Short intro: Name’s Stephen, aspiring music columnist, lapsed political scientist and cynical young space cadet, A.K.A. The Artist Also Known As The Shotgun Rhetoric and also the asshole that drunkenly punted your garden gnome through your car’s window last night.
Smug little bitch had it coming.
Yeah, yeah, I know this list is at least a couple of months overdue. Chalk it up to either a) perfectionism or b) total fucking sloth on my part. Either way, I’ve longed to come up with yet another big, unwieldy list of hyperbolic raving that I will probably disagree with in two months*, and figure this would be a fine debut on this here page.
*The first list was rumination on Rolling Stone’s truly fuckawful Top 100 Best Albums list on another forum that took two years for me to complete, so be lucky you’re getting the Cliff Notes version this time.
These selections are purely stream of consciousness order. Links included where available (some are lame fan videos so be warned):
1. At The Drive-In- “Enfilade” (Relationship of Command, 2000)
Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez would later start discovering their stacks of Dadaist poetry and unlistenable ‘70s Miles records and turn into rambling douchenozzles, but in At The Drive-In existed perhaps the best heirs to Fugazi’s post-hardcore legacy. Hard-hitting, obscure, dynamic, experimental, and yes, catchy as hell (“FRIEGHT TRAIN COMING!”), “Enfilade” takes its kidnapping narrative and laces it with dissonant guitar squall, a charging rhythm and eerie, evocative lines like “In basements we will hide, amnesia in our alibis.” ATDI reunion now, plz.
2. Clutch- “The Mob Goes Wild” (Blast Tyrant, 2004)
It takes a mighty feat to make that most annoyingly trendy staple of protest music (i.e. anti-Bush song circa 2004) tolerable to my ears. Neil Fallon’s thunderous pipes work wonders, as do lines like “Condoleezza Rice is nice but I prefer a-Roni.” No one has perfected blues boogie and electrified it the way Clutch has, tailor made for producing big shit-eating grins while running out of body parts to shake, bang or tap. This one song is worth more than a stack of NOFX, Anti Flag and Green Day albums combined.
3. Mastodon- “Blood & Thunder” (Leviathan, 2003)
Speaking of Neil Fallon… his cameo on this raging Mastodon anthem is an easy album highlight (“BREAK YOUR BACKS AND CRACK YOUR OARS MEN”). But that doesn’t take away from the rest of this storming opener, with that iconic, snaking riff and Brann Dailor utterly destroying his drumkit for four minutes. Hearing this song pretty much obliterates any doubts you may have about metalizing Moby Dick.
4. The Flaming Lips- “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21” (Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, 2003)
A quiet and evocative meditation on robots becoming self-aware, Wayne Coyne’s
5. Godspeed You! Black Emperor- “Sleep” (Shake Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, 2000)
There’s something about the way that old man’s voice breaks when he says “They don’t sleep anymore on the beach” that is just heartbreaking. I know. I’m a sap. The rest of the track (seems kinda hard to call something that runs 23 minutes with no vocals a “song”) is the most emotional thing they’ve done since “The Dead Flag Blues” from F#A(infinity). The movement starting at around 6:45 and culminating in a torrent of weeping guitars and strings makes this double album worth the price of admission all by itself.
6. Boris- “Woman on The Screen” (Pink, 2005)
If obnoxious Naruto-watching weeaboos had discovered Boris, the world would be a better place. This song, and album, fuses doom metal, shoegaze, punk and good ol’ fashioned RAWK with so much colon-stomping win that even asshole ironic t-shirt sporting
7. McLusky- “To Hell With Good Intentions” (McLusky Do
Okay, forget my rambling for a second and just watch that video. Snarky Welsh motherfuckers? Check. Ear-bleeding Albini-influenced noise rock blasted at 747-flyover volume? Check. And an audience of screaming teenage girls? Check. If the world needed proof that
8. Portishead- “The Rip” (Third, 2008)
Seeing as trip-hop has largely been a dead scene since the early ‘00s, you wouldn’t be all too surprised that Portishead would sound different after ten years of separation. What you didn’t expect was for it to be this good. Abandoning the urban noir of Dummy for an even darker and lusher trip into hypnotic guitar, cascading acoustic drums and thick analog synth enveloping Beth Gibbons’ ghostly wail, Portishead have basically gone Kid A. And it works, dammit. It really works.
