ford attempted to create in the jungles of Brazil in 1928. A blend of minimal electronics and classical orchestration come together to build a bittersweet atmosphere easy to lose yourself in. All the best instrumental music is perfectly capable of constructing images in your mind’s eye without words. ‘Fordlandia’ is a prime example.
Recommended Tracks: “Fordlândia”, “The Great God Pan Is Dead”, “How We Left Fordlândia”

93. Head Automatica – ‘Decadence’ (2004)
If you’re familiar with Daryl Palumbo, it is probably as the pebble-gargling frontman of Glassjaw. When Head Automatica showed up as a side project, it surprised one and all by being slick and enjoyable power-pop. Pretty much custom built as a soundtrack to easy times and good bars, what this debut album lacked in complexity and depth it more than made up for with great guitar and keyboard hooks – and is certainly light years ahead of 2006’s disappointing follow-up ‘Popaganda’.
Recommended Tracks: “Brooklyn Is Burning”, “Beating Heart Baby”, “Please Please Please (Young Hollywood)”

92. Stromkern – ‘Light It Up’ (2005)
All the best genre fusions are unexpected ones – and Stromkern are pretty much in a sub-genre of one by welding the bass stomp of EBM with the politicised rhymes of old school hip-hop. Adding a layer of sampling and some carefully-placed guitars into the mix just sweetens the deal. This blend was made seamless on their fourth LP ‘Light It Up’, which featured strong cameo performances from the likes of Seabound’s Frank Spinath and Claire Voyant’s Victoria Lloyd and at least one certified pounding dancefloor classic in the staccato pulse-racer “Stand Up”.
Recommended Tracks: “Sentinel”, “Stand Up”, “Hindsight”

91. Shellac – ‘Excellent Italian Greyhound’ (2007)
While not approached the simmering bile-filled genius of previous album ‘1000 Hurts’, Albini & co. are still on good world-baiting form here. There’s an elegance in the songwriting of these minimalist rock pieces, where the perfect trio of guitar, bass and drums come together in stabbing, lurching motions that are parked in parallel with Albini’s monotone yelp. Melody typically takes a back seat to rhythm, which comes into its own as an underpinning to drive you forward into a slightly uncomfortable limbo where Shellac can spit venom at you. Forever.
Recommended Tracks: “The End Of Radio”, “Steady As She Goes”, “Spoke”

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