Styrofoam Boots' Decade List 2000-2009, Part 5

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

60. Sunn 0))) - Monoliths and Dimensions

The notion of weight defines most drone metal, the music aims for the heft of the earth's sold core crushing down on you, feeling the pull of far heightened gravity strain on every gram of your skin. Sunn 0))) with these four long songs do much more than that. In fact they do something so incredibly different from anything I've previously experienced that metaphors fail me all together. I can't explain how this album makes a person feel. But its amazing. Or, well, it's also painful. And sometimes extremely frustrating. In fact, it's painful as fuck. And it's uplifting. And in the weight you feel rising. And it's expertly crafted, finely tuned, not a usual tenant of the genre. And it's painful. And its SO damn brilliant. -Stuart

59. Mastodon – Crack the Skye

The thing about this record is that it's a lot of fun. In fact, it's much more fun than a metal album in 2009 had any right to be, and it's fun for all the right reasons. This album can't be listened to sitting down, it's choruses beg to be shouted along to, it's guitar solos are impossible to hear without ripping out your own invisible axe in response. This is a metal album for everyone, without losing it's seriousness or becoming that obnoxiously popular eye-winking self conscious. This is no small feat. -Stuart

58. Clutch- Blast Tyrant

You’d think a band making Southern-fried boogie in this day and age would sound like a tired anachronism, but Clutch has been hard at work perfecting their singular brand of whip-smart, funky modern blues for close to two decades now, and with all fifteen tracks of Blast Tyrant they completely solidified their claim as Tightest Rock Band in The Known Universe. A tongue-in-cheek concept album about demons, the evils of war and Bush or some goddamn thing sounds hokey on paper but all doubts are removed when Neil Fallon (he of the Denomination of Most Righteous Beards) awakens his mighty Howlin’ Wolf pipes over some of the most sublime grooves, churchy organ and ass-busting guitar riffs ever put on record. All meat, no filler. -Stephen

57. White Rabbits – Fort Nightly

Occupying a space between post-punk revival, Latin swing/jazz and hints of classical, Fort Nightly would've wound up a cumbersome, muddled work under many other artists. Fortunately, White Rabbits instill a dark atmosphere that, combined with the brass and eerie guitar riffs, make the album the perfect soundtrack to a pulp murder mystery. Jangling with indie-rock accessibility on certain tracks and brooding with murderous paranoia on others, the album is at its best when these two moods crash into each other on tracks like "Kid on my Shoulders" and "While We Go Dancing". Nothing quite like Fort Nightly was released in the '00s-nothing quite so classy, nothing quite so catchy, nothing quite so dangerous, and certainly nothing that fit into all those categories quite so remarkably. -CJ

56. Madvillian- Madvillainy

MF Doom is the best stoned rapper since Redman, and Madlib is easily the mightiest crate digger since the late J Dilla. This collaboration had to happen, and the result is straight banger from beginning to end. Most of these tracks wisely consist of one or two smoked butter Doom flows coasting effortlessly over slack, crackly loops, eccentric comic-book sampling and rubber-band bass cutting from track to track before it has any chance of getting old. Doom brings lyrics too, punctuating his usual food and weed rhymes with an unexpected (and strangely not unwelcome) dose of politics (“Strange Ways”) and a schizophrenic dis track featuring his alter ego Viktor Vaughn (“Fancy Clown”). Add some cameos from Lib’s own alter ego Lord Quas and Yesterday’s New Quintet and you have some of the finest sounds hip-hop had to offer in the ‘00s. -Stephen

55. The Shins – Oh, Inverted World

What separates this album from the mass of mid-decade indie-pop? The songs. For me, the songs have a sense of immediacy that just strikes a really fat chord deep down. James Mercer is a songwriting extraordinaire with seemingly simple compositions, but uses such a distinct lyrical and melodic style backed by the signature Shins sound that it becomes impossible to through in with all the rest of the twee drudge. Reverberant and distant and sweet and sad on top, but truly heart-felt and intricate if you choose to plunge the depth, this album truly can, as they say, "Change your life". -Adrian