9. Tool- “Lateralus” (Lateralus, 2001)
Yeah, yeah, Fibonacci Sequences and whatever. You can have your Fibonacci Sequences, you pseudointellectual windbags. All I care about is how this nine-minute epic ROCKS in an exotic, progtastic way that no Dream Theater wankfest of the same (or any) length would dream of approaching. This also has some of the best usage of bass in a metal song. It’s so entrancing that you almost forget about Adam Jones’ guitar, Danny Carey’s drumming or whatever the hell Maynard’s singing about. Well, at least the last one.
10. Tom Waits- “Hoist That Rag” (Real Gone, 2004)
A big rebound after the lame
11. Fantomas- “The Godfather” (Director’s Cut, 2001)
This cover is definitive proof that the inclusion of Mike Patton, King Buzzo, and Dave Lombardo make awesome things about ten times moreso.
12. The Black Keys- “When The Lights Go Out” (Rubber Factory, 2004)
Why this duo continues to live in the shade of the good, but VASTLY overrated White Stripes boggles my mind to no end. Nevermind the two-piece gimmick, Auerbach and Carney play down ‘n’ dirty, smoky blues rawk the way it was meant to be played. That guitar sound is straight off the
13. Meshuggah- “I” (-I- EP, 2004) [no good video out there for this one]
Yes, this EP is just one 21-minute track, and if a better assertion of this Swedish band’s utter supremacy exists it hasn’t been released yet. This isn’t so much a technical death metal album as it is a trip into mechanized Hell, a brutal Terminator death march razing the face of the Earth, with Jens Kidman’s intimidating roar leading the ranks. Tomas Haake drums in time signatures so alien you’d think we haven’t evolved enough limbs to play them yet.
14. Modest Mouse- “Life Like Weeds” (The Moon & Antarctica, 2000)
Elegiac ruminations on death and mortality come naturally to Isaac Brock, and I think that this is one of his best. Nothing overwrought, nothing maudlin or bogged in angst, just a simple and haunting examination of life’s regrets and our last moments on Earth before “all this talkin’ all the time until the air fills up, up, up until there’s nothing left to breathe, up until there’s nothing left to speak, up until the better parts of space.”
15. Melvins- “Civilized Worm” ((A) Senile Animal, 2006)
After screwing around for the better part of a decade or so, the Melvins’ 1999 “trilogy” of records on Ipecac (Maggot/Bootlicker/Crybaby) showed signs of promise. Well, that promise was fulfilled after a few MORE years of fucking about, when Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover replaced Eric Rutmanis (this band has gone through bassists like Spinal Tap has drummers) and simply absorbed fellow
16. Cannibal Ox- “A B-Boy’s Alpha” (The Cold Vein, 2002)
The music being put out this decade from the Def Jux roster has really made the vast majority of commercial hip-hop sound like wet shit, and this song is no exception. El-P pushes the art of hip-hop production to its ragged edge with backdrops that sound like space stations exploding yet rooted to terra firma with unmistakably massive hip-hop beats, over which Vast Aire and Vordul Megalla drop rugged and autobiographical rhymes. “My mother said you sucked my pussy when you came out/ Don't ever talk back, I handled your life and I'll snatch it back/ I'm just a latch key kid wit a snotty nose/ High school drop out, space I'm around need white-out.”
17. Burial- “Archangel” (Untrue, 2007)
Take Massive Attack’s chilled beats, soulful singing hooks, and dark moodiness circa Mezzanine and distill it down to its core essence, and you have this song. The perfect selection for cruising down faintly lit and empty New York streets alone at 3 AM, the disembodied voice of an R&B singer asking over and over “Can I trust you?” a fitting statement of cold isolation.
18. Electric Wizard- “We Hate You” (Dopethrone, 2000)
Heavier and more plodding than African elephants carrying grand pianos filled with cement, this monolithic track doesn’t so much come out of your speakers as it slowly pounds your sound system with roaring subsonic frequencies to a bloody freaking pulp, leaving your eardrums shattered and your room filled with a dense fog of cannabis smoke. The Holy Grail of stoner metal? Fuck. Yes.
19. MGMT- “Kids” (Oracular Spectacular, 2009)
After a dismal decade of endless media saturation, wars on TV and crashing economies, even my curmudgeonly self will take perfectly formed expressions of joy wherever I can find them, and this fits the bill to a T. That gloriously simple synth line and overall infectiousness makes “Kids” the musical equivalent of crack rock cured in nicotine and soaked in opium.
