Styrofoam Boots' Decade List 2000-2009, Part 3

(100-91) (90-81) 80-71 (70-61) (60-51) (50-41) (40-31) (30-21) (20-11)

80. Wolf Eyes - Burned Mind

Calling anything Wolf Eyes does “subtle” is pretty fucking off the mark, but they certainly have a lot more craft and appreciation for actual dynamics than most self-professed noise artists. Everything these guys do creates its own impenetrable nightmarish atmosphere, and Burned Mind is no exception. Much more violent than the creepier, (marginally) quieter sonics of Human Animal, this album revels in thrashing industrial noise cranked to eleven that suddenly washes out into brain-damaging high-frequency drones and stomping lo-fi beats, with hateful inhuman screams layered over top. “Rattlesnake Shake” is the scariest, darkest corner of psychedelia as performed by a quartet of Ann Arbor psychos, the sonic equivalent of an axe murderer creeping up on you, and the rest is 99% as terrifying. -Stephen

79. Zazen Boys - Zazen Boys 4

Zazen Boys IV is Math-Funk-Synth-[Post-Hardcore]-Rap-Rock. I try, but sometimes labeling doesn’t really work. Zazen Boys manages to blend math rock rhythms, funky slap bass, corny sounding 80’s DX-7 synthesizer, spoken word, post hardcore grit, and Mukai Shutoku’s crazed vocal vocabulary of snarls, yells, screams and unsteady singing into a serious and comprehensible sound. Shutoku’s previous band Number Girl may have a confusing combination of influences, but Zazen Boys takes this to a new level, and THEY ARE NO JOKE. However disturbing it may be to listen to a record with 80’s synthesizer and synthetic hand claps generated from an effects pedal* being played at a Battles-esque precision, it is only in the best possible way. I don’t think someone can envision the sound through an explanation unless you are Mukai Shutoku, where you not only would you be able to actualize this sound in the first place, but express humanity within it. -Adrian

*They actually use an FX pedal used to generate hand claps.

78. Squarepusher - Ultravisitor

Tom Jenkinson has always been out on the fringes of electronica, pushing the envelope further into dissonant, spiraling freeform and cutting-edge beats with every release. But Jenkinson’s a great jazz musician too, as Music Is Rotted One Note proved, and since that release he’s always strived to combine the two worlds with varying success. With Ultravisitor he finally hits that perfect happy medium of glitchy mayhem (“Steinbolt”), gentler jazzy musings (“Iambic 9 Poetry”) and godlike bass solos (“Tetra-Sync”). No you can’t dance to this stuff, and there may be more accessible Squarepusher records available, but compared to the dry, analytical Rubik’s Cube vibe of most IDM (Autechre anyone?), Ultravisitor proves that prog-electronica can race pulses as well as it scrambles brains -Stephen.

77. The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound

It’s hard to ignore music this catchy, and it’s just as hard to dislike music this earnest. That’s The ’59 Sound in a nutshell, drawing as much on the working class bravado of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger as the punk fervor of a group like Agent Orange. From the pains of trying to hang onto your best gal to the smallness one feels living in a tiny, dead-end working class town, all the classic Heartland topics are covered, but presented with a gusto and unselfconscious sincerity that makes the whole thing feel fresh. You’ll be humming the riffs for weeks and Brian Fallon’s warm, scratchy howl instills a familiarity that makes you think he’s in the room with you. In terms of pure, uncompromised rock ‘n roll over the last 10 years, The Gaslight Anthem was hard to beat, and The ’59 Sound was alive and well in the modern age. -CJ

76. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

Psychedelic pop was hard to pull off even in the heyday of the genre, and one could be accused of looking foolish for trying to revitalize it in the 21st century. Lucky then that MGMT are no fools: Oracular Spectacular is a fine example of the genre that was built(and ultimately destroyed) by bands like Love and The Zombies, simultaneously preserving and reinvigorating the acid-drenched magic for a new generation. The synths are powerful but not overbearing, communicating a sweeping, cosmic emotion that’s hard not to be touched by and harder still to forget, while the lyrics are forward thinking and sharp, demanding that the kids of today stake out a claim that is, and can remain, uniquely their own. Oracular Spectacular is a moving effort from what would become one of the decade’s most relevant groups, and it ain’t bad to dance to, either. -CJ