54. Boris- Pink

Listening to this album its hard to see the rifts between the genres of hard rock music, difficult to understand how the punks could hate the metal heads, how grunge is separate from shoegaze, how hair bands can't get along with the experimental noise set. Because on this coming-out record from the notoriously difficult Japanese trio, they stuck the whole lot in a blender. These songs are glowing and riffy and smooth and hard and catchy and harsh. They are easy and difficult. They are seventy's punk and eighty's indie, and ninety's dream pop, and millennial metal. They are cerebral and instinctual. They hit like a big rig on rocket fuel. -Stuart

53. The Unicorns - Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?

The Unicorns is one of the quintessential indie bands that sprouted from that prominent Canadian indie scene in its heyday. This enormously important band helped spawn the legions of terrible synth-quirky melodic indie bands with awkward vocals. How could so many bands take something so accessible and make it so wretched? In order to successfully utilize synths, quirkiness, awkward vocals, and accessible melodies, you probably have to be The Unicorns. First of all, they don’t use conventional songwriting in general. They are weird. They are indie pop that isn’t experimental but still manages to be really weird. The vocals are weird, in the sense that they’re loosely delivered and almost sound half improvised, although they maintain the solidity of the melodies enough to remain memorable. This album is well constructed and did I mention the melodies? The melodies. THE MELODIES. It only helps that the lyrics manage to understandably morbid. -Adrian

52. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away

I find myself constantly out of breath reaching to explain to people why the Shin's last album is their best. It's not as distinct in sound and tone as Oh, Inverted World they say, not as catchy and upfront as Chutes Too Narrow. No! I say desperate. This is the album. This is the album the Shins were always trying to make. Inaccessible, no matter how catchy it may seem, these songs are coded, they will not let you in. But once you fight through you will find the perfect album for staying up all night. The perfect album for things you can't explain. These songs are uplifting without offering easy redemption. These songs are all questions. And to me that's the most beautiful. -Stuart

51. Justice –

I had trou
ble writing this. When I listen to Justice, I think of all sorts of hipsters and fashion kids attending some sort of debauched social event and doing dumb ass shit (i.e taking pictures of themselves with 40's or making out with one another in front of everyone else). Why would I love Justice for evoking this seemingly terrible imagery in my head again? When it comes down to it, Justice really knows how to make people dance, and forget their moral qualms with staying decent or well-mannered. The distinction between Justice and every other dance band is the fact that they utilize the 80's slap bass, disco synths, chain-compressed kick sounds that really KICK, and signature sense of melody that can't be mistaken (and I shouldn't forget to mention that Gaspard and Xavier themselves are commendably badass douchebags). They've definitely achieved their reputation in the dance world. This shit is so compressed, so dense, and so distorted. And It feels like rock and roll. -Adrian

Six (Six Six) For All Hallow's Eve

Today I'm going to divert from my usual MO and post something more befitting the holiday season. Hope the people awaiting the next entry of A Token of My Extreme with bated breath don't mind (all three of you).

Yeah, I know--"holiday music" is a profoundly embarassing cliche, more fit for fat housewives who dutifully trot out dreadfully obnoxious Chipmunks albums every Christmas. And Halloween has honestly never been my favorite holiday. What should be awesome in concept--i.e. dressing up like your ghoul of choice and fleecing a metric shitton of holy candy off your neighbors--only stays that way for about ten to fifteen precious, naive years; after which it gets soiled by the knowledge of how fat that sugary shit makes you or the total fucking embarassment of being a grown human dressing up to compete with retarded teenagers and chaperoned little brats and their fortysomething parents whose "inner child" desperately needs to be beaten and locked in a closet for all eternity. And don't even get me started on candy corn.

So nowadays I spend that night blasting awesome, creepy and cool music at volumes fit for low-flying 747's, marathoning old horror flicks and reveling in the haunted, sepulchral trappings of late fall. While hoping my car doesn't get egged.