20. Madvillain- “Figaro” (Madvillainy, 2003)
Though producer Madlib does drop a most excellent smoky beat on this (and through the rest of the album), this song is solely noteworthy for having one of the sickest flows of any rap song dropped in the ‘00s this side of Ghostface, courtesy of the Masked Villain himself. Listen to the latter half of that verse and try to dispute MF DOOM’s claim that he’s “the best MC with no chain you ever heard.” Grimy as hell.
21. Battles- “Tonto” (Mirrored, 2007)
Math rock this well executed and catchy only comes along every once in a while, and while prog nerds may immediately peg this as sounding very ‘80s King Crimson, how is that in any way, shape or form a bad thing? From the (thankfully spare) processed chipmunk vocals to the holistic approach to groove and intertwined melodies, this is truly progressive art rock without most of the obnoxious cliches associated with the form. Plus I wholeheartedly endorse anything to do with ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier.
22. Wilco- “Jesus etc.” (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, 2002)
One hears the line about “Tall buildings shake, voices escape singing sad sad songs” and can’t help but think of 9/11, but this sublimely beautiful song is a lot more universal than that. The elegant plucked and sweeping strings, gently melancholic steel guitars and Jeff Tweedy’s assuring voice lend this a bittersweet and graceful, not maudlin air that will stand the test of time.
23. Baroness- “The Sweetest Curse” (Blue Album, 2009)
Often unfairly dismissed as Mastodon’s little brother, fellow
24. Johnny Cash- “I Hung My Head” (American IV, 2003)
Yes, “Hurt” is amazing and was a fine note for The Man In Black to go out on, but this cut from the very same album is a real revelation—few artists embody the themes of death, judgment and repentance like Cash did in his withered but still sturdy baritone, and his ownership of “I Hung My Head” is so complete it took me YEARS to even believe that this was a fucking Sting cover of all things.
25. Converge- “Last Light” (You Fail Me, 2004)
Perfectly obliterating the raw, creepy atmosphere established by the one-minute solo guitar of “First Light,” this song is three minutes of pure rushing adrenaline lead by Jacob Bannon’s unrivaled feral scream, and a live staple for good reason. If Bannon’s proclamation of “This is for the hearts still beating” isn’t fucking riveting, check your pulse. Converge wrote the book on American metalcore, and after four masterful albums in one decade, all full of songs like this, they are the uncontested kings.
26. The Avalanches- “Frontier Psychiatrist” (Since I Left You, 2000)
I haven’t heard so many awesomely utilized samples since… well, no, not even DJ Shadow’s Entroducing used this many. If you’re a turntablist, you’ve probably given up somewhere around the fourth minute. Fucking brilliant.
27. Immortal Technique- “Obnoxious” (Vol 2, 2003)
Yeah, Immortal Tech probably has better, more politically relevant songs, but I can’t find a more characteristically brutal, ruthlessly offensive and darkly hilarious one than “Obnoxious.” Say what you will about the man’s openly Communist politics, but the line “Run through Little Havana yelling ‘VIVA FIDEL!’” is hands down the most awesome punchline ever, and his panning of today’s lame hip-hop scene hasn’t lost an ounce of truth in the age of ringtone homunculi like Soulja Boy.
28. Radiohead- “Reckoner” (In Rainbows, 2007)
It took forever for me to really listen to post-Kid A Radiohead, I thought that OK Computer (overrated though it is) was pretty much as good as it got for them and Kid A and later albums were just a half-assed Eno/Aphex Twin pastiche about as lively as wallpaper. I expected to say the same things of In Rainbows, but “Reckoner” basically took all my preconceptions and tossed them out the window. Sure, it’s languorous, it’s slow, it does not rock—but for once there is a spark of life, in the form of that great crashing drumline and even Thom’s voice no longer sounds half asleep. The single bent-note guitar, the gentle washes of strings… goddamn beautiful this is, I don’t care.
29. Agalloch- “…And the Great Cold Death of the Earth” (The Mantle, 2002)
Agalloch is often referred to as a metal band, but that’s only true in a very nominal sense of the term. Yes, there are distorted guitars, and vocalist Haughm sometimes sings in a snakelike rasp, but the delicacy and epic arrangements of their songs, along with the extensive use of acoustic guitar, orchestral instruments like bells and kettle drums, and bowed upright bass are more like prog or post-rock than anything else. Exquisitely paced, atmospheric and evocative of the mountainous, cold and desolate
30. Coalesce- “Wild Ox Moan” (OX, 2009)
Yes, that is twangy country stomp directly juxtaposed with the most vicious, rhythmically challenging hardcore you’ve ever heard. This band took over eight years to get back in a recording studio, they only recorded about 50 minutes of new material, and yet I could not be fucking happier. Sean Ingram’s voice hasn’t lost an ounce of venom, and after the first 50 seconds the guitars cut flesh with the best of them. This mashes Hatebreed and other unimaginative girl pants-wearing hXc bands to a fine paste and pisses on the remains.