75. Dilute - Grape Blueprints Pour Spinach Olive Grape

Dilute is awesome. They have a modest reputation amongst the norcal math rock scene, but for the most part are incredibly obscure, for understandable reasons (the singer sounds like he is on the verge of death, which he sort of is). Honestly, I hate it when people disregard a band solely because of the singers voice; there is much more integrity in the music than the voice. Anyways, Dilute combines free jazz with math rock instrumentation and utilizes these sounds to write genuinely incredible songs for the most part. The singer’s voice, in terms of an emotional standpoint, matches the music perfectly. They are probably one of the most unique bands you’ll hear so if you’re interested in incredibly singular and clean guitar playing with songwriting that seems to focus on construction and deconstruction… listen to Dilute. -Adrian

74. Botch - We Are The Romans

Quite possibly the smartest, most irreverent band in mathy hardcore circa 2000, Seattle heroes Botch nonetheless met and exceeded the genre on its own terms with abrasive slabs of mindfucking noise and gloriously twisted riffs courtesy of guitarist Dave Knudson, stop-start syncopated rhythms and changeups that hit like baseball bats, and Dave Verellan’s caustic rants to top the sundae. Few of their peers could lay claim to the tightly wound, head-spinning maze of riffs underpinning “Mondrian Was a Liar” and “Transitions from Persona to Object,” or the epic sweep of ten-minute bruiser “Man the Ramparts,” which breaks into Gregorian chant just as a nice “fuck you” to pofaced, Jamey Jasta-idolizing hXc kids. -Stephen

73. The Postal Service - Give Up

Even with the beautiful aesthetics aside, this album is important. In 2003 indie was still underground and despite Radiohead and Wilco's hard efforts, the scene still found itself at great distance from digital sounds. Many independant rockers were still so focused on saving rock and roll. But really, the moment anyone heard Such Great Hights it was all over. The war was lost in it's undeniably beautiful tones, coupled with Ben Gibbard's calm, honest delivery. This was the first electronic album most of us listened too, because this was the first electronic album to make the instruments sound real. Like they belonged genuinely to this world as much as, if not more than, the electric guitar. And sure, it gets saccharine at times, but it stood a refreshing contrast to the underground's dominating sex-and-or-gloom aesthetic, changing the course of indie for at least the next five years. It's been a wonder to see this beautiful disc grow slowing, weaving itself gradually above the ground and into the consciousness of an entire generation. -Stuart

72. Immortal - Sons of Northern Darkness

Forget the name of whichever lemon-sucking Aspergers-afflicted Varg wannabe operating from his mom’s basement that P-Fork happens to be giving blowjobs this month. Immortal had properly grim corpse-painted black metal on lock over a decade ago, and without resorting to recording all their records in a cave or burning a single church. How? By being as metal as fucking possible at all times. Sons of Northern Darkness is what the Gods blast in Valhalla between rounds of mead and chopping off heads, an album that manages to be atmospheric, epic (four 7+ minute songs back to back), catchy and heavy as hell, combining a furious maelstrom of Norwegian black metal with the keen melodic sense of Iron Maiden to produce a recording for all to worship. Look at those battle axes, people—this shit is for real. -Stephen

71. Arctic Monkeys - Favorite Worst Nightmare

Smart, driven and at times even downright vicious, Favourite Worst Nightmare is an album conceived by brats and crafted by geniuses. If you’re a skank, a lazy prick or a user, be advised: Alex Turner hates you, and he’s not letting you off the hook. Each song is an immaculately produced, finely tuned attack, and while Jamie Cook’s guitar shifts from surf-rock blitzkriegs to whirring, mosquito-like hums at the drop of a hat, Matt Helder’s swift-but-groovy drum lines and Alex Turner’s sultry, brash vocals keep the sound unified and make damn sure those pretty little socialites can’t escape the scope of their all-seeing gun. This isn’t to take away anything from bassist Nick O’Malley, who shines on tracks like “Balaclava” and “D is for Dangerous” by showing off a rumble and tone that many would kill for. Favourite Worst Nightmare captures alternative rock at its finest: Angry, misanthropic and delightfully, lethally catchy. -CJ

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