Just as horror fiction has splintered into a hydra of genres, each with its own unique stylistic trappings (slasher, cheesy B-movie, psychological, survival, zombie, Lovecraft, etc. etc.), there's a lot of horror-themed music out there covering a similarly broad spectrum, from cheesy sci-fi to gory to occult to the terror of the unknown. And that's where this entry comes in. Here be (no particular order) my six favorite records to spin every 10/31....

The Cramps- Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits (IRS Records, 1981)

The now and forever reigning kings of psychobilly, batshit insane vocalist Lux Interior (RIP), guitar-playing seductress Poison Ivy and their freakish cohorts in tow released many damn fine records--but none greater than this double feature. A covers-heavy brew of B-horror pulp and exploitation themes mashed in a bloody blender with shindiggy surf rock and gutter-bound early punk, Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits offers sublime cuts like "Goo Goo Muck," "Don't Eat Stuff off The Sidewalk," "The Crusher," "Voodoo Idol" and best of all "Human Fly." Only Lux could sell a line like "I've got 96 tears and 96 eyes" with such crazed conviction.

Misfits- Walk Among Us (Ruby/Slash, March 1982)

Long after Glenn Danzig became a total cliche and people have torn those Exploited and Minor Threat patches off their messenger bags, The Misfits are still being listened to. Why? Because they're fucking fun, that's why, as mini-masterpieces like "I Turned Into A Martian" and "Skulls" attest. Lyrics about grotesque transformations, occult imagery and zombie splatterfest anchored to an effortless punk/speed metal pogo, lots of "WHOA-OH-OH's," and Danzig's Elvis-on-crack vocals, this is a 24-minute shot of audio caffeine that only sounds better while tearing around the house in a plastic skull mask.

John Zorn- IAO (Tzadik, 2002)

With song titles like "Sacred Rites of The Left Hand Path" and "Lucifer Rising" and a commitment to the concepts of Aleister Crowley and Kabbalah you might be expecting self-serious cheese, but a look at the roster of super-talented avante-garde personnel (Bill Laswell, Jennifer Charles, Mike Patton) should raise an eyebrow. And so will this album--an elaborate suite of seductive and eerie chants, shamanic percussion, blasting metal, and stretches of creepy ambience, IAO expertly establishes its slow-burn occult aura with the kind of attention to craft that Zorn has made his trademark.

Death- Scream Bloody Gore (Combat/Relativity, 1987)

Not all big stupid gore metal albums are created equal--witness the two decade long surplus of dipshit material from the likes of Cannibal Corpse and Exhumed, just to name two. And Chuck Schuldiner (RIP) himself would go on to make far better music than Death's debut album. But this musical homage to zombie lord George Romero easily surpasses all its imitators--raw, brutal, offensive and impossibly fast without sounding too calculated or overly technical. Lowbrow? Sure, but Scream Bloody Gore's daring and gross-out charm is undeniable. Sorta like watching early Peter Jackson flicks.

Skinny Puppy- Too Dark Park (Nettwork, 1990)

At the height of their ability on this record, Skuppy understood that horror was not just from the realms of fiction, but right outside a slum tenement window or inside the walls of corporate laboratories. A mind-ravaging attack from beginning to end, Too Dark Park is fucking scary on several levels, with samples that hit like bad acid trips and beats that eviscerate spines all set to Nivek Ogre's utterly demented, distorted vox chronicling the worst of humanity's excesses. Opener "Convulsion" is so fragmented and insane that it will forever alter your perception of what music is, the sonic equivalent of Lynch's Eraserhead, and it doesn't get much tamer from there.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins- Voodoo Jive: The Best of.. (Rhino/WEA, 1990)