31. Hot Snakes- “If Credit’s What Matters I’ll Take Credit” (Automatic Midnight, 2000) [no video]
Anyone lamenting the breakup of unsung yet excellent ’90 post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu but thought they were missing a little of related outfit Rocket From the Crypt’s swagger will surely find this song, featuring John Reis on guitar from the latter band, to be about seven shades of fucking awesome. All the necessary elements—paint-peeling ferocity, fist-tight rhythms, and Rick Froeberg—wrapped up in two and a half minutes of jagged greatness. It’s a shame they broke up a few albums later.
32. Today Is The Day- “Butterflies” (Sadness Will Prevail, 2002)
Whoa. Whoooaaaaaa. I… I… this is terrifying as all shit. Imagine the soundtrack of Charles Manson’s head on some serious drugs and you have some concept of how Steve Austin’s brainchild operates, but this is pretty out there even by his twisted standards. One part metal, three parts noise, and all of it just fucking insane. Think Wolf Eyes is extreme? “Butterflies” will haunt you for life, and I mean that in the best way possible.
33. Murder By Death- “Theme for Ennio Morricone” (Red of Tooth & Claw, 2008)
I have a huge soft spot for Spaghetti Western auteur Sergio Leone and Morricone’s amazing scores, and apparently so do Murder By Death---this great instrumental from the
34. Pelican- “Lost In The Headlights” (City of
Sometimes you just feel like “fuck lyrics.” This is what you put on. There are plenty of post-metal bands that are good at their craft, but most of them don’t make the very existence of a vocalist superfluous. Pelican does.
35. Khanate- “Commuted” (Things Viral, 2003)
I made the mistake of putting this on my iPod for work one day. In the middle of yet another dreary afternoon of data entry, all of a sudden “Commuted” comes on. Typing halts, time comes to a standstill, the room gets colder, the lights dim and from the moment Alan Dubin’s utterly evil shrieks and the endlessly droning bass start, I have no memory of anything else. 20 minutes later, I claw my way out of the Abyss to find my iPod’s batteries dead. True story.
36. Beirut- “Nantes” (The Flying Club Cup, 2007)
There’s something romantic and elegant about Zach Condon’s take on modern Old World fusion/gyspy/indie/whatever that makes it a lot more appealing to me than say, Gogol Bordello or Devotchka (those bands are good, don’t get me wrong, but the Borat Sings! novelty can be a little grating after a while). “
37. Lovage- “Stroker Ace” (Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, 2001)
Jennifer Charles is as fucking hot as her voice is. Yes, it’s possible. Watch that vid. Patton or no Patton, this track is pimp beyond words.
38. Candiria- “Without Water” (300 Percent Density, 2001)
To say Candiria are rap-metal would be greatly oversimplifying, as they took that most hated of genres and reinvented it in their own image with a big infusion of NYC-style hardcore and jazz fusion and not an ounce of “nu” in evidence. “Without Water” combines Carley Coma’s genuinely skilled rapping and a series of twisted rhythms and bull-in-a-china-shop riffs with a natural ease that makes Limp Bizkit and Korn look like the talentless pieces of shit that they are. Fellow NYC crossover pioneers Biohazard would be proud.
39. Bat for Lashes- “Glass” (Two Suns, 2009)
Okay, I for one fucking hate “freak folk,” and I don’t hear any of that here, so I’m not sure how the label got affixed to one Natasha Khan. All I can say is that this is exquisite crystalline pop of the highest order, with juxtaposition between angelic, graceful vocals and a driving, percussive and exotic beat that makes me melt in a way that no one else has accomplished since Bjork’s Homogenic.
40. Squarepusher- “Tetra-Sync” (Ultravisitor, 2004)
Tom Jenkinson is an electronic musician that places heavy emphasis on the “musician” part, and evidence of that can be found all over this juicy nine-minute showcase, loaded to the gills with manic snares (both live and programmed), superhuman bass guitar riffs and icy, melodic synths. “Intelligent dance music” is an awfully self-indulgent moniker, but Squarepusher embodies prog-electronica without pretense.