All modern "shock" rockers: Bow before your god. Though his career was launched by the hit single "I Put A Spell on You" back in the staid, crooner-loving '50s and coasted to commercial obscurity soon after, Screamin' Jay (RIP... we think) is still some next level shit in all his voodoo-hoodoo, coffin-bursting, cape-wearing, shrunken head-sporting glory. Rocking out even in his sixties, Jay brought us seriously bizarre and twisted blues/rockabilly tracks "Alligator Wine," "Frenzy," "Feast of The Mau-Mau" and "Little Demon," along with a bunch of slightly saner tunes all decked out in Jay's howling mad, titanic opera singer pipes and hilarious outbursts of gibberish. Unbound by trends and unaffected by modern attempts from today's pathetic roster of PMRC-baiting clowns, there will never be another performer like him.



Styrofoam Boots' Decade List 2000-2009, Part 4

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

70. Khanate- Things Viral

It's a rare circumstance when wild hyperbole is even remotely sufficient to really capture an album's sound or its effect on a listener, and I don't want to cheapen the, uh, "experience" of Things Viral too much by indulging in a full paragraph of it. But I will say this: If Cthulu picked up a electric guitar and started playing, the Great Old One would sound EXACTLY like Khanate. 'Nuff fucking said. -Stephen

69. Beck - Modern Guilt

Paranoia is the theme of Beck's latest triumph. Crafted at a point in time when he found himself quietly slipping out of relevance, in fact most people mildly assumed he had already fallen, this album was largely ignored. And yet in its walking down the street smoothly in sunglasses while chain-smoking but scared out of your mind aesthetic, he captured something perfect. Something vital. Certainly calmer than he's ever been, he sounds phased and removed as he sings unbalanced catchy tunes about conspiracy theories and radiation poisoning. About empty souls and empty prayers. About what are you going to do when these walls come falling down backed by the smooth pearl colored synths and paper crinkling beats supplied by Danger Mouse. And almost no one cared. -Stuart

68. Bang on a Can and Steven Reich – New York Counterpoint, Eight Lines, Four Organs

I’m a humongous neophyte to the genre of contemporary classical, so it’s completely possible that a better album in the genre came out this decade and I simply didn’t hear it. That said: I heard this one, and this one is pure, minimalist beauty. Flutes, violins and pianos pulse in and out, upward and down like waves against a beach, leaving the sounds to construct themselves in your ears, not unlike Brian Eno’s ambient work from the ‘80s. The difference, however, is scale-this music grows from the tiniest seed into gargantuan oak trees, then recede back into the soil and grow again, creating the sensation that the music is very much alive. All the pieces form one greater whole in an effort that is not entirely unlike magic. -CJ

67. The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree

The Sunset Tree is a cheesy hollywood movie. The Sunset Tree is about a child being beaten. You know the scene, lying on his floor, ear pressed to the left speaker of a boombox. You hear the car pull up outside and he doesn't. Door slams open, loud thunk, slow motion, mother screams in kitchen, feet walking down the hallway, string quartet playing battle music, turns the corner and we finally see his face - and so does the kid, who is grabbed by the collar and pulled out of frame. Kid getting wasted on video games and equally fucked up girlfriend - and scotch - and driving home in the California morning, dazed, daydreaming of the year he graduates and gets to leave home as if it were his entrance into heaven, gleeful, drunk, and doomed. The yelling and the screaming and the bitterness, death, and sorrow, the cheesy ending that you still can't help but cry at. This album is the opposite of aloof. This album shy's away from nothing. This album will fuck you up. -Stuart

66. Rage Against the Machine – Renegades

Rage Against the Machine has always been a confederacy of influences, and on Renegades they pay proud tribute to those anthems of anger that would birth some of their greatest songs. From Ian Mackaye to Afrika Bambaataa to Bruce Springsteen, all with a message are welcome, and all listeners who would hear their gospel are treated such as kings. The rhythm section is the best it’s ever been, with Tim Commerford playing some of his most vicious, thundering basslines and Brad Wilk beating the drums like an adulterant lover. Rocha sounds as committed to the cause as ever, one-upping Mackaye himself on a throat ripping rendition of “In My Eyes” and delivering Cyprus Hill’s “How I Could Just Kill a Man” with a swaggering, almost cruelly indifferent bravado. Throw in radio anthem “Renegades of Funk” and reimaginings of folk classics “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Maggie’s Farm” that have to be heard to be believed, and you have a record that proves that even if they weren’t performing their own material, Rage had no shortage of ideas. -CJ