Incorporating full gospel choirs in rock music is usually the province of pompous, hyperearnest assclowns like Bono and Sting, but damn if
42. Antlers- “Wake” (Hospice, 2009)
Yes, everyone likes “Two” and for good reason, but I cannot resist a good dirge, and fuck me if this isn’t the saddest thing I’ve heard in a long time. When Peter Silberman, in the voice of the grieving protagonist, exhorts “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you deserve that” over and over and the somber ghostly choir and choked sobs fall away to a huge wave of angelic sound backed by martial drums, resistance is completely futile.
While Oceanic is a better album as a whole than Panopticon, “So Did We” takes the peaks of that entire album and expertly jams them into the space of seven and a half minutes that just fly by, from a opening best described as being suspended within the eye of a hurricane transitioning to an expanse of reverb-drenched ambience that slowly culminates in an absolutely devastating climax; all the while staying thoroughly metal. Aaron Turner’s vocals, where present, are a force of nature, another instrument in the onslaught whether screamed or sung. Look up “epic post-metal” and you won’t find a better definition than “So Did We.”
44. Death From Above 1979- “Black History Month” (You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, 2004)
Do I really have to explain the appeal of this most excellent slab of dance punk? It’s such an infectious guilty pleasure, thumping bass, effortlessly cool vocal, cowbell and all. DANCE MOTHERFUCKERS!
45. High On Fire- “The Face of Oblivion” (Blessed Black Wings, 2005)
Out of the recent spawn of retro-styled metal bands, there are some truly excellent entries—The Sword injects Sabbath with a big dose of creatine, Lair of the Minotaur takes Remission-era Mastodon and cranks the Slayer knob to 11, and Skeletonwitch channels Bay Area-era thrash with a dash of black metal necrosis. High On Fire however might even surpass this esteemed company, their Celtic Frost/Sabbath/Motorhead worship combined with some fantastic songwriting (seriously, listen to that clean break around the four-minute mark) and the kind of genuine, dirtied-up brutal riffage and vocals courtesy of Sleep alumni Matt Pike that would do their primordial ancestors proud.
46. El-P- “Up All Night” (I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, 2007)
This is punk rap in trademark El-P fashion—caustic, assaultive, witheringly sarcastic, delivered under three minutes and aimed squarely at the powers that be (Bush, pop radio, what have you). Proof that you can be hard as fuck without mentioning your Glock. If Jello Biafra wrote rap songs, they’d prolly sound like this.
47. Einsturzende Neubaten- “Ich Gehe Jetzt” (Perpetuum Mobile, 2004)
These German mavens of high-art industrial music led by eccentric frontman and former Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld have certainly come a long way from their noise terrorist period of the ‘80s. This is downright soothing and melodic, with Blixa’s voice never rising above a rich, regal baritone. But those organ-like sounds providing “Ich Gehe Jetzt’s” languid pulse are really long hydraulic tubes of compressed air, proving that this band’s methods will never be completely orthodox, and good on them.
48. The Mountain Goats- “No Children” (
Yes, I know this song’s been mentioned countless times already, but I would be a goddamn fool to not include it. A more bitingly perfect and utterly blistering expression of desperation and hate has yet to be written. This is the anthem for all the bad relationships you somehow can’t quit, for all the hangovers that don’t wear off until you go back to the bottle, for the fucking unfulfilling 9-to-5 job and the fucking car that won’t start and the fucking pathetic hangers-on that just won’t go away. This is real.
49. Immortal- “Beyond The North Waves” (Sons of Northern Darkness, 2002)
Immortal are probably the most ridiculous-looking band on Earth this side of a Kiss concert, but their irony-free music is the product of stone-faced Viking rage. Fusing the best qualities of traditional heavy metal in the Iron Maiden vein with the grim blasting fury of their Norwegian black metal peers and bolstered by thick, bass-enriched production (proving that metal doesn’t have to be recorded in a fucking cave to be authentic or “kVLT”), it’s impossible to listen to all eight minutes of “Beyond The North Waves” without longing for warpaint and a battleaxe. And if the majestic guitars and thunderous double bass don’t boil your blood, Abbath’s proud declaration of “I will fight until the day I die” will. PURE FUCKING \m/
Novelty act? Sure, but parodies of commercial rap excess this good don’t come along very often, and to rescue SNL from the throes of terminal suckitude no less. Flight of The Conchords might be worth a dry chuckle or two, but The Lonely Island are flat-out fucking HILARIOUS, and unlike Weird Al the shtick has yet to get stale. It’s also just about the only context where I find T-Pain’s Roger Troutman impersonation enjoyable, and that’s no small feat.