65. Flogging Molly – Drunken Lullabies

Despite how much “real” Celtic music aficionados may rage against the idea, here’s the scoop: Flogging Molly is probably the most logical extension of the Pogues to have existed, and Drunken Lullabies is a crowning combination of all the things they do best. The title track is without question one of the best anthems of the last decade(if not one of the best anthems, period) and a blizzard of exciting punk songs like “What’s Left of the Flag”, “The Kilburn High Road”, “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” and “Swagger” keep the momentum going from the first song onward. Add in some willowy, nostalgic ballads like “Death Valley Queen”, “The Sun Never Shines(On Closed Doors)” and the absolutely heart wrenching “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”, and you have an album that represents folk-punk at its very finest(even if you do die a little inside every time you’re forced to put a prefix in front of the word “punk”). -CJ

64. John Wiese - Soft Punk

This is probably the point where noise music shows us what it's worth. Where it transcends the little box it's immense freedom has shoved it into. Glitchy, sharp, intelligent, this thing plays you, it pushes you around. This album has complete control. Still more violent than the harshest death metal, more painful than the full force of a sonic boom on your ear drums. Still far far too violent - and experimental and abstract - for me to play for anyone ever. It proves not all noise music sounds the same. It proves everything for noise. It is a wonder of emotion and composition and straight up badassery. -Stuart

63. Meshuggah- Catch 33

Writing in long form is not new to Meshuggah—they had dropped the EP-length track “I” before this, and guitarist Fredrik Thordendal’s solo album was also one 40-minute song. Outside of that however, Catch 33 is easily the most ambitious thing these nutty Swedes have ever done, a discordant and circular maze of utterly baffling odd meters and jagged, unforgivingly austere eight-string riffing. Despite Jens Kidman roaring existentialist concepts over the mechanistic din, they’ve taken cyborg metal to its ultimate conclusion here, even replacing octopus-like skinsman Tomas Haake with a drum machine (don’t worry, he’s duplicated this album live). And even with a slightly tamer follow-up in the form of the more song-oriented ObZen, the rest of the metal world still struggles to keep up. -Stephen

62. Lightning Bolt - Hypermagic Mountain

Any experimental music that's worth a damn has a reason to be experimental. A young musician looks at pop music and says shit I could make this twice as sad if I got rid of the convention. If I broke it down. Or, hell I could create something angrier than has ever been done if I made something that made less sense. Or, well, your music is fine and all and makes people get out of their heads a little bit but if I just repeat this piano line over ad infinium I can work them into a full on trance. That being said, I don't know of anyone previous to Lightning Bolt who said, wait a minute, if we break down convention we can make something way more fun than this. And so fuck songs, and fuck thought, and fuck anything, and shut up and let this blow you away. Let the power roll. Let the fun begin. -Stuart

61. M83 – Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts

The first time I listened to M83 I had stumbled upon a park I hadn't known was there previously. In a bit of awe at this flowering oasis in the middle of the city, I staggered to the ground, looked up at the trees and heared from my headphones the robotic chant of "Sun is shining. Birds are singing. Flowers are blooming. Clouds are looming, and I am flying." repeated, cleanly and then harshly distorting, fading into an explosion of soaring synths. And the weird thing is, even though at the time the concept of a fully electronic album seemed cold and soulless and wrong to me, it didn't feel out of place. It felt as natural as the trees that I had unexpectedly fallen into. It felt calm and serene, or warm and chaotic, each part moving separately from each other in harmony, like I always wanted classical to sound like, but never quite did. Awash in natural air and digital beauty. -Stuart